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Fireworks – Katie Cotugno

Fireworks – Katie CotugnoTitle: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
Publishing Info: April 11, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 1, 2017

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

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Heads up, talking about specifics so there will be SPOILERS.

This book wasn’t quiiiite what I thought it would be and that was okay but there were things that just didn’t quite fit. I liked Dana a lot but it never really felt right for her to be a part of this pop star world. I feel like it would have been a little different if there had been an expressed interest in singing before she took Olivia to her audition. It just felt so off of Dana to even enter the world of singing and show business without even wanting any part of it before she got there. Maybe that’s just me as a big choir nerd not understanding how you can jump into this without a passion for music or performing… I have no idea. Not staying that you HAVE to have experience in order to get into the music industry but trying to think about it as someone who was only a part of choir was overwhelming, not to mention voice lessons, dance lessons, and all of the show biz type stuff that you have to do. I don’t know… I just felt like Dana didn’t belong there, which I guess was the point, but it felt wrong to take that opportunity away from someone else just because she wanted to get out of her town. There are so many people who have that DREAM and while she may have been a natural performer, I don’t know… It just didn’t click for me and I actually was not rooting for her to make it in the industry. It really bothered me throughout the whole book and despite the fact that she was actually putting a great effort forth to grow and listen and perform… I still didn’t think that was the right place for her and I knew it the whole time.
Aside from that, let’s not even tap into the fact that four girls are chosen for this girl group and out of four in the whole country, Dana is selected ALONG WITH her best friend, even when she sings Happy Birthday and… that’s it. No other auditioning process? No other callback? No tests to see if she even knows how to read music or if she’s a good dancer or if she doesn’t have an attitude, etc etc etc?? I 100% understand selecting someone for their star quality but people aren’t selected because of that alone. There has to be something else going there to make someone think they can turn that person into a star and that the work is going to be worth it. They flat-out didn’t see enough of Dana to even know that.

The friend thing bothered me too. One of the reasons I loved Open Road Summer so much was the fact that the best friends were supportive and things didn’t get catty. One was the star, one was not, and it wasn’t a competition. I didn’t like that Olivia sort of abandoned her best friend for the other girls because they had more experience and were, for lack of a better word, cooler than Dana was. I didn’t like that this book pitted the two best friends against each other and then Olivia stabbed Dana in the back!!! Ugh UGH UGH. I couldn’t stand that.

I also just had more hope that this was going to have some more 90s/early 2000s type feelings with all of those shows like Making the Band and Popstars. That was what I immediately went to when I heard the girls were going to audition for a girl group and there were some feelings of it there but I would have loved to get a little more of that feel. There wasn’t much of a time era feel aside from music references, which I would have loved to see more of because HELLO 90s, like the best time ever (ha)! There wasn’t that nostalgia that I had hoped for at all.

There were other feelings I got from this book though, in so many ways. I actually felt a lot of Center Stage because of all of the industry moments and things we got to see that happen in closed-door meetings. People get cut from groups, deals are made, people get stabbed in the back, images are created. I also felt some That Thing You Do! and Selena with some of those musical moments about trying to get your music out there and be heard, so that was a fun feeling.

The book was entertaining but I feel like I had a totally different image going in. FIREWORKS is a cute title for it but the cover is pretty misleading for what the book is about (despite the fact that I love it). Things were not really fun and friendly… they were kind of catty. And the fireworks were a small part of the book although related to kind of a big concept. I feel like it made the book seem so much lighter and easy-going and it was intense show business work!

When it comes down to it, I enjoyed the read and it was quick but I can’t quite give it four stars because I didn’t feel like Dana ever fit into this world and it stuck out to me the whole time. I just felt like everyone was forcing her into that role even though SHE knew it wasn’t the right place for her either, even if she did have that star-quality. It made it hard for me to root for her to succeed because I didn’t feel like even she wanted it.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Not-quite-historical-fiction. I love books set in specific eras that aren’t quite historical fiction since they’re still somewhat current (even though the 80s are now 30 years ago and the 90s are 20 years ago!). It’s fun to have that nostalgia while still peeking into a time frame that I was actually alive and enjoying!
Left Me Wanting More: Fun. This book just wasn’t… fun. The girls were mean to each other, there wasn’t a lot of 90s nostalgia, and it all felt a bit dramatic. I just really was hoping for more a light summer read.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

Some people LOVED this book. It just didn’t work for me. I think I went into it thinking it was something else so I guess it depends on what you’re looking for!

