September Reading Recap

Hi guys! I usually post my reading recap on the first Sunday of the month, but because I was so busy the week Fall Break ended, I didn’t have time to get this post up before I left for San Francisco for my vacation. I’ve finished 12 books this past month–yes, TWELVE! I’ve had such a busy and crazy month yet somehow I’ve squeezed in 12 stories from YA post-apocalyptic to MG contemporary. And it has been a great month for books for me–I’ve read 5 books that are 5 stars for me (though 2 are re-reads of my favorite books). I hope you enjoy!


5 Stars

Return of the Continuums by Jennifer Brody (Re-read)

Return of the Continuums

Goodreads

The United Continuums by Jennifer Brody (Re-read)

The United Continuums

Goodreads

Earth Force Rising by Monica Tesler

Earth Force Rising

Goodreads

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan

Goodreads

The Tundra Trials by Monica Tesler

The Tundra Trials

Goodreads


4 Stars

A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar

A Stitch in Time

Goodreads

The Right Hook of Devin Velma by Jake Burt

The Right Hook of Devin Velma

Goodreads

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Orphan Island

Goodreads

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan by Gia Cribbs

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan

Goodreads


3 Stars

Finchosaurus by Gail Donovan

Finchosaurus

 

Goodreads

Night Witches by Kathryn Lasky

Night Witches

Goodreads


2 Stars

The High Climber of Dark Water Bay by Caroline Arden

The High Climber of Dark Water Bay
Goodreads


In Case You Missed It: This Month’s Posts

Author Interviews

Ann Braden, author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Kendare Blake, author of Two Dark Reigns

Lauren Gibaldi, author of Autofocus

Author Guest Posts

Katya de Becerra, author of What the Woods Keep, on “Exploring the Subconscious with What the Woods Keep”

LILbooKtalks

“One Series, Two Authors: Collaborating on Legends of the Lost Causes” with Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester

Book Reviews

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan (5)

The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth (4)

The House in Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee (3)

The Right Hook of Devin Velma by Jake Burt (4)

Blog Tours

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake: Author Interview

What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra: Author Guest Post on “Exploring the Subconscious with What the Woods Keep

Cover Reveals

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Reading Recaps

August Reading Recap


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“Cast all your worries upon Him because He cares for you.” — 1 Peter 5:7 (NAB)

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra Blog Tour: Author Guest Post on “Exploring the Subconscious with What the Woods Keep”

Hi everybody! (I know, my greeting is different today.) I hope you are having an awesome start of the week! What are your favorite genres? My top two are historical fiction and fantasy, so whenever I see a historical fantasy come out, I know that I have to read it. Books that combine multiple genres intrigue me, and one such book is What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra, which infuses thriller, suspense, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction all into one story. Today, as part of the blog tour, Katya is here on the blog to talk about “exploring the subconscious” with her debut novel. I hope you enjoy and check out this amazing book! (Thanks so much to Tale Out Loud for hosting this tour! Karlita’s an amazing person, so go check out her blog!)

What the Woods Keep Blog Tour.png


About the BookWhat the Woods Keep

Title: What the Woods Keep

Author: Katya de Becerra

Published by: Imprint Macmillan

Publication date: September 18, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Thriller

Synopsis: What the Woods Keep is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.

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Pre-order What the Woods Keep today!

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Katya de Becerra Guest Post.png

Exploring the Subconscious with What the Woods Keep

What scares you?

Is it that moment when your eyes adjust to darkness and you begin seeing shapes that don’t belong there? Or perhaps it is the sound of rustling dry leaves underfoot that keeps on long after you’ve stopped moving? Or maybe, like me, you break into cold sweat at the very idea of hearing your name spoken when there’s no one in the room but you?

Innocent sounds that take on a new sinister meaning, shapes that materialize in the dark just as the eyes adjust and the viewer regains her equilibrium – all of it plays on our strings of perception in hopes of triggering that disturbing sensation of uncanny. Uncanny is exactly that: what happens to our perception when reality is distorted. It is a type of emotional and cognitive dissonance you might feel when you stumble upon something that used to be familiar but not anymore. It might still look right, but it feels decisively wrong.

The horror genre has been known to play on the idea of uncanny by utilizing all of the above (and more!) as techniques designed to set the reader’s (or the movie goer’s) nerves on fire, to provoke a visceral response.

My debut YA novel, What The Woods Keep, doesn’t shy away from its own tribute to the uncanny phenomenon, though I hope that it offers its own genre-bending take on it and its associated horror genre tropes.

In the novel, the protagonist, science-minded Hayden, at some stage fatefully states: “We are attracted to mysteries. Our perpetual drive to solve the unsolvable, to know the unknown, makes us human. The unknowing bothers us.” And so, true to her words, in one of the novel’s early key scenes designed to signal the uncanniness of what’s yet to come, Hayden ventures into the dark to investigate, possibly to help someone’s in trouble. It is then, for the first time, that she experiences the moment of extreme irrational fear. It is so intense that Hayden’s rational mind wavers for a moment, pushing her to give in to primal fear. In that moment, familiar objects are distorted, Hayden’s sense of smell is assaulted by the raw stench of the upturned earth, her skin ripples in the cold draft… And then there’s the pinnacle of her journey into the dark: what was once familiar morphs into something strange, unsettling, as if possessed by an otherwordly force. It triggers Hayden’s fight-or-flight response and even someone as cool-headed as she finds it hard to resist.

