Dark Lake: An Allie Armington Mystery by Louise Gaylord

This was the first of the Allie Armington books I’ve read, and it definitely drew me in right away. The action was very well paced and I really enjoyed the characters. They had a bit of a Nancy Drew feel, but with a much more adult and realistic feel to it.

There were a few loose ends that I’m left wondering about, but I’m wondering if, because this is part of a series, those questions will be answered in a later book. Along the same vein of being just one in a series, having little pieces of her history pop up that are never fully explained, was just a little distracting. Maybe those little tidbits are explained in the previous books, but I was a little thrown off pace when they would creep up.

The characters are all very well developed and unique. While some characters might have the same general tones, their individual personalities are all very different and interesting to read about.

Overall, this was a fantastic book and a gripping mystery that had me guessing until the very end. I will definitely recommend this book to any mystery lovers I know.

Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

After I finished reading this book, all I wanted to do was drive home and give my own dogs a huge treat and all the love I could.

This was a heartwarming book that made me laugh and cry. As a person who loves her dogs more like little people than actual dogs, I simply loved reading about life through a dog’s eyes and his search to find his purpose. Why was he put on this earth and what can he learn each time his soul is brought back?

I fell in love with the dog a little bit more through each of his lives, completely immersed in the story he was telling. This wasn’t like The Art of Racing in the Rain¬†where the dog understands words and concepts completely. Instead, this dog knows simple words, but builds the view of the world through actions and his own feelings. He trusts his dog instincts and uses those to guide his life. He’s more like how I envision a dog thinking about everything going on around him.

There were several times when I started to cry reading, so I suggest having a box of tissues near you as you read. It’s happy and sad tears, but it’s all worth it to read this stunning book.

I wish I was able to write more about how this book made me feel, but I can’t think of any words that adequately describe the feelings. If you are a dog lover, you must read this book. It will make you love your dog even more than you thought possibly.

Bloodspell by Amalie Howard

Like most Young Adult novels, I go in hoping for a diamond, be prepared for piles of dirt. Bloodspell is definitely a diamond and I am so thankful to JKSCommunications for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful book.

The book starts off with a bang and it just keeps going from there. There is rarely a lag in the action and forward progression of the story, but it is paced just right. There’s never a flood of information, and everything that is reveled makes sense and isn’t confusing. Each time more magic and mystery was reveled, I was left wanting just a little more information, only to get more a few pages later. It was wonderful and kept me glued to the pages.

While I understood why it was necessary, the “I love you but we shouldn’t be together” subplot is starting to get old. However, it does make sense in this book and I was able to look past that aspect of the relationship between Victoria and Christian. Christian is another swoon-worth YA male character. Victoria is a strong girl coming into her own, who knows how to rely on herself, but also knows when she needs to ask for help. I enjoyed the other, more minor characters, but I was really hoping some of them would play a bigger role in more of the story, instead of just the climax.

Overall, this was a great read and I found it hard to put down. I can’t wait to see what Howard does next with this wonderful story.

God’s Eye by A.J. Scudiere

I was a little worried when I started reading this book that it would be more on the religious side of looking at good vs. evil and angels and demons. I was happily surprised that this couldn’t have been further from the truth. This was a fantastic look into a woman growing into her own life and how things can be deceptive on the surface.

Katharine lives under the shadow of her family’s wealth. She does what is expected of her without much questioning and lives the life someone else has planned for her. By the end of the novel, she is a strong woman, taking charge of her life and doing things her way. The progression between the two personalities was amazingly well written and seamless. It wasn’t some moment of clarity that didn’t fit with the rest of the novel. Bits and pieces fell into place so that by the time the climax of the book hit, it all made sense.

Margot was perfect as a friend for Katharine. She’s strong and smart and doesn’t turn away from Katharine when she needs someone more, even though she would have every right to turn away and let Katharine handle her problems on her own.

As for the rest of the story, I loved how Scudiere took a pretty common idea, the battle between good and evil, and looked at it in a new way. She really made me think about the differences between the two and how something might seem like it is good and wonderful, but the end result may be just the opposite. It wasn’t thrown in my face, but it was slowly introduced through the character’s actions and words.

The ending of this book was powerful and just like it should be. Everything in the novel led up to one moment and the way Scudiere write the ending couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s empowering and just what a person wants when they read something like this.

I loved this book and am so happy I was able to read it.

Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to read Hunted through JKSCommunications. I’m so happy I was able to read this book.

I was a little worried when I started this book. The first couple of chapters felt a little too much like a typical teen/high school story. The new girl shows up, almost everybody dislikes her right away, she crushes on the hot guy everyone wants and is befriended by the other outcasts. However, once the story really started to pick up, it was fantastic.

