Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lucidly Afraid of You

Expected Publication:  October 2nd, 2012
By: Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass
ISBN-13: 9781595145192

What if you could dream your way into a different life? What if you could choose to live that life forever?

Sloane and Maggie have never met. Sloane is a straight-A student with a big and loving family. Maggie lives a glamorously independent life as an up-and-coming actress in New York. The two girls couldn't be more different--except for one thing. They share a secret that they can't tell a soul. At night, they dream that they're each other.

The deeper they're pulled into the promise of their own lives, the more their worlds begin to blur dangerously together. Before long, Sloane and Maggie can no longer tell which life is real and which is just a dream. They realize that eventually they will have to choose one life to wake up to, or risk spiraling into insanity. But that means giving up one world, one love, and one self, forever.

     Sloane and Maggie have never met, but they know everything about each other.  This is because only one of them is probably even real.  They have the same name, but everything else is different.  Maggie is an aspiring actress who is on the road to a GED and a serious career in New York.  She lives with her Mom and little sister Jade, having lost her Dad a few years previously.  Sloane is a small-town girl, one of the smartest at her high school, who has a happy family and a wonderful best friend named Gordy.  But she is also dealing with heartbreak, the senseless death of her other best friend Bill the year before, in car accident.  At first everything is okay, until both girls are torn between superficial relationships and true happiness with the right guy.  Now they each have a reason to want the other gone for good.  Spiraling out of control and unable to tell what world is real, Sloan and Maggie begin to blur together.  But who will be the one to survive the breakdown?  I liked the premise of this book at first and thought it was a really intriguing concept.  I thought that both girls would be real and inexplicably connected for some reason.  I liked how detailed and true both girls' lives came across as and the budding romances were very sweet.  However, I felt no need for Sloane and Maggie to be strining along two or three guys each AT THE SAME TIME.  Seriously?  You really don't know which one you like more?  I could really feel Maggie's heartbreak at losing her Dad and Sloane's at losing Bill.  But I got lost around the last 100 pages or so, when the girl(s) start to have a mental breakdown and reality becomes blurred.  For most of that chunk of the book I couldn't even tell who was speaking because they were half in both worlds in every chapter.  I saw the ending coming from a mile away and felt that it was extremely cliched and predictable.  It could have gone in so many fresh, original directions if only the author hadn't gone the 'suppressed guilt' route.  Overall, a disappointment and I feel like I wasted my time.  But for the decency of the first half and how well-written it was, I give this a couple concessionary stars.
VERDICT:  2/5  Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on October 2nd, 2012.*

Wake Me Up When Winter Is Over...

Expected Publication:  October 16th, 2012
Ashen Winter (Ashfall # 2)
By: Mike Mullins
Tanglewood Press
ISBN-13: 9781933718750

It’s been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this series.

It’s also been six months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex’s parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.

     When we left Alex and Darla at the end of Ashfall, they had finally made it to his Uncle's farm only to find out that Alex's parents had already left to find him shortly before they got there.  This book picks up six months later and his parents still haven't returned to the farm.  When they are attacked by a bandit who has gun that belonged to Alex's Dad, they decide to get any information they can and follow a trail that will (hopefully) lead them to his parents.  They thought it was bad when they were out on the road before, but in the last six months things have only gotten worse.  Food is scarce, some of the surviving factions have turned cannabalistic, the weather is twice as brutal and morality has pretty much been thrown out the window with slavers snatching people up to make a profit.  When Darla is shot and kidnapped, it's up to Alex to rescue his parents from the government camp where they're prisoners and prevent Darla from suffering a fate worse that anything they could imagine.  I was truly looking forward to this one since the moment I finished Ashfall, which I thought was probably the best dystopian book I read this year (that was published in 2011).  Darla is still a very strong and rational balance for Alex's less thought-out and more emotional actions/schemes.  I liked that they finally decided to go after his parents, but I was mad that Darla was gone for almost half of the book's main narrative.  Her kidnapping did provide a lot of pivotal action for the plot though, and Alex's struggle to get her back kept things moving along.  I liked the inclusion of Alyssa (a desperate teen girl, forced into prostitution to protect her autistic brother) and Ben, her brother who has high-functioning autism.  How would such a thing be handled during the apocalypse?  Mullins gives a very respectful and realistic look at the possible answers to this question.    One of the things that really irked me were the way Alex's parents treated him like some helpless kid who had been playing video games through the apocalypse and was too stupid to take care of himself/understand danger.  Seriously?  He'd been separated from them for SIX FREAKING MONTHS!  What, did they think the stork took him back while they were gone and took care of him again?  Puh-lease.   Also, the way Alyssa persisted in trying to seduce Alex while Darla was missing and she knew he was taken, plus she'd basically been raped repeatedly and completely traumatized rang very false.  It also made her come across as a mercenary, unsympathetic whore (at least to me personally).  The non-stop action with no even pacing also got on my nerves.  I felt like things were constantly being thrown at me and I should take notes or something.  It lacked balance.  I liked this book overall and felt that it managed to escape the sophmore slump of most second books in trilogies.  But it wasn't nearly as good as the first book.  I will be eagerly awaiting the third book though, to see what happens next! :)
VERDICT:  3.25/5  Stars
*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is October 16th, 2012*

Monday, September 24, 2012

It's A Gothic Goose...

