Category: YA

Book Review: The Gamer’s Guide to Getting the Girl, by Kristine Scarrow

Image belongs to Dundurn.


Title:   The Gamer’s Guide to Getting the Girl
Author:   Kristine Scarrow
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Zack is a gamer. He’s all for adventure, as long as it’s from the safety of his own couch. Then the girl of his dreams walks into his life—in the mall—and Zack manages to stick both feet in his mouth instead of impressing her. Well, it’s not like he’ll have to see her again, right? His embarrassment can die, along with his dreams.

Except the biggest storm in Saskatchewan’s history has people trapped in the mall. Zack, his best friend, Zack’s dream girl, and a handful of others are trapped while the storm rages outside. The waters are rising, the winds are raging, and soon they realize they aren’t the only ones in the dark mall. Zack finds himself in the middle of a real-life adventure, pitting himself against the storm and the shadowy figures that threaten his group as he tries to win the girl.

I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews for this book, and I guess it depends on your expectations. I was expecting a quick, fun read with a bit of romance against the backdrop of a storm…and that’s exactly what I got. Zack’s a good character:  he says the wrong thing without realizing, but he tries to do the right thing and puts himself before others. There’s even a couple of great scenes where he sets an example to some younger guys for how to treat women and people in general. The only thing that really bothered me was the tornado:  I’m from Texas. Tornadoes here drop out of the sky without warning. They don’t loom for hours (I’m not talking about a tornado watch, where the conditions for one are good, but I mean an actual tornado is on the ground for hours), as they did in this book, so that was actually a deterrent and pulled me out of the story. But…I’ve never been to Saskatchewan; I don’t know how the weather is there. This is just my own personal weather experience.

Kristine Scarrow believes in writing as a healing art. She’s also a mother, an author, and a proudly hails from Saskatchewan. The Gamers Guide to Getting the Girl is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Dundurn via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)


Book Review: Spin the Dawn, by Elizabeth Lim

spin the dawn
Image belongs to Knopf.

Title:  Spin the Dawn
Author:  Elizabeth Lim
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Maia Tamarin works as a seamstress in her father’s shop. She’d love to become a tailor, but she’s a girl, so marriage is the only thing in store for her. Even better if her future husband is wealthy enough to help her family out of their poverty.

But Maia still dreams of making beautiful clothes, and when a messenger from the emperor arrives commanding Maia’s father to the palace to compete for the position of imperial tailor, Maia disguises herself and joins the competition, knowing she’ll pay with her life if anyone discovers her secret.

The treachery and lies in the competition are one thing, but Maia draws the attention of Edan, court enchanter, whose dark gaze sees everything. Maia’s final task is to sew three dresses:  from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. Maia has no idea how to accomplish this. She just knows she must.

I enjoyed this book immensely! I like the Mulan-like concept of Maia disguising herself as a son in order to save her family, but this is its own tale. Maia’s battles are more subtle—and just as deadly—and the magic here is woven so skillfully through the setting and the characters that it all just worked for me. Highly recommend!

Elizabeth Lim graduated from Harvard and completed her graduate studies at The Juilliard School. Spin the Dawn is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Lunar Court, by Aileen Erin

lunar court
Image belongs to the author and Ink Monster LLC.

Title:   Lunar Court
Author:   Aileen Erin
Genre:   YA/ paranormal
Rating:   4 out of 5

Chris is the funniest, sweetest boy Cosette’s ever met. Despite the trauma he’s suffered, he still manages to brighten up everyone around him—even when he’s fighting a chapel full of demons. He’s exactly what Cosette needs in her life. He’s also a werewolf—and she’s from the Lunar Court, the only fey court with control over the werewolves, so she knows they can’t be together.

But when Chris goes missing, Cosette will do anything to find him and bring him home safely. Even if they can’t be together, she wants him safe and happy. She has no safety in her own life—not with assassins trying to kill her at every step and her mother trying to force her into marrying—but she wants Chris to have it. She finds Chris in the darkest of fey courts, where the truth is twisted and she can trust no one. It will take an archon to keep the two of them safe—and even that might not be enough to make sure everyone gets out alive.

I think I read the first two Alpha Girl books a few years back and enjoyed them but got distracted by something else. I need to go back and catch up. Lunar Court was a solid read, and I love the world here, combining my favorite creatures in intriguing ways. A solid, entertaining read!

Lunar Court is Aileen Erin’s newest novel, the eighth book in the Alpha Girl series.

