Lovely Scars by Cassandra Jamison

Lovely Scars by Cassandra Jamison
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (246 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Snooping on your boyfriend’s phone is never a good idea. Collins can’t help herself after he unexpectedly commits suicide, but what she finds makes her grateful he’s dead. Collins Carpenter has always been the textbook good girl until her freshman year of college when an unplanned pregnancy with her best friend, Everett, complicates everything. In a desperate attempt to deny her feelings for her child’s father and her jealousy toward his new girlfriend, Collins jumps into a relationship with Brock Webber. Nobody suspects that his good looks and charm masks something quite sinister until after his death, when the things he had been involved in finally come to light. Disturbing and inexplicable events leave Collins wondering if Brock’s spirit is not at rest or if somebody from his past is after her. Somebody who may be closer than she thinks.

Not every man who tries to sweep you off of your feet is going to turn out to be Prince Charming.

Wow, this was scary! I really appreciated the peaceful beginning. It lulled me into a false sense of security before Collins realized that the handsome guy she’d just met wasn’t necessarily who he portrayed himself to be. There were times when I was nearly as shocked as she was by his behaviour even though I’d read the blurb and obviously knew that some unsettling experiences were headed her way. I only grew more apprehensive as the story moved forward and I became less and less sure that my theories about what was going on with Brock were actually correct. Not knowing these things only made him feel more chilling to me.

Collins made a lot of senseless decisions in this book. There were times when I had to stop reading and shake my head because I couldn’t understand why she did so many things that she knew were dangerous or ill-advised. While the plot itself was excellent, I had a tough time connecting to this character because of how little common sense she had.

The romance was beautiful. I desperately wanted the characters involved in it to admit their feelings for each other and find a way to be together. They were perfect for each other in just about every way. One of the biggest reasons why I read this tale as quickly as I did is that I couldn’t wait to find out when or if this might happen. I honestly wasn’t sure what was going to happen with them, and that made it impossible for me to stop reading.

Lovely Scars should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a truly frightening mystery.

Beautiful Enemy by Vanessa Garden


Beautiful Enemy by Vanessa Garden
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (111 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

When June’s best friend takes his own life after years of bullying, she’s devastated—but mostly angry. Josh was the sweetest boy June had ever known, and in her mind, the popular kids at school are guilty of murder. When an anonymous online poster starts threatening Josh’s bullies on social media, and then killing them off one by one, June secretly feels a little glad. That is, until she becomes next on the killer’s list. Forced to forge an unlikely bond, June and Beau, star football player and king of the cool kids, must work out who is behind the killings before it’s too late.

 

Not every death is a peaceful or happy one.

The character development in this story was wonderful. Both of the main characters were well developed and had excellent reasons for behaving the way that they did. Given that some of the murders were pretty unusual, knowing this much about the protagonists was a very good thing because it helped me to understand why they acted in the sometimes strange ways that they did once their friends and classmates began to die.

One of the things that surprised me about the plot was how often it cut away to a new scene just as something exciting was about to happen. For example, a scene where one of the characters was suddenly attacked abruptly ended in the middle of the action. I found this confusing and was never able to figure out why the most interesting sections were cut short so often.

June was a brave girl. I especially appreciated how determined she was to figure out why people she knew kept dying even after she realized that uncovering the truth could be dangerous for her. She remained strong no matter what happened, and that made me admire her.

There was a fairly big plot hole that had to do with the aftermath of Josh’s death. While I can’t go into any more detail about it without giving away spoilers, this was my main reason for choosing a three star rating for this tale. The fact that this part of the plot was barely explored or explained at all bothered me because of how important it was to the storyline in general. I was expecting the characters to be way more curious about how it worked than they were.

I enjoyed the dialogue. All of the characters spoke in very natural ways. There were times when I genuinely felt as though I were eavesdropping on real conversations because of how nicely their words flowed together. Reading the things they said to each other was one of my favorite parts of this book because of that.

Beautiful Enemy should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a fast-paced mystery.

Girl Without a Face by Medeia Sharif


Girl Without a Face by Medeia Sharif
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (135 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Destiny awakes with amnesia. She’d been driving on a wet road, about to leave flowers at a memorial marker of a deceased classmate, when she almost met that same fate.

