Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish wherein each week bloggers list out their Top Ten. 2015 went by so fast, and December is here already. While we all love our regular go-to authors, YA also has talented newbies come in. And so many amazing ones too. This year itself, I had the pleasure of reading Victoria Aveyard, who was, my favorite debut author of 2015. So, I am hoping for more talented authors of 2016, and these are the books that have caught my eye.
Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.
Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.
Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?
From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.
Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.
Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her.
But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.
As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.
The last thing sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson–writer and great-great-grandson of the John Watson–wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s enigmatic, fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who’s inherited not just his genius but also his vices, volatile temperament, and expertly hidden vulnerability. Charlotte has been the object of his fascination for as long as he can remember–but from the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else.
Then a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Holmes stories, and Jamie and Charlotte become the prime suspects. Convinced they’re being framed, they must race against the police to conduct their own investigation. As danger mounts, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe and the only people they can trust are each other.
Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.
Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.
In this dark kissing book, high school senior Zephyr Doyle is swept off her feet—and into an intense relationship—by the new boy in school.
Zephyr is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and leaving her small town for her dream school, Boston College.
But love has a way of changing things.
Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.
Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and…terrifying?
But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.
So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.
If she waits any longer, it may be too late.
When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.
Hadley St. Clair’s life changed the day she came home to a front door covered in slips of paper, each of them revealing the ugly truth about her father. Now as her family falls apart in the wake of his year-long affair, Hadley wants everyone-her dad most of all-to leave her alone.
Then she meets Sam Bennett, a cute new boy who inexplicably “feels like home” to Hadley. Hadley and Sam’s connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret about his family that could ruin everything.
In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.
Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.
Joy killed Adam Gordon—at least, that’s what she thinks. The night of the party is hazy at best. But she knows what Adam did to her twin sister, Grace, and she knows he had to pay for it.
What Joy doesn’t expect is that someone else saw what happened. And one night a note is shoved through her open window, threatening Joy that all will be revealed. Now the anonymous blackmailer starts using Joy to expose the secrets of their placid hometown. And as the demands escalate, Joy must somehow uncover the blackmailer’s identity before Joy is forced to make a terrible choice.
For as long as Alice can remember, she has dreamed of Max. Together they have traveled the world and fallen deliriously, hopelessly in love. Max is the boy of her dreams—and only her dreams. Because he doesn’t exist.
But when Alice walks into class on her first day at a new school, there he is. It turns out, though, that Real Max is nothing like Dream Max, and getting to know each other in reality isn’t as perfect as Alice always hoped.
When their dreams start to bleed dangerously into their waking hours, the pair realize that they might have to put an end to a lifetime of dreaming about each other. But when you fall in love in your dreams, can reality ever be enough?
Release date: December 29, 2015
A year and a half ago, Amanda Tart’s brother got behind the wheel drunk and killed his best friend. Today, he’s coming home from prison.
Amanda’s been the one living with the fallout, made worse by her brother’s recent unapologetic TV interview. People think he’s a monster. Still, she loves him. It’s her dark secret, until she starts getting close to Henry again–whose sister is paralyzed from the accident.
A year and a half ago, her brother destroyed his life. Now Amanda has to decide if she’ll let his choice destroy hers.
Like Bass’s previous contemporary, this one is also heavy on the drama, and relationship trouble. But while Love and Other Theories was more on the culture of hooking up, this one is about the dangers of partying, or more importantly the concept of responsibility. It’s the central idea around which the story is built – responsibility, guilt, and consequences. Amanda is facing all three; she feels responsible for not stopping her brother, guilt for being relieved that he is alive and well, and the consequences of being his sister.
In the aftermath of the incident, she has had to put on a facade for the world around her, including having a boyfriend for appearances, a smile to fool the world and keeping a brave face on. But Henry, the other person also affected has always been able to see the real her. The one thing standing between them is that incident, with them on opposite sides of it; he can’t forget her brother when he looks at her, and she can’t get past the guilt she feels when she sees him. Plot-wise, this novel was going nowhere, other than her brother’s downward spiral.
So while the writing and characterization were superb, and while I loved how it delved into grief, the effect of actions on people as a whole, I am more drawn to novels that have a direction. Perhaps that is why I don’t enjoy contemporaries as much, or maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for this one, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as I should have. Even so, it is a good book, for someone who enjoys contemporary novels.
Received a free galley from HarperTeen via Edelweiss; this does not influence my opinions or the review.
Release date: December 29, 2015
Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary suspect.
Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to Garretts Mill there had just been one other murder in twenty years.
The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet curves, straight-up dangerous to Thomas. Her best friend was the other murder vic. And she’d like a couple answers.
Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth Thomas would die to keep hidden…
Thicker than Water is a psychological murder mystery, set it a small town. The book opens at Thomas’ mother’s funeral, and right then I knew I loved the writing. The author didn’t shy away from depicting his grief, and his subsequent helplessness. For the characters, the depth given to the them was one of the key points of the book. Thomas is a person who used to be charming and popular, but now he is hated and lonely. In his new reality, there are few people who believe him, including Charlotte, the closeted daughter of a police family.
Thomas and Charlotte interacting is very dangerous for him, considering the police still have their eye on him, and she somehow manages to get situations worse. It doesn’t help that she is drawn to him, and he to her kindness. Misunderstandings arise constantly when she is around, and he ends up being thrown in jail. He develops a distrust for the authorities, and his helplessness drives him to seek out clues on his own, leading him to a long-lost brother. Now that’s where it gets even more twisted, because this brother seems a bit shady. I don’t want to give much away, but it also has a paranormal component which was an interesting surprise.
The plot, pacing and overall mysterious atmosphere of the book had me hooked. I couldn’t put it down since I started it, which meant a late night (or morning, if you want to be technical). The ending, though, threw me for a bit. I am not sure if this is a standalone, because there are some things left unexplained, like how he was getting in the houses, what about the father and who was Alex. I sure would have loved to have those things resolved, at least partly, even if this was part of a series. Nevertheless, an immensely enjoyable book.
Received a free galley from Kensington Books via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or the review.
Cassandra craves drama and adventure, so the last thing she wants is to spend her summer marooned with her mother and stepfather in a snooty Massachusetts shore town. But when a dreamy stranger shows up on their private beach claiming it’s his own—and that the year is 1925—she is swept into a mystery a hundred years in the making.
As she searches for answers in the present, Cassandra discovers a truth that puts their growing love—and Lawrence’s life—into jeopardy. Desperate to save him, Cassandra must find a way to change history…or risk losing Lawrence forever.
Until We Meet Again is a magical story about a once-in-a-lifetime connection between Cassandra and Lawrence, who live in two different eras. Cassandra is living in the current era – she is on holiday with her family at their summer house, a place where she feels supremely bored until she meets Lawrence. Lawrence is a poet at heart, but his family has demanded of him to comply to their wishes and become a lawyer and marry as arranged. Their meeting sets off a butterfly effect, one that makes her wary to keep continuing their meeting. But when she discovers that he is murdered not soon after in the past, both try to find a way to prevent that from happening. The plot is heavily romance-driven, and the time travel itself isn’t entirely explained. What I gathered was that time is circular, and fate can be changed.
The opening of the novel and the first half were promising. Their meeting was also cute, and while it did not come as insta-love, there was the fact that it was barely a month for them. The second half drags on with their romance, while there are more developments that could be pushing the plot further. I get, it’s a romance first, but at one point of time, it got boring. It didn’t help that secondary characters all but disappear until towards the end, when things pick up. The ending, how should I say, is kind of expected, but it is sad nonetheless. The writing was promising, and I loved the set up on both times. There was a minor inaccuracy – Lawrence wouldn’t have been swimming shirtless, even for a private beach as swimwear for men in the twenties did have a long shirt. But otherwise, since most events do take place at the beach, the rest of the world kinda is pushed to the sidelines. Even so, it was an interesting story.
Received a free galley from Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or the review.
Release date: December 8, 2015
Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive. Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren’s life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father. But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?
While Inherit the Stars is set in space, much of what occurs could very easily be a regular dystopic sci-fi novel. Asa is one of the princesses to House of Fane, but not the Heir, so to save her oldest sister, she tricks and marries into the House of Westlet for a treaty that would save her people. Asa is fiercely loyal to her sister, and her people. She has a natural leader, but pushed around because of her unimportance. Natually, people in Westlet aren’t happy and to appease the Electorate, she and Eagle pretend to be lovers who eloped.
But the Catching Fire-esque plotline aside, trouble comes in the form of her mother who had defected and married into another House, and claiming her for that House, making the treaty null and void for Fane. Asa, being very loyal to her people, tries to run away than let them take her. She is smart, but circumstances keep working against her. Like, when she thought she was saving her people by entering into an arranged marriage, she didn’t know that she was leaving the treaty open for annulment.
But that treaty drama aside, there is also the Electorate, which have to be the most snobbish group of elitists in the galaxy. They ridicule Eagle for his scars, and she stands up for him, thus paving the way for their love. Before that, it’s mostly awkwardness and hostility, and acting for the cameras, but by the end of the book, they are in love. However, though they go through a lot together, it doesn’t seem organic, and a lot of parts are confusing. This would have been good, if it would have been properly thought out and well-constructed. The characters lack depth, except Asa, and most of them are outright shallow and cruel. The ending, too, was just thrown in together. Like, how did her dad manage that? Like I said, poorly constructed plot, but not bad writing. I would give it 2.5 stars.
