Owlcrate Unboxing – June 2017: Make It Out Alive

 

This month’s Owlcrate theme was 

Make It Out Alive

 

 

I recently moved from one coast on the US to the other, so Owlcrate was the last thing on my mind, but I did update my address. When I got my box, I was sort of excited, but not looking forward to opening any more boxes after spending so much time unpacking.

However, this box was super awesome and I was immediately thrilled. I felt like Owlcrate got with the program and gave me more of the unique items I originally signed up for and less of the same coffee/tea/candle type of stuff they’ve been sending so much of lately. (Don’t get me wrong, EVERY Owlcrate is worth the money, but I was a bit tired of the traditional literary what-is-in-everyone’s-Instagram-pictures type of items. 

 

So what was in this super awesome box?

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  • The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson – With Owlcrate Exclusive cover, signed bookplate, author letter, and themed stickers.
  • New World Rising by Jennifer Wilson
  • Zombie Sleep Mask
  • Owlcrate Divergent themed bath bomb – Which faction are you? 
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin themed bookmark
  • The Giver inspired iron on patch
  • An Ember in the Ashes magnet 
  • Owlcrate theme pin

I love that the box came with TWO books and such an awesome sleep mask.

 

I’ve recently become obsessed with bath bombs now that my house has a working bathtub and i was finally able to try the fortune telling bath bomb from MANY Owlcrate’s ago, so I LOVED that I got a bath bomb and it smelled amazing. I used it the day I got it!

I ended up with Amity as my faction, which is not at all correct, but I love the charm and will definitely wear it as a necklace.

 

 

 

 

Review – Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Till Death

By Jennifer L. Armentrout

SummaryIn New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s gripping new novel, a young woman comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it. . . 

 It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.

 First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.

But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.

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Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

Review:

This is going to be an unpopular opinion and one that I hate to give considering how much I typically love JLA books, but Till Death was awful. Maybe it’s just that I do enjoy mysteries and thrillers and have a pretty high expectation for the writing, but the book was seriously lacking in just about every way. 

The writing felt very juvenile, which I never really notice in her YA books or NA romances. I typically like the quirky and funny characters and writing, but it was out of place in romantic suspense. It felt like in order to tone the quirkiness down, the author decided to make the main character very soft spoken and similar to a doormat to convey the serious nature and the fact that she was damaged. But seeing “…” in literally every line of her dialogue just made me want to throw the book.

I figured out who the killer was at the very beginning because, unlike the main character, I wasn’t completely naive or blind to the world around me.

The romance was perhaps the best part because that’s what JLA is good at, but I was already over the main character to appreciate any of it. I would expect an FBI agent to have a higher bar set for his love interest and just don’t understand what the appeal of a cowering and stammering girl could possibly be. I just feel like she reminded me of a deer caught in headlights, all wide eyed and unable to figure out how to move in life. 

I can’t say I’d recommend the book at all. I think there other New Adult and romance authors who tackle mystery and suspense much better. As a lover of thrillers, this book just made me roll my eyes. It wasn’t suspenseful or thrilling at all, but perhaps if you’re used to reading nothing but new adult romances, then it might seem better.

Star 2

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Best This Year So Far

 toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

 

Top Ten Books I’ve Read in 2017 So Far

 

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1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness 

I couldn’t see how on earth people were crying about a short monster story… until I opened it and cried, too.

 

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2. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

A contemporary I just couldn’t put down. As sweet as the waffles on the cover.

 

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3. Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot

The second person narration hooked me, as well as the eating disorder I’d never heard of before.

 

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4. All the Rage by Courtney Summers

A contemporary about the aftermath of rape that needed to be written.

 

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5. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Alternate history where Nazi’s won, an identity takeover spy plot, and a race rolled into one book. Awesome.

 

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6. Horns by Joe Hill

Human nature is the truly horrific thing about this horror novel.

 

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7. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

I get why people stay in unhealthy relationships now. I don’t think I really did before. 