(Galley courtesy of the author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Evil Queen, by Gena Showalter

the evil queen
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Evil Queen
Author:   Gena Showalter
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In Enchantia, fairy tales are real, but they are prophecies of the future. Everly Morrow is raised in the real world and has no idea she’s a princess until she starts to commune with mirrors. Then the truth comes out:  Everly is destined to become the Evil Queen.

Except it’s not that simple. Everly meets Roth Charmaine—Prince Charming—and can’t deny she’s attracted to him. But as a sorcerian, she only draws his hate. As their fairy tale unfolds, she faces countless betrayals as she fights to save her family while deciphering the truth.

I generally love Gena Showalter’s novels, and I loved the idea of The Evil Queen. However. I found this one to be not up to Showalter’s usual high quality. Parts of it were very rough and juvenile—and I’ve seen lots of comments to the effect of “remember it’s YA so that’s okay”—but YA should still be well-written, and the characters should be believable and fully fleshed-out. These seemed very one-dimensional to me, and several times they completely did a 180 without us seeing any character growth to account for that. Everly was frankly quite annoying and egotistical and Roth wasn’t much better. I guess I just expected better from an author I generally love—and whose young adult books I love. I did like the actual answer for who each character was supposed to be in the fairy tale.

Gena Showalter is a bestselling author. The Evil Queen is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Beau and Bett, by Kathryn Berla

beau and bett
Image belongs to Amberjack Publishing.

Title:   Beau and Bett
Author:   Kathryn Berla
Genre:   4.2 out of 5
Rating:   YA

When Beau’s mom hits Bett Diaz’s fancy SUV, it’s just more bad luck for the LeFrancois family. After all, his dad is laid up with an injury and his sister is getting married soon, so money is tight, and without car insurance, the family is teetering on the edge of disaster. So, Beau offers to spend his weekends working at the Diaz ranch to pay off the debt.

Beau doesn’t mind working, but he’s not sure about working near Bett, a.k.a. “The Beast,” as she’s known at school. Her temper is infamous, and he wants nothing to do with it. But as he slowly gets to know Bett, he realizes there’s more than snobbery and anger beneath her prickly exterior and soon they become friends. Then he catches Bett in a lie and isn’t sure if The Beast is the truth—or quirky, socially-awkward Bett.

I enjoyed Beau and Bett. Having Bett be the Beast is a nice twist, and her reasons for being so angry are revealed slowly as the trust between Beau and her builds. I also liked the behind-the-scenes look at a family like Beau’s, and I found the novel both entertaining and enlightening.

Kathryn Berla believes in love at first sight and happily ever after. Beau and Bett is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Red Labyrinth, by Meredith Tate

Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:  The Red Labyrinth
Author:  Meredith Tate
Genre:  YA, dystopian
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

As one of the unskilled, Zadie Kalver is treated like trash by the skilled. She wishes she had one tiny power—anything—to make people hater her less. Her small desert town lies in the shadow of the labyrinth—a massive maze built to protect the town—filled with death traps and enchantments, and a killer named Dax who snatches those who wander too close.

When Zadie’s best friend disappears and everyone forgets he even existed, she knows something is going on. And the only person who might be able to help her lives at the heart of the maze. Her only hope is an uneasy truce with the murdering Dex, the one person familiar with the labyrinth. They’ll have to avoid all the deadly traps inside—and keep from killing each other—if they are ever to get back the people they’re searching for.

I read this straight through in one sitting. The world, harsh as it was, fascinated me, and Zadie is a character I’d like to hang out with. I can’t imagine the strength it would take to survive what she’s been through, on top of being abused and treated like trash for being unskilled. She starts off a little naïve, but she grows quickly as a character, making this a riveting read.

Meredith Tate has a master’s degree in social work and now lives in Switzerland. The Red Labyrinth is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flux via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Pack of Vows and Tears, by Olivia Wildenstein

a pack of vows and tears
Image belongs to the author.

Title:  A Pack of Vows and Tears
Author:  Olivia Wildenstein
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

With Liam as the pack’s new Alpha, Ness thinks things will finally calm down. But August is back in town to pledge his loyalty to the new Alpha, and a mating bond manifests between August and Ness, meaning she finds everyone else unattractive—even Liam, her boyfriend. The bond will take months to fade, but Ness thinks her connection with Liam is strong enough to stand the test of time.