Received a free galley from Perseus Books Group via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or the review.
Release date: December 1, 2015
In early-nineteenth century Scotland, sixteen-year-old Josie, an orphan, is sent to live with an aunt and uncle on the rocky, stormy northwest coast. Everything and everyone in her new surroundings, including her relatives, is sinister, threatening, and mysterious. She’s told that Eli, the young man she’s attracted to, is forbidden to her, but not why. Spirited, curious, and determined, Josie sets out to learn the village’s secrets and discovers evil, fueled by heartless greed, as well as a ghostly presence eager for revenge.
Forbidden is a story set in a remote Scottish town that overlooks a dangerous sea passage. The story is pretty short, which makes for a quick read. Josie, now a resident of Brindle Point, feels something suspicious about the place, starting from her cold relatives, to the unfriendly townspeople and most of all, the nefarious way people react to storms. She is a very curious person by nature, which explains her bravery when she sneaks around and tries to find out what exactly is wrong with this town. Then there’s Eli, the ‘forbidden’ guy who she falls for, but doesn’t know much about.
Now, the story being very short was good for reading but also didn’t allow much expansion into the characters or the plotline. It was pretty straightforward, with no extra side arcs or anything. There’s the wicked townspeople and Josie and Eli’s romance, both separate from each other. In this case, I would have actually liked that the author had stretched out events more, so that it wasn’t such a short book; the romance felt hurried and short-lived (heh!) because of it. The pace was fast, and when the end of the book approached and I was not seeing much of Eli’s story, I was actually worried. The ending was, to say, a bit bittersweet.
Overall, the book is a short and fast paranormal romance read, but don’t expect much depth to it.
Received a free galley from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group via Edelweiss; this does not affect my opinions or the review.
Release date: November 24, 2015
What do you do if you find yourself fantasizing about kissing your best friend? Sensitive guitarist Jake has been asking himself that same question for a long time, and there’s no easy answer. Telling his dream girl—talented anime artist Elena—about his feelings might lead to the ultimate rejection, but not telling her just might kill him.
Before Jake can make his move, though, a new mysterious guy enters the picture in an unexpected way. In Elena’s mind, Harlow is excitement personified: a rebellious yet kindred spirit who she instantly connected with online. Jake’s gut is telling him that something about Harlow is off, and that Elena is in way over her head, but the more Jake pushes the issue, the more he pushes Elena right into Harlow’s arms—and into a tragic situation that neither of them would ever see coming.
As a sequel, Reckless Hearts had a more engaging storyline than the previous one. Sure, it’s a standalone novel, but set at the same high school, a couple of years later. Since the blurb practically gives away the storyline, I’ll jump right onto my assessment. So, the story was some sort of nice-guy-versus-bad-guy, with Harlow out to destroy Jake for taking his life away from him. Jake knows of Harlow distantly, but later on realizes who he is. Meanwhile, Harlow has Elena wrapped around his little finger, and gets her to commit a crime. The manipulations in this book are worse, in that, first of all, he is doing it just to get back at Jake. Secondly, he is irrational about it, but also brilliantly executes it. Now that’s a psychological thriller, without the actual thrills, but good nevertheless.
As for the characters, I couldn’t feel anything for them this time around either. I mean, Jake is the Nice Guy, you know? The one who is sitting in the shadows, lamenting how the douches get the girls, which in this case, the idea was planted into his head via his stepbrother. He rejects the idea, but also lets it get to him, leading him to pushing her away and further into his arms. Now, Elena, who I agree has a shit home life, but damn girl, that is not a reason to throw caution to the wind and invite a practical stranger to your doorstep! She is stupidly naive about him, and for all her bluster about taking care of herself, she actually goes along with a stranger whom she knows next to nothing about. Hello, catfishing. And Harlow, well, his real identity is hardly a suspense, is shades of deranged and entitled – a dangerous combination.
The ending was the only part that was surprising, but also felt a little hollow. Nice to know that Jake went to the trouble of gathering evidence, but only to win her over, not for, I don’t know, her safety? He was ready to not tell her, when she admitted her feelings for him, which struck me as him not respecting her as a person and more like a possession. His whole reason to go after Harlow is that he thinks he stole her from him, and Harlow’s motivation coupled with that makes Elena like a doll that is being pulled between them. The epilogue – well, since the last one had an open ending, I think that goes for this too, which filled me with actual dread. I do and do not want a continuation, which makes my opinion about this book evident.
Received a free galley from Katherine Tegen Books via Edelweiss; this does not influence my opinions or the review.
