Tea & Book Chat: Madly by Amy Alward (Potion #1)

Madly by Amy Alward is the first book in the Potion series. So far there are two books listed as part of the series on Goodreads but the author has stated that it will be a trilogy.  Madly is quick paced, extremely fun and definitely falls on the lighter side of the fantasy genre.  The story follows an alchemist named Sam who takes part in a kingdom-wide competition to find a cure for a love potion.  As it turns out, the sole heir to the kingdom, Princess Evelyn, has accidentally consumed a love potion that was meant for someone else and she ends up falling, well, madly in love with herself.  It was such a delight to read Madly and I’m really looking forward to it’s sequel, Royal Tour.

The story takes place in a world that is very similar to our own except that magic, alchemy and mythical creatures exist alongside technology.  In the quest to find the cure for the princess, there are two main sides facing off.  There’s Sam who comes from a long line of alchemists who still follow the old traditions and mix everything by hand.  Then there’s Zain who comes from the family who won the last hunt and revolutionized potion making by propelling synth labs to forefront of the industry, resulting in their synthetic potions becoming the leading source of potions in the kingdom.  There are several others competing but Sam and Zain, along with Emilia (an exiled member of the royal family) are the main focus of the story.  I loved traveling along with them as they rationalized what would be needed next for their potions and I enjoyed all of the diverse settings they procured their ingredients from.  Because they were always searching, and usually in the most dangerous of places, the plot advanced quickly and there was rarely ever a lull in the story.  My favorite parts of the story involved mermaids and unicorns<3

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As far as characters go, Sam’s was an interesting perspective to read from.  When she’s first called to the palace and learns about the hunt, she’s met with resistance from her family regarding her participation, particularly from her grandfather. He used to be recognized as the best alchemist in the field but after the synths came out triumphant in the last hunt, he has completely misplaced his trust in the royals.  Sam is a shy, family-oriented girl with a massive talent for potion making so going against her grandfather’s wishes is a hard decision for her to make.  With the exception of Kristy who pairs with Sam during the hunt, the supporting characters were a bit underdeveloped but I’m sure they’ll have their time to shine in the next two books.  I was a little underwhelmed by the romance but since I loved that overall plot and pace, it’s something I’m able to overlook.  Again, I feel like there’s room for growth as the series continues.

Final Thoughts:  Madly by Amy Alward is a cute and quick paced fantasy novel.  It tells the story of Sam, a talented alchemist, as she competes against others in her kingdom to find a cure to a love potion their future queen accidentally drank.  The princess falls madly in love with herself and as her behavior becomes increasingly destructive, the participants are met with a time crunch to find the cure.  It’s the perfect book to pick up if you have a case of wanderlust and you’re craving a mindless beach read but still looking for a bit of magic (and possibly a unicorn and some mermaids).

Rating 4

When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi – an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam’s family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they’ve fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?

And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news. 

No big deal, then. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally (Hundred Oaks #1)

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally is the first book in the Hundred Oaks companion series.  It follows a girl named Jordan who is the only female football player in the high school football league during her senior year of high school.  It took me a little while to warm up to Jordan because football is not my thing but midway through the book I got used to her character and the way her teammates interact and I was able to enjoy the story going forward.  It was also surprising at the beginning because the first chapter narrates a football scene with Jordan as the quarterback and they never identify her gender until the second chapter so I had originally assumed she was a male.  I was able to quickly readjust and I know that was done on purpose.  Catching Jordan is a light, fun contemporary romance and it was exactly what I was craving.

As I stated, I’m really not interested in sports and I’ve never hung out with people who care about sports so the way Jordan and her teammates and friends interact was largely outside my comfort zone.  It took me some time to get used to their lingo and their priorities but I ended up enjoying Catching Jordan overall.  I like that all of the guys on Jordan’s team are so accepting and respectful of her but that Jordan’s relationship with her father is complicated because of her love of football.  It’s interesting to see the struggles she faces as a woman in a male dominated industry and her spirit and passion is to be admired.  Jordan undergoes some very important character development in regard to her relationship with other women which is one of things that won me over the most.  I think female friendships are really important and while I enjoyed the dynamic between her and the guys, it was nice to see her open up to some women without being so judgmental.  And of course, I love the romance in this story.  I saw it coming from the very beginning and while it didn’t play out perfectly, I thought it was adorable and the characters ended up where I wanted them so no complaints here!

