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Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

Gem & Dixie is the new novel from renowned young adult author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr—a deep, nuanced, and gorgeously written story about the complex relationship between two sisters from a broken home.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table; and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie, on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she's tried so hard to keep.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr has written her most personal and affecting book yet—an unforgettable story of breaking apart and of coming together again.

Goodreads Summary

I loved this story despite it not including romance (big step for me). Gem and Dixie are two sisters who are very different in terms of personality, looks, and desires. Gem has always seen herself as the helper and somewhat "mother" to Dixie due to their own mother's drug and alcohol abuse and inability to function, at times. Dixie used to see Gem in that way, too; however, it all changed as Dixie grew older and cooler and could use her charm and looks to get people to buy her things and food. Gem dreams of getting away and doesn't believe their mother or father (absent for the longest time) will ever change. She sees the school counselor and randomly does or doesn't talk to him. Gem is labelled as damaged. When their absent father returns, Gem knows that things are going to change...especially when she finds the backpack filled with money stashed by her suspect father under her own bed.

Gem and Dixie's characters were remarkably complex. The author captured the angst and sorrow of forgotten and neglected teens. The pair's resilience and unique ways of dealing with their lives will capture the readers' attention and force the reader to become very invested in these two girls. I couldn't predict the ending and spent a lot of time worrying for Gem in particular. I loved the inserted backstories of Gem and Dixie's heritage and family history (written by Gem for the school counselor).

The only part I wasn't sure I liked in this book involved Kip and the last portion of the book. While I liked Kip's character, I felt like she was a bit out of place or that the author had reached for yet another theme and not quite fit it into the other present themes. The closeness and relationship between Gem and Dixie just wasn't as present or important in the last part despite that being what I thought was the main part of the plot.

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Best of Archie Comics, Book 1 (The Best of Archie Comics)

Celebrate 70 years of Archie Comics fun with this massive full-color collection of over 50 favorite comic book stories hand-selected by noted Archie writers, artists, editors and historians. Also included are loads of entertaining behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the comics, their creators, and Archie's unique impact on America's pop culture!

Designed for young and old alike, this is both a must-have companion for anyone who has grown up with Archie and a perfect introduction for new readers.

Goodreads Summary

My mom gave my sister and I Archie, Jughead, and Betty and Veronica comics for nearly every Holiday and, sometimes, just for fun! I grew up loving how Betty and Veronica functioned as both best friends and enemies. I never understood why they fought over Archie, but it was usually in good fun. Jughead's eating habits and casual humor was enticing and fun! Even the vain Reggie had his good points. I loved each characters' names, personalities, and quirks. The plot lines varied from short to long and "to be continued." I feel like I learned a bunch of moral and even social lessons from these comics! I even love the different ways the characters are drawn from plot point to plot point. Sometimes the characters are drawn "sharper" and other times they are rounded out and a little kinder looking. Their personalities and are so fleshed out and distinct; even Midge and Moose appear from time to time and will become part of a beloved repertoire. I recommend Archie comics for "kids" of all ages and interests.

5 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

Goodreads Summary

Tilla and Jax are bastards by the same father. Tilla still hopes to be legitimized in some way while Jax prefers the wilder life. Their status is far from impressive and often looked down upon in a society where bastards are only useful if the legitimate children are 1) never born or 2) die early. When Lyriana changes up the social order by sitting with the bastards at their specific table, more than just the social structure is shaken up. Soon, the bastard group plus Lyriana must flee together to try to help each other escape an unspeakable horrible fate.

I loved the main characters, in particular, Lyriana, Zell, and Tilla. The brewing romance between Zell and Tilla did not overshadow the main plot or take away from Tilla's impressive mental strength and wit. I love that the author provided the readers with backstories to each of his characters. The characters are dynamic and almost feel as if they could step off the page at any moment. Despite being from very different walks of life, they all come together for a common cause and eventually form friendships and romances. I have to admit that I finished this book in under three hours. I literally couldn't put it down without knowing what happened to Lyriana and how the plot would unfold and what happened in Zell's past, etc... Thoroughly engrossing and wonderfully written, Royal Bastards should fly off the shelves.

5 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

Friday, December 16, 2016

After her father goes missing in the woods that they protect, Winter tries to seek the truth in what happened, why the wood is changing, and what it all has to do with the arrival of a mysterious stranger in this thrilling YA debut.

