Category Archives: Book Reviews

Brooke Reviews: Wild Hearts by Jessica Burkhart

This e-galley was provided by Netgalley and Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

I really liked the premise of this book – it had a sort of Romeo and Juliet vibe (feuding fathers!) as well as the horses thing, which sounded promising. But the book didn’t meet expectations, and that’s always disappointing.

Brie and Logan fall for each other pretty quickly. I definitely would have preferred a “slow burn” rather than insta-love. And their relationship is so perfect. I originally thought this was because author Jessica Burkhart was leading up to some dramatic fallout between the two, or some sort of climactic moment involving their fathers’ disagreement, but no such luck. As a result, it didn’t capture my attention like I hoped it would.

Also, I felt like the horses weren’t a huge part of the plot until the second half of the book. And by then, much of the conflict had been resolved.

I did appreciate Burkhart’s exploration of Brie’s character, especially Brie’s evolving perspective on moving so often for her father’s job. Brie also searches for her own “thing,” and it was interesting to see her rally behind a project.

In the vain of the other “If Only” books, Wild Hearts is light and fun – unfortunately, it fell a bit flat for me.

Brooke Reviews: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

I was simultaneously disappointed and excited when Marissa Meyer announced the publication of Fairest. Disappointed, because it meant I’d have longer to wait for Winter. And excited, because I knew the book would add depth to her story world and to her villain, Queen Levana.

I will praise Marissa Meyer until the end of my days. Fairest exceeded all expectations. It is the tragic story of a girl who longs to be loved.

The book begins with the murder of Levana’s parents. The only family young Levana has left is Channery, her older sister and heir to the Lunar throne. But Channery is selfish and vain and cares nothing about politics. And she is cruel to Levana. She continually reminds Levana of her ugliness and her worthlessness.

Surrounded by the mentality that beauty is everything, Levana’s glamour becomes her shield. And eventually, her source of power. I was eager to discover the reason for Levana’s fear of being truly seen. Readers of the Lunar Chronicles know that Levana despises mirrors and wears a veil whenever she communicates via netscreen. It’s obvious that Levana is insecure about her appearance and wishes to maintain the facade of being exquisitely beautiful, but Fairest reveals that there’s much more to it than that.

The timeline of the book covers much of Levana’s life – beginning with her teenage years and ending just before the events of the first three books (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress). The passage of time is smooth, organic. I was carried along by the flow and rhythm of the story.

It’s an engaging read. I appreciated how much backstory (for all the characters!) Meyer was able to weave in without slowing the pace.

As for Levana’s character, she is sympathetic but not altogether likable. My heart ached for her, even when I knew she was making poor decisions. It is an incredible feat for an author to make an antagonist sympathetic AFTER readers have encountered her in previous books. And I think I speak for all fans of the Lunar Chronicles when I say we have very strong feelings of hatred for Levana. But not anymore. So huge props to Marissa Meyer!

Levana’s transformation and downward spiral is painful. The book is emotional and sorrowful. But it’s so compelling, and I know it will make my reading experience of Winter infinitely more impactful.

Have you read this book? Share your thoughts!

Brooke Reviews: Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Disclaimer: I’m going to apologize ahead of time for being a bad book blogger – I did not write this review immediately upon finishing the book. I’m sorry…I promise it won’t happen again!

So where to start with Kiersten White’s newest standalone? Her books are so addictive. Her writing style is just gorgeous, and she creates these rich story worlds that I can vividly imagine even days after I’ve finished the novel.

Our protagonist, Jessamin, is independent and hard-working and feisty. She has skeletons in her closet (blackmail, anyone?), but as a reader you’re willing to forgive her for them. In fact, her skeletons make her infinitely more interesting. 😉

Jessamin is struggling to make it in a world which is determined to make sure she doesn’t succeed. She faces a good deal of prejudice from the nobility of Albion, who are rich and excluding and snobby. All but Finn, that is. He’s aloof and mysterious, but he treats Jessamin like an equal, and he enjoys spending time with her (for reasons she can’t quite understand).

