ARC Review - A Map for Wrecked Girls

Title: A Map for Wrecked Girls
Author: Jessica Taylor
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Series: n/a
Published: August 15, 2017
Source: Borrowed for review from a local indie
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We sat at the edge of the ocean—my sister Henri and I—inches apart but not touching at all. We'd been so sure someone would find us by now.
Emma had always orbited Henri, her fierce, magnetic queen bee of an older sister, and the two had always been best friends. Until something happened that wrecked them.
I'd trusted Henri more than I'd trusted myself. Wherever she told me to go, I'd follow.
Then the unthinkable occurs—a watery nightmare off the dazzling coast. The girls wash up on shore, stranded. Their only companion is Alex, a troubled boy agonizing over his own secrets. Trapped in this gorgeous hell, Emma and Alex fall together as Emma and Henri fall catastrophically apart. 
For the first time, I was afraid we'd die on this shore.
To find their way home, the sisters must find their way back to each other. But there’s no map for this—or anything. Can they survive the unearthing of the past and the upheaval of the present?

Overall?
IT AMUSED ME 

The back of the ARC hailed this book as something for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Gone Girls, so I decided to give it a try because I love a good story filled with horrible female characters and unseen twists.  What I got was a story with a single horrible female character and...not much else.  I've never read Pretty LIttle Liars, and have seen a total of perhaps 2 random episodes, but I didn't see a lot of similarities besides the catty females and a situation or two, and as for Gone Girl, I don't think I saw anything that would cause me to pitch this book as like it in any way.

This book does have one good thing going for it, and that's the fact that it's a pretty quick read.  I sped through almost 80% of the book in a single day, a school day no less, because I was curious enough to want to see what happened on the island, as well as what caused the huge rift between the two sisters.  The other thing I appreciated was how Emma grew during her time on the island, it honestly seemed realistic because in a situation like that people either change for the better or they die, and Emma changed for the better.

Unfortunately, there were more things I didn't like about this book that things I did. I feel like I got lost at times, there would be no line gap between paragraphs that had jumps in time or words were missing.  This might just be due to the fact that I read an ARC, I'm not 100% sure on that.  The clingy relationship between Emma and her sister Henri in the "before" chapters really bugged me, I get the relationship was supposed to be toxic, but it was like...toxic without Emma getting anything out of it.  The "rift" between Emma and Henri struck me as bad, yeah, but I certainly don't think it was as horrible as it was portrayed, considering part of it was done for Henri's own safety.

All of those things bugged me, but the biggest thing was Henri.  Maybe that's where they got the Gone Girl comparison because Henri was so horrible?  Not only was she a toxic person who managed to do a 180 in less than 50 pages, but everything she did on that island was a million times worse than what Emma did.  She did at least 5 horrible things (no specifics because spoilers) that could have (and probably should have) caused them all to die several times over.  I'm not sure how either Alex or Emma, especially Emma, could forgive Henri for what she did, regardless of why.

Overall I just really wasn't a huge fan of this book.  Actually, at times I don't even think I could put my finger on why I didn't like it, just that it wasn't working for me.  I was expecting something full of twists and turns and maybe a mind f*ck or two, and what I got was an odd Survivor-esque story that had a few too many miracle saves for my taste.  I'm not going to say don't pick this book up, but I would suggest you read the first few chapters to see if it's something that works for you before you do.

ARC Review - The Hearts We Sold

Title: The Hearts We Sold
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Publisher: Little, Brown
Series: n/a
Published: August 8, 2017
Source: Borrowed for review from a local indie
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When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.
With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?


Overall?
I REALLY ENJOYED IT

To be honest I wasn't 100% sure what I was going to get out of this novel because it claimed to be a "blend of sci-fi, paranormal horror, and romance" which is...a rather odd combination.  Though for better or for worse it's actually a pretty accurate description, and it works surprisingly well.  The plot, which is somewhat vague in the description, is also well done, but what really brings it all together is the writing itself and the characters.

