Sunday, September 29, 2019

New Releases in YA! (October 1st-7th)

Every week I list all (or almost all) of the YA books (and the occasional MG) that are coming out within that week!
There's not much coming out this week, but here's what you get to look forward:
P.S. Click on the book's cover for the Goodreads page!

Did I miss any books?
What books, if any, do you plan to read?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Short and Simple Reviews: The Croak Trilogy by Gino Damico

This is a place for books that I didn't fully review.
Maybe I listed my likes and dislikes, had a little short paragraph, or a few sentences to convey my feelings on the book, but whatever the "review" is, all of them are short and simple. (hence the clever name)

Today I'm reviewing the Croak trilogy!

Croak (Croak, #1)Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex's parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape.

But Uncle Mort's true occupation is much dirtier than shoveling manure. He's a Grim Reaper. And he's going to teach Lex the family business.

She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can't stop her desire for justice — or is it vengeance? — whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again.

Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?
  Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

I just finished reading this book for the second time because it's been seven years since the first read and I still hadn't continued the series. My feelings towards this book remain the same, it is still a 3-star book. I expected more humor in this book. Plenty of reviews mention that hilarity, and I wondered if I missed all the humor the first go-round. Damico is wonderful at writing humor, and her other books have made me laugh in the past, but I found this book low on humor. The ending is especially sad. Lex, our MC, is full of snark and sarcasm. Actually, most of the characters are full of wit and sarcasm, and I loved seeing them play off of each other. I also found the scenes in the afterlife amusing. Yet, because this is a book about death, I couldn't relax in the humor. I do like the idea of the reapers, and I think Damico took a unique spin on the concept. Overall, it was a good idea that I reread the book because I really didn't remember anything.
(Here's a short list of what I remembered before my reread: It dealt with reapers, the uncle rides a motorcycle, and Poe is in the afterlife) 

I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it

Scorch (Croak, #2)
Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to damn
souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But after inadvertently transferring her ability to Zara, a murderous outlaw, Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home.

To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop Zara once and for all—but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to Zara’s killing spree?

  Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

Like the last book in the series, I struggled to find hilarity. Yes, the characters are witty and sarcastic, and I loved their repertoire, but...there is so much stress. The characters are constantly in danger and there is so much hate being pushed towards them. This isn't a series I would recommend if you want a feel-good read. I did like how the world of the reapers is expanded upon. The characters go to a new location, and there are also new characters added to the group. I didn't agree with Lex's decision at times. She continues to be upset that criminals get away with their crimes and don't get punished in death. She sometimes agrees with the side they are fighting against. I understand where Lex is coming from, but Damning is such an extreme. Overall, this book does raise the stakes and take the series in an interesting direction. 
I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it

Rogue (Croak, #3)

Lex is a teenage Grim Reaper with the power to Damn souls, and it’s getting out of control. She’s a fugitive, on the run from the maniacal new mayor of Croak and the townspeople who want to see her pay the price for her misdeeds. Uncle Mort rounds up the Junior Grims to flee Croak once again, but this time they’re joined by Grotton, the most powerful Grim of all time. Their new mission is clear: Fix his mistakes, or the Afterlife will cease to exist, along with all the souls in it. 

The gang heads for Necropolis, the labyrinth-like capital city of the Grimsphere. There, they discover that the Grimsphere needs a reboot. To do that, the portals to the Afterlife must be destroyed…but even that may not be enough to fix the damage. Things go from bad to worse, and when at last the fate of the Afterlife and all the souls of the Damned hang in the balance, it falls to Lex and her friends to make one final, impossible choice.