Her mother, Mildred, is beyond restrictive, and she doesn’t want Destiny to have her cellphone back. A nurse sneaks it into her room, but it’s useless without the passcode. After her hospital stay, her mother becomes physically abusive.

Destiny and the boy she’s developing feelings for decide to drive around to spark her memory. She’s positive she crashed near a memorial marker. When they find the place in question, and when Destiny remembers her phone’s passcode, nothing is as it seems—and Mildred is crazier than she first thought.

 

Destiny’s life is full of things that don’t make any sense. If only she knew if this was a side effect of her amnesia or if there’s another explanation for it.

The flashbacks to Destiny’s life before the accident were well done. I especially enjoyed seeing how they changed as her body continued to heal from the accident and her mind was better at going back and exploring those pieces of her past despite the fact that her memory was so spotty. The evolution of it all made me want to keep reading.

There were a few big plot holes that were never explained, especially when it came to Destiny’s time in the hospital after her accident and how certain parts of that experience played out. I would have really liked to spend more time on that part of the plot so that I could understand it better. What the plot did reveal was fascinating, but it left me with many more questions than I had answers.

Destiny was such a brave girl. Some of the best scenes in this tale were the ones that showed how she reacted in a crisis. She almost always kept a level head and thought rationally about what her choices were in that situation even if she didn’t have a lot of them to begin with. This is something I love seeing in young adult books, so I was glad to find it here.

I figured out the mystery very early on because of how many clues the narrator discovered after she woke up in the hospital. It would have been nice to either have them spread out more evenly through the storyline or to have fewer of them in general. I was disappointed by how little effort I had to put into piecing everything together.

The romantic subplot was sweet. I liked both of the characters involved in it, and I liked them even more when they were spending time together. They brought out the best in each other in so many different ways. I couldn’t wait to find out if they’d end up together in the end.

Girl Without a Face should be read by anyone who is in the mood for something intense.

The Ugly Girl Party by Ann Herrick


The Ugly Girl Party by Ann Herrick
Publisher: Chaucer Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (118 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars

Review by: Astilbe

Faith’s wish to get off to a good start at her new high school is shattered on the first day, as she quickly discovers that drop-dead gorgeous Hunter and friends decide she lives in the “wrong” house and wears the “wrong” clothes. They systematically harass her and seem determined to make her life miserable. She fantasizes about how she’ll get even some day when she is a famous singer/actress, but meanwhile just wants to make it through the day.She meets a couple of possible friends, but finds it hard to trust anyone.

When maybe-friend Julia tells her about the upcoming talent show, Faith is determined to win in order to impress her tormentors. Then nice-guy neighbor Riley invites her to the homecoming dance. She’s excited to go until she gets there and realizes that something is up–something terrible. And when she reacts, she finds herself in danger of being suspended from school. Faith questions her own goals, decisions, and values as she struggles to find her way.

It’s never easy being the new girl at school, but Faith has a few extra challenges that most of her classmates do not.

Faith was a well-developed and interesting character. I really liked the fact that her flaws were so important to how the story progressed. Instead of being something minor and forgettable, they were actually serious issues that changed the way she saw the world and pushed her to do and say things she might not have otherwise done and said. Seeing Faith’s positive and negative sides only made me like her more because of how completely I got to know her and how much I could empathize with some of the things she struggled with.

I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters in this story. Faith met so many different kids at her new school that I sometimes forgot the names of the people who were friendly and who were snotty to her. It would have been nice to focus on a smaller number of characters so that I could get to know them better.

Some of my favorites scenes involved the time that Faith spent with her talkative little sister, Erin. They had their share of disagreements like all siblings do, but they genuinely cared about each other at the end of the day. They also shared a lot more in common than either of them might have wanted to admit. Both of these things made it so much fun to see what would happen to these sisters next.

I’d recommend The Ugly Girl Party to anyone who would like to read a story about bullying and trying to fit in.