First I feel like I do have to mention the plot because while the idea of demons isn't a new one by any means, the way they're portrayed in this book is refreshingly new; they came out as being demons on television and will trade wishes for body parts to anyone over a certain age.  I don't think I've ever read a book (especially one set in modern days) where demons are like, out and about to the general public.  (I mean, it may happen in urban fantasy novels, but not so much in YA).  What a cool idea.  And then there's the fact that this one demon trades hearts for wishes.  Like, he rips your heart right out of your chest and keeps it for two years while you keep living, get your wish, and then do things for him as he needs them.  I'd call that pretty original. And bonus points it's a standalone so everything is wrapped up in a nice neat bow.

Aside from the plot, which I loved, I think the best part of this book was the writing.  The plot along with the writing itself made the book compulsively readable.  I felt like I was just flying through the pages, not only because I wanted to see what would happen next, but because I couldn't help myself from seeking out the next paragraph.  While the book itself is some odd blend of genres I feel like it also feels like a new fairy tale of sorts.  I don't write in my books, I don't understand how people can, but I got the urge numerous times to underline or circle or highlight several passages that not only spoke to me but just seemed so effortlessly lyrical it's a shame I didn't have little sticky notes to mark them.

I mentioned the characters above as well and wanted to include a quick note about them.  They were really well rounded, real and broken in a way that made them relatable (except for Gremma, who was really just plain awesome).  I really appreciate the fact that while the story is Dee's we also get to see through the eyes of the other "heartless", at least when it came to their own deals with the demon.

There weren't really any major problems with this book.  Personally, I think it might have worked a little better if the sci-fi element of the story was left out and it remained entirely in the paranormal realm, but it's not really a huge part of the story anyway, so it's not that big a deal.  I have maybe one or two specifics questions I would like to ask the author about this or that, but that's also not anything big.  It also would have been cool to see more from other "heartless", and maybe even the demon himself, but seeing as the story is certainly whole without it wasn't necessary.  Like I said, I can't really find any major faults with the book, seeing as most of these things are really just about my own personal preference.

Overall I was really impressed.  This is the first book I've read by Lloyd-Jones and I know it certainly won't be the last.  With elements reminiscent of Supernatural, Once Upon A Time, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and even The X-Files, I feel like there's really something here for so many people.  I certainly think this will appeal to fans of Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo (which is how it's advertised) but I would also go so far as to include Victoria Schwab and Laini Taylor.  The fresh plot, relatable characters, and lyrical writing really pull the whole book together though, and I don't think it's too crazy to say that this will easily be a favorite read of mine for this year.  I'm eagerly awaiting what Lloyd-Jones comes up with next, and I'll also be digging out her debut novel from wherever it might be hiding in my book stack because after this book I think it deserves a read as well.

ARC Review - These Things I've Done

Title: These Things I've Done
Author: Rebecca Phillips
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: n/a
Published: August 1, 2017
Source: Sent for review
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Before:Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable.
After:It's been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn't racked with guilt over her role in her best friend's death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn't half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey's brother, every day. Not just because he's a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she's betraying her best friend one final time.

Overall?
I ENJOYED IT

Most contemporary novels that I read are of the fluffy variety.  I tend to shy away from novels that have a tendency to make people cry because let's be honest, the real world is depressing enough so I don't need my fiction to be a downer too.  But seeing as this book was specifically recommended to me by someone who works for the publisher I decided to give it a go because I trust said person's judgment, and why not shake it up every now and then?  It turned out to be a pretty good choice, because not only was it a surprisingly quick read, several of the ideas it played with were quite interesting.

