Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry (Book Review)

Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry

Jesse and Scarlett have been through a lot. Jesse’s warm, loving gran, who raised him after his flighty mother was murdered, lost her fight with cancer and is now residing inside an urn that lives atop the heater in his dilapidated trailer. In the huge mansion across the way from Jesse’s farmland, Scarlett’s forbidding dad is controlling and physically abusive, but her timid mum is insistent that this is all perfectly normal. Once, Jesse and Scarlet were the best of friends. Of course, they haven’t spoken in 3 years… Not since Jesse froze her out at the start of high school and began spreading rumours about her. 

Don’t worry about not liking or relating to these characters, you’ll like them just fine; I’m so glad this was written with a dual POV. You’d think Jesse would be at least a little unlikable, considering he did ignore Scarlett for 3 years, but he’s actually swoon worthy… You might also think you’d get frustrated that Scarlett doesn’t speaking out immediately about her abusive dad, especially with a vulnerable younger sister to consider, but that wasn’t my reaction at all. All I felt was empathy. The fact is, Katie McGarry might write baggage like nobody’s business, but her characters are so well drawn that you can’t help loving them despite their weaknesses – they might make silly choices, but you always end up thinking, “I probably would have done that too…” 

Finally, I loved the southern-gothic vibes of this story – from the magical realism in the cursed land, to the quiet horrors of abusive families, and the psychic, distantly-related cousin who lives amid endless woods and predicts fates. This setting, combined with a wickedly twisty plot and slow burn romance, make this a great YA contemporary that has a heavy dose of suspense. I found this a difficult read to put down and spent my entire Saturday reading it… I’m sort of hoping that Leo and Veronica get their own spin off story. (Hint, hint! Miss McGarry…)

Edition read: Hardback (January 2019)

Age recommendation: 14+

Triggers: physical and emotional abuse

Rating: 5 yummy cupcakes!!!!!

Book Review: The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth

The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth.

The lives of Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth are ruled by their fates, spoken by the oracles at their births. The fates, once determined, are inescapable. Akos is in love with Cyra, in spite of his fate: He will die in service to Cyra’s family. And when Cyra’s father, Lazmet Noavek—a soulless tyrant, thought to be dead—reclaims the Shotet throne, Akos believes his end is closer than ever.

As Lazmet ignites a barbaric war, Cyra and Akos are desperate to stop him at any cost. For Cyra, that could mean taking the life of the man who may—or may not—be her father. For Akos, it could mean giving his own. In a stunning twist, the two will discover how fate defines their lives in ways most unexpected.

I have been a huge fan of Veronica Roth for years, ever since I first read Divergent. Unfortunately I have yet to convince myself to read Allegiant – I love Tris too much to read it… Even now. (Yes, Twitter, you and your spoiler ways do affect my reading choices!) One day though, I know I will read it. I just need a bit more courage. Anyway, that experience did not discourage me from reading first, Carve the Mark and now, The Fates Divide.

This series has well developed characters, a whole universe of deadly planets (yey! I love science fiction!) and of course, oracles! Like, seriously, could it get any cooler? Oh wait, a prophesy defying romance of the Montague VS Capulet variety? Check! So basically, if you’ve not been reading this series, then what have you been doing with your life?

Romance stuff: Cyra and Akos are as ship-worthy as ever, but also Akos’ sister’s relationship with the Chancellor was pretty heart-pounding. If only I had liked the Chancellor more… Oh, and in the audiobook, Akos’ character is voiced by Austin Butler, from The Shannara Chronicles. I know, right? Buy it!!

Action stuff: explosions, assassinations, spaceships. I loved it ALL!

Prophesies: this is where the narration at times reminded me of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, which is pretty much the highest complement I can give a book, as that is one of my all time favourite series. “Roth and Steifvater vibes, in one book?” I hear you say. Yes, oh yes.

Ending: I really liked how the sequel wrapped up lots of lose ends (whoop, happy endings!), but also didn’t solve a whole universe of problems in a single book. Dare I hope this means a spin-off duology is in the works? Pretty, pretty please Ms Roth? I could do your dishes for a month?

#DishThosePages #hardback #pre-order

Book Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Wicked King by Holly Black.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

My brain is on fire… It’s whirling backwards and forwards, trying to decide and imagine what could possibly happen in the third book, or rather, what I would like to happen! I cannot believe I have to wait another year for The Queen of Nothing to be published. Sometimes life is incredibly unfair.

Holly Black is my go-to fairy queen. I love the way she peppers her worlds with just enough details to make you gasp and squirm. Rotting dresses and bloody, undercooked meats… She can sure plan a fairy celebration! Her books are certainly not for the faint of heart. Jude has more guts in her pinky, than most teenagers, which is I guess, why I like her so much.

I seriously thought that Jude and Carden had played with my poor, foolish romantic heart enough, but I was proved wrong… Holly Black, you are a cold, cold, woman! How could you toy with me this way, again? Erg, these two are perfect for one another. I just need them to realise that! Pronto! Okay… enough whining.