Expected Publication: October 16th, 2012
Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings Of Mother Goose Rhymes
By: Nina Berry (Editor), Michelle Zink (Editor)
ISBN-13: 9780985029418

In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.


     For the most part I really enjoyed this anthology.  All of these authors told very interesting, creepy and highly imaginative stories.  There were a few that confused me, but that was mostly because of the fact that I had never read the original rhymes they were based on and had no springboard because of it.  This review will give a few insights into my opinions of the individual stories.  Beware that as this was an advance copy, some of the stories that will be in the final published version were omitted from this one and therefore I did not review them.  Enjoy!

As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old (Nina Berry):  This was one of the nursery rhymes that I had never heard before, Taffy and the Welshman.  I spent most of this one in a state of complete confusion until things came together at the end.  I'll read the original at some point and re-read this one after.  Hopefully it'll go better.

Sing A Song Of Six-Pence (Sarwat Chadda):  I was very impressed by the story the author built from the original rhyme.  Someone cursed into blackbird form, allusions to Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven, and the royalty involvement were highly unique.  It really chilled me to my bones.

Clockwork (Leah Cypess):  I wondered how she would make a mouse running up a clock interesting and boy was I not disappointed!  The mouse is really a girl who has been transmogrified and there is royal intrigue, murder, witchcraft and the ending made me wish this had been a full-length novel.  But then again I loved Leah Cypess' Mistwood series when I read it.  This was probably my favorite in the anthology by far! :)

Blue (Sayantani DasGupta):  Unlike some of the other reviews I've seen, I felt like this story was one of the best in the anthology.  It was a retelling of Little Boy Blue and I really enjoyed that it focused on a mysterious phantom tattoo artist, who works life stories into people's skin, but is not allowed to ever feel for herself.  The final interaction was truly beautiful and the writing flows like a river.  Not to be missed.

Pieces of Eight (Shannon Delany with Max Scialdone):  This one was another based on a rhyme that I had never heard before and it really suffered from that fact.  I didn't understand half of what was happening and it alternately dragged and moved too fast at different points.  Not one I feel I can fairly judge, but not a favorite for sure.

Wee Willie Winkie (Leigh Fallon):  CREEPY AS HELL.  It is all about a girl who is moved to an Irish village where all the children under sixteen who aren't in bed asleep by a certain time are taken by a mysterious and villainous figure.  She is lying about her age to work in a tavern and the consequences might not be pleasant...  I liked it and you could tell the author got enjoyment from giving readers goosebumps.

Boys and Girls Come Out To Play (Angie Frazier):  One that was unfamiliar to me, but highly decipherable and well-written, which allowed me to enjoy it more than I thought I would.  The whole idea that the witches have their own community and claim a child of the bloodline each year was innovative and fresh.  What happened when the heroine tried to trick them made me cling to the edge of my seat.

I Come Bearing Souls (Jessie Harrell):  This story was based on Hey Diddle Diddle and had the distinction of including Egyptian mythology, with each main character being the incarnation of a deity.  That made it distinguishable from the others, but more disappointing because of how limited the short story forum made it.  I wish that I could read a full novel about something like this.  It would have made it easier to understand.

The Lion and the Unicorn: Part the First (Nancy Holder):  I am extremely PISSED OFF.  I loved the historical influence in this story, it was well-paced and written interestingly.  It reminded me of Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce.  I was however un-amused when the second part of the story that was supposed to be in this anthology was left out of my ARC.  I am very displeased with the publisher about this.  I do love that it showcased the twisted proclivities of royalty of yore though, very nice touch.

Life in a Shoe (Heidi R. Kling):  Based on Old Woman who lived in a shoe and the idea that she lives in a dystopian world where birth control is illegal and she has a deadbeat husband who only comes home for sex.  The daughter is about to be forced to marry and the Mother is yet again pregnant (even though they are in abject poverty and can't afford the kids they have).  So the oldest kids take matters into their own hands.

