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.

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 The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Book Title: The Start of Me and You
Author: Emery Lord
Publish Date: March 31st, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Kids
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love, & second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

Sweet mother of God, Emery Lord is a WIZARD! 

I fell in love with her debut, Open Road Summer last year and never in a million years thought that she could do better. It was a beautiful debut that had everything I could want in it: friendships, cute boys and music. When I got book number 2 in the mail I had just started hearing whispers that The Start of Me and You was actually better than Open Road Summer. It wasn’t until I finished reading it that I had to concede that those whispers were correct.

The Start of Me and You is about friendship, family and of course, love. In this book we meet Paige, whose boyfriend died a year ago and who she’s still grieving for. She is still greeted with “That Look” very often and then sometimes complete strangers send her pitying looks. She wants this year to be the best year ever. She even has a plan.

1. Parties/Social events
2. New group
3. Date
4. Travel
5. Swim

She has wonderful friends who have been there for her in this past year. Gosh, I just love the way Lord writes about friendships. Tessa, Morgan, and Kayleigh each have their own distinctive personalities and problems but they are very loyal friends.

And Paige is going to need them as she navigates the waters with her parents. Paige’s parents have been divorced 5 years, but times are changing and they are beginning to date. So now Paige must deal with her own feelings about that. Her mom has become very strict and overprotective since Aaron drowned the year before. But what she doesn’t know is that Paige has not gone swimming since that day. She refuses to go into the water. Despite that refusal, Paige continues to have nightmares where she’s drowning and no one can get to her in time.

And then there’s Ryan Chase, the boy Paige has been crushing on for as long as she can remember. She is hopeful that this year will be different. He’s recently single and Paige is ready to make a move on him. But Paige didn’t expect Ryan’s cousin Max to look so different than he looked the last time she saw him.

She didn’t expect to fall for geeky, nerdy Max who stockpiled Do Si Do Girl Scout cookies and whose favorite TV show was the one season wonder, Firefly. It turns out that the guy she thought she wanted made a much better friend, than boyfriend. And the guy she never thought she’d fall for was the guy she needed in her corner. He was the guy willing to call her out on her skepticism and her realism.

“I mean, you’re always preparing yourself for the thing that’s most likely to happen, instead of hoping for the thing that you most want to happen.” –Max-

It’s been a very long time since a quote has stopped me cold to that extent. I mean, wow, Max could have been describing ME at that very moment. It wasn’t until this quote that I realized Paige and I were similar in some ways, yet Max’s backstory with his deadbeat dad was also so similar to my own backstory with my biological dad. All the way down to him wanting to meet me when I was about a year older than Max.

I cried a lot in the last 40 pages. I had spent a lot of time laughing while reading this book, but the ending broke me into tiny pieces. Lord is so good at weaving in happy, funny moments with heartbreaking poignant moments. Like I said earlier, this woman is a WIZARD. This book is definitely getting 5 stars. I absolutely loved this book and I cannot wait to get a finished copy of it. Emery Lord has secured her place on my growing list of auto-buy authors. Everyone go read this book, pre-order it, tell your library about it. 

Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Book Title: My Heart and Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Published Date: February 10th, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner. 

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

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

I have had issues with other books that were very similar to this one, so I was worried that this one would also be a disappointment to me. What I wasn’t expecting was to fall in love with Aysel and Roman so completely. Flawed characters are my jam and these two are so flawed, yet so human, it was easy to fall in love with them.

I actually liked Roman a lot, maybe even more than I liked Aysel. Roman had his own guilt to deal with. He blames himself for the death of his younger sister, even though his parents don’t blame him, and in fact they love him fiercely. I was angry with him that he wanted to commit suicide when he had two loving parents who had already been through the hell of losing their youngest. I understood his thought process, but I was still angry with him.

Now Aysel has her own demons. Her father committed an unspeakable act in their small town. Now he’s locked away and she has pushed everyone away and no one will even look at her. Not even her own mother. I felt horrible for Aysel because what she really needed was a mom who could tell something wasn’t right and who would reassure her that she was not like her father. Being like her father was Aysel’s biggest fear, and I totally understood that feeling. I just wished she had someone to talk to about it.

They become suicide partners thanks to a website, and over the next few weeks they plan how they are going to do it. Where they will do it becomes most important because Roman has a specific, non-negotiable date in mind. April 7th is to be the day they do it.

But what neither of them expects is the thing that happens. They slowly begin to fall for each other as they spend more and more time together. He lets her in emotionally a lot sooner than she lets him in emotionally, but eventually, she too allows him in. This book that starts out feeling like “just another suicide book” turns into something beautiful and full of hope. 

I wasn’t expecting to have the feels at all in the book, but then they kinda came out of nowhere and before I knew it I was sobbing into my Kindle. This book was a beautiful book with interesting characters that I cared deeply about, and that was missing from the two previous “suicide books” that I had read.

