Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of the Bunch - December 2013

Best of the Bunch is a book blog hop hosted over at Always Lost in Stories on the last day of each month, where we can look back over the books we have read over this past month and give a Best of the Bunch award to our favorite book of that month.

December 2013

With the holidays, I didn't get quite as much read this month, but I still read a few fantastic books!

This month I reviewed the following books:

  • Everything You Know by Mary Beth Bass | Review | Rating: 2/5
  • Night Chill by Jeff Gunhus | Review | Rating 3.5/5
  • Endless Knight by Kresley Cole | Review | Rating 4/5
  • Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak | Review | Rating 5/5

  • Pawn by Aimee Carter | Review | Rating 4.5/5
  • My Name is Rapunzel by K.C. Hilton | Review | Rating 3/5
  • Spirit by Brigid Kemmerer | Review | Rating 5/5
  • Breathless by Brigid Kemmerer | Review | Rating 5/5

      • Secret by Brigid Kemmerer | Review | Rating 4.5/5
      • Game by Anders de la Motte  | Review | Rating 4/5
      • Imperfection by Phaedra Seabolt | Review | Rating: 3/5
      • Athena's Daughter by Juli Page Morgan | Review | Rating 4/5

        • Rose of Thorne by Mia Michelle | Review | Rating 2/5
        • The Children Who Time Lost by Marvin Amazon | Review | Rating 4/5
        • Bloodmark by Aurora Whittet | Review | Rating: 3.5/5
        • Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis | Review | Rating 4/5

        • The Prophecy by Erin Albert | Review | Rating 5/5
        • All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill | Review | Rating 5/5

          And my December 2013 Best of the Bunch winner is . . .

          All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill


          Once again, my favorite book of the month was the last one I reviewed.  There were actually a few really close runner-ups this month, though.  (see below)  But I had to go with All Our Yesterdays in the end because this book was just so unique and emotionally compelling.  

          Summary: "You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

          Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

          Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. 

          All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.
            

          Runner-ups:
          Buy Chasing the Star Garden
          Buy The Prophecy

          So, what was your best December read?

          2014 Reading Challenges!

          I wanted to sign up for some challenges for 2014.  I didn't have great luck with challenges last year.  Since I just started blogging last February, I didn't really know much about them and I only signed up for one (The Debut Authors Challenge).  But, pretty early on I won one of the giveaways and never did receive my prize and I signed up for two debut ARC tours through the challenge site and never got those books either - so I kind of lost my enthusiasm for the challenge at that point and gave up.  

          But tomorrow starts another year and I'm looking at it as a clean slate!  Hopefully I'll have more luck with my challenges this year!  In fact, I'm entering a bunch of them because, well, why not?  So here's the ones I've signed up for so far:



          Hosted by: The Mad Reviewer
          Goal: Mad Reviewer (104 books)

          Goal: 50 Books

          2014netgalleychallenge 
          Hosted by: Ariel Avalon
          Goal: 

          Goal: Gold (7-11 Series)

          Hosted by: Fiktshun and Phantasmic Reads
          Goal: Adept (40+ books)


          Hosted by: Blog of Erised
          Goal: Leader (19+ books)

          Hosted by: Bookish
          Goal: Married With Children (50+ books)

          Hosted by: Falling for YA
          Goal: Bronze (10 books) - though I might try for Silver (25 books)


          I'm really looking forward to an awesome year of reading!!


          5 Star Review - All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

          Series: All Our Yesterdays #1
          Author: Cristin Terrill
          Release Date: September 3, 2013
          Pages: 368, Hardcover
          Goodreads Rating: 4.09 stars
          My Rating: 5/5 stars
          My Content Rating: PG-13 (Sex is vaguely implied, but not shown, Some violence)

          Summary from Goodreads: "You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

          Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

          Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. 

          All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.


          I chose All Our Yesterdays in a giveaway that I won a month or so ago and I had to sneak it in to 2013 because I'd heard so many amazing things about it.  I'm so glad I did - it's definitely one of the best books I read all year!

