Because Of The Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez Review

because-of-the-sun-by-jenny-torres-sanchezBecause Of The Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: January 3, 2017

Pages: 272

Summary: Dani Falls learned to tolerate her existence in suburban Florida with her brash and seemingly unloving mother by embracing the philosophy Why care? It will only hurt. So when her mother is killed in a sudden and violent manner, Dani goes into an even deeper protection mode, total numbness. It’s the only way she can go on.

But when Dani chooses The Stranger by Albert Camus as summer reading for school, it feels like fate. The main character’s alienation after his mother’s death mirrors her own.

Dani’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she is sent to New Mexico to live with an aunt she never knew she had. The awkwardness between them is palpable. To escape, Dani takes long walks in the merciless heat. One day, she meets Paulo, who understands how much Dani is hurting. Although she is hesitant at first, a mutual trust and affection develop between Dani and Paulo, and Dani begins to heal. And as she and her aunt begin to connect, Dani learns about her mother’s past. Forgiving isn’t easy, but maybe it’s the only way to move forward.

*Note this novel does contain physical/emotional abuse*-Be aware if those are triggers for you.*

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Because Of The Sun follows Dani as she grieves the loss of her mother. Told through a unique prose, this novel discusses death, family and love.

This was a unique contemporary I won’t forget!

What made this novel truly stand out was the atmospheric writing-style! Written in an almost “stream of consciousness” we follow Dani Falls, who has lost her mother due to a violent accident and must now leave her home in Florida behind to live with her aunt Shelly in New Mexico.

After spending weeks at her aunt’s house, she rarely leaves and manages to speak only a few words at a time. We begin to wonder if Dani will ever recover and find the strength to accept.

Blurring the line between reality and dream, a bear is mentioned when Ruby passes away and throughout the novel and just like Dani, we are left to question whether it was ever truly there to begin with.

Through out the story, she struggles with the fact that she had a very difficult relationship with her mother and wonders if she ever even truly loved her. When truths about Ruby Falls comes to light, Dani questions whether she even knew her mother at all.

The characters were all very well written and I could truly picture them and understand them fully through Dani’s eyes!

She comes to know Paulo and the two bond over movies! Dani gets to know Paulo and while the do start a relationship Sanchez never makes it a central part of the novel and truly focuses on Dani’s personal growth as she grieves and comes to terms with whats happened. I adored the dynamic between the two of them and no matter what, Paulo respected when Dani wanted to help herself and always gave her the space she needed!

I do wish Paulo was included more, because he was a very loving and supportive friend/boyfriend to Dani. However I loved that Sanchez really left the romance in the background!

There is also a big emphasis on family. With the loss of her mother, Dani comes to know her aunt Shelly and understands she isn’t alone and that she can confide in her through her struggles. She also finds comfort with Paulo and his grandmother as well. They provide her with the emotional support and love she never had.

In terms of plot, it mainly focuses around Dani and her new life when she moves to New Mexico and comes to terms with her mother’s death. What I also really loved about the plot was how this novel truly centered around Dani and her personal growth.

After completing the novel it was clear that Dani still had a long way to go to recover and was doing it slowly but surely, however Sanchez did a fantastic job to show that her recovery wasn’t going to be an easy transition and would take time. She was still accepting the truths she learned about her mother, but with her new family and friends it was clear she would be okay.

I will admit I did take off a star, because while the inclusion of Shelly’s POV added much more to the story and really gave more background to Dani’s mother Ruby and why she was very detached, it did slow down the story for me. However, I really got to know more about Shelly and that was great because through Dani’s POV, I felt there was still a lot to learn about her.

Additionally after the section centering around Shelly + Ruby’s past, I felt that the ending felt a little rushed and wanted more page-time/interactions with Dani & the side-characters who now really supported and helped her when she needed it most.

Through a dream-like writing style we follow Dani as she adjusts to a new home and grows to find the strength to accept her mother’s death and all the complexities that come with it!

