Sweet Black Waves (Sweet Black Waves: Book 1) by Kristina Perez

Sweet Black Waves

4.5 Stars (rounded up to 5 stars for those sites that use star ratings)

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Group, Imprint

Date of publication: June 5th, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Sweet Black Waves

Sweet Black Waves – Book 1

Where you can find Sweet Black Waves: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them. 

As a best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved. 

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

My review:

I can’t even begin to explain what I felt about this book. My emotions were all over the place. I can only remember one book that affected me that way and it ended up being my all-time favorite book. Sweet Black Waves is a close second to that book.

I requested and got this book because it was inspired by the tale of Tristan and Eseult. But, as I got to reading it, I realized that the author used a lot of Celtic influence in the book. I was thrilled. I am a huge Celtic mythology buff and to see those influences used in the book made me like it even more.

Branwen was the star of Sweet Black Water. She had suffered so much loss in her life. I was surprised when she decided to rescue the man in the water. I was even more surprised when it was a man from the kingdom that hers were warring with. She hated them with a passion. What also caught me by surprise was when she started to fall in love with Tristan. While I saw it coming, I wasn’t expecting it.

I liked Tristan. I still feel that he is Branwen’s true love. I do think that he should have been more truthful with her at the beginning when he was in the cave. But in hindsight, would that have changed anything? I don’t think so. I do think that he pushed Branwen too hard to acknowledge their relationship. I do like that he saw the person underneath every shield that she put up. Even when she started coming into her power, he loved her unconditionally.

I didn’t like Eseult. She rubbed me the wrong way right from the get-go. She came across as spoiled and impulsive. She was willing to ruin a peace treaty between the two countries to be with the man that she “loved“. She did everything in her power to make the journey to Kernyvak as uncomfortable as possible. I wanted to slap her into next Tuesday the whole book but the end, I wanted to pummel her. She didn’t deserve Branwen at that point.

I thought that the romance between Branwen and Tristan was sweet. From the get-go, their feelings for each other couldn’t be hidden. Even the Queen noticed when Tristan formally introduced himself to Branwen. I do wish that it wasn’t a secret romance. But, it would have been dangerous for both Branwen and Tristan to be with each other. They would have been killed. Of course, what happened on the ship puts a huge damper on their romance.

While I understood why the Queen and Branwen did what they did, I didn’t understand why Branwen had to wear it around her neck. That was asking for trouble. I would have thought that she would have packed it with her belongings. Makes sense. But it also makes sense for her to wear it around her neck.

The end of the book killed me. While I figured what was going to happen, I wasn’t expecting it to hurt me as much as it hurt the characters. I actually cried from the point Branwen stumbled upon it to the end of the book. My shock took a while to get over too.  I loved the choice words she had for those involved. But I also loved the promise that Tristan made to her. Makes me feel that there is hope.

What I liked about Sweet Black Waves:

A) The Celtic influence throughout the book

B) The phenomenal world building

C) The 3D characters

What I disliked about Sweet Black Waves:

A) Eseult. Couldn’t stand her.

B) The end of the book. It killed me to read

C) What Branwen wore around her neck. It was trouble.

I would give Sweet Black Waves an Older Teen rating. There are sexual situations and violence. But no language. I would recommend no one under the age of 16 read this book.

There are trigger warnings. They would be attempted rape, attempted suicide and assault. If you are triggered by any of those, please do not read the book.

I would recommend Sweet Black Waves to friends and family. I would include a warning about the trigger warnings. This is a book that I will reread.

I would like to thank Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Imprint, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review Sweet Black Waves.

All opinions stated in this review of Sweet Black Waves are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The Way You Make Me Feel

4 Stars

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)

Date of publication: May 8th, 2018

Genre: YA, romance

Trigger Warning: Underage drinking

Where you can find The Way You Make Me Feel: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? 

