Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Title: Black Ice
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publishing Date: October 7th 2014
Length: 384 pages
Keywords: YA, thriller, romance, Teton Range, hiking
Source: Publisher

Britt Pfeiffer has never been that adventurous, but that's about to change. Wanting to impress her ex-boyfriend, Britt convinces best friend, Korbie, to take a trekking trip with her. But when a freak storm leaves the girls stranded they seek shelter in a cabin, where they find two knights in shining armour. Or so they think.

Britt quickly realises that the girls need to get off the mountain, fast. In exchange for her life, she is forced to guide the boys down, and as they set out on a harrowing journey through the cold and snow, Britt realises the only way to escape with her life is to pretend she is on their side. But is gorgeous, sexy Mason an enemy or an ally? Tension mounts, and it's only a matter of time before things turn deadly . . .

Summary by Goodreads


I'm very glad Becca Fitzpatrick tried something different after her HUSH HUSH series and wrote BLACK ICE. I'll be reading her next YA thriller SAPPHIRE SKIES for sure.

In BLACK ICE a trip to the Teton Range doesn't turn out the way it should have. Brit and her friend Korbie were supposed to meet Brit's ex-boyfriend Calvin, who is also Korbie's brother, in a cabin. A snow storm forces them to find shelter in a remote cabin, where also two criminals have taken refuge. Hunted by the police, they now need Brit to get them off the mountain and to a safe escape.

The fact that Britt is held hostage by two potential killers was so unbelievable, I expected the whole scenario to feel constructed and fake at some point. One or two times towards the end things indeed felt like they were a bit over the top. Nevertheless, most of Becca Fitzpatrick's BLACK ICE was very authentic. Sometimes this book even made me feel isolated and robbed of breath. Her writing transported me into the snowy hell Britt finds herself caught in and I often shuddered imagining to live the nightmare Britt and Korbie do.

My favourite part of Becca Fitzpatrick's writing in her newest novel is the icy setting of the Wyoming mountainside she conjured. It is a very extreme setting with the power to set an avalanche of reading adrenaline loose. It's not only a human who is endangering Britt's life, but the extreme conditions of nature in the mountains themselves. It is bitter cold and snow storms are no uncommon occurrence in this novel.

Witnessing a love story emerge and bloom in a surrounding this inhospitable and cold, was a new reading experience for me. Of course Brit revises her relationship with her ex-boyfriend Calvin, but she also questions her very recent feelings for one of her kidnappers. Stockholm syndrome or is there something real about her feelings for Mason? I grew very fond of Mason despite his withdrawn character and all the secrets he carries with him. And secrets are definitely a big part of BLACK ICE!

4/5 **** BLACK ICE - One of the most spine-chilling YA thrillers I've read!

The dangerous icy terrain on which BLACK ICE is set had me in a vise-like grip. The romance warmed my heart like a crackling fire. And the murder and abduction part chilled me to my bones. If you are into YA thrillers you can't get past Becca Fitzpatrick's newest book without missing out!

"She screamed, over and over inside herself. She screamed while the pressure built, sweeping her toward the edge of death. He didn't want photographs. He wanted to kill her.
She would not let this horrible place to be her last memory.
Closing her eyes, she went away, into the darkness." p.8

BLACK ICE you might want to pick up LITTLE WHITE LIES by Katie Dale, FRACTURE by Megan Miranda and HUNTING LILA by Sarah Alderson. Three YA thrillers I really enjoyed.

* Becca's next novel, SAPPHIRE SKIES, will be coming out this fall.

* Here are some BLACK ICE sneak peeks.

* Click here to listen to the BLACK ICE playlist.

* For more information about Becca and her books visit www.beccafitzpatrick.com.

* Thanks to Simon & Schuster UK for sending me a proof copy of BLACK ICE for review!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Title: Kiss Kill Vanish 
Author: Jessica Martinez
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publishing Date: October 7th 2014
Length: 432 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary, thriller, romance, murder, Miami, Montreal
Source: Publisher

Valentina Cruz no longer exists.

