Thursday, February 28, 2013

Running Leah Over

Published: October 9th, 2012
Chasing Leah (Journey Series # 1)
By: C.A. Williams

Leah Rossi hasn't had an easy upbringing and is looking to start fresh when she leaves for college. Being abandoned by her mom and ignored by her grandma, shes basically on her own dealing with life's everyday struggles and added into the mix is a three year old. But as soon as she locks eyes with a tattooed up bad boy looking Chase O'Neil, shes hooked and has no where to run while she fights the overgrowing attraction that ignites between them.

     I went into this one knowing that it was self-published, but I have read some really good books that were.  So I gave it a fair shot at making me a fan.  I wish that I could burn it for having wasted my time, but it's an e-copy and Kindles are expensive devices!!!  I loved the idea of the story, a college aged girl caring for her little brother and struggling to trust anyone after being screwed over by her Mom.  A hot, tattooed musician looking to break through her shell and true love that blossoms between them (I'm a cheesy romantic at heart still <B).  What I got was a meandering plot, mediocre writing that bordered on torture for my eyes, which are already bad and the butchering of yet another good idea someone else should have had.  Or at least this author should have hired a professional editor.  The sloppiness of the sentence structures, word choice and over usage of certain phrases had me cringing and rolling my eyes in disgust.  How many times could Chase actually freaking smirk???  A lot apparently!  And Leah was one of those Mary-Sue heroines that is the obvious case of an author writing herself into her book, a la Stephanie Meyer with Twilight.  A heroine with no real faults except an annoying inability to be consistent in her beliefs is annoying at best and revolting at worst.  This fell somewhere between the two, due to the adorable presence of her brother Caleb.  Even he didn't manage to be very realistic though and I have never met a toddler as well behaved as that kid.  Not a single tantrum?  No one is that mature at the age of three!!! The accident that she was in only had me wishing that Leah would just die already, so maybe someone more interesting could become the main character or something would finally, effing HAPPEN!!! (but with Allie, an obvious Twilight rip off of Alice as the BFF, this never would have happened anyways).     Overall a huge disappointment and I will NOT be reading anything more by this author unless she is picked up by a major publishing house and severely edited.  I don't know how I made it to the end - it was a freaking, modern miracle! :()

VERDICT:  1/5  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, February 27, 2013

Crash Into Me Baby...

Published: January 5th, 2012
Slammed (Slammed # 1)
By: Colleen Hoover
Self Published
ISBN-13: 2940014187602

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope.

Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.

Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.


     So I got schooled this year, by this novel.  This one was what I consider to be my first true introduction to the New Adult Contemporary genre that has popped up over the last few years and expanded like mad in the writing community.  This book in particular seems to be one most people either really dislike, or really love.  I saw an article about New Adult fiction in Romantic Times magazine and figured I'd give one of the spotlighted books a shot.  Boy am I seriously grateful that I chose this one (which won the draw mostly because it's set in my home state of Michigan!).  Layken was a relatable main character, who although she was mature and good-hearted was far from perfect.  In fact there were times when she was a downright brat to everyone who loves her.  And that made this more real to me than a million perfect heroines with true 'speshul' loves ever could.  We are never our best selves 100 % of the time - EVER.  I loved the way that she and Will met and while the source of their angst and the thing keeping them apart was very cliched, for the most part it was handled extremely well by the author and never delved into the realm of lurid fantasy that it could have easily hijacked.  Layken and Will's little brothers were hilarious and heartbreaking, especially with the tragedy that they're going through with Layken's one remaining parent.  Their Halloween costume made me cry and laugh both.  This book was so sincere and gripping in its emotions that I couldn't put it down, reading it straight through in one sitting!  I can't say much more without giving major spoilers, so all I will say is that if you love romance and reading characters that are people you could actually know, this is the one for you.  But have the sequel within close reach or you'll be dying for the next fix! 

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.**

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

She's More Than Just Another Teenage Beauty Queen

Expected Publication: March 1st, 2013
Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality
By: Elizabeth Eulberg
Point Press
ISBN-13: 9780545476997

Don't mess with a girl with a Great Personality.

Everybody loves Lexi. She's popular, smart, funny...but she's never been one of those girls, the pretty ones who get all the attention from guys. And on top of that, her seven-year-old sister, Mackenzie, is a terror in a tiara, and part of a pageant scene where she gets praised for her beauty (with the help of fake hair and tons of makeup).

Lexi's sick of it. She's sick of being the girl who hears about kisses instead of getting them. She's sick of being ignored by her longtime crush, Logan. She's sick of being taken for granted by her pageant-obsessed mom. And she's sick of having all her family's money wasted on a phony pursuit of perfection.

The time has come for Lexi to step out from the sidelines. Girls without great personalities aren't going to know what hit them. Because Lexi's going to play the beauty game - and she's in it to win it.


