ARC Review: Lies You Never Told Me

Lies You Never Told Me

 

HOLY COW. This book was one heck of a thrill ride! I was hooked from the start and sad when it was over. I should have seen the ending coming but I was so engrossed that I was just enjoying the storytelling and mystery. DANG this was good.

Short recap: Gabe is on his way home from spending some time with his girlfriend, Sasha, when he is hit by a car. He has no idea who hit him as the driver is never found. After recovering from his injuries, he realizes that he really is tired of Sasha’s shallow and controlling ways so he breaks up with her. Only Sasha isn’t the type of girl you just break up with. She vows to get Gabe back no matter what. In a parallel story, Elyse has just been given the lead in Romeo and Juliet and she couldn’t be more thrilled! It is the only good thing she has going in her life. Outside of theater, she works nights to pay the bills because her mom is addicted to pain pills and cannot care for herself. Elyse has to be the adult. During one rehearsal for the upcoming play, Elyse rehearses a scene with her teacher and they share a very intimate kiss. This stars these two down a dark and disturbing storyline that really cannot end anywhere good.

There is a lot happening in this book but y’all, it is unputdownable. I could not get enough! I wanted nothing more than to wrap myself in a blanket, shut out the world, and read this book. It sunk it’s hooks into me in a way that was the best. I haven’t had a book do that in a while. I was so involved and captivated with every single character. Gabe had a serious psychopath of an ex-girlfriend to deal with while trying to get to know the new girl, Catherine. Catherine was also in the way of Sasha’s wrath. Catherine had her own demons to deal with and I wanted to know her story so bad. Sasha was clearly messed up in the head. Elyse had some heavy issues to deal with being the adult while her mom chose to stay high on pain pills. Every single character had a story I wanted … no… needed to know more about. It doesn’t seem like these stories have anything in common but they come together in the end and it is perfect. It was done masterfully and I was rendered speechless.

The entire story is told from the POV of Gabe and Elyse. They really do lead very different lives but really do come across as teenagers with their own set of troubles and tribulations. The development of the characters was very well done. They felt completely flushed out and wonderfully flawed. The character I connected with the most and was cheering on the hardest was Gabe. I was so furious that nobody believed him when crazy stuff happened! His parents were always doubting him and siding with Sasha, even after they broke up. They never bothered to even try to find out the truth, they just took her word for it. To be able to invoke that type of emotional reaction from the reader (ME!) proves how great of a writer Donaldson really is.

Even though I am gushing about how much I loved this story, there were some parts that were rather hard to read. There were a lot of serious topics covered: drug addiction, inappropriate relationships, and kidnapping to name a few. The way Donaldson handled them was very well done. She did not mention them and then skirt away. Oh no. She introduced them, talked about them, and then showed about how horrible they are to not just that one person but to the people around them. That may not make sense but I’m trying to say she did a wonderful job of incorporating these serious topics into the entire story. She did not glorify them or make light of them, she knew they were serious and portrayed them as serious. They were all very well handled.

I am not going to be able to say enough good things about this book. I am now a Donaldson fan for life. Her ability to write THAT ENDING put her high on my Auto-Buy List. I should have been able to predict what was going to happen but I just didn’t. It blew my mind. The twists and turns and secrets and lies were just so well written that I soaked them up like a sponge. I highly – highly – recommend this to everyone who loves a good page turner of a story. Happy reading!

 

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ARC Review: From Twinkle, With Love

From Twinkle, with Love

 

I should title this “Black Sheep Review” as I did not enjoy this as much as every other reader. I love the author but the story itself just did not work for me. I was not a fan of Dimple but I still went into this book with an open mind.

Short recap: Twinkle wants nothing more than to be a famous Hollywood film maker and she will stop at nothing to become just that. Even though she is still in High School, she is a girl that knows what she wants. She also has her eyes set on the most popular boy in school. She just knows that once they start dating, everything in her life will immediately improve.

It was a little difficult for me to write the recap as this story felt like it was one trope on top of another trope over yet another trope. It was difficult for me to get through but I did read until the very end. What  I did do was roll my eyes a lot at Twinkle’s absurd thoughts: that dating the most popular boy in school would magically fix her social standing; that she had to fix things with her BFF (Maddie) by trying to convenience her why they were friends to begin with (even though we are never told why they stopped being friends to begin with); that her secret admirer just had to be the popular boy in school and he really had feelings for her the entire time.

