Review: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Sal and Gabi Break the UniverseSal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sal Vidon is a magician. A young magician who has just lost his Mami, moved to a new school and is having a hard time fitting in.

Recently relocated to Miami, Sal quickly finds himself on the wrong side of the school bully, Yasmany.

To escape this run-in, Sal performs his trickiest of tricks yet. He makes a raw chicken appear in the bully’s locker! Take that!

Unfortunately, such antics have the opposite effect he is looking for when accused of being a brujo, the other kids at school become afraid of him. Of him! Sal Vidon, one of the kindest, most gentlest human beings in the world.

While pleading his case in the Principal’s office (again), Sal meets Gabi Real for the first time. Gabi swoops in like a hurricane. Smart, determined and funny, Sal thinks, this is somebody I could work with.

Over the course of the rest of the story, we get to watch Sal and Gabi’s relationship grow as they reveal more and more about themselves to each other and come to rely on one another for support. Sal is still struggling with the grief of losing his Mami and Gabi has an infant brother fighting for his life at a local NICU.

I was so impressed with this book. The writing style is fantastic, very fluid and easy to read. I LOVED the characters. Sal is one of the sweetest characters in any book EVER and Gabi is a true force to be reckoned with!

As a middle grade novel, I feel that this is an excellent introduction to the science-fiction genre. This explores the idea of multiple dimensions and travel between them. I loved that aspect of the story and thought it was really well done. There was just enough of that scifi feel without being overwhelming for readers who may be new to the genre.

My favorite aspect of this story: the humor!!
I was laughing out loud from the very beginning and never let up. The characters are so witty and fun. Very well done by Hernandez.

Another piece of this I really appreciated was the presence of such strong adult characters. I feel like often in YA or Middle Grade stories, the adults are either absent or not very nice people. All of the adults in this were really great, supportive influences in the kid’s lives and that was nice to see for a change. I think it sets a good example, not just for young readers, but for adults reading this as well.

This being said, even though this is a Middle Grade book and I am far from that, this has been one of my most enjoyable reads of the year. Keep in mind people,
there is no age limit on fun!
Everyone needs to read this. Go ahead, now…

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and was truly impressed with this one!

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Review: Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Daughter of Moloka'i (Moloka'i, #2)Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One moment while I put the pieces of my heart back together…

Daughter of Moloka’i is a follow-up novel to Brennert’s 2004 Book Club sensation, Moloka’i. This is a sequel I never knew I needed, until I did.
After reading it, I cannot imagine not knowing the conclusion to Rachel’s story.

This book.
I have never cried so much while reading a book.
Ever.

It never let up. That may sound like a negative, but it was cathartic, man.

This story follows, Ruth, the girl that Rachel was forced to give up for adoption just hours after she was born. We start with Ruth’s life in a Home For Girls and follow her all the way through into her adulthood. Moving from Hawaii to California with her adoptive Japanese family, Ruth, lives through some challenging times, including her family’s incarceration in a Japanese Interment Camp following the events at Pearl Harbor.

As with other disgraceful pieces of history, this type of atrocious event is not one you find often in modern fiction. I knew these interment camps existed but reading about it from Ruth’s perspective was heart-wrenching. To consider the types of injustices that were suffered upon so many innocent people, it was hard. I applaud Brennert for his research efforts which were evident.

I was asked a while back if you had to read the first book in order to read this one. While I believe that you can read this as a stand-alone, your reading experience can only be enhanced by reading Moloka’i first. Add to this the fact that Moloka’i stands strong as one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

If you like sweeping historical fiction that explores what it means to live and the strength of family, both blood and found, this is a duology you do not want to miss. While it broke my heart a million times, I am grateful to have read it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Also, thank you to Alan Brennert for writing such a remarkable story. I will be thinking about Rachel and Ruth for years to come.

Original:

I wanted this ARC sooooo much!

This is the companion novel to Alan Brennert’s 2004 novel, Moloka’i which follows Rachel Kalama, a young Hawaiian girl who is separated from her family and sent to live in a leprosy colony.

This novel follows Rachel’s daughter, Ruth, who as a baby was taken from her care.

Mokoka’i is one of the most beautiful and moving historical fiction novels I have EVER read and I am absolutely beside myself that we are getting a second book in this ‘world’. If it is anything like this first one, I am in for a very special treat! Yayeeeeeeee!!!!

