Starry Eyed Inside by Rochelle Allison

Starry Eyed Inside by Rochelle Allison

Starry Eyed Inside Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Starry Eyed Inside by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Coming of age is never easy, and it’s especially difficult for Rory Shepherd when she falls for bad boy Skyler Nolan. Starry Eyed Inside takes readers on a journey of exploration through the high school years, following Rory through first love and heartbreak and learning to live for herself. One of my favorite things about this book was the author’s use of voice for Rory and being able to feel her maturity emerging as she goes from love-struck high school freshman to senior year and knowing what she wants out of life. The journey is an emotional roller coaster, and the author has a talent for making readers feel everything her characters feel.

Although the story is told from Rory’s point of view, we get plenty of Skyler growing up as well. He goes from from reckless, indifferent teenager to a young man who has figured out what’s important and isn’t afraid to go after it. His patience and determination showed great character growth, and I enjoyed falling for the bad boy but loving the mature young man.

This is a great story of life and love, but I hesitate to classify it as Young Adult due to the amount of sexual content. It’s definitely geared more toward the older YA crowd. This certainly isn’t a strike against the book for me, but worth noting if that’s not your cup of tea.

A couple things contributed to this being a 4-star book for me as opposed to giving it 5 stars. While I enjoyed the journey of the characters, at times I felt it was too drawn out. The final third of the book could have been condensed and more to the point in my opinion. There were a few secondary characters with not enough follow-through (or perhaps too much inclusion to start), and some editing errors and minor inconsistencies, but nothing that would take me too far out of the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would definitely read more by this author.

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Happy reading!

Rach

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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5 out of 5 Stars

Kaz Brekker is known as Dirtyhands because he’s not afraid to do what’s necessary to achieve his goal. When he’s offered a job that will make him wealthy beyond his dreams, he can’t turn down the chance, especially if in the process he can settle an old vendetta. But the job just might be a suicide mission. His team is made up of other misfits like himself, each bringing a particular strength to the table, but they all have plenty to lose.

Six of Crows is not the kind of book I normally would choose for myself, but based on a friend’s suggestion, I gave it a shot. I’ll admit it took me a little while to get into the story as there is a lot to learn about the world Kaz and his team live in. But once I got to the meat of the story, I absolutely couldn’t put it down. It’s the kind of book that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

All of the characters were well thought out, and I enjoyed the way the author gave us little peeks into their lives, unveiling a new layer to a character yet leaving the reader yearning for more. I was so attached to each of the characters on the team; I couldn’t stand any one of them being in peril. They each had their own demons to face, adding even more depth to the plot.

I enjoyed this so much I immediately checked out the next book in the series from my library.

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Rach

Crossing the Barrier by Martine Lewis

Crossing the Barrier by Martine Lewis

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3 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Crossing the Barrier by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Lily Morgan and Malakai Thomas couldn’t be more different as high school students. Lily is a clarinetist in the band, and Malakai is the star wide receiver of the football team. Their worlds don’t fit together. Yet when Malakai bumps into Lily and puts her in the hospital with a head injury, the two can’t get each other out of their minds. Lily has the ability to feel everyone’s emotions around her, and her ability to shield out this talent is lost after her injury. The growing attraction between these coming of age students is tested by the collision of the differences between their social circles, and Lily and Malakai must learn to navigate these potholes and fight to stay together.

Crossing the Barrier is a well-written coming of age story with great lessons for young adult readers. It provides an intense look at social stigmas and diversity. I loved the addition of Malakai’s racial mixture, that it wasn’t one hundred percent apparent but it did play a role in the story. The characters were relatively well-developed, and the attraction was set at a decent pace.

The story moved a little too slowly for me and contained a lot of cliché tropes: neither character having the guts to admit their feelings, getting interrupted when trying to talk about feelings, deciding something for the other character. Perhaps a young adult will relate better to these issues, but as an adult who enjoys reading Young Adult novels, this one just didn’t hit home for me. Some plot points were too over the top to be believable, and although I can set aside certain beliefs for fiction, the extremities of this story made me lose interest at times.

The paranormal aspect was minimal within the story, which made its inclusion somewhat awkward. Lily was able to feel the emotions of those around her, giving her somewhat of a truth barometer. After her collision with Malakai, she lost the ability to shield herself from people’s emotions, resulting in her being overwrought with emotions when in public. But this wasn’t tied to the plot too deeply until the end of the story, mostly as a setup for the next book.

Overall, the book just missed having any type of wow factor for me. The writing was good and it was edited well, which is something that is sorely lacking in many novels these days so that was a plus. It just didn’t have enough holding it together for it to make a positive impression.

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Happy reading!