Candlelight (Suzanne Lazear):  I knew of this rhyme from the book Stardust by Neil Gaiman and was always intrigued by the idea of traveling by candlelight.  It gave the idea that you wished upon the candle (as a kid) and were transported to a world without parents and restrictions).  It really reinforced the idea that once you leave, you can't go home again.  Even if you realize how melodramatic, ungrateful and wrong you were.

One for Sorrow (Karen Mahoney):  I was new to this rhyme and found the idea of a reverse Beauty and the Beast story very cliched.  I rolled my eyes through most of it and was glad when it was over.  If you have more romantic tendencies it might be more your speed.  Not for me personally, at all.

Little Miss Muffet (Georgia McBride):  Little Miss Muffet as being half-spider and unable to be human all the time until her Mom sacrificed herself and became a spider for good.  Muffet has a very selfish sister, but even so I was sort of gagging when she met the end she did.  Hugely imaginative but not for those without strong stomachs.

Sea of Dew (C. Lee Mckenzie):  I liked this one, even though it was really bleak.  It painted a story about teens in a lifeboat following a shipwreck, who die off one by one.  It was very sad, but the ending (although slightly cheesy) fits the dreamlike quality of the rest of the story.

Tick Tock (Gretchen McNeil):  This story reminded me of everything that I like about slasher flicks, R.L. Stine books and gratuitous violence as an American young-adult.  Delightfully stereotypical in the best way, with the babysitter meeting a bad end in an inventive way.

The Well (K.M. Walton):  
Based off the rhyme Jack and Jill and it definitely took them to the dark side of sibling rivalry.  Jack and Jill hate each other because he is the favorite and a smarmy brat.  Also, they each want something the other has and as the last two people in the world there is one sure way to get it: murder.  Very in-depth characters for such a short story.  Loved it! :)

The Wish (Suzanne Young):  I disliked the insta-love trend that this one followed, but I'm not much of a fan of Young's full-length novels either.  The idea of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star being interpreted as "Be careful what you wish for" was a good one though.  And I liked that the identity of the boy she fell for was horrifying for her at first, as it should be.

A Ribbon of Blue (Michelle Zink):  It was about a girl with a sick Grandma, cerebral palsy and a mysterious fortune shadowing her that at the fair she would find light, peace and love.  But first she would be given a whistle, a ticket and a blue ribbon.  Very bittersweet, but the ending made me smile.

OVERALL VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars

HIGHLIGHTS:  Clockwork, Blue, Life in a Shoe, A Ribbon of Blue, The Well, and Sea of Dew.

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is October 16th, 2012.*

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Even Better Than The Original

Expected Publication: October 16th, 2012
Beta (Annex # 1)
By: Rachel Cohn
ISBN-13: 9781423157199

Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist. 
Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island's workers--soulless clones like Elysia--are immune to. 

At first, Elysia's life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island's flawless exterior, there is an under-current of discontent among Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care--so why are overpowering sensations cloud-ing Elysia's mind? 

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happi-ness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she's always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive. 


     Elysia lives on Demesne, an island paradise that can only belong to the wealthy of the world.  She's sixteen years old and has live their her whole life - which is only the past few weeks.  Elysia is a beta model, an experimental model of a teenage clone.  She was cloned from another girl, who is now dead (the real person has to die before a clone can be made).  The purpose of the clones in general is to serve the residents of Demesne in any way they wish, once they are bought by their "owner."  Elysia is no different and when she is bought to be a companion to the children of one of the most important couples on the island, in essence to replace their own daughter who is away at collge, Elysia is glad that she has found a purpose.  But then she starts having strange visions, memories that belong to her First and shouldn't be available to her.  Elysia starts showing Olympic swimming abilities (another quality of her First) and has a sense of taste that should be absent as a clone.  She begins to feel discontent with being treated like a cross between a pet and a slave, like many of the other Demesne workers and begins to feel lust, anger, happiness and other forbidden emotions.  How can she find a way to survive, when if discovered she will be recycled as defective?  And why is she displaying the qualities of a soul when she supposedly doesn't have one?  
     This book was something that I have been dying to read for months, ever since I first saw the cover.  But I am a major fan of Rachel Cohn's to begin with, especially her Cyd Charisse Trilogy.  I was excited to see her expand into the realm of science fiction.  I was not disappointed in the least.  The book starting out with Elysia working in a boutique as living merchandise and waiting to be bought, elicits a very strong reaction and caused me as a reader to instantly connect to this poor being who is caught between being an object and a real person.  I liked the in-depth world building that explains why regular people can't serve the rich residents of Demesne and they "need" to engineer clone slaves for their menial tasks.  The differences between the clones were also highlighted when Elysia interacted with the Governor's secretary clone (who was also his sexual slave), one of the house clones who is an active member of the rebellion, and the other 'defective' Beta clone, Becky who lashes out at her creators.  The development of Elysia into her own person over time is very gratifying and especially heartbreaking when she is mistreated near the end of the book in an unforgivable way.   Her adoptive 'brother' Ivan and his friends play a big part in her development, especially his friend Tahir who was in a horrific accident and almost died.  Elysia and Tahir start a romantic relationship and he, Greer, Dementia and Ivan introduce her to the drug 'raxia' which puts you in a blissful state and allows clones to "wake up."  There were a few very good plot twists involving the identity of another, secret clone among the wealthy families, but there was major plot twist near the end that I thought was highly unnecessary.  Overall, a very interesting sc-fi debut and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on October 16th, 2012.*