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BOOKS LIKE FIREWORKS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE REECE MALCOLM LIST

DNF Digest [5] – The Lonely Hearts Hotel

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I didn’t intended on making “DNF Digest” a regular thing because honestly? I always hope to finish a book! Lately, though, I’ve been more inclined to mark a book as DNF because there are just soooo many books I need to read (you’ve seen my shelves) so I just can’t afford to be pushing through books that I’m really not enjoying. If I’ve read a lot of the book I finish, it’s sort of a policy of mine to try to write a small “review” saying why it didn’t work for me, but today’s collection of DNF round-ups didn’t quite warrant reviews because I didn’t make it as far as I’d hoped.

I’ve been doing kind of well at not DNFing books lately but I have put a few on hold. Today, I’m just talking about one relatively recent DNF due to the content as well as extremely different expectations.



Title:
 The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Author: Heather O’Neill
Format I was reading: audiobook received from the publisher for review
Started reading: 2/9/17
Date marked as DNF: 2/9/17
Marked DNF at: a few chapters in (don’t know the exact due to formatting)
Reason for marking DNF: (My mini-review from Goodreads) I started listening to this audio and only made it two chapters before I turned it off. I had high hopes with nods to The Night Circus as far as timing, magic, and two orphans (and the fact that it was marketed as a NIGHT CIRCUS comparision)… But I couldn’t even make it past the beginning of the book. Only two or three chapters that only span into the first five years of the two main characters’ lives and the book was already too much for me. Trigger warnings for rape, incest, child abuse, child neglect and more within the first couple chapters. And again, this didn’t even span past the first five years of their lives. It seemed like there was way too much included for shock value and not that I made it far enough to really solidly say, but chances are that all of those horrors were not necessary for the overall plot of the book. I know this book is adult and not YA but I still don’t think that’s an excuse or allowance to include so much so fast. No matter what the target audience or age range, it just felt like overkill.

The writing and possible potential of where the story might go just weren’t enough to keep me reading and being bombarded with so many abhorrent events really didn’t make me want to keep reading. If this was the way the book started, what the heck do I have to look forward to here? It really got me down before the story even started and turned me way the heck off to the book instead of pulling me towards a emotional connection and sympathetic nature towards the two main characters.

As I do with any DNF, I checked out other reviews and they really didn’t seem too positive either. Another reviewer had finished the book and still gave it one star, citing that things really didn’t get better for our protagonists so I surely wasn’t going to stick around for that. If I couldn’t handle the beginning, I couldn’t bear to read a whole book like that.

Maybe check out reviews before picking this one up, but seriously beware of all of those trigger warnings if you’re sensitive to any of them. I’m usually able to stomach quite a bit but they all immediately turned me off and had quite a depressing start to a book that I was expecting to be magical.


This book just really didn’t work for me on many levels and even if the triggers weren’t overwhelming for me, I just am not in the mood for such a painfully dark and serious read at the moment. Thank you the publisher for the review copy of this one and sorry it didn’t work out!

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) – Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) – Rae CarsonTitle: The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) by Rae Carson
Publishing Info: September 20, 2011 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 7, 2017
Related Posts: Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1)

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.

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Well hello again from the black sheep side of the world! Sadly, it has not been long since I’ve been over here.

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS has been on my TBR for so many years and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it… But this first book, man. I had a very hard time with it.

The beginning was not a struggle. I enjoyed that Elisa was not perfect, not slender, not the favorite. She does bear the Godstone which brings about her important marriage to a king in another land. I appreciated so many things about Elisa but her character felt very young compared to other YA characters that have been thrown into the same situations and her naiveté just really bothered me at times. I appreciated that the romance was not a main focus BUT I was annoyed that there were three different non-romances that Elisa was involved in and it was bothersome for her to have at least some form of feelings for so many different people. I also had a hard time with knowing that Hector becomes such a big character in future books (because of everyone’s flailing) so the romances (or lack thereof) with other guys was just frustrating because I wanted it all to be Hector.