Rach

Boundary: The Other Horizons Trilogy (Book 1) by Mary Victoria Johnson

Boundary: The Other Horizons Trilogy (Book 1) by Mary Victoria Johnson

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4 out of 4 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Boundary by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

To an outside observer, Penny and her five friends live a life of luxury. They have everything they need provided for them, they live in a mansion, and they can do almost whatever they want within the boundary of that space. But it’s that boundary that makes Penny question everything around her. Touching the invisible wall surrounding the property will fry someone to a crisp, and Penny and her friends are essentially being held hostage inside it. They’re not exactly being held against their will, at least not until Penny begins questioning how they got there and why they can’t leave.

Penny’s curiosity not only angers their already sinister master, but it also begins a series of trials that pit friend against friend because the winner will get to leave the boundary. Alliances are formed and help is provided from unexpected sources, but not everything is as it seems. As the trials become more and more dangerous, it will be every man for him or herself.

Boundary is book one of the young adult The Other Horizons Trilogy, and although it is a standalone book, it does set the stage for the next book in the series. It is full of action and adventure, mystery, and fantasy, as well as being historical. This made for quite an interesting combination.

Although the story felt slow-moving at first, there was always the feeling that something more was under the surface. I immediately wanted to read on to find out why Penny and her friends were not able to leave the boundary. Even the somewhat mundane parts showing everyday life at the manor kept me involved and turning pages. The author did a good job of including small details that played into the plot in a larger way.

Overall this was a great book that I enjoyed reading, however I was left confused by some issues at the end. I’d be giving away too much of the story to go into detail, so suffice it to say these were not the type of issues that will be resolved in the next book; rather, they were the type that were resolved within this book but either done too quickly or without enough explanation for me. Still, I appreciated the journey and would be likely to read more by this author.

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Happy reading!

Rach

Dirty South Drug Wars by Jae Hood

Dirty South Drug Wars by Jae Hood

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Dirty South Drug Wars by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Rue Monroe is no stranger to law enforcement, having grown up in a family where selling drugs is an everyday occurrence. Her father was killed when she was twelve in the middle of a drug war with their rival, the Montgomerys, so she wants nothing to do with the family business. Rue goes to school, works at her grandmother’s cake shop, and takes care of her sister and the house because her mother can’t be bothered to help.

At age eighteen, Rue meets a boy who makes her feel something for the first time in her life. As it turns out, he’s the boy she’s been dreaming about for the last six years. Unfortunately, he’s also her family’s biggest rival. But Tanner Montgomery won’t give up on his love for Rue. He’s determined to be with Rue regardless of their last names.

What should be a simple relationship between two eighteen-year-olds turns into an all-out war between the families. Lies are uncovered, and Rue questions everything she thought she knew about the rivalry. When secrets come to light, the danger mounts, and not everyone will make it out of this war alive.

Dirty South Drug Wars is the thrilling debut novel from Jae Hood. It is a compelling combination of romance and suspense that will have you ensconced in the lives of the characters and the world they live in. Set in rivaling small towns in the rural South, the book draws you in to the world of drug kingpins and cake decorating. This young adult story includes drugs and violence and is recommended for the older young adult audience.

Told in first person point of view by Rue, we get a first-hand look at the life of a teenager who has had to grow up before her time. Rue’s father was killed when she was twelve and her mother is an absentee parent. This leaves Rue in charge of her younger sister who has an untreated mental illness, not to mention working to pay the bills and take care of the house while still in school.

Rue’s characterization is contrasted nicely with her love interest, Tanner Montgomery. Tanner is reckless and enjoys a good thrill. He deals with the consequences of his actions after they’ve occurred. But both Rue and Tanner have to take on a little of the other’s personality when push comes to shove. Tanner needs to execute carefully laid plans, while Rue needs to put aside her responsibilities and act for her own interests for once.

The story is full of action and excitement within the lives of these teenagers. They’re thrust in the middle of a drug war and need to do what’s necessary for what they believe is right, figuring out who is an ally and who is the enemy along the way. It will keep you on the edge of your seat right to the very end.

Dirty South Drug Wars is a fantastic debut from Ms. Hood, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

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Happy reading!

Rach

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The Sapphire Legend: Part II by E.L. Tenenbaum

The Sapphire Legend: Part II by E.L. Tenenbaum

The Sapphire Legend: Part II Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Sapphire Legend: Part II by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Sapere and the surviving villagers of her tribe have been in the Wild for months, and many of them have adjusted to life there. When Sapere and Venatore find the fifth tribe, they have an obligation to warn them of an impending attack by the Pliz. Their sister tribe also has an obligation to offer asylum to the survivors.

But life in the tribe by The Great Waters is vastly different than what Sapere is used to. Her tribe was just beginning to accept her differences—that she was given her family’s gifts, which are only passed down to males—and her place on council. Now she has to prove herself all over again, and she has to do it while her instincts are telling her they are woefully unprepared for an attack by the Pliz.

