BOOK REVIEW: Rebel Of The Sands – by Alwyn Hamilton

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Title: Rebel Of The Sands
(Rebel Of The Sands #1)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: February 13th 2017
Pages: 320
Rating 4,5qqq

“The world makes things for each place. Fish for the sea, Rocs for the mountain skies, and girls with sun in their skin and perfect aim for a desert that doesn’t let weakness live.”

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Dear Rebel Of The Sands, why have I managed to ignore you for nearly a year?! I’m still kicking myself for not picking up this first book of a fantastic new YA fantasy series… But I guess it does mean I can read the sequel straight away! I admit I have heard mixed things about this story in the past, and that might just be why I was so hesitant to pick it up in the first place. I normally tend to have bad luck with popular books, but I’m glad that Rebel Of The Sands has proven to be an exception. I’m glad I finally gave this story a chance and I loved even better than expected! I’ve basically fallen in love with the worldbuilding, characters and writing style from the beginning… Alwyn Hamilton writes in a way that draws you right in and even though the whole strong-female-character thing in YA fantasy isn’t all that original, I was thoroughly charmed by Amani anyway. Together with Jin, Shazad and many other characters she managed to win over my heart and I had a blast following them on their journey through the desert. The worldbuilding is so interesting! I’ve heard complains about the ‘mythical’ being lost by the ‘western’ feel of the descriptions and some of the scenes, but I personally really liked the mix of two different elements. Great prose and characters, interesting plot and worldbuilding, lots of action, a healthy dose of action and magic: Rebel Of The Sands has all the ingredients to enchant you.

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Amani Al’Hiza lives in the small desert town of Dustwalk and basically learned to shoot like an expert when she was only a little girl. There is not much to do in Dustwalk and Amani has become a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim… But that won’t help her escape before she either loses her freedom or her life. When another bad decision brings her to a shooting contest, she meets the mysterious foreigner Jin. Amani sees him as the perfect escape route, although it won’t be easy to escape with both their lives… And she definitely didn’t imagine escaping riding a mythical horse she didn’t know still existed. And she will soon learn a whole lot more about her country as they try to find their way to safety.

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Thank you Traitor To The Throne for finally making me read the first book! I’m so glad I was approved for an ARC of the sequel, because I still feel I have been missing out by not reading Rebel Of The Sands sooner. I know this story has a lot of mixed reviews, but if you ask me it’s definitely worth the try. This series has the perfect combination of interesting worldbuilding, great characters and well written prose; the magic and mythical elements make Rebel Of The Sands into something special. I will be looking forward to read more about Amani and Jin’s adventures for sure!


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ARC REVIEW: The Impossible Fortress – by Jason Rekulak

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Title: The Impossible Fortress
Author: Jason Rekulak

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: February 7th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: February 3rd 2017
Pages: 304
Rating 4,5qqq

“So we stood up there for a long while, watching the sunset and discussing how it was one of those things you could never truly capture in 8-bit, not with the simplistic definition of violet (CHR$(156)), orange (CHR$(129)), and yellow (CHR$(158)). There were too many other colors, thousands of colors. The hardware could never do justice to it.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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The Impossible Fortress caught my attention the very first time I laid my eyes on it, and not just because of the colorful cover. I love feel-good stories and this debut by Jason Rekulak promised to be chock full of 80s nostalgia and flashbacks. I’m a 90s child myself, but I guess I was born close enough to the the year the story was set in (I was only minus one!) to be able to connect to the story instantly. It’s simply such a brilliant read! I completely fell in love with the writing style, plot and characters and it’s just such a great feel-good story… I loved the computer/nerd talk and it definitely brought back memories of my childhood where I taped radio songs, had to use floppy disks and didn’t have internet access to write quick messages. I loved all characters, although Billy and Mary have just a little extra magic about them… And the plot of The Impossible Fortress is almost endearing as the three boys mess up again and again during their ‘mission’ to get a copy of the Playboy. I had so much fun reading this coming of age story and I can recommend it to any contemporary fan! A huge bonus: you can actually play the game that is created by the main characters at jasonrekulak.com!