Caitlyn is a wonderful strong female lead character. She knows her own strength and uses it to not only help herself, but help others. She doesn’t look to others for her power; she looks to herself for strength. Rachel is the best friend everyone needs to have and Alex is completely swoon-worthy. I have to say, my favorite character was Mrs. Vespa. There was just something about her that made me love her.

The message for this book is an important one and I feel Rainfield was able to get it across without using flashing lights and neon signs. It’s in the way she reveals the characters, the school, and society. It’s a subtle placing of words that makes your skin crawl because you know what is happening is wrong.

This was a wonderful book and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

Crossed by Ally Condie

I really liked parts of this book, and others were a little disappointed when compared to Matched.

The relationships between the characters are very well-written, in my opinion. And not only the relationship between Ky and Cassia, whose romance is sweet and not too much. Condie doesn’t let the romance element of the story completely override everything else in the story. The new characters (Eli, Hunter, Indie, and Vick) added a little something extra to the story. Indie is just what Cassie needs when she’s surviving in the wilderness and provides a bit of mystery concerning her character. Eli provides a touch of innocence, even though he has seen so much in his short life. Vick is someone Ky can talk with and someone he has respect for.

The descriptions of The Carving and all its colors and intricacies were wonderful and provided an interesting contrast to the world the Society built in Matched.

Unfortunately, Crossed seems to have fallen into a trap of being set-up for the third book instead of being its own. There was not much plot development and really no action. No big answers were revealed and while a few of the smaller questions were answered, they didn’t really help the reader figure much out.

So while I loved pieces of the writing and the characters, I was left wanting more story. I’m holding out hope that the last book will be back up to the Matched level and will close the series out in a fantastic way.

The Everafter by Amy Huntley

This book was sad and yet somehow a little uplifting. It deals with the after of death. What happens to us after we die? It really made me think.

Madison only knows one thing and that is she’s dead. She doesn’t know how or why or where she is now. She starts finding things she lost and goes back to her life and sees the scenes connected with those objects. She doesn’t change much of her history, but lives through most of the events again.

The other minor characters in the book weren’t as completely developed, in my opinion, as Madison. However, I felt like it made the point of the story even more prevalent. We weren’t there to see Maddy’s entire life and her friends and boyfriends and family. We were learning about Maddy and her soul. We were learning about the events that shaped her and the other characters were there just enough to show how they helped shape her. I really enjoyed the effect it had.

The epilogue was one of my favorite parts of the book. It was perfect for the story and left the feeling of hope and life that the book needed.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

This is a wonderfully fabulous book that I completely devoured. It was hard for me to put it down to sleep.

Juliette is a fantastically written character. She starts the book as somewhat weak, yet resilient. She thinks of herself as a monster, something that doesn’t really deserve to be around people. By the time the novel reaches its conclusion, you can see her strength growing, her acceptance of herself finally starting to come about. Throughout the entire novel, you can see that her heart is what makes her powerful, not whatever power she actually has. It’s her heart that gives her strength.

I love Adam. I want an Adam of my own. He is amazing and kind and wonderful. I’m sure I could come up with more adjectives to describe him, but I won’t. I just love him.

Kenji provides a bit of relief with his whole persona. His little comments, inserted exactly where they need to be, let me take a breath and prepare myself for more of the intensity sure to come.

Beyond the characters and the storyline, I adored Mafi’s writing style. You see inside Juliette’s head and are aware of just how broken she is in the beginning. You can feel her faith in herself grow through the writing. And the metaphors on every page really let you feel what she is feeling. As an example, there are many interpretations of how realization could feel for a person. But when you read, “Realization is ice-cold water and it’s dripping down my spine,” you know exactly what to feel. You feel that cold water dripping down your back. I can’t get over how stunning the writing is.

This may be the first book in a trilogy, but it is a complete book that I’ll definitely be telling people to read, as I anxiously await the second book.

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

I can’t get over the writing in this book. The plot itself is an interesting one, but the style of writing Kephart uses to tell the story makes this novel exceptional. The descriptions in this book are amazing and the imagery they create is incredibly unique. You can see the story unfolding as it happens; you are right there, feeling everything, seeing everything, experiencing it all.

I fell in love with Sophie and Emmy. Sophie is a girl who doesn’t know everything she is missing until she breaks the rules to find it and Emmy is the distraught young mother who wants to stop at nothing to find her missing baby. The aunts and Joey are Sophie’s neighbors and her introduction to the real world. Autumn was the girl who listened to Emmy and helped her keep from falling completely apart. These characters were so real, I couldn’t help but cry for them.

I loved this entire book, from start to end. The very last line of this book is one of the best I’ve read. It gets across the entire weight of Sophie and Emmy’s stories and was the perfect way to end this story.

Everyone needs to get this book and read it. It is one of the most extraordinary books I have read this year.