Book Review: Mind Games by Shana Silver @shanasilver @SwoonReads /@MacmillanUSA @XpressoTours

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Mind Games
Shana Silver
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 27th 2019
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult

A teen programmer at a school for geniuses must join forces with a boy she can’t remember to stop a hacker from deleting their memories in Shana Silver’s action-packed YA debut, Mind Games.

Arden sells memories. Whether it’s becoming homecoming queen or studying for that all important test, Arden can hack into a classmate’s memories and upload the experience for you just as if you’d lived it yourself. Business is great, right up until the day Arden whites out, losing fifteen minutes of her life and all her memories of the boy across the school yard. The boy her friends assure her she’s had a crush on for years.

Arden realizes that her own memories have been hacked, but they haven’t just been stolen and shared… they’ve been removed. And she’s not the only one: her mysterious crush, Sebastian, has lost ALL of his memories. But how can they find someone who has the power to make them forget everything they’ve learned?

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Just imagine if all your memories could be saved so that you could enjoy them time and time again. The fear of Alzheimer’s would be lessened and you could choose which memories you want to relive and when. Is that a great idea or is it perhaps at least a little creepy?

Then take it a step further and the creepiness really comes into play. Arden is an exceedingly bright and talented girl surrounded by other students almost as intelligent and creative as she is—this is, after all, a school that focuses on STEM—and she has figured a way to hack into the HiveMind, which happens to be her father’s brilliant creation. Arden sells memories to people who don’t own them and, while this may often be relatively harmless, at times it leads to some pretty unacceptable results. Let’s say, for instance, that Amy is in competition with Brad on a test and Brad buys Connie’s photographic memories of the book that’s the subject of the test. Not fair, right?

Then Arden gets her comeuppance, you might say, when some of her own memories suddenly disappear and her friend Sebastian is in an even worse way. These memories aren’t just temporarily missing, they’re actually gone and, oddly enough, Arden’s and Sebastian’s collaborative senior project seems to be involved. They can’t actually remember the project but the more they look into what it was about, the more ominous the truth becomes.

There’s a twist resolution that I couldn’t quite buy into but, on the whole, I had a good time with Mind Games and I’m interested to see what Ms. Silver does with The Con Code, coming out next year.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

About the Author

Rachel Shane (writing as Shana Silver) studied creative writing at Syracuse University. She’s been a computer animator, an e-book creator for a major publisher, and now works as a Project Manager in digital and TV advertising where she enjoys telling people what to do. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and the characters she dreams up.

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Book Review: Rules We’re Meant to Break by Natalie Williamson

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Title: Rules We’re Meant to Break
Author: Natalie Williamson
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Genres: General Fiction, Romance, Young Adult

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Rules We’re Meant to Break
Natalie Williamson
Swoon Reads, June 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-31326-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Rule #1: Don’t get attached.

Amber lives by strict rules to survive her mother’s love life: Always keep your eyes on the horizon and never get close to anyone connected to Mom’s boyfriends.

But after they move in with Kevin, the latest of her mom’s “soul mates,” the rules become increasingly difficult to follow. Kevin’s daughter, Cammie, keeps acting like Amber’s friend, even though she’s definitely not. And Jordan—star basketball player, hottest boy in school, and Cammie’s best friend—keeps showing up at the most inconvenient moments.

Amber has reasons for every one of her rules, and following them is the only way to protect her heart when her mom inevitably moves on. But as she spends more time with Kevin, his daughter, and especially Jordan, she starts to wonder if the rules might be worth breaking this time.

The very first thing that struck me in this story is how much I REALLY didn’t like Amber’s mom. If you’re looking for a first class narcissist who cares only about her own needs and has no regard for her daughter’s feelings, this woman is it. She also can’t maintain a relationship with any guy and should have a warning label plastered on her forehead. I just can’t imagine having a mother uproot her child time after time because she wants to shack up with one more guy. Apparently, letting Amber have a real home doesn’t mean anything to her mother and I find it hard to sympathize with or forgive such a person.

