First Line Fridays: “The Last Romantics” by Tara Conklin

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First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hording Books.


Welcome to another installment of First Line Fridays this first Friday of February. I’m going to be sharing the first couple of lines from a book I’m currently reading, The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin.

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Year 2079

At first I believed the girl to be an apparition. A ghost. She rose from the crowd in the auditorium and walked to the microphone.

I remained very still. For the past ninety minutes, I had been seated onstage to discuss my body of work. As much as I dread large crowds, the event had been a success. The audience was respectful, intelligent, curious. I’d even made them laugh. That joke about the frog, of all things. We heard the sirens only once, a brief wail during which I paused my reading. We all waited, the thousand here in the auditorium and the thousands more watching via satellite and DTR. We waited, and then the sirens quieted, and I resumed with my                                                            poem.

I’m only close to 50% of this book. Work is still busy with all the annual reports I have to write so reading has taken a temporary backseat. But this book has really piqued me.  It’s a story about family and siblings, about love and how much you could only do to help someone. I have a feeling that by the end of this book I’ll be a mess.

The Last Romantics releases on February 5.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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Review: “Polaris Rising” by Jessie Mihalik

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Title: Polaris Rising
Series: Consortium Rebellion #1
Author: Jessie Mihalik
Publisher: HarperVoyager/HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

 

A princess on the run from a political marriage strikes an unlikely alliance with the universe’s most wanted man in this action-filled space opera.

In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.

Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.

When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.

But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .

As much as I love the genre, I admit that I haven’t read a lot of adult sci-fi. Maybe because I’ve always found it intimidating with those thick-spined volumes. Or maybe it’s because I’ve always felt like it’s a man’s world having grown up to names like Ray Brabury and George Orwell , whose books as good as they were, felt distant to me because I couldn’t identify with and cheer for their characters. So, picking up Polaris Rising I was both excited and wary, not really knowing what to expect or what I’m even getting myself into.

I shouldn’t have worried.

Polaris Rising had me from the very first blaster fire. It was fast-paced, filled with all the daring action my heart desired and, as an added kick, it has real steamy, swoon-worthy romance. Needless to say, I loved it!

The story centers on Ada von Hasenberg, the fifth of six children of House von Hasenberg, one of the three most powerful families of the Royal Consortium. Groomed from childhood to wade the intricate and precarious relationships between three High Houses, Ada knows that her destiny is to be married off to a rival house so she could spy on her husband and his family. But it’s not the life she wants for herself, fate or not, so she escapes before her engagement with Richard Rockhurst could be formally made. For two years Ada eludes capture but, eventually, her luck runs out and she gets taken by a group of mercenaries eager to get their hands on the bounty her father put up for her supposed safe return. This is where Polaris Rising officially starts.

I had tons of fun reading this book. The first page immediately hooked me with its fast-paced action. The plot was also easy to get with, and none of my fears about not understanding the whole tech that runs the world of the story were realized. No info dumps here! Instead, Mihalik breaks it down bit by bit, inserting technical stuff about the world she created into the story and her characters’ dialogues, which was effective and efficient.

But what I really loved about this book was its characters.

Ada and Loch both drive this story – it moves when they do, follows the path they’ve chosen to traverse. It was a treat to trail after their adventures (and misadventures!) I immediately liked Ada, while Loch grew on me as I continued reading. The two of them are similar in a lot of ways – they’re both resourceful, smart and can kick some serious ass. They don’t trust as easily as other people would, which kind of work against them at the beginning since they needed to trust each other enough to form an alliance no matter how tenuous or temporary it was.

Ada and Loch’s romance was also another I unabashedly loved about Polaris Rising. These two got me all heart eyes and swoony for most of the book. The attraction between them were palpable right from the very beginning. Their reluctance to pursue one another only added to the thrill of the chase. And when they finally got together, it lighted up fireworks. It was perfect – the whole hook, line and sinker deal!