Twinkle’s character (much like Dimple) was the reason I disliked this story. I did admire her drive to become a filmmaker but there was not much else about her that I liked. She had such a shallow way of thinking about people that it hurt to read. Yes, she was attracted to the popular boy in school but she never so much as struck up a conversation with him. Why would she magically think everything would change and he would profess his undying love for her? It was as if she thought her social standing at school would be fixed and everyone would love her if they started seeing each other. In my eyes, that was the wrong way to look at a relationship or dating someone. I didn’t agree with Twinkle’s way of thinking and therefore it stood out to me. I also did not like how she became a horrible person towards the end. What she wanted to do to the people that thought she was a friend was despicable. She felt rather selfish the entire story. It was always about what she wanted and who cares about who she hurt to get what she wanted. Don’t get me started about how she yelled at her parents. There were much better ways to handle that.

The awkward thing between Twinkle and Maddie did not make a lot of sense. They were best friends and then they weren’t. That is all the information that we were given. Twinkle did almost everything to pull Maddie back to her as if she was the only friend Maddie could ever possibly need. Again, WRONG. That was so wrong to me.

The secret admirer story line felt like too much. It was one story line that did not need to be there. It was painfully obvious who it was but still Twinkle couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Her reactions towards who she thought it was caused more eye rolls.

It was a struggle for me to overlook the obvious and continue with the story because it was no secret how things would turn out. For me the theme circled around what was always so obvious. Nothing felt like a mystery or a struggle, it was clear as the nose on my face. I did not believe the romance. The random blog that the love interest had was also not necessary. He could have just as easily typed that in an email or text to his friends. The blog entries were random. They just did not add anything to the story. I know a lot of people will love this story, I just am not one of them. I wish I could have read the story through your eyes if you did love it but it was just not for me.

 

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Review: The Nowhere Girls

The Nowhere Girls

 

I went into this story absolutely blind to what it was about and I feel it was the best way to experience this sensational novel.

Short recap: Three outsider girls in a relatively small unassuming country town each experience their own version of sexual harassment, assault, discrimination, sexism, first loves, and the power of friends. These three girls come together to form The Nowhere Girls, an anonymous group that is hell bent on strengthening the bonds between girls while bringing the a-hole boys to justice that have done horrific things to innocent victims.

I thought I was ready but I wasn’t. I listened to the audio of this book so when I couldn’t listen, I wanted to be listening. I wanted to know what happened to these girls in this town! It all started when new girl Grace, the daughter of the new female preacher, moved to town and moved into Lucy’s old house. Grace found out from Rosina that something truly awful happened to Lucy that caused her to move away – Lucy was brutally raped and the people within the town did not believe her. Grace and her new friends, Rosina, who is gay and Hispanic, and Erin, who is autistic, has an incredible obsession with Star Trek: The Next Generation and all things to do with the sea, form The Nowhere Girls to help get justice for Lucy. Nearly every girl had been attacked or assaulted in some way, shape, or form. The adults turn a blind eye and ignore. Grace, Rosina, and Erin fight to stop this from happening to another girl.

“Silence does not mean yes. No can be thought and felt but never said. It can be screamed silently on the inside. It can be in the wordless stone of a clenched fist, fingernails digging into palm.”

A lot of this story reminded me of Moxie and it fired me up all over again. Coming from a small town I know the stigma that goes along with high school football and believing it like gospel. Some towns treat high school boys like royalty and let them practically get away with murder, all so they can win football championships. It pisses me off to no end. I love how that topic was covered and then some. It shed yet more light and I appreciated that. Boys within this story were portrayed to be untouchable, and in some places that still holds true to this very day. It needs to stop. I wish I had a group of girls to hang out with like the ones in this story. I believe every girl has the right to feel safe in her own home town, her own school even. They should never walk down the hallways in fear that some perv boy will try to assault them and laugh when they say “No”. I wanted to jump into this story and fight along side these girls. GAH, the girl power found within the pages felt inspiring!

“Sometimes the not crying hurts worse than the crying.”