Ever The Hunted by Erin Summerill ARC Review

ever-the-hunted-book-reviewEver The Hunted by Erin Summerill (Clash Of Kingdoms #1)

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release Date: December 27, 2016

Pages: 400

Summary: Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: A fun murder-mystery/fantasy mashup! Summerill delivers wonderfully written characters, with the plot setting up for an epic conclusion in the sequel!

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book there were strong elements of this story that made it really good, yet there were some elements (that I didn’t like as much) that have me unsure of how to rate this still! (Though will most likely stay at 3.5!)

Summerill did a fantastic job with plotting and pacing. The plot went in directions I wasn’t expecting which kept me invested and with each chapter I found myself hooked on the murder-mystery of Britta’s father and wanted to figure out what happened!

While the pacing was slow, due to Summerill’s plotting and character development it never felt like it was dragging which is a plus!

Along with plotting and pacing another great element to this novel was the characters. Even the side characters I really enjoyed! Summerill wrote them with enough depth/mystery to have me wanting to know more about them, while also giving them enough depth to get the full picture even if they sporadically appear through out the story.

The writing itself was well done. Reading from Britta’s POV (1st person) really made me attached to the characters and world, even though there were some moments I wasn’t really a fan of Britta as much. And in general, I could picture the world/characters rather well.

However there were 2 issues that prevent this from being a full 5-stars!
1.World-Building
We are thrust into this world quickly and along with Britta we come to understand it, however because she is just learning about certain aspects (like the magic) it makes it very difficult to have a rich view of the kingdoms/politics. Much of it is told from other characters Britta encounters which makes the world itself feel rather underdeveloped and difficult to grasp.

Additionally there were moments where the side characters made things a little too convenient for the plot/world and while it did help it to keep the pace moving, I will admit that it didn’t do much in terms of developing to create a richer/fuller atmosphere.

Also I felt there were times when the descriptions of locations + setting were very surface level and didn’t go into much depth which could have really helped with the world building!

2.Romance
I do enjoy reading romance in books, however I felt it was given too much of a central role. With the novel in Britta’s POV, I felt taken out of the story because instead of developing the rules/magic of this fantasy world, I felt there were way too many passages about her feelings for Cohen.

While near the end I liked the relationship more, I definitely felt if it was focused on less, it could have helped expand the world and make the story run a little smoother.

Regardless of the minor issues, I will definitely be reading the sequel/finale to see how it wraps up!

Overall this was a solid YA Fantasy! If you’re looking for a fun murder-mystery/fantasy mash-up with twists and turns along the way I definitely recommend Ever The Hunted!

*Received ARC from a giveaway*

The Weight Of Zero by Karen Fortunati Review

the-weight-of-zeroThe Weight Of Zero by Karen Fortunati

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 387

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disorder, almost triumphed once; that was her first suicide attempt.

Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.

And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list.

The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it. 

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Fortunati delivers a  YA Contemporary with an informative look at bipolar disorder, strong emphasis on the bonds we create with others, and the hope to keep going when all seems lost.

Catherine struggles with her bipolar disorder and depression. Her grandmother passed away right in front of her and her friends have left her, so she knows “Zero” will return. Because of that she’s made a plan to take her own life. After making new friends (Krystal at therapy & Michael her history classmate and soon boyfriend) she begins to feel hopeful again.

However, her fear of admitting to her new friends of her bipolar disorder makes her worry that they won’t understand and abandon her as her ex-best friends did years ago. She then begins to withhold the truth from them and with “Zero” never too far, she’s not sure what to do.

Fortunati doesn’t shy away from the elements of Catherine’s illness and what made the novel so much more richer in terms of plot/characters was the inclusion of how Catherine’s illness affected the people around her like her mother, friends, etc.

The writing itself is very captivating and reading from Catherine’s POV really brings such rawness and honesty to this story.

Reading Catherine’s struggles felt very realistic because it was clear to see after what happened to her in the past she truly feared being judged for her disorder and being abandoned again. It took her quite a while for her to open up to people as she withheld the truth about her illness from her therapy group and lied to Michael about it. Over the course of the story begins to see her lies catching up with her.