This book has a very dark tone I wasn’t exactly expecting. But I really can’t imagine it any other way. I think it adds to the mystery and intrigue of the plot. Bonus points to White for a super creepy villain, the hilarious sidekick Eleanor, and an unpredictable climax/conclusion. The plot twist was fantastic but the ending was a bit sudden.

This book left an impression. It was an incredibly enjoyable read for me.


Have you read this book? Share your thoughts! If you’re a fan of Kiersten White, we should be friends.

Brooke Reviews: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I am a huge fan of mystery, conspiracy, and romance (probably in that order), and this book promised all three. I think it definitely delivered, and yet I just couldn’t get super excited about it.

I liked the characters, but I felt as though I didn’t have enough time to get to know Avery in order to really root for her before she took off to Paris with a stranger. I know it’s fiction, and I know how much Avery wanted to meet her family, but I couldn’t help thinking, girl, he just pulled a knife on you! It was moments like these that made me question Avery’s judgement.

I will say that I really appreciated the travel aspect of this book. Paris and Istanbul sound incredible and I loved the historical details the author weaves into the story along the way. The Circle’s ties to Alexander the Great were particularly interesting.

And whatever Avery was lacking, Jack totally made up for it. I have a huge crush on Jack (maybe it’s his adorable British accent). The romance was adorable, and while there was insta-attraction, there was no insta-love. (Thank you thank you, Maggie Hall!)

The plot moved pretty quickly. I’ll most likely read Book 2. I liked this book, I just didn’t love it.

Brooke Reviews: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Where to start with this book?? First of all, I was crazy excited that Ally Carter was writing a new series. I’m a huge fan of the Gallagher Girls, and I love Heist Society. I hoped that, even with different characters and a different premise, Embassy Row might carry on in the same vein.

But All Fall Down is NOT Gallagher Girls or Heist Society, and Grace Blakely is NOT Cammie or Kat. Grace is a more serious, emotionally unstable character. And this first book is very much about Grace’s mental health and her need to come to terms with her mother’s death. For this reason, I couldn’t entirely connect with her character. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t like her. As a reader, I’m sympathetic to Grace and rooting for her from start to finish. Nobody believes her – she’s the girl who cried ‘wolf’ – and I’m anxious for her to prove herself.

I didn’t feel particularly grounded in the story-world, either, but it’s something I’m willing to forgive because I appreciated that Grace’s character received more development and attention. I love the supporting characters, Grace’s friends Noah, Rosie, and Megan. And I liked the storybook-villain-feel the “Scarred Man” gave to the book. There’s political intrigue and mystery and hints of future romance.

I thought the ending was great, and there’s definite promise for an even better sequel.


Have you read this novel? Share your thoughts! *Also, I’m using a new plugin for my book reviews called the Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin, which I’m still learning to use but think is quite awesome. What do you think?


Brooke Reviews: Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas

Top Ten Clues You're CluelessTop Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh my word, I loved this book. *squeal*


Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day
5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market
4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi
3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat” look after being caught in a snowstorm
2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)
1) Being accused—along with her fellow teenage employees— of stealing upwards of $10,000
Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers . . . even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe’s list of Top Ten Best Moments.

Top Ten Clues is original and fresh and funny. The events of the novel take place over the course of a day (Christmas Eve!) in a grocery store. How’s that for an interesting setting? And it was believable, too. I’ve never worked in a grocery store but Chloe’s experience felt real for me – the monotony of bagging groceries and working the cash register, being polite despite the weird customers, etc.

Chloe is totally quirky – but in a completely relatable way. (Her awkward moments = my awkward moments.) Her lists actually made me laugh out loud.

The book is largely about her relationship with her coworkers, and their developing friendship (and maybe something more with one coworker in particular *wink, wink*). After they’re accused of stealing donation money, they’re forced to stay after closing and thus spend a good bit of quality time together.

And so they learn ALL sorts of things about each other. The stereotypes are revoked.

There’s a good bit of diversity in this book, and it actually becomes a topic of conversation for the characters. But it isn’t forced or exaggerated – in other words, there isn’t diversity just for the sake of diversity.

