Thursday, July 31, 2014

Title: No One Needs to Know
Author: Amanda Grace aka Mandy Hubbard
Series: n/a
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: Sep 8, 2014
Source: From Publisher via NetGalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Sometimes, the cost of love is too steep

Olivia's twin brother, Liam, has been her best friend her whole life. But when he starts dating, Olivia is left feeling alone, so she tries to drive away Liam's girlfriends in an effort to get her best friend back.

But she meets her match in Zoey, Liam's latest fling. A call-it-like-she-sees-it kind of girl, Zoey sees right through Olivia's tricks. What starts as verbal sparring between the two changes into something different, however, as they share their deepest insecurities and learn they have a lot in common. Olivia falls for Zoey, believing her brother could never get serious with her. But when Liam confesses that he's in love with Zoey, Olivia has to decide who deserves happiness more: her brother or herself?


When No One Needs to Know popped up on Netgalley, it was Gay/Lesbian month. So I thought, why not, I’ll give it a try. I have a ton of gay friends, so it’s nothing I shy away from, but still a subject you don’t find as often in books.

The whole story had a ton of promise but not well executed. I’ll explain. Olivia and her twin brother Liam are close. They have always been, but recently started drifting apart. Their parents are not around. Like at all, only in memories. They are filthy rich and their parents are out of town 100 percent. How convenient? I didn’t like how they were just out of the picture, I felt like that was a bit of a cop out.

Enter Zoey, girl from the poor side of town.She meets Liam one night and they start hanging out. She also gets paired up with Olivia for a school project. Again … how convenient? Olivia is this goodie two shoes perfect kind of girl on the outside. So at first, her and Zoey don’t get along as well, but then things change.

Meanwhile, Zoey is sort of dating Liam… though I wouldn’t say it’s a love triangle, because Zoey knows who she ultimately wants to be with. It was just awkward. All of their relationships just weren't realistic and didn't work for me.


The writing overall is kind of amateur to be honest. It was interesting but I think it could have been so much more. What I didn’t like is Olivia is a very stressed out girl. She strives to be perfect in everything. The fact that she just starts having feelings for Zoey out of the blue and its’ no big thing? That bothered me. Isn’t she worried about what people will think? What her parents will think? That’s a big realization I think. I had assumed there would be more inner struggle with that. Struggle with coming out, which never really happens. Which is strange, right? I thought that's what this book would partially be about. And then there is her brother who she cares about so much, but has no problem making out with his girl. If you could call it that.

Also, the ending came pretty easy and cheesy. I had expected a bit of a train wreck, but even that let me down. It was uneventful and unrealistic. It’s like the little book that tried to be deep but just couldn’t. I don’t want to say I disliked this book, because I didn’t. It was okay. I was able to finish it and that earns it some stars. I probably wouldn’t recommend it though.





Amanda GraceAbout the author:


Amanda Grace is a pen name for Young Adult author Mandy Hubbard (PRADA AND PREJUDICE, YOU WISH). She lives near Seattle, Washington, with her husband and young daughter.

Mandy Hubbard is the author of PRADA & PREJUDICE and YOU WISH, both novels for teens now in stores. In 2011, her releases include BUT I LOVE HIM (written as Amanda Grace) and RIPPLE. She is also a literary agent for D4EO Literary Agency. For more information, visit her website.

Find Jessica:

Website | TwitterFacebookGoodreads




Yay, it's finally, officially summer! The kids are out of school, and the temperatures, they are a-rising. =) You know what that means! Free audiobooks! =D SYNC recently announced the list of audiobook pairings up for grabs this summer. Here's what you can grab through Wednesday of next week...for free!

This week's YA title is Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy, performed by Andrew Eiden et al. for Scholastic Audo.

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From the author of the acclaimed WORDS IN THE DUST: an action-packed YA novel set in a frighteningly plausible near future, about what happens when the States are no longer United.

Danny Wright never thought he'd be the man to bring down the United States of America. In fact, he enlisted in the National Guard because he wanted to serve his country the way his father did. When the Guard is called up on the Idaho governor's orders to police a protest in Boise, it seems like a routine crowd-control mission ... but then Danny's gun misfires, spooking the other soldiers and the already fractious crowd, and by the time the smoke clears, twelve people are dead.

The president wants the soldiers arrested. The governor swears to protect them. And as tensions build on both sides, the conflict slowly escalates toward the unthinkable: a second American civil war.

With political questions that are popular in American culture yet rare in YA fiction, and a provocative plot that could far too easily become real, DIVIDED WE FALL is Trent Reedy's very timely YA debut.




This week's classic title is The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, performed by Frank Muller for Recorded Books.

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At the time he wrote The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane had never witnessed a battle. Crane’s older brother fought in the Battle of Chancellorsville, however, and Crane listened carefully to his brother’s reminiscences. The result is the classic Civil War novel, and one of the greatest stories of all time. Henry Fleming was always playing soldier at home on the farm. Now, on the battlefield, shells burst in front of him like strange flowers, gunfire rips toward him in great crackling sheets of flame, and all around him, blue-coated figures lie still on the blood-drenched grass. The Battle of Chancellorsville has begun. Stephen Crane’s most famous work stands alone as the testimony of a young man compelled to mature during a bloody Civil War battle.