I did scare myself a little while writing that scene. But it also helped me to analyze what I found particularly scary and why. I’m glad I’ve woven my darkest fears into my YA debut.

After all, the act of telling (or hearing) a spooky tale brings about a form of emotional catharsis allowing us to experience fear in a controlled, safe environment and by doing so, hopefully, get over it.


About the AuthorKatya de Becerra

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology. What the Woods Keep is her first novel.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Follow the Rest of the Tour Here!

Tour Schedule on Tale out Loud

SEPTEMBER 10 (MONDAY)

Karlita — Tale Out Loud (Review, Q&A)
Kester — LILbooKlovers (Guest Post)

SEPTEMBER 11 (TUESDAY)

Salwa — Voguish Perusal (Review, Favorite Quotes, Guest Post)
Amanda — MetalPhantasmReads (Review)
Laura — Bucks, Books & Beyond (Review, Favorite Quotes)

SEPTEMBER 12 (WEDNESDAY)

Liv — Liv’s Wonderful Escape (Review, Creative)
Sifa — Sifa Elizabeth Reads (Review)

SEPTEMBER 13 (THURSDAY)

Austine — NovelKnight (Review, Q&A)
Imogene — Amidst the Pages (Review, Favorite Quotes)
Mari — Andico Mari (Review)

SEPTEMBER 14 (FRIDAY)

AJ — Diary of an Avid Reader (Review, Novel Aesthetic Board)
Justine — Bookish Wisps (Review, Favorite Quotes)
Nikole — A Court of Coffee and Books (Review, Q&A)

SEPTEMBER 15 (SATURDAY)

Jamie — PrincessofPages (Excerpt)
Preethi — Young Adult Media Consumer (Review)
Crimson — Crimson Talks Books, Mostly (Review)


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for What the Woods Keep? Do you YA thrillers?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

ARC Review: Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes — A Puzzling and Haunting Thriller Full of Mystery, Danger, and Death

Hi guys! I normally do not post reviews this early before release date, but because I am very short on reviews, I’ve decided to post my review of Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes already. I’ve read Stokes’s This is How It Happened and really enjoyed and loved it, so I was really excited to be able to read an advance copy of her latest YA thriller novel! I hope you enjoy!


About the BookHidden Pieces

Embry Woods has secrets. Small ones about her past. Bigger ones about her relationship with town hero Luke and her feelings for someone new. But the biggest secret she carries with her is about what happened that night at the Sea Cliff Inn. The fire. The homeless guy. Everyone thinks Embry is a hero, too, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Embry thinks she’ll have to take the secret to her grave, until she receives an anonymous note—someone else knows the truth. Next comes a series of threatening messages, asking Embry to make impossible choices, forcing her to put her loved ones at risk. Someone is playing a high stakes game where no one in Embry’s life is safe. And their last move…is murder.

Hidden Pieces will release from HarperTeen on August 28th! Pre-order it here!

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way. 

For me to enjoy a suspense and mystery thriller, I have to experience two feelings: I must not be able to put it down and I must be shocked at the plot twists and revelations. Hidden Pieces accomplished both of them! I started this book on a road trip (a 4 to 5 hour drive) and ended up finishing it that same day—it was THAT good. From the first page, I became hooked by its fast-paced, action-driven storyline. I felt a whole range of emotions as the story progressed from a simple threat to a menacing mix of death and betrayal. You cannot trust anybody in this story. Paula Stokes does not disappoint in her latest YA thriller novel as Hidden Pieces will have readers puzzled and chilled while facing a potential murderer.

Hidden Pieces poses an interesting Catch-22 situation, a complicated moral dilemma, that will make readers think of what they would do in Embry’s shoes. After she causes a fire that destroys an abandoned hotel, Embry is torn between keeping her role in it a secret and telling the truth (and thus being liable for paying thousands of dollars in damages plus possibly facing criminal charges), but this dilemma becomes twisted as an unknown stalker threatens her loved ones when she refuses to reveal what actually happened that night. It definitely made me ponder about whether I would be able to have the courage to say the truth, and that is the mark of a well-written book. For a novel to make readers question not only the story but themselves shows how impactful and powerful it is.

Paula Stokes is a master at creating twisted plotlines full of surprising revelations, subtle hints, complex characters, and treacherous dangers. I became so emotionally invested into the story that I just wanted to gasp and scream so loud at times. She doesn’t hold back any punches when she throws at you shocker. Readers will be filled with dread, fear, and curiosity as their hearts pound and their fingers fly through the pages. I surely did not expect at lot at first, but as the story progressed I was able to guess a few motives and eventually the identity of Unknown (though I was thrown off at the end). Although Stokes placed a few subtle clues, I guessed who Unknown was based off my knowledge of mystery novels. But it would take a seasoned reader to fit together all the hidden pieces (I had to make that joke) before Embry and Holden do.