          The book follows Em and Finn as they travel back in time to try and stop the creation of the very time machine that they just used - and to stop the collapse of the world that has occurred because of it.  They travel back four years, and we see the past both through Em's eyes and through Marina's (Marina is Em in the past).

          The negatives:
          • Time travel can sometimes be confusing!  This is a general issue with books that involve time travel - the paradoxes, etc. can give you a headache - but I think that Terrill did a better job than most at making it all make sense.  I was still a tiny bit confused about how the ending worked out the way it did (though I was able to come up with some ideas), but overall, I actually think I understood this one!!
          • Slightly vague world building in some parts.  I was sometimes a bit unclear about what exactly Em and Finn were saving the world from.  I got that because of the time machine the US had turned into a military state, some people had been killed and that someone had done something to the European money system, but I never quite got a clear picture of it all.  This might have just been me though!
          What I LOVED:
          • Em and Marina's perspectives.  I think the thing that I loved most about this book was the juxtaposition of Em and Marina's perspectives.  They saw things very differently.  Marina's view of the world was so incredibly naive - she had no idea about the hardships and betrayals that were coming her way (if Em didn't manage to change her future).  All she knew was that she was utterly and hopelessly in love with a boy who might or might not have loved her back - and that she wanted to help him through an incredibly difficult time in his life.  Marina was a bit spoiled and self-absorbed, and it was really interesting to see how her character had developed in the four years that it took before she became Em.  Em, on the other hand, knew how bleak the world would get and she knew exactly how it got that way.  She knew that huge sacrifices would have to be made in order to save the world from the future she'd lived - and she worried constantly about the impact that her sacrifices would make on the younger Marina.  Seeing the world from both of these perspectives made the book so exciting - you just wanted to shake Marina and tell her that things were not as they seemed!!
          • Self-sacrifice.  A major theme in this book was self-sacrifice.  Em and Finn go back to the past knowing that, if they succeed at their task, they will wipe themselves out of existence.  Granted, they've lived a pretty miserable existence for the past few years, but you would think that self-preservation would come into play.  But Em and Finn both agree that they have to save the world - and the past versions of themselves - from the fate they have endured at any cost.  And the cost is substantial - not only will they be wiped out of existence, but they have to do something that tears them apart on an emotional level.  The sacrifice that they make is HUGE.  Plus, there is at least one other MAJOR sacrifice that takes place in the book - can't spoil it though!!
          • Finn.  Once again, I loved seeing both the past and future versions of Finn.  He's got to be one of my new favorite book boyfriends - his humble upbringing, the way that he took care of his mom and his future self's love for Em combined with his snarky attitude to make pretty much the perfect boy in my opinion.  LOVE him!!  I was definitely Team Finn all the way (though I don't see how you could be anything else, really - any Team James fans out there?)
          If you haven't read All Our Yesterdays, go out and get it!  Really - now.  You'll be glad you did!   5/5 stars.


          Monday, December 30, 2013

          5 Star Review - The Prophecy by Erin Albert

          Title: The Prophecy
          Series: The Fulfillment Series #1
          Author: Erin Albert
          Release Date: November, 2013
          Pages: 277, eBook
          Goodreads Rating: 4.45 stars
          My Rating: 5/5 stars
          My Content Rating: PG-13 (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)

          Summary from Goodreads: Growing up on a small farm in the kingdom of Vanguard, seventeen-year-old Layla Givens lives a deceptively tranquil existence. But her carefully constructed life quickly falls apart when she’s abducted by a religious zealot who proclaims her The Fulfillment of an ancient peace prophecy and whisks her away to marry her greatest enemy.

          Wilhelm, Prince of the Ethereals, is reluctant to meet his new bride. He's grown up believing Vanguards are evil, an enemy to fight and fear...not love. Can he set aside his prejudices and work alongside Layla to bring lasting peace after centuries of war?

          Nash, a loner who has never fit in, carries a huge secret, one big enough to destroy both kingdoms. When he accidently meets Layla, he’s no longer content to live in the shadows, but he must resist his growing attraction—for her safety and for the longevity of the two kingdoms.