Can we just pause here for a second, though? Why. Is the stone. In her belly button. I don’t know why but that bothered me so, so, SO much. It was weird and annoying and she was getting some… intense sensations from it. (Okay, it was nothing sexual but the descriptions were weird sometimes.) I just really hated it.

I didn’t really ever get into the story either. I enjoyed the first part of the book and I was interested to see it go somewhere… and then in my least favorite plot turn ever in any book, everything is upended and the characters get taken somewhere brand new and are around 100% different people, totally changing everything that you spent time getting to know in the first third of the book. I also didn’t like the people that Elisa ended up with in the next part of the book when everything changed so it was really just all downhill from there for me. I also really didn’t like the ending of the book and I was hoping for something in a different direction.

Things just fell apart after the first third of the book for me and it was annoying enough that I don’t know if I even want to continue the series. I’ve heard such good things about the series but if I didn’t enjoy the plot and tone and where this one went… I don’t know if it’s worth continuing for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique heroines. I really liked the fact that Elisa wasn’t an easy heroine. We watched her learn and grow and struggle through some common things instead of being a perfect little snowflake.
Left Me Wanting More: Consistency. The story felt like it flipped halfway through the book and it just felt like a totally different story. I wished it had been structured much differently.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

So many people love this series but it just wasn’t a hit with me. I’m not sure if I’ll continue so I’d recommend checking out other reviews and not just mine!

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BOOKS LIKE THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE WRATH AND THE DAWN

It Started With Goodbye – Christina June

It Started With Goodbye – Christina JuneTitle: It Started With Goodbye by Christina June
Publishing Info: May 9, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Retelling
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 7, 2017

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

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I was so excited to read IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, Christina June’s debut novel! I’ve known Christina since we were first both bloggers way back in the day and it was such an honor to be able to read her debut novel and hold a physical copy of her ARC in my hands! I received a copy of IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE from the publisher and it was so neat to read a book written by someone I had met and talked and to watch their journey to become a published author! The fact that I know Christina June does not affect my review in anyway aside from the fact that this was a big reason of why I wanted to read this book!

This book was very quick and easy read and a lovely modern take on Cinderella! Contemporary adaptations of fairy tales are always so interesting because I love seeing how magical things get adapted to a real world. I really loved the nod to the original fairy tale and how Christina June fit the story to a modern-day teenager. There were even some direct references to Cinderella which were so fun to note, along with the general story line that paralleled it.

IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE was a great book about finding yourself and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s hard as a teenager (okay, it’s hard as an adult sometimes too) and it made things even worse for Tatum with a stepmother who always seems to have it out for her and a stepsister who can do no wrong, following in her stepmother’s footsteps. Much like another recent Cinderella contemporary adaptation, GEEKERELLA, the modern take here also focuses on the redemption of the family members and the main character realizing that sometimes there is more behind that “evil” facade than meets the eye.

I actually wish there was more focus on the relationships in the beginning of the book because it was a little slow to start for me despite the fact that this was a very quick read. I wanted to just race through it and I found myself hitting rough patches with the direction of the plot and was hoping for more of a focus on the core relationships instead of branching out to include other acquaintances first. Especially with how short the book was (which I appreciated, actually!), I would have loved a stronger focus on the best friend and romance specifically, along with the family, instead of adding in more minor friends. I wasn’t as interested in the secondary characters and some of their stories seemed to take focus where I would have rather read about Tate, although I know a lot of my friends enjoyed those other friendships.
Also with the split of Tatum from her best friend, she felt sort of solitary throughout the first half of the book and I felt like she didn’t really have anyone to share the story with so secondary characters were forced into the mix. I would have loved to see some more heart-felt dialogue with someone she could share more secrets with and I was really missing that best friend vibe, or even just someone close that she could have talked to in the beginning. The cute little romance didn’t catch me right away, I think because the initial meet-up was crowded with other characters, so the warm-fuzzies got a little bogged down in the character relationships all around.