Hidden Pieces is a well-written, masterfully-crafted suspense thriller that is ridden with mystery, secrets, and backstabbing. It is certainly very memorable and very unputdownable, and it is one that will stick with you for a while. Paula Stokes jerked my heart in This Is How It Happened and now impressed and thrilled me with Hidden Pieces, so I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading more of her books in the future! Hidden Pieces will not only keep you up at night but haunt you after you close the last page.

Please note that there could have been changes between this unfinished version and the finalized, publicized one.


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Hidden Pieces? Do you like YA thrillers?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

ARC Review: The Island by J. L. Pattison — A Government Conspiracy Thriller Filled with Hope and Perseverance

Hi guys! I am in the Philippines! I will be out of the country for almost two months, but I will still be active on the blog and on my social medias. Though it may be trickier to correspond with me (since I am 12 hours ahead), for sure if you are in America and you cannot sleep, you have someone you know you can talk to. Today I am reviewing J. L. Pattison’s The Island, which just released. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe Island

Agent Sherard Parker never expected to get caught.

His first reconnaissance mission with the DEA was supposed to be simple: infiltrate a small South Pacific island and gather intelligence about its involvement in the international drug trade.

But when Parker stumbles upon a hidden airliner reportedly shot down weeks earlier—an act of terrorism that sparked a war—he realizes the island is more than just home to a major drug operation, it’s also part of a conspiracy so evil it could lead to World War III.

After being captured, Parker is forced to abandon his original mission for a far more important one: escape from the island and return to his family.

Can Parker lead an eclectic band of prisoners in a daring life-or-death escape from their tropical prison, or will those in charge of protecting the island prevail, keeping its dark secrets forever?

Goodreads

Buy The Island on Amazon!


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free physical ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

Two years ago, I really enjoyed J. L. Pattison’s short stories “The Visitor” an “Alibi Interrupted.” The author truly knows how to write a story that packs a punch and chills you to the bone. I honestly was a bit hesitant to read his newest novella The Island, but by the end, I became reacquainted with Pattison’s signature storytelling style similar to The Twilight Zone. At first, I was very uneasy with the first third of the book because the prose did not feel exceptional at all–there was so much telling instead of showing that I doubted if I could continue and finish. I did read from an uncorrected galley, so these problems could have been fixed in the finalized copy. And it did get better as the story went on. By the halfway point, I was hooked.

The Island is a government conspiracy thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. It serves as a stark warning to those who have become dulled from the technological Information Age today–who follow the crowd, normalize disasters, and are addicted to irrelevant media. It certainly has made me think about how I view the world and people around me, how I receive news and use my phone. The Island is certainly an eye-opener, warning that readers should not become mindless drones addicted to social media and smartphones. Pattison’s latest book will make you question your morality and trust at times. There will be moments when readers are compelled to scream at some characters in order to reveal to them the actual truth, but in the end they will have to accept the finale and all its heartbreaking punches. The book certainly chilled my body to the spine as it creeped me out yet engrossed me with its suspenseful atmosphere.

While The Island is a great novella to read, please remember that this is a work of fiction. While plane switching and crash cover-ups may be a possibility in real life, it also may not. My only concern (other than grammar) about this book is that readers could become conspiracy theorists regarding many disasters. Honestly, I have a favorable view of our government, that it is necessary to maintain order and aid its citizens. However, has the government performed bad crimes? Yes, and I will not deny that fact. But my only wish is to not become too consumed with conspiracy theories. The Island will certainly cause you to question the actual motives of the government, and it is important to have a healthy skepticism at times. However, while government conspiracies may exist, I ask for you to not become accusatory at every disaster. Government conspiracy stories are fun and interesting and thought-provoking to read, but always remember that it is a work of fiction, though there may be some truth to the story.

Ultimately, The Island is a book filled with hope and perseverance, regardless of the current conditions and the possible outcomes. Sherard Parker is a man–one who values his family and his freedom–who anyone can relate easily with, and readers will root for him from page one. His struggle to get off the island and free its prisoners is full of courage and optimism that will inspire anyone to continue fighting the good fight, no matter if it ends up in success or failure. The odds may be stacked a million to one, but The Island shows that a person must retain hope, maintain courage, and continue to fight his battles.

Please note that I am reviewing an uncorrected galley, which means there may have been changes from this version to the published one.


About the AuthorThe Island

J. L. Pattison is the author of liberty-minded speculative fiction whose stories are garnering favorable comparisons to the works of M. Night Shyamalan and Twilight Zone creator, Rod Serling.

His first paperback, SAVING KENNEDY, contains his two previous short fiction e-book releases, THE VISITOR and ALIBI INTERRUPTED, both of which deal with the subjects of time travel gone wrong, the JFK assassination, and the consequences of the decisions we make.

His latest book, THE ISLAND, delves into governmental conspiracies and has an ending you won’t soon forget.

When not writing, J.L. Pattison enjoys board games, reading, fishing, rooting for his beloved San Francisco 49ers, and drinking copious amounts of sweet tea . . . an addiction he acquired while growing up in the South. He currently lives in the Western United States with his wonderful wife and six amazing children.