One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.

She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.

She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.

Summary by Goodreads

Kiss. That's what Valentina did with her father's employee, Emilio. She didn't expect her father to accept their relationship. But she could never have imagined that her father had been lying to her about his business and his character all long.

Kill. She never thought she would see Emilio kill a man. And when he does, Valentina doesn't even know who Emilio is anymore. Is he really the person she thought he was?

Vanish. Is what she has to do now. She can't go back to living her old life, knowing probably everyone she cares about has been lying to her. So she has to aquire a new identity in a new city and become someone else.

Kiss Kill Vanish. I love that book's title and its cover. It's catchy, it's mysterious. I was intrigued and now I'm madly in love with Jessica Martinez' brilliant new book! I'm willing to bet you won't be able to resist its dark pull either.

So we know that Valentina has left her old life in Miami and goes into hiding. Her city of choice is Montreal where she now lives in a dingy room, barely having the means to feed herself and depending on a sleazy man who pays her good money for her services, sitting portrait for him.

Still Valentina has to deal with the incident that got her into the situation she finds herself in right now. What has Emilio done? Is he dangerous? 
   Cons, killings, lies, aliases and high criminal energies are making KISS KILL VANISH an intense, psychological and emotional thriller that captures its readers with great character development and an amazing love story. There's even a road trip, which I loved. It stands for everything that changes within Valentina, focusing on the differences between her past, the new strength she gathers in the present and her shot at a brighter future.

Jessica Martinez achieved to create an intense, emotional and moving bond between Valentina and a new acquaintance she makes in Montreal. While the contact is rather unwanted in the beginning, their relationship starts to uncover all the prejudices and hidden feelings between them and turns something unexpected into something so invigorating and beautiful. Of course that new relationship stands in contrast and competition to the relationship Valentina has with Emilio.

Jessica also created great atmosphere, played with different settings, characters' personalities and how they would influence and change an entire scene's mood. She put great emphasis on the difference between Valentina's life in Montreal versus her life in Miami. All in all Jessica Martinez did a fantastic job contrasting Valentina's past and her present life and drawing readers into Valentina's highly thrilling story. 

5/5 ***** KISS KILL VANISH - A phenomenal YA surprise!

Wow! Jessica Martinez' fourth novel was a magnificent read! I went into it with low expectations and while they were partly validated in the first ten chapters or so, I was greatly surprised to find myself glued to the pages only shortly after. It was so much more than I had imagined. Valentina went through a stunning character development and her love story was very special. All the time her new life was threatened by the past she's been running from, her murderous ex-boyfriend and the shady side to her family's business, looming over her new future like impenetrable shadows.

"Eigt minutes.
I shut my closet door behind me and sink to the floor. It's the small pockets of time that kill me. Eight minutes isn't long enough for a nap, but it's long enough to remember things that make me want to rip my eyes out, so I'm careful. I stay in the here and now." p.13

KISS KILL VANISH you might enjoy BLACKBIRD by Anna Carey, ON THE EDGE by Allison van Diepen and FIND ME by Romily Bernard. I haven't read FIND ME, but can definitely recommend the other two 2014 releases!


* Jessica's debut novel, VIRTUOSITY, came out in 2011.

* Click here to read an excerpt of KISS KILL VANISH.

* For more information about Jessica and her books visit www.jessicamartinez.com.

* Thanks to Harper Collins International for sending me a review copy of KISS KILL VANISH!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mini Reviews #27

Today I have three mini reviews of HarperTeen titles with heartfelt covers for you. LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES by Alexis Bass and NO PLACE TO FALL by Jaye Robin Brown were released in December 2014. And SOLITAIRE by Alice Oseman is coming out in late March 2015. 