When Winter’s dad goes missing during his nightly patrol of the wood, it falls to her to patrol the time portals and protect the travelers who slip through them. Winter can't help but think there's more to her dad's disappearance than she's being told.

She soon finds a young man traveling in the wood named Henry who knows more than he should. He believes if they can work together to find his missing parents, they could discover the truth about Winter’s dad. 

The wood is poisoned, changing into something sinister—torturing travelers lost it. Winter must put her trust in Henry in order to find the truth and those they’ve lost. 

Bobulski’s eerie debut is filled with friendship, family, and the responsibilities we choose and those we do not.

Goodreads Summary

I was lucky enough to pick this one up at NCTE. This novel reminds me so much of Victoria Schwab's The Archived with a twist. Winter's father disappears one day in the Woods that he carefully guards . Winter knows that this is no accident. Her father was thorough in his work. Winter, now the new caretaker of the Woods and of the "time travelers" who appear within it, smells foul play. When a mysterious boy repeatedly tries to enter into her world, Winter investigates and discovers that there are problems within the Council that oversees the Wood that could result in world destruction. 

I loved Winter's character. Her dedication to her family and unwillingness to give up on her father and the Woods was admirable. I like that she tried so hard to do a good job and, at a young age, was very open-minded. Henry functioned as the love interest and stubborn thorn in her side for most of the novel. Their relationship bitter sweet and short lived (somewhat, you'll have to read the book to see!). I liked how it developed organically and didn't feel rushed. The author kept the relationship firmly behind the main plot. I liked how the romance flitted in and out of the main focus: the Woods. Overall, I found this book to be an excellent and rewarding read. 

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys

Thursday, December 8, 2016
You are cordially invited to participate in a game of thrills and dares. Tell no one, and come alone. If you dare.

Hope is sick of everyone treating her like she’s breakable. Sure, she has cystic fibrosis (basically really bad lungs), but she’s tired of being babied by her mom and her overprotective best friend, Ethan, not to mention worrying about paying for her expensive medication and how she’s going to afford college. And she’s bored with life in her run-down New Orleans suburb.

When an invitation arrives from a mysterious group that calls itself the Society, Hope jumps at the chance for some excitement. This could be her ticket out. All she has to do is complete a few dares and she might win some real money.

But the Society isn’t all it seems . . . and soon Hope finds that playing the game isn’t a choice—it’s a requirement.

Goodreads Summary

Hope has cystic fibrosis. The nasty genetic lung disease has a way of making her appear fragile and incapable, but Hope loves to dispel people of that notion. When she receives an invitation to join the Society she decides to give it a try. As the dares start to come in, Hope soon realizes that she is way over her head. Once you dip your toe in the water, you simply must dive in.

Hope's character was well-developed. She came off as a bit conceited in some ways. I liked her determination and how she wanted to help her mom and was focused on college and aspirations. Her cystic fibrosis is mentioned throughout the book, but not over stated (which is something I wouldn't have minded). I could tell the author had done the research necessary to make her character accurately display the disease and potential mental/physical side effects. The other characters were mainly in the society and will become immediate suspects to the reader. I literally could not figure out who did the crime and was kept guessing until the bitter end. The ending itself surprised the heck out of me. The author does a wonderful job of making it nearly impossible for the reader to figure out the mystery and even throws in confusing events/people here and there. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author.

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Crystal Storm by Morgan Rhodes

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

An epic clash between gods and mortals threatens to tear Mytica apart . . . and prove that not even the purest of love stands a chance against the strongest of magic.

MAGNUS and CLEO are forced to test the strength of their love when Gaius returns to Mytica claiming he's no longer the King of Blood but a changed man seeking redemption.

LUCIA, pregnant with the child of a Watcher, has escaped the clutches of the unhinged fire god. Her powers are dwindling as she goes forth to fulfill a prophecy that will keep her baby safe . . . but could mean her demise. 

JONAS treks back to Mytica with a plan to overtake Amara, but fate takes hold when he runs into the beautiful Princess Lucia and joins her on her perilous journey.

AMARA has taken the Mytican throne, but with no way to unleash the water magic trapped within her stolen crystal, she'll never be able to seize glory and get sweet revenge.

And what kind of darkness will descend--and who will be safe--after Prince Ashur reveals the dangerous price he paid to cheat death?