Website


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read The Island or Saving Kennedy? Do you like government conspiracy novels?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Genesis Blog Tour: Book Review — The Thrilling Sequel Filled with Danger, Death, and Destruction that Raises the Stakes to a Whole New Level

Hi guys! Today I am taking the first two of my five AP exams: US History and Computer Science Principles. I think I’ve prepared for them the best I could. My mind is currently filled with historical knowledge and computer facts, and I have three more to go! I will be really busy these next few days dealing with these exams and end-of-year activities, so if I’m very inactive, that’s why. Today I am reviewing one of my most anticipated sequels of 2018, and I hope you enjoy!

Genesis Tour Banner


About the BookGenesis

Noah Livingston knows he is destined to survive.

The 64 members of Fire Lake’s sophomore class are trapped in a place where morals have no meaning, and zero rules apply. But Noah’s deaths have trained him–hardened him–to lead the strongest into the future . . . whatever that may be. And at any cost.

Min Wilder knows that survival alone isn’t enough.

Trapped in a violent world where brute force passes for leadership, it’s tempting to lay back and let everyone else fight it out. But Min’s instincts rebel against allowing others to decide who lives and who dies. She’s ready to fight for what she believes in. And against whomever might stand in her way.

Goodreads

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free hardcover finished copy of this book from the author and the tour host in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

Once I had finished Nemesis last year, which I literally could not put down, I knew I had to read the sequel once I could get my hands on it. I needed to continue the story and know what happens next. Oh, that cliffhanger in book one! When I learned of this blog tour and the opportunity to read and review Genesis, I jumped at the opportunity — and was that such a great decision. Genesis, the second installment in Reichs’s masterfully crafted Project Nemesis series, does not disappoints fans of its predecessor. It raises the stakes of the conflict to a whole new level, transforming this post-apocalyptic, sci-fi thriller into a fast-paced story full of danger, death, and destruction at every turn. I was thrust onto the edge of my seat, and I felt as if I were actually a part of the Program.

As readers progress deeper and deeper into Reichs’s creepily surreal world — reminiscent of The Maze Runner and Lord of the Flies — they find themselves placed into the heart of an “every man for themselves” survival mode, ridden with twists and turns at every corner. With each page comes a new shocking revelation, many changing the entire course of the story. I could feel the impending sense of dread and fear and had even a bit of power-hungriness and craziness that almost everyone possessed, and the atmosphere was thick with chaos, leading to the degradation of the moral consciences of many characters. Genesis is one of those novels that makes you stay up, and either you are devouring the story or being haunted by it.

The story and actions of the characters make you question your morality at times. Often I felt drawn to justifying the killing of other classmates, blurring the lines between defense and murder. Is it every justifiable to kill a person, even if they could regenerate? What if it’s to protect your own self from elimination? Min examines this question along with many of the other major characters as the digital Fire Lake falls deeper into ruin and more classmates disappear. This is a true mark of a great book — for a book to be able to get readers to think more deeply on certain subjects and ultimately influence their viewpoints.

I fell in love with all — or most, really — of the characters. It is just so hard for me to resist not rooting for many of them to survive. The protagonists, especially Min, Tack, and Noah, are very dynamic and fully fleshed with their consciences and their flaws. You can see how conflicted they are between being moral and being murderous, between being good and being bad, between being meek and being powerful. The characters are truly human, and they are not fully devoted to being good or to being evil, and many times they believe what they are doing is right, regardless of whether it is or not. You can see their doubts and their fears. With 64 different students with an eclectic variety of personalities, characteristics, and motivations, Genesis thoroughly examines what it truly means to be human when faced with adversity, conflict, and challenges.

If you have not picked up Nemesis or Genesis, then you are missing out on a series that will blow your mind. Personally, I cannot state which one is better because both novels are so different yet so brilliant. They are very meritorious and possess a high literary quality in their own right. While I am sad that book two is over, there is going to be a third book in the series! I am so excited! I cannot spoil what it may possibly entail (since my speculation will give away the ending) but I can say that it is going to be EPIC! Genesis is the perfect read for thriller fans who love to become engrossed in an unpredictable plot full of suspense and action.


About the AuthorBrendan Reichs

Brendan Reichs was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2000 and The George Washington University School of Law in 2006. After three long years working as a litigation attorney, he abandoned the trade to write full time. He lives in Charlotte with his wife, son, daughter, and a herd of animals that tear up everything.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads


GiveawayGenesis Giveaway

12 winners will receive a copy of Genesis by Brendan Reichs!