No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

NO PLACE TO FALL is set in a small town, where Amber lives with her perfect family. Or at least it is supposed to look that way. The truth is, her mother is smothering Amber, her father is never there and her sister and her husband are dealing drugs, living in a trailer in their backyard. Her familiar background and the relationships to her parents and sister are a big part of her story.
No wonder Amber yearns to just leave with the backpackers coming through her little town every summer. All she wants is a shot at freedom and happiness. Her story is one of longing and wanting to find her own place in life.
   I was totally into the music dream Amber had and I really believed in her to make her dream come true.
   Amber and Will, her best friend's big brother, are both great musical talents. Will helps Amber practice for her big audition at a music school. They are also singing sweet country songs to each other, singing duets and totally getting each other. Their love story doesn't begin the conventional way and there are some things making their romance very difficult at first. When they are practicing together you really can see the chemistry between them. Theirs is a great love story to warm many readers hearts.

4/5 **** NO PLACE TO FALL - This read is like your favourite country song! A small town, big dreams and a sweet love story!
Amber's story is about growing-up and moving on. About being honest and making every effort to make your dreams come true. NO PLACE TO FALL is a very darling YA contemporary read for everyone with love for music in their hearts!

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: December 9th 2014
Length: 368 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary, romance, music
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads Summary  
No Place to Fall Excerpt  
Author's Homepage

Solitaire by Alice Oseman

When you read the summary for Alice Oseman's debut novel, you won't get much information about the story itself. Just vague information and statements. And that's the way it continues in the book. In my opinion SOLITAIRE is no match for John Green and Rainbow Rowell books like it says in the summary!
   Tori is a loser. Her life in high school is unfulfilling and without real meaning for her. Michael Holden is her rescuer. One day Tori discovers a post-it note, leading to another, and another...until she finds the link to a mysterious site called Solitaire. Solitaire suddenly gains many supporters and has a big social impact on school and private life of Tori and other students. It speaks directly to Tori, involving her in this new game. Everything gets out of hand and until the end I couldn't really think of Tori as a friend, but more a person who seriously needed help. It was the same with Michael Holden. He was a person I couldn't see through. Because he was so untransparent, it was hard to engage in his obsessive interest in Tori. Nevertheless, I have to admit that their romance has its own nice moments. 
   Things with Solitaire turn violent and dangerous and pretty insane towards the end. I just wanted to get through the story and be done with it. 

2/5 ** SOLITAIRE - YA rating status - it's complicated.

Our protagonist Tori is drawn into a flow of dares, protest actions and dangerous movements invoked by unknown delinquents. Teens are really getting out of control here. SOLITAIRE is a book for readers interested in unraveling confusing plots supporting an obscure story. A story that was just too much for me.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: March 30th 2015
Length: 368 pages
Keywords: YA, thriller,romance, friendship,
Source: Edelweiss
Author's Homepage

Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

Aubrey and her best friends are the guys in a relationship. They decided to play it cool when things get serious in a relationship and never attach themselves emotionally to their dates in order to avoid heartbreak. 
This logic just smells like relationship drama. And I hate when it is the drama that dominates a story. Unsurprisingly, despite the girls' plan to avoid any trouble and fights, there are in fact a lot of those. I hated the promiscuity and that the girls thought a boy wouldn't like them if things got too serious and honest. This book communicates an important message young teenage girls shouldn't even have to learn. Self-respect yourself and your feelings and never pretend to be someone you aren't in order to make someone like you.
   The story begins when Aubrey meets the new guy in town and starts dating him. Nathan and Aubrey's love story seemed sincere and like it would be their love that would prove Aubrey's best friend Shelby wrong, but in the end it was just another casualty to the incinserity between the friends. But there's another boy waiting for Aubrey to realize her feelings for him, too.
   Once he came into the love triangle things started to look up for me liking LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES much better. That other guy was funny and put Aubrey's comfort and her feelings before anything else. I wasn't entirely convinced with the ending to Aubrey's story though. There's still the chance for a sequel.

3/5 *** LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES - A true high school drama with complicated friendships and surprising romances.