Catching Jordan

Final Thoughts:  Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally is the first book in the Hundred Oaks series which follows Jordan, the female quarterback of her high school football team.  It’s a light and fluffy contemporary romance and it’s very sports heavy so if you’re like me, you may need some time to adjust to the characters.  I would recommend Catching Jordan for fans of Friday Night Lights who are looking for a cute beach read this summer!

Rating 3

ONE OF THE BOYS

What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she’s ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he’s also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan’s feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart’s on the line? (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood is the first book I have read by this author and upon finishing, I quickly added her Cahill sisters trilogy to my TBR.  I devoured Wild Swans within a day of starting it and I wish there were more to the story because I fell in love with the characters.  Wild Swans tells the story of Ivy, a young girl who isn’t really sure of her place in the world or what she wants to do.  Her mother left her when she was a child so she was instead raised by her grandfather and housekeeper and she’s spent her life trying to live up to the legacy of the Milbourn women.  Wild Swans is a contemporary that tackles some serious issues and handles them very well.

Wild Swans

Each character in Wild Swans is well developed and complex which is not an easy feat in such a short novel.  I immediately took a liking to the main character Ivy who is always trying to please everyone.  She’s had a tough life and despite the situations her family puts her in she is still always thinking about their feelings and acting rationally when it would be really easy to do otherwise.  She seems like the kind of person I would be great friends with.  I don’t want to reveal much about some of the other characters in Wild Swans because I don’t want to spoil anything but trust me when I say that the relationships are messy and complicated and handled so so well.  Wild Swans also tackles some major social issues relating to gender and sexuality and I just want to hug Ivy’s friend Claire because she is the awesomest.  The romance in the story is cute and sweet but it isn’t my favorite and I found myself much more interested in Ivy’s family dynamics.  If I had one complaint about Wild Swans it would be that I want to know more about what happens after the resolution.  I feel invested in these characters and I just have so many questions. I hope Jessica Spotswood will write a sequel or a short story epilogue or something!

Final Thoughts:  Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood is a complicated and messy contemporary about a girl named Ivy who comes from a long line of passionate and talented women.  It’s a story of self discovery and finding out how you fit into the world during those crucial teen years.  It tackles heavy hitting subjects like gender, sexuality and feminism but the characters are truly what drives this story.  Wild Swans has a lot of heart and I wish I could read more about what’s going on in Ivy’s life. I definitely recommend this one and I’m glad I already preordered a copy!

Rating 5

The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?

But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past…. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (The Darkest Minds #1)

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is the first book in a dystoipian trilogy in which, all of the children in the country are infected with a deadly disease called IAAN. Those who survive IAAN contract supernatural powers which are classified by the government by sectioning them off into different colored categories.  Each color is unique to the type of ability and the kids are all placed in camps where they are oppressed by the adults who fear them.  The Darkest Minds was the March book of the month for the TBR Pile Reading Challenge Book Club and I’m going to be reviewing it in a different format than usual.  A list of discussion questions were posted in regard to the book and I’m going to be answering them here.  Before I start, my general feelings about The Darkest Minds were not what I had been hoping for.  It may be that I’ve lost interest in dystopian novels but it took me nearly 3 weeks to read this book (which is a really long time for me).  There were elements that I enjoyed, such as Bracken’s writing but because it took me so long I was unable to form any type of real attachment to the characters.  I did not feel as invested in the story as I might have several years ago which makes me sad.  I can’t decide if I’ll be continuing with the series at this point but if I do, it will be sometime unforeseeable future.

*THIS DISCUSSION CONTAINS SPOILERS*

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1) If you contracted IAAN, which category would you want to be in? (Red, Fire;  Orange, Mind Control; Yellow, Electricity;  Blue, Telekinesis; Green, Intelligence)

I really feel as though I would fall into the Green category as I’m often commended on my memory sans a newly contracted ability.  Plus, I’m a Ravenclaw so Green would have to be the best fit.