On the other hand, all of the above pre-disposed me to have a soft spot for Amber. This is a girl with a lot of emotional damage so it’s no surprise when she reaches her limit and puts up a wall to keep attachments at bay. Mind you, Amber isn’t always the nicest or most likeable person so I was kind of surprised that Cammie and her friend, Jordan, kept trying. After all, many teens would just shrug and move on. Amber just might have to re-think that wall.

On the whole, I thought the characters here lacked fullness, so to speak, but the story is sweet and leaves the reader with the feeling that good things happen when you open yourself to them.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

About the Author

Natalie Williamson is an HR person by day and a YA writer by night and nap time. She referenced Harry Potter in her first ever full time job interview, which tells you almost all the things you need to know about her. Other important things to know include: she loves her husband, daughter, dogs, and cat; she has a serious dessert problem; and she frequently Wikipedias movies and TV shows to find out if they have happy endings. RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK is her debut novel.

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Book Review: The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey

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Title: The Hummingbird Dagger
Author: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Young Adult

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The Hummingbird Dagger
Cindy Anstey
Swoon Reads, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-17489-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

From the author of Suitors and Sabotage comes a suspenseful and enthralling new Regency novel, perfect for readers who like their Jane Austen classics with a side of mystery and murder.

1833. A near-fatal carriage accident has deposited an unconscious young woman on the doorstep of Hardwick Manor and into the care of young Lord James Ellerby. But when she finally awakens, it is with no memory of who she is or where she came from.

Beth, as she calls herself, has no identity; the only clue to her circumstances is a recurring nightmare of a hummingbird, blood dripping from its steel beak.

With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth tries to solve the mystery of her own identity and the appalling events that brought her to their door. But nothing could prepare her for the escalating dangers that threaten her and the Ellerby clan. From the hazardous cliffs of Dorset to the hostile streets of London, Beth will fight to reclaim her past, hunted by a secretive foe with murderous intentions.

Years ago, when I was a mere whippersnapper 😉 , I was really into the Regency era and read voraciously, both fiction and nonfiction. While the Regency Period historically lasted only from 1811 to 1820, the accepted definition of Regency Period literature is broader, generally from just after the French Revolution to about 1830 or so, just before the Victorian era. As time went on, I drifted away from the period and, as often happens with readers, my tastes changed and my interest moved on to other times.

Then, not long ago, I began to read a bit again in the period and Cindy Anstey was one of the authors who pulled me back in. This time, the setting is just a little beyond the Regency era but it’s close enough to not matter and I continue to regain my appreciation of the time, thanks at least in part to The Hummingbird Dagger. Ms. Anstey has created a nice blend of mystery, dark happenings and romance with a dash of mayhem, making this a fun book to read, although I do think the plotting left something to be desired.

What should be (based on the particulars) a crafty and intriguing mystery dragged somewhat and it took too long to begin unraveling things and, while I liked the characters, I didn’t think their behavior rang true to the period. Still, I wanted to know what had happened to Beth (did real people of the time use nicknames such as “Beth”?) and how the Ellerbys and Beth would figure things out. As the clues began to add up and a murder occurred, I became more invested in Beth’s past and what might still be endangering her and those around her.

The characters need more chemistry and the plot could use less—MUCH less—talking and more action but, all in all, this was a pleasant read and I’ll check out more of Ms. Anstey’s books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

About the Author

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester.

Author links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Book Review: Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey

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Title: Carols and Chaos
Author: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult

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Carols and Chaos
Cindy Anstey
Swoon Reads, October 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-17487-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A lady’s maid and a valet become entangled in a yuletide counterfeiting scheme in this romantic Christmas YA adventure.