How Else Could It Be, Anyone Would Notice Me

Published: August 21st, 2012
The Sweetest Spell
By: Suzanne Selfors
Walker Children's Books
ISBN-13: 9780802723765

Emmeline Thistle, a dirt-scratcher's daughter, has escaped death twice-first, on the night she was born, and second, on the day her entire village was swept away by flood. Left with nothing and no one, Emmeline discovers her rare and mysterious ability-she can churn milk into chocolate, a delicacy more precious than gold.

Suddenly, the most unwanted girl in Anglund finds herself desired by all. But Emmeline only wants one-Owen Oak, a dairyman's son, whose slow smiles and lingering glances once tempted her to believe she might someday be loved for herself. But others will stop at nothing to use her gift for their own gains-no matter what the cost to Emmeline. 

Magic and romance entwine in this fantastical world where true love and chocolate conquer all.


    Emmeline Thistle has a shameful heritage - she is descended from the Kells, invaders of the land of Anglund, who killed a beloved Queen in a bid to take over the land (or so all the Flatlander descendants have been led to believe) and as such were banished to the  most uninhabitable tracts of land found, that flooded easily and were a harsh place to grow crops.  Due to the fight for survival, Emmeline's people are known as dirt-scratchers and have a harsh, physically demanding life.  Which is why when she was born with a twisted foot, she was put next to the woods to be taken by predators.  But the cows of the village saved her and ever since she's had a special bond with them.  Emmeline is ostracized because of her deformity and called a witch because of the cows, so she thinks marriage is just a dream.  But at the yearly marriage market her Father and all the unmarried men are taken by the King to supposedly fight in a war (they are not allowed to leave the Flatlands unless summoned).  That night a rain starts and within a few days the village of Root is washed away in a flood, taking Emmeline down the river with it and into adventure.  When Emmeline discovers that she has a magical talent, it puts her very life in jeopardy.  Will she be able to find love and freedom when almost everyone only values her for her gifts?  And can she find freedom for the rest of the Dirt-Scratchers from the nefarious purposes they are being forced to serve?  I was wary about this, because I didn't see how churning butter into chocolate could be all that interesting - boy was I wrong!  I love that the book starts out with Emmeline explaining how she was cast out and the cows saved her.  I love that she is such a strong willed girl, even though the other villagers treat her horribly and speaking out just gets her more ridicule.  Never once does she just sit down in defeat.  Emmeline is always fighting to survive and more than that, to be free.  When she's saved by Owen Oak, son of a dairyman, from dying on the riverbank where she washes up it really shows the distinctions between the Flatlanders (a.k.a. dirtscratchers) and the rest of Anglund's people.  They're viewed to be barbarians and no better than animals.  Emmeline blooms when the oaks treat her as an equal, even after they discover her gift of making chocolate after it's been a myth for such a long time.  I liked the side characters of Prince Beau, Duke of Lime, Peddler, Griffin, Emmeline's Father and Owen's parents.  The King and Queen were deliciously evil and the shocking reality about Anglund's history was a truly fun plot twist.  The romance was very sweet and I was pleased with how it developed over the book, which shifted between Emmeline's POV and Owen's.  It was definitely one of my favorite reads of the year and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.  Plus, for once in a YA novel the cover is actually highly representative of the story within and doesn't make me want to vomit from looking at it's insipidity.  It was enchanting, magical and beautifully descriptive.  I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy that showcases alternate histories, originality and a whimsical quality that is a breath of fresh air.  

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Want to Break Up

Published: May 1st, 2012
When You Were Mine
By: Rebecca Serle
Simon Pulse
ISBN-13: 9781442433137

In this intensely romantic, modern recounting of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo’s original intended—Juliet’s cousin Rosaline—tells her side of the tale. What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything.

     Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy...and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance.

     Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends….


