February Mini Reviews: The Good, The (Not So) Bad, and The Ugly

Mini Reviews

Because of the amount of books I read most months, I don’t get to review everything for the blog. The Mini Review Catch Up is my place to give you a little information about some of my other reads and whether or not I would recommend them without going into tons of detail. This time I have a few very different reads to spotlight and I’ll let you know whether they were good, (not so) bad, or just plain ugly!

 

The Good

 

UndressedUndressed by Shannon Richard
Book #4.5 in Country Roads
Genre: Romance
Publication Date: February 3rd 2015
ARC Provided by Forever Yours and Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: She knows the rules of the game . . . but she can’t resist his moves.

Publicist Abby Fields’s career is on the rise. And with failed romances in her past, she has no time for men. When a job opportunity opens up with a sports team in Florida, Abby eagerly packs up and heads south. Yet after a work event in Mirabelle, Florida, Abby finds herself in the arms of a hockey player whose heartstopping smile leads her to the steamiest night of her life . . .

Logan James is hot on and off the ice. With his team on an epic winning streak, life couldn’t get better . . . until he meets Abby, the fiery redhead assigned to protect his team’s image. Now Logan’s finding it difficult to concentrate on anything other than getting Abby undressed. But after a secret is leaked to the press, the taste of betrayal opens old wounds. If they can’t learn to trust each other, they may risk losing more than their hearts.

Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – B

Undressed was the Country Roads story I didn’t know I needed!  I really enjoyed the connection between Abby and her hockey player,  Logan.  They had sizzling chemistry and both were working to overcome hardships in their past.  The hockey setting was interesting and I enjoyed the PR aspects of Abby’s job.  It was also nice to get a little visit from some of the Mirabelle residents of past stories to show that Abby was still connected to the town.  I think the short format was perfect for this story because it set the relationship up well, but limited the amount of drama Abby and Logan could have.  As they are both mature, respectful adults, it made sense that their bump in the road would be minimal, needing only a chapter or so to overcome.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

 

3 SoulprintSoulprint by Megan Miranda
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction Thriller
Publication Date: February 3rd 2015
ARC Provided by Bloomsbury USA Childrens and Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: A new literary, sci-fi thriller from acclaimed author Megan Miranda.

With the science of soul-fingerprinting a reality, Alina Chase has spent her entire life imprisoned for the crimes her past-self committed. In an attempt to clear her name, Alina unintentionally trades one prison for another when she escapes, aided by a group of teens whose intentions and motivations are a mystery to her. As she gets to know one of the boys, sparks fly, and Alina believes she may finally be able to trust someone. But when she uncovers clues left behind from her past life that only she can decipher, secrets begin to unravel. Alina must figure out whether she’s more than the soul she inherited, or if she’s fated to repeat the past.

This compelling story will leave readers wondering if this fictional world could become a reality.

Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – B

I didn’t really know anything about Soulprint or Megan Miranda when I began this book, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The science fiction elements are a little soft here, but the book made up for it with compelling characters and a thrilling plot.  I read this one in two sittings and probably could have finished it in one if I had had more time.  It drew me in from the very first page and I just had to know how everything would play out.  The idea of “soulprinting” was unique and made for some fantastic ethical discussions with my husband and friends.  I really enjoyed the science and theory aspects to this book and I didn’t even hate the romance.  The characters were great and this was just an all-around engaging read.  I will definitely be looking for more from Ms. Miranda in the future.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

 

 

The Bad

 

24 A Wicked ThingA Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Book #1 in A Wicked Thing
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: February 24th 2015
ARC Provided by HarperTeen and Edelweiss

Synopsis from Goodreads: Rhiannon Thomas’s dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

Christal’s Review – 3 Skulls – C

A Wicked Thing started off really well for me but it lost a little steam towards the end.  Going in to this book, I wasn’t expecting it to be the start of a series so I admit that finding out it is only book one dampened my enthusiasm a little bit.  I thought the idea behind the story was great… what really happens when Sleeping Beauty wakes up 100 years later?  Unfortunately, the execution fell a bit flat in the middle.  Don’t get me wrong, the writing was wonderfully done, but when I looked back on the book I realized very little had actually happened.  I really liked Aurora and thought her POV was beautifully written, but I felt like everything else unfolded so slowly.  The ending wasn’t what I expected, but it does leave an interesting thread open for the sequel to follow.  I’m just not sure if I’ll be along for the ride.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