Giveaway is open Int’l

Must be 13+ to enter

Ends June 1st, 2018

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule

WEEK ONE
MAY 7th MONDAY Insane About Books REVIEW
MAY 7th MONDAY Books A-Brewin’ EXCERPT
MAY 8th TUESDAY Crossroad Reviews REVIEW
MAY 8th TUESDAY Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews INTERVIEW
MAY 9th WEDNESDAY Reading for the Stars and Moon REVIEW
MAY 9th WEDNESDAY My Book Addiction EXCERPT
MAY 10th THURSDAY Here’s to Happy Endings REVIEW
MAY 10th THURSDAY The Book Enigma GUEST POST
MAY 11th FRIDAY RhythmicBooktrovert REVIEW
MAY 11th FRIDAY LILbooKlovers REVIEW
WEEK TWO
MAY 14th MONDAY JeanBookNerd VLOG & INTERVIEW
MAY 14th MONDAY TFAULC Book Reviews EXCERPT
MAY 15th TUESDAY Bibliobibuli YA REVIEW
MAY 15th TUESDAY Book Briefs REVIEW
MAY 16th WEDNESDAY Casia’s Corner REVIEW
MAY 16th WEDNESDAY Book Lovers Life EXCERPT
MAY 17th THURSDAY Jump Into Books REVIEW
MAY 17th THURSDAY The Cozy Reading Corner TENS LIST
MAY 18th FRIDAY A Dream Within A Dream REVIEW
MAY 18th FRIDAY Bri’s Book Nook REVIEW

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Genesis or Nemesis? Do you like YA sci-fi?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

 

ARC Review: Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne — A Fast-Paced and Brilliant Retelling of Jane Eyre Full of Intrigue, Mystery, Secrets, and Lies

Hi guys! Today, in my hometown, we are celebrating the World’s Biggest Fish Fry! What is that, you might ask? Well, in Paris, Tennessee, (yes I live in a town that is named after the city in France… and yes, we do have a miniature Eiffel Tower), the town fries up literally tons of catfish and we celebrate that by having a week-long celebrating full of eating, going to the fair, and fish-related activities, including catfish races (yes, we race catfish, and we’re not ashamed of it). While I’m watching the parade today, I hope you enjoy this review of one of my most anticipated releases of 2018, Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne!


About the BookBrightly Burning

Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.

But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.

Brightly Burning releases from HMH on May 1st! Pre-order it today!

Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Book Depository


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

It feels so great to finally find a YA novel that I literally could NOT put down; in fact, I finished Brightly Burning in just one weekend, tearing through it like a slice of cake. Brightly Burning is a brilliant and imaginative retelling of Jane Eyre thrust among the stars and full of intriguing mystery, dark secrets, and jaw-dropping technology. Honestly, I tried to read Jane Eyre but never had time to finish it (though I’m determined to read it this summer), but comparing the synopsis of the novel with Donne’s debut, I have got to say that Brightly Burning keeps the essence of Jane Eyre while spinning it into a dystopian and aristocratic space society. It is such a stunning and marvelous book that I fell in love with everything about it from page one.

While I did enjoy the romance and found it to be swoon-worthy and charming (I was rooting for Hugo and Stella the entire time), I was more captured by all the mystery and deception surrounding the Rochester. Curiosity swelled through my body as Stella attempted to learn more about Hugo’s dark past that lies beneath his brooding exterior. The climax took me by surprise, and I did not expect it at all. Every shocking revelation, every plot twist was a punch to the gut. Brightly Burning throws at readers everything from surprise visitors to mysterious secrets to heartbreaking betrayals, and each twist and turn will slowly wrench your heart until the very end.

Alexa Donne is a master at world-building. Brightly Burning is set in a dystopian future where an Ice Age took over the Earth, and only a fleet of space ships holds the remainder of the human race. The deeper I went into the novel, the more I became fascinated by this history. I wanted to know more about the ships, the people, and the politics. I craved answers to questions like “Are there people on Earth? Is it inhabitable?” The author elegantly describes the technology and the ships so well that you feel as if you were on them. I could imagine myself reading in Hugo’s library or walking through the decks of the Rochester or the Stalwart. I even felt the urge to live on a space ship myself! Brightly Burning will enrapture readers so much that they will never want to leave! I know I did not.

You cannot help but fall in love with all of the characters, regardless of their personality. From the strict yet caring Officer Xiao to the kind-hearted best friend George, each character had his or her own complexities that make them memorable, lovable, and relatable. Even the supposed antagonists (I use “supposed” very lightly) will surprise you in many ways when the time comes. However, Stella has to be my favorite character. Firstly, her love of books is one of the best parts of the entire novel. There are so many references to amazing classics and authors that the avid reader will rebound in joy at each one. I now want to re-read some of my favorite books because the novel emphasizes the power of literature. Secondly, she’s one of the strongest characters I have read. She would rather risk her joy and her life to save the lives of others, and she won’t give up searching for answers. Stella’s perseverance and self-sacrifice throughout the novel inspires readers to keep on fighting and moving regardless of the risks.

Brightly Burning is the perfect book for science fiction and mystery fans alike! It is one of the best Young Adult novels I have read in a long time, and I did not want it to end. I became so snuggled up into the Rochester that I did not want to leave. Alexa Donne outdid herself in her debut, and I loved every single aspect of it. Although Brightly Burning is a standalone novel, there will be a companion novel to it in the future, which is so exciting. I know I want to get my hands on it as soon as possible!

Please note that this is a review of an unfinished Advance Reader’s Copy. There may have been major and minor changes between this version of the book versus the finalized novel that will be released to the public.