The family dynamic was the hit of this book for me and I really enjoyed how things progressed with each family member. Tatum establishes new relationships with her stepmom, stepsister, and even her dad, who had really always been in her corner but reached a point in this book where their relationship hit a turning point. With the kids growing up and stepmother Belen often in charge while he is out of town, Tatum’s relationship with her father really began to change and then mature throughout this book. I also really liked that the father-figure was just traveling for work and that was was created his frequent and long absences instead of death. We did have the absence of Tate’s mother but I liked that she wasn’t orphaned for this book!

IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE was an easy and quick read with some really well-founded family concepts. I didn’t quite connect with it like I had hoped but I feel like it’ll do great with the teen crowd (who is really its intended audience) who are going through the same situations with best friend fights, family relationships, and first-time big crushes. The Cinderella adaptation adds a really nice touch to this book and it’s a great pull into the story and motivation to pick it up!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Modern adaptations of fairy tales. I was so giddy when I found direct references to the original Cinderella fairy tale! I think this adaptation and concept were spot on and I loved the modern take.
Left Me Wanting More: Relationship focus. I felt like there was a strong focus on the family throughout the whole book but I was missing the best friend and/or crush vibe in the beginning. I think I’m just so used to reading young adult books that are constantly surrounding those two relationships that are so prominent in teenage lives that I come to expect that to the be the focus of every book. They were definitely still featured here but it didn’t feel like the strongest relationship of the book for me, which was okay but a little bit of a surprise for me.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE was a fun and quick read! I loved how the concept fit together and

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BOOKS LIKE IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS

Blog Tour: The Traitor’s Kiss | Book Scents + Giveaway!

Blog Tour: The Traitor’s Kiss | Book Scents + Giveaway!

Welcome to the blog tour for
The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty

I’m so excited to share today’s blog post which is my blog tour stop for THE TRAITOR’S KISS by Erin Beaty! Thanks to the amazing team at Macmillan for having me be a part of the tour and share some of my favorite parts of any book… the scents! Being a candle-maker, I’m obsessed with the different scents described in books and there were a few lovely aromas in THE TRAITOR’S KISS that caught my eye. On today’s stop, I’m sharing some of those and have a special candle giveaway too!

Before we jump into the tour, let’s take a second to check out some details about the book:

Blog Tour: The Traitor’s Kiss | Book Scents + Giveaway!Title: The Traitor's Kiss (Traitor's Trilogy #1) by Erin Beaty
Publishing Info: May 9, 2017 by Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 18, 2017

An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.
With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.
As the girls' military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.


BOOK SCENTS: THE TRAITOR’S KISS

Ever since I started making candles, I’ve been so much more in tune with the sensory notes in the books that I read. I feel like aromas in a book are easily skipped over and forgotten once a reader has finished because noticing and committing a smell to memory is such a unique experience that it’s harder hang onto if you haven’t experienced it first hand. I know at least for me, when a book draws on a familiar smell, I’m instantly hit with memories and nostalgia that have the potential to tie me to a book more than any other scenic description so I feel like those smells that add to the atmosphere are not to be overlooked!

Drawing upon my newly heightened awareness, I’ve started keeping tracking of specific scents described in book and how they really paint an even more vivid picture for a reader! Today on Book Scents, I’m sharing some of my favorite aromas from THE TRAITOR’S KISS! They immediately had me thinking back on what fragrances I would use to mimic each experience and I’ve included each one below. (Now how do we make these posts scratch and sniff?)

It still smelled like him. Like the pine pitch and tallow salve Father made for cuts and scrapes.

Inspiration: Sage’s father’s salve
Fragrances: Pine, outdoors, oakmoss

There were honey-colored freckles he’d noticed last night scattered across her nose and cheeks. This close, he could also smell the lavender and sage scents in her dress, which he much preferred to the floral perfumes the other women were drenched in.

Inspiration: The scents of Sage
Fragrances: Lavender, sage, honey

He smelled indefinitely better — like soap with essence of evergreen… clean linen… leather… and something indefinable that left her only wanting to breathe more deeply. 