I liked LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES in general. The story had a few touches to it that I found irritating, connected to the girls' theories about love that are central the Aubrey's story. But between all the carlessness and aloofness there might even be honest feelings for friends and boys buried that would have deserved to find greater notice.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: December 31st 2014
Length: 384 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary, romance, friendship
Source: Edelweiss
Author's Homepage

Monday, January 12, 2015

Blog Tour: Gone Too Far by Natalie D. Richards - Guest Post

Today I'm part of the GONE TOO FAR blog tour. I'm having Natalie D. Richards over with a guest post. She's sharing the five apps her story's protagonist Piper would never download. What a fun post idea. Hope you enjoy it! Let me know in the comments if you have read GONE TOO FAR or whether you are planning to read it.

Title: Gone Too Far
Author: Natalie D. Richards
ISBN: 9781402285547
Genre: Young Adult
Age Range: 14+

Keeping secrets ruined her life. But the truth might just kill her.

Piper Woods can't wait for the purgatory of senior year to end. She skirts the fringes of high school like a pro until the morning she finds a notebook with mutilated photographs and a list of student sins. She's sure the book is too gruesome to be true, until pretty, popular Stella dies after a sex-tape goes viral. Everyone's sure it's suicide, but Piper remembers Stella's name from the book and begins to suspect something much worse.

Drowning in secrets she doesn't want to keep, Piper's fears are confirmed when she receives an anonymous text message daring her to make things right. All she needs to do is choose a name, the name of someone who deserves to be punished...

Summary by Goodreads

About the Author

Ohioan and Double RWA Golden Heart Finalist NATALIE D. RICHARDS won her first writing competition in the second grade with her short story about Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes (who wouldn't dare do the dishes). After getting lost in a maze of cubicles, Natalie found her way back to storytelling, following the genre of her heart, teen fiction. Natalie lives in Ohio with her amazing husband, their three children, and a giant dust-mop who swears he’s the family dog.

Buy Links  Amazon  |  Apple   |  BAM  |  B&N  |  Chapters  |  Indiebound


This may be my favorite blog post ever. Is there anything better than picking out things you can’t stand? Funny enough, putting myself in Piper’s shoes for this exercise was a little tougher. Apps one and three are on my phone right now!
So, rest assured, if these five are among your faves, I’m not judging! But Piper might – because she wouldn’t ever download these babies. ;-)

1. Candy Crush

Despite ending up in a very tense and frustrating situation, Piper’s not the kind of girl that would indulge in a game that drives most players out of their ever-living minds for no particular reason. Piper lives with purpose, so any app that has her shouting “God, I hate chocolate!” or “I’ve been stuck on this level for two weeks!” isn’t one she’s likely to download.

2. E! Online

Don’t get me wrong. Piper is a girl who keeps up with the news. If she’s on her phone right now, she might be checking into the status of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but celebrity gossip doesn’t even ping her radar. In fact, this sort of thing is so outside of her scope of interest, she might not even know such an app exists.

3. Food Network or Allrecipes or anything remotely like it

Piper is a fan of good food. She’s a healthy eater with a selection of favorite dishes, but she’s not a chef. In fact, in the course of Gone Too Far, she embarks on one of her first baking endeavors ever. So, I kind of doubt she’d have anything related to food prep on her phone.


Oh, Piper. This darling girl is artsy to her very core. She could explain aperture and matrix meters, but she wouldn’t know a linebacker from a wide receiver. Ironic since Piper’s possible new love interest is a football player.

5. Abercrombie & Fitch

In addition to not representing her personal style well (Piper’s more of a Lulu’s or Forever 21 girl if she’s not shopping vintage) I suspect Piper would have issues with the public image Abercrombie & Fitch seems eager to present. Besides, I couldn’t imagine her ducking in one of those cologne-doused entrances for even a quick peek at what’s in season, so I certainly don’t see her downloading the app.