Obviously, the main idea the book plays with is guilt; how it changes you and how you deal with it.  Dara is wracked with it because of how her best friend died, because of her role in it.  But it's not only that, she starts to forget about what she did for small moments because she moved away, and then when she goes back to her hometown so she doesn't forget she starts to fall for her best friend's younger brother.  Watching her struggle with coming to terms with everything is honestly really frustrating at times, but that's what makes it feel so real.  It's not just guilt that's dealt with in the book though, there's also grief, friendship, courage, and healing, all of which are also done well.

The other thing that I think was done exceptionally well was the format of the book.  It was told in a now/then format, or in this case a sophomore/senior year format, which ended up working perfectly.  I also loved how elements from the "senior" chapters usually tied into elements from the following "sophomore" chapters.  That, combined with the fact that we got to see exactly how Aubrey (the best friend) died and everything that led up to it, really strengthened the story.  The last "sophomore" chapter was not just a punch in the gut, it was a necessary piece of the story that really brought everything together.

I did have a few qualms, although the biggest of them was just the name of the best friend's older brother, aka the love interest.  He has the same name as one of my younger brothers, which made reading the kissing scenes and such kinda awkward, which of course isn't really a problem.  I really only have one "problem" with the book, and it came at the very end and had to do with how Dara was pushed to overcome her anxiety over being on the road where her friend died.  It seemed pushy.  That was really it.  It would have been interesting to see how Aubrey and Ethan's parents reacted to Dara not only coming back to town, but coming back into Ethan's life in a rather significant way, but I can also see how it wasn't necessary to the story, especially considering we don't really see the parents at all in the flashbacks, so why would we see them in the present?

As a whole, I was pleased with this book (which is not a debut by the way- for the longest time I thought it was) and would recommend it to fans of heavier books along the lines of Thirteen Reasons Why. I can't say that the main plot will resonate with a large group of readers, seeing as I don't think there are that many teens out there that have accidentally killed their best friend, but the feelings it deals with (mainly guilt and grief) are sure to find a larger audience.  I should also note that while I didn't cry while reading this book, although there was some super-fast blinking, it definitely fits into the tear-jerker category so be careful about reading it in public.  That being said it was a pretty quick read because I wanted to see not only what happened next in the "senior" chapters, but how everything culminated in the "sophomore" chapters.  That momentum, something I'm not super used to in contemporary novels (and especially not in more intense contemporary novels) means I'm definitely going to check out her next book as well as investigate her backstock.

ARC Review - Daughter of the Burning City

Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Series: n/a
Published: July 25, 2017
Source: Borrowed for review from a local indie
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Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.
Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Overall?
I ENJOYED IT

There's something wonderful about a carnival, but at the same time, there's something rather sinister that comes along with the idea of it.  Foody captures both of those things in her debut novel and taps into perhaps the most well-known element of old-time traveling carnivals, the freak show.  She puts a fantastical spin on it though, and in doing so has created something that's pretty darn original, which is really saying something.

I know I said it above, but so much of this book was just wholly original, something I love to see.  Earlier in the year, Stephanie Garber's Caraval came out, but aside from that and Erin Morgenstern's Night Circus(which came out several years prior), there aren't all that many novels that take place almost exclusively at carnivals, which this one does.  But to my knowledge in both of those novels the main characters come from outside the carnivals, whereas here the main character is part of the carnival.  It's nice to see a main character in that position because it's not only something new, it's something that I think a lot of people are curious about, I know I certainly am.  And it doesn't hurt that the main character had a pretty original skill too, even as far as fantasy novels go; not only can she make illusions you can see, touch, and smell, she's imagined up an entire family to perform in her freak show and they're legit "people".  I feel like I should also mention that the main character doesn't have eyes, but she can still see.  Pardon the pun but I don't think I've ever seen that before.

The other thing I really loved was the genre.  It's not just a fantasy novel, it's also a murder mystery, which is not something I had really heard of before.  I'm just gonna let you know right now that I love a good murder mystery, and I love a good fantasy novel, so reading a book that falls into both categories pretty was a great surprise.  And I feel like it honestly did hold up as a murder mystery.  While I figured out the mystery, or at least a piece of it before the main character did, it still held its own in that category.  In fact, it held its own in both categories, something I found to be quite impressive.  Heck, it even had that gothic/horror vibe going on and did that well too.