shortsummary1reviewqqqIt’s 1987 and the Playboy has just published photos of Vanna White, popular for her role in the TV game show Wheel Of Fortune. The three teenage friends Billy, Alf and Clark don’t know a thing about women and the Playboy is almost like a Holy Grail for them: they are desperate to get their hands on a copy of the Vanna White photos and decide to create a plan to steal a copy of that month’s Playboy. But stealing a copy isn’t all that easy and the boys fail and fail again… Then they think up a new masterplan: swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience story by seducing the owner’s daughter Mary. It’s up to Billy to become close to the girl and get the information they need, but Billy might need Mary for other skills instead. She loves computers and is actually a way better coder than Billy is… Mary might be able to save the game Billy is creating, but he is soon faced with the tough choice to either deceive Mary or break a promis to his best friends.

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If you are looking for a well written coming of age story that will bury you under a crate full of nostalgic feelings and 80s flashbacks, you have found your next read. The Impossible Fortress is basically a time machine in book form and will make you feel as if you went thirty years back in time… I was hooked right from the first page and both the writing style and main characters were simply lovely. I had so much fun reading this story!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Wrong Side Of Right – by Jenn Marie Thorne

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Title: The Wrong Side Of Right
Author: Jenn Marie Thorne

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 17th 2015
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: January 30th 2017
Pages: 400
Rating 3qqq

“It’s amazing how much one person can change the world, even if they don’t know they’re doing it.”

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Confession: I snatched up a copy of The Wrong Side Of Right 100% based on the gorgeous cover and had no clue what the story exactly was about when I finally picked it up. I was actually browsing my kindle and picked up this story on a whim… And it turned out to be a bittersweet read after all the immigration chaos that has been going on lately in the US. This hint to real-life connection was actually almost spooky considering the fact this book was written back in 2015… But I guess it did make the plot in The Wrong Side Of Right a tad more interesting. That said, I have to admit I ended up having mixed feelings about this story despite the fact that I could really appreciate the immigration elements. The story had a fast pace and was easy to read, but it took me a long time to actually connect to the main characters and it all just felt a bit too cheesy for me. The Wrong Side Of Right wasn’t exactly a bad read and had its charming elements, so maybe this book just wasn’t for me? Contemporary romance fans will probably enjoy this story a lot more than I did.

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After Kate Quinn’s mother died last year, she thought she was now an orphan. That all changes when someone discovers the truth about her mother’s past and Kate is forced to come to terms with a new reality. She does have a father. But that is not the biggest shock: he is one of the most powerful politicians of the country and currently in the race to become the next US President. To keep the little scandal from blowing up, her father invites her to join a family she never knew she had… Including a brother, sister, stepmom and a campaign to support a father she hardly knows. Kate suddently finds herself in the middle of the spotlight, and there is no room for mistakes. Will she be able to get used to this new life? And what does her new family really think of her?

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If you are looking for a light, fluffy and fast-paced contemporary romance read, The Wrong Side Of Right is probably a great choice. It does read superfast, but I have to admit it took me a long time to warm up to this story. The main problem I had was probably with the main characters. Especially Kate was quite annoying and I felt she started out having little to no character. There were also a lot of cheesy cliches involved I couldn’t care about, but that might just be me not being a fan of the genre in the first place. The immigration elements were definitely a strong point of this story though.


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ARC REVIEW: Making Faces – by Amy Harmon

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Title: Making Faces
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 12th 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Finished reading: January 28th 2017
Pages: 405
Rating 5qqq