The Sapphire Legend: Part II is a young adult fantasy about a young woman who has to prove her worth to the rest of her people while discovering her value for herself. Because of the gifts she was born with, Sapere had to fight for her place among her people in part one. Even after all she did to save her tribe, she is once again an outsider who has to gain respect among the new tribe.

The story drew me in immediately, picking up right where part one left off, with Sapere and Venatore discovering the fifth tribe. They needed to develop allies in order to convince the rest of council to journey to the other tribe by The Great Waters, but once they arrived their quest had only begun. While some settled easily into life with the fifth tribe, others, like Sapere, weren’t comfortable with the differences in the way they lived. These differences made it even more difficult for Sapere to be accepted among council.

The author’s description of Sapere’s gifts was exquisitely written, making me feel like I was picking through sounds and feeling the heartbeat of the earth right along with Sapere. I enjoyed watching how she struggled to grow her gifts and teach others, as well as her indecision when she needed to use them with less-than-honorable intentions.

Sapere’s growth was not limited to her own self-worth. Throughout the story, her relationship with her older sister Onyx also grew and changed. Where Sapere once looked up to Onyx, their roles were suddenly reversed and she came to realize she now had Onyx’s admiration. Once Sapere settled her own personal battle with the Pliz’s attack, she was also able to move on and accept Reo’s feelings for her. The romance in this story was secondary to the main character growth but a well-rounded addition.

The entire story contained a general feeling that something was going to go wrong, that something wasn’t right with the new tribe. There was good buildup to the battle, and good timing of Sapere’s recognition of Reo’s love.

I truly enjoyed this book as the conclusion of what began in book one. Ms. Tenenbaum’s talent for drawing a reader in and holding them captive assures great things in her future.

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Happy reading!

Rach

The Tower (Psionic Pentalogy Book 2) by Adrian Howell

The Tower (Psionic Pentalogy Book 2) by Adrian Howell

The Tower Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Tower by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

At thirteen, Adrian Howell has already lived a full life as a wild-born telekinetic. He’s happy to be settling down in the heart of the new psionic city of New Haven. He freely joins the Guardians, hoping they’ll be able to help him rescue his sister from the Angels. But life as a Guardian means intense combat training of more than his telekinetic powers.

Terry is Adrian’s combat trainer, and she also becomes a friend—something Adrian doesn’t have many of. But the rigorous training makes Adrian uncomfortable. He has no interest in shooting a gun or being able to kill someone with his hands. Even more uncomfortable are his recurring nightmares, indicating something hiding inside his mind. Adrian will have to unlock his own secrets before someone he cares about gets hurt.

The Tower is book two in the Psionic Pentalogy series, and it starts right where book one left off. It’s a thrilling addition to the series, continuing on Adrian’s journey into the world of psionics as he learns how to use his powers and fights for what he believes in. While the main characters are young, the book deals with some death and killing, as Adrian lives in a world where he doesn’t get to be a regular kid.

Once again, I enjoyed watching Adrian’s struggle to make grown-up decisions when he was still just a kid. The author did a wonderful job of presenting Adrian’s attempt to be a normal thirteen-year-old and handle mature situations at the same time. He had to work through feelings for Terry in a normal young teen way while he was also struggling with his own identity. Adrian didn’t know who he really was, what he was capable of, or what normal was for him. He discovered all of this throughout the story. The addition of dealing with his feelings for Alia, his pseudo-sister, made for a wonderful emotional journey.

The plot was well thought-out, leaving little kernels throughout in a way that really made the reader think about the details. Although I knew who the betrayer was and why they betrayed the Guardians before it was revealed, the author did a good job keeping the suspense going. The story still came to a gripping climax, and it even had more issues to resolve and character growth beyond that.

This book is part of a series and best enjoyed when read in order, but enough background information was provided to be read as a standalone. The story had a satisfying conclusion while still leaving doors open for the next book in the series. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

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Happy reading!

Rach

Falling From The Sky by Nikki Godwin

Falling From The Sky by Nikki Godwin

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Falling From The Sky by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Sixteen-year-old Ridge McCoy hopes that summer basketball camp will not only improve his jump shot, but his life as well. He’s been in a holding pattern ever since his father’s death in a plane crash, and he doesn’t know how to deal with his mother, his brother, or even his girlfriend. When the carousel operator at the local mall, Micah Youngblood, offers to show Ridge what each of the carousel horses mean to his tribe, Ridge reluctantly accepts. It has to be better than hanging out with the guys at basketball camp, who are only interested in girls and beer.