To all the locals in the small beach town of Dream Point, Carter and Lilah seem like the perfect It Couple-but their relationship is about to brutally unravel before everyone’s eyes.
Carter has always been a good guy, and while Lilah has a troubled past, she’s been a loyal girlfriend for the last four years. When smart, sexy Jules enters the picture at a senior-year bash, Carter succumbs to temptation. And when Lilah catches wind of his betrayal, she decides that Jules needs to pay.
By the end of the summer, the line between right and wrong will be blurred beyond recognition. Blood will be shed. Nothing in Dream Point will ever be the same.
Wicked Games certainly promised what the name says, with one girl’s sick and cruel manipulations leading to two lives ruined. The story is pretty simple actually – Carter and Lilah have been a couple for nearly four years, and their relationship has run their course. After one particularly bad fight, he finds Jules and feels a connection. Now, instead of being an upstanding guy and breaking up first, he hooks up with Jules (who was aware of Lilah), and even after that, goes on non-dates (what does that even mean?) with her. When Lilah finds out, instead of confronting him directly, she turns psycho and goes after Jules. In the end, she is neutralized but they are traumatized. The End.
Wicked Games has good writing, I won’t deny that. Hell, that writing kept me turning the pages, since the scenes were rendered so realistically, the second half containing most of the thrills, in particular. But then the plot was weak to begin with, so in the end, you are left with a book that gave you a high but intellectually speaking amounted to nothing. It was like watching a trainwreck – it’s morbidly interesting but you are also horrified by it. So many of the situations could have been avoided by better communication, someone doing something about the stalking and bullying (where were the adults, besides Jules’ mom, during that?), and finally restraining Lilah knowing that she is dangerous.
Lilah herself is a textbook definition of crazy ex-girlfriend and has no personality beyond that. At first, I thought the fact that her insecurity stemmed from her parents would gain more focus, but ultimately it just boiled down to jealousy and manipulation. Carter, well, I felt a little for him when he was being manipulated later on, but initially he just came across as a tool. Like, you could have NOT cheated on your girlfriend, dude? Or at least be honest about it, and let the chips fall as they may? If he was so afraid of her harming herself, he could have very easily informed her parents or the authorities. Now, Jules, well, I found it hard to empathize with her, when she went into the situation totally aware of it, and then carried it around with herself until it all came out. I do feel bad that she was traumatized so much that she was constantly looking over her shoulder, but did she do anything about it? No! Nor did Carter, for all his promises of not letting anything happen to her (LIAR!).
So, in short, basically it was one hell of a ride, but leaving you slightly queasy afterwards.
P.S. What does the cover have to do with the story, I don’t understand. It looks new-adult-ish and the book is nothing about that.
Release date: November 24, 2015
When Gabby Perez is almost drugged at a night club, she takes matters into her own hands. Teaming up with a mysterious stranger known as X, she scours the seedy underworld of Miami, determined to take down a ring of pimps who are drugging and kidnapping innocent girls. As their search deepens, Gabby and X can’t ignore their undeniable attraction to each other. Then Gabby discovers the truth about who X really is and the danger that surrounds him. Can their love survive the light of day?
Light of Day exists in the same universe as On the Edge, and continues with X as the new leader of the Destinos. Gabby had a close call with the date rape drug, and her savior X inspires her to spread the word and keep other girls out of trouble. But when one of her old friends gets kidnapped, she seeks out his help and teams up with him to find her. Both being attractive (it’s set in Miami, yo!), it is natural that sparks will fly. She thinks him to be an undercover cop, and he thinks he can’t be the boyfriend she wants. Needless to say, there is a lot of sexual tension and hot kisses, but no progress on the relationship front. He is closed off from love because he doesn’t think he is capable and she is not sure she can take what she gets with him.
The storyline is eerily similar to On the Edge, which makes for a considerably less exciting read. High School drama? Check! Main love interest is the stoic, dangerous-looking bad boy but heart of gold head of Destinos? Check! Main character is in a media (Maddie as a journalist and Gabby as a RJ) position? Check! Thankfully, Maddie and Gabby are distinct from each other. Maddie was street smart, while Gabby is mostly naive, which is not really that bad of a thing, but distracts from the plot. Plus, the high school drama didn’t really fit with the sex trafficking ring, because the drug drama could have merited it’s own storyline, but was brushed aside as a side plot. X’s motivations were also different – while Lobo was in it for revenge, X is in it for saving the day. So, the struggle in the relationship was about how they can survive in such a dangerous life.
But as I said before, the plotlines being similar didn’t make this installment as fun to read as the last. Perhaps if X and Lobo were not so similar as characters? Hopefully, any next book would have a little more different type of male lead? Because, aside from that, this book was pretty good.
Received a free galley from HarperTeen via Edelweiss; this does not influence my opinions or review.