Waiting on Wednesday #28

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This weekly feature is hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. It’s a way to showcase upcoming titles that we’re excited about.

My Pick
TA2
Book Link: Goodreads

Synopsis
Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects.

Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom.

Until one night the reason becomes clear: the king’s man arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Vivani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart?

When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father…and tear apart the very fabric of society.

My Thoughts
Normally I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, but I loved Blankman’s first two books (Prisoner of Night and Fog & Conspiracy of Blood & Smoke) so I cannot wait for more of her words. Her duology blew me away so I feel confident in saying that I’ll enjoy this book even if it’s a genre I don’t normally read.

What books are you excited for?

Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (Prisoner of Night and Fog #2) by Anne Blankman

Book Title: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke
Author: Anne Blankman
Published Date: April 21st, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA Historical
Series: Book Two in Prisoner of Night and Fog series
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?


Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Balzer + Bray via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Review:
I was worried that this book wouldn’t deliver as amazingly as the first one did. I had loved the first book so much and I think I had Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke up on a pedestal. While Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke wasn’t as amazing as its predecessor, I still enjoyed it a lot. Blankman has this ability to weave a tale with gorgeous writing and filled with characters that people will love.

Gretchen and Daniel have been able to live a different life for the past seventeen months. Gretchen has been living with the Whitestone family, and she’s found love, acceptance and kindness with them. They know her story, they know Daniel’s story and they support their relationship.

Everything changes when Daniel is accused of murder. Suddenly Gretchen and Daniel’s quiet life is turned upside down. Now they must find out who actually killed Fraulein Junger and why they framed Daniel for it. Gretchen suspects Hitler and his cronies, but finding out the truth will test her and Daniel’s relationship in ways that neither of them ever expected.

The first half of the book was a bit difficult for me to get into, despite the storytelling and the lush descriptions being so fabulous. I was happy to be back in this fascinating world, but for some reason it took me awhile to fall back in love with this story. By the time the second half of the book began, I was falling back in love with it. The second half seemed much stronger than the first half, and I think it’s because more stuff was going on.

I still absolutely adore Gretchen and Daniel. They were my favorite bookish couple in 2014 and as of right now they are in contention for my favorite bookish couple of 2015 as well. Their strength as a couple improved as did their individual stories. We actually got more of Daniel’s story in this book, which really excited me. In Prisoner of Night and Fog, we didn’t get as much of Daniel’s story as much as I wanted.

I did enjoy this book a lot, but I didn’t love it as much as I loved the first book. I do recommend this boo to anyone who is fascinated by the Hitler era like I am. I am giving this book 4 stars, and I will read anything Blankman writes. She’s got a flair for vivid storytelling and complicated and interesting characters.

Review: Dead to Me by Mary McCoy

Book Title: Dead to Me
Author: Mary McCoy
Published Date: March 3rd, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Genre: YA Historical
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
LA Confidential for the YA audience. This alluring noir YA mystery with a Golden Age Hollywood backdrop will keep you guessing until the last page.

“Don’t believe anything they say.”

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her–and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn’t a kid anymore, and this time she won’t let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets–and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie’s attacker behind bars–if Alice can find her first. And she isn’t the only one looking

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.
Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Disney-Hyperion via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
Review:
This book intrigued me right from the start. From the moment I saw it on Netgalley, I wanted to read this book. It was kinda out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to give it a shot. It was a quick read, but unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of it.
I need to talk about the pacing first because that was my biggest issue with this book. It started off really well. I really liked it and Alice was interesting to me. I wanted to see how things played out with her and her sister. Sister stories are usually some of my favorite things. Especially if they are done well, which I initially felt this one was.
Unfortunately around 25% the pacing slowed down considerably and I started getting really frustrated with what Alice was doing. I started to question everything she was doing because she wasn’t being smart about things. Especially when she started to uncover things about what her sister had been into while she was gone. She was making stupid decisions, and I gotta say that if it was MY sister in the hospital, nothing would have pulled me away from her. 
The pacing sped up a bit around the halfway point of the book, and for the rest of the book, the pace was very jerky. There were fast paced moments here and there, but those were vastly outnumbered by slow paced, boring parts of the book.
There were too many characters to keep track of and I don’t feel like they were fleshed out well at all. I struggled to care about any of them, including Annie. If there had been less characters, I feel like they could have been fleshed out so much better.
So all in all, this book wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t amazing either. I was left feeling kind of meh about it. That really bummed me out as I had high hopes for this book. I’ll be giving this book 3 stars. I am unsure as to whether or not I would recommend it because I seem to be in the minority with this book. So many other people loved it, but not me.