As the friendship between Ridge and Micah grows, so do deeper feelings, as well as Ridge’s confusion. There’s nothing wrong with a summer fling, but Ridge may be doing some falling of his own and he’ll have to decide if this relationship can stand the distance.

Falling From The Sky is a young adult male/male romance about two high school boys—one who is sure of his sexuality and doesn’t need labels, and one who thought he was sure of his sexuality but begins to have questions. The YA M/M plot was a departure from what I typically read, and I’m glad I took a chance on this book.

When the story started, Ridge was a bit of a mess, beyond typical teenage drama and hormones, and hoping summer camp would be the escape he needed. Ridge’s father had passed away in a plane crash and he didn’t know how to deal with the remaining feelings. He also didn’t want the pity that came along with his father’s death and suspected his girlfriend only stayed with him because of that. His characterization pulled me in right away, and I fell in love with the boy who stopped in the middle of parking lots and prayed for airplanes.

The confusion of his life carried right through the story to when he met a strange new friend, developed feelings and had to deal with those feelings, and right up until he had to make decisions concerning his future. At times I could feel Ridge’s confusion right along with him. In one scene, I was able to feel pain from not only Ridge, but Micah as well.

If there was anything holding this book back, it would be the lack of an epilogue, a few minor inconsistencies, and some editing errors, but truly these were not enough to detract from the wonderful and emotional writing. I absolutely loved this story and look forward to reading more by this author.

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Rach

Wild-born (Psionic Pentalogy Book 1) by Adrian Howell

Wild-born (Psionic Pentalogy Book 1) by Adrian Howell

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5 out of 5 Stars

At twelve years old, Adrian Howell discovers he has telekinetic powers. He can move things with his mind and blast holes in stuff. But what starts as a fun way to entertain himself and his younger sister turns into a curse when his family is attacked and warring psionic factions want Adrian and his powers for their own.

Not knowing who to trust, Adrian spends time on his own before being found by another wild-born psionic and taken into her family. There he meets Alia, a wild-born healer who can speak directly into people’s minds and who becomes like a little sister to him. Adrian doesn’t give up on finding his real sister though, and he and Alia wind up in a lot more trouble than they bargained for. He’ll need to keep his promise to protect Alia while also finding a way to save them both.

Wild-born is a thrilling young adult paranormal fantasy that had me glued to my seat. Although it is book one in a series, it is a complete story on its own that will compel you to read the next book. I quickly became attached to the main characters and look forward to reading more about their lives.

The story is definitely geared toward the young teen audience, but that doesn’t mean adults won’t appreciate it also. The main character is only twelve at the start of the book, and I enjoyed watching him feel his way through situations he had no experience with. Several times he got himself into trouble by just being the kid that he was, but he realized his mistakes and was able to learn from them like any kid should. The problem was that Adrian’s world was more life-threatening than most kids’, resulting in more dangerous situations.

The various powers exhibited by the characters were interesting, and I loved learning about the psionic world along with Adrian. Watching him piece together the way each power could be used in the situation he was stuck in was fascinating.

The dialogue felt a bit stiff sometimes with repetition of the name of the character being spoken to, but overall this was a minor issue in an otherwise great story.

I read this book along with my middle school-aged child, and we both truly enjoyed it and are looking forward to reading more of the series.

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Happy reading!

Rach

The Immortals: Part Two: Allies & Enemies by Cheryl S. Mackey

The Immortals: Part Two: Allies & Enemies by Cheryl S. Mackey

The Immortals: Part Two Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided an ARC of The Immortals: Part Two: Allies & Enemies by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Ivo, Jaeger, Jadeth, and Emaranthe are on their next quest. They have to find a map and locate a lost city. Although the four Immortals are a cohesive unit, others they meet along the way may help or hinder their search. Not everyone is as they seem, and the Immortals will need to decide who is an ally and who is an enemy.

The Immortals: Part Two: Allies & Enemies is a continuation of the young adult fantasy series The Immortals. This book covers enough background information that it could be read as a standalone, but it is best read in order with the series as it picks up right where Part One left off.

Like the first novella in the series, the character descriptions are well thought-out, giving the reader a good picture of just what these Immortals look like, and their powers are described enough that you’ll understand each person’s strength. I loved how the setting was incorporated: cold, dark nights and two suns blazing down during the day. The descriptions take you right into the fictional world of Ein-Aral. Each Immortal needs to use his or her strength to defeat their enemies, and as a unit they need to figure out who they can trust and what information to act on. This story introduces some new characters and provides more background on the main characters. There’s a good amount of action, and there’s also a nice touch of romance added in.

Although I’m not much of a fantasy reader, I did enjoy this story. It comes to a satisfying conclusion even though there will be more to the series. The only drawback was that it could use a little better editing. Overall, it was a good read.

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Happy reading!

Rach