This book surprised me in the best possible way and I think everyone needs to read this book. I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did, but I’m thrilled I read it and I want everyone else to read this gorgeous book. 5 stars to this book and I cannot wait to see what’s next for this author.

Review: When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez

Book Title: When Reason Breaks
Author: Cindy L. Rodriguez
Published Date: February 10th, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

In high school I loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry so when I saw that this book had an Emily Dickinson connection, I knew I had to get it. Plus, look at that cover you guys. I mean, really pretty cover. We all know how much of a sucker I am for pretty covers. Books like this tend to be a hit or miss for me, so to say I was nervous is a bit of an understatement.

The book is a very slow moving book, and to be honest, I did get bored sometimes. I wanted some feelsy moments, but those did not arrive until the end of the book. In fact, the end of the book was beautiful & hopeful, which made me happy.

The girls are very different from each other. Emily’s family is “perfect” Her dad is a politician, which of course means no one is allowed to make a mistake or else he could lose supporters. He has someone monitoring his childrens’ activity on social media. Emily begins a secret relationship with a boy, Kevin. In doing so, she begins to neglect her friends. Abby and Sarah, and that infuriated me. I hate when friends essentially dump you because they have a boyfriend. I also felt badly for Kevin because he had to sneak around to see Emily, which I would not have been okay with, no matter what the reason.

Now, I really liked Elizabeth. She had more of a firey personality which jived with my own personality. Her father had left the family not long before, and her mother had sunk into a deep depression over this. I felt sympathy for Elizabeth, as she had to be mother and father and big sister to her younger sister, Lily. Elizabeth is still so angry at her father for walking out on her, her mother and her sister, and she’s struggling hard to handle it on her own.

This book didn’t totally win me over until the end of it. I loved the ending, it made me feel all the feels, and cry all the tears. I do think people need to read this book. I do think it’s important to stay connected to others like Ms. Davis did throughout this book. I am giving this book 4 stars and I would definitely recommend it.

Review: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Book Title: Rain Reign
Author: Ann M. Martin
Publish Date: October 7th, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: MG
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In her most powerful novel yet, Newbery Honor author Ann M. Martin tells the story of girl with mental/emotional challenges and the dog she loves.

Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Normally I stay far away from Middle Grade books, mostly because I can’t really get into then. But, even from the synopsis, I could tell that this book was special. I was hoping that my hunch was right and that I could manage my expectations about this book because it was so different from what I normally read.

It was a very short book, but it took a long time for me to really get into it. I’m not exactly sure why it took 60% of the book for me to really enjoy it. Maybe it was because I couldn’t connect with Rose for the longest time. It wasn’t until she lost her dog, that I really started to connect with her.  I’ve always been an animal lover, especially as a ten year old. So, while I didn’t understand the OCD or the Asperger’s, I did understand the panic that ten year old Rose was experiencing when Rain got lost and my heart ached for her. 

Her father was truly awful. I was so angry with him for pretty much the entire book. He clearly struggled with having a special needs daughter, but he didn’t even try to understand her. That really upset me a lot. The only adult she could really truly count on was her uncle. That was heartbreaking. She had her teacher, she had her aide, but at home, she only had Rain. Her loyal, loving dog.

This book brought the feels at the end of the book. I was full on bawling, which was not something I was expecting given that it was a middle grade book. I did end up enjoying it, so I’m giving it 4 stars. I would totally recommend this book to younger readers.

Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Book Title: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy N. Hensley
Publish Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.

At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

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

Rites of Passage was unlike anything I had ever read before, but that was one of the many things that I loved about it. Usually anything set in a military school or anything military related is not really my thing, but the fact that it was a female attempting to make it through at a previously all boys military school, got me excited.

At first, I was having a very hard time with the book. All the military stuff was boring the crap outta me and the only character I cared about was Sam. At right about 20% of the way through the book, I really started getting into it and I didn’t want to stop reading it. Sam was not the only girl there, in the beginning there are 3 other girls along with her. By the time I really started to get into it, Sam was left with Katie Quinn and Bekah Cross as her only two fellow females.

Sam was an amazing character. She was so different from the way girls are normally in books. She was focused on her goal and that was to make it at the DMA. It was more than a dare to her. She felt like she needed to make her dad proud of her. She felt like she needed to show all the guys at the DMA that she was every bit as strong as they were and that she belonged here. She wanted to prove to her older brother, Johnathan that she belonged here and that she wouldn’t be expecting special treatment. And of course Amos. Amos hung himself, but not before he dared Sam to join the DMA’s first female class.

 What I really enjoyed was that she wasn’t totally boy crazy. She had goals and she wasn’t going to allow a brief flirtation with Liam Kelly, ruin anything. Even her attraction to drill sergeant Dean Stamm won’t ruin anything for her. Or at least that’s what she says initially. Things sort of take a turn around Christmastime.