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

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In Her Skin by Kim Savage

In Her Skin

4 Stars

Publisher: Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux (BYR)

Date of publication: April 17th, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense

Where you can find In Her Skin: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old con artist Jo Chastain is about to take on the biggest heist of her life: impersonating a missing girl. Life on the streets of Boston these past few years hasn’t been easy, and Jo is hoping to cash in on a little safety, a little security. She finds her opportunity in the Lovecrafts, a wealthy family with ties to the unsolved disappearance of Vivienne Weir, who vanished when she was nine. 

When Jo takes on Vivi’s identity and stages the girl’s miraculous return, the Lovecrafts welcome her back with open arms. They give her everything she could want: love, money, and proximity to their intoxicating and unpredictable daughter, Temple. But nothing is as it seems in the Lovecraft household—and some secrets refuse to stay buried. As hidden crimes come to the surface, and lines of deception begin to blur, Jo must choose to either hold onto an illusion of safety or escape the danger around her before it’s too late.

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The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz

The Midnight Dance

2 Stars

Publisher: MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group, Swoon Reads

Date of publication: October 17th, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk

Number of pages: 320

POV: Alternating between 1st and 3rd person

Where you can find The Midnight Dance: Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

When the music stops, the dance begins.

Seventeen-year-old Penny is a lead dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and eleven other young women are training to become the finest ballerinas in Italy. Tucked deep into the woods, the school is overseen by the mysterious and handsome young Master who keeps the girls ensconced in the estate – and in the only life Penny has never known.

But when flashes of memories, memories of a life very different from the one she thinks she’s been leading, start to appear, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With a kind and attractive kitchen boy, Cricket, at her side, Penny vows to escape the confines of her school and the strict rules that dictate every step she takes. But at every turn, the Master finds a way to stop her, and Penny must find a way to escape the school and uncover the secrets of her past before it’s too late.

Trigger Warning: None

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Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

Berserker (Berserker #1)

4 Stars

Publisher: Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group, Feiwel & Friends

Date of publication: October 10th, 2017

Genre: YA, historical fiction

Number of pages: 352

POV: 3rd person

Where you can find Berserker: Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

Are Hanne’s powers a gift from the old Norse gods, or a curse?

Her brother Stieg swears their powers are a gift from the old gods, but Hanne Hemstad knows she is truly cursed. It’s not Stieg’s fault that their father is dead, their mother has left, and their brother Knut has been accused of a crime he didn’t commit.

No, the fault lies with Hanne and her inability to control her murderous “gift”–she is a Berserker. When someone she loves is threatened, she flies into a killing state. The siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice.

Aided by a young cowboy who agrees to be their guide, Hanne and her siblings use their powers to survive the perilous trail, where blizzards, wild animals, and vicious bounty hunters await.

Will they be able to reach their uncle, the one man Hanne believes may be able to teach her how to control her drive to kill? With Berserker, Emmy Laybourne, the author of Monument 14, presents her vision of an American west studded with Viking glory.

Trigger Warning: None

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Perfect (Flawed: Book 2) by Cecelia Ahern

Perfect (Flawed, #2)

Title: Perfect

Author: Cecelia Ahern

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Date of publication: April 4th, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Number of pages: 352

POV: 1st person

Series: Flawed

Flawed – Book 1

Perfect – Book 2

Where you can find this book: Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured–all her freedoms gone.

Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick–the only person she can trust.

But Celestine has a secret–one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or to risk her life to save all Flawed people.

And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed?

My review:

This is another one of those books that I loved but I really wished that I read book 1 first because book 2 blew me out of the water. I devoured Perfect. I think I read it in a couple of hours after my kids went to bed for the night and when I was done with it, I closed the book and just stared out into space….trying to digest everything that I just read. Yes, it was truly that good.

Celestine was a reluctant hero of the Flawed. When I say reluctantly because she really didn’t want to be a poster child for anything. All she wanted to do, at first, was to just find a place that she could go off grid and hide from Craven and his Whistleblowers. But that just doesn’t happen. Any place that she finds sanctuary in, they always show up. I kept thinking that maybe she had a tracking device or something on her at one point because of how they would always show up. But it was revealed, in most of the cases, that fellow Flawed were calling the Whistleblowers and altering them to where she was. Which was kind of crappy, in my eyes.