   This book had so much promise to start off with.  It was a modern-day re-telling of Romeo and Juliet from the discarded Rosaline's perspective.  It had a three-way family feud including Rosaline's branch of "Caplets", as well as her cousin Juliet's.  Rob (Romeo) and Rosaline have been friends since they were little and they shared a moment before he went away for the summer.  Now that he's back she thinks they'll be starting an epic romance.  But then her cousin Juliet moves to town and it's insta-love between her and Rob, whose parents hate each other (because Rob's Dad and Juliet's Mom had an affair apparently).  So of course they're doomed from the start, not to mention that Juliet is apparently mentally unbalanced (this inclusion kind of pissed me off).  I felt like Rose was over-reaching and expecting too much from Rob even from the start of the book.  Not to mention, their one date together was super awkward and her friends Olivia & Charlie have basically already married them off.  Rose annoyed me to put it simply.  She spent a lot of time allowing herself to be kicked around by Rob and everyone else, who acted super shallow when push came to shove.  But then when Rose starts something up with Len, the school freak (labeled as such by her shallow friends), she ditches Rob altogether and doesn't even account for their lifetime of friendship to try and stop his downward spiral with Juliet.  I was sympathetic when she grieved near the end of the book, but I felt like the characters in this book came across as very two-dimensional, even Rose who it supposed to be a much-deepened and expanded version of her character in the play.  This book was designed to make me care that Romeo gave up on her immediately after meeting Juliet (understandable due to the vow of chastity).  But I was left feeling extremely ambivalent and kind of bored at the end.  Much to short to do any real character building, at least enough for me as a reader.  Glad I got this from the library and didn't buy it.

VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*

Most Unusual Origins

Published: September 4th, 2012
By: Jessica Khoury
ISBN-13: 9781595145956

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home--and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost.


   Pia is the first in a race of immortal beings.  Or at least that's the hope of the scientists, who have been injecting her ancestors with serum from a mysterious flower they call Elysia, that finally altered Pia's genetic makeup (she is fifth generation of the experiment).  She has grown up among a top-secret research facility and it's staff, being told how special and perfect she is.  Pia is taught everything scientific she could ever need to know, but everything about the outside world is kept from her.  There is nothing she knows outside of Little Cam.  The mission is noble, all encompassing and more important than anything.  Then on the night of Pia's 17th birthday after the arrival of a vibrant new scientist (Dr. Harriet) who challenges everything she's been taught, she discovers and opening in the electrical fence and decides to explore the jungle, against the rules.  She discovers the native tribe of the Ai'oans and learns that there is more to life than striving for immortality - especially in her growing relationship with Eio, the son of a native woman and a scientist from Little Cam (whose identity he won't reveal).  When all the secrets of Little Cam come spilling out, will Pia choose to stay involved with the scientists research or will she escape to the Ai'oans and be free for the first time in her life?  And what will the cost of the second choice be in the end?  I adored this book.  It was such an interesting concept, even if it wasn't a new one by far.  Scientists trying to engineer an immortal race, animal experiments, cruel mental tests and brainwashing all lent to the realism of Pia's struggles in this book.  I loved that Harriet came into Little Cam, making Pia question her blind obedience and giving her a map of the entire world (something she has never seen before).  Pia's relationships with Eio and his young foster sister Ami are very sweet and so heartbreaking.  The fact that she is able to relate to them, but so far apart due to her exclusion from reality is angering to me individually.  I loved the plot twists involved, although the identity of Eio's Father was pretty obvious from the start of the mystery.  I loved Alai's relationship with Pia and was disappointed when he disappeared for the second half of the book until the very end.  The climax of the novel was full of violence, moral uproar and some very stirringly emotional goodbyes.  The descriptions of the jungle and the compound were very lush and beautiful for someone who had never been there before writing the book!  I loved the philosophical questions this book raises so effortlessly, while it worldbuilds around the reader.  I would highly recommend this to people who like sci-fi, but aren't hardcore fans and want a very fast-paced mystery/adventure book with elements of sci-fi included.  I really loved this book and if anything my only complaint would be that it ended and that it left us hanging as to the endings of Pia, Eio and Harriet's individual stories after the fall of Little Cam.

VERDICT:  4.85/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published September 4th, 2012.*

Kinfolk, But Not By Blood...

Published: July 31st, 2012
Otherkin (Otherkin # 1)
By: Nina Berry
ISBN-13: 9780758276919

I thought I knew myself. Then I met Caleb.

Dez is a good girl who does as she’s told and tries not to be noticed.
Then she rescues a boy from a cage, and he tells her secrets about herself.
Now inside her burns a darkness that will transform her.

Everything is about to change -- and neither Caleb, nor the Otherkin, nor those who hunt them are prepared for what Dez will unleash.