          When Nash's secret is revealed, a firestorm sweeps through both realms, with Layla at the center. Now she must choose between duty and desire while the fate of two nations hangs in the balance.


          The Prophecy is an exciting new YA fantasy novel.  It's a great hidden gem that I'm hoping lots of people will find - because it definitely deserves an audience!

          Layla has lived her life hiding her eyes - purple eyes that mean she could be The Fulfillment, the girl who is prophesied to bring peace to the warring Ethereals and Vanguards.  Between the Vanguards' incredible strength and the Ethereals' uncanny ability to control minds, trust has never been possible between the two races and peace seems unattainable.  But the prophecy says that The Fulfillment will marry the Ethereal Prince and bring peace.  When a religious leader declares that Layla is The Fulfillment, she has no choice but to go to the Ethereal palace and play along - whether she believes in the prophecy or not.  But she finds herself conflicted between the man she is supposed to marry and the man who she believes has stolen her heart - if she can trust it, which she discovers may not be such a simple question after all.

          The negatives:
          • The title and cover.  Neither the title nor the cover of this book is very exciting.  Every fantasy novel ever has a prophecy in it (okay, slight exaggeration, but not by much), so the name The Prophecy just doesn't seem all that special or interesting.  I wish Erin would have called it The Fulfillment (though maybe she's reserving that for a future book?),  Similarly, the cover just doesn't draw me in and doesn't say a ton about the story.  I'm one of those horrible people who totally judges a book by its cover, so I'm really glad that I got past the cover (and title) and agreed to review this book anyway.  I would have missed out on an amazing read!
          What I LOVED:
          • Layla.  Layla was a fantastic main character.  I totally felt for her as she was pulled from everything she knew, sent off to marry some enemy prince.  I loved that she had to move past a lot of her preconceived notions and prejudices about the Ethereals and eventually came to love them (or at least some of them).  Layla was smart and strong and she didn't just roll over and accept her fate - she fought for her freedom and for the right to choose the type of life she wanted to live.  I loved her!
          • The romance(s).  Okay, if I look at past reading experience, I should not have loved this book.  Here's the thing, there's a love triangle and insta-love!  It seems like a horrible combination, and usually insta-love alone is enough to make me cringe and ruin my enjoyment of a book.  So, why did I LOVE this book anyway?  Well, I think it mostly comes down to the characters.  I loved them all! First off, I was completely in love with both of the men in Layla's life and I honestly couldn't decide between them, so I could understand how Layla couldn't either.  Wil was sweet and loving and loyal, but still strong and Nash was the misunderstood type - the guy who just needs someone to love him the way he deserves to be loved.  I LOVED Nash... no, Wil... no, Nash... um, yep, that pretty much sums it up.  And then, when certain facts about Layla's feelings for both of them came to light, I found myself feeling even more confused (just as she did) - I can't WAIT to see what Albert has in store for these three in book 2!  So, what about that insta-love?  If you read my reviews, you know that I am not a fan of insta-love and Layla falls for both Wil and Nash pretty quickly.  But, somehow Albert managed to form a real connection between the characters in a short amount of time - the high stakes and high emotion (not to mention possible supernatural causes of their feelings) made it all feel believable.  I didn't find myself frustrated over why Layla fell for these boys so quickly - instead I found myself pulling out my hair, crying "How will she ever choose!!??"  (Okay, so that was a little dramatic, but only a slight exaggeration!)
          • No super-evil villains.  I love it when a book blurs the lines between good and evil.  In this book, there are some characters who definitely fall into that gray area.  The bad guys might not be all bad - and some of them might have good intentions (or not - hard to say).  Even one of the major villains is deeply loved by many of the other characters.  This makes for a complex and interesting conflict!
          • The ending.  Yep, it's a cliffhanger (on a few different levels) and it left me waiting desperately for the next book!!!
          I highly recommend The Prophecy to fans of YA fantasy.  I absolutely cannot wait to find out what Albert has in store for us in the second installment!  5/5 stars.