I also loved how Mihalik drew her secondary characters. They are all colorful on their own account: there is Rhys, the successful black market dealer who shares Loch’s past, and Veronica, the fence with a secret of her own that could get her in trouble with one of the high houses; then there’s Bianca, Ada’s older sister who’s kind of a master in gathering information and Ian Bishop, House von Hasenberg’s director of security who may or may not (this is just a hunch) know Loch more than he lets on. All these help Ada and Loch providing them with something only they could give and helping the two main character reach their end goal.

While some parts of the story were outlandish, I didn’t much mind because I was having loads of fun reading the book. It was so easy to turn off the skeptical part of my brain. Overall, Polaris Rising was an excellent, entertaining space opera. I’m sure many readers will enjoying this book. I know I did! I’m already so excited for the series’ next book, releasing this October, Aurora Blazing which will be focusing on Bianca and Ian’s story.

🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂

About the Author:

jessie_mihalik_squareJESSIE MIHALIK has a degree in Computer Science and a love of all things geeky. A software engineer by trade, Jessie now writes full time from her home in Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing co-op video games with her husband, trying out new board games, or reading books pulled from her overflowing bookshelves.

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Review: “This is What it Feels Like” by Rebecca Barrow

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Title: This is What it Feels Like
Author: Rebecca Barrow
Publisher: HarperTeen/HarperCollins
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo

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ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.

 

Three young women – former friends and bandmates – must put aside their differences to join a band showdown. Author Rebecca Barrow tells a story about forgiveness, rekindled friendships and of young women coming into their own in her sophomore offering, This is What it Feels Like.

It doesn’t matter what the prize for the Sun City Originals contest is this year.

Who cares that’s it’s fifteen grand? Who cares about a gig opening for one of the greatest bands to ever play this town?

Not Dia, that’s for sure. Because Dia knows that without a band, she hasn’t got a shot at winning Sun City. Because ever since Hanna’s drinking took over her life, Dia and Jules haven’t been in it. And ever since Hanna left — well, there hasn’t been a band.

It used to be the three of them, Dia, Jules, and Hanna, messing around and making music and planning for the future. But that was then, and this is now — and now means a baby, a failed relationship, a stint in rehab, all kinds of off beats that have interrupted the rhythm of their friendship. No contest can change that. Right?

But like the lyrics of a song you used to play on repeat, there’s no forgetting a best friend. And for Dia, Jules, and Hanna, this impossible challenge — to ignore the past, in order to jumpstart the future — will only become possible if they finally make peace with the girls they once were, and the girls they are finally letting themselves be.

This is What it Feels Like was one of the first books I got approved for on Edelweiss when I started requesting for review copies earlier this year. But since it was releasing in the last quarter of the year, I had to push it back my schedule to make way for the books that I got approved for that have earlier release dates.

And, well, it was so, so, so worth the long wait.

I cannot tell you enough how much I loved this book! I wanted to stretch time for it just so I could stay a while longer with the characters and their world. At the same time, I just couldn’t help myself from reading page after page because I want to know what happens next. It sounds illogical, I know, but this is exactly how I felt reading this book.

From the characters down to that more than satisfying resolution, This is What it Feels Like hits all the right notes. You have solid leads in Hanna, Dia and Jules. They are headstrong and determined young women, and all three bring something unique, influenced by their own struggles and personalities, to color the whole story. Secondary characters – Ciara, Hanna’s younger sister Molly, Dia’s whole family, Autumn and Jesse – also help the story move along. I especially love how the love interests, both Autumn (for Jules) and Jesse (for Dia) were written. They’re not just stand-ins, waiting for things to happen to them. They also have their own thing separate from their SOs and a reader could easily imagine what they’re doing even if they aren’t in the scene. It’s a testament to Barrow’s strong writing. She was able to create these compelling, complex and nuanced characters, develop them, make them connect with one another. I would give special mention to one relationship in particular that really stood out for me, Autumn’s and Jules’s. It was everything I could ever ask for an F/F romance. It was sweet and oh so good.

