When The Beat Drops by Anna Hecker #bookreview #YA

Seventeen-year-old Mira has always danced to her own beat. A music prodigy in a family of athletes, she’d rather play trumpet than party—and with her audition to a prestigious jazz conservatory just around the corner (and her two best friends at music camp without her), she plans to spend the summer focused on jazz and nothing else.

She only goes to the warehouse party in a last-ditch effort to bond with her older sister. Instead, she falls in love with dance music, DJing…and Derek, a gorgeous promoter who thinks he can make her a star. Suddenly trumpet practice and old friendships are taking a backseat to packed dance floors, sun-soaked music festivals, outsized personalities, and endless beats.

But when a devastating tragedy plunges her golden summer into darkness, Mira discovers just how little she knows about her new boyfriend, her old friends, and even her own sister. Music is what brought them together…but will it also tear them apart? – Goodreads.com

As a music lover and former band geek, I was immediately drawn to this book.  Mira’s obsession with music, ambitious goals, and close relationship with her family make her instantly likable.  Despite that close relationship, she feels as if her parents always put her sister’s needs and interests ahead of her own, and Mira’s very accommodating and understanding for her age.  I admired her determination to work on her goals, try new experiences, and meet new people instead of sitting around sulking after missing music camp.  The dynamics between Mira and her best friends are genuine and relatable, and getting an insider’s view of DJ-ing made this tech-lover very happy.

The first 70% of this book was enjoyable read for me, but soon after, things seem to go off the rails.  I’ll try to put this in general terms to avoid spoilers.  I found it difficult to believe that parents would be oblivious to such a profound change in their child’s appearance and actions.  Mira and her family are dealing with, as well as avoiding, several problems, but the blame comes across as misplaced.  By eliminating a certain aspect from their lives, everything is resolved, which is an unrealistic expectation.  Questions are left unanswered, I was ultimately disappointed at certain choices that didn’t ring true for the character, and the ending felt rushed.

My issues are personal, and I’d still recommend this book to music lovers, because it’s rare to find books exploring that world – they’re few and far between, and I’d love to see more.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.

 

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Nyxia Unleashed (The Nyxia Triad #2) by Scott Reintgen #bookreview #YA #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

Emmett Atwater thought Babel’s game sounded easy. Get points. Get paid. Go home. But it didn’t take long for him to learn that Babel’s competition was full of broken promises, none darker or more damaging than the last one.

Now Emmett and the rest of the Genesis survivors must rally and forge their own path through a new world. Their mission from Babel is simple: extract nyxia, the most valuable material in the universe, and play nice with the indigenous Adamite population.

But Emmett and the others quickly realize they are caught between two powerful forces—Babel and the Adamites—with clashing desires. Will the Genesis team make it out alive before it’s too late? – Goodreads.com

Where the first book in this series leans more on the competition between the recruits, Nyxia Unleashed introduces us to Eden, its inhabitants, and how Emmett and the other recruits learn to trust each other and become a family of sorts.

The world-building is exquisite and explained well.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Eden along with the characters.  Much time is spent on describing this world, its culture, and people, which can seem like filler (as is the case with many second books in a series), but I feel like that in-depth knowledge is needed to understand the stakes these characters are facing and the reasoning behind their choices.

As with Nyxia, diverse, fully realized characters continue to be a strong point with this series.  With the competition over, the recruits are able to relax a bit and allow relationships to grow and develop.  Unexpected twists are sprinkled throughout, and although pacing lagged a bit in the first quarter of the book, the last quarter is filled with nearly nonstop action.  Bring on book 3!

This book is scheduled for publication July 17th, 2018.  Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.

 

 

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli #bookreview #YA #LGBT

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. – Goodreads.com

I remember wanting to read this book when it was released, but just never got around to it.  Because of last month’s book club category, reading a book recommended by another member, I read it.  And soooo wish I’d gotten to it sooner.

Can I say how much I love it?  Simon’s voice is what hooked me.  Humorous, self-deprecating, snarky, and a die-hard Harry Potter fan.  He’s impossible not to adore – I just wanted to hug him.  From his loyal friends to his supportive family, it’s like they rose from the pages as fully living, breathing, secondary characters.

I’m not a huge romance fan, but romance isn’t the only focus of this novel.  Yes, things may have wrapped up a little too neatly at the end, and it wasn’t difficult to figure out the identity of Blue, but none of that detracted from me thoroughly enjoying this book.  Can’t give it a high enough recommendation.  5+ stars.

Opal (The Raven Cycle #4.5) by Maggie Stiefvater #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

An enchanting story from Maggie Stiefvater featuring Opal, Ronan, and Adam from her bestselling Raven Cycle, taking place after the events of The Raven King. – Goodreads.com

I nearly cried at how amazing it felt to be back in this world with these characters – I didn’t want it to end (can’t wait for the Ronan books!)  I love this author’s writing style – the way she puts words together, the emotions they evoke – so impactful.