Honestly, I don't have a huge number of complaints about this one.  I would have liked to see more of the illusions, I feel like they were such a large part of the story but were still somehow pushed off to the side.  I also would have liked to see more of the politics of the novel, which is never something I thought I would say, although I understand why it was more limited.  The romance seemed a little convenient, but really what romance doesn't?  The only thing that really bugged me was how the main character was constantly noting how not smart she was.  It came up over and over and after so many times reading something along those lines I got a little tired of it, but I do have to appreciate the fact that the author didn't go the usual "brilliant teenager" road.

As a whole, I was really pleased with this book.  It's a strong debut, and even better it's a stand-alone fantasy novel, so you don't have to wait a year for the next part of the story.  Both the concept and the genre mash up were original, and while there were a few small parts I didn't love it was a solid story that kept me entertained.  I also wouldn't mind coming back to the world Foody created to see what happened after the book ends outside of the carnival, I think there could be a series there if she ever had the inspiration to continue it.  Fans of Caraval will probably find something here to enjoy, although the writing isn't quite as poetic, and I would suggest anyone who really liked American Horror Story: Freak Show to give it a look too.  All in all this book is certainly enough to make me excited about Foody's second novel, a start to an unrelated fantasy series out next year.

ARC Review - Little Monsters

Title: Little Monsters
Author: Kara Thomas
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: n/a
Published: July 25, 2017
Source: Borrowed for review from a local indie
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Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.
Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.
Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.
But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.
Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

Overall?
I ENJOYED IT

Every time I finish a book like this, a super twisty thriller (especially one with particularly nasty female characters), I feel the urge to pen one myself.  I think "how hard can it be to write a story like this; one with twists and turns and an ending that leaves you wide-eyed" and then I think a little more and decide "probably pretty darn hard".  Though it's a testament to Thomas's writing/plot that I would even think such a thing (because I've tried, and it's HARD).  While the underlying plot "girl missing/presumed dead" is nothing new I have to say that the execution was pretty spot on and the ending left me going "oh, crap".

I think my favorite part of the novel was the mystery itself; not only did we get to see things from Kacey's POV (she's the main character), but we also got to see entries from Bailey's diary (she's the girl that goes missing).  We don't get to see much of Bailey before she disappears, so seeing things through her eyes and getting to know her that way is something that felt important because while she's not there she's pretty much the entire story.  I'm also pretty sure that I bounced around suspecting just about everyone in the novel at one point or another, but when the reveal came I can pretty honestly say I didn't see it coming, so A+ for that.  Granted that's the point of a who-done-it, right?  To leave you suspecting everyone, even the main character.

The other part of the story I just loved was the characters.  There's something about a horrible female character (think more along the woman from Gone Girl, not the stupid petty ones from bad teen rom-coms) that I just love.  There's a darkness there that just calls to me, and Thomas nailed that essence perfectly.  At its heart, this book is about how horrible teenage girls can be to one another, and it certainly doesn't pull any punches in that aspect.  That being said it's possible that for that exact reason some people won't connect with it, but I don't think this book would be what it is without these characters, so I can't find any fault in making it that way.

There were a few things I didn't love about the book.  The first being the "supernatural" element.  Now, I put supernatural in quotes because there is no supernatural element in the book, but while reading it there was that little voice in the back of my mind going "but what if there is!?".  I fully understand why it was there, but when it went in that direction I was a little confused because I thought, correctly, that it's a straight contemporary.  The other thing I wasn't 100% sold on was the "wrap-up" chapter where everything is explained. The style didn't seem to go with the rest of the book and it seemed like a lot of super important information to stuff into such a short section, but seeing as it's a necessity I can't complain too much, and it did tie up any remaining loose ends.