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Review: The Everlasting Rose (The Belles #2) by Dhonielle Clayton

The Everlasting Rose (The Belles, #2)The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5 stars rounded up**

We can’t expect one person — or even two — to take the entire burden of resisting on their shoulders. We all have to stand up and say no.


Attention:
If you have not read The Belles this review may provide little tid-bits that could possibly spoil you for some of the events in that book. Proceed with caution.

The evil Princess Sophia is set to rise to the throne. She claims her sister, Charlotte, is dead. She has sinister plans in mind for all the Belles and the future of beauty work throughout Orleans.

Camellia, the once favorite, is on the run. Forced to flee the kingdom, she now finds herself on the outside looking in. Pairing up with some old favorites from Book 1, including handsome savior, Remy, Camellia begins to set her sights on taking Sophia down. The task is made more difficult however since Sophia wants her found, making her the ‘most wanted’ person in all the land.

Discovering an underground movement of rebels also planning to revolutionize the kingdom, Camellia finds a place were she feels she can be of good use. But can she trust them?

This book picks up directly where Book 1 leaves off. There is a lot more action in the plot as the world has previously been built for you, we spend less time on those details. However, although there is more action, I still felt the pacing was a bit off for me.

There were times when I was really enjoying it, speeding along, and other times where I had to force myself to pick it up. This being said, Clayton’s writing feels lovely to me. Each word she chooses seems to add beauty to the text but at the same time, things can become very one dimensional.

I liked the scifi bits that were sprinkled through here. The way the Belles are ‘grown’ and Sophia’s plans for them seemed something more out of a dystopian novel than a fantasy. I did enjoy those elements and personally, I wish there had been a bit more of them.

That may seem odd but I couldn’t help but wish those ideas would have been expanded upon more. The origin of the Belles. We heard the mythological tale of where they came from but how much of that was true?

I did also enjoy the commentary about standing up to old-fashioned systems that need to be changed. Systems that take advantage of, literally USE, some individuals for the sheer pleasure of the better off within the society. This was an interesting examination of the concept of beauty, as well, and the negative effects of a strong societal emphasis on beauty.

The Everlasting Rose leaves off in a very interesting place. Is there going to be another book? I would definitely be interested in continuing on in this world. The events that take place at the end of this leaves a lot to be explored. I am crossing my fingers for a Book 3!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy to read and review. As always, I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to hearing other reader’s thoughts on this one!

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Review: For Better And Worst by Margot Hunt

For Better and WorseFor Better and Worse by Margot Hunt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

What would you do if someone hurt your child?

Unfortunately for Will and Natalie Clarke, they find out after their son, Charlie, makes a horrifying admission to them in this adult revenge thriller.

Alternating perspectives between Nat and Will, we follow them on a dangerous road to vengeance. Natalie, a criminal defense attorney, and Will, a civil attorney, met in law school. In fact, on their very first date they discuss how they have all the information necessary to get away with murder.

But talking about murder versus the act of murder are two extraordinarily different animals.

Full of domestic strife, Nat and Will eventually learn to work together and to reassess what is important in their marriage and their life. They are both highly unlikable characters, in my opinion. Nat is an demanding and overly organized twat while Will is an adulterer and a whiner.

I personally never felt like I really connected to the story and the end felt too rushed and too convenient. It explored some interesting topics, which is why I rounded up to three stars, but overall nothing really blew me away here, or even really kept me interested.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Harlequin – MIRA, for the advanced copy to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my honest opinion on the books I am lucky enough to read. Although this book didn’t work real well for me, I am sure there are many people out there who will enjoy it a lot!

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Review: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

The InvitedThe Invited by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

“Blurring the lines between the past and the present, the dead and the living”

Helen has always dreamed of a simpler life. One day, after a discussion with her husband, Nate, they decide to make that happen. Using money she has recently inherited after the death of her Father, they make a plan to move to a rural area and build a house of their very own.

Ultimately, they decide on a large plot of land in rural-Vermont with a rich history. Leaving their cushy CT-lives behind, they move into an old trailer on the new property and commence building their dream home.

Olive, a young girl, and new neighbor to Helen and Nate, is missing her Mom, who left home one night and never returned. Rumor has it that she has run off with a boyfriend but Olive doesn’t believe it. Acting out and skipping school, Olive is on a path to nowhere, if someone doesn’t step in an help her.

