Collection 2: #TopTens – Young Adult Part 1

This time around in my collection of top books I am tackling the Young Adult genre! Young Adult has always been a guilty pleasure of mine and I love to dive deep into this genre whenever possible. Listed below are ten YA books I would highly recommend you pick up, depending on your interests! I’ve tried to include a wide variety of topics and genres within. Stay tuned for part two, because one can never have too many YA novels.

 

1. Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole is one of my favourite fantasy novels in the YA genre. I am still currently working my way through the series, but I wanted to include the first book (at the very least) on my top ten list! This is a dystopian novel focused around tarot cards. There’s drama, romance and typical YA insanity within this dystopia. I really love the dark and twisted universe Kresley has created!

Amazon.com – Poison Princess

Amazon.ca – Poison Princess

Briar’s Reviews Book Review Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

 

2. Eighth Grade Bites by Zac Brewer

The Vladimir Tod Chronicles was one of my faves over a decade ago (it’s hard to believe it has been that long…). Back in the day when vampires were hip and cool, Vladimir Tod was rocking the YA world without glitter! Zac Brewer made a fantastic world that felt real with drama, a splash of romance, a teenage vampire trying to find his way in the world and lots of vampire politics. This book is perfect for those 12-15 year olds looking to get into the genre, or anyone who loves an epic tale! I still love these books to this day!

Amazon.com – Eighth Grade Bites

Amazon.ca – Eighth Grade Bites

Young Adult July Reads Book Review: Eighth Grade Bites by Zac Brewer

 

3. Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered is an epic retelling of Alice in Wonderland! Alyssa seems to be crazy, but there’s something more to her story… This rich series is full of drama, romance and fantasy! This series is finished now, so if you want to binge it go ahead! This is easily one of the best retellings of Alice in Wonderland around (I do have another fantastic one lower on the list though…).

Amazon.com – Splintered

Amazon.ca – Splintered

Briar’s Reviews – Splintered Review

 

4. The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent

This paranormal dystopia created by Rachel Vincent is a stand out novel that blew me away! I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel! Demons, exorcists and overall wild insanity is packed tight in this book. I have yet to find a book that compares to this unique thrill ride!

Amazon.com – The Stars Never Rise

Amazon.ca – The Stars Never Rise

Briar’s Reviews – The Stars Never Rise Review

 

5. Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Yet another retelling of Alice in Wonderland, but this one features zombies! I loved this retelling more than I can say on this page! The unique concept created by Gena in this book takes the reader on a wild ride. This dystopia follows Ali and her friends on a wild adventure against zombies. Throw in a super hot guy named Cole that will set you on fire, an action-packed plot and some epic side characters and you’ve got yourself a real winner!

Amazon.com – Alice in Zombieland

Amazon.ca – Alice in Zombieland

6. Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Years ago, I admired this book afar in every book store I passed! I saved up all of my money and finally got my hands on this super cute, extra cheesey romance novel! The preppy girl is a ghost and the goth is a human, and the two of them fall madly in love! This series is a wild, fantastical ride that I still pick up as a guilty pleasure. This book feels more romance than paranormal, but it still has it’s paranormal aspects within it. If possible, pick up this whole series! It ties up quite nicely, if I do say so myself!

Amazon.com – Ghost and the Goth

Amazon.ca – Ghost and the Goth

7. Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

This is another “classic” from my YA collection that I still pick up to this day! When I have a rough day and I want a cute novel to relax with, this book is it! This series is super sweet and definitely packs on the romance. It is also another vampire book I threw on this list, but the romance is where it hits you. There are two books in this series, and both will have you ready for some tissues, chocolate and everything else girly! I still think Lucius (our male lead) is one of the hottest YA leading males!

