8.8.18

Review: Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett


Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
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Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett thrusts readers into a beautiful, dangerous, and magical world in this stunningly epic and romantic fantasy for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Raasch.

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime.

Cast out of the nobility, Kate now works for the royal courier service. Only the most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the drakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: She is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormaine, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget after he condemned her father to death.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must put the past behind them to face this new threat and an even darker menace stirring in the kingdom.

Review: 

Onyx & Ivory wasn't originally on my to-read list; however, the more positive things I heard about it as well as Mindee Arnett,  the more I felt as if I needed to read it. I wanted to see for myself if it would become a favorite of mine as well. 

The result? I'm torn. 

On one side, I love the premise as well as the world Mindee introduced. It was interesting as well as unique, and there's so much room to expand upon it all. 

On the other side, however, the length of this book as well as the pacing brought down my enjoyment considerably. There were so many times at which this book was so incredibly hard to get through, so many times in which I felt like the scenes could've been edited down. The middle, in particular, was rough for me. I wanted more action, more excitement, and by the time that was finally delivered, the book was just about over. 

Onyx & Ivory alternates between Kate and Corwin's perspectives, and I believe that Mindee did a great job of making them sound different. I liked both Kate and Corwin. I loved how independent and fearless Kate was; however, I also liked that she wasn't afraid to rely on her friends to get her through tough times. The bonds she develops throughout this book are a highlight. Corwin, on the other hand, was a tough one to read at first. I wanted to despise him for happened to Kate, but at the same time, I couldn't. There was something likable about him, something that I found endearing. I could see why Kate had such a hard time shutting him out as well. Together, Kate and Corwin meshed well. They start off as best friends turned enemies, but they slowly morph back into the best friends/slightly more area. I loved the back and forth between them as well as how they wouldn't let the other alter what they stood for. Sure, they liked each other but they weren't letting that change who they were and I respected that completely. 

The plot primarily involves the brewing trouble found in Rime and the re-formation of the bond between Corwin and Kate. I found both areas to be interesting, and I especially enjoyed when more was revealed about the shady things occurring in Rime. There were several times in which I was left feeling completely shook, and I appreciated the direction Mindee seemed to be taking things. She brought it together quite well.  

Despite my love of the plot as well as the characters, the pacing is what ultimately brings this down to a three star read. I'm all for a slow delivery; however, when it's so slow it almost causes me to DNF a book, there's something wrong. Additionally, I wasn't the biggest fan of how there was FINALLY action and then BANG cliff hanger. It was such a buzz kill. 

3 stars 

7.8.18

Review: Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather


Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Publisher: Simon and Schuster's Children's Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
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Sixteen-year-old Indy struggles to conceal her pregnancy while searching for a place to belong in this stunning debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Amber Smith and Sara Zarr.

Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules—to study hard in school, be respectful, and to never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially while living in her mother’s shadow.

When Indy is sent to live with distant relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth.

Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found the place. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls and a roof—it’s about the people she chooses to share it with.

Review:

In the synopsis the publisher compares Janice Lynn Mather's Learning to Breathe to books by Sara Zarr and Amber Smith, and I believe that comparison is spot on. Learning to Breathe isn't an easy book by any means. There's plenty of heartbreaking moments as well as  times at which I thought it couldn't possibly get any worse for Indy only to be proven otherwise. At the same time, however, Learning to Breathe does offer a breathe of hope, a breath of positivity, because at a core Learning to Breathe isn't about a book falling to rock bottom. No, it's a book about hitting rock bottom, only to climb out and be stronger and better than ever before. 

Learning to Breathe introduces Indy, a teenager hiding more than one secret. All her life, Indy's been the girl everyone talked about. From her body to her family to her choices, everyone seems to have an opinion. From the very first page Indy's voice grabbed me and didn't let me go until the very end. When the story first begins, Indy's at a crossroads. She's forced to leave the person she loves the most, the one who also loves her the most, and go to a new place. She doesn't fell very brave, but it was easy to see that she was. Throughout the course of the story, Indy faces so many hard choices and tough situations, but she always managed to stand strong, and I admired that about her. She was resourceful and smart, more so than many gave her credit for. I loved the relationship between her and her grandmother. It was sweet and thoughtfully developed, and I feel like it was essential to who Indy was. She never wanted to disappoint her grandmother, to let her down, and while I could understand that, there were so many times at which I wish she would've gone to her for help. 