 

The Evening ChorusThe Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: February 3rd 2015
ARC Provided by Mariner Books and Edelweiss

Synopsis from Goodreads: The Evening Chorus serenades people brutally marked by war, yet enduring to live — and relish — the tiny pleasures of another day. With her trademark prose — exquisitely limpid — Humphreys convinces us of the birdlike strength of the powerless.” — Emma Donoghue

Downed during his first mission, James Hunter is taken captive as a German POW. To bide the time, he studies a nest of redstarts at the edge of camp. Some prisoners plot escape; some are shot. And then, one day, James is called to the Kommandant’s office.

Meanwhile, back home, James’s new wife, Rose, is on her own, free in a way she has never known. Then, James’s sister, Enid, loses everything during the Blitz and must seek shelter with Rose. In a cottage near Ashdown forest, the two women jealously guard secrets, but form a surprising friendship. Each of these characters will find unexpected freedom amid war’s privations and discover confinements that come with peace. The Evening Chorus is a beautiful, astonishing examination of love, loss, escape, and the ways in which the intrusions of the natural world can save us.

Christal’s Review – 3 Skulls – C

This was a different type of read for me.  I love historical fiction, but The Evening Chorus was much more somber and realistic than I usually pick up.  I love a good historical mystery or something with a romantic flair, but this book stayed very grounded and presented three versions of believable lives affected by WWII.  I found that the only character I really liked was Enid.  I felt the worst about what happened to her and how she found herself tossed about, but it was also her story that presented the most hope in the end.  I sympathized with James, especially during his time in the POW camp, but I always felt like I was experiencing his story from arm’s length.  I’m wondering if this was intentional on Helen Humphreys part because James seemed to keep everyone a bit away, even his wife Rose.  Rose herself came off quite selfish and immature, but I did find myself feeling bad for her being married so young and losing her husband before she even really had him.  Though I do not condone her actions, I did feel my heart give a tug when it was revealed she was forced to move in with her dreadful mother.  All in all, this was a realistic look at how the war can affect people and change the course of their lives.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

 

distancebetween_final cover_4_1.inddThe Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication Date: February 17th 2015
ARC Provided by HarperTeen and Edelweiss

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her … silent.

Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together.

With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?

Christal’s Review – 3.5 Skulls – C+

The Distance Between Lost and Found is a difficult book for me to review because, on one hand, I absolutely loved the adventure/survival aspects of this book but, on the other hand, I strongly disliked how Hallie had been treated before and how her situation had been handled — even by people supposed to be her friends and family.  Hallie’s secret isn’t hard to guess and, though a lot of the reactions were devastatingly believable, I hate that women are still treated like it’s wrong to for them to have sexual desires and that they always seem to take all the blame in any type of sexual situation while the male comes off blameless.  That’s just a personal thing that really irks me, but it did affect some of my enjoyment with this book, especially when it came to Hallie’s romance with Jonah.  The story taking place in the present tense was phenomenal though.  I loved how Hallie, Jonah, and Rachel bonded and worked together to survive.  It was amazing to see the lengths they would go to for one another and I even enjoyed the aspects of faith woven throughout each character’s narrative.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½

 

The BargainingThe Bargaining by Carly Anne West
Genre: Young Adult Horror
Publication Date: February 17th 2015
ARC Provided by Simon Pulse and Edelweiss

Synopsis from Goodreads: The fact that neither of her parents wants to deal with her is nothing new to Penny. She’s used to being discussed like a problem, a problem her mother has finally passed on to her father. What she hasn’t gotten used to is her stepmother…especially when she finds out that she’ll have to spend the summer with April in the remote woods of Washington to restore a broken-down old house.