Amazon.com – Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Amazon.ca – Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

#BookReview Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

 

8. Almost to Die For by Tate Hallaway

This vampire romance was another hit in my books! I read this book alongside Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, and fell madly in love with Tate Hallaway! Unfortunately, this series didn’t continue after the second book and I am still upset about it. This YA novel features vampires, witches, fantasy and romance for every Twilight fan who wanted just a little bit more than the glittery yet famous vampires. This book still tops my YA list and I’ll pick it up on a rough day when I want a fun read!

Amazon.com – Almost to Die For

Amazon.ca – Almost to Die For

 

9. Pin Drop by Roz Monette

Pin Drop is the most unique book on this list. It tops my YA reads since it is not your typical Young Adult novel by any definition. It touches on tough topics and social issues that some YA books run far away from. Mo is sarcastic and is easily relatable for most teenagers since her life is not perfect. If you’re looking for a YA novel that isn’t solely focused on dystopias, fantasy or romance than this book is for you! I’d highly recommend it, it’s fabulous!

Amazon.com – Pin Drop

Amazon.ca – Pin Drop

Briar’s Reviews: Pin Drop by Roz Monette Review

 

10. Down in the Belly of the Whale by Kelley Kaye Bowles

I saved the best for last on this list! Down in the Belly of the Whale by Kelley Kaye Bowles is one of my recent favourites! This book also tackles some dark subject matter, which may not be suitable for all YA audiences. Self harm, destructive families, family illnesses are just some of the tougher subjects in this book on top of the typical high school problems. This book might be fiction, but it felt oh so real! This is the book I needed to read in high school to realize life isn’t always picture perfect. While this book tackles darker topics, it does it in a lovely way that opens your eyes to the realistic coming of age most teenagers are facing but in a YA territory. I’d highly recommend this book and I’d consider it one of the most important books to read on this list!

Amazon.com – Down in the Belly of the Whale

Amazon.ca – Down in the Belly of the Whale

Briar’s Reviews: Down in the Belly of the Whale Review

 

And that’s it for round one of my YA top tens! I have way more top tens to come, including Part 2 of YA and Children’s novels! What list or genre do you want to see next? Do you have any books not included here? Comment below or give me a shout out on Twitter (@ReviewAlholic) to let me know what I’m missing!

I hope you found a new book to read and you enjoyed this list, fellow readers! Let me know what you’re reading below!

Briar

xoxo

 

 

 

Photos via Goodreads.

 

#BookReview Crime Seen by Kate Lines

I love a good crime novel, and having this as a non-fiction novel all about Kate Line’s policing career made me love it even more. All of the situations were real, and Kate Lines walked through how she became a high up cop and investigator. Having the author walk through each situation and how evidence was used and how people were interviewed gave a wonderful insight to the Police World, and helped give me a better idea what happened behind the scenes on high profile cases I heard about over the years.

This novel reminds me of a non-fiction version of Kathy Reichs Temperance Brennan novels. While Kathy Reichs discusses the forensics sides of investigations, Kate Lines brings you into the realm of policing and investigation.

I honestly couldn’t put this book down. The real life stories are inspiring, even if each story did not have a happy ending. Also reading about a strong, independent female working hard and getting the job done was very inspiring!

Anyone interested in Police, Forensics, Investigations, Crime and Mystery should read this novel. Yes, it’s not a fiction novel, but it helps give a lot of insight into what really happens. This novel is authentic and real, which gives it a lot of charm!

I would love Kate Lines to write fiction novels if she ever got the chance, because her background in this fantastic book would lend well to more books!

Five out of five stars! I saw nothing wrong with this fantastic non-fiction crime novel. The Criminal Profiler is an excellent author with many stories to tell.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

 

 

Check this book out on:
Goodreads – Crime Seen

Amazon.ca – Crime Seen
Amazon.com – Crime Seen

#BookReview Zodiac Unmasked by Robert Graysmith

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Zodiac Unmasked was an interesting take on the real life incidents revolving around the Zodiac Killer.