Now she must face her truths in order to save these newly forged relationships that mean the world to her

Additionally another great aspect of this novel was the emphasis and positive messages about therapy and treatment. Fortunati delivers these messages all through out the novel through Catherine’s interactions with her therapist, her new friend Krystal, and mother. With Catherine’s therapy and new relationship with Michael, Fortunati shows the mental illnesses/difficulties many families may have when one notices, but that there is always a way to make the best of tough situations.

Out of all the friendships/relationships in this novel, I adored reading the relationships Catherine made with Kristal and Michael and seeing just how happy she became because of them.

Another plot point of this book that I loved was the soldier history project! Michael + Catherine have their plan to report on Jonathan Kasia but after a trip to the local museum with Kristal, she discovers Jane Talmadge (part of the 6888th, the first black female unit to go across Europe during WW2!) Through reading her archived letters, Catherine comes to find her story inspirational and moving! The letters help Catherine through difficult times throughout this story and through her POV you could really see just how inspired she was from learning more about Jane!

There is also a big emphasis on family, especially through the relationship between Catherine and her mother + the strong relationship Catherine sees between Michael and his family. While I do wish Fortunati gave more page time to the side characters, she managed to bring them to life and show just how flawed they were as well through Catherine’s eyes.

I did take away .5 stars because once I neared the end, I did feel it was a bit rushed and just wanted more from Michael & Catherine. Additionally, as mentioned above I also wish there was more interactions/page-time with Catherine and the side characters!

Overall Fortunati’s debut delivers a realistic, raw and engaging story about mental health. Through Catherine’s POV, you’ll join her on her journey to recovery as she finds happiness again during dark times and sees that there is always hope!

 

November 2016 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 6

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.indd1.The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon 

The Sun Is Also A Star ARC Review

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Pages: 384

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: In another incredible contemporary from Nicola Yoon, she explores themes of destiny and love. Main characters Daniel and Natasha are complete opposites, but learn more about themselves, confront tough obstacles and come to bring out the best in each other.

The Midnight Star Cover Reveal2.The Midnight Star by Marie Lu (TYE #3)

The Midnight Star Full Review

Publisher: G.P.  Putnam’s Son’s Books For Young Readers

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 316

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Adelina’s dark story comes to an end in this fast-paced conclusion. The world does continue to expand in some aspects and the plot definitely keeps you surprised.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 11.24.46 AM3.Blood For Blood (Wolf By Wolf #2)

Blood For Blood Full Review

Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Pages: 481

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: The stakes are raised in this conclusion to Wolf By Wolf. The world continues to develop and world/character development play a huge part in this novel. Tone and pacing are quite different than book 1, but Graudin delivers a fantastic plot that will keep you turning the page!

the-grift-of-the-magi-by-ally-carter-book-review4.The Grift Of The Magi by Ally Carter (Heist Society #3.5)

The Grift Of The Magi

Publisher: NLA Digital LLC

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Pages: 105

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Readers return to the world of Heist Society in this holiday novella! Kat and her crew come together to save a charity when one of its valuable auction pieces has been stolen! The plot is fast-paced and entertaining! Characters are given great development and the plot, while wrapping up quite quickly in the end, is filled with mystery and surprise!

labyrinth-lost-by-zoraida-cordova-book-review5.Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (Brooklyn Brujas #1)

Labyrinth Lost Full Review

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: September 6, 2016

Pages: 336

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: Weaving together Latinx Culture + Urban Fantasy, we follow Alex, a bruja who is unsure if she wants to keep her powers. When a spell makes her family disappear to Los Lagos (a mythical land) she must find a way to bring them back. The world/plot could have used more development, but regardless its a magical story of self-identity and family!

bound-by-blood-and-sand6.Bound By Blood And Sand by Becky Allen (Bound By Blood And Sand #1)

Bound By Blood And Sand Full Review

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 320

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: In a magical desert world water is running out and Jae may be the only one who can bring it back. This novel is filled with remarkably written/developed characters that truly come to life on the page. While the world could use a little more development, both world/plot are fascinating and unique. The little-to-no romance leaves so much room for character/plot development.

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Book Bytes I #8

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Bound By Blood And Sand by Becky Allen Review

bound-by-blood-and-sandBound By Blood And Sand by Becky Allen (Bound By Blood And Sand #1)

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 320

Summary: Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.

Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free. 

Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the realm’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Allen delivers a character-driven fantasy that shows a dark and oppressive world, but the bravery and lengths characters will go to bring change!

The best part of this novel was definitely the characters. Allen created her characters with such complexity and wasn’t afraid to show their dark and flawed sides. In doing so, Jae,Tal, Shirrad, and Elan go through immense character development and really come to life on the page.

Additionally there was no romance! Which was definitely a plus for me. With that, more development and focus is given to the characters and plot.

Jae is a slave living in a fantasy desert world. She lives in a house with other slaves (Closests) called Aredann where she among others are forced by their Curse to follow orders by the owner of the property Lady Shirrad to care for it and have minimal freedoms.

From page 1 Jae, is out for vengeance to free herself and her twin brother Tal from the awful Curse and escape after years of oppression.

She discovers there is magic on the property and figures that will be the only way she can bring water back to the land and free herself and other Closests just like her.

A prince from a neighboring land comes to inspect and reveals that the minimal water will leave Shirrad no choice but to vacate.

As the novel progresses prince Elan discovers Jae’s magic and wants to use her to find a magical Well which can bring water back. However, Jae who has been seen as less by Elan’s people (the Highest) is skeptical of his motives and doesn’t trust him.

As Jae learns more about her magic, she discovers there is more to her world’s history than she is lead to believe and that she may be the only one who can bring back the water and free herself once and for all.

However there were 2 issues that prevented this from being a full 5!
1.Pacing: A majority of this novel moved extremely slowly for me personally and that really took me out of the story at times.
I will admit, for me it definitely picks up around the ~70-80% mark and I was hooked to the very end.

2.Elements of world-building:
I felt the world-building (in terms of background history + magic) was quite under-developed. Flashbacks were the general bulk of the historical aspect of the world building and b/c of that I felt the world didn’t feel as rich and developed.

However I applaud the author with her writing style because I could really picture the setting and the characters and overall the plot itself is very unique!!

There were definitely many heart-breaking and emotional moments in this book! Allen weaves in and discusses many topics in this novel such as abuse/assault and social class.

I felt so connected to the main characters Jae, Tal and Elan and could definitely understand their differing points of view + individual struggles over the course of this story!

Bound By Blood And Sand is filled with rich and captivating characters that definitely drive this story and an intriguing world/plot that shows promise for the next installment!

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova Review

labyrinth-lost-by-zoraida-cordova-book-reviewLabyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (Brooklyn Brujas #1)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: September 6, 2016

Pages: 336

Summary: Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: A magical coming-of-age story, with themes of family and self-identity!

What originally drew me to this novel was the  premise! Being Latina I was quite familiar with the magical and cultural elements of this story and I adored reading them in an urban fantasy setting!

Family is a big theme of Labyrinth Lost, and I felt the magic and the bonds between Alex’s mother and sisters, Lula and Rose, the moment they were introduced. Along those lines, many themes interconnected and gave so much depth to the overall world.

Themes of family and self-identity merged definitely weaved together with the Latinx heritage and culture.

There was so much diversity in this novel, which was fantastic! Latinx Culture, Bisexuality, and GLBT+ characters!

Alex is unsure whether or not she wants to accept her magic/power as an Enchantrix and definitely has an internal struggle of wanting to forge her own path, yet feeling unsure because of what her family expects of her.

After a spell goes horribly wrong, she finds herself headed to Los Lagos, a mythical land tied closely with Brujas. She finds herself teamed up with Nova, a family friend and Rishi, her best friend as she explores the mythical and magical land to save to her family.

The myths and legacy of the Brujas, magic system and world of Los Lagos was the best aspect of this novel. I’m very familiar with the idea/folklore surrounding brujas and found that to be a wonderfully rich and engaging part of the world/story.

Descriptions of Brooklyn, Los Lagos, and the history of the Brujas comes to life through the writing and I could really picture myself there. Both the world and characters are given such depth and were wonderfully written.

It was great reading from Alex’s strong, engaging, and empowering POV. While reading, I was captivated by the rich world of magic and Latinx culture that definitely showed the magic of familial/sister bonds which I could relate to so much!!