2) What were you initial impressions? Do you like the writing style? Did the prologue pique your interest?

As I stated in my intro, while I did enjoy the writing style, I wasn’t ever fully invested in the story.  The prologue definitely did pique my interest as it began with an action scene and left me wanting to know what the sound was and why Ruby was effected.  I think The Darkest Minds had a very strong start but it wasn’t until the near end that I got that same sense of wonder.

3) Thoughts on Ruby wiping Liam’s mind? Is it for the best?

I’m really torn on this one! Part of me feels like it was a betrayal of trust but the other part can understand why she did what she did.

4) What do you think about the government’s way of “dealing” with the kids with special powers? Why did they send them to work camps where they were mistreated and abused, instead of trying to understand/study their abilities, or even training the kids and use their powers?

I think the government’s way of dealing the special powers is completely unacceptable.  It’s obvious that the adults are terrified of the unknown and they came up with what they believed would be the safest way for them to preserve the society they’re familiar with instead of trying to learn about the abilities and work together to create a safe future for everyone as opposed to a limited group.  I don’t think it’s right to separate children from their parents and haul them off into a prison-like atmosphere when they are just beginning to learn about themselves.

5) Ruby is very scared, naive and distrustful (which is completely understandable after what she’s been through). Do you find her to be a believable character? What did you think about her character development? 

I never felt any real connection to Ruby which could partially be due to the wall she’s built around herself.  I saw definite redeeming qualities within her and I can understand how she would be appealing to other readers, she just didn’t totally resonate with me. As for how believable her character is, if anything, I’m surprised she wasn’t even more distrusting and unwilling to set out with Chubs, Liam and Zu.

6) How did you feel about the relationship between Ruby and Liam? Did you think it was rushed?

I didn’t totally understand how their relationship formed so quickly.  I didn’t feel any chemistry between them at all and I was surprised at how much Ruby liked him by the end of the book.

7) Do you think the story line is bullet-proof or did you have any issues with the plot-line and the logic behind the world-building? 

I did have some issues with the story and the world-building but with most YA I go into it suspending most disbelief because stories are just that- stories.  While they’re engaging and it’s fun to fall into a different world, I find that there’s rarely anything that’s perfect.  Not even our own world!

8) Do you think Chubs is okay? Do you have any predictions for how things will turn out for him? 

I have to say that I am quite worried about Chubs.  He is the character I came closest to developing concern for, especially in the latter half of the book.  He seems like such a nice introvert and I hated how he was being treated by his original squad.

9) How do you think things will turn out for Zu? Why do you think Clancy approved her group to leave in the first place? 

I think Clancy approved for Zu’s group to leave solely to get her out of the camp.  I think he wanted to tear down as many of Ruby’s allies as possible because she’s the only real threat to him when it comes down to it.

10) What are your opinions of Clancy? Is he redeemable? Do you think he really would have run?

In my eyes, Clancy is not redeemable.  I thought he was shady the moment he appeared on the page and I never trusted him at all.  Things were too controlled and too perfect for him to have been a good person.

11) How do you imagine things panning out for Ruby and Liam? Will he ever get his memories back? Do you think he’ll hold it against Ruby when (or if?) he finds out? 

If I had to guess, I would hypothesize that Ruby will learn how to restore Liam’s memories and while he’ll initially feel betrayed by her, he will ultimately end up forgiving her (probably sometime in book 3) and they’ll end up together.

12) How did you react to the end? Did you cry? (Jess BAWLED. For a considerable amount of time. Like, at least half an hour.) Do you plan to read the next book–and if you do, will you jump in soon, or are you going to give some time in between because the end to this one was so traumatizing? 

I definitely didn’t shed a tear.  Again, as I stated in my intro, I’m definitely taking a break from this series because I’m just burnt out on dystopian fiction and I don’t have any strong desire to find out what’s going to happen to the characters.  I’m not going to look up the ending online in case I decide to go back to it at some point, but right now, it’s just not something I see myself reaching for anytime soon.
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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Clockwork Angel which is the first book in The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare is the second book in The Infernal Devices trilogy and it’s set at the Shadowhunter Academy in London many years prior to the events of The Mortal Instruments series.  Clockwork Prince picks up whereClockwork Angel leaves off and I have to say that I loved this second book even more than the first, despite all of the toying it did with my emotions.  Like, serious heart wrenching stuff. Also, to all those Will Herondale fangirls: I get it now.