     Lexie has great personality, everyone says so.  But no one ever once tells her she's pretty, especially not her Mom who is obsessed with her little sister Mackenzie's beauty pageants and will do anything to finance them - even ignoring the bills and boring money from Lexie that she never pays back.  With her Dad wrapped up in his new girlfriend and the guy she likes never noticing her except as a pal, Lexie makes a bet with her best friends and starts to gain notice when her appearance becomes more glamorous.  Lexie likes the attention but is afraid that none of it is real.  If Lexis goes back to being her average self, will she still get the guy and can she stand up to her Mom before their family is destroyed for good?  This book was funny, heart-breaking and like watching a bad episode of reality T.V. only with some actual value.  I truly liked the perspective of Lexie but she was so real and made a few dumb decisions that made me want to shake some sense into her.  The romance with Taylor made me swoon and the stupidity of her crush on the scumbag who is 'the cutest boy in school', whose girlfriend does pageants with her sister is just cringeworthy.  The story moves at a decent pace, but I sometimes felt like I was watching a filler episode of a soap opera, waiting for the big stuff to happen (baby swap, murder, you know - the usual!).  The interactions with her Mom were awful and unfortunately probably realistic for some people living that particular lifestyle of pageants.  The way her Mom stole from her and refused to treat her equally with her little sister (who was being forced to do pageants she had come to hate, because Mom loved them) was heart-wrenching.  The conclusion of the novel was like watching an after school special and the loose ends/remaining conflict was very unsatisfying to me as a reader.  Overall, a good fluffy read if you like your fluff with some substance to it.  But not something that I will be re-reading.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

*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 March 1st, 2013.*

Monday, February 25, 2013

She's So High Above You

Expected Publication:  April 9th, 2013
The Rising (Darkness Rising # 3)
By: Kelley Armstrong
ISBN-13: 9780061797088

Things are getting desperate for Maya and her friends. Hunted by the powerful St. Clouds and now a rival Cabal as well, they're quickly running out of places to hide. And with the whole world thinking they died in a helicopter crash, it's not like they can just go to the authorities for help.

All they have is the name and number of someone who might be able to give them a few answers. Answers to why they're so valuable, and why their supernatural powers are getting more and more out of control.

But Maya is unprepared for the truths that await her. And now, like it or not, she'll have to face down some demons from her past if she ever hopes to move on with her life. Because Maya can't keep running forever.

Old secrets are revealed and unexpected characters make a surprising return in this stunning conclusion to Kelley Armstrong's New York Times bestselling Darkness Rising trilogy.


     Lets just start off with this statement: I am Armstrong's biggest fan for her other YA series, Darkest Powers.  That said, the first two books in this series had filler syndrome and mostly failed to impress me in any real lasting way.  I went into this one kind of fuzzy on the characters and happenings of her last novel, but it wasn't too difficult to refresh as it started right where the other one left off.  Maya, Daniel and Corey are still on the run from the St. Clouds and all of the rival Cabals who would like to use the kids to their own advantages.  With the rest of their friends either missing or kidnapped, time is running out for Maya and the boys to think up a solution and finally get some answers once and for all about who/what they are.  But can they all survive the journey to the answers?  I thought that this book wrapped up the series quite nicely and tied up all the loose ends.  My only major complaint stems from all of the terminology involving Cabals and their people.  I felt like I'd been dropped inside of a series I hadn't been reading from the start and while fans of her adult novels may have been familiar, I wasn't.  It was jarring to say the least.  Maya still seemed pretty cold as a character to me and the resolution to the love triangle between her, Daniel and Rafe surprised me but didn't make me jump for joy like in Darkest Powers with Simon, Chloe and Derek.  Speaking of my fave characters from the other series, it was wonderful to see them get some play in this conclusion because they way their series ended was fairly abrupt.  I know I felt like they still had stories to be told.  The action in this one is non-stop, which was a nice change from all of the build-up in the other two that left me antsy and bored as a reader more than once.  Overall, I wouldn't recommend this series to anyone who isn't a die-hard fan of Armstrong's but at the same time it was far from the worst I've read.  And this last book was definitely the strongest.  If you've read the other two books, you should finish the series to get some true closure! :)

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 April 9th, 2013*

Friday, February 22, 2013

Coming Out of My Cage, I've Been Doing Just Fine

Expected Publication: February 26th, 2013
Wicked Kiss (Nightwatchers # 2)
By: Michelle Rowen
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13: 9780373210640


I used to be ordinary Samantha Day, but that's changed. Now, after one dark kiss from a dangerous boy, I can steal someone's soul...or their life. If I give in to the constant hunger inside me, I hurt anyone I kiss. If I don't...I hurt myself.

Bishop is the one whose kiss I crave most, but if I kiss him, I'll kill him. Then there's another boy, one I can't hurt. One whose kiss seems to miraculously quell my hunger. They're both part of a team of angels and demons that's joined forces in my city to fight a mysterious rising darkness, an evil that threatens everyone I know and love. I just wonder if I'll be able to help Bishop-or if I'm just another part of the darkness he's sworn to destroy....