I liked that this book is sort of like a mystery novel – there’s the anticipation of waiting for something to go wrong, and several subtle clues, and then the characters’ attempt to solve the case and clear their names. (Chloe is a fan of mystery novels and identifies with Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars. To which I say, you go girl, because you’d be hard-pressed to find role models less impressive than those two.)

OVERALL – I really, really enjoyed this book. I give this book a free pass to jump to the top of your TBR pile.

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If you’ve read this novel, share your thoughts! What was your favorite of Chloe’s lists?? 

Brooke Reviews: One of the Guys by Lisa Aldin

One of the GuysOne of the Guys by Lisa Aldin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This e-galley was provided by Netgalley and Spencer Hill Press in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Tomboy to the core, Toni Valentine understands guys. She’ll take horror movies, monster hunts and burping contests over manicures. So Toni is horrified when she’s sent to the Winston Academy for Girls, where she has to wear a skirt and learn to be a “”lady”” while the guys move on without her.

Then Toni meets Emma Elizabeth, a girl at school with boy troubles, and she volunteers one of her friends as a pretend date. Word spreads of Toni’s connections with boys, and she discovers that her new wealthy female classmates will pay big money for fake dates. Looking for a way to connect her old best friends with her new life at school, Toni and Emma start up Toni Valentine’s Rent-A-Gent Service.

But the business meets a scandal when Toni falls for one of her friends–the same guy who happens to be the most sought-after date. With everything she’s built on the line, Toni has to decide if she wants to save the business and her old life, or let go of being one of the guys for a chance at love.

I loved the premise of this novel, as it combined three of my favorite things: friendship, humor, romance.

Toni is a humorous and likable character. She and her three best guy friends have been inseparable ever since their sighting of a lake monster and their subsequent monster hunts. I really appreciated this realistic portrayal of friendship – often it’s one event that brings people together. But Toni feels she and the boys are growing apart, and so the book is largely about Toni’s attempt to save their friendship and her eventual realization that change is inevitable.

I really appreciated this underlying theme about maturity and embracing change, which is nicely accentuated by Toni’s coping with the death of her father and her relationship with her mom’s new husband. I loved Emma Elizabeth Swanson, the first female friend Toni makes at her new school. Emma is anything but stereotypical, and she teaches Toni that’s it’s okay to embrace her femininity without sacrificing her tomboyish nature. Their Rent-A-Gent service is totally original, and there are plenty of mishaps along the way.

My only complaint has to do with several inappropriate aspects of the novel I thought were unnecessary. Toni’s prank on her high school principal at the beginning of the book definitely showcases her immaturity, but it was also inappropriate and rude. Toni and her friends have an unconcerned attitude toward underage drinking. At one point Toni pole dances for her friends. I just didn’t appreciate this, and I don’t think younger readers would, either.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel even though it didn’t quite meet my expectations.

Release date: Feb. 10, 2015 (That’s TOMORROW, my friends!)

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Brooke Reviews: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OHMYWORD I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get my hands on this book. But I couldn’t be happier it’s my first read of 2015 – I think it’s a sign of an incredible reading year to come!

Summary: As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

I LOVE the premise of this book. The protagonist PURCHASES a slave in an auction and then falls for him? I’m sold. (No pun intended). And seriously, this book exceeded expectations.

Kestrel is witty and intelligent. In every scene, every action, every line of dialogue, Kestrel reminds the reader of her sharp personality and resourcefulness. She’s such a refreshing character. She’s a strategist, encouraged to join the military by her father, who she has this interestingly complicated relationship with. I think the best thing about this book is how every possible cliche and stereotype is completely thrown out the window.

The setting is so unique. The world-building is really well done, as there’s absolutely no info-dumping and instead everything the reader needs to know is woven into the story. There’s romance, but there’s no insta-love and plenty of clever banter and tension. Of course, it’s all tied directly to the plot, which is HOW IT SHOULD BE!

And the plot – completely unpredictable! The conflict is anything but black-and-white, and even at the end I struggled to make up my mind about which side to root for – the slaves who’s land and who’s homes were taken by Kestrel’s people, or Kestrel and the Valorians.