Following the events of Clockwork Prince, Charlotte is threatened by her fellow Shadowhunters and she is given an ultimatum by the Clave to either find The Magister or uncover compelling information about his whereabouts within two weeks time or she’ll lose the institute to the Lightwoods.  So as I’m sure you can imagine, the stakes and stress levels are at an all time high for our characters.  I loved learning more about The Magister and his colored past in Clockwork Prince.  While I obviously hate him, he is my favorite type of villain to hate.  He’s calculated and patient which is an admirable combo when used for good but in him, I’m incredibly nervous.  Clockwork Prince also gives much more depth to its side characters, even those who may have seemed minor turn into much bigger players as the story plays out.  I can barely put into words how excited I felt while reading  Clockwork Prince and again, I’m just blown away by how Cassandra Clare got me so incredibly attached to these characters.

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Okay, so it would be remiss to write this review without talking about the romance.  In Clockwork Angel I felt that my place on Team Jem was solidified by the story’s end but everything I thought I knew was basically tossed upside down in this second installment.  My ship has changed BUT I am still irrecoverably heartbroken over my feelings so I cannot even begin to place myself in Tessa’s headspace because if my insides are this torn, forget about Tessa’s.  The whole time she described her feelings I was nodding and being like “I know Tessa, I know.”  I need Clockwork Princess immediately because I NEED to know how this will be resolved.  I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m going to leave it at that.

Final Thoughts:  Clockwork Prince is the near-perfect follow up to Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare.  This second piece of the story is a quick paced adventure that’ll have your heart racing and your emotions running rampid.  I will give you fair warning that upon finishing you will be unable to function until you can begin reading Clockwork Princess.  I honestly just want to talk about this book with everyone because I was blown away by the story, the character development and the Shadowhunter lore.  I honestly feel like this is a must read series.

Rating 6

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, but her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Grave Mercy which is the first book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers is the second book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy but as it is a companion series, it follows a different set of characters than those in Grave Mercy.  The main story continues from book one with the Duchess fighting against those backstabbing her and plotting to take her reign of Brittany away from her.  This time around, we see the story progress through Sybella’s point of view with Beast as a major character as well.  Sybella is a character you may remember from Grave Mercy as she is one of Ismae’s half sisters, or daughters of Mortain, who was trained at the same convent, while Beast is one of the two men Duval placed his trust in.  I have to say that while I did love Dark Triumph, I did not quite enjoy it as much as I did Grave Mercy.

Dark Triumph is a darker tale than Grave Mercy.  We’re clued into some of Sybella’s supposed madness as we see it through Ismae’s eyes in Grave Mercy but in Dark Triumph we are able to delve deeper and find out firsthand why Sybella suffers the way she does.  I really enjoyed the progression of Sybella’s character and the growth she undergoes during her tumultuous time in the D’Albret household.  Sybella is chosen to go undercover in his household as she has the best cover of any of the other assassins, D’Albret believes her to be his daughter.  I bet you can gather where some of her psychological issues are stemming from.  Sybella is extremely hard on herself and it’s not until she opens herself up in the latter half of the book that she finally begins to accept her past and live more in the present.

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The love story between Sybella and Beast is absolutely adorable.  Their characters are such great compliments for one another and there’s a darkness that dwells in each of them which explains why they’re so drawn to each other. I also appreciate that there attraction is largely non-physical.  Sybella looks past Beast’s physical appearance and she loves him for who he is and Beast wholly accepts Sybella and all of her past.  Their relationship develops and they establish a bond built on mutual respect.  If I have one complaint about Dark Triumph, it’s that while I enjoyed the Sybella and Beast story and there were definite things happening to move the overarching plot along, I felt like their story often distracted from the elements I loved in Grave Mercy which left me wishing for more information about the politics and further information about the occurrences in Ismae and Duval’s household.  Also, I would’ve just liked to see more Duval in general.