The scent of his leather jacket mingled with the evergreen shaving lather he used.


This close, she couldn’t help breathing in the scents of leather, evergreen soap, and linen — a mix that was distinctly his.

Inspiration: The scents of Ash
Fragrances: Clean soap, pine, clean cotton, leather, musk

The scent of spearmint with a hint of orange drew Sage to her side.

Inspiration: Sage’s roommate Clare and her tea
Fragrances: spearmint, orange, earl grey tea

The Great Hall was decorated with garlands of spring flowers imported from somewhere much warmer than Tegann, and rushes on the floor released sweet scents as they were trod upon by the multitude of guests.

Inspiration: The Great Hall
Fragrances: Tulips, jasmine, tropical flowers

So what do you think?! Which scents do you think are the strongest sensory inspirations? Which are your favorites?


SECRET MESSAGE & BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

“Well-schooled, high and mighty about it”

Each blog on the blog tour also has a SECRET MESSAGE! Check out each stop on the blog tour to collect all of the messages for one final passage!!

BLOGGER BLOG DATE CONTENT
Brittany Smith http://www.bookaddictsguide.com 20-Apr Scented Candle
Flo Kizza http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/ 22-Apr List of Favorite Literary Female Spies
Becky Vosburg http://www.storiesandsweeties.com/ 23-Apr Guest Post: Intro to main characters with pics
Katie Bartow http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/ 24-Apr Guest Post: Top 10 Things All Spies Need
Crystal Leach http://bookiemoji.com/ 25-Apr Top 5 Reasons to read The Traitor’s Kiss
Rachel Clarke http://www.fiktshun.com/fiktshun/ 26-Apr Guest Post: Favorite & Most Challenging Scene to Write (and Why)
Mandy Curtis http://foreveryoungadult.com/ 27-Apr Guest Post: YA “matchmaker”
Beth Edwards http://www.yabookscentral.com/ 28-Apr Guest Post: What gave you the inspiration for this book?
Michelle Adams bookbriefs.net 29-Apr Guest Post: Top 5 Things You Didn’t Know about Sage & Quinn
Amy Thau http://www.trippingoverbooks.com/ 30-Apr Mood Board
Michelle Bucud http://darkfaerietales.com/ 1-May Guest Post: What’s the most daring thing you would do for a mission?
Sarah https://whatsarahread.com/ 2-May Mood Board
Jennie Cresswell https://booklovingnut.com/ 3-May Playlist
Liza Rodriguez http://quitethenovelidea.com/ 5-May Alternate Cover
Kelly Gunderman http://www.herestohappyendings.com/ 6-May Q&A
Brooke Goldetsky http://brooke-reports.blogspot.com/ 7-May Sage Character Interview
Michelle Santiago http://booksandmakeup.blogspot.com/ 9-May Fancast

GIVEAWAY

Because of the scent inspiration of today’s post, I’ve actually taken one of these concepts and turned it into a candle! The candle giveaway is for one 8oz tin called “Forest of Ash”, inspired by male lead in THE TRAITOR’S KISS with a play on the evergreen scents that are constant throughout his scent. This candle smells like clean pine, cotton, and leather with hints of masculine musk. Open to US entries only. Must be 13 years of age or older to win. Candle giveaway open from 4/20/17 – 4/27/17. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) – Alwyn Hamilton

Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) – Alwyn HamiltonTitle: Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) by Alwyn Hamilton
Publishing Info: March 7, 2017 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 17, 2017
Related Posts: Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)

Rebel by chance. Traitor by choice.
Gunslinger Amani al'Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.
When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.
Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about Djinn and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

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TRAITOR TO THE THRONE was one of my most-anticipated reads of 2017. I absolutely loved REBEL OF THE SANDS when I read it last year and it wasn’t just an enjoyable book for me — it was one of my favorites from the entire year. I was so incredibly excited to read and ended up being quite intimidated by its size. Before I get into the actual review, let’s talk about some THINGS. The book is over 500 pages long and REBEL was only about 300 (320? Something like that) so 200 extra pages right off the bat was a LOT. Don’t get me wrong — I love long books. They’re amazing when you get lost in them and there’s so much an author can do with so many pages… but I didn’t think TRAITOR needed that many pages. There was a lot of pressure to read this for many reasons (anticipated read, long book, reading for a blog tour, reading on a time crunch, not having finished a lot of books recently and then starting a long book) and that did affect my read a little bit BUT I know that if I’m really enjoying a book, I’ll save something that is lengthy and not dread how much more I have to finish.