Q! Tell me, what app would you never download? 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Title: The Jewel (The Lone City #1)
Author: Amy Ewing
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: September 2nd 2014
Length: 358 pages
Keywords: YA, dystopian, romance, friendship, intrigue
Source: Publisher

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

Summary by Goodreads

THE JEWEL starts with the auction of two hundred girls who are sold as surrogates to wealthy women. Our protagonist, Violet, is one of these surrogates.
   It was a strategically clever idea to kick off the story with such a big auction that would decide over the fates of so many girls. Who wouldn't want to know how that would go and where Violet would end up? In the end Violet is purchased by the Duchess of the Lake, a mean woman who expects Violet to gift her with a baby that is more powerful and successful than the babies of her so-called friends as soon as possible. 

Amy Ewing takes her time to explain why things are the way they are in THE JEWEL. Readers learn about the history of the Lone City. And that it is divided into five parts that are separated by walls from each other. There is the Marsh, the Farm, the Smoke, the Bank and the Jewel, the richest of them all. Violet comes from the Marsh, the poorest part of the city. So we get to experience life in the Marsh and the Jewel. With that Amy Ewing shows us two very contrary parts of society and makes it pretty easy for readers to pick their sides.

The fact that the Jewel depends on the poorest people of the city to secure their succession is kind of ironic. The way Amy Ewing describes the girls' fates and lets Violet see how some of the surrogates suffer made me feel an immediate compassion and concern for our heroine so deep, that I couldn't put the book down until I knew that everything would be turning out bearable for her. I could've easily done without reading all about the various medical procedures and ordeals Violet has to go through though.

In addition Amy Ewing gave the story an interesting spin by supplying her characters, the young girls from the Marsh, with magical powers they have to train before they are sold. It is often very painful to trigger their powers. Constant demonstrations of the so-called auguries show how cruel the rules of this society are. I would've loved to find out more about the auguries without the girls hurting so much, chosen theory over practice.

The rivalry between the rich ladies intricately illustrated by intrigues, cat fights and even murder, and the pressure on Violet to conceive a child she doesn't even want, supplied the story with a psychologically thrilling and cruel reading motivator. You'll never believe what these sweet, well-behaved girls and women are capable of.

So we've got the rivalry, but a deep friendship between Violet and Raven, one of her surrogate friends, too. Violet can't loose Raven, she needs to cling to her friend and know that she's fine in order to stay sane in her new foreign environment. There's also a forbidden romance that was surprisingly authentic. I enjoyed the direction it went despite expecting our heroine to fall for someone else entirely. In the end the story really gains from Violet's friendship and love story both and I'm very curious to find out more about them in the next book.

4/5 **** THE JEWEL - This is a book fans of THE SELECTION series should be pining for!

THE JEWEL was one of the books of 2014 that really surprised me. In so far as that I liked it very much. I wasn't sure what kind of world building to expect and was afraid that it would be too similar to other popular YA dystopian worlds. On the contrary; it was unique and to see how young girls are treated in the world of the Jewel left a very strong impression on me.

"Anxiety thrums inside me as the sun rises slowly over the Great Wall off in the distance, the one that encircles the entire Lone City. The wall that protects us from the violent ocean outside. That keeps us safe. I love sunrises, even more than sunsets. There's something so exciting about the world coming to life in a thousand colors. It's hopeful. I'm glad I get to see this one, ribbons of pink and lavender shot through with streams of red and gold. I wonder if I'll get to see any sunrises when I start my new life in the Jewel. Sometimes, I wish I hadn't been born a surrogate." p. 2

THE JEWEL you might enjoy THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass, EVE by Anna Carey and WITHER by Lauren DeStefano. Kiera Cass, Anna Carey and Lauren DeStefano all wrote thrilling dystopian debuts.

* Find out more about THE WISHING WELL, a THE JEWEL short story.

* Click here to read an excerpt of THE JEWEL.

* Watch the book trailer here.

* For more information about Amy and her books visit www.amyewingbooks.com.