“I don’t think we get answers to every question. We don’t get all the whys. But I think when we look back to the end of our lives, if we do the best we can, and we will see that the things we begged God to take from us, the things we cursed him for, the things that made us turn our backs on him, are the things that were the biggest blessings, the biggest opportunities for growth.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Spencer Hill Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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It’s been over two weeks since I finished reading Making Faces and I still find it difficult to put my thoughts properly on paper. It doesn’t happen all that often, but Amy Harmon was able to give me another book hang over with this little masterpiece. I’m ashamed to admit I have only recently discovered her work, but I’ve already become addicted to her lovely prose and diverse plots. Making Faces is no exception. I had already heard great things about this book and I basically broke down the request button as soon as I saw it was available at Netgalley. All the raving reviews were absolutely right: this story is simply brilliant. I fell in love with both the characters, writing style and plot and this story will definitely stay with me for quite some time. Sure, some of it might be a little cheesy if you think about it critically. But if you have characters like Fern, Bailey and Ambrose, it is really easy to put those thoughts aside. I loved the war veteran elements as well; it’s such an important topic and definitely deserves more attention, especially as they are often misunderstood by society. As you might have guessed already, I simply adored Making Faces and I can definitely recommend it to any contemporary fan. I promise you that you will fall in love with the characters and their story! This new edition published by Spencer Hill Press later this month has some nifty bonus content as well.

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Ambrose Young’s looks and talent have made him really popular during his high school years. He isn’t just tall, muscular and good at sports, he also seems to have walked right off the cover of one of those romance novels. Fern Taylor should know, because she has been reading them since she was thirteen. Fern has had a crush on him for years, but she isn’t exactly the ‘prettiest’ girl in town and she doesn’t think Ambrose would ever look at her that way. But life isn’t just about physical attraction and works in funny ways. After the 9/11 attacks, Ambrose and his four friends decide to join the cause and were sent off to war. Only one comes back… And the whole town struggles to deal with the loss; each in their own way.

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I kind of feel I’m not doing the story justice with this summary, but I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot… This line in the blurb describes the general idea behind Making Faces beautifully though: “a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us“. It’s contemporary romance with a healthy dose of realistic fiction, a cup of tears and mixed with lovely characters and a very important topic. I basically loved everything about it and this story has confirmed Amy Harmon is one of my new favorite authors.


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ARC REVIEW: Stake-out – by Lily Luchesi

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Title: Stake-out
(Paranormal Detectives #1)
Author: Lily Luchesi

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
First published: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Vamptasy Publishing
Finished reading: January 25th 2017
Pages: 128
Rating 3,5qqq

“Who would’ve guessed that, in this world, there were vampires, werewolves and specters lurking around every corner; that evil witches who lived for centuries were being burned to to death a few miles away?”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I confess I’m normally not a fan of vampire stories and tend to stay away from them, especially since I seem to dislike about 99% of them. But when I was approached with the question if I wanted to read the Paranormal Detectives series, something about the description caught my attention and I decided to give it a go. And even though I’m normally allergic to fanged characters, I enjoyed Stake-out a lot better than I thought I would. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the vampire element didn’t seem to bother me, which can probably explained by the fact that the vampires are properly scary without all the ‘sparkling’ and cheesiness. I found Stake-out quite a refreshing story and I liked that it had other supernatural creatures; the vampire/creature hunting is a very interesting angle as well. The story was both easy and entertaining to read, although I do have to admit the amount of question marks used can get a bit annoying. The plot and characters make up for it though, and I loved the flashbacks/past life subplot. If you like a good paranormal fantasy story that isn’t fluffy or overly romantic, Stake-out is without doubt a great choice. I will be reading and reviewing both sequels soon!

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When Detective Danny Mancini finds out the murder suspect he is following is actually a 200 year old rogue vampire, nobody actually believes him. The department put him on early retirement despite his many years of service, and things are getting worse from there. Then, two years later, the beautiful Detective Angelica Cross shows up at his doorstep and offers him to join a secret branch of the FBI. She wants him to track down Vincent, the vampire that ended is career two years ago. But Danny’s new life will need some time getting used to…

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Stake-out isn’t just another vampire story. Sure, vampires play a big role, but the plot is more about hunting supernatural creatures and following the main character Danny as he slowly comes to terms with his new world working for the secret branch of the FBI. I especially enjoyed the flashbacks and past life elements and I will be looking forward to find out how the story continues.


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BOOK REVIEW: Unhooked – by Lisa Maxwell

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Title: Unhooked
Author: Lisa Maxwell

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: January 22nd 2017
Pages: 352
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“Hers might never be calm or easy paintings, but those canvases are the way she keeps herself centered. She needs to create, or she will lose herself bit by bit to her fears and delusions.”