Perdition by Lindsey Ouimet


Perdition by Lindsey Ouimet
Publisher: Evernight Teen Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (214 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

After the death of her stepfather, Michaela Reilly’s family picks up and moves from the bustling city of Miami to a tiny speck of a town in the middle of nowhere Georgia. Starting over is always hard, but when you’re stuck with an emotionally wrecked mother who won’t even look at you and the responsibility of practically raising your younger brother and sister, it’s even more difficult. Life in a small, rural town is a lot different from what she’s used to. Beaches are replaced with lazy, shaded rivers. Six lane highways with dirt roads. And Levi, the cute preacher’s son, with intentions as pure as his smile, takes the place of a string of shallow, meaningless hookups back home. Some things remain the same no matter where you go, however. Like the way a cute boy can make things seem not so bad, or how when you fall in love—You. Just. Know. It’s too bad it’s not only the good things that are universal. Bad things can follow you, no matter how far away from them you run. Secrets always end up hurting people. A troubled past will come back to haunt you. Michaela has both.

It’s not easy being the new family in a small town, especially when your siblings are biracial and your mom is a single parent.

Bullying isn’t just about being teased or called names. It can negatively affect every part of a person’s life, and the consequences of it can be very serious. I liked seeing how much attention Ms. Ouimet paid to just how destructive something like this can be for someone who is being harassed day after day. She wasn’t afraid to dig deeply into her characters’ lives to show how seriously they were being harmed and what it feels like to be treated so terribly.

I feel that the romance in this story moved far too quickly. While I liked both of the characters who were involved in it, they jumped into a relationships so quickly that I didn’t have time to find out what it was they found attractive about each other. It would have been nice for them to explore some common interests or something first so that I’d understand why they suddenly wanted to spend so much time together.

Not everyone deals with grief and trauma the same way. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this tale was how much time it spent exploring how Michaela was coping with all of the painful things that had happened to her in the recent past. Some days were definitely better than others for this character, and I appreciated how honest the storyline was about that. These scenes shaped Michaela’s personality in all kinds of interesting and thought-provoking ways.

Perdition should be read by anyone who loves summer romances.

Priestess by Deidre Huesmann


Priestess by Deidre Huesmann
A Modern Greek Myth 2
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (194 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Poinsettia

Trapped on Mykonos, Azalee makes a deal with a god of death: find him Desdemona, and he’ll bring Joel, the love of her life, back to her. But her attempts are thwarted at every turn by an infuriating High Priestess, who touts great political pull and seems to have sinister plans for Azalee’s future.

Shipped back to Illyria, Joel is imprisoned beneath the Kurios’s quarters, where he’s unwittingly reunited with his dangerous elder brother, Deimos. Joel wants to rescue Azalee, but Deimos is determined to prove that Joel must break his pacifism to do it.

Though on opposite ends of Greece, Azalee and Joel’s decisions continue to twine across the threads of fate. Will fate bring them together, or are they destined to remain apart?

Can Azalee trust the gods?

The fates brought Azalee and Joel together, but now everyone seems to be conspiring to keep them apart. Determined to be reunited with Joel, Azalee makes a deal with Thanatos, a god of death. I was wary of this relationship from the start. The gods always seem to have ulterior motives and aren’t often concerned with the mortals they hurt along the way. Will Thanatos truly bring Azalee and Joel together, or will the gods continue to keep them apart? I must mention that Priestess picks up where the first book, Blistered, ended. To enjoy Azalee and Joel’s story, I recommend reading Blistered first.

When I finished Blistered, Joel and Azalee’s situation was far from ideal, but they seemed sure they would soon find their way back to each other. However, in this installment, things have quickly gone from bad to worse. Joel is imprisoned in a cell similar to the one he rescued Azalee from with one key difference. His brother Deimos is in the cell across from his. I’m not quite sure what to make of Deimos. He certainly has a colorful personality. Charming and flippant one moment, and deadly serious the next. I have a feeling that Deimos’ attitude is a front that masks deeper issues. Joel doesn’t have good memories of him, but I’m wondering if there is more to the story that Joel remembers or knows. I look forward to watching the brothers reconnect.

Niribelle has also been harshly punished for failing her mission. While I can’t say that I’ve grown to like her, I do actually feel bad for her now that I know more about her situation and family life. I will say that Niribelle provides a shocking plot twist, that I’m sure will come back to haunt her in some way.

When Azalee reaches the temple of Selene, it isn’t what she expected at all. The High Priestess takes an immediate and intense disliking toward Azalee. The priestesses are strongly discouraged from making friends with each other. I found this strange and very unsettling. However, Azalee does manage to make one friend, Emilia. Azalee and Emilia both know that something is wrong at the temple, and it has something to do with the High Priestess. Neither can figure out exactly what the problem is. One thing is certain. Azalee had a very strong connection with Selene before coming to the temple. It stands to reason her connection should be stronger at the temple, but once there, she can’t seem to hear the goddess at all. What is blocking Selene from communicating with her priestesses?