   Desdemona (better known as Dez by her friends and family) has a loving Mom and Step-Dad, great friends and a safe home.  Plus the boy that she's been crushing on has just noticed her, although her back brace makes it kind of humiliating on top of the excitement she feels.  Then Dez shapeshifts into a tiger for the first time and all Hell breaks loose.  She's shot, kidnapped and stuck inside a cage by an organization called the Tribunal who wants to eliminate all shifters.  But she manages to escape, rescuing Caleb the boy in the cage next to hers on the way out.  It turns out that Dez is Otherkin and is able to tap into her shifter form due to an alternate dimension known as the Othersphere.  Forced to go into hiding at a special school for Otherkin teenagers, Dez and Caleb (who is actually able to call up the shadow in other objects and control it, but not shift himself) slowly begin to make ties with the other shifters, even though their clans are very stand-offish and self-serving.  But when the Tribunal attacks the school itself and the school's leader, Morfael, is wounded and other students captured it will be up to Dez, Caleb and the others that are left to face the Tribunal head on for a change.  Can they work together in time to save the clans from starting a war on each other?  And what explosive secrets is Caleb hiding that will change everything?

     I have been trying to steer clear of shifter/vampire/werewolf/fairy/angel, etc. fiction as of late because it always seems to disappoint my expectations.  This book pleasantly surprised me!  I liked Dez from the start, even if she is a little bit whiny about the back brace.  But the book got into the action right away pretty much, with Dez being forced to deal with a supernatural world underneath her own.  And yes, she's pissed off and bewildered.  But she's also strong, kick-ass and take names which lends to my liking of her.  She rolls with punches very well, especially with a tradition of wishy-washy YA heroines trailing behind her.  I liked that this book had some major set-up for the rest of the series, but also had a lot of action sequences to break up the monotony.  The tentative friendships between the kids from each Clan, who had been pre-conditioned to dislike and distrust each other their whole lives, very realistic.  When the shit hits the fan, those beginning steps almost get thrown from the window until Dez steps up and decides to take on the Tribunal.  It had a Percy Jackson vibe, but with shapeshifters.  The one thing I could have done without was the unnecessary romance between Dez and Caleb.  But it was easily ignored and for that I was grateful.  I just hope the next book bypasses the usual Supe love triangle.  Here's hoping! :)

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published July 31st, 2012.*

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Very Geeky Exorcism


Expected Publication: October 2nd, 2012
By: Sean Cummings
Strange Chemistry
ISBN-13: 9781908844101

15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn't all it's cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it's pretty obvious to Julie there's a supernatural connection.

In fact, there's a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie's high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it's a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won't just lose her mother's soul, she'll lose her mother's life.

   Julie Richardson is a witch in training who thinks that her Mom is overprotective.  But her reasons become apparent when Julie and her best friend Marcus try to do a routine exorcism for what they think is a poltergeist and all Hell breaks loose.  It turns out that it is a malevolent spirit, raised by another witch for unknown purposes.  But it seems to be targeting Julie and her Mom for some serious hurt.  Then Julie's Mom becomes a victim of the Endless Night spell, which takes away her soul and puts her in a coma.  Now it's up to Julie to learn the family secrets that have been kept from her, truly claim her powers and save her Mom from the verge of death.  Oh yeah and get rid of the malevolent spririt, which happens to be a famous and deadly witch hunter who has been dead for centuries!  Can Julie save her Mom with the help of Marcus and spirit helper Betty before its too late?  This book had a good start.  I think one of my favorite parts is when Julie traps the spirit in the teddy bear.  It made me laugh! :)  The sarcastic wit of both Julie and her friend Marcus are a refreshing change from most of the bland YA best friend duos I've had the misfortune to read about.  But a lot of the time dialogue felt very stilted and forced to me.  Also, Julie's relationship with her Mom seemed almost like an afterthought that suddenly became the main focus of the novel!  At first it's a routine exorcism and it turns into a discovery of family secrets, betrayl and destiny.  I enjoyed the family secrets, the betrayl was very trite and predictable and the destiny was mostly forgettable and unclear.  I was very annoyed by the romantic angst that Julie went through with Marcus for the last 2/3 of the book.  It was unnecessary and overall added nothing to the book, except for a half-baked explanation for the betrayl at the end.  I liked that the whole thing was a set-up by a con-woman who wanted to settle an old acount.  That was a nice touch.  Overall, an decent debut novel and a cute addition to the YA paranormal genre.  But I doubt I'll be reading the sequel if there is one.
VERDICT:  3/5  Stars
*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is October 2nd, 2012.*

Silver Bells and Cockleshells

Expected Publication: October 2nd, 2012
Posion Princess (The Arcana Chronicles # 1)
By: Kresley Cole
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9781442436640

Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side….