     Samantha Day was an ordinary girl just a week ago, wanting nothing as much as to be kissed by the boy she'd been crushing on for a long time.  She didn't expect him to steal her soul when it finally happened.  Oh yeah, and Sam is also half angel and half demon, which makes things even more complicated.  Now with a constant hunger, Sam must fight and retrieve her soul before it's too late and she's gone for good.  With the help of a team of Angels and Demons assembled to keep the balance in the universe, (including fallen angel Bishop who Sam shares an attraction with and Kraven a demon, and Bishop's brother) Sam needs to find a way to get rid of the 'Grays' before the city is destroyed.  But when the dust settles who will still be alive?  I was kind of on the fence about the first book and am not really into the angels/demons YA trend that's still kind of floating around.  But this book ended up being kind of 'meh' for me like the first one.  The reason it gets as much accolade as it does from me, is mostly due to the supporting characters and not the leads.  For instance, mean girl Jordan grows and changes so much in this book, but manages to stay snarky and interesting even after becoming Sam's friend (a.k.a getting mixed up with the supernaturak shit in her life).  I also enjoyed the addition of Cassandra, the female angel sent down on a secret mission which might be at cross purposes with the rest of the group's aims.  The dynamic between Cass and the rest of the group was interesting, even if her self-righteous attitude did grate on my nerves somewhat.  The jealousy on the part of Sam got really annoying though and made me want to smack her.  As a reader I enjoyed the backstory given about Bishop and Kraven's tumultuous history and thought it was very well executed.  But the rest of the plot felt like it dragged, making me want to skip large chunks out of pure boredom.  There were a couple of plot twists that caught me off guard, which always impresses me.  I like it when an author's writing is good enough to keep me guessing.  Too bad that momentum didn't exist through the whole book.  Especially with the scene where Sam "died" and was no longer a Grey afterwards; it was so cheesy and predictable, with no real substance.  I'm glad I stuck with it and read this book, because it turns out this is the last one and it WON'T be a trilogy.  In a way that sucks, because the ending was extremely loose and even though the action plot got resolved, the romantic one definitely did not.  Overall, an unsatisfying book but a decent read.

VERDICT:  2.75/5  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 February 26th, 2013.*

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Greatest of Ease

Published: December 10th, 2012
The Daring Young Man (Mumbo Jumbo Circus # 2)
By: Jane George
Paper Grove Publishing
ISBN-13: 9780985130701

Sixteen year-old Dante Delgado is staring down the barrel of a gangbanger's gun when he's surprised by the arrival of a clown on a unicycle.

Dante hates clowns. He hates everything to do with the circus. He once dreamed of being one of the few trapecistas able to do a quadruple somersault in the air. Then a tragic accident took his parents, their circus, and his ability to fly. But when faced with the choice between the circus or a bullet, he jumps on the clown's shoulders and rides off to an even more mysterious adventure involving Dia de los Muertos, two dangerous girls, and the nemesis of the tiny, magical Mumbo Jumbo Circus, the evil Las Vegas spectacular, Cirque Patron.

     Dante Delgado has given up on circus life after the death of his parents, his brother's desertion, the ruin of his hand and the loss of their small family circus.  Now he works jobs only given to illegal immigrants and associates with lowlives.  Then a clown appears when he needs to be rescued and Dante is swept into the magical world (with it's very real problems) of the Mumbo Jumbo Circu, including all of its colorful members.  Dante is drawn in against his will when his dead Grandmother promises the Ringmaster their family's Big Top in exchange for making Dante whole again - but he only has a few days to do it!  Throw in romance, betrayal, and the possibility of a fresh start and you get the adventure of a lifetime.  Can Dante find himself again and save the Circus in the bargain?  Or will the evil Cirque Patron destroy Mumbo Jumbo once and for all?  Recently I read The Mumbo Jumbo Circus for the first time and really loved it.  I truly fell into the world of the circus and all the magic (and heartbreak) involved in it.  This book picks up where the first one leaves off, using a new main character to continue the story.  Dante was definitely a teenage boy, with his stubborn resistance to accepting his new situation and inability to see beyond a pretty face.  But he also had a heart bigger than Texas and a strong sense of loyalty, which endeared him to me enough to keep going.  My main disappointment was the way that the relationship between Wally and Evan fell apart.  I think that my favorite new character in this one was the mysterious water creature/girl, who shows Dante what's most important in life.  The conflict with Cirque Patron continued, throwing in an interesting twist of alternate dimensions (time travel?) through one of their tents.  Kind of unexpected to me, but cool all the same.  The interaction between Dante and the Pickled Punk (my fave character EVER) was hilarious and made me laugh.  I was slightly disappointed by the way he and the Ringmaster were out of commission for most of the book.  Overall, a good follow-up to the first book in the series.  I am really excited to read the third one and find out about Chandi, the tiger girl from Cirque Patron.  I would recommend it to fans of the first book and the young adult fantasy genre in general.
VERDICT: 4/5  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.**

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where The Skies Are Not Cloudy

Published: February 19th, 2013
Home to Montana
By: Charlotte Carter
Love Inspired
ISBN-13: 9780373878031

Staying in one place was never Nick Carbini's plan. When his troubled past leads him to Bear Lake, Montana, single mom Alisa Machak makes him consider putting down roots. Alisa doesn't have a problem letting Nick work in her diner, but when he starts edging his way into her heart, she has to draw the line. He reminds her too much of her son's father, another drifter who abandoned them both. Nick wishes he could be there for them, but believes he's not fit to be a husband. When his worst fears come true one night, it's up to Alisa to show him the perfect recipe for a forever romance.