I always liked studying the Civil War in American History, but I'm not really a fan of reading those kinds of stories much these days. That's more my husband's area. He'll watch or read anything having to do with war or military or the like. I read The Red Badge of Courage ages ago, but I distinctly remember not liking it then, and I doubt the audio version will help in this case. Unfortunately, I think I'm going to pass on both of these titles this week, unless the husband wants to listen to them.

How about you? Will you be picking up either of these titles?  Remember, they're only available through Wednesday, and new titles will be put up on Thursday for download.  Other things to note:


To download this week's titles, just click on the image below to be taken directly to the SYNC download page:


I hope you take advantage of this program. I've been doing it for the last few years, and I've had the opportunity to listen to a ton of great audio for free.  If you've never tried audiobooks before, it's a great opportunity to do so without the obligation of buying one that you might not enjoy.  And if you love audiobooks, well, it's a great time to stock up on some titles you may have missed.  Win/win.  =)



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Narrator(s): Katherine Kellgren
Series: The Queen of the Tearling, book #1
Length: 14 hrs 30 mins
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperAudio
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source: from publisher via Edelweiss, audio borrowed from library
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.



I requested a review copy of this novel when the hype was just fueling up. Then I started seeing some very middling reviews roll in, and I decided to put it on the back burner until someone could convince me that it was worth my time. But then I kind of forgot about and it released to little fanfare. So what do I normally do in situations like this? Go the audiobook route.

And it absolutely paid off for me. I'm not sure if it's because one of my favorite narrators is reading the book or the fact that it was an audiobook at all, but I freaking loved this story. It was a bit convoluted at times, what with the story set in the distant future but with a very historical fantasy vibe, but I think it all came together admirably in the end. After all, I don't think it's that preposterous to think that we might revert back to our medieval ways should things not fare so well for us in the future. I mean, you've seen the mobs and the looting after a natural disaster hits, right?

The people of the Tearling are not total barbarians, though. I think Queen Kelsea is proof of that. She actually reminded me of Elisa from Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns series: not meek, not gorgeous, and definitely not confident, but someone with the power to change the world with the right tools and companions. And even before Kelsea has been crowned, she's affected major changes in her kingdom, changes that most certainly will bring war to their door. But she has set herself to the task of becoming a far better queen than her mother ever was, and I think with the upbringing she had and the companions she now keeps, she can certainly rise to the challenge.

Though I compare the main character to one in a favorite YA fantasy series of mine, this novel is unabashedly adult in nature. There is swearing. The sexual situations are numerous, though not terribly graphic. And there are all manner of vulgar references and circumstances. It didn't bother me in the slightest, but considering Emma Watson is set to play the lead role in the movie adaptation, I wanted to convey that this story is not written for her usual audience. That said, I believe Emma will bring the fiery temper yet quiet reserve of Queen Kelsea to life beautifully on the big screen.

There isn't a lot of romance to be had in this book, not that I minded that either. Kelsea is considered very plain, and at this point in her story, she is more likely to be used as a pawn than an object of someone's affection. There are hints at a potential romance in the future for young Kelsea, but it's also not obvious at this point if her feelings are completely one-sided or not. She has proven herself a very formidable queen, though, and to some, power is more attractive than actual beauty, so we shall see where that aspect takes us.

I found this story to be absolutely captivating. One of those where I found myself inventing chores so that I could listen longer. Its dark and atmospheric setting took hold of me and the characters just would not let me forget them, especially with the fabulous Katherine Kellgren narrating it all for me. I know what other reviewers are saying, but I think this book is just one of those that you have to try for yourself.

GIF it to me straight:
Turned out sooo much better than I was expecting.


About the author:

Erika Johansen was educated at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania before attending the celebrated Iowa Writers Workshop, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. She later became an attorney. The Queen Of The Tearling – the first book in a trilogy – is her debut. Erika lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

Find Erika:

Goodreads







"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's WoW selections are...








's Pick:



Title: The Orphan Queen
Author: Jodi Meadows
Series:  Untitled #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: March 10th, 2015

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Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.

This book had me with... She is a princess. I'll never get over this princess obsession I have. Plus, this is fantasy, and after reading The Kiss of Deception, I've been itching to read more from this genre. Count me in!





's Pick:



Title: Mr. Kiss and Tell
Author: Rob Thomas
Series: Veronica Mars, book #2
Publisher: Vintage/Random House
Publication Date: October 28, 2014

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In the second book in the New York Times bestselling mystery series, Veronica Mars is back with a case that will expose the hidden workings of one of Neptune’s most murderous locations.

The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman's story.

The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying—but who? And why?

Yes!!! Yesyesyes! I love all things Veronica Mars! I can't wait for more, but there had better be more Logan this time around. I'll probably wait for the audio because OMG Kristen Bell is still perfect as the voice of VM.