I couldn’t stand Craven. He was gunning for Celestine because he thought that she had incriminating video evidence that shows him illegally branding Celestine on the spine without numbing the area first. Then he tries to cover up his crime (because it was a crime) by kidnapping everyone that was there or saw her brand. Like that was going to help everything. And when he does finally get Celestine, what does he do….arranges for her to have a skin graft to cover her brand. Any scene with him in it made me feel seriously greasy and I wanted to shower.

I wasn’t too sure about Carrick at first. Everything he did for and with Celestine ended up serving himself or the political party that he has become attached to. I even began to question if he was really attracted to her or if it was a ruse to get her to join him and help the political party. But, like everything else in this book, not everything is what it seems.

Again, I do wish that I had read book 1. I had a small issue with the significance to where the people were branded. It wasn’t clearly explained in Perfect and that drove me nuts. But it didn’t take away from the story. Just personally drove me nuts.

The end of the book was pretty intense, action wise and I did like that all the storylines were brought together and ended.

How many stars will I give Perfect: 4

Why: Like I said above, I devoured this book in 2 hours. The plotline was great, characters were memorable and I loved the twist at the end of the book.

Will I reread: Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends: Yes

Age range: Older Teen

Why: Some sexual situations, mild violence, and some language

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

Beautiful Broken Girls

Title: Beautiful Broken Girls

Author: Kim Savage

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Date of publication: February 21st, 2017

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

POV: 3rd person

Number of pages: 333

Series: No

Where this book can be found: Amazon

Book synopsis (via Goodreads):

Mira and Francesca Cillo—beautiful, overprotective, odd—seemed untouchable. But Ben touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira sends Ben on a quest to find notes in the seven places where they touched. Note by note, Ben discovers the mystical secret at the heart of Mira and Francesca’s world, and that some things are better left untouched.

My review:

Beautiful Broken Girls is a gripping novel about one boy’s quest to find out exactly why his ex-girlfriend killed herself. Told in 3rd person and between Ben and Mira, Beautiful Broken Girls takes the reader on a heart wrenching and mystical journey as Ben uncovers clues about why Mira and Francesca committed suicide.

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I went into reading this book not knowing how deep or how mystical this book was going to be. I certainly wasn’t ready to read, from Mira’s perspective, the events that lead up to her and Francesca’s suicide. I also wasn’t ready to read about what happened to Ben when he was 9. Talk about being blindsided by that (want to know what, read the book). I also wasn’t ready for the reason behind Connie’s death. That was definitely something that took me by surprise.

Honestly, I felt awful for Ben. What a shock it must have been to get a letter from Mira after she died and then to go on that quest to the 7 places where they touched (palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart) would have done a number on me too. And the way those notes were written!!! If the author hadn’t of included Mira’s side of the story, I would have jumped to the same conclusion as Ben did.

I did feel bad for Mira. She did seem like all she wanted to be was a normal girl but she had Francesca to take care of. Francesca who spoke in tongues, who had fits and who developed an unhealthy crush on their church’s youth advisor. Mira was the one who took care of her and I could see it draining her. Which kinda explains why she committed suicide. The real reason was heartbreaking once it was revealed (again, read the book if you want to find out). I will say that I did think it was kinda mean to send Ben on that quest to find the notes. But at the same time, she wanted someone to know the truth. I think she chose Ben because a) she was in love with him (or in love with him as she allowed her to be) and b) she knew that he would go the distance to get the notes.

The end of the book was very surreal and left me with more questions than answers. I wish that there was an epilogue or something to show what happened to Ben after he got the notes and did what he did. But at the same time, I am glad that there isn’t one and I get to use my imagination about what happened to him.

How many stars will I give Beautiful Broken Girls: 4

Why: This book was heart-wrenching to read. It outlines the events leading up to a double suicide while also telling about Ben’s quest to find Mira’s notes and to find out the reason the girls committed suicide. This is definitely a book to read with a tissue and an open mind.