This book could have been a LOT shorter than it is, there is almost so much content in this book I got bored (and I am OBSESSED with conspiracies and theories, I’ll sit through long books and videos any day of the week). I almost quit this book completely because it was boring me to death. I did love all the research and information within this book, but it was almost too much.

This is one of many theories of who the Zodiac Killer was, and it truly is fleshed out. It may not be 100% correct, but it was a good read if you want to look into the information surrounding this theory.

The positives within this book is the amazing content within it, but that also ties with my major negative: it’s long, repetitive and becomes quite boring due to those two factors. The theory itself is confusing and long, but that doesn’t mean the book needs to be over 500 pages of repeating the same stuff over and over and over. I did enjoy the fact that the book was in chronological order, but I also felt that it didn’t need to be. I would have loved all the hard hitting facts and awesome plot points first before all the boring, nitty, gritty details.

Overall, I’m not totally impressed with this book. It bored me to tears and I almost stopped reading it.

1 out of 5 stars.

 

Did you enjoy this review? Check out another book you might enjoy! Book Review: Confessions of an English Psychopath by Jack Strange

#BookReview The Charming Predator by Lee MacKenzie

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The Charming Predator is an addicting read for anyone who loves true crime.

Lately I have been in a reading slump (probably from all of those school textbooks I’m devouring…) and most of the books I should love I haven’t been able to connect with. Buuuuut, this book instantly hooked me during this time and appeared to be exactly what I needed.

This book is intriguing because it’s supposed to be “real” (I say supposed to because Lee MacKenzie apparently has numerous pseudonyms). Kenner Jones did exist and there are numerous stories about how he scammed a ridiculous amount of people (including his wife).

I find it an interesting phenomenon that this happens to people. It seems so out of the ordinary and soap opera like, yet I’ve met many people who trick and manipulate anyone they can. Reading it, I found I could see “signs”, but that’s with me knowing the end of this story – I know he’s going to manipulate her, it’s almost like a bad movie you have seen over and over. “Don’t go through that door” or “Don’t talk to that person” and so on…

I have so much respect for this woman, because this was truly one of the worst moments (or say…years?) of her life. Writing a book like this takes courage, and my goodness is it a good book. I find it well written, easy to read and one of the better true crime, life story novels I have read in a while.

This book gets 5 out of 5 stars for sure.

I got this book through a charity that asks for donations to local community charities in return for previous read ARC copies – so my copy was an ARC.

Did you enjoy this book? Why not check out another? Book Review: From Wedding to Funeral: Spouses who Murder by Mindy M. Shelton

#BookReview Pop Sonnets by Erik Didriksen

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Pop Sonnets was perhaps one of the best reads in sonnets, aside from the wonderful William Shakespeare himself!

This wonderful set of poems has sonnets based on many pop culture hit songs. Each sonnet is written in the typical Shakespeare form (or English form) “a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g.” All of the sonnets flow smoothly and do not seem to be to cheesy. Also, each sonnet fully describes the song it is based upon.

I absolutely loved this book! Each sonnet gave me a chuckle as I read them. It seemed as if Shakespeare could have written them himself!

Five out of five stars! I saw nothing wrong with this wonderful book of sonnets! I loved it!

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

 

Enjoy this review? Check out another book you might enjoy! Book Review: PAPER IN THE WIND by OLIVIA-MASON CHARLES

#BookReview So Near the Horizon by Jessica Koch

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So Near the Horizon by Jessica Koch is a sweet, simple, romance read.

There WILL be spoilers in this review, so beware!

Romance seems to be a hit and miss genre – there are FANTASTIC novels, and there are HORRIBLE novels. So Near the Horizon, on the spectrum, is just below fantastic. This story starts out as if it’s fiction – you don’t realize it’s based on Jessica’s life (I mean…her name and the character’s name are the same, but I honestly didn’t even notice. See how much I pay attention?).