About the AuthorAlexa Donne

Alexa Donne is a Ravenclaw who wears many hats, including teen mentoring, college admissions essay consulting, fan convention organizing, YouTube-ing and podcasting. When she’s not writing science fiction and fantasy for teens, Alexa works in international television marketing. A proud Boston University Terrier, she lives in Los Angeles with two fluffy ginger cats named after YA literature characters. Visit her at http://www.alexadonne.com or on most social media spaces @alexadonne.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Brightly Burning? Do you like YA sci-fi?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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ARC Review: Circle of Ashes by Elise Kova and Lynn Larsh — The Stakes are Raised in This Sequel

Hi guys! In exactly one week I will be in Washington, D.C., with my choir!!! I am super excited, and I cannot wait to tour around our nation’s capital. It’s going to be so much fun! This “mini-vacation” is going to be full of singing and sightseeing! Today I am posting my review of Circle of Ashes by Elise Kova and Lynn Larsh, the anticipated sequel to Society of Wishes. I hope you enjoy it!


About the BookCircle of Ashes

EVERY WISH HAS A COST BUT WILL THE SOCIETY BE WILLING TO PAY IT?

Once a hacker-for-hire living in the shadows, Josephina “Jo” Espinosa is the newest member of a magical Society. Their mandate? To grant the wishes of mortals. A simple enough task until Jo is faced with an impossible wish – and her inability to grant it might spell disaster for her entire team, if not the Society itself.

Jo is used to high-pressure situations, but after a string of disasters, the last thing she needs is stakes of this magnitude. Especially given that neither she nor the Society know quite what the consequences of failing to grant a wish might be.

The only person with answers is the Society’s aloof and cryptic leader, Snow. Yet while Jo is enigmatically drawn to the man, all their clandestine encounters leave her with only more questions about the true nature of the Society, her magic, and her own history.

Time is running out for the Society, and an executioner will rise from among them to exact the price of failure.

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3 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to the author for providing me an electronic ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

I really liked the first book in the Wish Quartet, and the premise of a secret yet eternal society that grants wishes that alter history intrigued me from the start. I jumped at the opportunity to read and review the second book in the series, Circle of Ashes, since book one left me at a stunning cliffhanger. I wanted to know more what would happen to Jo and Snow’s relationship and to the Society. While I did like certain parts of this book, overall I was not as into the story. I ended up wanting to finish the book more than I wanted to savor it. I was a bit disappointed as I continued throughout the novel.

However, the stakes were definitely raised in Circle of Ashes. You could feel the clock ticking and tension rising as the desperation to complete the wish before the deadline soared. The plot does fasten the pace of your heart and puts you on the edge of your seat. You can’t help but find out what happens next. In addition, as I learned more about the characters, I fell in love with them even more. I loved Samson’s shyness and kindess and Nico’s charm and passion. I enjoyed Eslar’s hidden heart and Takako’s love for her family and country. As revelations came into light, gasps and shock escaped from my body. The authors threw many surprises at me, many I did not expect. The plot did heighten very much in this sequel.

I did not enjoy Circle of Ashes as much as I had hoped to, though. I ended up having to skip over a lot of gratuitous sex scenes, which I should have expected from a New Adult novel. For me, they really did not add much to the story and made me a bit more confused about whether Jo wanted to get with Wayne or Snow. As much as the plot had more twists and turns, I felt very disconnected at times even though I tried to escape into the lines of each page. I’m personally not sure if I will be continuing this series, but I hope those who decide to pick it up will enjoy it more than I did.

Please note that this is a review of an unfinished Advance Reader’s Copy. There may have been major and minor changes between this version of the book versus the finalized novel that will be released to the public.


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read any of the Wish Quartet books? Do you like fantasy?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Exclusive Interview with Patrick Moody, MG Horror Author of The Gravedigger’s Son

Hi guys! To be honest, I have not read that many horror novels in my lifetime. The most recent one was The Lairdbalor by Kathleen Kaufman, and although I wish I had enjoyed that book much more than I actually did, I am really excited for The Gravedigger’s Son by Patrick Moody. I am actually ready to be scared to my bones! Today, I have the wonderful opportunity to interview the book’s amazing author, and I’ve certainly enjoyed writing his questions and reading his answers. I hope you have the chance to check out his novel!


About the BookThe Gravedigger's Son

“A Digger must not refuse a request from the Dead.” —Rule Five of the Gravedigger’s Code

Ian Fossor is last in a long line of Gravediggers. It’s his family’s job to bury the dead and then, when Called by the dearly departed, to help settle the worries that linger beyond the grave so spirits can find peace in the Beyond.

But Ian doesn’t want to help the dead—he wants to be a Healer and help the living. Such a wish is, of course, selfish and impossible. Fossors are Gravediggers. So he reluctantly continues his training under the careful watch of his undead mentor, hoping every day that he’s never Called and carefully avoiding the path that leads into the forbidden woods bordering the cemetery.

Just as Ian’s friend, Fiona, convinces him to talk to his father, they’re lured into the woods by a risen corpse that doesn’t want to play by the rules. There, the two are captured by a coven of Weavers, dark magic witches who want only two thing—to escape the murky woods where they’ve been banished, and to raise the dead and shift the balance of power back to themselves.

Only Ian can stop them. With a little help from his friends. And his long-dead ancestors.