As with The Winter People, McMahon has blended perfectly past and present into this story. In addition to the main storyline, described above, we also learn about some characters from the past who have deep connections to Helen and Nate’s land. The way that all of these storylines are woven together and ultimately connect is seamless.

McMahon has such a haunting way of writing. There is an overriding sinister ambiance to her stories, that make them an absolute joy to read for any horror fan. She adds just the right amount of chilling atmosphere and occult references to give her stories a genuine horror feel without being gaudy or overdone.

Some of the plot elements I found were a little too easy to figure out, too simplified if you will, which is why I decided on a 4.5-rating for this as opposed to a 5-star. That is totally my opinion however and I would highly recommend this book. A ghost story with a twist.


“Some people move into a haunted house, but you, you want to build a haunted house, Helen. How fucked up is that?”

McMahon has quickly become an autobuy author for me. I feel like people are definitely going to love this one. Get your hands on it, people! Releasing next month!!!

A big thank you to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and are review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more from McMahon in the future!

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Review: The Last Life of Prince Alastor by Alexandra Bracken

The Last Life of Prince Alastor (The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding #2)The Last Life of Prince Alastor by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

A beautiful conclusion to a delightful and deliciously wicked tale!

Picking up right where The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding left off, this stunning sequel takes us deep into Alastor’s world, the Downstairs. What on earth is the Downstairs, you may ask? Just think a goblin market meets The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Prosper is on a mission to save his sister, Prue, from the clutches of the Queen of the Fiends, who also happens to be Alastor’s sister, Pyra. Siblings versus siblings but whose side is Alastor really on?

This is an epic adventure through a dark and dangerous world. We learn so much more in this book about Alastor, his original deal with Prosper’s ancestor, Honor, and the world of the Fiends. We also meet new characters and get introduced to new and complex forms of magic.

Bracken’s signature descriptive style is on full display throughout this story. I was absolutely transported to this world. It was DARK and I loved every moment of it! There were a few areas in the beginning that I felt the pace dragged a little bit but by the mid-point, all traces of that were gone.

As with the first book, there is a light humor to this dark tale, and I did laugh out loud numerous times at Alastor and his musings. There are also some important lessons woven throughout this story that were nicely incorporated into this Middle Grade storyline.

*Please note, although this is technically Middle Grade, this book most definitely can be enjoyed by readers of all ages!

I loved the overall feeling of this book touching on topics such as: striving to do the ‘right thing’ regardless of obstacles or an easier way out; the value of strong friendships and familial connections; the idea that it is okay to fail at something as long as you learn and grow from it, and that traditions should not stand if the roots of them are not worth upholding.

I won’t lie. The end of this brought tears to my eyes. I have grown so attached to Prosper and Alastor over the course of these two books. Watching them both grow and evolve has been such a great thing to take part in. Although that isn’t a very eloquent way to describe it, I am at a loss for words to describe how much feeling I got out of this story. What seems like such a fun and uncomplicated story of a demon inhabiting a boy is really so much more than that.

If you haven’t yet picked up this story, I highly recommend it. They are short and quick to get through and an absolutely delightful reading experience. Two thumbs way up!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and had a wonderful time finishing this up.

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Review: Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Fat Angie: Rebel Girl RevolutionFat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Angie’s life is in absolute shambles. It is the start of a new school year, her sister is dead, having been killed while serving overseas in the military, her girlfriend has moved away to Texas to live with her father and her best friend has ghosted.

Returning to school, Angie faces extreme bullying and acts of violence. During one particularly heinous incident, she stands up to her bully and breaks his nose. Since no one will come forward and tell the truth, that she was protecting herself from a violent assault, Angie is now facing expulsion.

Her mother, an absolutely atrocious woman who can CHOKE, is threatening to send Angie away to in inpatient treatment center. Suffering from severe depression, grief over the loss of her sister and debilitating panic attacks, Angie is left to navigate what is left of her life essentially on her own.

This book was difficult to read. I was uncomfortable pretty much the entire time and now that I am done, I am not comfortable assigning a star-rating. I know this may seem silly but I just can’t narrow down my thoughts to one number.

This book was oddly compelling. The writing was a little strange to me and the narrative was much more ‘stream of consciousness’-based than I tend to like but I could not stop reading.

I wanted to know where Angie would end up and how her life would go. She is a character who is in a really bad place, physically, mentally, emotionally and literally, her home is terrible. She doesn’t feel positive about anything in her life and was just so down on herself. It hurt to read this.