Things were anything but smooth sailing for her though. She was constantly harassed by Matthews as well as other upperclassmen, but she refused to allow that to stop her from reaching her goals. She wasn’t scared off easily which I really enjoyed. Even when the bullying started getting really bad, Sam refused to back down. Awesome!

I know a lot of people didn’t love the ending but I definitely did. I was okay with it being open ended, but of course I wouldn’t mind if the author decided to make this one into a series. It could happen with the way the ending left it. I finished the book earlier this week and I’m still thinking about it! I am giving it 5 stars and I cannot WAIT to get a finished copy of this.

Stacking the Shelves #31

This feature is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews

So this week was a quiet week bringing me only one review book. Probably a good thing as I have been having yet another reading slump. It seems to be relegated to review books as I have really enjoyed Unhinged by A.G. Howard this week. I know I need to be reading review books but none of them are really holding my interest right now. It’s frustrating and annoying as I am really type A and the idea of not following my review schedule is really upsetting me.

I received a belated birthday gift from Angie. Thank you SO much Angie. Love you! I had also won a Twitter Giveaway that Angie did. Both of those packages arrived on Monday, making it one of the best Monday’s I’ve had in awhile.

I got my Valentine’s Day present from my mom and it was a highly anticipated book. A series ender. A book that everyone has been going nuts over. So thank you Mom!

Received for Review


The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh Mafi

The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab
Blog Wrap-Up
Monday- Cover Reveal for After The Storm by Marie Landry
Tuesday- Review of Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Wednesday- No Post
Thursday- No Post
Saturday- Book Blogger Love-A-Thon Interview With Liz
                Review of Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Bloggers Mentioned
Angie @ Disquietus Reads

Don’t forget to link me to your Stacking The Shelves posts & vlogs.

Review: Brooklyn Love by Yael Levy

Book Title: Brooklyn Love
Author: Yael Levy
Published Date: September 17th, 2012
Published By: Crimson Romance
Genre: Contemporary/Romance
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonBarnes & Noble
Synopsis from Goodreads: 
For any young woman, it can be hard to follow the rules … especially when you’re falling in love.
But for Rachel, Hindy, and Leah, it’s especially hard. Because as Orthodox Jews, they live by a whole different set of rules. No touching a guy—any guy!—before marriage. No dating—unless they are considering marriage—and then, only marrying a man who rates high on their parents’ checklists.

All Rachel’s mother wants for her daughter is to see that her daughter marries well. Naturally, this is where the rich, Columbia University educated lawyer comes in. The problem is, Rachel’s already found a guy who makes her heart race. A Rabbi. But how could a struggling Rabbi possibly give Rachel the security her mother demands?

Hindy is very pious and only wants to marry a Talmud scholar. The problem is, she’s in love with an Orthodox Jewish guy she works with. How long can she keep saying no when her heart says yes? And will she be able to stick to her values amidst temptation?

Leah wants to be a doctor, but her mother insists she study computers even though she hates computers. Her mom, a struggling immigrant, has fixed ideas about the course to success and marriage—which doesn’t include any of Leah’s wishes. What will it take for Leah to break out of her mom’s—and community’s—expectations and follow her dreams?

In Brooklyn Love, three Orthodox Jewish women who are caught between crushing guilt of defying their mothers and their desire to be “normal” are there for each other as they try to figure out who they really are … and what they really want.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.

I don’t know much about the Jewish culture so it was a new experience to read a book that focused so much on the Jewish culture. The idea that getting married is based on stability rather than love is so hard for me to understand. When and if I ever get married, I want it to be for love. I don’t want to marry someone I am not attracted to or who treats me like dirt.

Leah, Hindy & Rachel don’t have that luxury. They are surrounded by immense family pressure to settle down and start a family. Even at the cost of their own dreams.It was definitely hard for me to connect with any of these three,but I still felt that the book was a great read. Leah,Rachel and Hindy were three awesome ladies. My heart broke for Hindy. She was overweight and despite being the oldest sister in a big family,she was likely to be the last to be wed. Yes there are some very shallow Jewish Brooklyn-ite men in this book.

This book was a great read with awesome characters,the editing,character development and pace of the story were all top-notch. There are really only 2 issues I had with this book.The first one being that there were a lot of what I think were Yiddish words that I didn’t understand. Having a little guide in the front of the book would have been easier on those of us who aren’t Jewish and don’t know Yiddish. The second thing was that I wanted more of an emphasis on Rachel and Jacob’s relationship. 

I feel like the epilogue didn’t really give us all that much. I wanted a little more in the epilogue than we actually got.Aside from that,I would give the book 4 stars,it was enjoyable but I do feel like there was room for improvements.