However the novel did have one con.

Through the 1st person POV, while I definitely got an overall rich and magical view of Los Lagos, I would have loved if the settings/world was expanded and given a little more depth. Additionally, I would have loved more from the plot. The “rescue” part of the novel felt rather jumpy and I would have loved more development from that, considering a majority of the novel took place there.

Overall with a satisfying conclusion, Labyrinth Lost dives deep into a magical world filled with Brujas, magic, Latinx Culture, and introduces many themes that weave together to tell a tale just as magical.

I will definitely be reading the sequel and can’t wait to see where Alex’s journey is headed!

The Grift Of The Magi by Ally Carter Review

the-grift-of-the-magi-by-ally-carter-book-reviewThe Grift Of The Magi by Ally Carter (Heist Society #3.5)

Publisher: NLA Digital LLC

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Pages: 105

Summary: Katarina Bishop is a thief. To many it wouldn’t matter that she now uses her considerable skills to re-steal valuable works of art and return them to their rightful homes.

She’s still a thief.

So that’s why Kat’s surprised when an Interpol agent comes to her one snowy evening, asking for Kat’s help.

The Magi Miracle Network was set to auction off a very rare, very valuable Faberge egg two days before Christmas, but the egg’s been stolen and now the charity’s reputation—and their future—is on the line.
Kat’s family and Interpol might be opposite sides of most jobs, but someone just stole Christmas.

Now it’s up to Kat and her crew to steal it back.

The Grift of the Magi is a Heist Society novella and is approximately half the length of the other novels in the series. It stands alone, but if you want read more about Kat and her crew check out Heist Society, Uncommon Criminals, and Perfect Scoundrels.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: A fun and fast paced heist which takes readers back into the world of Heist Society!

Heist Society is a very special series to me, because it sparked my love of reading! Its been 3 years since Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society 3) released and after finishing this short story it brought back so much nostalgia.  It was truly wonderful to read about Kat and her crew again! 💖💕

The plot, dialogue, writing style, etc. were all fantastic! Yet, the strength of this story was definitely the character development.

Kat and Hale were beginning to get used to their newly developed relationship in Perfect Scoundrels, however by this point they have fully established it and it was great to see how much they’ve grown since then.

At the start of this story, Kat and Gabrielle have been approached by Interpol agent, Ameila Bennett because one of her dear friend’s (Elizabeth) London charity, the Magi Miracle Network, has been robbed.

Amelia reveals how special the organization is to her and believes Kat and her crew are the only ones who can help.

An auction is set to take place on Dec. 23, which will not only support low-income families around Great Britain but bring more attention to the organization itself.

A Faberge egg (1 of 3 Eggs of the Magi) has been stolen and it must be found before the auction takes place!

With Hazel Hale (Hale’s grandmother) the original founder of the Magi Miracle Network and W.W. Hale V currently the new chairman, he is automatically no. 1 on the list, considering Kat’s mother also had one similar to it and believes Hale knew that too.

The crew has 11 days to figure out who really stole the egg (possibly even a forged one) and get the real one back in time.

Carter’s writing kept the story fast paced and entertaining. There was definitely expansion on side characters introduced early into the Heist Society Series, like Amelia, Gabrielle’s mother, and even more development on my favorite characters like Hale & Kat!

Additionally what I adore about Carter’s plots/writing style, like in this short story, is how she leaves clues here and there which makes it so much fun to uncover the secrets/mysteries of the cons and characters as you go.

Kat really revealed her more humorous side in this story which I loved! (She was so funny!) Overall it was just amazing to see how much she grew and see her and crew back again for another heist!!

The mystery and con was planned perfectly. I didn’t know who to trust and there were twists and turns, but it all wrapped up wonderfully in the end.

My only minor issue was some moments of slow pacing and just wanting a little bit more character development (mainly from side characters towards the end).

I adored this novella and my fangirl heart is still processing the amazing-ness of another Heist Society story!!  🎉🎉

Highly recommend if you are a fan of the Heist Society Series or are looking for a fun and fast paced Heist/Con story to read during the holidays!