Final Thoughts:  Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers is the follow up to Grave Mercy but it takes us to D’Albret’s house while he continues to plot against the Duchess.  The story focuses on Sybella and Beast, two strong characters with dark pasts who are coming to terms with their place in the world while forging a slow burn romantic relationship.  As the name suggests, Dark Triumph is a much darker story than Grave Mercy and it’s much more psychological and character driven at its heart.  I’m looking forward to reading Mortal Heart and learning more about Annith before this historical fantasy comes to a close.

Rating 5

When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convnt were only too happy to offer her refuge – but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for… (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton (Tiny Pretty Things #1)

Tiny Pretty Things is the first book in a series by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton focusing on the competitive world of ballet.  As soon as I heard the pitch (Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars) I knew this book would be something I would enjoy.  There’s something so fascinating to me about these girls who have such dedication to their talent, follow a strict set of rules and how cutthroat they can be toward one another because they’re competing in an industry with such limited job placement.  The story focuses on three main characters, Bette, Gigi and June and it follows them throughout an entire year at their prestigious Manhattan ballet school. The book is full of drama and it’ll constantly keep you on your toes, never giving you a clear indication of who to trust.  This is one book I devoured and I plan to read the sequel as soon as it debuts.

Tiny Pretty Things has three main POVs that the story is told from.  June is a half Korean girl who is always cast in the understudy role.  She struggles with never having known her father and she after an incident, she never allows herself to get close to anyone else at the school.  Gigi is the new girl and unlike the majority of her class, she’s of African American descent.  She’s much more carefree, having moved from California, and she is by far the most personable, grounded and genuine of the girls.  Lastly, there’s Bette, the stereotypical mean girl and Queen Bee of the ballerinas.  She’s constantly trying to juggle living up to her sister’s legacy, her alcoholic and mostly absent mother, and her own insecurities.  Each character has a compelling point of view of the events that occur while they’re at school and I especially appreciated the diversity between each of them.  There were moments where I felt like each girl was my favorite character.  There are other students who play a predominant role in the story from love interests, to frenemies and even to teachers.  Tiny Pretty Thingsis a book I would suggest reading for the characters alone, though if you struggle with unreliable narrators, you may take issue with the story.

Tiny Pretty Things

On top of the compelling characters, I also fell in love with the setting of the story.  I love that it takes place in Manhattan and having lived in or under an hour away from Manhattan for almost my whole life, I will never tire of seeing the city through someone else’s eyes.  Add the ballet school to the mix, which allows for the excitement of finding out who will be cast in which roles and just how far certain dancers will go to achieve their goals, and I was completely hooked.  The entire time I was reading, I felt as though I was so close to unraveling a mystery but no matter how close I came, there were still pieces missing.  Even as certain things are revealed, there’s still more unanswered questions to keep you wondering.  Tiny Pretty Things also deals with many serious issues that teenagers face including bullying, racism, eating disorders and drug addiction and it’s all done very well.

Final Thoughts:  Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton is a whirlwind of a story set at an elite ballet academy in New York City.  It follows a diverse cast of characters during their trials and tribulations as they ready themselves for the competitive world of ballet.  The book is full of unreliable narrators, backstabbing ballerinas, and it tackles some very serious issues that many young girls face.  I loved everything about this book from the characters to the setting to the plot and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys drama filled YA.  I cannot wait for Shiny Broken Pieces which debuts later this year!
Rating 5

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: Split Second by Kasie West (Pivot Point #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Pivot Point which is the first book in the duology by Kasie West, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

Split Second by Kasie West is the second book in the Pivot Point duology and it is everything I wanted out of this story.  Split Second picks up after the events of the first book, as if Addie has chosen to live with her mother and the events in that timeline have played out, and those in her father’s timeline have never happened.  Needing an escape from the reality of the horrific timeline she chose, Addie decides to go and visit her father in the normal world for 6 weeks.  Once again, Kasie West’s character, plot, relationships and writing had me completely engaged and I ended up loving Split Second.