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Book Title: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Published Date: February 12th, 2013
Publisher: Philomel Books
Genre: YA Historical
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. 

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

Disclaimer: Library book.

Review:
Normally I shy away from these books because historical books are not really my thing. However my blogging friend, Bekka pretty much forced this book on me. I trust her opinion, so I decided to give this book a try. This book really surprised me in a lot of ways. I ended up really liking it more than I expected to.

I loved Josie as a main character. She knew what she wanted as well as what she didn’t want. She didn’t allow herself to fall into the same habits her mother had adopted. Unlike her mother, Josie had dreams that had nothing to do with breaking the law. She wanted to go to college, to make something of herself. She was under a lot of pressure from her mother to put out in order to make a boatload of money.

Josie had many people who were extremely supportive of her desire to not become anything like her mother. From Willie Woodley, the madam on Conti Street, to Charlie and his son Patrick. Even the other girls in the house ran by Willie. Sweety, Evangeline, Sadie. Cokie was also an integral part of the story. 

There was a bit of a love triangle between Josie, Patrick and another boy, called Jesse Thierry. The triangle was resolved exactly the way I was hoping it would be. I was even happier to see an opposite sex friendship in this book. Opposite sex friendships are seen so infrequently in YA, so whenever I do see one, I get excited and happy. It’s even more rare to see one in a historical YA book.

I was not expecting the feels with this book, but I was given them with two separate character subplots. I loved Charlie so much, and at times, he stole the book for me. I wish he had gotten a bit more book time, but I loved what I did see in him. I loved his devotion & love towards his son, Patrick. It was really awesome to see.

I have a weird fascination with brothels & prostitutes during this time in history, I honestly don’t know where it came from. I am so glad I decided to read this book. I will be giving this book 4 stars and I will read other things that Sepetys’ writes. 

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Book Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves
Author: Robin Talley
Publish Date: September 30th, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: YA Historical
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: AmazonThe Book Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Harlequin Teen via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Review:
“I don’t think right and wrong is always that simple.”

This book made me feel all the things. Anger, sadness, happiness, hope, despair and so many other emotions, it’s hard to keep it all straight. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to Sarah Dunbar, her sister Ruth and 8 other “colored” students who are attempting to be the first colored students to integrate into Jefferson High. 

I had studied this time period in college history classes so I was worried it wouldn’t feel authentic. But it did. Everything that Sarah, Ruth, Yvonne, Chuck, Paulie & Ennis went through was heartbreaking and before I had even gotten a quarter of the way through it, I had sobbed out loud, multiple times, scaring my cat.

Not only is Sarah dealing with integrating at a new, all-white school, she’s also dealing with sinful thoughts about girls.

“I used to think the wrong things all the time. Before I knew they were wrong.” -Sarah-

At this time in history, being LGBT was considered “wrong” and “sinful” and “not normal” Sarah struggled with knowing that the way she felt about girls was considered wrong by society & by God. She’s so focused on pleasing her parents and being a good girl and not disappointing them, that she doesn’t take the time for herself to think about what she wants and what she believes.

“I don’t talk back and I don’t ask questions. That’s what good daughters do. Being good means being invisible.” -Sarah-

I know I would have failed big time in this time in history. I get that it was a totally different time in our history, but wow, things have definitely changed at least in some ways.