 

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8. City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

I loved the plot and the whole thief aspect, as well as the cultural aspect. I learned a lot.

 

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9. A Court of War and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

The finale (of sorts) I couldn’t wait for! 

 

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10. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

A book about rape culture and stereotypes that punches you in the face. I loved it. 

 

Review – Visions (Cainsville #2) by Kelley Armstrong

 

Visions (Cainsville #2)

By Kelley Armstrong

 

SummaryAs #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s new Cainsville series continues, Olivia’s power to read omens leads to the discovery of a gruesome crime with troubling connections to her new hometown.

Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s exciting new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.

Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most.

Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder?

Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.


Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy

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Review:

I really enjoyed Omens, the first book in the Cainsville series, and I loved that it was more supernatural mystery than urban fantasy, with just a hint of underlying supernatural abilities. I loved the strange friendship between Gabriel and Olivia and I couldn’t wait to pick up the sequel.

Visions had a great plot that moved forward affter the events of Omens, with a strange connection between her town and a missing girl. I enjoyed the journey and I definitely want more, but Visions was disappointing to some degree. Omens was not a romance, but there was a slow burn between Gabriel and Olivia as she slowly began to rely on him and his icy demeanor melted a bit for her. 

In Visions, the relationship was strained after Olivia was pursued by Ricky, a biker she met in book one. I like Ricky, don’t get me wrong, but I did not want that relationship to happen and the book was peppered with tons of romance between the two of them that just made me feel like banging my fist on the table. Not only do I not trust whatever Ricky is, because he’s definitely something, but I would really like to see more Gabriel and Olivia. Ricky just feels like a setback, a temporary distraction, and so I kind of felt like it was a waste of time. 

For some odd reason, my library has the rest of the series except for book three, so I had to make a decision about what I would do next. While I like the premise and want more, I wonder if the author will distract me with more romantic adventures I don’t want. I just don’t want to pay $10 to read the next book, so I think I’m going to take a break and maybe read some reviews and see what to expect from the book. 

The story has a lot of potential to be great, but part of the reason I loved book one was the fact that it wasn’t full of romance. It’s weird, because I love romance, but I just wanted something different I guess.

I definitely recommend the Cainsville series, though, and I’m sure I’ll return to it at some point. 

Star 4

 

Review – Omens (Cainsville #1) by Kelley Armstrong

 

Omens (Cainsville #1)

By Kelley Armstrong

Summary: Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

Review:

I loved Omens. It was not at all what I expected, yet it felt very similar to the urban fantasy style that I’m used to. It was more of a supernatural mystery than an urban fantasy, not focused on romance or supernatural creatures at all. The book was set in a normal world, but Cainsville itself was a strange town that Olivia ended up in. She could also read omens, but didn’t really know why. 

Olivia thought she knew who she was, but she discovered she was adopted and her real parents were convicted serial killers. Her adopted father passed away and Olivia really only connected with him in her family, so the news was shocking and it left her feeling like she had nowhere to go. Her life was turned upside down, so she decided to find out more about her real parents.

Gabriel is one of my favorite characters. He was weird, untrustworthy, icy, and incredibly interesting. Olivia and Gabriel began this weird working friendship in which he assisted her, but they both clearly wanted something from each other and it was the only reason Olivia chose to work with him. It was strange, but I was drawn to their relationship. 

Omens didn’t really contain any romance, but I could sense a slow burn between Gabriel and Olivia and I loved watching their friendship unfold. There also seemed to be people in the town of Cainsville rooting for their friendship, which was also interesting. The town itself was supernatural, I think, but couldn’t be sure. The rest of the book seemed like a regular mystery, so I liked the underlying weirdness that set it apart from regular mysteries and urban fantasies because it straddled the line. 

I definitely recommend Omens, especially if you like urban fantasies, but want something different. 

Star 4

 

 

Review – Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

 

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

By Paul Tremblay

SummaryA family is shaken to its core after the mysterious disappearance of a teenage boy in this eerie tale, a blend of literary fiction, psychological suspense, and supernatural horror from the author of A Head Full of Ghosts.

Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her fourteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a local park.

The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her young daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend his disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration. The local and state police haven’t uncovered any leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were with Tommy last, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out at a landmark the local teens have renamed Devil’s Rock— rumored to be cursed. 

Living in an all-too-real nightmare, riddled with worry, pain, and guilt, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a ghostly shadow of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadow peering through their own windows in the dead of night. Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journal begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connected them all and changes everything. 

As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened becomes more haunting and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night and Tommy’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock was a somewhat creepy and engaging book about a missing boy, a shadow, and secrets between a group of boys. 

Paul Tremblay is someone who understands the horror genre. It’s correct to put his books in horror, but they don’t scare me in the same way that other horror novels do, but I’m not upset about it. This book and his other, A Head Full of Ghosts, remind me of Jennifer McMahon novels where it’s more about the secrets between people, the lies we tell ourselves, and the fact that the truth is so hard to uncover. Those things combined with the small essence of supernatural possibility had me looking over my shoulder at home and trying not to see things out of the corner of my eye. 

I loved Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. I wanted to know what happened to Tommy and why, but I was also interested in the aftermath, like the relationship between Elizabeth and her daughter, the other boys Tommy was friends with, and the town itself. I devoured Tommy’s journal pages because they felt so realistic. 

I definitely recommend the book and I’m definitely on the lookout for more of his books because I sense some real talent and amazing storytellings from Tremblay. I felt like the story was so plausible, despite how insanely far fetched some of it was, but that’s just part of being a kid and being drawn to the stories about the landmarks in your town, eager to get some sort of supernatural vibe from things. I will caution anyone that the book isn’t your typical bump in the night horror, but it does a great job of creating the atmosphere and keeping you on your toes, eager to see what other clues there are. It was well written and explored/was inspired by a lot of different elements of horror.

 

Star 4

Review – The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

 

The Sun is Also a Star

By Nicola Yoon

SummaryNatasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Source: I received a signed hardcover in an Uppercase.

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Review:

The Sun is Also a Star was a beautiful story. It was about love, chance, science, poetry, and those little moments that turn into big ones. It’s been on my shelf for months because I just didn’t know if it was the kind of contemporary for me since I’m so picky, but I’m glad I read it.

The Sun is Also a Star was what I wanted The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith to be. Natasha and Daniel met in this weird twist of fate one afternoon in New York City and somehow ended up spending the day together while they both worried about their futures. In one day, so much changed for both characters.

Natasha was a Jamaican immigrant and her family was being deported the following day. She was the kind of person who used to be full of dreams and turned away from them in favor of cold hard science. She was being deported because her dad, who never made it big as an actor, got a DUI and drew attention to his illegal status. Daniel was a Korean-American getting ready for his college admission interview. He loved poetry, but his family was extremely focused on his career path. He had to become a doctor and he had to go to a good college. The two characters were as opposite as they could possibly be, but they somehow met and crossed paths throughout the day, mostly due to Daniel’s persistence. 

I loved the format of the book. It bounced from Natasha’s point of view to Daniel’s, but also included brief POVs from other people, like their parents, a person they just crossed paths with, or a brief description about a word or a scientific process that was relevant to the story. It worked really well and made the story more of an experience for me. I feel like I learned a lot about both the Korean and Jamaican cultures and some of that was because the story stepped out of Natasha and Daniel’s shoes for a minute to describe something or go on a tangent about a cultural thing. 

I teared up multiple times because I felt so connected to the characters. I felt very invested in their story. The whole time I was reading, I just kept thinking that this was a story I wanted, the reason I bought The Geography of You and Me, and I had it sitting on my shelf this whole time! The only reason I didn’t rate it five stars was because of the abruptness of the ending. We spent all this time with the characters and then it just sort of glossed over everything after the day they spent together and didn’t explore what happened next quite as much as I’d hoped. But I kind of liked the way it ended at the same time. My conflicted feelings just lead me to rate it 4 stars for now. 

Star 4