*  Thanks to Harper Collins International for sending me a review copy of THE JEWEL!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Trip to Amsterdam

In December I spent three days in Amsterdam with a friend and just remembered that I haven't shared the pictures with you yet. We really enjoyed our time in Amsterdam and loved the city! We went looking for the The Fault in Our Stars bench, browsed several English book stores, visited the Anne Frank house and went on a canal cruise. They also had a light festival going on through the entire month of December and some of the sculptures were very inspiring. If you ever have the chance to go to Amsterdam you should totally do it! It's very beautiful. Here are the pictures!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Book Review: My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Strories edited by Stephanie Perkins

Title: My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Strories
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publishing Date: October 14th 2014
Length: 320 pages
Keywords: YA, holiday, short stories, contemporary, romance, friendship
Source: Netgalley

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins.

Summary by Goodreads

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell
The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link
Angels in the Snow by Matt de La Pena
Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han
It's A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins
Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan
Krampuslauf by Holly Black
What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman
Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire
Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White
Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter
The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor 

Above is a listing of the collected stories in MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME. I'll tell you a bit more about the featured short stories I really enjoyed. I'm sure there's a favourite story for everyone!

MIDNIGHTS by Rainbow Rowell was a super cute romance and a great way to kick off the holiday short story marathon. Rainbow's story tells how Mags and Noel, two friends, fall in love over the course of various New Year's Eve days over the years. MIDNIGHTS was a brilliant short story!

ANGELS IN THE SNOW is the story about Shy who's apartment sitting over the holidays. He and his neighbour Haley slowly get to know each other and are lucky to enjoy each other's company when they would be alone over Christmas.

In Stephanie Perkins' IT'S A YULETIDE MIRACLE, CHARLIE BROWN Marigold goes Christmas tree hunting. That's where she meets the empathetic and absolutely charming North who not only helps her deliver her Christmas tree but to find a lovely happy ending to her unexpected Christmas romance.

WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE, SOPHIE ROTH? is a Hannukah story that demands a minor miracle for Russell and Sophie, the possibly only two people staying on campus over the holidays. 
BEER BUCKETS AND BABY JESUS by Myra McEntire focuses on a pageant's twentieth anniversary that is endangered to turn into an epic Christmas disaster, until Vaughn and Grace team up in order to save the performance and earn their sweet holiday romance.

WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS, CA by Kiersten White is  a magical, culinary Christmas tale. It is set in a diner in the town of Christmas, California, where Maria works. When the new cook Ben is hired the town-people start to rediscover the diner as a place to be with friends, joking, stuffed and happy. It's the story of how Maria and Ben slowly fall in love, about family, new friends and helping others. 

In STAR OF BETHLEHEM star Liddy swaps roles with an Icelandic girl named Hulda. Instead of taking her flight to New York she travels to a small town named Bethlehem in the middle of snowy nothingness. There she meets Ethan, Hulda's supposed boyfriend and they start an undercover mission of love.

MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME also had some stories that I wasn't really impressed by and couldn't take pleasure in as much as the others named above. They were THE LADY AND THE FOX by Kelly Link, POLARIS IS WHERE YOU'LL FIND ME by Jenny Han, YOUR TEMPORARY SANTA by David Levithan, KRAMPUSLAUF by Holly Black, THE GIRL WHO WOKE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor. I was surprised to find myself loving stories by authors I hadn't encountered before and finding stories by favourite authors taking some getting used to.

I got really excited when I first heard about MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME. How couldn't I? Some of my favourite authors teamed up to put together a collection of holiday stories. While I might not be into short stories in the first place, they are probably my favourite kind of holiday story now. There need to be more YA holiday novels in general! 

The short stories slightly vary in length and holiday theme. Some are focused on Christmas or Hannukah, others are set around New Year's Eve. Some of the short stories are further divided by subchapters. There are stories that are purely written as a contemporary romance, others leave room for miracles, magic and paranormal beings. 

Stephanie Perkins gathered stories that represent a great diversity. We've got female and male narrators. It doesn't matter if you are Mexican, Chinese or Spanish, Jewish or Christian, gay or straight. There's a cute holiday romance coming your way!

4/5 **** MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES - A heart-warming and diverse collection of beautiful holiday short stories.