TRAITOR ended up being more intimidating than enjoyable and I reached a point where I didn’t feel like things were moving forward. The book is over 500 pages and it spent a lot of time in the same places with not a whole lot of plot moving forward. Some of it I really felt like could have been handled in a few chapters and then we could move forward with really anything. As I’ve said in many reviews before, I don’t “need” action to enjoy a book but this felt like the plot was stagnant. I didn’t feel like the story was moving forward and I really think it could have progressed in far fewer pages. I enjoyed REBEL in part because it was concise and didn’t add extra pages for the sake of drawing out a fantasy novel. Sadly, TRAITOR fell victim to the extra pages and I wonder if that’s because of the success of REBEL. If it was moving, I don’t doubt that I’d want to read all 500+ of those pages but it just didn’t seem to go anywhere.

This is where it will get minorly spoilery. Still just plot points, nothing like reveals or deaths or anything, but WARNING WARNING if you want to avoid any potential spoilers, skip to the next paragraph! 
Soooo I did not like where this book went. At all. Amani ends up being captured and taken prisoner in a harem which felt like such an easy direction to take this book and something I’ve already read so many times. I’m tired of girls being trapped by men, especially when sexually persecuted (although not particularly Amani, but that’s the general idea of being trapped in a harem) and just no, no, no. Amani was FIERCE. She was one of the guys! She was strong! She was independent! She was getting stuff done and JUST discovering her abilities in the first book! All of that got taken away for at least 50% of TRAITOR and I was just so disappointed. Why build up a power to have it taken away in the next book? Why create an awesome, strong female to have her become helpless and trapped? Literally, could not help herself. I guess in the end, she makes some stuff work, but that took for-ev-er to happen. The harem was literally half of the book so I definitely struggled for a long time.

Really when it comes down to it, I just didn’t feel like this was the same tone as the first book at all. The squad is all over the place so there’s a serious lack of squad goals. The author chose to do that book two thing where the couple is split up for half the book, even though the swoons and banter were such a big reason why I loved the first book. There are so many characters on top of the ones that were in the last book so I started to get lost with everyone. As with any series, I kind of got lost with some of the secondary characters since it had been a year since I read the first book and the addition of even more characters started to really lose me. The book also started six months after REBEL so those six months were just kind of summed up and I didn’t get to experience them. Things happened and I had to hear it secondhand… and a lot of stuff had happened. I can deal with time after the first book but it really felt like it was picking up in a whole different place and didn’t quite continue the first adventure.

I’m not sure if I’ll read the third book in this series which is such a shame. Once I hit this point, it’s kind of hard to go back to the point where I had loved this experience. So much of the middle could have been cut out or condensed and TRAITOR could have stayed as action-packed as the first, minimized time apart from Jin, and kept me way more interested. I just don’t even know what to feel about this series now so I guess I’ll wait until the third book comes around and reassess then. As of right now, I just don’t see it happening though.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Not much. You know, it’s sad when I don’t even know what the highlights of this book were for me. I just keep remembering my disappointment and struggle.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot movement. This just need to be far fewer pages and keep the characters more together.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I can’t tell if I’m the black sheep on this one or it really did suffer from second in a series syndrome.