Goodreads Summary

I really enjoyed this book. Magnus and Cleo are torn between consumating their love and Cleo's belief that she will suredly die in childbirth. Jonas and Amara are still going head to head. Lucia is pregnant with an impossibly fast-growing child. I actually had trouble keeping track of all of the characters in this book. They had dynamic and developed characters, but it would be a good idea to read more slowly or start from the beginning of the series if you're anything like me! The author continues the plot from the novel before and the new plot tendrils develop and slowly infiltrate the main premise. 

I loved the relationship between Magnus and Cleo. They were probably my favorite characters with Amara coming in second mostly for her tempestuous personality. Magnus and Cleo have the kind of relationship that will make the typical person jealous. Magnus is sweet and super caring and Cleo has a calm, nurturing presence. Lucia spent the majority of the novel pregnant and with dubious maternal instinct. It's hard to portray such an action-packed plot in a short review, but this book is worth grabbing online or at a bookstore!

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

Sunday, December 4, 2016
A smart, sexy, and surprising story of love and death set in an eccentric Brooklyn neighborhood where history since 2001 has unfolded differently than we remember.

Everyone who really knows Brooklyn knows Devonairre Street girls are different. They’re the ones you shouldn’t fall in love with. The ones with the curse. The ones who can get you killed.

Lorna Ryder is a Devonairre Street girl, and for years, paying lip service to the curse has been the small price of living in a neighborhood full of memories of her father, one of the thousands killed five years earlier in the 2001 Times Square Bombing. Then her best friend’s boyfriend is killed, and suddenly a city paralyzed by dread of another terrorist attack is obsessed with Devonairre Street and the price of falling in love.

Set in an America where recent history has followed a different path, The Careful Undressing of Love is a love story that will leave readers breathless and unsettled.

Goodreads Summary

Devonairre Street girls fall in love and their "victim" dies. Lorna is a girl born and raised on Devonairre street. She has been in love with a bo for a long time, but too terrified to act upon her feelings. She feels like her own father has fallen victim to the curse. The reader follows Lorna and her friends and how they approach their fears and try to rationalize just what is happening both worldwide and internally.

I both liked and disliked Lorna's character. I ultimately think I would have needed to get to know her better in order to make a firm decision. Many of her actions seemed foolhardy and overblown, but the author managed to write her as if she were a teen perfectly. I really enjoyed the overall feel of the book. It's an odd thing to say, but I didn't think I liked magical realism as a genre as much as I did with this book. The ending was a bit of a disappointment (though realistic!) and I am looking forward to reading more from this author!

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Friday, December 2, 2016

“I plead the blood.”

Those were the last words seventeen-year-old golden boy quarterback Clay Tate heard rattling from his dad's throat when he discovered him dying on the barn floor of the Neely Cattle Ranch, clutching a crucifix to his chest.

Now, on the first anniversary of the Midland, Oklahoma slaughter, the whole town's looking at Clay like he might be next to go over the edge. Clay wants to forget the past, but the sons and daughters of the Preservation Society—a group of prominent farmers his dad accused of devil worship—won't leave him alone. Including Ali, his longtime crush, who suddenly wants to reignite their romance after a year of silence, and hated rival Tyler Neely, who’s behaving like they’re old friends.

Even as Clay tries to reassure himself, creepy glances turn to sinister stares and strange coincidences build to gruesome rituals—but when he can never prove that any of it happened, Clay worries he might be following his dad down the path to insanity...or that something far more terrifying lies in wait around the corner.

Goodreads Summary

I read this at 1 in the morning and proceeded to stay awake until 3. I love horror novels, but this book sent shivers down my spine. The beginning was horrifying and gripping. I can't imagine seeing your dad die and spout odd religious-sounding sentences. The author lays the scene for what must be the best ending she ever wrote; it was so intricate and took such careful planning. I grew attached to Clay's character. The whole town judges his family for what happened with his father, his sister sings a creepy song, and his ex-girlfriend is suddenly interested again. I partly guessed (but not really) the ending and I loved the plot twists the author threw in.

Clay was a really nice guy. His character was humble, kind, and restrained. He was a true gentleman and tried to do things the right way. I did not like the vast majority of the other characters; many of them made the pages smell evil. At the very end, Clay's girlfriend became more redemptive. I really would love to see a sequel so we could find out what ended up happening! It wasn't quite a cliff-hanger, but I was left with many unanswered questions and a wild imagination.

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