     Single Mom Alisa Machak has been burned before, and she's not eager to repeat the experience.  So she stays away from men who present any danger of upsetting her life in any way - in other words, she avoids true love like the plague.  Nick Carbini has become a drifter, with no place to truly call home since he was a kid and his Mom was alive.  So he returns to the only place he can get that feeling - Bear Lake, Montana. Working in Alisa's family diner, Nick and Alisa immediately feel sparks fly.  But not willing to risk her heart or her son's Alisa hardens herself against the new-found possibility of a relationship.  Especially with a man who reminds her of her son's Father, a deadbeat drifter.  Can Nick move away from the demons of his past and convince Alisa that they have a future together?  Or will both of them end up with a broken heart?  Not realizing this book was Love Inspired and not a Harlequin Super Romance, I requested it from NetGalley.  I wish that I hadn't.  While the characters are relatable and fairly well written, this book was downright depressing.  Alisa is a woman who loves her son, her Mom and her town.  But she is a complete shrew and not a very interesting character to me.  Oh poor baby, had a bad experience in love.  So now she treats this veteran with major issues like he's Jeffery Dahmer reincarnated or something!  And every time he shows any interest in her son (who is starved for male companionship of any kind at all, as he has no Dad or Grandpa in his life) she freaks out and acts like Nick's trying to kidnap him from her.  Any excuse not to be nice to Nick and Alisa will take it, no hesitation.  I loved Alisa's Mother, who was an absolute gem of a woman, especially dealing with such a bitter daughter.  Nick had issues, but he saw the shades of grey in the world order which endeared him to me a LOT more than Alisa as a character and romantic interest.  While being a Christian romance, it managed to avoid the preachy overtones for the most part, until the second half of the book which was saturated in religion.  I got extremely annoyed with having it shoved in my face and was glad when the book was over.  My overall opinion is that people who like a predictable  bland romance will like this one. If you're not super religious avoid it like the plague.

VERDICT:  2/5  Stars

*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 February 19th, 2013.*

Monday, February 18, 2013

Predictability In a Raging Storm

Published: December 18th, 2012 (First published 2010)
Safe Haven
By: Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central Publishing
ISBN-13: 9781455523542

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo's empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

     Katie has moved to Southport to escape from her past.  So when she arrives, she makes it a point to avoid anyone and anything that she could possibly form an attachment to, so that if she needs to run it will be painless.  But after months of routine, with no sign of the horrors she left behind, Katie begins to relax her guard.  And when she does, she becomes friends with her interesting/pushy next door neighbor Jo.  Also making his way into her life is general store owner and widower Alex and his two young children.  When Katie's old life comes blazing into her new one in terrifying and possibly deadly ways, can everyone find a way to come out of the storm in one piece?  Or will someone Katie loves not make it out alive?  So, I haven't been reading Sparks' most recent publications since The Last Song, which I loved and was horrified by the film it inspired (If I wanted to watch Miley Cyrus slouch and speak monotone, I'd watch Hannah Montana and get manic mood swings in the bargain!).
     I had previously tried to read this book and was unable to get into it enough to really get it off the ground.  But the movie once again looks like it might make me a believer, so I bought a copy and dove into it.  To put it lightly, not my favorite of his BY FAR.  But also not my least favorite.  Katie (Erin) is a pretty well-developed character, with a serious past and some real emotional scars.  Her not so great childhood and years as a battered wife to a well-respected cop were heartbreaking.  Kevin (her husband) was chillingly portrayed, even if his thoughts and actions did become very repetitive at a certain point.  Sparks really had me believing in the character though.  Honestly the part I liked least about this book was the supposed romance.  There was absolutely zero spark between Katie and Alex for me as a reader.  I was not impressed by their interactions and thought that his character was so bland he would be passed over in real life for being so boring.  Yes, he was a good guy, but that didn't mean Alex had to be so non-descript.  It seemed like Sparks did his absolute best to give us as little background as possible for him, which disappointed me.  The kids were cute, but really only served the purpose of trying to make Alex seem more appealing and harmless to Katie.  They weren't people, just words on a page.  The conclusion was no great surprise and someone died as per usual.  The author's attempt at a supernatural force playing a part in Katie and Alex's relationship was so contrived and saccharine it was laughable.  I was rolling my eyes at the book's end 'revelation to do with Alex's dead wife Carly.'  If you are into Sparks' books and don't mind predictability, with a lot of unnecessary and boring daily details, this is the one for you.

VERDICT:  2.75/5  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.**

I Knew You Were Trouble

Expected Publication: March 26th, 2013
A Touch of Scarlet (Unbound # 2)
By: Eve Marie Mont
ISBN-13: 9780758269492

The compelling heroine of Eve Marie Mont’s novel A Breath of Eyre returns to find truth and fiction merging through the pages of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic, The Scarlet Letter…

Emma Townsend is back at prestigious Lockwood Prep, but her world has altered immeasurably since her tumultuous sophomore year. The best change of all: her boyfriend, Gray. And though Gray is leaving for Coast Guard training, Emma feels newly optimistic, even if the pain of her mother’s long-ago death still casts a shadow.

Yet Emma isn’t the only one who’s changed. Her friend and roommate, Michelle, is strangely remote, and old alliances are shifting in disconcerting ways. Soon Emma’s long-distance relationship with Gray is straining under the pressure, and Emma wonders if she’s cracking too. How else to explain the vivid dreams of Hester Prynne she’s been having since she started reading The Scarlet Letter? Or the way she’s found herself waking in the woods? As her life begins to echo events in the novel, Emma will be forced to choose between virtue and love. But can she forge a new future without breaking her heart?