Almost immediately our main characters meet, and the sass is real. I love the sassiness between Jessica and Danny,The abuse that was mentioned in the first few pages also left me kind of awestruck. You just meet someone and you say how your father hit you in the face with a bottle? Okay then… At least Danny’s honest?…

Our two leads, Jessica and Danny, are both pretty messed up. One minute they seem to be all over each other, and then next Danny’s treating Jessica like she’s garbage. You welcome her into your bed and sleep next to her all snuggled up, but then threaten to kick her out of your vehicle when you take her home? The bi-polar attitude of Danny made me not like him as a character and almost despise him. Jessica deserves better than some guy who flips his attitude whenever he feels like it. No matter his personal issues, he doesn’t need to act so nasty all the time. It’s almost like he’s nice only when it benefits him. And sending a radio after to apologize? And then confessing his love to her? On top of that, he’s almost always lying…. Yeah, this guy doesn’t sit well with me, in the beginning.

Even Christina rubs me the wrong way at the start – she’s got her own problems, but she’s a psychopath. She threatens to kill Jessica numerous times and no one even cares. The fact that she is threatening Jessica with death if she hurts Danny is absolutely, freaking, ridiculous. Christina has her issues, and she’s a broken character, but this running theme of having a bad life and being a total jerk to people makes me quite annoyed. Life can’t be all “sunshine and roses” (just like Christina says) but I feel like you can do better than hurting people since you’re hurting…Or maybe that’s just me.

I also find that there’s some repeated harassment that could have been avoided if reported. Out of everything in this novel, that drove me insane. Not that reporting always helps in real life situations…

I’m positive that my initial bad feelings towards this book are due to the whole Fifty Shades of Grey/Twilight controversy. There’s lots of books where the guys are just not great guys, but somehow win the girl in the end. Danny could be an EPIC character, but his flaws just seem so dark. It’s almost abusive in my eyes (and this is coming from someone who’s been through abusive relationships). Don’t get me wrong – Jessica is absolutely FANTASTIC and writes this novel well, I just don’t like the relationship. That’s nothing against her, because she makes it likable (to a degree). But then, you get to the end of the book and realize Danny’s not JUST a character. He was real, he’s a person, that was his real life attitude and actions (maybe not 100% because it’s a retelling of Jessica’s life with him, but you get the drift). People aren’t perfect, not like book characters. I went through this book hitting my head against the wall going “JESSICA, LEAVE THIS GUY! HE’S A JERK! HE’S NO GOOD FOR YOU” and then you find out his troubles, and you find out he’s REAL. This was a real guy who was dealing with real issues, and I felt for him. I was not myself when my Father died, nor when I dealt with horrible relationships in my life. I’m empathetic, because we’re not all perfect Nora Robert’s characters (I wish, sometimes that would make my job so much easier).

So, let’s get to the positives. I wrote up an entire list of negatives when I thought this book was fiction (do your research, don’t be like me who just jumps into a book). But, I threw them all out. When I realize this was real, why would I include negatives that don’t fit this narrative?

1. Sass – there is so much sass and humour, that I couldn’t put it down. There were the parts I was frustrated with, but I wanted to see the quirky conversations that were happening throughout this book.
2. It’s not cookie cutter – so many novels (fiction and non fiction) seem to fit the typical trope. Falling in love, happy life, everything is great, something goes wrong but it’s fixed, blah blah blah. This book shows what real life CAN Be like – it’s not totally “realistic” (these “characters” meet and get pretty flirty and close super fast, which isn’t always “realistic” for some people – but that’s life for you), it shows some of the darker sides of life, and I love it.
3. Character development – These characters develop over time, some a little slower than others. Seeing how life changes and what it did for these people…Oh man, my heart aches. I want to meet Jessica and give her a GIANT hug. To live through that changes a person…
4. HIV. That little fact flipped my opinion of this book quite a bit – I wasn’t expecting that to suddenly pop open. While it explains Danny’s behaviour, it doesn’t make some of his wild, horrible attitudes right. Yes, he has a HORRIBLE childhood, but does that give you the right to be a horrible person? What a conundrum.
5. The AIDS/HIV awareness – I like when books bring something into the spotlight, and this book did that with AIDS/HIV. The fact that it’s so heavily focused and doesn’t make it to be some sob story, but a real life story is honestly a wonderful change.