My advice? If you haven’t already started this series (by reading The Cruel Prince) steer well clear until ALL of the books have been published! It’s just that good… Then binge read them all in the space of a week. Deal? Also, remember to buy them in hardback – they will get some serious wear, when you lend them to all of your friends!

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall, is cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, until a girl falls in love with him. But at the end of each autumn, he turns into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. And now, powerful forces are now amassing against Prince Rhen and Emberfall.

Born with cerebral palsy, nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. Her father’s gone, her mother’s dying, and her brother constantly underestimates her. When she tries to save someone on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead sucked into Rhen’s cursed world…

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know what to think, but she certainly doesn’t believe in fairytale endings…

This book was a mash up of ‘mediaeval’ fantasy and fairytale, a combination that I found hard to resist. This book had everything: suspense, warring countries, fight scenes, political intrigue, myths, humour and a sprinkling of romance.

The romance aspect was light, but compelling and a love triangle, was hinted at. (I’m a romance fan, so now I’m definitely planning to read the sequel – A Heart So Fierce and Broken – which due out in January 2020.)

I was afraid that this story would be a tragic one, because of Harper’s cerebral palsy – The Fault in Our Stars set in a fantasy world. I could not have been more wrong. Harper is an independent, stubborn, capable heroine, who always tries to do the best she can for others – even placing their safety above her own. She’s never whines and I admired her feisty, can-do attitude. Rhen’s character freely admits to having been selfish and arrogant in the past, but proves himself to be a somewhat-reformed prince!

On the strength of the writing in this book, I have gone ahead and ordered Brigid Kemmerer’s earlier novel, Letters to the Lost, which also sounds compelling!

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Only A Breath Apart

can't wait wednesday
 
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss books you’re excited about that you have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released.
 
What am I waiting on this week?
 
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Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry.

Why am I waiting?
 
Firstly, Tor Teen isn’t publishing this book until the 22nd January! Secondly, I love the sound of the tragic ‘curse’ – this book has Maggie Steifvater vibes written all over it… (Another favourite author of mine.)
 
What do you need to know about its author?
 
Ever since I read Katie McGarry’s debut novel ‘Pushing the Limits‘ this author has been blowing me away with her YA romances. Sadly, for family reasons, she won’t be able to do much promotion for this book on her own in the coming months…
 
Okay, so what does the publisher’s synopsis say?
 

Jesse Lachlin is cursed… 

So the town folklore says, but while Jesse’s had his fair share of tragedy, the only curse he believes is in his grandmother’s will: in order to inherit his family farm he must win the approval of his childhood best friend, the girl he froze out his freshman year, Scarlett Copeland.

Scarlett Copeland is psychic…

Glory Gardner tells Scarlett she has hidden psychic abilities, but Scarlett thinks Glory is delusional. What is real is Scarlett’s father’s irrational fears, controlling attitude, and the dark secrets at home. Scarlett may have a way to escape, but there’s a hitch: she’ll have to rely on the one person she used to trust, the same boy who broke her heart, Jesse Lachlin.

Waiting on Wednesday: Gilt Hollow

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“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases… This week I’m waiting on Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon (author of Doon), a YA Romantic Suspense novel, being published by Blink on the 27th September.

Synopsis:

Willow Lamott’s best friend is a convicted killer, and no one in the small town of Gilt Hollow will let her forget it. 

Over four long years, she’s tried to fade into the background—but none of that matters when Ashton Keller comes striding into school, fresh out of juvie and fueled by revenge. The moment their eyes meet, Willow no longer feels invisible. Drawn to the vulnerability behind Ashton’s mask of rage, she sinks deeper into his sinister world and begins to question whether he’s a villain, a savior, or both.

Ashton thought he wanted vengeance, until Willow Lamott stepped back into his life. Now he longs to clear his name and become the person she sees in him. But the closer they get to uncovering the truth, the darker the secrets become, and Ashton wonders if his return to Gilt Hollow will destroy everyone he loves.

Early Review:

“A romantic page-turner that will keep you guessing until the very end! – Melissa Landers, author of the Alienated and Starflight series

 

Spotted: Mexican Brujas in Brooklyn

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On the Back Cover:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives…

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Inside the Book:

Characters and relationships: Alex suffers from crippling self-doubt at the start of the novel and at times, comes across as a little self-centred. But when faced with the realities of Los Lagos, she turns into a smart, practical, loyal and courageous main character. In fact, she’s kind of kick-ass! Alex’s family seemed interesting (lots of mystery there!) and I think getting to know them better, is one reason why I’d read a sequel. I also really liked Alex’s punchy best friend – which is good, because she becomes a love interest (*necessary spoiler*).

Action: Fun, inventive villains, cool twists and magical high jinx – but nothing too gory or anxiety inducing. The author did a great job at building suspense and creating tension; I never quite knew what was coming next for Alex!

Romance: I felt like the chemistry could have been ramped up a little more, but then again, I love a steamy romance…

Settings: I loved the way each scene began with a quote from a different magical ‘canto’ (song). I liked the gothic, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel of Los Lagos. And Alex’s home… with the chicken feet and vials of earth, stored next to the flour and the sugar, was great fun.

