Waiting on Wednesday #82: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes.

Expected Publication: February 2015.
by: HarperTeen.

Goodreads Synopsis:
It all starts with one little lie…

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell lies to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts a business providing forged permission slips and cover stories for the students of Vista Palisades High. Liars, Inc. they call it. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

Why I'm excited:
If you know me at all, you know that I adore Paula Stokes and her books. So it should really come as no surprise that I CAN'T WAIT ANY LONGER for this book! I'm so excited to dig in! It's going to be mysterious and exciting and so, so good. I'm sure of it.

What are you waiting on this week?


Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley.

Published: September 9, 2014.
Published by: Harper Teen.
Source: Requested an ARC from the publisher for review consideration. Thanks, Harper Canada!

Goodreads Synopsis:
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.

So. Rites of Passage. Considering that the last memorable experience I had with teens in military school was the Disney channel movie Cadet Kelly with Hilary Duff, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this one. I just knew I wanted it to be good and that I wanted Sam McKenna to kick some misogynist butt. Luckily for me, RoP was just what I'd hoped for and more.

The military is a family tradition for the McKennas. So are dares. So when Sam gets a dare from her older brother, Amos -- the last one he gave her before he committed suicide -- she's determined to complete it, no matter the cost. This is how she ends up going into military school. But it takes so much more than just that dare to keep her there through all the hazing and intense hate that she faces as one of the first girls at the Denmark Military Academy (DMA). Sam proves time and time again over the course of the book how ridiculously strong and determined she is. Not just physically strong -- though she can definitely kick lots of her fellow cadets' butts -- but possessing an incredible amount of inner strength. Sam faces abuse that would drive everyone I know right out the front doors but she always manages to pull herself together and stand strong. Sometimes it takes a good cry or a few painful moments to get her there but that only serves to make her feel more real to me as a reader. I wish I had a friend like Sam to keep me going when things get rough because she is pretty incredible.

Speaking of incredible, let's talk about Drill, shall we? Drill (or Dean, but he is most commonly referred to by his rank of Drill Sergeant) is a hot, caring, and definitely not misogynistic military man who caught Sam's (and my) attention. Technically he's 17 but I actually kept forgetting that because he acts and comes across (especially with his strong military presence) as older... closer to 22 or 23 in my mind (whereas Sam, for context for you, felt closer to mid-to-late teens like she was supposed to... she's 16, I believe). He outranks her which makes any sort of canoodling of theirs strictly against DMA rules, but they are both very conflicted over this rule because they definitely (and understandably) have the hots for one another. The forbidden romance played out really well even though sometimes I thought they were being a little too lax on keeping things secret, especially considering how many people were out to get Sam. Occasionally, the fact that they weren't getting caught felt a little too good to be true, but overall I loved the tension of the "we can't but oh we so want to" (PG-rated) heat between them.

It's not just the central characters (and their romance) that made this such a fantastic story. The actual plot and action played a large role as well. I loved getting a glimpse inside the military academy, and watching the new recruits go through team building exercises and training was really interesting for me. The rituals of military school are foreign to me but clearly not foreign to Hensley, who showed them off very well. They even made me want to get up and exercise and feel fit and get stronger... well, after just one more chapter, that is. Tied into that is the whole idea of the secret society working to rid the DMA of its first female recruits. Seeing this develop and unravel both for Sam and for readers from a few nasty cadets into the work of an entire secret society was engrossing and I loved the way Hensley tied it all in with the background, rituals and routine of military school.

Overall, Rites of Passage kind of feels to me like the surprise book of the year so far. I didn't hear a lot about it before I dove in but it turned out to be a standout contemporary novel with action, tension, and great characters. I didn't really get into the side characters here (because I figured my review was already long enough and I have done enough rambling) but there are some excellent players who only serve to strengthen Sam's story, whether they're on her side or not. Her fellow recruits and everyone she meets at the DMA, good and bad, as well as her own family bring an array of conflict and comfort to Sam which only made the story richer. A great debut... I'm excited to see what Hensley writes next!


Waiting on Wednesday #81: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay.

Expected Publication: December 9, 2014.
by: Delacorte Press.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

Why I'm excited:
A fantasy continuing the Sleeping Beauty tale with a girl disguised as a boy and a cursed prince and an ogre queen? Wow. You can definitely count me in. Sounds like a pretty fantastic tale to me!

What are you waiting on this week?


Top Ten Underrated YA Books

Technically this week's TTT is technically top underrated authors/books in "X" genre, but I decided to just do it for YA in general because heck, it's my blog and I do what I want to.

So, because I can't really pick favourites when they're set out like this, here are my picks in alphabetical order:

The Archived books by Victoria Schwab. Beautiful, haunting, exciting, and swoooony (oh how I love Wes). More people need to read these books. Seriously.