Will I reread: Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends: Yes

Age range: Older teen

Why: Mild Violence, language, and the suicide theme

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Nemesis by Anna Banks

Nemesis by [Banks, Anna]

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Feiwel & Friends

Date of publication: October 4th, 2016

Series: Nemesis

Nemesis – Book 1

Ally – Book 2 (expected publication date is sometime in 2017)

Where you can find this book: Amazon|Barnes and Nobles

Goodreads synopsis:

The princess didn’t expect to fall in love–with her nemesis.

Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora’s gift could save Tarik’s kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs?

A thrilling futuristic fantasy in which the fate of the world’s energy source is in the hands of a prince and princess who are rivals, by the New York Times-bestselling author of the Syrena Legacy.

My review:

This book has been in my TBR pile since I heard that it was going to be published. When I got an ARC from NetGalley, I was pumped. I couldn’t wait to sit down and read it. When I did, I was utterly absorbed in the story.

I loved Sepora. She was ballsy. Who would fake their death, trudge across a desert, take on slave traders, save a half-fish/half girl cannibal and then escape from the royal harem? She would. She also had to hide the fact that she is a Forger of spectorium, a rare metal that all the kingdoms need. Not an easy task since she produces it like sweat, but she has her ways.

I liked Tarik and felt bad for him. He had just lost his father to and incurable illness called the Quiet Plague that is running rampant through his people. At the age of 18, he is responsible for running the kingdom of Theoria. Which is a considerable task but he has a hidden ace up his sleeve. He is a Lingot. A Lingot is someone who can tell if someone is lying just by listening to them. An advantageous trait to have for a Pharaoh.

I was thrilled that the Theorians were modeled after the Egyptians. I have a strange fascination with Egyptian mythology and love when it is used in a book. I am still trying to figure out what Sepora’s people, the Serbulians, are modeled after. I want to say Vikings, but I am not too sure.

Sepora and Tarik’s romance was a slow burn. There was an attraction, but neither one of them did anything until the end of the book. It worked for me because they were able to work on other aspects of their relationship.

Sethos is my favorite secondary character, followed by Rashidi and Cy the Master Healer. Sethos was the epitome of a 15-year-old, and I loved it. From wanting into the pharaoh’s harem to just being the annoying younger brother, it was awesome. I liked Rashidi because he was older and gave Tarik some sound advice and Cy the Master Healer because he was a 13-year-old prodigy. He was willing to everything and anything to stop the Quiet Plague.

The ending of the book, I didn’t like. While I understand what happened had to happen, doesn’t mean that I like it. Nothing was resolved, and that meant everything in Book 1 would be carried over into Book 2.

I want to add that I LOVE the cover of the book!!!

How many stars will I give Nemesis? 4

Why? I loved the plot and the characters. The only thing I really didn’t like was the ending (see above)

Will I reread? Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends? Yes

Age Range: Teen

Why: Very clean. No sex (just one kissing scene), no violence, no offensive language. Just some pretty descriptive scenes of the Quiet Plague

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

Last Seen Leaving by [Roehrig, Caleb]

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Feiwel & Friends

Expected date of publication: October 4th, 2016

Where the book can be found: Amazon 

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

Book synopsis:

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. All eyes are on Flynn—he must know something. After all, he was—is—her boyfriend. They were together the night before she disappeared.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. As he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

My review:

All I have to say about this book is (and I am stealing this from the great George Takei)… “Oh My“. I read this book within 1 day. From the first chapter, where I met Flynn and January, it gets its hooks into me and didn’t let go. I mean, I stayed up late to finish this book and I never do that.

I was irritated with Flynn during the first half of the book. He wasn’t exactly forthcoming with the police about January’s state of mind the last time he saw her. He acted like your typical teenager….gasp. But he started to grow on me by the 3rd chapter. By the middle of the book, I was gasping in surprise over what was being revealed about him and January.