     I am starting this one out by diving right into my thoughts on the book.  In two words: major disappointment.  And this makes me extremely sad because I really liked the first one and thought the premise was great.  I had seen nothing similar to it in YA books, so I was excited to see the follow up.  I really appreciated the character development with Michelle and former enemies Jess and Elise.  I thought that the plots pertaining to them were by far the strongest in the book.  I also liked that Emma finally got a back bone and did what she knew was right for her.  The only catch is that it took most of the book for her to manage this.  And by the time she did, I was so frustrated and disgusted with her weak willed choices/character that I wanted to knock her out and promote someone else to MC status.  I also thought that the scenes with Emma (and Gray this time too) in the plot of The Scarlet Letter were very melodramatic and didn't really make much sense to the plot - at least for me personally as a reader.  I thought that they made their relationship a Romeo & Juliet thing, when really they were just two dumb teenagers who needed to get over themselves.  Emma's lack of personality without Gray for the first 2/3 of the book was angering.  It harkened back to New Moon for me and the complete helplessness displayed by Bella Swan.  But the kick-ass attitude that she gains near the end did have me cheering.   The action seriously lagged and I felt like the book could have been somewhat shorter than it was in actuality.  A lot of the pointless introspection could have been axed by a good editing decision.  The next book will hopefully have a distinct lack of Gray, because he is in Coast Guard training and Emma will be in Paris - with someone that readers of the first book would never have thought to be a potential friend.  I will be reading the next book, as it's the conclusion to the series.  But I hope that it escapes from the lazy plotting and Mary-Sue tendencies that this one displayed.  I recommend it to those who read the first book, if they are brave enough to stomach it.

VERDICT:  2/5  Stars

*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 May 26th, 2013.*

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Posioned With Good Intent

Expected Publication: March 12th, 2013
By: Bridget Zinn
ISBN-13: 9781423139935

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

     Kyra has only ever wanted to be a potions master, and ignore her other special qualities - especially the spark of Sight she has in her that she keeps quashing down.  That is until the Sight shows Kyra a vision of the kingdom brought to utter ruin by the marriage of her best friend.  So when the only solution seems to be to kill her friend, Kyra makes the hardest decision of her life to go through with murder.  Oh yeah, and her friend Ari just happens to be the Crown Princess!  So when Kyra's attempt fails, she is forced to go on the run with the Royal Army chasing after her.  Kyra knows she has to try again, and with the help of charming wanderer Fred and a tracking pig named Rosie she might succeed.  But does she really know the whole story?  Or is something far more sinister brewing in the Kingdom just under the surface?  Disney-Hyperion is a mixed bag for me as a reader.  They usually tend to publish YA that is either too melodramatic for my taste, or too young.  So I went into this book not knowing what to expect at all.  I ended up loving it for the sweet, funny piece of fluff that it was.  Poison is almost the baby, Bieber-obsessed sister of Graceling by Kristin Cashore (but in the best possible way)!  I thought that Kyra was not very developed as a character, but that the majority of the focus was on the plot so it didn't distract me too much.  Fred was sweet, funny and sounded like just the kind of boy every girl wants to fall in love with.  I loved the conflict with the notorious thief who has his own agenda for the Princess' death and wants to make things as hard for Kyra as possible.  Rosie the pig and Fred's dog were too cute for words.  But this book also has an undertone of snark and more mature humor (nothing to deter parents of the younger set unless they're really strict) such as allusions to marriage and lingerie jokes.  My one complaint was that while this book reminded me of the childhood novelty of books like Ella Enchanted, the plot was lacking true, defined structure.  The plot was original and the start of the book with the heroine already on the run was something not often done.  But there were a lot of things told and not shown, which gets a little bland after awhile (and that's if the author is a really good writer - otherwise it gets boring and truly angering).  A lot of the plot twists were pretty predictable and the resolution of the book came far too fast for my liking.  The loose ends were tied up too neatly, with not enough real struggle.  Also, the romance felt extremelt paint-by-numbers, with both Hal AND Fred.  Which kind of defeated the purpose of Fred being more 'exciting.'  The last revelation about Kyra's parentage was one that I never saw coming and I definitely give Zinn props for that ides.  Overall a read that felt like it didn't quite know whether to be middle-grade or YA to me, but worth it all the same.  It made me smile and laugh, without resorting to cheap tactics.  That's a rare and precious thing these days.
VERDICT:  3.85/5  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 March 12th, 2013.*

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wonderful Only In the Dark


Published:  March 20th, 2012
Wonder Show
By: Hannah Barnaby
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
ISBN-13: 9780547599809

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a
menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze!
But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among
the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister
watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave.
Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s
disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and
like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.

     Portia Remini has always lived a life of uncertainty, with only one thing she knows to be true - even though her Father left her with Aunt Sophia, he will return for her someday.  So when Sophia sends her to live at McGreavy's Home for Wayward Girls because she can't deal with her wild spirit, Portia is angry and confused.  Add into the mix a sinister benefactor known only by the name "Mister" who might possibly be a Bluebeard-esque murderer and you have plenty of reasons for Portia to run away.   Joining together with Mosco's Traveling Wonder Show, Portia becomes an apprentice to the ballyhoo under the pretext of looking for her Father.  Along the way, Portia may just find something more important - who she is and what her place in the world happens to be.  But when Mister finally catches up to her, will Portia be able to make a stand for her future and set herself free once and for all?  I went into this book expecting a fun, thoughtful circus-oriented novel.  What I got was a book about a girl named Portia, the normal girl traveling with the freak show and on the run from a twisted benefactor she wants to escape from.  I liked the balance of vulnerability and snark in Portia and her familial issues made her very easy to relate to.  I wanted (alternately) to give her a hug and to smack her upside the head for making dumb decisions.  I think that her friend Caroline served as a portrayl of the road not taken in Portia's own life.  It felt like she was the contrasting side of Portia's personality.  The whole book gave off a dark, magical feeling like the world was trapped inside a snow globe with a dust storm raging around everything.  It was beautiful prose, that was on the verge of poetry.  Including narratives from so many characters was a bold choice for a debut author and even though I was disappointed that I couldn't get closer to Portia through perspective focusing, I did like the extra insights.  The ending was wonderful, and not overly cliched which made it all the better to me.  However, there was a very clunky plot twist explaining away Mister's 'graveyard' with the missing girls.  I felt that it came from nowhere and did not fit into the book, or his previous characterization at all.  My overall feeling is that this was an unusually haunting and strong debut novel and I am definitely putting this author on my watchlist; you should too!
VERDICT:  4.5/5  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.**