   Evie Greene was leading a great life with the perfect boyfriend, popularity and good friends.  Then she started to have visions about the end of the world, which led to her being committed to a mental hospital and brainwashed.  Now that she's out, Evie is ready to make a fresh start without any more psychic nightmares and predictions of doom.  But when the visions start up again and her drawings of them get the attention of Cajun bad-boy Jackson Deveaux, Evie begins to spiral out of control again.  So when the apocalypse really does happen, she and her Mom barely survive.  Struggling with the meaning of her visions, Evie and Jackson find out that the end hasn't quite happened yet and the worst is still on its way.  But when your blood gives life and you have secrets that could kill, who can you trust?  Will they survive when the truth comes out into the open?  Or are Evie and Jackson about to lost the fight once and for all?  This was an intriguing concept and I had never read anything by Kresley Cole before.  So I decided to give it a shot.  I couldn't put it down once I started reading!  Evie is a realistic portrayl of a teenage girl, who is by turns annoyingly weak and strong beyond her years.  The situation of love-hate with Jackson was funny and sad all at the same time.  They're two of the only surviving teens in the whole area around where they live.  Of course they would cling to what they know - represented by each other.  The idea of the apocalypse being a battle between the living embodiments of the tarot deck is something I doubt anyone else has ever thought of before.  The originality was very pleasing.  Some of my biggest complaints were how long it took before anything actually happened and Evie's stupid obsession with finding her Grandma (the one who knows about her place in the tarot and what it means).  She should focus more on surviving before worrying about finding someone who is 99 percent more likely to be dead than alive!  It also took almost  a fourth of the book before the apocalypse actually happened.  The beginning was filled with average high school happenings.  Yes, they gave a backstory.  But they also got boring after the first fifty pages or so.  I liked some of the plot twists, especially the ending which really shocked me.  I did not expect it AT ALL.  I will be reading the next one for sure when it comes out!  Not perfect by far, but a really good start to a fresh new YA series.
VERDICT:  4/5  Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on October 2nd, 2012.*

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Not So Crazy For You

Expected Publication: November 27th, 2012
Wild About You (Love At Stake # 13)
By: Kerrelyn Sparks
Avon Books
ISBN-13: 9780062107718

The thirteenth book in the Love at Stake series features Howard Barr, the were-bear!
Handsome Howard…Hunky Howard… Hot Howard…

It’s not every day that Elsa Bjornberg feels fragile, not when she hosts a home renovation show where she can effortlessly demolish a kitchen. But from the moment she meets Howard Barr, this bear of a man makes her feel like a woman. And the way he looks at her, as if she was a pot of honey he’d like to lick…

Howard is not like most men. For one thing, he’s a shapeshifter. And he always thought his celebrity crush would never amount to anything more than drooling at Elsa on the TV. When his meddling vampire employer gets involved, the star is suddenly within his grasp—and within a hair of her life. For an ancient curse forbids their newfound love, and Howard is suddenly torn between his desire for her and his desire to keep her alive.

   Howard Barr is leading a fairly solitary life, but even he gets lonely watching all his friends marry off and have kids.  Right now he's focused on revenge for Rhett Bleddyn for killing his first love and getting him banished from his home for two decades.  He won't stop until Rhett's career, place as werewolf packmaster and underhanded embezzlement are stopped once and for all.  Meanwhile, Elsa Bjornberg has come to the Dragon Nest Academy where he is a security guard to do renovations on the building next door.  Sparks fly from the very first touch and their family histories may just be inextricably linked.  But can they manage to fight an ancient curse that threatens to keep them apart?  This book was one that I was really excited to read.  I loved Howard in the other books and the series has managed to keep momentum pretty well up until now.  I was majorly disappointed.  I like fluff as much as the next person, but this book felt like it had no plot and zero real romance.  Howard and Elsa are both focused on each other's looks above all else and she is absolutely unable to see past the fact that he's a were-bear, which is not synonymous with MONSTER.  I felt really frustrated at how weak-minded Elsa was and how easily she let others talk her into questioning the fact that Howard was harmless and a good guy.  The epiphany she has to that effect felt seriously fake and forced.  Also, Howard's desperation to be with Elsa and then pushing her away for her protection (at the very end of the book almost), as a basic afterthought was dumb.  I liked the parts with Tino and Shanna was amusing, if annoying.  Her Aunts were insufferable and the way they change their minds at the end with no convincing was very weak.  But Howard and Elsa's "romance" did absolutely nothing for me.  So utterly contrived and without any appeal for me.  I hope the next one is better. 
VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via Edelweiss.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is November 27th, 2012.*

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dust In The Wind...

