*ARC Review* Finale by Stephanie Garber

FinaleTitle: Finale (Caraval #3)

Author: Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Page Count: 496 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Summary:

Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series!

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…all games must come to an end.

It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates have been freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella has seen Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finally, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun―with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win…and those who will lose everything. . .

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♠ Halt, Caraval players! I must warn you that the review below will contain spoilers from the previous two games. If you wish to see my thoughts on Caraval and Legendary, please click the links above. Without further ado…Welcome, Welcome, to my review of Finale, where all games will come to an end! ♥

Caraval fans all over the world are in for a treat! Finale is absolutely magical and gripping, you will not be able to put this book down. Stephanie wraps up everything with a bow and it is glorious. I have never felt more serene and content with any series ending before Finale. 

461FDE62-13A9-4E9C-AA0F-6EAF794E69D9Finale picks up a few weeks after the events in Legendary, where Legend is waiting to become the new Emperor. Things did not end well between Tella and Legend, but both are determined to rectify that, but in very different ways. And Scarlett is still struggling with who she wants to end up with: Julian or the Count. When Scarlett stumbles upon shocking information, she must decide what is truly worth fighting for if she wants a happy ending. Both sisters must make multiple life-altering decisions in order to face off against some of the Fates and secure their happy endings.

Tella continues to be my favorite sister (after her story continuation in Legendary). I want her to have a happy ending, but she does not believe she deserves one, even thought she deserves to be happy. But the question remains: who will she end up with: Jacks or Legend? Both men vying for her are wonderfully described and irrevocably handsome. She never expected to capture the attention of a Fate, or even the Caraval master. But I’ve noticed that most lives are filled with unexpected surprises, and both sisters receive plenty of surprises in this book.

It’s no spoiler that Caraval and Legendary were both stories filled with magic and romance. Finale is the same way, but this story is more romantic and filled with magic on every singly page. The magic in this series is so unique and beautiful and it leaps off the pages. New and old magic is discovered in Finale, and let me tell you, it’s absolutely breathtaking. I did not think this series could get any more magical. but it does. Every page, every chapter, is filled with magic and it is captivating.

This book, though fantastic and magical, was also heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking because it meant this would be the last time I would ever return to this world and the characters (unless Stephanie writes novellas; PLEASE!!). This would be the last time I’d discover new places with these characters; sure, I can always return to the world by re-reading, but there is nothing quite like reading a book for the first time. And Stephanie has created a world and intriguing characters that will always have a place in my heart.

I don’t know how Stephanie does it. She’s an outstanding storyteller, and I hope to someday have the skill she has in writing. This series has been a journey filled with magic and romance and heartache, and it was beautiful to watch everything unfold. I’m telling you now, if you have not read this series, you need to. You will not be disappointed!

nikole

*ARC Review* Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen

Dark ShoresTitle: Dark Shores

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Page Count: 368 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

Summary:

High seas adventure, blackmail, and meddling gods meet in Dark Shores, the first novel in a new YA fantasy series.

In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.

A PIRATE WITH A WILL OF IRON

Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.

A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET

Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.

A DANGEROUS QUEST

When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.

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An advanced e-copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! What a ride this book was! Dark Shores promises a high seas adventure and it definitely delivers. I love any book that has pirates and dangerous adventures, and this book does not disappoint. I started reading this book with not many high expectations, and Dark Shores proved me wrong; it proved to be a story worth reading and loving.

The idea behind this story is wonderfully unique. Members of the East cannot communicate with members of the West. But a politician wants that to change; he wants to conquer and destroy. And in doing so, he blackmails two unlikely people to find the secret way across the dark shores. The many twists and turns Dark Shores has will keep you entertained and wondering just what is in store for the characters on their journey.

Marcus is a skilled soldier who never anticipated being blackmailed into working for a dangerous politician. It goes against everything he has been taught. He also never thought he’d have to work with a pirate. Teriana comes from a fierce line of Maarin people, and like the people aboard her mother’s ship, she harbors a secret that protects the other half of the world from the cruel Celendor people. She never expected the secret to come out. But it does, and it has dire consequences for her and her shipmates. In order to save her shipmates, she will have to work with Marcus and others to bring the dangerous politician what he wants.

I really enjoyed Jensen’s world building of Dark Shores. There are so many moving parts, and she brings them all together nicely. The characters fit well with the world and develop as new pieces of the world are uncovered. The mythology aspect of this book is fascinating and fit so well with the world Jensen has created. Learning about the gods and the magic gave the book a lighter feel and provided a wonderful backstory for the world. What I also enjoyed reading about were the different cultures between the Maarin and Celendor people. Maarin people are diplomatic like the Celendor people, but they don’t deceive and kill to get what they want. It was nice to see two cultures depicted so differently.