The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni. A book that completely took me by surprise with its characters and its different take on love triangles and instalove and a great historical setting.

Canary by Rachele Alpine. An important and moving (and frustrating but for the right reasons) book that made me cry and really needs to be read by so many young adults.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. This one is definitely a critical hit (yay for the Morris Debut Award!) but more regular readers and bloggers need to pick this one up!

Famous Last Words by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski. While not perfect, this is a really fun read and I love that it had a big focus on her interesting job.

The Maids of Honor books by Jennifer McGowan. This historical series is AMAZING. Focusing on five different girls taken in as a secret group of sneaky spies for Queen Elizabeth I, this series has everything you could possibly need and it's only two books in!

Nil by Lynne Matson. I found so much to adore in this one. The loveable Charley and Thad (who have a great sex talk that more teens should know they can have). The sunny Hawaii-inspired island that becomes like a character in its own right. It's just such a great read.

The Secrets of the Eternal Rose series by Fiona Paul. Another amazing historical series. This one only gets better as it goes on. It also has one of the only love triangles I can totally get behind (Team Falco! Team Luca! Team Cass! Team... threesome? Just kidding), both in its execution and in its finale. Plus how can you say no to Renaissance Venice? You get to see its dark side, too... tempting, isn't it?

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. I don't know of a ton of magical realism YA novels but why this one didn't get a ton of attention when it came out baffles me. It was strange and beautiful, just like Ava Lavender's sorrows, and I ended up loving it.

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. Another one that is absolutely haunting, this one because even the main character isn't quite sure what's happening. It was such an interesting look into a very intricate and troubled mind.


Waiting on Wednesday #80: Captive by Aimee Carter

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Captive by Aimee Carter.
The Blackcoat Rebellion #2.

Expected Publication: November 25, 2014.
by: HarlequinTeen.

Goodreads Synopsis:
For the past two months, Kitty Doe's life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate the Prime Minister's niece, her frustration grows as her trust in her fake fiancĂ© cracks, her real boyfriend is forbidden and the Blackcoats keep her in the dark more than ever. 

But in the midst of discovering that her role in the Hart family may not be as coincidental as she thought, she's accused of treason and is forced to face her greatest fear: Elsewhere. A prison where no one can escape. 

As one shocking revelation leads to the next, Kitty learns the hard way that she can trust no one, not even the people she thought were on her side. With her back against the wall, Kitty wants to believe she'll do whatever it takes to support the rebellion she believes in—but is she prepared to pay the ultimate price?

Why I'm excited:
I ended up really enjoying Pawn, the first in the series. It was a more impressive dystopian novel than I was expecting, to be honest, and I'm very interested in seeing where it goes next!

What are you waiting on this week?


Back In the Game... and With a New Look!

It's officially September (how?!), which means it's time for me to step up my game on the blogging front once again. This summer was pretty crazy for me but I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of things. 

What makes me even more excited about really coming back to blogging, though, is my brand new blog design! Take a look around! Pretty, right? I love the more streamlined look that still keeps the essence of what I had before. And the purple. I love the purple. 

My design was done by the wonderful Hazel of Stay Bookish. Hazel was amazing to work with. She was patient with all my questions and requests (and with the ordeal of me trying to pick a font for my header!) and eager to make my vision for my blog a reality. She also came up with some fabulous little details that I never would have thought of on my own but which I absolutely love. Like the design behind the date stamps and the social media icons? Gorgeous. I'm so, so pleased with what she put together and I'm incredibly glad that I picked her to give my little slice of internet a facelift. Thank you, Hazel! 

So between my fantastic new design, reviews for some amazing books coming up soon, and a fun feature to plan for, I'm hoping jumping back into blogging with both feet will be fun for me and for you! 


Waiting on Wednesday #79: Trust Me, I'm Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Trust Me, I'm Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer.

Expected Publication: October 14, 2014.
by: Delacorte Press.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Fans of Ally Carter, especially her Heist Society readers, will love this teen mystery/thriller with sarcastic wit, a hint of romance, and Ocean’s Eleven–inspired action.
Julep Dupree tells lies. A lot of them. She’s a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at Chicago’s swanky St. Agatha High, where her father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, sends her to so she can learn to mingle with the upper crust. For extra spending money Julep doesn’t rely on her dad—she runs petty scams for her classmates while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.
But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and her father gone, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, and her loyal hacker sidekick, Sam, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has at stake, Julep’s in way over her head . . . but that’s not going to stop her from using every trick in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her. Because that would be criminal.

Why I'm excited:
It sounds like there's a lot going on here, but if Summer can pull it off, this could be an amazing mystery/thriller. I love the idea of a con artist main character trying to find her missing father and all the wild and dangerous things that could ensue!

What are you waiting on this week?