Stephanie Perkins did a fabulous job with this book. Kissing, warm embraces, smiles, kind gestures, heart-felt words. This novel supplies you with stories that should make your holiday spirit sky-rocket. This book is everything you could wish for as a present! I'm suggesting Stephanie puts together a holiday story collection every year! 

"As Christmas stories go, this one isn't as sad as it could be. I'm not Tiny Tim. There were no Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present or Future. All told, it is a tale completely free of angels and elves, wise men and shepherds. Even Santa didn't make an appearance. Nope. As it turns out, I was visited by Hulda." Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter

MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME by Stephanie Perkins you might enjoy LET IT SNOW by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle. 

An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

A trio of today's bestselling authors - John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle - bring all the magic of the holidays to life in three hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and kisses that will steal your breath away.
(Summary by Goodreads)

* Check out the UK cover for MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME.

* Click here to read an excerpt.

* For more information about Stephanie Perkins and her books visit www.naturalartificial.blogspot.com.

* Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the chance to review MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review: Not a Drop to Drink & In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

Title: Not a Drop to Drink, In a Handful of Dust ( Not a Drop to Drink #1, #2)
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publishing Date: September 24th 2013, September 23rd 2014
Length: 309 pages, 384 pages
Keywords: YA, dystopia, water, survival, romance
Source: Bought, Publisher

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Summary by Goodreads


Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

Summary by Goodreads

I witnessed readers begging for a sequel back in 2013 when NOT A DROP TO DRINK was released and I wondered what all the buzz was about. I couldn't be more glad that the actual sequel came out in fall 2014 and that I waited to read them both back to back. It sure was a thrilling reading experience. Now can we please make this a trilogy?!

NOT A DROP TO DRINK tells the story of Lynn and her mother who defend their house and pond from strangers who are looking for fresh water sources. We see how Lynn grew up, what her days at the pond look like and what it takes to change her view on the world.
   In IN A HANDFUL OF DUST the story picks up approximately ten years later when Lucy, an orphan Lynn took in in the first book, is a young adult herself. The two women go on a journey to the ocean and see if it could be true that people can obtain fresh water from it. There are many survival tests the two have to pass in order to reach their goal. I promise you won't be bored!

Despite their hard and laborious lives both women, Lynn and Lucy, find time to think about love and what it would be like to have someone who cared for them on a romantic level. The romances they got are unlike any other dystopian romances I've read so far. They are highly unpredictable but rewarding nevertheless.
   In both books the most important element besides survival and resources is trust. It's very hard for Lynn to trust anybody and so her progressing friendship to the young Lucy is something that we can follow admiringly throughout the entire duology. They are tough and strong women who fight for a better life and a chance at happiness. And they are kick-ass YA heroines!

Uncertainty, natural forces and the survival of the fittest are determining this story from its very beginning to the end. Water as you might have guessed plays a major role in Lynn and Lucy's story. People are fighting for this most important resource and the two women do anything it takes to protect what is theirs. NOT A DROP TO DRINK invites its readers to think about the consequences of worldwide droughts and water shortages and maybe think about being more careful and saving with our one most important resource.

The fighting over water often turned so violent and cruel it made me cringe. I have never read a series that confronted its readers with so many shocking and brutal scenes. On the one hand they kind of went against my happy-end-loving personality. On the other hand I appreciated that Mindy McGinnis chose the outcomes to certain events that made it into the finished book because it let the entire story appear even more honest. I definitely want to recommend this duology to readers who enjoy a fascinating dystopian read, but I advise you to keep your hearts guarded just in case something happens to one of your favourite characters. In Mindy's NOT A DROP TO DRINK books you just never know what happens next.

3,5/5 ***/* NOT A DROP TO DRINK duology - This brutally real and honest YA dystopian duology is sure to melt and break some readers' hearts!