The very well developed characters and strong emotions are what really made this story. Yes, there are some horrible events that take place, terrible things said by guys towards girls, and even the adults should be ashamed of the way they behaved. None of that should deter from the fact that this could have been a story ripped from the headlines. Rosina, Erin, and Grace have such unique personalities that they all work together in a beautiful way. They all seem to balance one another out. Maybe Reed just has some magic that she isn’t willing to tell yet, but whatever she is doing, she needs to keep doing.

“Did you know the triangle is the strongest geometric shape in nature?” Erin says.
They meet one another’s eyes, one by one by one. They breathe. They swallow. They turn towards the door. Grace presses the button of the doorbell. They hold their breath and wait.”

I had not read anything by Amy Reed before but based on this one single book, I am forever hooked. I will buy and read whatever she publishes. Her writing was fluid and amazing. The pacing was perfect. I was never bored or wondered when the story would be over. I was absolutely hooked. Reed had me from the first page. This is not an easy read – not at all. The topics of rape, assault, and more are discussed. They are talked about openly and very candidly. The way the topics were presented felt real and very believable. It felt like I was eavesdropping on someone’s conversation it was that good.

As you can tell, I had a lot of feelings and thoughts about this story. I still do, in fact. This is a story that is going to stay with me for many years to come. I hope everyone has a chance to pick this one up because it is such a wonderful story. It is tough, it is dirty, it is gritty, it is raw, it is real, it is emotional, it is necessary. I recommend to every single person. I will be recommending to everyone for a very long time. 

 

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ARC Review: Ace of Shades

Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1)

 

I have no doubt that most of you have heard of this upcoming magical adventure full of mystery, dark secrets, betrayal, and a hint of romance? This was everything I thought it would be and so much more.

Short recap: Enne travels to the city of New Reynes, aka City of Sin, to find her missing mom with only a very short note to guide her. This note tells her who to contact if she needs help – Levi. Enne was raised to be a proper young woman so traveling to the City of Sin scares her half to death, but her need to find her mom is greater than her fear. What Enne and her new companion, Levi, discover along the way will absolutely change the course of history for everyone within New Reynes.

I went into this with a bit of hesitancy only because I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. Sure, fantasy books are always an adventure but not all are done well. THIS BOOK WAS DONE WELL. It was so well done that I was hooked from the start. There is a lot of history throughout the book so thankfully I was able to follow along with no problems. I loved reading the imaginative history Foody developed for this complex story. The idea of having a magical gift and then a split talent was fascinating. I had to wonder what my talents would be… Would I be a Salta dancer or perhaps something more uncommon, like an acrobat or a blood gazer? So many options! Brilliant! All of this together along with Foody’s ability to create a truly unique world made this setting marvelous. With ever turn of phrase I swear I could picture myself walking down Sweetie Street or into one of the many casinos. The amount of detail  that went into this story blew my mind. I never would have dreamed of using volts as currency, how they were made, or how they can be used against someone. Mind blowing. Those types of details really pulled the story together to make one phenomenal adventure.

Along with the setting, the characters are the other integral part of this story. Enne and Levi were amazing yet wonderfully flawed. As mentioned, Enne was raised to be a proper young lady who knew what was expected of her. She had that at the front of her mind at all times. She knew that being in the City of Sin was unbecoming of a young lady but knew she had a bigger mission and was willing to set all of that aside. Her character arc was something to behold. I loved her progression and how she grew, never backing down from danger. She was strong enough to face everything head on, yet always gave herself some quiet time to either have a good cry or silently reflect. Brilliant. Levi was just as great. If I could claim him as my book boyfriend now, I’d like to do that. (Are you reading that, Amanda? I’d like to claim him!) The secrets that boy carried, oh my! It was as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders daily, but his people never knew because he was good enough to not show it. As Iron Lord he could not ever show signs of weakness. It made me adore him even more. He was strong when he needed to be, and showed just the right amount of kindness. Amazing.

I have touched on the overall topic of the story – Enne travels to the City of Sin to find her missing mother, only to uncover a mound of buried secrets that will change her fate forever – but I did not expect it to be as good as it was. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I mean that in the best possible way. It pacing, the reveals, the adventure kept me turning pages long past my bed time. I could not get enough of this and desperately need book 2.

