Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Rating: ★★★

Full disclosure: I think well-written time travel novels are few and far between. I expect a level of explanation and detail that makes it hard to impress me. That said, The Here and Now wasn’t too bad. There were some small things I wish had more explanation or more depth, but overall, it was good and enjoyable.

Prenna is part of a select group of people who travel from the year 2098 to 2010 because of a plague transmitted by mosquitoes. Ethan becomes her friend, a couple years later, and she finds herself questioning the rules of the community and the tight restrictions they have placed upon everyone who travelled. When a homeless man tells her there’s more she needs to do, it sets off the story of two kids working to change the future as they realize the depth of their feelings towards each other.

Prenna has some strengths as a character, but also falls a little flat at times. She starts out as a confused girl, unsure of her place in the world. She follows the rules, but she questions them. Some makes sense, but others leave her wondering. Ethan, a boy at her school, has become her friend. She finds herself enjoying the time they spend together. This only confuses her more. She’s not supposed to have “intimate” relationships with the native people. But she blurs the lines between friends and more at times. However, as the book progressed, I felt that instead of gaining strength, she was stagnant. There was a moment at the end that I cheered for her, though.

Ethan is a little hot and cold for me. There’s moments when he’s really sweet and kind, then a few pages later he’s a little clueless. He’s still sweet, but I was occasionally left wondering how he was supposed to be the one to help Prenna with her mission. That being said, their relationship was a sweet, first love kind of thing. It didn’t try to be more. It was refreshing to read a book with a relationship like that.

The plot itself is so-so to me. The idea is interested, but things just seemed to be pulled together a little disjointedly and occasionally lacked explanation. Things would happen and the characters would point out the logic, but I’d be left confused and thinking that there was no logic involved. The time travel aspect was handled well, but I just wish there had been more attention to detail.

The Here and Now is a young adult book that attempts to tie time travel, love, and high stakes together. It doesn’t fall apart, but it could have been so much more. It was a nice read, but nothing spectacular. It wasn’t the “epic romantic thriller” described in the synopsis, but it was good.

If The Here and Now sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
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Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Childrens for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

Title: Salvage
Author: Alexandra Duncan
Rating: ★★★

I had really high hopes for this book. I’m not usually into science fiction novels, but the idea behind this one had me really interested. A girl forced to give up everything she knows to have a chance at life in a place that might kill her? I really wanted to read that. Unfortunately, there were just pieces that took me out of the novel.

Ava is the captain’s daughter on the merchant ship Parastrata. Even with her high connections, life for females isn’t great on the ship. They are expected to be quiet, demure, unquestioning girls who do what they are told and don’t hope for anything more. They aren’t taught to read, write, or do math. They are to tend the animals, take care of clothing, and have babies. The men are the only ones who can fix things, who can navigate a ship, or visit Earth. When Ava finds herself facing death, she decides to fight as hard as she can. She ends up coming to Earth and discovering that sharing blood doesn’t always mean family.

Ava tries hard, I’ll give her that. She makes mistakes, but instead of letting them shut her down, she finds a way to deal with the consequences. She’s been prepared for 17 years for a fate of babies and marriage, with little hope for anything else. It’s completely understandable that she has a hard time adjusting to life on Earth, where females aren’t controlled to the same degree, where they can learn and express themselves. She did have some growth when it came to this, but I wish there was a little more shown of her progression. She questions herself so much through the novel and at the very end, she’s changed. I would have liked to see a little more of the in-between moments that made her realize that the life she had before was not for her.

There’s a little romance in this novel, but it’s not the main point. It’s about Ava discovering family, both blood and chosen, and learning how she fits into the world. She leaves behind every person she knows, the people she thought were her family, and she discovers several people who actually care for her. I loved this angle of the story. It highlighted the importance of having people who care, who want to help, instead of people who simply share blood. Family is not completely genetic; it’s the people who love and care for every piece of you, not only the parts them deem acceptable.

I wish there was a little more explanation of the world. There’s a new way of speaking introduced, new worlds created, different cultures everywhere. It took me out of the novel a bit to try and figure all of this out. A little more background would have done wonders, in my opinion, and would have allowed me to enjoy the novel even more.

Salvage is a unique, female-driven science fiction novel. It’s something that can be difficult to find, but when it’s done right, it’s amazing. Salvage comes close to being amazing, but there are a few places where it falls a little flat. A little background and explanation would have made this book near perfection. If you’re a fan of science fiction, you’ll likely enjoy this book. If the genre isn’t usually your cup of tea, Salvage probably won’t be able to change your mind.

If Salvage sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
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Thank you to Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Elusion by Claudia Gabel

Title: Elusion
Author: Claudia Gabel
Rating: ★★★

Elusion had me interested as soon as I read the description. This is a future world that I can picture. One where the world is a mess and people are looking to escape. Elusion gives people the ability to leave the real world and enter a place where everything feels good. It’s a great science fiction story that falls a little flat in some areas.