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I had this book by Lisa Maxwell on my radar for a long time, so I was really excited when I saw it was offered as one of the free reads at RivetedLit. I read a sample of Unhooked some time last year and remember being thoroughly impressed by the beginning of this Peter Pan retelling. I was more than excited to be finally continuing this story, but as things advanced and the revamped Neverland worldbuilding was revealed things fell a little flat for me. The beginning was without doubt the strongest part of this book even though it has a minimum amount of ‘magical’ elements. The rest just didn’t live up to expecations… It might be the hint at a love triangle, it might be the whiney main character, but I didn’t enjoy Unhooked as much as I thought I would. The writing style was very enjoyable to read in general; the pace was fast in the beginning, but slowed down considerably later on despite the action scenes. In fact, it took me a lot longer than expected to read it and I barely finished it on the last day the book was available. Such a shame, because it sounded so promising!

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Gwendolyn Allister has been on the run her whole life, all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. This time her fear has brought them to London, far away from the life she had trying to build for the last two years, but luckily she will still have her best friend Olivia with her for the summer… Their vacation won’t be what they were expecting though; both Gwen and Olivia end up being kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world that cannot be real. Has Gwen’s mother been right all this time after all? Gwen finds himself in Neverland, but it’s nothing like the original stories. Will she find a way to rescue Olivia and go back to her own world before it’s too late?

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I have to admit, both the cover, blurb and preview had me literally ‘hooked’. I was really looking forward to continue reading Unhooked, but unfortunately the story started to fall flat for me as I continued reading and discovering more about the revamped Neverland. It’s not that I don’t like the mixed up ‘good’ and ‘bad’, but both the romance and some of the main characters were really starting to get on my nerves. The ending wasn’t really satisfying either… What was a very promising and enjoyable start with a spark, soon started to sizzle out and didn’t manage to convince me in the end.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Sun Is Also A Star – by Nicola Yoon

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Title: The Sun Is Also A Star
Author: Nicola Yoon

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: November 1st 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: January 11th 2017
Pages: 348
Rating 4,5qqq

“There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.”

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I confess I have been in love with the cover ever since I first saw it… But that wasn’t the only reason for me to add The Sun Is Also A Star to my wishlist, I also really enjoyed Nicola Yoon‘s other novel Everything, Everything last year. Like so many others, I was really excited to read this new story, but after I saw a lot of mixed reviews about this book I was actually kind of afraid to pick it up myself. Luckily The Sun Is Also A Star has proved to be one of the exceptions and I actually more than enjoyed reading it. Apart from the excellent prose that is a real pleasure to read, what really stood out for me were the main characters. I could really appreciate the fact that they are not the typical stereotype ‘white-American’ teenagers and I thought they added a whole different level to the story. As an immigrant living in Argentina I could really relate to some of the problems and challenges they have to face by living in a country that is either not their own or other people think is not their own. Sure, their romantic story is a bit sappy and literally what insta-love is all about, but I forgave the characters for it. Also, just the ending alone deserved an extra 1/2 star to be added to the rating. If you haven’t tried The Sun Is Also A Star yet, I can definitely suggest you do. Not everybody seems to love it, but it is without doubt worth the try. And no matter what happens, you always have that gorgeous cover to stare at, right? 😉

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Natasha is a girl who was born in Jamaica, but has lived in the US for quite some years already. She is also a girl who believes in science and facts, and not in fate, destiny or dreams. Especially since her future is about to be shattered as her family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica… But then she meets Daniel by chance. Daniel has always been a good son and student trying to live up to the high expectations of his parents. They want him to be a doctor, but he secretly dreams to be a poet… And he has completely different ideas about dreams, fate and love than Natasha. Especially after he meets her. What will happen to the two after their unlikely meeting?

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If you really think about the basic plot, The Sun Is Also A Star is rather tacky and cliche. But it sure doesn’t feel that way while you are reading it. I’m normally allergic to stories with tropes as insta-love, but in this case it was really easy to forgive the main characters. Both the writing style and the character development are excellent and made me thoroughly enjoy this story. The ending really made my day as well… All in all such a great read!


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