I had so hoped this story was fiction. It destroyed me – after losing my Dad to cancer I have become this emotional wreck that cries at everything sad or sentimental. AND JESSICA DESTROYED ME. Having a love so passionate, so deep (no matter what type of love) and losing someone…I’m hurting from this story. It’s so horrible but so beautiful…Thank you for this book Jessica. Honestly, thank you for letting me see a little piece of your life.

Overall, as a story it seems super rushed. If it were fiction, I’d be annoyed at the fast paced antics that goes on in a relationship. But is any relationship “normal”? Romance novels has ruined timelines for us, hasn’t it?

Five out of five stars. Yes, the relationship between Jessica and Danny was quite brutal, and the death threats infuriated me, but stories like THIS (real, honest and that bring something to the light like AIDS/HIV) NEED to be shared. Not want, NEED. We need more stories like this around, because this world’s big and scary, but stories like this show the true humanity. Oh boy, I’m just a mess writing this.

Thank you Jessica Koch, the amazing author, who sent me this book in exchange for an honest review. I truly appreciate it! It’s always mind blowing when people actually seek me out, and it really humbles me. Thank you!!!

 

Did you enjoy this review? Check out Jessica Koch on Goodreads! Jessica Koch on Goodreads

Did you know this book was originally written in German and was translated into English?

Check out Jessica Koch’s website! Jessica Koch’s Website

#BookReview The Braid Book by Sarah Hiscox & Willa Burton

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The Braid Book by Sarah Hiscox

As someone who has a background in Hairstyling, I have to say this book is an AWESOME idea. Just reading about a braid bar made my day – because there are days I want my hair done up but I don’t want to do it (and my stylist is always mega busy so booking with her the day of is almost IMPOSSIBLE). So, to say that I was excited to finally pick this book up is an understatement!

This book is a fantastic visualization for those who want to learn to do braids. At the beginning, it even includes what supplies you will need (like crocodile clips, hair bands, etc). This do it yourself book is perfect for those who want to learn how to do hair, but don’t necessarily want to watch YouTube glamour videos all day. This book even includes some outside references if you are looking for, say coloured hair strips or flowers!! Epic!

Care for your hair is also included in this book, which is a nice touch! I find a lot of videos about how to do your hair don’t include the before and after care actually needed (which is stressed in hair school, by the way!!! If you don’t take care of your hair, how do you expect it to stay rocking all day?!).

I really enjoyed the pictures in this book – I find it horribly hard to do my own hair!! I can do other peoples hair easy peasey, but my own? Nope. Not being able to see my own hair makes it difficult, so seeing the back of the head of what I should be feeling/doing made it easier to wrap my mind around it! (Haha…wrap….braid…yeah. Cheesey jokes, I know).

Different braids are explained and shown, so you don’t have to worry about being limited to only a few. This book gives you the works!

If anything, I found some of the pictures a little to dark to be able to actually see the hair/style that was going on. I would have liked to see the same style on a few different models with different hair colours (blonde, red, brown?) so you can see the style a lot better.

Overall, this book was a fantastic idea and it really should be a lot bigger/popular than it is!!

Five out of five stars.

Book Review: From Wedding to Funeral: Spouses who Murder by Mindy M. Shelton

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Photo via Goodreads.

Book Review
Book Title: From Wedding to Funeral: Spouses who Murder
Book Author: Mindy M. Shelton

Introduction: I received the entire series from Mindy M. Shelton as a trade for some honest reviews. Thank you for this opportunity!