“It isn’t right for girls to talk about being smart around boys.” -Sarah-

This line absolutely infuriated me. Again, I know that this was a very different time in our history where girls were expected to shut up, not question their father or their husband and pop out babies. I was absolutely livid at reading this. Especially knowing that Sarah was smart. She was very smart, yet she couldn’t talk about that around boys.

“Everyone is counting on me. I can’t be a failure.” -Sarah-

That seems like a lot of pressure on a teenager and I was, once again, infuriated on Sarah’s behalf. She was so concerned about not failing anyone and I was honestly worried for her. What would happen if she did fail? Would she be able to deal with the disappointment and move on?

Linda had it all. She was popular, worry free and seemingly happy. Her father was well known in the community and he was also very well respected. But Linda’s hiding a secret, well a couple of secrets. Both of which she knows she cannot leak out or it would damage her family’s reputation.

Since she was a small child, she’s obediently listened to her father and willingly parroted all his beliefs to her friends. She agrees with everything her father says about the dangers of Negroes and how the end of segregation is going to ruin America. But everything changes when she meets Sarah.

“It didn’t seem right that she had to be so scared just because she was a Negro. She couldn’t help the color of her skin.” -Linda-

Linda waffled on her beliefs a lot and while I was continuously frustrated by her, I understood her, at least a little bit. All her life her father had said bad things about Negroes and she was so desperate to get his approval that she agreed with him without doing any of her own thinking on the subject. Meeting Sarah was exactly what Linda needed in order to realize that maybe these people were okay. Maybe they weren’t lazy, uneducated slobs like her Daddy always said they were.

Linda was also dating a much older boy in the hopes that they would get married after graduation and she could move out of her father’s home and start popping out babies with Jack. She honestly didn’t think there were any other choices. At that time, marriage and babies were really the only choice for most women.

“Jack is all I need.” -Linda-

That quote frustrated me, but again I know why she felt like that. She wanted to get away from her awful father and she truly believed that Jack was all she needed because she wanted to marry him and leave home. She was convinced that a life with Jack was all she wanted and needed.

It’s Sarah who tries to get Linda to figure out on her own what she believes and to stop taking everything her father says as gospel. Sarah is not afraid to call Linda out on it either. That I loved.These two had so many passionate discussions on what was right and what was wrong. That was the basis of many of their conversations early on which I thought was awesome.

I wish there had been more in the way of romance. I was definitely excited to see the romance unfold and I was disappointed that we really didn’t get a lot of it. Also, at about 65% of the way through, it had slowed down and it was a bit boring for awhile. Thankfully it picked back up. I did enjoy this book a lot, more than I expected to actually and I’m really glad I took a chance on this book. I’m giving it 4 stars.

Top Ten Books On My Spring 2014 TBR List

This feature is hosted by the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish.
I was excited about this list as I have a lot of books that I want to read on my TBR this spring.But I had to narrow it down to the ten most important books. Since I have a ginormous TBR pile, I am going to do 5 personal books & 5 review books.
Review Books
Great by Sara Benincasa
-This book comes out next month so I definitely need to have it read soon.
Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington
-This book came out last week so I really need to read it-
Insanity by Susan Vaught
-This one came out last month but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet-
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
-This one comes out next month and I am so excited to read it. i’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it-
The Taking (The Taking #1) by Kimberly Derting
-My blogger friend Andi has been pushing this one on me for the past month-
Personal Books
Siege & Storm (Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo
-I have had this book since September but have not read it yet-
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
-This one is a recent purchase. It looks like something I’ll enjoy and I am excited to get to read it-
A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
-Bloggers Giselle and Gillian sold me on this book despite it not being a genre that I read-
In The After (In The After #1) by Demitria Lunetta
-I have the sequel to this one in e-ARC format. Plus this one looks really good-
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
-I love contemporaries that make me feel and apparently this one will bring the feels-
So what books are on your Spring TBR?