Overall I was really pleased with this book.  I had read Thomas's first novel The Darkest Corners and while I enjoyed it I wasn't as blown away as I thought I would be so I wasn't sure if I was even going to read this one because of all the things I have to get done, but I took the chance and I'm really happy that I did.  It was a fast read that never failed to keep me guessing. I do want to say that while it's comped to Pretty Little Liars I felt it was more Gone Girl than anything (although I've never read PLL and I've only watched a random episode or two of the show), so take from that what you will.  Not everyone is going to love this book for one reason or another, but if you're a fan of twisty thrillers and you don't mind rather horrible characters (and I say that with the utmost love because horrible characters in a thriller make it better) I suggest giving it a shot.  The one thing I can guarantee is that just like with The Darkest Corners if you make it to the end you'll be left wide-eyed by the last few lines.

ARC Review - What to Say Next

Title: What to Say Next
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: n/a
Published: July 11, 2017
Source: Sent for review
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Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.
KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.
DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 
When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Overall?
I REALLY ENJOYED IT

Last year I was thrilled to find that everything everyone was saying about Julie Buxbaum and her debut YA novel Tell Me Three Things was true, so when I heard about her next novel I was more than excited to see if that trend continued.  I'm thrilled to say that, at least in my mind, it most certainly did.  There's something about Buxbaum's writing that, despite never having been in the position of any of her characters (thank goodness), she's able to make it so I feel like I have been there, that I'm actually there right along with them.  Her books do exactly what a good contemporary novel should, and allow you to connect with the main characters; to feel what they're feeling and to root for them despite any flaws they might have.  It also doesn't hurt that they're pretty darn adorable.

Seeing as contemporary novels are all about the characters I don't think it's a surprise that they were my favorite part of this book.  First off it was told in dual POV, which is something I love.  Getting the chance to see through both main characters eyes, especially when there's something romantic that might come to pass between them, makes the story feel more real to me.  I know that in real life you can't see through anyone else's eyes but your own so in a book I think it's cool to see both sides of something like that.  Both POVs in this book were something I enjoyed, although each for different reasons.  Kit was a fascinating character because of what she was going through and how it changed her.  Watching her transform from the start of the book to the end was such a treat, and I can honestly say that there were moments when I not only felt her grief and confusion, but I felt as though I was changing right along with her.  And David.  Sweet David.  I think I liked watching him change even more than Kit.  He was such a fascinating character, and from the first chapter of his that I read I knew he was going to be someone special.

David is on the autism spectrum, something that is near and dear to my heart because my own brother is too, so this was obviously the other thing I really loved about this novel.  I can't tell you how excited I was to learn that there was going to be a YA book with a POV character on the autism spectrum who was also going to be a love interest.  I don't think I've even heard of another book like that.  I was a little worried about how it was going to play out though, if it was going to feel real.  In the end, while there were a few small elements that I wasn't 100% thrilled with, I thought it appeared to be a really great look at what it means to be on the spectrum based on my own observations of the experience.  Buxbaum clearly did her research, and the result is something that I think is really important to include not only in YA literature but in literature for all age ranges.

I"m sorry if this review feels a little messy, there are things I want to say about this book that I can't seem to find the words for, but overall what I really want to say is that I was very happy with this book.  The characters were great, the representation was fantastic (not only was David on the spectrum but Kit was biracial), and the heart of the book was real.  It seems to have a slightly heavier feel to it than what I remember of Tell Me Three Things, but it still had that small element of mystery and the last page still left a smile on my face.  I can confidently say that thanks to this novel Buxbaum is on my list of authors to automatically read, and for one reason or another, I think it's a book everyone should at least attempt.  It won't be for everyone, I can tell you that right now because I'm sure some people won't care for David's voice, but if that doesn't bother you I guarantee you're in for something really great.