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dawn Goes Down Today

Expected Publication:  May 14th, 2013
By: Jessi Kirby
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13:  9781442452169

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost may be a distant relative of Robert Frost, but she has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a mystery in her lap—one that might be the key to uncovering the truth behind a town tragedy, she decides to take a chance.


     Parker Frost has spent her entire life being the good girl, and playing it safe.  Now she's almost ready to graduate from high school and she's never broken any rules, given in to her feelings for the bad boy or truly enjoyed herself just being a teenager.  But when she is thrown into the middle a mystery, holding the piece of the puzzle that might solve it over a decade after the fact, Parker must decide whether or not to do the 'right' thing, or follow her heart for once.  Things aren't always what they seem though, and the town tragedy may be more tragic than anyone ever suspected.  Can Parker set things right, or will she only make things worse? And can she learn from the mistakes of two doomed, teen lovers or will she repeat them?  I felt sorry for Parker and yet wanted to smack some sense/adventure into her at the same time.  It was admirable how much she loved her Mom and wanted to make things easier for her by being good.  But to let her Mom map out her entire future and control every last aspect of her life, at the age of eighteen?  That was a little much.  I couldn't imagine going that far for someone I loved, if it would make me miserable for probably the rest of my life.  The relationship between Parker and her best friend Kat was amusing, touching and wonderfully written.  There were sparks between Parker and Trevor were more sweet than hot for me.  But after the all-consuming nature of Alison and Willem's relationship from Just One Day, it was a welcome change.  The mystery of what happened to local teens Shane Cruz and Julianna Farnetti was interesting, but it was also pretty predictable.  I did like the ending that allowed for some happiness though and it was good that Parker got a dose of reality and learned that life isn't like a Nicholas Sparks book/movie, while still maintaining her romantic outlook.  Overall it was an interesting book.  Seeing Julianna teach Parker to live by these words by Mary Oliver,  "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" was definitely a different approach to the usual dead girl guide trope.  It reminded me somewhat of the coming of age novels that have made Susane Colasanti, Sarah Dessen and Jennifer E. Smith famous.  Jessi Kirby is well on her way to being in their league.  Also, the cover is gorgeous and the tag line is in keeping with the story for once.  Good on you S&S, good on you. :)

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 May 14th, 2013.*

Jessie Pearl Is More Than Just a Pretty Girl

Published: February 1st, 2013
The Ballad of Jessie PEarl
By: Shannon Hitchcock
ISBN-13: 9781608981410

Sometimes when the kerosene lamp casts shadows, I think I see Ma's ghost. If she were still alive, she'd say, Jessie Pearl, you keep on studying. Not everybody is cut out to be a farm wife. We'll find a way to pay for teachers' college. Leave your pa to me

And tonight, Ma would notice how my hands are trembling. I can almost hear her voice. Jessie, fourteen is too young to help birth a baby. Why don't you go and study in the kitchen? But Ma is just a memory.

It's 1922, and Jessie has big plans for her future, but that's before tuberculosis strikes. Though she has no talent for cooking, cleaning, or nursing, Jessie puts her dreams on hold to help her family. She falls in love for the first time ever, and suddenly what she wants is not so simple anymore.

     Jessie Pearl is the youngest child in her family and with all her grown up siblings married, living on farms she is determined to go places and do things.  Most of all she wants to become a teacher the way her Ma planned before she died.  But then Jessie helps her sister Carrie during the birth of her nephew and Carrie falls seriously ill.  Jessie has no choice but to drop out of school and nurse Carrie as she slowly wastes away from Tuberculosis.  All the time Jessie is worried about catching the very contagious disease and feeling guilty for her dreams of still leaving home.  When Carrie dies, she leaves a letter asking Jessie to be Ky's Ma until her husband Frank re-marries.  Now 15 year old Jessie has a baby to take care of and no hope that she can see of reaching her dreams.  Then the boy she loves moves away and another tragedy strikes Jessie's family, leaving her to wonder just what she's supposed to do with her life?  Is she meant to be just a farm wife or will she still do something greater?
     My love for this book knows no bounds.  It reminds me of every good old West book from my childhood: Caddie Woodlawn, Sarah Plain and Tall, etc. but with just enough of a hint of modernity thrown in.  The lack of curse words and familial disrespect from the teenage main character was definitely a nice change of pace (not that I don't like a good curse word every now and then still...).  Jessie Pearl was a strong, defiant and proud heroine, exactly the kind that I love; as long as the heroine still has a nice, big bleeding heart beating in her chest for the ones she loves.  Jessie has all of that and more and her humanity touched me in a way that goes beyond time.  The struggles of her family against the often deadly disease of tuberculosis (which is highly contagious) were heartbreaking, but they matured Jessie and kept her from making as many rash decisions as she used to.  In other words: Jessie Pearl grows up big time.  It had a lyrical quality about it, this book, even though it was definitely a prose novel.  I am interested to see what this author comes out with next.  I think she could definitely be the next Patricia MacLachlan, only for the Young Adult set of readers.  Highly recommended to fans of well done YA historical fiction, with strong heroines and well drawn storylines.