As if dealing with the vicious High Priestess wasn’t bad enough, Azalee also has to fend off the unwanted attention of Theseus, a very rich and powerful man. Theseus believes that if he and Azalee were to have a child, it would bring strength and peace to the Chertz people. Theseus is vain, selfish, and arrogant, and it would be very easy to write him off. However, the more I read, I think there is more to his character that has yet to be revealed. He treats Azalee terribly at times, but however misguided his actions are, I think he truly believes he is doing the right thing for the Chertzes.

Azalee and Joel’s situation is even more precarious at the end of this installment than it was at the end of the first. They are desperately trying to reach each other, but there are so many obstacles standing in their way. I fear they have a long hard road to travel before they will finally be able to be together. However, I’m still holding out hope that they will find their way to a happy ending. I eagerly anticipate reading the third and final book in this series!

June Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ High Summons by Eli Celata


High Summons by Eli Celata
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (180 pages)
Age Recommendation:16+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

BoM LASR YA copy

Jon Blythe is sick of waiting for his Yoda. After years of hiding his magic, he’s ready to retire from his mortal life, drop out of college, and jump into the world of demon hunters. He just didn’t really expect a bleach blond bookstore clerk with light up toys for weapons. Unfortunately, Jordan is Jon’s only hope. When rogue magic users come to Rochester with a malicious plan, the odd couple strikes out to save the day. Jordan might not be what Jon expected, but between demons and Econ homework, the demons win every time. Wild nights drag Jon further from normal into the world where his father vanished. Maybe he’s becoming an addict. Maybe magic just comes with a price. Either way, he’s hooked.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!!!

Blistered by Deidre Huesmann


Blistered by Deidre Huesmann
A Modern Greek Myth Volume 1
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (183 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Bearing the Curse Azalee wants a home—one that isn’t a cold, dirty prison deep within the earth. Even if she wanted to escape, she can’t walk in sunlight. Her skin will burn and flay, blistered by a god. Defying the Fates Joel wants to get her somewhere safe. Both are outcasts, shunned, and forbidden from taking proper Greek names. He breaks her out of an underground prison, and they flee toward Mykonos. Angering the Gods The battle-worn Kurios sends Niribelle after them. She’s gorgeous, she’s cunning, and she seems to have a thing for Joel. She arrives armed with Hecate’s magic, and blessed by Aphrodite’s beauty. Inciting the War Soon the three teenagers discover one horrifying thing: Mykonos will be no paradise. 14+ due to adult situations

Is Azalee and Joel’s connection a blessing or a curse?

Azalee’s life has never been close to resembling anything normal. As a child, she was an outcast. After she was blistered, she was thrown into an underground prison by her own parents. When Joel comes to rescue her, Azalee is understandably skeptical. After all, she’s never even known basic kindness. Azalee’s desire to be free is stronger than her doubts so she reluctantly leaves with Joel. However, it isn’t long before they are joined by Niribelle. I didn’t trust Niribelle from the first moment she appeared. Her whiny and superior attitude grated on my nerves. I couldn’t help but wonder what her true motivations were and how much damage she would do to Joel and Azalee’s quest.

Azalee is a likable character, but she can be very abrasive. She and Niribelle fought constantly while Joel made futile attempts to stay neutral and keep the peace. I must say that I’m rather surprised that Joel didn’t see through Niribelle’s attitude sooner. While it is clear he tries to see the best in people, he is also very smart. Niribelle shows her true colors on multiple occasions yet he persisted in making excuses for her. I found this hard to swallow.

Azalee and Joel’s budding friendship and romance perfectly balances the animosity between Azalee and Niribelle. Azalee is very guarded, convinced no one could truly care about her. However, Joel is so genuine, honest, kind, and patient that she gradually begins to trust him. I loved watching them get to know each other, particularly when Joel takes the time to teach Azalee how to read. The little things Joel did for her every day thawed Azalee’s heart bit by bit. I enjoyed watching their feelings grow so naturally that before they realized it, they had fallen in love. However, no one, not even the gods, is likely to look on their relationship with favor.