Review - Roar

Title: Roar
Author: Cora Carmack
Publisher: Tor Teen
Series: Stormheart #1
Published: June 13, 2017
Source: Bought
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In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.
Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.
To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.
Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. 
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough. 
Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

Overall?
I REALLY ENJOYED IT

I think I've read all of Carmack's NA novels so when I read that she was delving into YA I was pretty interested, though somewhat weary.  When I heard it was a fantasy novel I was even more interested, and perhaps wearier.  Going from one targeted age group to another isn't always something authors can do well, and the same goes for genre, so for Carmack to do both it was both exciting and a little worrisome.  In the end, there was nothing to worry about.  Roar was fantastic!  The characters, the plot, the setting, the detail, all of it was done expertly and it all combine into a novel that I didn't want to stop reading.

As I said above pretty much every aspect of the novel was spot on, but the piece of it that I loved the most has to be the setting.  The world Carmack has created was vibrant and fresh and while I'm not 100% sure it's some place I would want to live, I think it would be pretty darn cool to visit.  The idea of a world plagued by magical storms is such a fascinating one.  Initially, I was reminded of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Susan Dennard's fantasy (also published by Tor) Truthwitch, but honestly this world is entirely its own.  Just because you have what is called an "affinity" for a particular kind of storm doesn't mean that you can bend it to your will, you just have a slight advantage over those who don't.  And unlike pretty much any other story/world I can think of you can't use that affinity to create storms.  In fact, it reminded me a little of Yu-Gi-Oh/Pokemon, you have the cards/creature, or in this case the affinity, but you still have to battle it out in order to gain a new stormheart.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the characters.  I'm one of those people who loves reading books that have at least two POVs, just because I think it's fun to get into the heads of more than one character, especially if those characters have a thing for each other, so getting into the heads of three or four characters in this novel was a lot of fun, and while there was no distinct labeling of whose eyes we were looking through the transition was done well because there was a small break between sections to keep it from being confusing.  It was also nice that all of the main characters had dimension to them, they were more than just one thing, and I really appreciate that.  I found myself connecting to Aroura/Roar and how she wasn't sure who she really was.  It was fascinating the way Cassius was hard but wanted to soften, and how Locke completely reinvented himself in an effort to protect whatever he had left.  I also can't express how much I loved the side characters.  I think I could probably read a whole book about the other storm chasers just because they were so much fun.  My favorite was Jinx, and I hope we get to learn more about not only her but about all of the other minor characters in the sequel.

There were a few things about the story that I didn't LOVE, but they were pretty small all things considered.  It could be argued there's a little bit of a dual love interest going on, and Aurora seems to develop feelings for both guys rather quickly.  It might annoy some people, but if you think about the way she was raised, never really able to develop relationships of any kind (platonic or romantic) with anyone it's not surprising that she was attracted to two hot guys who paid her attention.  The other thing is that it might be considered a little formulaic at times, it seems to follow the general plot outline of several other YA fantasy novels, but let's be honest, is there really a storyline that doesn't mirror at least three or four others at this point in time?  I'm pretty sure that original plot arcs haven't happened for several hundred if not thousand years.  I also would have liked to see Aurora use the knife skills she displays early on in the novel out in the wild, but I can see why it wouldn't have really fit in with the story.

All together I was REALLY pleased with this novel.  Carmack transitioned from NA to YA expertly, and it's obvious that a lot of thought went into the fantasy world she's created here.  The world itself is pretty darn original, and I'm excited to see where she takes it next.  Her characters are well thought out and nicely flawed, and a lot of people are likely to connect with at least one of them for one reason or another.  If you're a fan of the Throne of Glass series or the Truthwitch series I suggest you give this one a try too.  Actually, if you're a fantasy fan in general I would suggest looking into Roar.  Fans of Carmacks NA novels and new readers alike are sure to enjoy the world she's created here, and I for one can't wait to see where she takes it next.