Expected Publication: October 9th, 2012
A Thunderous Whisper
By: Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9780375869297

Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a 12-year-old girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a 14-year-old boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. A boy of action. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. She's actually making a difference in the world. 

And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, her mother. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.


   Ani lives in the small town of Guernica, with her Mother and Father.  She goes out every day to sell sardines with her Mother, who makes a living at it.  Ani is teased and ridiculed by her classmates, has no friends and desperately misses her Father who is fighting in the Spanish Civil War that is raging around her.  Also going on at this time is WWII, so Ani and her neighbors also gave to worry about being bombed by the Nazis.  When Mathias moves to town with his parents who take over management of the movie theater, Ani makes her first friend.  She also becomes involved in something far more dangerous than she ever imagined when the two kids stumble across a spy ring involving Matt's parents.  They become involved as messengers and when they have the chance to make a difference for real Ani and Matt have to fight to be heard.  But after Guernica is bombed and their families are shattered, Ani and Matt must decide what is more important - fighting back or saving others from the ravages of war.  This was different from my usual supernatural fare.  I know almost next to nothing about Spanish history, the Basque subsect of the population and the Civil War that was raging in the backdrop of WWII.  But I really    felt connected to Ani and Mathias despite the cultural differences.  I loved seeing Ani's joy at watching her first movie (Top Hat, with Fred and Ginger of course) and the happiness that came with her and Matt's growing friendship.  The devastation after the bombing of Guernica just about broke my heart in half and I loved the fact that the author was realistic about the survival of family versus the death of them.  The ending was beautiful and it truly made me glad that this book will be published.  If I can find more books like this, historical fiction might become a steadier part of my diet.  The only thing I wasn't too enamored with was how unreasonable Matt became later in the novel.  But then again, he was a fourteen year old boy.  If you want to read a wonderful book about coming of age during the two separate wars that intersect in a horrific way, and in spite of them, this is the book for you.  It definitely made me feel like I was gaining something important.

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is October 9th, 2012.*

Full Moon Crazy

Published: December 10th, 2011
The Heiress and Her Fake Fiance
By: Kimberly Hope
Gateway Reads, LLC

When her father starts manipulating her life again, Jessica Heymore needs an escape and time to determine her next move. She runs to Blakely and the safe haven of her grandmother’s house. Except Grandma didn’t mention the house was occupied. Now she finds herself living with the star of her high school fantasies. Matt Lawson has moved back to Blakely to prove he’s more than they thought the son of the town drunk could ever be. An accomplished landscape designer, he’s looking for a wife who will stay in the small town and help him set down strong roots on the right side of the tracks this time. But Jessica’s grandma has a penchant for matchmaking and now the whole town is talking about the future for these unlikely roommates.


   Jessica Heymore thought her life was pretty good.  She had a great boyfriend turned fiance, the perfect job with an advertising agency and she got it all without the help of her family's influence - that is, until she finds out her Dad is conspiring with her fiance to sign a contract with their ad agency.  To escape from the disappointment and a broken heart Jess runs away to Blakely and her Grandma's empty house.  At least that's what Grandma led her to believe.  In reality her high school crush, Matt Lawson, is living there and taking care of the property for Jess' Grandma.  At first they are fighting over who gets to live there and who needs to leave, but when Jess' Grandma (known for her pranks and mischievous nature) begins showing possible mental deterioration, they band together to learn once and for all if it's just a prank or Grandma needs serious help.  Along the way Jess and Matt finally come to terms with their feelings for each other.  But will they be able to give up their stubborn denials for a happily ever after?  After reading the book (which is pretty funny) I was left a little disappointed.  I share the same complaint as some other readers - it should have been longer.  One hundred and thirty-six pages was not NEARLY long enough to truly flesh out the characters, give a detailed history of their past relationship and resolve all the conflict preventing them from connecting romantically.  It was a very cute romance and the idea was worthwhile. It just could have used more expansion.  I identified with Jess' devotion to her Grandma, determination to make her own way in life and her way of dealing with the originally unrequited love for Matt.  On the other hand, her blatant lack of reasoning is obvious when at the beginning of the book she's about to marry a man she doesn't love.  SAY WHAT???  And she knows it!!!  Matt came across as hot, kind, understanding and the perfect man for most of the book.  Except for the fact that he was undeniably sexist in his expectations for a relationship.  Plus his wife hunt was slightly hard to stomach.  Grandma was probably my favorite character and even she wasn't that developed as an individual.  She was really funny though.  Overall a cute, funny romance but it needs to be edited and expanded a little bit more.  I'm interested to see what Kimberly Hope does next! :)

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published December 10th, 2011.*