Keywords: 

Family, culturally diverse, LGBT relationship, high school, Brooklyn, magic and fantasy.

Expected publication: September 6th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire Books.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

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Series Rating: 4.5 STARS

Recommended Reading Age: 13+ 

Read: via Audible

Short Series Review:

Privileged Gansey has always been told he’s destined for greatness and his quest to fulfil this prophesy has brought him to Aglionby School in his old orange Camaro, in search of a buried Welsh king who legend says can grant wishes. Here he meets Adam, the scholarship student with a humongous chip on his shoulder the exact size of his abusive father’s fists; and Ronan Lynch, a blunt-speaking boy who seeks out risk and excitement in any form. And maybe everything could have been simple, but then the boys meet Blue. Blue comes from an eccentric family of psychics, who have predicted that if she kisses her true love, he will die.

Once they’ve all met, a story unfolds. It’s about about lost souls and magic. It’s about family, friendship, loyalty and relationships (gay and straight). It’s about myth and legend, growing up, finding your voice and your purpose. It’s about a small Virginia town on a ley line and the mystery and intrigue related to that. It’s about car chases and hitmen, thieves and liars, demons and fey. It’s beautifully told, with wry observant descriptions and atmospheric settings. If you start reading this series, you won’t want to stop until it’s over. And even when it is over, you’ll want another book…

Tagline: A very modern fairytale.

If you’ve already read this series, what did you love/hate about it? 

Miranda Kenneally’s A Woman On A Mission

Backstory:

While introducing her new book Miranda explains that during her early twenties she was working 15 hour days, with no opportunity to go to the gym or do drinks after work… And she doesn’t want her readers to make the same mistakes, especially whilst still in high school.

The main character in Defending Taylor, is so worried about ‘earning her way’ and getting into the right college, that she does every extracurricular she can and takes AP class, after AP class. And when this becomes too much for her she abuses prescribed medications to stay awake – putting herself and her future at risk. 

The story opens as Taylor’s world comes crashing down, when she’s caught with drugs on school property and expelled. At the same time Taylor breaks up with her boyfriend Ben, but she can’t tell her friends why. She won’t share that secret. To top it all off, Taylor’s senator father is not happy; he’s up for re-election and now her actions have effected his campaign. To force her to buck up, he sends her to the local state school, Hundred Oaks, where the soccer team sucks and the girls are mean, mean and meaner. The only bright spot in Taylor’s days is Ezra, her brother’s best friend, who for reasons unknown is home from college. 

My Thoughts:

This series just works for me. I usually beatle through these books in a day and this book was no exception. I read late into the night in order to finish it. It’s a compulsive read. And of course, our favourite guidance councillor makes a couple fun appearances! As do a few other familiar couples… 

The soccer elements weren’t as prominent in this novel as I expected them to be (do not anticipate another Catching Jordan style read) and the terminology/mechanics of the game were definitely dumbed down. I’d be interested to know if this last part was the author’s choice or an editor’s…

The romance was ramped up in Defending Taylor. I would not give this book to a younger teen! It borders on being a New Adult book, rather than YA. #sexytimes

Fortunately Erza was pretty crushable – I’d like a yummy construction worker boyfriend too please Miranda! And he was patient with Taylor, which I appreciated. So often romance authors write bolshy, pushy male characters who dominate the story… But Ezra’s the kind of guy you and I would actually want to get to know. #real #READit!


Sourcebooks Fire will be publishing Defending Taylor on July 5th 2016.

What did you prioritise in high school – fun or grades? And do you regret your choice?

7 Mostly Annoying Things about ‘The Problem with Forever’

1. It kept me up reading until like 3AM… I’d recommend it for readers who loved:

2. Mallory is the sweetest main character, seriously, and like me, she has trouble verbalising stuff sometimes, making her a little introverted, but she wants to participate more. #tooperfect And you know, her bestie Ainsleigh is like the most supportive person on the planet too. #jealous

3. Rider. Oh my god. I want one! But he’s fictional… #frustration He does have a girlfriend when we first meet him, but he totally drops everything to big-brother Mallory. #supersweet #sexyYA
4. Heartbreak. Rider and Mallory have the most heartbreaking history together and seeing the scars that left, broke me at times. #needtissues

5. The fact that the book had a final page… #nooooooo! That ending. ❤️ Thank god for Hector, Rider’s sort-of, dirty mouthed Puerto Rican brother. #companionbookfodder

6. The setting. High school romances are my jam people! Who told JLA that? Am I being stalked? Freaky…

7. This book reminded me of some pretty serious stuff: Everyone is human, no one is infallible, we all hurt sometimes. But life is always richer with love. #majorlifelessons

“Forever was knowing that moments of weakness didn’t equate to an eternity of them…. Forever was Carl and Rosa, Ainsleigh and Keira, Hector and Rider…. Forever was simply the promise of more. Forever was a work in progress.”