At its bare bones, however, This is What it Feels Like is a story about friendship and discovery. This is, and I’m quite aware I’ve been gushing from the opening line of this review, my most favorite part of the story. I love stories of friendship, especially healthy, supportive ones and this is what you’ll get in this book. This is another thing Rebecca Barrow got right – portraying young women coming into, being their own persons. I love the way she wrote Hanna, Dia and Jules’s friendship. It was beautiful reading how the three girls dealt with and made peace with the girls they were, and how they gave each other a chance to get to know the young women each of them has become.

As if there is any question, I HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone, especially if you love YA contemporaries. This is What it Feels Like is a diverse, captivating read realistic and relatable at the same time. Trust me, this is one book you won’t want to miss this year! Now, let me go back to the bookstore and pick up Rebecca’s first book.

🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂

About the Author:

rebecca-barrow-author-photo_origREBECCA BARROW writes stories about girls and all the wonders they can be. A lipstick obsessive with the ability to quote the entirety of Mean Girls, she lives in England, where it rains a considerable amount more than in fictional worlds of her characters. She collects tattoos, cats, and more books than she could ever possibly read.

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Review: “Broken Things” by Lauren Oliver

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Title: Broken Things
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

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ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.

 

Three friends – one dead, the other two suspected of the murder. Lauren Oliver’s newest YA mystery delves into friendship, fandom and small town prejudice.

It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods.

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it.

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.

TW: Descriptions of violence, animal killing, pedophilia, bullying, homophobia, toxic friendship

I’ve read the Delirium trilogy, liked it; I have read Vanishing Girls and loved it, but it’s been a couple of years since the last time I’ve read a Lauren Oliver book, so I was pretty excited when I got approved for this new book of hers. I was absolutely ready to love it.

But, maybe, I expected much more than it could give me.

Broken Things was a satisfying, though unsurprising, read. Told in Brynn and Mia’s alternating perspectives, Oliver does a good job handling her characters and their relationship with one another. Summer, though is only seen through the eyes of her friends, still remained a crucial part of the story. These three best friends’ turbulent, bordering on obsession, dynamics carry most of the story’s weight, and their half I enjoyed reading about.

The mystery part though, the part that I actually signed up for, traveled through a downward path. It started out great with that intriguing prologue, but once it hit the middle, the story just started to feel a bit contrived – bloated, even – and the pace at which the story was told totally didn’t help it. The slow pace added to the  predictable plot just didn’t do much for me.

My plot-related quibble aside, the rest of this novel is actually good. Each character were distinctly defined – meek Mia, brash Brynn and vibrant Summer – and that made them seem more alive for me. Mia, though, is my favorite character. Personally, I think she made the biggest leap in terms of character development. She transformed into an assertive, self-assured young woman by the end of the book, a far cry from the meek and quiet girl described in the beginning.

Overall, Broken Things was a good book, some readers may even love it. It just wasn’t what I was looking for, though I enjoyed most of it. Still, give it a shot especially if you’re into YA mysteries.

🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂

About the Author:

lauren oliverLAUREN OLIVER is the co-founder of media and content development company Glasstown Entertainment, where she serves as the president of production. She is also the New York Times bestselling author of the YA novels Replica, Vanishing Girls, Panic, and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem, which have been translated into more than thirty languages. The film rights to both Replica and Lauren’s bestselling first novel, Before I Fall, were acquired by AwesomenessTV; Before I Fall is now a major motion picture and opened in theaters March of 2017.

Her novels for middle grade readers include The Spindlers, Liesl & Po, and the Curiosity House series, co-written with H.C. Chester. She has written one novel for adults, Rooms.

A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU’s MFA program, Lauren Oliver divides her time between New York, Connecticut, and a variety of airport lounges.