Equal parts spooky and melancholy, funny and heartfelt, The Gravedigger’s Son is a gorgeous debut that will long sit beside Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener.

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Patrick Moody Header.png

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

First, thanks so much for hosting me, Kester!

I love writing because I’ve always been a daydreamer. I’ve always had stories in my head, or at least little snippets of stories, thinking up fantastical places and people, heroes and villains, dangerous quests and spooky castles. Growing up, my mind was filled with “what ifs”. I think, in all honesty, that I never really grew out of playing make believe. I love writing because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be fulfilled creatively.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

My favorite genres are fantasy and horror. Science Fiction is up there as well, and a bit of magical realism, too. I think the most impactful writer in my childhood was Robert Jordan. My father was a fan of his, and had his entire Wheel of Time series. I remember climbing up onto the bookshelves and staring at those incredible covers, completely spellbound. Aside from Goosebumps and Lloyd Alexander, I never really read for my age group. I jumped right into epic fantasy. Terry Brooks came next, followed by Peter S. Beagle and Ursula K. Leguinn.

Beagle has influenced me more than any other writer. I think The Innkeeper’s Song is the most beautiful fantasy ever written.

As for favorite books, ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King & Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury have always been close to my heart. Recent favorites include The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill and The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe. I’ve also really enjoyed a few short story collections by Kelly Link.

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading. It seems my TBR pile gets bigger every time I turn around. I think it’s growing on its own! Maybe that’ll be my next book?

For me, writing isn’t really a job. It’s a passion. A need. I do have a full time job as a middle school custodian. It’s really great for my writing. Nice and quiet, with plenty of time to think. I write for one hour a day, on my lunch break. I feel that setting a time limit really helps. On my days off, I always tell myself, “Okay, lets get writing. You’ll get so much done!”…Until I turn on the tv or crack open a book. Having the structure of writing at work really helps. Otherwise, I get way too distracted.

4. Your MG debut novel The Gravedigger’s Son tells the tale of Ian Fossor, who feels conflicted between his desire to become a Healer and his family’s lineage as Gravediggers. As he is Called to help the soul of a young boy, he finds himself fighting against a group of witches bent on seeking revenge and power. Would you be a Gravedigger or a Healer? How do you explore the themes of life and death, good and evil, and following your dreams versus your family’s expectations in your novel?

The Gravedigger's SonThat’s a tough one! Gravediggers and Healers both help people, but one helps the Living while the other helps the Dead. I think I’d like to be a Gravedigger, since they deal with a certain amount of magic and mysticism. Healing is noble, but I’d be too worried about messing something up. I was never too good in biology or anatomy class!

Exploring the concept of death can be tricky, especially when writing for a MG audience. In terms of religion, I kept everything utterly vague and set it in a fantasy realm. I also had to do it in a way that wasn’t too bleak (I hope), so I knew that I needed a lot of comic relief. That came in the form of Bertrum, Ian’s grumpy but loving undead tutor. And it comes later with Thatcher Moore, the skeleton who refuses to stay dead. One of the main struggles in Ian’s life is the fact that he lost his mother at a young age, and though he’s growing up in a family that has the power to speak to the Dead, he knows he’ll never be able to reach her…or so he thinks. I liked the idea of having something so important being just out of his reach. It makes for a melancholy character, but a sympathetic one. Ian knows that death is a serious business. There’s a big part of him that really despises the whole notion of it (which is probably true for most of us), but as the story progresses, he discovers that death is far from the end.

Good and evil was also something I wanted to explore, but I knew that I didn’t want to make it so black and white. In the story, Ian comes across a coven of Weavers, or dark magic witches. At first, they seem to be completely evil. Yet as the conflict reaches its climax, Ian realizes that their evil deeds are coming from a place of great pain, and in the case of the younger Weavers, a place of learned ignorance. I never like stories of completely flawless heroes vs. completely evil villains. That’s been done before, and I think it’s (thankfully) becoming a dying trope. Everyone has the capacity to be good and bad. There are a thousand shades of gray. You never know what might drive a good person to do something bad, or a bad person to do something good. We all handle things differently. I wanted to write about characters who struggle with righting past wrongs. Naturally, they all have a lot of emotional distress, their morality is clouded, and that heavy baggage can lead to some pretty drastic action.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Patrick Moody, MG Horror Author of The Gravedigger’s Son”

Fragments of the Lost Blog Tour: An Interview with Megan Miranda

Hi guys! Happy Tuesday! Today I am super glad that I’m welcoming one of the biggest authors to come onto the blog! She has written multiple books for both young adults and adults, and her adult novel (which you might have seen and heard of) All the Missing Girls has reached the New York Times bestseller list! Please give a warm welcome to Megan Miranda, whose newest YA novel Fragments of the Lost is releasing next Tuesday!

FRAGMENTS OF THE LOST


About the Book:27797316

Title: FRAGMENTS OF THE LOST

Author: Megan Miranda

Pub. Date: November 14, 2017

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 384

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Find it: AmazonB&NiBooksTBDGoodreads

Synopsis: Jessa Whitworth knew she didn’t belong in her ex-boyfriend Caleb’s room. But she couldn’t deny that she was everywhere—in his photos, his neatly folded T-shirts, even the butterfly necklace in his jeans pocket…the one she gave him for safe keeping on that day.