Set deep in a dense forest, the old Carver House is filled with abandoned antique furniture, rich architectural details, and its own chilling past. The only respite Penny can find away from April’s renovations is in Miller, the young guy who runs the local general store. He’s her only chance at a normal, and enjoyable, summer.

But Miller has his own connection to the Carver House, and it’s one that goes beyond the mysterious tapping Penny hears at her window, the handprints she finds smudging the glass panes, and the visions of children who beckon Penny to follow them into the dark woods. Miller’s past just might threaten to become the terror of Penny’s future….

Christal’s Review – 3 Skulls – C

I almost gave up on The Bargaining but I was really in the mood for a good horror story so I skimmed from about 31% to around 45%.  This was when main characters Penny and April arrived at the Carver House and all the creepy goodness finally begins.  I wouldn’t call this one super scary, but it definitely had some disturbing imagery and the descriptions were just enough to give your imagination a gruesome head start.  I’m still a little confused by some elements of the woods, but overall this was an unsettling read.  Once it took off, I could not put this book down and the final scene with Penny and April trying to leave the house was extra chilling.  Stick with this one, even if you find yourself skimming the first half.  It will pay off with a solid YA horror story in the end.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

 

10 Red QueenRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Book #1 in Red Queen Trilogy
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Dystopia
Publication Date: February 10th 2015
ARC Provided by HarperTeen and Edelweiss

Synopsis from Goodreads: Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard’s sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king’s palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard–a growing Red rebellion–even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

Christal’s Review – 3.5 Skulls – C+

I have not read Pierce Brown’s Red Rising so I can’t comment on a lot of the similarities that other reviewers have mentioned.  For me, Red Queen was very slow in the beginning but had me mesmerized by the end.  Mare was a great character and I loved seeing her navigate the Silver world.  Even though I knew she was going to be betrayed and guessed by whom, I didn’t want to believe it.  I wanted a different outcome.  Though this is definitely a fantasy, I would classify it as a political fantasy almost because of the amount of unrest and upheaval we saw even in this first installment.  I can’t wait to see what the other two books will bring and how Mare will rise up to form something new in the wake of the old classes.  If the pacing of the book  was more consistent, I would have rated this one higher.  Unfortunately, the slow beginning almost made me want to quit and is the reason this only gets 3.5 skulls.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½

 

 

The Ugly

 

Shadow StudyShadow Study by Maria V. Snyder
Book #1 in Soulfinders
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: February 24th 2015
ARC Provided by Mira and Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she’s back with a new tale of intrigue.

Once, only her own life hung in the balance.

Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she’d survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek’s job – and his life – are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret – or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is – while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous.

Christal’s Review – 2.5 Skulls – D+

This is definitely the hardest review for me to write because I loved Poison Study so so much.  Shadow Study just did not have the same magic for me.  It was slow and boring and hardly anything worthwhile happened in this book at all.  The spark that Yelena and Valek had in the previous books was missing, probably because they were apart for the whole book.  Yelena herself burned like a flame in the previous books, but here she was barely an ember.  She’s always been a bit brash and quick to act, but she made some terrible decisions several times throughout Shadow Study.  After the initial set up with Yelena and her powers and the assassination attempt/attempt to steal Valek’s job, the rest of the book consisted of a lot of talking (three different POVs!), a lot of recapping, and everyone going to investigate things.  There is no real resolution to any of the plot lines.  In my opinion, Maria V. Snyder probably had an idea for one more Yelena book and her publisher convinced her to make it a trilogy.  Even though the other two books haven’t been written, based on this first one, I think they probably could have been condensed into a single volume.  I just cannot recommend this book, but I appear to be in the minority as it currently has a 4.19 average over on Goodreads.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½

 

I don’t like to review books I did not finish, but I’ll at least give you a heads up on the ones I had to put aside.  These books suffered from boring plots, terrible characters, choppy writing, or some combination of the three.  The books I DNFed for February were Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbøl, Of Shadow and Stone by Michelle Muto, One of the Guys by Lisa Aldin, and Greta and the Glass Kingdom by Chloe Jacobs.

 

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