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

** 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 February 1st, 2013.**

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Painting the Roses Red

Published: January 1st, 2013
By: A.G. Howard
ISBN-13: 978149704284

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.  When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

     Alyssa has grown up with a very valid fear of losing her sanity - the women in every generation of her family since her great-great-great Grandmother Alice Liddell have been committed to asylums.  Yes, Alyssa's three times great Grandmother was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's books about the twisted world of Wonderland.  But she insisted that it was real.  And since Alyssa has been communicating with bugs and plants for most of her life, she's pretty sure she's going insane too.  Until she discovers that it's all true and she has to travel to Wonderland in order to break the family curse and free her Mom before more drastic measures are taken to 'cure' her.  But Wonderland is not the same as it was before Alice fell down the rabbit hole and Alyssa must fix all her mistakes if she's to ever be sent home again.  She didn't count on her best friend (and secret crush) Jeb getting dragged down into the rabbit hole with her.  And who will she trust with her life - Jeb or Morpheus, her childhood guide thorough Wonderland who has his own selfish and possibly deadly motivations.  When Alyssa uncovers a secret from her family's past that changes everything, can she still save Wonderland without sacrificing who she is?
     I was expecting disappointment when I went into this, even though I was giddy with excitement.  Thankfully it lived up to my expectations, unlike the 2010 Tim Burton film redux.  Everyone should skip that and go with Syfy's Alice miniseries from 2009.  There's a very HOT Hatter in it...but I digress!  The book managed to take a darker spin on Wonderland and still make it relatable and not completely out of context.  It was like coming upon a treasure chest of Gothic jewels.  And they were very well crafted.  It was pure awesomeness having a heroine, who while pretty much crush obsessed, managed to not let it overtake her entire life.  Alyssa was brave, strong, independent and wonderfully snarky.  I liked that she was being tested and (supposedly) had to fix Alice's mistakes to break the curse of madness in her family.  The author managed to make both Morpheus and Jeb both likeable love interests, even though about 80% of the time I wanted to smack one, or both, of them upside the head.  The mystery of all the original characters' true stories, Alyssa's family lineage and the motivations of everyone offering to 'help' her finish her quest make for a truly gripping story.  Some truly creepy scenes had me flipping pages, desperate to find out what happened next.  The ending leaves things open for a sequel, but could also be a fairly satisfying ending which is nice in a world full of never-ending trilogies and quartets.  Highly recommended for anyone looking for an innovative and well crafted tale with romance, adventure, twisted fairy-tale elements and pure surprise.
VERDICT:  4.75/5  Stars (I can't go higher because of the loose ending.  I would have liked more definite closure or cliffhanger.  One or the other.)
**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Moonlight Made You a Monster

Published: January 29th, 2013
Othermoon (Otherkin # 2)
By: Nina Berry
Kensington Teen
ISBN-13: 9780758276933

Everyone has secrets. I had no idea mine would lead me into shadow. Dez has found the place where she belongs. With the otherkin. With Caleb. Or so she thought. As the barriers between our world and Othersphere fall, a wall rises between Dez and Caleb, leaving her fiercest enemy her only friend. 

And maybe something more. 

Now Dez must make a devastating choice: keep the love of her life, or save the otherkin from annihilation.


     Dez is hoping life might head in the direction of normal - at least for a little while.  After rescuing Siku, a fellow shifter and friend, from the Tribunal with the rest of their friends she just wants a break.  But then a stranger breaks in  and steals her DNA, and her Mom is possessed by something from the Othersphere - something that just may be Dez's birth mother.  Forced to go on the run again, Dez returns to Morphael's school so that they can make a plan to stop the Tribunal from wiping out all the otherkin in one attack.  But can Dez and her friends stop a particle accelerator or is that too big for the teens?  And will Dez be able to do the right thing for the damaged Lazar and keep her relationship with Caleb from crumbling?  I went into this with very high hopes, having really loved the first book.  I was disappointed.  Dez has almost no character development, shows signs of idiotic martyr syndrome, and moons over Caleb who treats her like dirt for most of the book.  Not that she's perfect either, as she persists in lying to him about anything involving his enemy, half-brother Lazar.  I thought that the only one who really showed any development was Lazar, who became a truly interesting and layered character in this book.  November and Siku's relationship wasn't a surprise, and Arnaldo's family issues were just another situation for Dez to meddle in when she should have kept out of it.  I was surprised by London and Amaris' relationship and how close they became, but it was extremely sweet.  It almost made up for the emotionally unstable train-wreck that Dez and Caleb were building throughout the book as I watched in horror.  The plot itself felt like a less thought-out redux of the first book, with them trying to stop the bad guys against all odds.  And the revelations about Dez's birth mother and her true origins were kind of 'blah.'  Ximon became even more one-dimensional as a villain, with even more evil deeds being added to his greatest hits.  But I am still holding out hope for the next book and thinking that maybe Nina Berry just succumbed to the disease that seems to plague YA authors.....the dreaded sophomore syndrome!  Overall, not what I would have liked to read but better than a lot of second books in series that I've read in the past.

VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

* 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 January 29th, 2013.*

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hearts On Fire, Hiding From the World

Expected Publication: May 28th, 2013
Monument 14: Sky On Fire (Monument 14 # 2)
By: Emmy Laybourne
Feiwel and Friends
ISBN-13: 9780312569044

The world hasn't ended...yet.

In this sequel to MONUMENT 14, the group of survivors, originally trapped together in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, has split in two. Most of the kids are making a desperate run on their recently repaired school bus for the Denver airport where they hope to reunite with their parents, be evacuated to safety, and save their dying friend.

But the world outside is dark and filled with dangerous chemicals that turn people into bloodthirsty monsters, and not all the kids were willing to get on the bus. Left behind in a sanctuary that has already been disturbed once, the remaining kids try to rebuild the community they lost. But when the issues are life and death, love and hate, who can you really trust?

     Brothers Dean and Alex have parted ways, with Dean staying behind at the superstore and Alex going away with most of the other kids on the school bus, trying to make it to Denver.  Both groups still face horrible dangers, with all of the kids in the store being Blood Type O which makes them violent when exposed to the chemical compounds in the air outside.  When the bus is hijacked and the store is under siege by a group of teenage raiders, it will be up to Dean and his brother to each try and keep their respective charges safe until they can find a way out of their destroyed world and back to their families, in the safety of the world beyond.  So, I had really enjoyed the first book and went into this one with pretty high expectations.  I mean who has never once wondered what it would be like to live in one of those superstores.  Well, this book picks up right where the first one left off.  It deals with some harsh realities, like when to give up on a friend if they're dying and there's nothing you can do.  Jake, the father of Astrid's baby, finds his way back to the superstore but because he wants the drugs in the pharmacy not to help anyone else.  Dean still has feelings for Astrid and she treats him like shit until the chemical reactions bring them together involuntarily (which I still don't know how I feel about that - did she even really like him, or was it 'just because?').  The kids on the bus deal with being stolen from, on the verge of starving, and being the guests of a crazy old guy in an airtight bunker (who is most likely a killer).  The fact that more than half of their parents are still MIA was very realistic and I was disappointed that not everyone made it to Denver, but the author's realism pleased me and makes up for it.  This is an 'apocalypse' book.  Not everyone gets a happy ending if the author's doing it right!  I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading the next one in the series, especially with the cliffhanger the author dropped on me at the last second!  I highly recommend this series to fans of Ashfall by Mike Mullins, The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and Article 5 by Kristen Simmons.
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 May 28th, 2013.*

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Your Kiss Just Might Kill Me

Published: October 1st, 2012
Who I Kissed
By: Janet Gurtler
Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN-13: 9781402270543

Samantha is new at school and just recently joined the swim team. She’s been flirting with one of her teammates, Zee, who invites her to a party and just as quickly dumps her for another girl. Hurt, but pretending not to care, she turns to his best friend, Alex, and gives him a kiss. And he dies—right in her arms. Alex was allergic to peanuts, and Samantha had eaten a peanut butter sandwich right before the party. She didn’t know. Overnight, Samantha turns into the school pariah and a media sensation explodes. Consumed with guilt, abandoned by her friends, and in jeopardy of losing her swimming scholarship, she will have to find the inner-strength to forgive herself for the tragedy.

     Sam just moved to a new town and is starting to make friends, even if it is just with the kids on her swim team.  One of her teammates, Zee, invites her to a party and because she likes him Sam decides to go.  But when he spends the party hooking up with another girl, Sam decides to flirt with someone else.  When they kiss, Alex has a seizure - and dies right in her arms.  It turns out that he was allergic to peanuts and Sam ate a peanut butter sandwhich before the party.  She had no clue about his allergies, but now everyone blames her for Alex's death.  Sam retreats into herself, in agony over Alex's death thinking that she killed him.  She quits swimming and talking to anyone at school, and lets herself be used by a boy she thinks likes her.  Will Sam be able to find the strength to move on?  Especially when it may never have been her fault at all.  I spent the majority of the book feeling really bad for Sam.  It wasn't her fault that she didn't know about Alex's allergy.  She was just a girl who kissed a guy at a party.  How many of us have done that without knowing that sort of thing about the person?  Sam has a really supportive Dad and her Aunt is awesome.  I liked the depth of her issues of not knowing what really happened with her Mom - the fact that it took this long for them to tell her that her Mom was bi-polar is sort of pathetic.  I couldn't understand what she saw in Zee though.  I thought he treated her like crap even before what happened with Alex, and then after that he was a total asshole to Sam.  I could understand the grief of Alex's family and thought the author handled that really well.  My major anger was that Sam went through all of this, when at the end of the book you find out that it wasn't really her fault (and two of the teens blaming her knew that all along).  Overall a really thought-provoking read that keeps you guessing the entire time.  I recommend it for fans of Sarah Dessen, Susane Colasanti, and Jennifer E. Smith.
VERDICT:  4/5  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.**