You better test your YA survival instincts before you read NOT A DROP TO DRINK and IN A HANDFUL OF DUST. These two books were written for readers who are looking for a challenging read and who want to be pushed out of their reading comfort zone. If you are looking for a dystopian series that is different than everything you've read so far and you are ready for something new you should pick up NOT A DROP TO DRINK and IN A HANDFUL OF DUST as soon as possible.

"Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond, the sweet smell of water luring the man to be picked off like the barn swallows that dared to swoop in for a drink." p.1


the NOT A DROP TO DRINK duology you might enjoy THE WATER WARS by Cameron Stracher, THE WARD by Jordana Frankel or ASHES, ASHES by Jo Treggiari. These are three more books confronting readers with thoughts about what would happen if the world actually had to withstand life-threatening droughts, water shortages and destructions.

* Read an excerpt of NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

* Click here to watch the NOT A DROP TO DRINK book trailer.

* For more information about Mindy and her books visit www.mindymcginnis.com.

* Thanks to Harper Collins International for sending me a copy of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST for review!


Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1)
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publishing Date: July 17th 2014
Length: 432 pages
Keywords: YA, fantasy, war, friendship, action
Source: Publisher

Her throne awaits . . . if she can live long enough to take it.

It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They’d come to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough to be able to take possession of what is rightfully hers.

But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous.

Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known . . . or be dead within the week.

Summary by Goodreads

Welcome to the Tearling. Our new fictional home in the THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING trilogy. The setting is quite a puzzle for readers to figure out in the beginning. Set in the future, the story appears dystopia. Still it also had many medieval and historical influences. I'm sure that I would have enjoyed this book more hadn't there been the constant irritation about the clashing futuristic and historical feels to it.

The story starts at a cottage in Reddick forest where the future queen of the Tearling has been kept save for all her life. Now it's time to take the journey to the castle and claim her birthright. This journey supplies readers with action-packed pursuits and many new dark characters Kelsea meets along the way. We are provided with a map of the Tearling which makes it a lot easier to follow Kelsea's way.

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is told from multiple perspectives. There is of course Kelsea who is our main narrator. You even slip inside the antagonistic Red Queen's head and experience her view on the impending war between the Tearling and Mortmesne. You can expect violence and strong language.

It's very hard to figure out where the story is headed romance-wise. There are hints at a future love story for Kelsea. And if Kelsea falls for one certain character known as the Fetch it promises to become a very dark romance since he's a complete enigma and appears more dangerous than amiable. 
   At first Kelsea herself proved to be quite difficult to like. She had very low self esteem and many issues with her body, always talking about how unlikable she was and how beautiful other people were in comparison. So that means she has still a lot of growing-up to do. One of her big trials is to figure out her opinion on the slave trade that has been happening in her kingdom for years.
   Lazarus, her Queen's guard captain, was by far my favourite character of the story since he was always so sure of himself and very protective of Kelsea.

3/5 *** THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING - A dark and twisted new series where dystopia meets historical fiction and no one is safe, especially not the future queen.

When I first picked up Erika Johansen's debut novel I found the detailed and very descriptive writing immensely slowing down my reading progress. It was only until I was halfway through the four hundred plus pages that the story picked up pace and I clicked with the characters. I'm definitely reading the sequel to this promising first book in the THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING series.

"Kelsea remembered the comb in her hand and turned to take care of the mare, her mind moving like a wild thing while she worked.
Perhaps daring will win them. 
You'll never win the respect of these people. You'll be lucky not to die before you reach the Keep. 
Maybe. But I have to try something.
You speak as though you have options. All you can do is what they tell you.
I'm the Queen. I'm not bound by them.
So think most queens, right until the moment the axe falls." p. 21

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING you might enjoy THE WINNER'S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski, SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch and THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson. All three stories follow heroines who live in war-torn kingdoms who have to be strong and grow stronger in order to save everyone.

* Read the sequel, THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING coming June 2015 (US).

* Click here for an excerpt of THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING.

* Find out more about the series on www.queenofthetearlingtrilogy.tumblr.com.

* Thanks to Bantam Press for sending me a review copy!