1817. The happy chaos of the Yuletide season has descended upon the country estate of Shackleford Park in full force, but lady’s maid Kate Darby barely has the time to notice. Between her household duties, caring for her ailing mother, and saving up money to someday own a dress shop, her hands are quite full. Matt Harlow is also rather busy. He’s performing double-duty, acting as valet for both of the Steeple brothers, two of the estate’s holiday guests.

Falling in love would be a disaster for either of them. But staving off their feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when a devious counterfeiting scheme reaches the gates of Shackleford Park, and Kate and Matt are unwittingly swept up in the intrigue. Full of sweetness, charm, and holiday shenanigans, Carols and Chaos is perfect for fans of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.

I don’t usually start reading Christmas-y books before we’ve even gotten to Halloween and I also don’t usually read romances but something about this one caught my attention and drew me in. Partly, it’s the really appealing cover but perhaps I also had a yen to go back to the Regency era, at one time a favorite period for me. At any rate, I threw caution to the wind and I’m glad I did.

Kate Darby is a nice young woman, not a lady precisely, according to the class distinctions of her time, but she works hard, cares for her mother, and is clever and genuinely friendly. Matt Harlow is hardworking, too, and has a certain kind of loyalty to his position and the family he works for. He and Kate have eyes for each other but, really, they don’t have time right now for such goings-on, especially after it comes to light that some nefarious activity is going on at the manor.

Drama ensues, along with holiday frivolity and the expected dynamics between upstairs and downstairs. I especially appreciated having servants as the main characters rather than the high society folks we generally get and the mystery of the missing footman and perhaps related skulduggery brings Kate and Matt together as quite capable sleuths.

Apparently, Carols and Chaos is a companion or spin-off to another of the author’s books which I haven’t read but I never felt that anything was lacking because of that. More dialogue would be nice, especially between Kate and Matt, but this is a charming lighthearted entry to the holiday season and I recommend it for those who enjoy the Regency era, a bit of romance and a good mystery to solve.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

About the Author

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester.

Author links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Book Review: A Prom to Remember by Sandy Hall

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Title: A Prom to Remember
Author: Sandy Hall
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Genre: General Fiction, Young Adult

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A Prom to Remember
Sandy Hall
Swoon Reads, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-11914-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Cora: Dating Perfect Boyfriend Jamie. Has NO IDEA how to break up with him…

Paisley: Anti-prom. Somehow nominated her anxiety-ridden best friend for prom king…

Henry: Hates social situations. Invited to prom by the most popular girl in school. SEND HELP!

Otis: Half of one of the cutest couples in his class. Not quite ready for a post-prom hotel room…

Lizzie: Shy. Excited to go to prom. With a boy. Whose name she doesn’t know.

Cameron: Loner. Over high school. Just wants to meet the mysterious girl who’s been leaving him notes…

Jacinta: Unnamed Nerd Girl #3. Determined to become the star of her own life, starting with prom…

Back in the very long ago day, prom wasn’t a big thing in my life. In my junior year, I was dating an R.O.T.C. cadet from another school and we went to his Ring Dance the same night. I don’t remember what I was doing in my senior year but, for whatever reason, I didn’t go to prom. Still, that particular school dance was a big deal and, judging by the kids I see in their fancy dress having dinner, limos waiting, it still reigns supreme in high school today.

What I haven’t forgotten in all these years is all the angst and excitement and hopes and dreams that go along with prom and A Prom to Remember brought it all back with a look at seven kids and all their expectations. I came to love every one of these teens for one reason or another and would not have minded spending more time with them. This was a really fun read and I turned the last page grinning to beat the band…a good way to end a book, I think 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

About the Author

I’m a teen librarian from New Jersey where I was born and raised. I have a BA in Communication and a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. When I’m not writing, or teen librarian-ing, I enjoy reading, slot machines, marathoning TV shows, and long scrolls through Tumblr. A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT is my first novel.

Author links:  Website // Twitter // Goodreads

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Book Review: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

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