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BOOKS LIKE TRAITOR TO THE THRONE

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A Good Idea – Cristina Moracho

A Good Idea – Cristina MorachoTitle: A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho
Publishing Info: February 28, 2017 by Penguin
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: February 14, 2017
Related Posts: Althea and Oliver

Can the right kind of boy get away with killing the wrong kind of girl?
Fin and Betty’s close friendship survived Fin’s ninth-grade move from their coastal Maine town to Manhattan. Calls, letters, and summer visits continued to bind them together, and in the fall of their senior year, they both applied to NYU, planning to reunite for good as roommates.
Then Betty disappears. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admits to drowning her, but his confession is thrown out, and soon the entire town believes he was coerced and Betty has simply run away. Fin knows the truth, and she returns to Williston for one final summer, determined to get justice for her friend, even if it means putting her loved ones—and herself—at risk.
But Williston is a town full of secrets, where a delicate framework holds everything together, and Fin is not the only one with an agenda. How much is she willing to damage to get her revenge and learn the truth about Betty’s disappearance, which is more complicated than she ever imagined—and infinitely more devastating?

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A GOOD IDEA was interesting from start to finish but my passion for it sort of went in waves. The beginning was interesting but I wasn’t sure where it was going yet. The middle was thrilling and I tore through the book (well, I would have it I wasn’t listening to an audiobook and was forced to read at a level pace). The ending culminated well but got a little out there in regards to how things tied up. I liked the way that the book ended and yet the circumstances as to how the characters resolved the “case” was a little bizarre.

I was excited to pick up A GOOD IDEA because I had loved Cristina Moracho’s debut, ALTHEA & OLIVER. This book was quite different — a mystery/thriller versus realistic fiction — but I do love that both books took place in the 90s. It wasn’t really a “period piece” but I’m guessing that was Moracho’s time as a teen since it’s been revisited twice and I do like that “write what you know” concept in this case. I also enjoy things NOT set in present day because the slight throwback allows for less technology to get in the way. The concept of no cell phones (or at least no smart phones) really breaks that form of constant communication and allows plot to wander instead of technology making things unrealistic. Everyone is not a quick phone call or text away and people don’t have cameras attached to their hips. I appreciate the break from technology and allowing the book to run away with an idea!

This is another book that may aim towards a more mature young adult audience with consistent drug usage, language, and sexual activity. I read a few reviews that felt like these things were overboard but for small town Maine (or small town anywhere) and a lack of technology (not like I know what the 90s were like as a teen), I didn’t think anything was really out of bounds. It wasn’t my personal experience as a teenager but that doesn’t mean it’s unrealistic.

It was interesting to see Finley dig into the past by stirring up questions about her best friend Betty’s murder. Betty “disappeared” and everyone knew she had probably died but without actual evidence, no one really wanted to actually admit it. With a confession in the air (not a spoiler — we know this from the beginning) that didn’t stick, Finley needs to prove that the confessor is actually guilty and that they’re punished for taking her best friend’s life but loyalty gets in the way and made things even more dangerous for Finley. It was really interesting to have an answer from the start and have the characters race through a series of theories and scenarios. Was this confession really what happened? How much more is there to the story? Is it a lie? Is it a cover up for something else? Is Betty even really dead? These are all questions that the characters ask themselves and as the reader, I really started to question everything as well. The obvious answer is presented to the reader at the very beginning, but is it the CORRECT answer?

The ending got a little strange and maybe a bit too dramatic for my tastes. The beginning was pretty realistic, focusing more on the internal struggles of each character that added to the drama and confusion of the overall mystery. The ending got a little too villain-y for me (also not a spoiler because that’s not even in relation to the final answer of the mystery) and it just really sadly turned me off for just a bit. BUT I did like how the very, very end wrapped up and the solid conclusion left me satisfied with the book overall.

Oh, and we also really did find a bathtub in the woods on a hike.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Books set in the 90s. This book wasn’t really about the 90s but I love the concept of being slightly removed from present day. I wouldn’t call the 1990s historical fiction but I enjoy that there’s a little bit of nostalgia and lack of technology. I’d love to see more books set in the 80s and 90s!
Left Me Wanting More: Realistic endings. Things were so gritty and real and then then ending got a little bizarre for me. I mean, it’s a book so I’m not saying it never could have happened but it just didn’t seem like it would happen.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This was a really interesting book and I really enjoyed the way it was put together! I liked that it was a mystery and yet the answers were there the whole time, and I thought the character development was really great too.

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(Click the cover to see my review!)

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