Opal is a treasure – sweet, funny, curious, loving, and exceptionally mischievous.  Just a treat to read.  Ronan and Adam?  *heavy sigh*  A couple of my all-time favorite characters.

If you’re a fan of The Raven Cycle don’t miss this – it’s a short novella (under 40 pages), and every minute spent reading is sheer pleasure.

Atonement (Immortal Soulless #3) by Tanith Frost #BookReview #paranormal @TanithFrost

Among the dregs of vampire society, there’s no safety in numbers.

It’s been a year since the vampires of Maelstrom threw Aviva to the wolves. When her next assignment arrives, it’s clear that her elders haven’t forgiven her past sins. She’s to take a position watching over the clan’s weakest members: the old vampires who can’t be trusted to keep the supernatural world’s secrets. Locked away in a crumbling home by the ocean, they exist in isolation, nearly forgotten by the world. It’s a boring job, an assignment more insulting than her placement with the werewolves, and a terrifying warning of where she could end up if she doesn’t change her ways.

Aviva is determined to keep her head down, prove herself, and atone for her mistakes. But when a group of vampire hunters calling themselves the Blood Defenders attacks the home, Aviva has no choice but to step into her role as guardian and hit the road with a group of misfit vampires who are as much a danger to the world as they are to themselves.

When the Blood Defenders shatter the heart of Maelstrom’s power and leave them with nowhere to run, Aviva and her band of monsters have no choice but to stand and fight to save a world that despises them. – Goodreads.com

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that this series brings fresh fodder to vampire tales, and Atonement is most definitely no different in that respect.

New facets of both Aviva and reserved Daniel are revealed – especially Daniel, but some hard choices have to be made in their complicated and uncertain world.  Unrest and hidden agendas are present in the upper echelons of Maelstrom, and I’m anxious to see what develops in the next book.

The newest characters of ‘old’ vampires are a delightful addition, proving you should never underestimate or make assumptions about the older generation, and I hope to see more of them.

I appreciated that this story didn’t end on a major cliffhanger, but left enough questions and unresolved situations to carry over into the next book.  Highly recommend this series to paranormal fans.

I received a copy of this book from the author.

 

The Hat by C.S. Boyack #TuesdayBookBlog #bookreview #fantasy

Lizzie St. Laurent is dealing with many of the struggles of young life. She lost her grandmother, and her living arrangements. Her new roommate abandoned her, and she’s working multiple jobs just to keep her head above water.

She inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate, but it belonged to her grandfather. This is no ordinary hat, but a being from an alternate dimension. One with special powers.

Lizzie and the hat don’t exactly hit it off right away, but when her best friend’s newborn is kidnapped by a ring of baby traffickers, Lizzie turns to the hat for help. This leads her deep into her family history and a world she’s never known.

Lizzie gives up everything to rescue the babies. She loses her jobs, and may wind up in jail before it’s over. Along the way, she and the hat may have a new way of making ends meet.

Humorous and fun, The Hat is novella length. Wonderful escapism for an afternoon. – Goodreads.com

I’ve read a few of this author’s books, and after Clovis from The Playground, the Hat is probably my favorite character.  I think the two of them would really hit it off if they ever got together – in fact, I feel like they’re destined to meet.

Action, adventure, humor – they all reside within this unique novella.  It’s such a fun read, and I chuckled my way through it.  Boyack is a talented storyteller, and as demonstrated with Patty in his novel Will O’ the Wisp, also excels at creating believable female characters.  Lizzie has some fantastic, badass moments, and the Hat’s struggles to learn modern technology are especially comical.

I’d recommend this to anyone who wants to escape for a couple of hours and immerse themselves in a thoroughly enjoyable, original novella.

 

Only Human (Themis Files #3) by Sylvain Neuvel #bookreview #scifi

In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other. – Goodreads.com

Sleeping Giants, the first book in this series, is still my favorite, but Only Human is a close second.   This is a dual timeline novel – events that occurred during the nine years spent on an alien planet, and what happens after returning to Earth.

Vincent, with his snark and intelligence, is undoubtedly my favorite character and he has some incredible moments in this book.  His struggles to protect his daughter, Eva, while also giving her space to become her own person are both heartwarming and humorous.  Although as strong, determined, and principled as her mother, to me, Eva’s rants seemed more along the lines of a spoiled brat teenager to the point that it was somewhat distracting.

The world-building on the alien planet isn’t explored in depth.  It’s interesting and somewhat similar to Earth, but what I enjoyed most is that it’s also flawed.  Their world is just as imperfect as ours, many of their struggles the same.

With its action-packed robot fights to its social commentary, this series has been an epic and thought-provoking ride from beginning to end and one I highly recommend to sci-fi fans.  Only Human is scheduled for publication May 1, 2018.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.