All in all, Dark Shores provided a beautiful storyline with well-developed and well-liked characters. I’m always looking for books with those aspects (and any book that reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean) and outstanding world building, and Dark Shores delivers all of that. If you’re looking for a story with adventure, political intrigue, high seas, meddling gods, enemies to lover’s trope, and more, then Dark Shores is a book that is right up your alley.

nikole

 

*Arc Review* Maybe This Time- Kasie West

41473823One year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?

Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.

Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .

Told over the course of one year and following Sophie from event to event, this delightful novel from master of romantic comedy Kasie West shows how love can blossom in unexpected places.

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My Review:

“I didn’t even care; he tasted like heaven and I felt like I was floating on air.”

Usually, with any Kasie West book, it’s an instant love for me. But this took me quite some time to get into and I felt as if I walked into the middle of a conversation. This was sort of cute, just not my favorite of hers.

At times I felt that there wasn’t much of a plot. There was no lead-way to what was happening, you just jump straight in head first. The banter between the two lead characters wasn’t as funny as her others. I felt the pure hatred flow between the pages because it burned like a roaring fire. I wasn’t actually sure if Andrew and Sophie were going to get to that inevitable point like in almost every other contemporary novel. It happened but it felt fake.

I did love seeing the working side of being a caterer and florist. It was interesting reading about all the things they go through to make everything perfect for your special day. I also really enjoyed the growing of Sophie’s family. She was really easy to judge a situation before she knew all the facts but in the end, it brought her family closer together.

Maybe This Time wasn’t my favorite but I didn’t hate it. We all know what to expect from contemporary novels but this one didn’t have that heart-eyed overflowing cuteness like all her others.

 

stacy

*Arc Review* The Rumor- Lesley Kara

43894584When a single mother hears a rumor outside her son’s school, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another. . . . And now there’s no going back.

Rumor has it that a notorious killer, a woman who has been released from prison years after her brutal crime, is living under a new identity in Joanna’s seaside town. So who is the supposedly reformed murderer now living in their neighborhood? Suspicion falls on everyone.

As Joanna becomes obsessed with the case, her curiosity will expose her son and his father to a heartless psychopath who has killed—and may kill again. And she will learn how dangerous one rumor can become . . . and just how far she must go to protect those she loves from harm. She is going to regret the day she ever said a word. . . .

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My Review:

“All the others did what I said. I think they were a little bit scared of me. I’d had a good role model, you see. I knew how scary people acted. I knew the sorts of things they said. The way they looked at you and turned your insides to liquid. I was acting out the only thing I knew. What happened at home. What I’d seen. What I’d heard.”

This is going to be the best thriller of the year. Nothing has shocked me as much as this. When you think you have it all figured out, something comes along and makes you second guess everything. I will admit, I rolled my eyes and sighed because I was a hundred percent sure that I figured it out. And I was wrong, I was close but so very wrong. You’ll keep guessing right up until the end and that last sentence will blow your mind.

A notorious killer has been released from prison and may be living in a small town under a new identity. Joanna hears all the rumors and even gossips like all the other Moms to fit in. This killer is living in her town and everyone is a suspect.

Joanna is living with her son, Alfie in the town she grew up in to be closer to her Mother. When she goes to a book club and mentions the rumor of the unknown identity of the killer, things in her life take a weird turn. Someone starts to torment her. They post cryptic tweets on Twitter and even photoshop a picture of her son. She becomes uneasy and her mind starts to be controlled by these thoughts of who would be doing something like this to her and her family.

Joanna will do anything to protect the people she loves. But she may soon regret the day she shared a rumor…..

The Rumor is the debut thriller that everyone will be talking about. This book will be the reason why we all have trust issues. But this was so riveting and disturbing that you won’t be able to put it down. Just think twice before you spread that rumor, you never know who’s life you’ll ruin just by one little lie. That rumor could even cost you something precious in your life.

stacy

*Arc Review* Lie With Me- Philippe Besson

40539136The award-winning, bestselling French novel by Philippe Besson about an affair between two teenage boys in 1984 France, translated with subtle beauty and haunting lyricism by the iconic and internationally acclaimed actress/writer Molly Ringwald. 

We drive at high speed along back roads, through woods, vineyards, and oat fields. The bike smells like gasoline and makes a lot of noise, and sometimes I’m frightened when the wheels slip on the gravel on the dirt road, but the only thing that matters is that I’m holding on to him, that I’m holding on to him outside.