I will be singing the praises of Ace of Shades for a long time. If you are looking for a stunning novel full of dangerous secrets, savage magic, and non-stop action, you need this book in your life.  You will fall for the characters, be swept away in the imagery of the setting, and be captivated by magic. I hope you already have this on your TBR or have it pre-ordered. You do not want to miss out on this fantastic read.

 

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Review: The Lost and The Found

The Lost and the Found

 

Do you ever borrow or buy a book simply based on the blurb? I did that with this book. I borrowed it from my library having little to no knowledge of it. That blurb is what drew me in and made me want to read this book. Sadly, I walked away disappointed with the story I read.

Short recap: Faith lost her sister, Laurel, many years ago and hasn’t given up trying to find her. Everything changed when Faith and her family get the call that Laurel has been found. Faith cannot wait to reunite with her sister but quickly realizes that something isn’t right.

From the start of the story, my heart went out to Faith. That girl went through some horrible stuff after losing her sister. Her parents neglected her constantly and she was forever living in the shadow of her sister. How can a girl grow up properly if her parents focus all of their attention on their missing daughter and never give one thought to the one they still have? I never blamed Faith for being so upset with her family, I know I would have been the same way. Then when Laurel is found, Faith had such a mixed reaction. She was hesitant to get to know her sister again and I don’t blame her. There was never room in her family for Faith after Laurel disappeared. Now that she has returned, all of the attention stayed on Laurel and her parents, not the “other daughter”. Faith had to learn to be self reliant at such a young age that why would she want to lean on her parents now? I was more relieved that her parents were not still together and she could at least talk to her step father about things. Her mother was a horrible woman and her dad felt distant. I didn’t care for either of them.

The overall plot of the story was rather interesting, but nothing I didn’t expect. I saw the ending coming from the start of the book. I blame it on the Murder TV I watch. (I’m addicted to Investigation ID, if you have heard of it. Message me if you’re the same and we’ll share stories!) I was just waiting to see how the big twist would be revealed and if it would be done correctly. I thought it was alright but everything at the end felt super rushed and a little odd. Since I already knew what was going to happen, I tried to focus on what was going on between Faith and Laurel. That interaction was pretty believable but all of the red flags and warning bells were going off for me. Again, can I blame that on my downright obsession with murder/mystery shows? Maybe. But you expect me to believe that a girl that has been kidnapped and lord knows what else have happen to her over those years come back and be okay with being in the public spotlight right away? Yeah… no. That never jived with me. And she kept refusing to have a simple DNA test done? DING. DING. DING. Do you hear those loud alarms? Those are the warning alarms going off. Apparently nobody else in the story picked up on that until the very endheavy sigh 

The one part of the story that actually got me was when Laurel explained what had happened to her in the house where she was kept. When she talked about what she endured, I broke. That felt raw and completely believable.

Overall, this was not as good as it could have been. I wanted more that this story was never going to give. The ending left me upset. Not upset in a good way, upset in a bad way. It was rushed and nothing really felt resolved. Do I recommend? Eh, I’m afraid I can’t recommend to a lot of people. I’m sure they will see through everything the way I did. I don’t regret reading this but I’m not happy with what I read.

 

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ARC Review: To Kill A Kingdom

To Kill a Kingdom

 

I read this book months ago and have been struggling with the review because it is so damn good. Me writing glowing and positive reviews is tough because I feel I won’t properly express how much I enjoyed what I read. But if it is a negative review, buckle up because you’d be in for a heck of a ride. In this case, it will be nothing but a glowing review because this book was STUNNING.

This is not the little mermaid story you think it is. This is one made for nightmare fuel. Yes, there are mermaids, sirens, princes, quests, and other magical elements, but by no means is this anything Disney will be releasing to theaters anytime in the near future.

The protagonist of this story happens to be Lira, the daughter of the queen of the ocean. Lira was raised in a horrific environment where she is punished if she does not do every cruel thing her mother ordered her to, which happened to be stealing the hearts from people that she lured into the ocean. Lira continued to do everything her mother asked in hopes of becoming the Prince’s Bane, a very prestigious position. These mermaids/sirens are savage, vicious killing machines that have been taught to never trust humans so killing people was never given a second though. Lira found that she had a taste for only the hearts of princes… and she was only allowed to do this on her birthday.  But Lira’s world is forever changed when she disobeys her unforgiving mother, and people never disobey the Queen. Lira was caught stealing a prince’s heart two weeks before she was supposed to and the Queen unleashed a horrid punishment: her fin is torn off and Lira is forced to live as a human.