So I’m a little behind, but I am jumping on this bandwagon to encourage you to read this book now if you haven’t already. 🙂

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Have you read this book? Fangirl with me!


Brooke Reviews: Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Adrenaline CrushAdrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Won this book in a giveaway (thanks Shae!) and couldn’t be happier!

Summary: When a daredevil teen pushes herself too far, she must choose between two boys: the one who wants to keep her safe, and the one who dares her to return to her old self.

Seventeen-year-old Dyna comes from a family of risk takers and is an avid thrill-seeker herself, until the day she splinters her ankle in a terrible fall. Her whole life goes from mountain biking and rock climbing to sitting at home and attending group sessions at the bizarre alternative healing center that her hippie mother found. The boy who witnessed Dyna’s accident believes her injury is a wakeup call and he encourages her mild new lifestyle, but a young Afghanistan War veteran she meets at the healing center pushes her to start taking chances again. Forced to face the consequences of her daredevil impulses, Dyna finds herself in danger of risking the one thing she’s always treated with caution—her heart.

While I’m not typically fond of love triangles, Dyna’s dilemma intrigued me and I wanted to know who she’d fall for. The premise of this novel is entirely realistic, and I found myself wondering which of the two boys I would choose.

At the beginning of the novel, Dyna is a reckless thrill seeker. I could understand her passion for the outdoors and for adventure (though I’m nothing like her!) but her inability to think about the consequences (aka, her stupidity) was really bothersome. Personally, I found her recklessness to be rather selfish, as she doesn’t consider what a possible accident might do not only to herself but to the people who care about her. Don’t get me wrong – I liked Dyna’s character even from the beginning. I just recognized she had room to grow…

And Dyna’s growth is what I liked best about the book. I thought the author walked a fine line – exploring the relationship between bravery/courage and recklessness. Dyna has to learn the difference between being stupid and challenging oneself. Ultimately, she realizes she shouldn’t let her accident and her fears hold her back, and I think that’s a noble message for anyone who allows fear to be an obstacle.

The supporting characters of the book defied stereotypes, and that’s always something I look for in a good book. Dyna’s parents are tattooed motorcycle riders who encourage their kids to take risks. But they were also caring and conscientious. The role Dyna’s parents played in her life was a huge plus for me, as I think healthy child-parent relationships are sorely lacking in many YA novels.

This was a fairly quick and easy read. It was somewhat predictable, as it becomes pretty clear which boy Dyna will choose, but in a good way – and this predictability did not slow the pace. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. 🙂

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Have you read this book? Share your thoughts!


Brooke Reviews: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This e-galley was provided by NetGalley and Scholastic in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

How do I even begin with this book? Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I discovered books 1 and 2 only earlier this year, and completely fell in love. Stiefvater is now one of my favorite authors. (I could hardly contain my excitement when I was approved for this ARC.)

So book 3 is very similar to books 1 and 2 in that each and every character is extremely well developed and I just couldn’t put the book down. There is such depth of character – it gets me every time. The multiple POVs were also really well done, and so the reader gets glimpses into everyone’s heads. (Including the villain!)

Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah are still on the hunt for Glendower. Of course, they’ve faced many complications preceding the beginning of book 3. (Let me jog your memory – assassin, Greywaren, Cabeswater, missing person).

Morale is low. Blue is alternately depressed and angry. Ronan and Adam are just dealing with the every-day challenges of their newfound gifts (powers? abilities?). Gansey is trying to keep the peace as usual. The search for Glendower has taken on a new level of seriousness. There is more magic in this book, more mystery. But the underlying tone of sadness persists, and is culminated toward the end of the book in a terribly tragic event that nearly brought me to tears.

Overall, I felt this was sort of a transition book. Everything has changed for Blue and the gang. And we have no idea what the outcome will be in book 4. Points for characters, story world, magic, and unpredictability!

GAH! The wait for book 4 is going to be long and difficult.

Release date: Oct. 21, 2014 (That’s TOMORROW, my friends!)

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*Super excited because I preordered a signed hardcover copy of the book and it should be here SOON. And not only is it signed by Maggie Stiefvater, but she has doodled in it. You should be so jealous. 😉