Until her cousin claims she helped him elude his death sentence, and Liam believes him and accuses her. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with the pack, but she can’t leave August behind while their bond is intact. When a new pack shows up in town and threatens her own pack, Ness must decide to leave them to their fate or to help the pack that has always treated her as an outsider.

I enjoyed this second book in the Boulder Wolves series, but some of the developments didn’t entirely surprise me. Liam flipping to become so controlling and accusatory—eh, not really a surprise, considering his background—although one revelation about him did surprise me. I liked August from the start of the first book, so I was happy to see him with a bigger role here. This is a solid read in an enjoyable series.

Olivia Wildenstein is a bestselling author. A Pack of Vows and Tears is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in May (2019)

I read 17 books in May, bringing my total to 84 books read for the year.

My three favorite books I read in May were a paranormal, a historical fiction, and a YA.


Storm Cursed, by Patricia Briggs. The newest novel in the Mercy Thompson series, which I love. Mercy is in trouble—again—but this time, there are miniature zombie goats to add to the fun.

the book woman

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson. This was an incredible read! I’d never heard anything about the Blue People in Kentucky or the Pack Horse Librarians…I have no idea how I’d never heard of these things, but there you go. Cussy Mary Carter is the last woman of the Blue People, and she’s a Pack Horse Librarian delivering books and news to the isolated people on her route. But some people are against her because of her coloring and she yearns for a normal life.

This was an incredible read!

two like me and you

Two Like Me and You, by Chad Alan Gibbs

Edwin Green’s ex-girlfriend is famous—really famous—and he’s not over her. He wants to get her back, and he knows if he gets famous, too, it will happen. Then he meets Parker Haddaway when they are assigned a history project together, and she introduces him to Garland Lennox, a WWII veteran who is still in love with a girl he met back then, and is determined to find her. So Parker and Edwin sneak Garland out of the nursing home and to France, and that’s where the fun really begins.

This book had me laughing so many times. Edwin’s voice is fantastic as he wrestles with what’s going on in his life and how it measures up to what he’s always known.

Book Review: Denali in Hiding, by Caitlin Sinead

Image belongs to Caitlin Sinead.

Title:  Denali in Hiding
Author:  Caitlin Sinead
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Her whole life, Denali has struggled to keep her abilities a secret. If the American Psi Council found out she was telekinetic, her normal life with her mom and brother would end. When the Council does find out, Denali goes away to Nashquttin, an island where it’s safe for psis to use their power, and where Denali can learn to control hers.

Except the Council doesn’t know she’s also a viewer, and she saw a vision of a mysterious boy surrounded by bomb-making paraphernalia and knows he plans an attack in Washington, D.C. But the punishment for interference in the affairs of regular humans is severe—including a life sentence or death—and Denali doesn’t know what the right choice is. Should she risk everything she has—including the respect of her brooding trainer—to save a bunch of people she doesn’t know?

I enjoyed this read quite a bit. Denali is an excellent character:  she’s a teenager, with all a normal teen’s hopes and angst, but she also has an extra layer of conflict. Should she stop the bomb? Should she mind her own business and stay out of trouble? Tough call. And I feel there’s more going on with the Council than meets the eye. I’m interested in seeing where Denali goes next.

Caitlin Sinead has a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. Denali in Hiding is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Voice in My Head, by Dana L. Davis

the voice in my head
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN.

Title:  The Voice in My Head
Author:  Dana L. Davis
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Indigo can’t take it anymore. Her twin sister, Violet, is terminally ill and choosing to end her life by medically assisted suicide. Indigo doesn’t want to live without her twin, and she’s sure her family would rather have Violet, everyone’s favorite, than her. Before she can jump from a building, she hears a voice claiming to be God, who says if the entire family takes Violet to hike The Wave in the desert, she will live.

As if hearing voices isn’t enough, Indigo also must convince her mom, who never thought Indigo was good enough, her brother, who’s keeping secrets, and her annoying, bossy, know-it-all older sister. Not to mention the New Age pastor who was going to help Violet pass. She’s not sure she can do this, even with the help of the voice.

This book covers some deep subjects with respect and empathy. Indigo is a vibrant yet troubled character, and her voice shows her mental conflict, as well as her struggles in her family. I found the book flippant about religion, but everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I didn’t like the ending, but it was very fitting for the story.

Dana L. Davis is an actor, a motivational speaker, a screenwriter, and a violist. The Voice in My Head is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)