Enter Elian. Elian is amazing and I want to claim him now for my book boyfriend. You are reading it here! He’s on my list 4EVA. Sorry, what was I saying? *heart eye emoji* Elian is the prince but his heart always belongs to the seas. He is a pirate and a siren hunter. He knows his responsibility is to his kingdom and making his father proud, but he will always be a pirate and always be a siren killer. He and his (amazing) crew set out time and time again to kill every siren they come into contact with, and man are they good at it. I loved, loved, loved this crew. Their banter, their wit, their interactions where what I lived for in this story. I wanted to be a part of this crew just so I could hang out with these awesome people.

I promise these two story lines come together in the best way possible. Remember how I said Lira is forced to live as a human and Elian is a siren hunter? BAM! Instant story that will knock your socks off. But this is not an instalove story – THANK GOODNESS. This is a “Lira wants to kill Elian and tear his heart out while Elian wants to figure out who this girl is” story. There is no swooning, there is no birds singing in the distance while someone starts singing. This is “I’m going to kill you given the chance so sleep with one eye open” kind of story – and it’s brilliant. That’s not to say there isn’t any romance because there is a wee bit and thankfully it is minimal. I won’t go into any more detail than that.

Have I sold you yet? Still not sure? How about I mention how the writing is stunning and full of magic. The pacing is perfect and the ending is enough to make you smile with the brightness of the sun. If that doesn’t get you to want this book, you’re a tough cookie to crack. You need this book and I will continue to push it on everyone. I want to shout from the rooftops how much I loved this book and want more from this author. I need more from this author. I am now a lifetime reader of whatever this author publishes. You need to add this to your TBR, borrow from a friend (if your friends are that cool), or borrow from the library. You need to read this and come back to give me your thoughts. Maybe we’ll gush together but remember – Elian has been claimed by me.

 

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Review: Truly Devious

Truly Devious (Truly Devious, #1)

 

This was the mystery/thriller book I didn’t know I needed. I had a rocky start with Johnson books so I was hesitant going into this but she blew me away and I am thankful for that.

Short recap: Stevie Bell has been accepted to a very prestigious school and is secretly hell-bent on solving the murder/crime that took place there in the ’30s. She has been obsessed with the story for as long as she can remember. As she continues at school and moves forward with her investigation, she quickly finds that the person involved in the original crime may be after her as well….

Spooky, right?! This story was brilliantly written and had me hooked. I must point out that this is a duel time-line story. Part of the story is written in present day while the rest is told from the past. It is not as confusing as you would think. It gives just the right amount of detail from the original crime to keep you guessing, and still feels relevant to what happening present day. The scenes from the ’30s do not ever overtake or over shadow the the rest of the story and that was refreshing. I wish more stories could be written like this because it is a vacant genre right now.

The characters felt really well developed. The main character, Stevie (a female, btw), was very well flushed out and vetted. I liked how head strong, confident, and just a tad bit odd she was. It all made her feel more real and believable. There is a slew of characters that are with Stevie throughout her journey and most of them are just as good. Her good friend, Janelle, seemed like such a solid girl to have on your side. Nate was odd at times but he certainly managed to make me not despise him. But then there is David…. I’m still not sure about him. I never know what he is up to or what his true motives are so for now I’ll say he is on the fence… neither like nor dislike. We’ll see what he does in book 2.

The pacing of the book was spot on for me. I never once thought it was dragging or slow. I thought it was the perfect amount of suspense and story telling, both of which Johnson seems to excel at. And that ending… WHOA. I still have absolutely no idea who is behind everything! It’s killing me! Normally I’m quick to figure out who the bad guy is (the butler in the kitchen with the lead pipe) but I could not do it with this story. This is the start of a trilogy so don’t go into it expecting everything to be explained and solved by the end, that is not going to happen. But do prepare yourself for intrigue and a lot of ‘whodunit?’ questions. I don’t know about you but I need book 2 last week. I have to know what happens.
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