In addition to all of that, there are horrible scenes of violence, fat-shaming and hate speech. I questioned at times whether or not it was necessary for the plot and I’m not sure. At times, it almost felt like certain aspects were thrown in more for shock value but I don’t know, life does get messy sometimes. Ugh, I am just so torn on this one, you guys.

As a consumer reviewer, I can tell you this story made me uncomfortable, but I feel by ‘judging’ (aka. adding a rating) it, I am in essence casting judgement on the author’s story. ‘Isn’t that what we always do?’ you may ask. In a way, yes, but this story just felt so personal, probably due to the ‘stream of consciousness’ narrative, and it did have a lot of aspects to it that I liked and respected but other things that felt ‘off’.

I am making zero sense right now, I know. That is what this book will do you.

I wouldn’t know where to begin in recommending this book to anyone. Trigger warnings are too numerous to list but there was a lot of diversity and a lot of serious topics that should be explored more.

The road trip aspect of the story was my favorite element. Basically, before Angie’s sister was killed, she wrote a letter to Angie listing a bunch of things she wanted to experience with her, via a road trip in their state, when she got back home. Since she never made it back, Angie, along with her sister’s urn, convinces an old friend to take her parent’s RV and drive them to the different locations listed in the letter. They are joined by two additional characters and your typical road trip hijinks ensue.

It is important to note that this book is a continuation to a prior book, titled Fat Angie. I never read that first book and I don’t feel like I was missing anything. This felt like a complete story to me. If you are interested in this one, and haven’t read the first, it is my opinion that you do not need to go back and read that first one.

This is not my typical review. In fact, I have been dreading writing this. No gifs, no attempts at humor, this story just doesn’t seem the place for it. My final decision is to not add a star rating. I want people to read this. I want to hear other’s opinions on this. I think there are so many important issues throughout this that should be discussed more, not just the ‘real life’ issues but how we express and take in those topics via literature.

Original: Book 2 for
Contemporary-A-Thon
!!! I will be using this for two challenges:

1. my most recently acquired Contemporary novel
2. read a book with blurple on the cover

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Review: Between The Lies by Michelle Adams

Between the LiesBetween the Lies by Michelle Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Chloe Daniels wakes up in the hospital, she has no recollection of how she ended up there, or even who she is.

Surrounded by people claiming to be her family, Chloe remains unsure. She has no remembrance of any of them. Soon they are whisking her home and setting her up in a room they say is hers but still, nothing seems familiar.

The man who says that he is her Father also happens to be a psychiatrist and he begins holding sessions with her to help regain her memories. As the story unfolds, Chloe does begin to get flashbacks, both of the night of her accident and her before. Through recollections, and speaking with those around her, the story of her life ‘before’ begins to be pieced together.

I found Between the Lies to be a fast-paced and compelling read. It is intense right from the very beginning. You know there has to be a ‘baddie’ in this story and I suspected everyone, including Chloe herself!

When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it and to me, that is a sign of a good one. I did eventually guess the baddie prior to the reveal but it was still a hecka’ ton of fun. Additionally, there was a twist I wasn’t expecting that left me on the final page with a sinister smile on my face.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and felt it to be a solid, absorbing psychological thriller. Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. As always, I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more by Michelle Adams in the future.

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Review: What We Buried by Kate A. Boorman

What We BuriedWhat We Buried by Kate A. Boorman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jory and Liv Brewer are as opposite as siblings can get.

The one thing they seem to have in common: horrible parents.

Liv: Paraded through the kiddie pageant circuit by their domineering mother, Liv is known to be spoiled and full of rage. Once followed everywhere by cameras as part of a reality television show, now Liv’s star seems to be dimming.

Jory: Older brother, Jory, has been pushed into the background of the ‘Princess Liv’ show his whole life. Jory suffers from Moebius Syndrome which displays itself outwardly through partial facial paralysis. This makes speech difficult for him and he struggles to be understood. Constantly in the shadow of his sister, Jory has come to resent her and everything her vapid life stands for.

The book begins as the family heads to court. Liv is suing her parents for emancipation and her earnings from beauty contestant days. Estranged from the family, she has been living outside of the home for months.

You quickly come to understand, through their dialogue and recollections, that both Liv and Jory have been traumatized by their unconventional upbringing. Their mother is manipulative and superficial and their father is an emotionally abusive and unavailable drunk.

Over the course of this narrative there is not one fleeting moment of humanity to be found in either parent. Is it any wonder the kids are full of resentment and rage? But what happens when the parents disappear?