I've come to the end of the Croak series. Damico certainly throws a lot at her characters in this book. With each book, the characters are in more perilous situations and no one is safe. Like the last books, I struggled to find humor. Again, the characters provided humor in their dialogue, but it's so hard to find comic relief when the characters are put under so much risk. Also like the last book, I had difficulty with Lex's logic, but at least she comes to an understanding in this book that she shouldn't be the one to make those decisions. The ending is quite a twist and is a very risky ending. I don't know how I feel about it. [highlight to view spoiler] I'm not too upset by the ending mainly because I wasn't incredibly attached to the series. I didn't quite understand why Lex thought she should sacrifice herself. Maybe it was meant to show a change in her logic (that she shouldn't punish criminals), but what made her fit for that punishment? This was also the THIRD book I've read this month in which the MC died at the end. I need to read more uplifting books [end of spoiler] I did like that the end was left open-ending. My YA lit teacher would have called it an "optimistic ending" (his theory was even if a YA book had a sad ending, there was always a sense of optimism)
Overall, I liked this series. It got progressively darker with each book, but I did like how the plot expanded and twisted throughout the trilogy. It won't go down on my favorites list, but I don't regret finishing the series. 

I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it

Friday, September 27, 2019

REVIEW: Music Box by Anya Allyn

MUSIC BOX: A Supernatural Horror (Dark Carousel Book 4)The DARK CAROUSEL series is a heart-stopping mix of American Horror Story and the fantastical elements of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

The final terrifying story of The Dark Carousel series.

As the day of Cassie's marriage to the centuries-old spirit, Balthazar, grows chillingly close, she finds a secret way to the high tower. The shadowy inhabitant of the tower has haunted her mind since her first day at the castle.

In the tower, Cassie makes a shocking discovery, after which nothing can be the same.

Before Cassie's last stand against the castle ends, she'll fight the serpent shadows that swoop in like spectres from across the frozen wastelands, and she'll face down Balthazar and the serpent empress herself.

But her greatest fight will come from within.

NOTE: This is the fourth book in a series and there will be spoilers for the previous books in the series. Read my review for book one here, book two here, and book three here.

I've made it to the last book in the series! This had a lot more going on than the previous books, but I still don't think it was as great as the first book in the series.

Cassie is now Balthazar's wife and she fears the day spring comes and Balthazar wakes up to impregnate her. She spends her days locked in the marionette cabinet, her nights outside under the stars. But she's not giving up, she's found a secret location where Ettinette, Balthazar's first wife, tried to escape. At the same time, Ethan is alive, but he is in the other dimension and far from Cassie.

While the last few books have been lackluster because nothing happens, this book has a lot happening. Almost too much because I wasn't sure what was happening sometimes. The pacing is fast, and some times things felt too coincidental (i.e. a person they know just happens to be there when they need them). Like the last book, we occasionally get Ethan's perspective. He has to journey from Canada to Maimi in the frozen world, but almost all of this is skipped over. We also see some short chapters from Tobias' and Jessamine's perspectives, which I liked because they do need closure in their stories.

This book combines many of the elements of the previous books. Many of the locations make a return. The parallel universe aspect is much larger in this book than the previous book, which made it a lot more interesting. There are also quite a number of twists and surprises along the way. I alluded to events feelings coincidental, and that comes partially from the fact that almost every character that has appeared in this series makes an appearance in this book. I do think Anya Allyn has a lot of interesting ideas, though. Really, this is unlike any other series I've read before, and she's created a very unique series. I just wish it was more focused.

While I have previously struggled with Cassie's character, she has certainly grown throughout the series. She has been in incredibly frightening situations, and she handles them with a lot more strength and bravery than I ever would. This book further explains that Cassie was always meant to be a part of this mess which, again, bothers me. I'm not the biggest fan of books that say characters are fated to do such and such. I prefer it when they are ordinary people put into extraordinary situations. When characters are fated to do something, it makes their strength less outstanding, because they were always going to do it.

Now, about that ending. The ending is a huge surprise and a huge risk. It's the kind of ending that may upset quite a few people. [highlight to view spoiler] So, Ethan is killed by Balthazar and then Cassie later drowns while killing the serpent queen. The last chapter flashes to another dimension with Cassie moving to Australia with her family (including Prudence). I didn't dislike this ending, maybe I would have been upset if I were more attached to the series (especially the romance). It did confuse me a bit because the serpent queen says that Cassie will remember everything in her life and it will haunt her, but then she doesn't. Prudence seems to though. Does this also mean that Cassie (and everyone else) are doomed to repeat everything all over again in each world? Or is this a world that they will live peacefully in? It is an interesting way to end a series, but it left me with more questions. Also, this is the third book I read this month in which the main character dies, so you know, I'm getting tired of these dark endings.[end of spoiler]

Overall, this was an interesting conclusion to the series. I don't know whether I'm glad I continued this series or not, but, again, I think the author has some fantastic ideas. I just wish they were more focused. Book one is by far the best in the series, and I think the original concept got lost along the way. I don't know if I will read more from this author or not. I kind of want to see if she has any other interesting ideas and whether her writing has grown since this series, but I'm worried I'll just end up disappointed.