Regan’s father is the creator of Elusion, a collection of devices that take the user to a world where nothing hurts and everything is good. Her best friend Patrick is her father’s protégé, working together to create the devices and programs. Even though Regan should be close to the project, her father never included her much in the process, and now that he’s died, she is even less knowledgeable about the program. So when allegations are made against Elusion and its possible addictive side effects come to light, all Regan knows is she needs to defend her father since he can’t defend himself.

Regan has possibility. She wasn’t the strongest character in the beginning, but I can see her growing. She’s no longer taking a backseat; she’s fighting for a voice. She loses her mind around Josh a bit, but she’s also a teenager. Teens tend to do that. She’s not my favorite heroine I’ve read, but she does hold promise to grow.

I have some of the same issues with Josh. I feel like we know him on the surface, but there’s so much more we could know. He’s interesting and obviously good-looking, but I feel like we could dig so much deeper into his character. There’s nothing really wrong with him, but his character was missing some pieces.

The storyline itself drew me right in. It’s something different. I would have liked a little bit more world building, but it wasn’t vital to understand the story. The environment was secondary to the Elusion program. The state of the world was only important because it explained why people were so eager to escape.

Elusion has promise, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations. It was good, but it had the potential to be great. I’ll definitely read whatever comes next. This is a good read, but don’t expect to be absolutely blown away. Gabel’s writing gets stronger as the book goes on, so I have hopes for the next piece of the story.

If Elusion sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
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Thank you to Edelwiess and Katherine Tegen Books for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen

Title: Lady Thief
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Series: The Scarlet Trilogy
Rating: ★★★★★

Sometimes I get really angry when I finish a book. So angry I can’t speak for a while. When I get this kind of anger, it’s not because I didn’t like a book. It’s because I liked it so much I’m mad I finished the book. And in the case of Lady Thief, I’m mad I didn’t make myself wait because now I have another break between books.

Scarlet’s secrets are out. She’s not Will Scarlet, boy thief. She’s Lady Marian, Lord Gisbourne’s betrothed. He’s hunted her down and she was forced to marry him to save Robin. She refuses to play wife, though, and returns to her band, knowing that she loves Robin and he loves her. But when Lord Gisbourne returns and makes a deal with Scarlet, she knows better than to trust him; she just can’t see what he’s planning. And with Nottingham in need of a new sheriff, there’s even more at stake.

Scarlet is forced to fight in a different way in Lady Thief. She can’t rely on her experience on the streets. She’s expected to play the part of noblewoman and there’s no place for knives and fighting there. She must think of different ways to fight back and give Robin the best chance she can. The court of Prince John can’t think of her as a noblewoman, but as nothing better than a commoner, someone not worth their time or respect. She finds an ally where she least expects it and uncovers a secret that makes her question everything about her.

The moments between Scarlet and Robin are, for the most part, wonderfully sweet. They love and respect each other, something difficult to find in that time period. Robin is fighting his demons, though, and not every moment is sweet. He has problems that are unknowingly taken out on Scarlet, something he can’t forgive himself for, nor should he. The struggle between them is real and it’s going to be difficult to find their perfect happiness. I have hope that they will continue to fight for each other and the life they want to create together.

Scarlet blew me away. I’ve been anxiously waiting for Lady Thief to be released and it didn’t disappoint. I finished and felt that wonderful anger, the kind that lets me know I just finished an amazing book that I didn’t want to end. Gaughen has a fantastic series on her hands and I’ll be not so patiently waiting for the conclusion. This is a must read novel and series.

If Lady Thief sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
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Review: Split Second by Kasie West

Title: Split Second
Author: Kasie West
Series: The Pivot Point Series
Rating: ★★★★

Here’s the amazing thing about Kasie West. She writes books that, on the surface, are books I wouldn’t go for. But she has such fantastic characters and plots that I can’t help but fall in love. They have the perfect mix of tension, romance, and intrigue. There’s always something pulling me into the story.

Pivot Point was about Addie trying to decide which future to take. Split Second is what comes next. Her memory of her Search has been wiped away by Laila. She doesn’t know what happened in the future she didn’t chose, but after her boyfriend, Duke, admits to only dating her for her Searching abilities and her best friend betrays her, she’s not sure why she didn’t go with the other future. When she leaves the Compound to spend the holidays with her father, things begin happening. Her ability grows and she feels an unexplainable connection with a boy from the normal world, Trevor.

Laila also gets to tell her story in this novel. While Addie is busy trying to figure out the developments in her life, Laila is working on figuring out how to restore memories, something Addie revealed she can do and wants done. Laila will do anything for her best friend, taking risks to try and discover the truth. She ropes Conner into her plans, never expecting him to be immune to her charms.