Just outside a hotel in Bordeaux, Philippe chances upon a young man who bears a striking resemblance to his first love. What follows is a look back at the relationship he’s never forgotten, a hidden affair with a gorgeous boy named Thomas during their last year of high school. Without ever acknowledging they know each other in the halls, they steal time to meet in secret, carrying on a passionate, world-altering affair.

Dazzlingly rendered in English by Ringwald in her first-ever translation, Besson’s powerfully moving coming-of-age story captures the eroticism and tenderness of first love—and the heartbreaking passage of time.

My Review:

“This feeling of love, it transports me, it makes me happy. But it also consumes me and makes me miserable, the way all impossible loves are miserable.”

Lie With Me was that gut-wrenching read that makes you have trouble catching your breath. This was such a beautiful and harrowing story of young desire in the 1980s. You’ll have trouble keeping the tears from falling.

Even days after I finished this, my mind kept going back to this and it broke my heart all over again. I had to up my rating because of that. I can’t get this beautiful story out of there.

Philippe is talking to an interviewer at a hotel when he spots someone. A someone that resembles someone from his past. As he calls out his name and goes after him, he wishes with all his heart that this someone is Thomas. As fate would have it, it’s not but it’s someone else that will help him fill in the blanks of the past.

As the past comes spilling out of Philippe, what transpires is something so deep and wonderful that we don’t want it to end. In his younger years, he strikes up a secret romance with Thomas as love blooms between these two boys. After all this time, Philippe remembers everything and hopes that Thomas does as well. Things start to come together and what was once young love turns into fond memories that no one will ever forget or want to.

Lie With Me was one of the most gorgeous reads that I have ever read. There was something about this that touched my soul and I’ll never forget it. Besson paints a tender and beautiful tale of first loves and desire. It’s a really quick read that you will devour in one sitting because of its pure perfection.

If you get a chance to read this, do it. I dare you to tell me that this didn’t make you weep!!

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stacy

*ARC Review* Second Star by J. M. Sullivan

SS_JMSullivanTitle: Second Star (Neverland Transmissions #1)

Author: J. M. Sullivan

Release Date: March 5th, 2019

Publisher: Bleeding Ink Publishing

Page Count: 352 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary:

Wendy Darling worked her entire life to rise through the ranks of the prestigious Londonierre Brigade. Now as a Captain, she has everything she’s always wanted, including a ship and crew of her own. But when the Brigade receives a strange transmission from the legendary James Hooke, lost a hundred years earlier in uncharted space and presumed dead, Wendy is willing to risk it all to rescue her hero. She races to the planet known only as Neverland; her mission to find the long-lost crew and bring them home.

But there is more to Neverland than meets the eye, and more to Hooke than what was written in history books. When Wendy crash lands on the ominous planet, she quickly discovers Neverland’s dark secret; a malevolent being known as The Shadow that’s looking for a host body to escape its eternal prison. To fulfill her mission, Wendy must decide whether to trust the dashing Hooke or the mysterious Fleet mechanic who goes by the name of Pan–and she has to decide quickly…

Before the darkness consumes them all.

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Preorder Links

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository   |  Indie Bound

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My Review

What I love about this Peter Pan retelling is how unique and captivating the story is. The original characters are there, but in fragments of who they were portrayed as in the Disney movie. And I loved that, because the author took a classic story and weaved it into something old and new. The author kept the characters but gave them new back stories and compelling attributes.

In this reimagining of Peter Pan, Pan is stuck in a place that quickly becomes called Neverland, with a wrecked spaceship and a Captain that’s out for his blood. And then there’s Wendy, a newly-appointed Captain of the ship dubbed Faith & Trust sent to rescue Captain Hooke and his crew from Neverland. She, and everyone else at the Academy, thought Captain Hook and his crew died many years ago, but when Wendy intercepts a transmission call, her and the Academy staff are in for an awakening. She sets out to rescue the crew, only for her ship to crash land on Neverland. Now she will have to work with Peter Pan to find Captain Hooke, find out the truth, and escape Neverland and go back home to London or risk being trapped in Neverland forever.

As the reader, I saw a lot of development in Wendy. The beginning chapters focus on her younger years and how she gets accepted into the Academy. Jump forward several years and she’s nineteen, about to lead a rescue team to Captain Hooke. She is the top of her class, which is one of the many reasons she is picked to rescue Captain Hooke. Wendy is a strong leader/individual and she wants to succeed at the Academy and finishing this mission would be a great start for her. She just never saw the dangers of Neverland coming; but those said dangers help her develop as a person and a Captain and that’s where Wendy really shines.