What are you desperately waiting for this Wednesday? Let us know in the comments or share a link to your own WoW post!



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Title: Heir of Fire
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, book #3
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Source: from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?



**As always, no spoilers for this book, but there are potential spoilers for the previous books. Read at your own peril. But if you haven't started this series yet, why the heck not?!?**


After I finished my re-read/listen of the THRONE OF GLASS series, I had to wait a bit because I was still overcome with Crown of Midnight feels. Again. Okay, AND The Assassin's Blade feels. I had so many emotions leftover from the previous books that I didn't want that to affect my feelings toward Heir of Fire. After several weeks, though, I just couldn't wait anymore. (The first 30% or so of HoF was a tad slow for me, but I knew the pace had to pick up eventually, and it did.)

Even after waiting so long to start it, I was still a bit overwrought with everything that happened at the end of CoM, but I kinda think it worked for me. I was feeling every bit as gloomy about Celaena's situation as she was, which is to say we were having an extreme pity-party all on her behalf. Things have taken a dark turn for all involved parties, but most especially Celaena, who's coping with her past and what it means for her future while also trying to fulfill her promise to Nehemia. (If you haven't read The Assassin's Blade yet, I highly recommend it. It's the five prequel novels to the series, and they give the reader some incredible insight into Celaena's character.)

BUT this installment has really upped the magic factor. And unearthed some major secrets from Celaena's past that have only been hinted at before. This includes Celaena's ability to wield magic, as we saw in CoM. This book may be the darkest yet, but Celaena is still her charming self. And I don't mean that sarcastically...mostly. Seeing her have to really work at accessing her magic and seeing others' reactions to her progress were something else. This is a character who's been adept at everything she attempts, and to see her struggle -- and give up only to come back fighting harder -- only endeared her to me more. Celaena may be beautiful and fierce, but she is not above reproach and she is not without her faults. Her character growth over the course of this series has been monumental but never more astounding than in this book, especially as we learn more about who she is and what that means for everyone else.

Everyone else. Yes, them...they're important to the story, too. Favorites, those that remain anyway, are still featured prominently, but for now, we're beyond petty romantic entanglements. A war is brewing and there are ever so many more players now than there were before. There's the heartless Manon Blackbeak and her wyvern, who bears a striking resemblance to Toothless. (I'm not making that up...Summer thought the same of Abraxos when we discussed it. :D) And Rowan, the ageless fae prince tasked with helping Celaena access her magic and teaching her how to control it so that she might get the answers she needs. Dorian finds a friend in Sorscha, the healer who is complicit in her knowledge of the existence of magic in the castle. Aedion is Aelin Ashryver Galathynius's cousin and there is much more to him than meets the eye, especially once he learns that his cousin has truly survived all these years. I loved the addition of all these new characters and new perspectives and what they all bring to the table, and I sense that the characters that survive this book will become very important indeed in future books.

As I said, unlike the previous books, this installment does not focus on romance nearly as much. I appreciated that even though Celaena dwelled on what happened with Chaol a bit, she concentrated her attention on the task at hand. Chaol and Dorian do their own fair share of dwelling on the subject, and their friendship has suffered for it. Dorian has to learn how to wield his own magic while also keeping it a secret. Chaol's sense of duty, his desire to protect his friend at all costs, his love for Celaena, and his promise to his father are all vying for his attention. These two are at odds with one another after Chaol's decision to send Celaena to Wendlyn and his discovery of Dorian's own magic, and it leaves them turning to others for help. And for better or for worse, they'll each have to live with those decisions and what they may bring.

The tone of this book is definitely darker, but the story also delves so much deeper into this world. Yes, this is somewhat of a typical middle book, intent on exploring the world and the rules it abides by over intense action scenes and swoonworthy romance. However, that's not to say that neither of those things makes an appearance in this book. Those scenes are just few and far between in favor of the overarching theme of war that looms over everyone's heads.

I'm very much looking forward to where Maas takes this series in the next three books. I doubt I adequately expressed my sentiments in this review, but I don't think I could honestly do that without spoilers. So, I leave you with this instead: this book does start out slowly with a wallowing Celaena, but give it a chance. If you loved the previous books, you will absolutely find something to love in this book, as well. I promise it's just as engaging as the rest once it gains momentum. And if you haven't even started the series, 1) why are you reading this? and 2) I suggest trying the audiobooks, which are beautifully narrated by Elizabeth Evans.

GIF it to me straight:
Pretty much. Also, I want demand my own wyvern.




The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1-0.5)Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)

Those are some fierce covers, right? Did you see the announcement that you can now get ToG in the new cover in HARDBACK on the same day that HoF releases?!?


About the author:

Sarah J. Maas lives in Southern California, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much coffee, and watches absolutely rubbish TV shows. When she's not busy writing YA fantasy novels, she can be found exploring the California coastline.

Find Sarah:

Website | BlogTwitter | FacebookGoodreads | Pinterest



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