          ***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***


          Sunday, December 29, 2013

          Review - Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

          Title: Not a Drop to Drink
          Author: Mindy McGinnis
          Release Date: September 24, 2013
          Pages: 320, Hardcover
          Goodreads Rating: 3.89 Stars
          My Rating: 4/5 stars
          My Content Rating: PG-16 (Nothing more than kissing, though sexual assault is referred to, Violence)

          Summary from Goodreads: Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

          Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

          Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

          But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

          With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.


          Not a Drop to Drink was a unique dystopian tale that portrays a world where only the strongest survive.

          Lynn has lived her whole life on the edge of survival.  Her mother has taught her that she must protect their water at all costs - killing anyone who comes too close.  Their life is harsh and lonely.  Lynn knows that she can trust no one but her mother.  But when Lynn is suddenly left alone and is confronted by strangers, she has to decide whether to help them or leave them to their certain death.

          The negatives:
          • Not enough emotional resonance to the ending.  Lynn was emotionally detached because she was raised that way - her mother always taught her to shoot first and ask questions later (literally).  Life was hard and survival was paramount.  But, as the book moved forward, Lynn started forming attachments and emotional connection to those around her.  At the end of the book, something HUGE happens (actually a few big somethings) and I was a bit disappointed that those big moments lacked the emotional resonance they should have had.  They were dealt with in a few lines when I just wanted more, especially considering Lynn's journey toward actually feeling something for those around her.  I wanted to feel Lynn's pain for more than just a moment.  But, I guess McGinnis wanted to show that, at heart, Lynn was still the practical survivalist girl she had always been.
          What I LOVED:
          • The concept.  This story ended up feeling very much like a survivalist tale.  Imagine living in a world where water was so scarce that people killed for it - regularly.  A world where survival of the fittest rules, where you can never trust anyone, never feel safe, even in your own home.  This is the world that Lynn lives in.  It's gritty and it's hard and it's dangerous - which makes it incredibly interesting.
          • Lynn.  Lynn has spent her whole life seeing others as nothing more than competition - people who are after her precious water and who she has to kill in order to survive.  Because of this, she's tough as nails and unfeeling in many ways.  But when Lucy, Eli and Stebbs come into her life, she starts to see the world a bit differently.  I loved seeing Lynn's transformation as she finds people that she actually cares about - people other than her mother.  She never loses her hard edge - at her core, she is always the same old Lynn - but she grows throughout the book, which I loved.
          • Lucy, Eli and Stebbs.  I absolutely loved little Lucy - Lucy's sweet optimism and childish enthusiasm were just what Lynn needed to break through her tough exterior.  And I also loved Stebbs' humanity - even in a time of violence and harshness, he never lost that humanity.  He eventually turned into a father-figure to Lynn, and helped her move past some of her learned mistrust and selfishness.  Then there was Eli.  While he was originally helpless out in the wilderness, I loved the fact that he wasn't about to give up.  He worked hard and learned what he needed to learn.  He and Lynn were perfect for each other because she taught him to be tough in many ways and he taught her to feel.  I was definitely rooting for them the whole way!
          I highly recommend Not a Drop to Drink to dystopian fans.  I give it 4/5 stars.




          Sunday Post & Giveaways Galore - 12/29/13


          The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer ~ It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on my blog and share news about what's coming up in the week ahead. 

          Last week on FYFA:
          I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or holiday, if you don't celebrate Christmas).  I had some nice time with my family and took a couple days off of blogging.  Here's what I did post:
          Coming this week on FYFA:
          • Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (review)
          • The Prophecy by Erin Albert (review)
          • All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (review)
          • Twisted by Holly Hook (review)



            Here's what I got this week!

            ebooks Won:


            ebooks for Review:



            Other Current Giveaways on FYFA:
            (Besides the ones that are listed above.)
            Even More Awesome Giveaways on Other Sites:

            Lots of good stuff!  Have any giveaways running on your site right now?  
            Feel free to share them in the comments!