While we are on the subject of January, I felt bad for her and then irritated with her. She lived in a dysfunctional household. Her mother, who used to be her best friend, is no longer emotionally available. Her stepfather is concerned with how her disappearance will look on his campaign run. And her stepbrother was a spoiled creep who gave me the creeps in his scenes. No wonder she lied about everything to everyone including Flynn. She made him out to be a bad guy to everyone. I felt bad for him.

I thought I had this book figured out and then there was a huge twist that came up and stirred everything up. Settled back down and bam, I was hit with another twist, just as big. I didn’t see either of these coming and they both took the breath out of me (love it when a book does that).

3 Things I liked about Last Seen Leaving:

  1. Plot
  2. Flynn
  3. The plot twists

3 Things I disliked about Last Seen Leaving:

  1. The cops
  2. January (see above)
  3. January’s family

How many stars will I give Last Seen Leaving? 4

Why? It was a gripping whodunit interwoven with a touching coming of age story. The characters were very believable and they jumped off the page and into your mind with every page read. There was almost no lag in the plot and the twists in the plot made the story.

Would I reread it? Yes

Would I recommend to family and friends? Yes

Age range? Teen on up

Why? There are some mild sexual situations, some strong language, and some mild violence. Oh and a teacher that just exudes bad vibes and a stepbrother who is super creepy.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

The Ones by Daniel Sweren-Becker

The Ones by [Sweren-Becker, Daniel]

Date of publication: September 6, 2016

Where the book can be found: Amazon.

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and Imprint

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Book synopsis:

We are not all created equal.

Seventeen-year-old Cody and her boyfriend, James, were two of the lucky ones randomly selected before birth to receive genetic engineering.

Known as the Ones, this one percent of the population is healthy, beautiful, and talented…and to some that’s not fair. Mounting fear and jealousy of the Ones’ success leads to the creation of the Equality Movement, which quickly gains enough political traction to demote Cody, James, and others like them to second-class citizens.

Cody knows even before the brick smashes through her window that it’s going to be bad. As their school, the American government, and even family and friends turn against them, Cody begins to believe they have no other choice but to protect their own. She draws closer to a group of radical Ones led by the passionate and fevered Kai, and James begins to question just how far she is willing to go for the cause…

Themes of justice, discrimination and terrorism mix with actual science to create a frightening version of our near future in Daniel Sweren-Becker’s pulse-pounding thriller.

My review:

3 things I liked about The Ones:

  1. Cody and James sweet romance. I am glad that the author spent the time to make their romance innocent and sweet. In the midst of their world going crazy, it was normal. And I loved it!!
  2. How realistic the plot was…for the most part. Take out the kids being genetically modified, insert current events and it makes it even more sinister to read.
  3. The family relationships showed in the book. The relationship James has with his family is so different than the one Cody has with her mother. It is sad. I would rather have a parent who wasn’t physically around than one who wasn’t there emotionally.

3 things I didn’t like about The Ones:

  1. James’s parents. I couldn’t stand them and I don’t know if the author wrote them to be unlikeable or not. They both rubbed me the wrong way. I know that the loss of a child does things to you. 
  2. The Equality Movement. They kinda remind me of the Nazi’s in a way. Their solution to what they think is a problem is to….well, you need to read the book. But I am serious when the group reminds me of the Nazi’s. Everything they stand for is wrong and unfortunately, they are gaining in power
  3. Kai’s group of friends. Kai and Taryn rubbed me the wrong way from the first time I met them. And the way the set about doing things. I don’t believe him for a minute about certain events that took place. Then Cody gets dragged even more into it and  it became a cluster.

How many stars will I give The Ones? 4 1/2

Why? The Ones was a very well written dystopian book. It had complex characters, a great romance and a couple of subplots that the author wrapped up about halfway through the book. I did get a little turned off by the torture chapters but I also understand that it is integral to the plot. The author also did a great job setting up for book 2.

Will I read it again? Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends? Yes

Age range: Teen on up

Why? This was a very clean book. No sex (a few kisses were the most that were described) and no graphic violence.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**