Since Addie has left the compound but there are still important events going on there, the narrative switches between Addie and Laila (whereas in the first, each chapter was narrated by Addie in each possible timeline).  I really loved getting more acquainted with Laila’s voice and becoming more familiar with the struggles she faces with her family and her guilt over Duke from her actions in Pivot Point.  Laila gets entangled with some questionable people in Addie’s absence but it’s all in an attempt to help her best friend.  The way Laila’s storyline plays out in Split Second is an exciting tale that’s the perfect mix of snark, charm and will have you feeling sympathetic.  Plus, Laila gets a love interest.  And an actual love interest, not just a boy she wants to make out with and then get rid of and it’s honestly the most adorable relationship ever.  I ship them so hard<3

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Meanwhile, in the norm world, Addie is dealing with her evolving powers and the fact that she has all of these memories and familiar feelings for people she is supposedly just meeting, most specifically of Trevor (her love interest in her dad’s timeline from Pivot Point).  Suddenly, Addie develops the ability to manipulate time in a way she was never capable of before.  She makes the mistake(?) of using those powers in front of Trevor several times, a serious infraction that the Compound would punish her for, and he begins to get suspicious of her.  It’s so difficult to see them in anything other than a romantic relationship but I was just so happy they got to have more interaction because their relationship is so swoony.  In Split Second, there’s another mystery afoot that’s keeping the stakes high throughout the story.  Addie’s father has lied about something very important involving their family and  they’re also being monitored by agents from the Compound.  Things get SUPER intense and just like in Pivot Point, Kasie West will have you unable to put this second installment down until you know the truth.

Final Thoughts:  Split Second is the conclusion to the Pivot Point duology by Kasie West and if you’re hesitant to read it because the first book is so perfect, fear not, Split Second completely honors it’s predecessor and the story lives up to that of the first installment.  One major change is there is now a dual narrative between Addie in the norm world and Laila in the Compound.  It’s a pleasure to spend time in Laila’s head as well and there is another mystery that’ll keep you completely engaged in the story.  Kasie West’s characters are everything and you’ll be rooting for each of them (minus Duke) throughout the book.  If you’ve read and loved Pivot Point but haven’t yet read Split Second, you absolutely must.  It gives such a satisfying ending to Addie and Trevor’s story.Rating 6

Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too… but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories… once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot… and a future that could change everything. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: With Malice by Eileen Cook

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

With Malice by Eileen Cook is a new young adult novel that falls into the thriller genre.  I feel as though there’s a lack of good YA thrillers out there but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed With Malice.  I have to think that the story is largely inspired by a real case that graced our televisions several years ago about two American girls who went abroad in Italy and while there, one of the girls was murdered and the other was accused (although I cannot remember if she was convicted or not).  I didn’t follow the story but my mom was heavily invested so I would constantly catch snippets every time I went in the kitchen to bake.  In With Malice, we piece together the story of Simone and our narrator Jill on their study abroad experience in Italy.  Jill wakes up in the hospital with no recollection of the accident she was in or the death of her best friend.

With Malice

While reading With Malice I formed a very strong hypothesis about who I believed was at fault for the accident and I have to say that I was surprised when I was completely wrong.  Stories where I’m unable to correctly glean an ending are few and far between so on that merit alone, I really enjoyed the story.  It’s challenging to review a book like With Malice because, being a thriller, there are certain pieces of information that it’s important for the reader to discover in real time as the characters in the novel do as opposed to secondhand, through a reviewer. So these are my very censored feelings as to why I enjoyed With Malice.  1) The storytelling – The story is narrated by Jill who cannot remember the past six weeks of her life, so she is very unreliable despite how badly she wants to remember.  I really liked that there were breaks between every few chapters when the reader would get a view of what the general public’s opinion of the case is. 2) The setting – the story is largely set in a hospital but the flashbacks to Italy are quite enjoyable. 3) The characters – Jill is an intelligent girl, bound for Yale come Fall, Simone is (was) her best friend right up until she died in the accident, Jill’s dad is a huge pain in the butt who I couldn’t stand but he is believable and most of all, Anna, Jill’s hospital roommate with an unabashed personality and a strong regard for those she holds close to her.  4) The reveal – as I stated before, I really did not see that coming!  I have to say that the pacing was a little slow until we got closer to the end and while there were new memories resurfacing, there wasn’t always something noteworthy happening in the present time.