Both stories are wonderfully written. Addie is looking for an escape. Her life is not what she thought it was and 6 weeks away from Duke and the mess that surrounds him sound like just what she needs. Laila is feeling the guilt over her betrayal. She knows it wasn’t completely her fault, but she still feels horrible for causing Addie any pain. Her desire to fix that bridge, through whatever means necessary, is the driving force that makes her act. Each girl has different motivations, but they come together to bend a past and future for them both.

I cannot believe how well West has written two completely different, yet equally swoon-worthy male characters. Trevor and Connor are different people, motivated by different things, and with completely different personalities, yet I fell for both of them. I already adored Trevor, but this book made me love him even more. Connor didn’t have a book history with me, but that didn’t stop me from loving him.

There was one little piece I wish was addressed in Split Second and that’s the only thing that kept it from being 5 stars. There was a piece of information that was mentioned, but never really explored. Other than that, it was amazing. Kasie West is an author I’ll be watching. Split Second pulled me completely under her spell.

If Split Second sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
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Review: Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

Title: Death Sworn
Author: Leah Cypess
Series: The Death Sworn Trilogy
Rating: ★★★★

Death Sworn takes a girl, places her in a near-impossible situation, and makes her do the impossible. It had action, mystery, and secrets. There’s a little bit of romance in there, but it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the story. It was a great read.

Ileni is losing her magic. She was once thought to be one of the most powerful sorceresses, but now she’s been sent on a nearly impossible mission. She knows the only reason she was selected was because the Elders knew she’d fail. She was a disappointment to her people and sees this task as the last contribution she can give. She knows it will cost her life, but she is determined to learn all she can about the assassins before that time.

Ileni is not the strongest character physically. She’s losing her magic and has no fight training. She’s living in an underground cavern filled with assassins who know how to kill in as many ways possible. Her only hope is that she lives long enough to find some information that’s valuable. Sorin, the assassin assigned to protect her, helps keep her safe, but she’s not entirely sure she can trust him completely to do that. Every assassin listens and obeys every order the master gives and her life is dependent upon the master not ordering her death.

Ileni is clever and works with what she has. She makes the best out of her waning magic, teaching her classes in a way that doesn’t give her secret away. She learns to fight to protect herself. She questions the morals of herself and the assassins. Sure, she has her flaws, but she finds a way to work around them. She tries to keep those flaws from interfering too much with her goals. She doesn’t make the mistake of trust anyone but herself.

Sorin is commanded to protect her. They develop a friendship that leads to a little something more. Even so, it can be difficult to see Sorin battle between doing things he wants to do and doing the things the master tells him to do. The master saved him and gave him purpose; to go against him doesn’t seem right. I’m glad Ileni, while dependent upon him for protection against the other assassins, doesn’t look to him for everything in her life.

Death Sworn is an excellent fantasy novel that has an interesting setup for what comes next. There’s murder and mystery, magic and power. I can’t wait to read what Ileni does next.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Death Sworn, you can do so here:
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Thank you to Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange from an honest review.

Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Rating: ★★★★

Panic is an interesting book. On the surface, it’s a bunch of just graduated teens, looking for a way to spend the summer in a town with not much to do. Panic is invented as a way to test the bravery of teens and give entertainment to the participants and the spectators. But it’s more than that. It’s about revenge and anger, about looking for a future; it’s about finding a place to belong.

Heather and Dodge are competitors, each fighting for a different reason. They both come from less than ideal homes. Heather has a drunk, barely there mother who doesn’t care about taking care of her children. Dodge lives behind a diner in an area of town known as Meth Row. Heather had no intention of joining Panic, but she wants to feel important, valued. Panic gives her a way to do that. Dodge wants revenge after holding onto his anger for years. This is his chance to do it.

Heather is not the strongest character in the beginning. She’s doing this as a way to try and heal the heartbreak of teen love. She’s got courage, but she doesn’t know how to fight. She goes along with things, wanting to change them, but not actually doing it. Through the game, she discovers that she can do something about her life. She can fight and make changes. The life she has now doesn’t have to be the life she has to have.

Dodge, on the other hand, is fighting for something he believes in. Unfortunately, he’s so blinded by anger that he can’t see that the people around him don’t need revenge. He sees the game and the only way to even the score. He has a lot of demons he has to fight, but instead of realizing they are personal, he thinks the only way to defeat them in to get revenge.

Even the secondary characters are fantastic. Nat and Bishop, originally Heather’s best friends, become Dodge’s friends as well. They have a perfectly realistic friendship, complete with jealousies, insecurities, and not being able to completely understand a person, even when you’ve known them your entire life. It’s wonderfully well written and real.

The action plot of the book is unique. It starts a little slow, but the game isn’t the main focus of the novel. It’s there to drive the character development, but it’s pretty interesting as well. It’s a game that’s entertaining and frightening to those watching, and a way to test endurance and courage of those participating.

Panic is probably not the book you thought it was. It’s about a game, yes, but there’s so much more. It’s about fighting personal demons and finding a way to fight for yourself. It’s a wonderful book that’s worth a read.

If Panic sounds like a book you’d like to read, you can purchase it here:
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Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.