His mother asked her to pack up his things—even though she blames Jessa for his accident. How could she say no? And maybe, just maybe, it will help her work through the guilt she feels about their final moments together.

But as Jessa begins to box up the pieces of Caleb’s life, they trigger memories that make Jessa realize their past relationship may not be exactly as she remembered. And she starts to question whether she really knew Caleb at all.

Each fragment of his life reveals a new clue that propels Jessa to search for the truth about Caleb’s accident. What really happened on the storm-swept bridge?


Megan Miranda

1. Your newest novel Fragments of the Lost, which releases November 14th from Crown Books, follows Jessa as she uncovers more about the mysterious past of her ex-boyfriend Caleb, who dies in a car accident. Before writing this book, did you have the plot and ending set in your mind, or did you surprise yourself as your drafted and revised it? (No spoilers 😉)

I always surprise myself during the first draft! The early drafts are very much discovery drafts, where I’m learning who my characters are, what they desire, and the pieces of the puzzle at the heart of the story. In Fragments of the Lost, I started writing with only two elements in mind: The main character, Jessa; and the idea of a mystery that would be uncovered through the objects found in Caleb’s room.

Once I discovered all of those pieces in the early draft, I stepped back to create the mystery and plot, and then revised with that in mind.27797316

2. Did you ever base any of the events or characters in your novels (particularly your crime mysteries) off anyone or anything in real life? What is your research or brainstorming process like?

Not for the bigger plot ideas, but I usually find small similarities when I look back at a finished draft. For example, in this book, if you were to look around my office, the room would appear *very* similar to Caleb’s room.

I usually begin an idea with character before plot, so each story depends on the narrator. Once I figure out the mystery at the heart of the story, that’s when I dive into research. A lot of the research comes from talking to people who work in various professions (including police and lawyers), but the brainstorming phase for this book also included sending emails to my friends, asking: “Hypothetically, what kinds of things have you accidentally discovered in your teenager’s room?”

Continue reading “Fragments of the Lost Blog Tour: An Interview with Megan Miranda”

The Bakersville Dozen Blog Tour: ARC Review- I Was on the Edge of My Seat!

Hi guys! For the American audience here, Happy Fourth of July! Today marks a special day in US history, and I bet you’re planning to go to a big cookout and a big fireworks show. I don’t know what I’ll do since I’m writing this post three weeks before, but I do know what I’ll be celebrating in addition to Independence Day: the release of The Bakersville Dozen by Kristina McBride!

Bakersville

 


About the Book31212885

Title: The Bakersville Dozen

Author: Kristina McBride

Publisher: Sky Pony

Release Date: July 4th 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller

Synopsis: You have four days to locate five treasured trophies. Break the rules and you all die. Happy hunting!

Back in September, the town of Bakersville, Ohio made national news when a video went viral featuring thirteen of the high school’s elite in compromising positions. Now it’s May, and every month since the “Bakersville Dozen” made their infamous appearance on the national stage, one girl has gone missing. Officials are no closer to identifying the criminal.

Bailey “Like a Virgin” Holzman is getting really fed up with the scrutiny. She just wants to enjoy the rest of her senior year and have an epic summer before heading off to college. So when she discovers a note in her locker on the last day of school inviting her on a scavenger hunt, she thinks it’s just a sweet surprise from her boyfriend trying to cheer her up.

But following the clue leads her, instead, to the first official casualty. And another sinister envelope. The killer is close, and it could be anyone. Even the people Bailey’s always trusted most—her best friend, her perfect boyfriend, or the boy-next-door she’s always pined for.

With the clock ticking, she faces a terrifying choice: play the game by the killer’s rules—follow the clues, tell no one, and no cops—for a chance to save the rest of the missing girls, or risk becoming the next grisly victim.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Kristina

Kristina McBride has published three novels for young adults – THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES, ONE MOMENT, and A MILLION TIMES GOODNIGHT. Her fourth novel, THE BAKERSVILLE DOZEN, will be released July 2017. Kristina is a former high school English teacher and yearbook advisor, as well as an adjunct professor at Antioch University Midwest and Wright State University. Kristina has a thing for music, trees, purses, and chocolate. You might be surprised to learn that Kristina was almost kidnapped when she was a child. She also bookstalks people on a regular basis. Kristina lives in Ohio with her husband and two young children. You can learn more at www.kristinamcbride.com.

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A 3 Star

Disclaimer: I received a free physical ARC of this book in a giveaway and am reviewing this book as part of The Bakersville Dozen blog tour. This will not affect my review.

Overall Thoughts: I’m pretty neutral about the book. I really liked the premise and thought it had so much potential. I know because I read this all in two to three days when I had an overnight trip in Nashville. Did I couldn’t stop reading at times? Yes. But I’m having the same experience with books like Ballad of the Beanstalk: I didn’t enjoy it like a 4-star book. I’m just very neutral on it. It’s not really amazing to me, but it’s not bad. It’s in between, average.

Continue reading “The Bakersville Dozen Blog Tour: ARC Review- I Was on the Edge of My Seat!”