Review:

This series of books is non-fiction. The books describe true crime murders that have been initiated by spouses. Like the previous encyclopedias, each chapter starts with a form about the Murderers and what they have done. The forms give information such as the date of the murder, the murder weapon, the sentence and any other information needed to give a basic insight into their situations. Following that, Mindy gives a thorough description derived from many trusted sources of every murder and the follow-up. Each investigation is explained in an unbiased tone, which makes this an excellent book to use for research or for citations.

Compared to the previous books in this series, I felt like this textbook in the series had a lot more description an writing in regard to the murders. This added ‘umph’ of explanations gives a better insight into what actually happened to these murders.

Overall, I really enjoyed this series as a whole. There weren’t any hiccups or negative aspects that I could find. I do hope Mindy continues researching and creating more non-fiction textbooks (whether it’s about murders, crime or any other subject) as I would love to continue reading them!

As always, I should include a disclaimer for individuals wanting to read  this book: This is NON-FICTION and is written as if it is a TEXTBOOK. This is not a fictional story or tale. Going into this book expecting a crime novel format will leave you disappointed because that is not how this book was written. If you are looking for a set of facts, or an encyclopedia to assist in research than this book is for you!!

Five out of five stars – what a wonderful “end” (for now? Maybe?) to this great set of textbooks!

Book Review – From Playground: Siblings Who Murder (Ready Research #4) by Mindy M. Shelton

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Photo via Goodreads.

Book Review
Book Title: From Playground to Prison: Siblings who Murder
Book Author: Mindy M. Shelton

Introduction: Mindy M. Shelton sent me her entire Ready Research series for me to read and give an honest review. Thank you for this opportunity Mindy!

Review:

I love reading fictional crime and mysteries novels, and I also love researching true crime – so this book was a great read for me.

It’s set up as profiles of each murderer(s), giving the reader as much as information in an unbiased form as possible. Their names, the victims, the date of the murders, accomplices and any other basic information needed is provided as a form. The following pages has the situation and investigations written out similar to a newspaper article. This format expands on the initial profile to give the reader more insight into how and why the murders happened.

One really great aspect of these books is that Mindy has done rigorous research. There isn’t just one website or book referenced, there’s many! This helps with the unbiased approach Mindy takes with these non-fiction accounts.

Overall, I’m impressed with this series. Each book highlights these horrible true crimes in an unbiased, appropriate fashion. There are no opinions in this book, which makes it a great reference for true crime fans, justice students, or just curious readers.

Keep in mind – these are not fiction and are not presented as such. This isn’t a Kathy Reich’s or Steven King novel – it’s a non fiction encyclopedia of murderers.

Five out of five stars – what a great non-fiction read!!

Book Review: Mind = Blown: Amazing Facts About This Weird, Hilarious, Insane World by Matthew Santoro

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Photo via Goodreads.

Book Review
Book Title: Mind = Blown: Amazing Facts About This Weird, Hilarious, Insane World
Book Author: Matthew Santoro

Introduction: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Review:

Matthew Santoro is a YouTube creator who I’ve watched many videos of. When I received this book I was interested in reading what he had to say – and if you are a fan of his YouTube work, this book is essentially the written version of his online work. If you aren’t interested in a large pile of facts with a splash of sarcasm and humor, this book is not for you.

I enjoyed reading this book, although it didn’t stand out compared to other fact books. The only difference between the many other fact books I’ve come about in my years is the sense of humor. This might make it stand out to the younger audience, but it didn’t make me yearn to read more fact books.

Although, Matthew Santoro does a great job of making this book interesting. While the book itself might not stand out, it wasn’t a book I felt the need to put down. The sense of humor and descriptions Matthew gives makes the book tolerable. It’s not like an encyclopedia – it’s just like his YouTube videos. It’ll keep you interested throughout.

I do recommend this book to readers who want to learn more random facts without an encyclopedia of knowledge thrown at them.

Three out of five stars.