I hereby give this book
3 Stars

Meaning: I liked it.

Cover Lust: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Cover Lust is something that I do every other week where I feature a book cover that I absolutely love!

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic.

Why did I pick this cover? 
I admit that when I first saw this cover it did not wow me. It looked like a fairly simple design. But after seeing the book in person I can see all of the texture and details and it's a lot more eye-catching!
What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

REVIEW: Marionette by Anya Allyn

34035559. sy475 The DARK CAROUSEL series is a heart-stopping mix of American Horror Story and the fantastical elements of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

A shattering betrayal leaves Cassie beyond all light or hope. The betrayal signals a return to Balthazar's castle.

She's forced to wait out her sixteenth summer in Balthazar's terrifying, dank quarters beneath the castle, until he wakes from his long slumber and she is taken as his bride. Each day she is reminded of her fate, in full view of the sixty glass door cabinets where his teenage wives of centuries past are preserved. No bride lasts very long. Each day, she is told she is little more than a butterfly, soon to waste away inside a painted, wooden replica of herself.

Deep inside herself, she plots revenge against those who have taken everyone she loved away from her. And she'll never stop seeking a way to destroy the second book of The Mirrored Tree--the knowledge of which will give the castle dominion over all the universes.

NOTE: This is the third book in a series and there will be spoilers for book one and two. Read my review for book one here and my review for book two here.

After the end of Paper Dolls, I wanted to keep reading the series. This book was a little lackluster and wasn't really what I expected it to be. It had some interesting ideas, but it took a long time to get there.

Cassie doesn't know who to trust. The family that she thought she could trust, turned out to be part of the group that entrapped her in the Dollhouse in the first place. And Ethan, the boy she thought betrayed her, is back and has told her that she is from another dimension, a dimension that is in chaos. Her world is frozen, a world of ice, with serpents feeding on everyone. It's completely unrecognizable. Cassie, though, is back to being trapped, now in a castle instead of a Dollhouse. She and Molly are sent to the frozen world to find the book, but they end up in a lot more trouble.

After the end of Paper Dolls, I expected this book to focus on parallel worlds. That's part of why I continued, I'm a sucker for books featuring parallel worlds, but that wasn't the focus of this book. Cassie occasionally travels to the frozen world, but most of this book was, well, nothing. Not much happened. I actually was tempted to give up on this book, but I kept on reading because I paid for it.

Part of my disappointment comes from the synopsis. The synopsis has some frightening elements, but, I kind you not, none of that happens until the last 20% of the book. The rest of the book is mostly everyone trying to find the book, which is getting a bit old. I do think the last 20% was really interesting, and a lot more like what I expected from the book. It is incredibly frightening, and I really wanted to find out if Cassie would be okay.

This book is also in dual POV, showing some scenes from Ethan's perspective. It's interesting to see things from his perspective, but I really didn't care. I'm sorry, but Ethan isn't really that interesting of a character and I never felt chemistry between him and Cassie. I think there's romance in this book, but I say romance lightly because, well, I don't know how to explain this. Suddenly the characters are in love with each other, but I never feel a build and there's never real confirmation that they're a thing, they're just suddenly a thing. Also, while I like, Cassie, this book makes her seem like she's someone special and I don't really like that. In Dollhouse, it seemed like Cassie was in the situation because she was in the wrong place, wrong time, but now the book makes it sound like she was always meant to be a part of this. I don't know, I just preferred her being an ordinary girl that got sucked into this mess.

Okay, I know I have a lot of nitpicks, but I did end up liking this book, mostly because the gothic elements picked up the last 20% of the book. I think this is becoming a guilty pleasure series, because I don't really enjoy reading these books, but I think Anya Allyn has a lot of interesting ideas, so I want to see how things turn out. Because of the monster of an ending, I am continuing the series.