Over the course of the book, a variety of characters are introduced - some good and some bad - and each had an important role to play. The biggest surprise, however, was Crunchy. When Crunchy is first introduced, he doesn't seem like he'll be very important, but I was wrong. Crunchy turned out to be such a sweet and caring individual, and I loved the friendship that resulted between him and Indy. It warmed my heart. I was so happy to finally see someone fighting for her again, some who was willing to do anything to help her. It was so different from the other people in her life. Those individuals...well, they were just terrible. 

Learning to Breathe deals with tough subjects - teenage pregnancy, sexual assault, etc. I thought Janice did a wonderful job of handling each topic. Indy's story is an important one, because there are girls like her out there, girls who no one will listen to, girls that need our help, and I hope this book will open people's eyes to this. Some people have said that the ending was a bit too ideal, and while I somewhat agree, I was happy with where it left off.

In all, Learning to Breathe is a heartbreaking and gripping read, perfect for fans who love hard hitting YA contemporary. This may be my first book by Janice but it certainly won't be my last. 

3.5 stars!! 

6.8.18

Review: One Small Thing by Erin Watt


One Small Thing by Erin Watt 
Release Date: June 26, 2018 
Publisher: Harlequin Teen 
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance 
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review 
Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again. 

Review: 

Erin Watt has quickly become one of my go to authors over the past year. The Royals series filled the Sea Breeze/Rosemary Beach sized gap in my life while While It's Real proved so much sweetness and so many "aww!" moments that I'm still thinking about it more than a year later. Therefore, when I heard about One Small Thing it instantly sky rocketed to the top of my TBR pile. 

The result? I liked One Small Thing. It was romantic and addicting. I had no problem get lost within the world Erin Watt presented for a few hours. However, here's the thing: it just didn't live up to the greatness that was When It's Real. Maybe I had too high expectations but I expected more. 

One Small Thing focuses on Beth and Chase. 

Ever since her sister died Beth has been the good girl, the perfect daughter. The only problem? She's sick of her parents's constant pressure and worries. She wants to be free again, free to make her own choices and live her life the way she wants. My heart broke for Beth. It's hard enough to deal with the loss of a loved one, but to then have your parents completely shut down and lose all common sense, that's even worse. I couldn't believe the ridiculous rules they had for and how they expected her to just stay with them for the rest of her life. I get that they cared, that they wanted her to be safe, but sometimes less is more. I found Beth to be likable. I understood her need to break free and let loose. I feel like anyone would in her position. I also respected her willingness to give people a second chance. Not everyone would've given Chase the time of day, but Beth wasn't everyone. I loved seeing her form a connection with him. 

Chase, on the other hand, is just trying to get by. He regrets what happened that night every single day of his life, but now that he's out, he's just trying to get his diploma and leave. My heart broke for Chase as well. It was easy to see that he had paid the ultimate price for what happened that night, and I could see why he would want to move on. He was a good kid who just made an incredible bad decision. What I loved the most about Chase, however, was how much good was still within him. Some people in his position would've become different people: closed off, anger, resentful, but Chase still felt the need to reach out, to make connections, no matter how much his head was telling him no. Chase was my favorite part of the book. He was so sweet, so adorable, so perfect yet imperfect at the same time. 

One Small Thing's plot primarily involves the developing romance between Chase and Beth as well as the drama that results from Chase's reappearance in town.  The romance between Chase and Beth was sweet; however, I wish there was more to it. It felt rushed at times, and while I admit that there was a connection between them, it still would've been nice to seen more moments between the two of them. Chase's reappearance in town, on the other hand, kept me on my toes, as it brought about drama as well as big revelations. Leave it to Erin Watt to have a big twist up her sleeve...I saw it coming but at the same time I couldn't believe what I was reading. 

The main thing that brought this book down to three stars is what I hinted to above: I wanted more. Sometimes this book felt way too fast. Yes, Erin finished out all the story lines and provided conclusions, but at a rapid speed. I wish there had been more development, more scenes, especially at the end. I felt that it concluded rather abruptly and I think the book would've benefited from what happened after, seeing some pieces put together more closely. 

In all, One Small Thing is a romantic and heartwarming book, perfect for the summer. I probably would've loved it more had I not read When It's Real first, but regardless Erin Watt is still one of my favorite authors, and I can't wait to see what's next.  

3 stars!!
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