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Review: “The Deepest Roots” by Miranda Asebedo

37677999Title: The Deepest Roots
Author: Miranda Asebedo
Publisher: HarperTeen/HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.

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Contemporary with a sprinkling of magic, debut author Miranda Asebedo show just how powerful friendship can be in her heartwarming first novel The Deepest Roots.

Cottonwood Hollow, Kansas, is a strange place. For the past century, every girl has been born with a special talent, like the ability to Fix any object, Heal any wound, or Find what is missing.

Best friends Rome, Lux, and Mercy all have similar talents, but to them, their abilities often feel like a curse. Rome may be able to Fix anything she touches, but that won’t help her mom pay rent or make it any easier to confide in Lux and Mercy about what’s going on at home. And Rome isn’t the only one. Lux has been hiding bigger, more dangerous secrets.

As Rome struggles to keep her friendships close, she discovers the truth about life in Cottonwood Hollow—that friends are stronger than curses, that trust is worth the risk, and sometimes, what you’ve been looking for has been under your feet the whole time.

TW: Domestic abuse, sexual assault, and disgusting, abusive language from grown men made to young girls and women alike

Sometimes a book just makes you realize just how good you got it.

The Deepest Roots is one of those rare stories.

The story follow best friends Rome, Lux and Mercy. The three have been friends since their early years. They are blood sisters bound together by their strange talents and their love for one another. They have made a pact to not keep anything from each other, but that promise is broken as the girls keep their struggles to themselves – out of pride for Rome who doesn’t want her friends to pity her as she faces a possible eviction from the small trailer she shares with her single mother; out of shame and fear for Lux who endures living with her abusive stepfather. When a mysterious diary which leads to an equally mysterious treasure land in the girls hands, Rome and Lux see an opportunity to shake off and solve their problems. Little do they know that the true treasure already lie in their feet, waiting for them to take a closer look.

I picked this book up wanting – craving – a story that features strong female friendships, and The Deepest Roots more than measured up to my expectations. This story tugged at my heartstrings, even the ones I’ve thought have long gone numb and made me spill a few tears.

From page one up to that touching end, this novel remained loyal to its focus – the power of friendship. Rome, Lux and Mercy are all fiercely loyal and protective of one another. The strength and depth of their friendship is shown all throughout the story, and I just can’t help but think about my own best friend while I read this book. The three girls would do anything for one another – Mercy using her talent of being an Enough to extend Rome and her mom’s food supply; Lux still lending Rome her make-up bag and fancy top even though the two of them had a fight; Rome putting bleach in Lux’s stepfather’s gas tank when she found out that the creep hits her friend. The friendship the three girls share is simply the best part of this story.

The plot was simple but easy to follow and enjoyable. The writing and pace flowed well. Those elements of the book are great and all, but where Miranda Asebedo really excelled at (and the reason why I gave this novel a whopping five stars) was in creating her characters. She brought to life this cast of characters who stand out, who felt real to me. Rome, Lux and Mercy were relatable in their struggles and how they try to lift themselves out of their current situations. Even the secondary characters like Rome’s mom, Red and Jett will leave an impression to readers.

There is a feminist message woven through this story that I hope will open up discussions. It’s a sweet bonus to an already great book.

I’ve always thought that there’s a lack of books with strong, healthy female friendship. The Deepest Roots fills in a bit of the void, and for that alone I will be recommending this to anyone who’ll care to listen.

🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂

About the Author:

Miranda AsebedoMIRANDA ASEBEDO was born and raised in rural Kansas with a love of fast cars, open skies, and books. She carried that love of books to college, where she got her B.A. and M.A. in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Literature. A Seaton Fellowship recipient, her short fiction has appeared in Kansas Voices, Touchstone, and Midway Journal.

Miranda still lives on the prairie today with her husband, two kids, and two majestic bulldogs named Princess Jellybean and Captain Jack Wobbles. If Miranda’s not writing or reading, she’s most likely convinced everyone to load up in the family muscle car and hit the road.

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