I do wish there had been more details provided about a couple of issues. I’d like to know more about the Chertz and Spinel. How did these two groups come to be, and why do they hate each other so much? I’d also like more explanation on why some children weren’t given Greek names. Clearly it is meant to shame them, but why? Because the child was conceived unexpectedly? This doesn’t make much sense to me.

I also have an issue with the fact that there are no good parental figures. Most of the adults are absolutely horrible and completely devoid of love and compassion. Familial bonds are nonexistent. I realize I’m not getting a picture of the entire culture, but the families I’ve met so far are beyond dysfunctional.

Despite these issues, I really enjoyed reading Blistered. The pacing is excellent, the plot is compelling, and Azalee and Joel are wonderful characters who are easy to cheer for. I must warn readers that this installment ends on a “to be continued” note. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that Azalee and Joel are relatively okay, but their situation is far from ideal. I will be picking up the second book immediately because I absolutely have to know what happens next!

The Magician’s Workshop: Volume Two by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr


The Magician’s Workshop: Volume Two by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr
Publisher: Wondertale
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (191 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Return to the world of the Magician’s Workshop: Where Dreams Become Reality.

In Volume Two, the Festival of Stars has finally arrived, and the Color Ceremony is about to commence. As children from all over the islands gather to stand before a puller, one question remains: who will have a Color, and who will be found void?

Rejoin your favorite characters as they step forward and receive a label that will have the power to dramatically alter the course of their lives forever.

After the Color Ceremony, life will never be the same.

First, it is absolutely imperative to read Volume One before reading this installment of the Magician’s Workshop series. Volume Two picks up exactly where the previous book ended, right before the life altering Color Ceremony. After reading Volume One, I desperately wanted to know how the Color Ceremony would go for Kai, Talia, Weston, Kalaya, Kaso, and Layauna. The course of their futures would be determined in a single moment. Each of these characters have grown on me, and I must admit I felt nervous as each of them stood before the puller. Who would have Color? Who would be void? I had to stop myself from rushing ahead to find the answers, and I discovered the truth is much more complicated than I ever could have imagined.

The more I learn about Color, the more convinced I am that the system is flawed. I won’t reveal any names, but some very talented characters are found void. Each time a promising character was found void, it was a breath-stealing blow. I couldn’t believe how unfair it was. However, the more I read, the more it became clear that there are big changes on the horizon for the inhabitants of O’Ceea. Some people are beginning to believe that having Color isn’t nearly as important they have been led to believe. Again, I can’t give too many details, but Layauna’s story convinced me that Color is not the only expression of power and talent. Her experience with the puller and indeed her entire storyline is by far the most disturbing and clearly illustrates that something needs to change. I fear that Layauna, Kai, and the others are pawns in a larger scheme that has yet to be fully revealed. Will the change be for the better or worse?

As I mentioned in my review of Volume One, everyone in O’Ceea has the ability to make projections, which are essentially magical illusions. They aren’t real, but in this installment, there are rumblings of people who’d like to make projections into reality. Most people think this is impossible, but I’m not so sure. I look forward to seeing how this particular plot thread develops.

The Magician’s Workshop: Volume Two is an absolutely delightful addition to the series. The more I read, the more intrigued I become. I am thrilled I had the opportunity to read this installment, and I’m eagerly anticipating the release of Volume Three.

If You Were Me and Lived in Germany by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in Germany by Carole P. Roman
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Children’s Reader
Length: Short (30 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Stephanotis

Join Carole P. Roman when she visits the beautiful land of Germany in the newest book of her informative series. Learn about the varied customs and cultures. Travel to the central Europe to discover what you would eat and do for fun. See the land through the eyes of a youngster like you and understand what life is like in this exciting place. Don’t forget to look at the other books in the series so that you can be an armchair world traveler.

I always enjoy the If You Were Me books by Carole Roman and this is the first one about a country I’ve actually visited.

All the books in this series are very entertaining (yes, even for adults). I learn something new from each one I read, so I think they’re an ideal resource for teaching children about different cultures and countries.

This one focused on where Germany is located, its capital, what your name would be, and then described what you would eat, places to see, and even Oktoberfest. A couple of interesting facts I learned after reading this book were that the oldest sun observatory was built 7,000 years ago in Germany. And that Germany is, in fact, home to the oldest savings bank.

Once again another fun read and I recommend them to you especially if you have a child working on a school project or even if you homeschool your children.