I hereby give this book
3 Stars

Meaning: I liked it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

REVIEW: Paper Dolls by Anya Allyn

33921036. sy475 In Book One, Cassie, Ethan, and Lacey sought their missing friend, Aisha, in the deep of the forest. After being captured by the deadly trap of the dollhouse, Cassie bravely fought her way to the surface. 
But she's beginning to question if any of them were truly rescued. Because once you've ventured into the underground dollhouse, the spirits there will never release you. 
Back in 1920, a clairvoyant tells 14-year-old circus performer, Sparrow, that she is soon to die an unnatural death. With her grandfather spending the last of his circus fortunes on dark magic and with Mr. Baldcott chasing her for marriage, Sparrow doesn't know who to turn to.
Then a circus train derailment in Copper Canyon that kills most of the people on board changes everything. Someone has blown up the tracks, someone who wanted desperately to get hold of the Book of the Mirrored Tree that Sparrow's grandfather was transporting - a book of the most dangerous knowledge humankind has ever known.
In present day, Cassie travels to Copper Canyon to try to find the Book of the Mirrored Tree. Too late she discovers a chilling, devastating betrayal.

NOTE: This is the second book in a series and there will be spoilers for book one. Read the review for book one here.

It has been five years since I read book one, so when I tried to read Paper Dolls, I was a bit confused. I decided to reread book one, but I was still confused because I guess Anya Allyn updated Dollhouse and the copy I had was not the updated version. Sigh. I guess that's on me, I can't really fault Anya Allyn for confusing me in the book, I understand wanting to update books, but it was frustrating. I oftentimes felt like I jumped into a parallel universe of Dollhouse, where some things were slightly different but different enough that I questioned my own memory. I got used to it, but it made for an uncomfortable reading experience at times.

I really wondered what would happen in this book. The original version of Dollhouse that I read ended on a cliffhanger, although from what I understand, the updated version has less of a cliffhanger. Cassie is no longer trapped in the underground dollhouse, but her and Aisha face the media frenzy of being the dollhouse girls, when they just want to get back to their normal lives. Ethan is also out, but the media blames him and his grandfather for the kidnappings. Cassie is trying to deal with the betrayal, so she and Aisha's family decides to go on vacation and they meet a couple of cute guys. But these guys aren't quite who they thought they were either and Cassie can't escape the dollhouse.

Since this book begins with them escaping the dollhouse, I worried whether enough would happen in this book. The answer: not much happens, at least to Cassie. Cassie's story is plenty much everything I said above, just really elongated a bit mundane, and an added adventure plot that sounds more exciting than it actually was. She has a new love interest, but that was meh. I didn't really see any chemistry, but it was the same with Ethan in the last book. Cassie's story gets interesting near the very end, but not until then.

We do get Jessamine's story in this book, from Jessamine's POV. This was the best part of this book. When her perspective first started, I wasn't sure about reading a new perspective, and a historical one at that, but I loved seeing her backstory. Her story one of the least confusing parts of this book and one of the more hauntings parts of the book. This book wasn't much of a horror book, definitely less so than the first book, but Jessamine's story showed us tragic horror elements.

Overall, I did like this book. Cassie's story in this book was very slow and I wasn't as interested in what she was doing, but Jessamine's story made up for it. I was super confused at times in this book thanks to the update but I pushed through. The ending is intriguing and I can tell that book three is going in a new direction. I'm planning on continuing the series, but...I get the feeling that the books got updated again. So, I'm likely going to be confused YET AGAIN! Ugh.

I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it.

Waiting on Wednesday: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Waiting on Wednesday (or Can't Wait Wednesday) is a weekly meme, hosted by Wishful Endings, where we talk about the books we're waiting (a bit impatiently) for!

This week I am waiting for...
10 Blind Dates

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents' house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That's when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she's started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever... or is it?
Release Date: October 1st, 2019

Why am I waiting?
This sounds like a really fun book with a strong focus on family!
What book are you waiting for this week?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019