Final Thoughts:  With Malice by Eileen Cook is an exciting look at a homicide case that has engrossed the nation.  The story is told by the survivor of the accident who is accused of murdering her best friend and is struggling to regain her memory of the last six weeks.  If you’re interested in thrillers I would definitely suggest reading With Malice because the mystery will hook you and keep you engrossed even if it feels like nothing is happening at that moment in the story.  It’s also worth noting the mixed media sources which give the reader a look into the outside world which has also become obsessed with finding justice for Simone.

Rating 4

A read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: The Skylighter by Becky Wallace (The Keepers’ Chronicles #2)

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

**Warning! If you haven’t read The Storyspinner which is the first book in The Keepers’ Chronicles duology by Becky Wallace, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

The Skylighter by Becky Wallace is the conclusion to The Keepers’ Chronicles duology.  It picks up exactly where The Storyspinner leaves off and things have gotten pretty intense.  I’ve been hearing that you’ll enjoy The Skylighter most if you re-read The Storyspinner prior to jumping back into the world.  Luckily for me, I read The Storyspinner last month so the details were already very fresh in my mind and I wasn’t at all confused when I began reading. I’m so happy that this series was told over two books instead of being stretched into a trilogy because that really would’ve been unnecessary.  Every aspect of the story is described in full and each storyline is wrapped up at the conclusion.  Overall, The Skylighter provides a very satisfying ending.

Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, The StoryspinnerThe Skylighter works really well with multiple perspectives.  The switching narratives were one of my favorite aspects of the first book it continued to be in the final installment.  Each character uniquely contributes a portion to the larger story being told and the reader would not get as much out of the tale without having firsthand knowledge of each character’s motivations.  The second book focuses much more on The Keepers whereas Johanna and Rafi had been the stars of book one.  I have to say that I was completely surprised by Dom, Rafi’s younger and less mature brother.  He really underwent a ton of character growth in The Skylighter and I found myself looking forward to his chapters.  I remained completely invested in Johanna and Rafi and their relationship took a ton of turns that I hadn’t been expecting.  Becky Wallace did a fantastic job crafting their story.

The Skylighter

Again, I was enthralled with the world-building in the first book and the conclusion continued to impress. We traveled to places outside Santarem and saw how the other provinces within the kingdom were being managed.  I think it was really important for both Rafi and Johanna to see what goes on throughout the entire kingdom instead of having a limited perspective of only one section.  The Keepers’ Chronicles duology is unlike any fantasy series I’ve ever read.  The story and circumstances are completely original and it’s heavily influenced by hispanic culture and The Skylighter is much more magic heavy than The Storyspinner.  Plus, I really loved the ending.

Final Thoughts: The Skylighter by Becky Wallace is the perfect ending to The Keepers Chronicles’ duology.  The world-building is unique and unlike any other fantasy world I’ve ever read.  The characters are diverse and the world is inspired by Hispanic culture.  There were constant twists as the story wraps up and all of the occurrences are far from predictable.   If it’s been a while since you read The Storyspinner I would definitely recommend giving it a re-read before jumping into the conclusion.

Rating 5

Johanna and Rafi are in a race against time to save their country before a power-mad Keeper destroys everything they hold dear in the “enthralling magical world” (Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles) introduced in The Storyspinner.

As the last of the royal line, Johanna is the only person who can heal a magical breach in the wall that separates her kingdom of Santarem from the land of the Keepers, legendary men and women who wield elemental magic. The barrier protects Santarem from those Keepers who might try to take power over mere humans…Keepers who are determined to stop Johanna and seize the wall’s power for themselves.

And they’re not the only ones. As the duchys of Santarem descend into war over the throne, Johanna relies more than ever on the advice of her handsome companion, Lord Rafael DeSilva. But Rafi is a duke too, and his people come first. As their friendship progresses into the beginnings of a tender relationship, Johanna must wonder: is Rafi looking out for her happiness, or does he want the throne for himself?

With war on the horizon, Johanna and Rafi dodge treacherous dukes and Keeper assassins as they race to through the countryside, determined to strengthen the wall before it’s too late…even if it means sacrificing their happiness for the sake of their world. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

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