Forced to work together to try to figure out where their parents have gone, Jory and Liv undertake a late night road trip into the desert because, honestly, what could go wrong?

I will admit, the first couple of chapters, building up to the road trip, I did not think I was going to like this. The story is told in alternating perspectives between Jory and Liv. They both seemed so negative and angry, I didn’t like them at all but once the road trip started, I couldn’t put it down. Literally, could not stop thinking about it.

Reading like an episode of The Twilight Zone this book played on my anxieties. A dark road, late at night, nothing around, getting lost, not having enough water, etc. It built some serious tension. There were definitely scenes that chilled me to the bone.

I do feel that this book will not necessarily be for everyone. There isn’t a lot of action. We have two characters in a car for most of the book, hashing out their differences and then we have both of them recollecting their childhood. As I got farther and farther in, I really began to connect to the characters. I understood more of where they were coming from and why it drove them to hold such resentments against one another.

I felt real growth with both characters and towards the end I was rooting for them. I had theories on where this was going, it’s an odd little story, but it didn’t end the way I thought it was going to. It played nicely with temporality in a way I found unique.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it for people who don’t need to instantly fall in love with every character and who like their stories a bit on the eerie side.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate an opportunity to read a book early. I look forward to hearing what others readers this of this one!

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Review: The Lonely Dead by April Henry

The Lonely DeadThe Lonely Dead by April Henry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

On a short-cut home through a local park, 17-y.o. Adele, comes across her estranged friend, Tori, crying and distraught. After talking to her for a while, trying to figure out what is wrong, Adele notices a very important fact about Tori. She’s dead. She’s dead and sitting atop her recently buried remains.

That’s right. Adele sees dead people but not in the way you would think. She only sees them in the location where their remains are. The spirits, if you will, are attached to their earthly remains via a cord of mist that extends from the backs of the their heads. Therefore, they are tethered to that location and do not necessarily bandy about haunting different places.

Adele knows that Tori has been murdered and she needs to report the body to the police. Fearing she will be considered a suspect she makes an anonymous call from a payphone and returns home to her life.

Turns out there are things called security cameras and the cops figure out it was her that made the call. This and the fact that everyone witnessed a big fight between Adele and Tori on the night of her death makes Adele a prime suspect. She therefore realizes she needs to pair with Tori to figure out what happened to her so she can clear herself and bring the real killer to justice.

This book and I did not get along. As you can most likely guess from the tone of above-mentioned gifs.

The synopsis sounded promising. A paranormal mystery and I guess, in a way, that is what it was except it wasn’t super mysterious and the paranormal elements were a bit simplistic. I think maybe this book would work better for a younger age group who is perhaps just getting into paranormal mystery stories, as someone new to the genre wouldn’t have much to compare this too.

This being said, while I think the writing works best for a Tween category, the topics don’t really mesh well with that age group. There is a lot of drinking, binge drinking, talk of binge drinking, sex, party scenes, etc.

So, yeah, maybe not the best thing to buy your 12-year old. Additionally, the overall feel of the book made me uncomfortable. This could completely be me, a personal preference or what have you, decide for yourself but the mental health rep…

I wasn’t crazy about it. Adele has been diagnosed with schizophrenia for which she has been prescribed medication. She takes this medication up until the time our story starts when she admits to secretly stopping and hiding the pills. She goes on to say on numerous occasions how much better her life is now that she is off it even though now she is seeing things again whereas before she wasn’t. The medication had been dulling her gift to see these dead things.

This is a topic returned to over and over again in the book and I’m just not sure if glorifying going off prescribed medications for serious mental health issues in a teen book is a good thing?

Seriously, though, I don’t know. Maybe I was reading into it wrong or I am taking it too literally. I don’t know. I have never suffered from a hallucinatory disorder personally so may not be the best judge on this. Besides this overriding issue, however, I did have a few other problems with it. The ‘mystery’ was pretty apparent from the beginning. The build-up was too long and the conclusion too rushed. There was a lesson in a health class about binge drinking that just got brought up over and over again that was sort of lame. Things got really wacky at the end. Meh. Just not for me.

However, if this synopsis sounds interesting to you, I want you to pick it up. I want to hear what other people think of this and the mental health stuff in particular. I seriously hope my review doesn’t stop anyone from picking this up. For me, it didn’t work, but I am sure some people out there will really enjoy it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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