Peter Pan’s character is everything and he’s just as fun and enchanting as he was in Disney’s version. Him and his crew work to find a way to escape Neverland, while also dodging Captain Hooke and unfamiliar dangers. I enjoyed how much older he acted; he didn’t fully act like a kid and I really enjoyed that. He’s also caring when it comes to his crew and Wendy; he wants to protect them all, even if that means sacrificing his own life. And, of course, his relationship with Tinc is wonderful; I found myself chuckling at some of their interactions and it reminded me about my relationship with my best friend. Granted, Tinc is an advanced mini robot, but her personality and interactions with Pan were so much fun to see.

I really enjoyed the aspect of Peter Pan’s story involving space and a more technologically advanced world. The idea added to the world building and made the world fascinating to read about. I also liked how the romance came later into the story and didn’t overpower the plot and story line of the book. It was great to see the world developed first before introducing Wendy’s potential love interest.

Overall, Second Star is a great Peter Pan retelling and one I would recommend. I’m looking forward to reading the second book and seeing what is in store for the characters.

nikole

*ARC Review* To Best The Boys by Mary Weber

TBTB_CorrectTitle: To Best The Boys

Author: Mary Weber

Release Date: March 19th, 2019

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Books

Page Count: 352 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary:

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

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Preorder Links

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository   |  Indie Bound

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My Review

The title alone is what first drew me to this book. Any book that sounds like it will have a strong female lead is a must read for me. And To Best the Boys did not disappoint.

The girl power in this book is phenomenal. You have the main character, Rhen, and her best friend/cousin, Seleni. Both have two very different personalities: Rhen is stubborn and speaks her mind and wants to go to school, whereas Seleni wants to be a housewife to the boy she loves. Both have different futures, but both girls are so loyal to one another, and I really enjoyed seeing that. In her village, Rhen is not like most girls. Her cousin’s family is considered an Upper, people will money and high class. Whereas Rhen and her parents are considered Lowers, people working to stay alive and to put food on the table. Seleni doesn’t let her status stop her from seeing Rhen, even though Rhen does manage to get them both into trouble often. But Seleni would do anything for Rhen, even enter the Labyrinth with Rhen to show the boys just what kind of power girls are capable of possessing.

Rhen is an exceptionally strong-minded girl in her village. She has the dream of being something more than what she currently is; she wants to change the world of science and school. She spends most of her time working in her father’s lab trying to find a cure to an unknown, fast-growing disease that is killing her mother. And when she brings this up to her Uncle’s friends—the people who can offer help—they brush the disease off as nothing, as it doesn’t seem to be affecting the Uppers. That answer, the way most Uppers react to the Lowers, is what drives Rhen to enter the Labyrinth. And though she struggles over the aspect of leaving her Mom and Da, she knows that the only way to fix this is to enter the maze and win.

The idea behind the Labyrinth is intriguing and I found myself asking the question: Would I enter the maze disguised as a boy to prove my worth and that the world needs to change? I think I would, even if the aspect of death is involved. That’s exactly what Rhen does; she wants to see the world change and she wants the Uppers, especially the University board, to understand why they need to address the disease spreading in the Lower. I do wish the Labyrinth was a bit more developed, but nevertheless, I enjoyed each part of the maze and seeing how Rhen and her friends navigated each part. The Labyrinth doesn’t just involve mathematical equations but also tests your qualities as a human being. The winner of the maze does not win solely off of knowledge but how they treat other people. The maze involves both knowledge and characteristics and, in this maze, Rhen faces more personal challenges than she thought she would. But Rhen isn’t a quitter, and she refuses to give up, no matter the cost.

Mary Weber weaves fantasy so well with the setting and plot of this book. How the book starts out, I wouldn’t think fantasy elements would arise. But they did and the elements, though not present enough to overwhelm the plot, work so well with the story. The Labyrinth breathes fantasy, with ghouls and creatures and a maze that continuously shrinks in size until you find a way to escape. It was interesting and unlike most mazes I have read in books. Mary Weber truly brought this maze (and this book) to life, and I loved it.

To Best the Boys turned out to be the story I was hoping it to be. The characters were well-developed and the plot continued to thicken until the very end. It was, overall, a book I am thankful I got to read early.

To Best the Boys is a refreshing read in the YA genre. If you love girl power, individuality, fighting for what you believe in, a deadly and heart-pounding maze, and romance, then I highly recommend reading To Best the Boys!

nikole

Question of the Post:

Would you enter the Labyrinth? I’d love to know! Leave your answer below! 🙂