Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Willing to Sacrifice Our Love

Expected Publication:  October 21st, 2014
Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements #2)
By: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13:  9780373211340

Every touch has its price.

Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life -- no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who's pretty sure things can't get worse.  Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss.  The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets.  And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could.

But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning.  Because suddenly Layla's powers begin to evolve, and she's offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden.  Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever.  She's finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay.....


       When we left her at the end of the first book, Layla's relations with her Warden guardian and his brethren were, at best, strained - at worst, glacial.  Not to mention her devastation at the loss of her boyfriend to banishment (and probably torture) back to his old home - Hell!  Now all Layla has is a snake familiar named Bambi, her best friends Stacey and Sam, and the one Warden who still believes in her, Zayne, her once-upon-a-time crush and fantasy.  When Layla's powers begin to malfunction she has no idea what could be wrong.  No longer able to see auras, she starts freaking out.  Especially when they find out a Lilin (or Lilim, can't remember the exact term/spelling) is in the area infecting people and killing them.  Layla begins opening up to Zayne, but is left reeling when Roth returns, seemingly indifferent to their past relationship.  Can Layla, Roth and Zayne work together to stop the Lilin and will she be able to stop her dark heritage from destroying them all?
       So, what can I actually say without giving so many spoilers you all will hate my guts???!!!  Layla, as in the first book, is still very relatable, strong, kick-ass and yet with a vulnerability that makes it impossible to dislike her.  The whole Layla/Roth/Zayne love triangle still managed to rise above the cliches and anger-inducing triteness.  At the beginning of the book, Layla is grieving for Roth still and she's kind of a mess.  Then Zayne starts to make a move on her, which she wasn't expecting at all.  Not to mention, the whole "powers go wonky" thing gives them the opportunity to actually test the waters.  She can kiss Zayne for the first time ever without stealing his soul!  It definitely changes the rules of the game, and confuses poor Layla even more by making the impossible actually possible.  The chemistry between the two of them is RED HOT.  Then when Roth comes back to help find the Lilin, poor Layla becomes even more of a mess.  There are some kick-ass actions scenes, some great one-liners and overall dialogue.  
        Also, we get to see Layla bonding with her former "nemesis," Danica (who actually turns out to be a truly sweet girl who has the short end of the situation).  The witches were an interesting touch, and I feel like it added another dimension to the paranormal mythology of the overall story.  I really enjoyed witches, for the first time in quite awhile.  That ending though!  I kind of saw it coming, but I really didn't think JLA would go there.  Rest assured, she did!  Overall, I highly recommend this to fans of the first book and as usual, Jennifer manages to avoid the dreaded sophmore syndrome that destroys so many sequels.  Solid writing, enjoyable plot, great action, and truly awesome character development.  I think fans of Team Roth OR Team Zayne need to be prepared to ship both though.  I have no clear favorite at this point!

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

*I reviewed this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is October 21st, 2014.*

Friday, September 26, 2014

I Said What About Breakfast At Tiffany's?

Expected Publication: October 14th, 2014
Oh Yeah, Audrey!
By: Tucker Shaw
Amulet Books
ISBN-13:  9781419712234

It's 5:00 a.m. on Fifth Avenue, and 16-year-old Gemma Beasley is standing in front of Tiffany & Co. wearing the perfect black dress with her coffee in hand -- just like Holly Golightly.  As the cofounder of a successful Tumblr blog -- Oh Yeah, Audrey! -- devoted to all things Audrey Hepburn, Gemma has travelled to New York in order to meet up with her fellow bloggers for the first time.  She has meticulously planned out a 24-hour adventure in homage to Breakfast At Tiffany's -- however, her plans are derailed when a glamorous boy sweeps in and offers her to New York experience she's always dreamed of.

Gemma soon learns who her true friends are, and that sometimes, no matter where you go, you just end up finding yourself.  Filled with hip and sparkling prose, Oh Yeah, Audrey! is as much a story of friendship as it is a love letter to New York, Audrey Hepburn, and the character she made famous: Holly Golightly.


       Sixteen-year-old Gemma Beasley lives an ordinary, boring life with her parents.  Than her Mom dies and in her grief, Gemma starts a Tumblr blog about Audrey Hepburn, called Oh Yeah, Audrey! to pass the time.  It's in doing this she discovers her favorite movie of all time, Breakfast At Tiffany's, and her idol: Holly Golightly.  Through the blog she becomes friends with Bryan and Trina, other Audrey fans from other parts of the U.S.  She even gets someone named Telly involved, who constantly makes hateful comments.  The friends make a plan to meet in New York, for an Audrey themed day, ending with a revival showing of Breakfast at Tiffany's.  It's shaping up to be a day to remember, when Gemma is presented with the opportunity for adventure of the romantic sort, with a mysterious weathly boy named Dusty.  But is he everything he seems?  And can her friends forgive her for ditching them?  Will Gemma's adventure be everything she wants it to be?
       This book is extremely light.  Yes, it's chick-lit, but that doesn't mean that at least the characters can't have substance.  I have to say, that the plot was really cute (if unbelievable at times, especially a plot point involving Gemma getting her hands on one of Audrey Hepburn's dresses).  I liked the friends hanging out and for the most part Bryan and Trina seemed pretty cool.  Probably the low point for me with their friendship was how judgemental they were of Telly when she came to apologize about putting down Audrey.  She tries to tell them all the great humanitarian things Audrey did, but Bryan brushes her off.  She basically says, "Who cares about the fashion?" and Bryan shallowly tells her that's all that really matters.  Then near the end when Gemma learns Dusty's true colors and finds out what a slimeball he really is, Trina is EXTREMELY mean and judgemental.  She basically wants everyone to shun Gemma.  
       Basically the book ends with the friends reuniting and woo-hoo, it's all better!  Not!  The author brought in a subplot about Gemma's unresolved feelings about her Mother's death and it seemed really abrupt/unfinished.  Not to mention, the whole thing is set within a 24 hour period and it just really doesn't allow for a lot of depth.  Gemma was basically an any-girl, cardboard cutout and I was never really able to picture her through the whole book.  Overall, I just felt like this book was too shallow to be good reading.  There's a difference between fluff, and wasted potential.  This is the latter.

VERDICT:  2/5  Stars

*I reviewed this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is October 14th, 2014.*

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fact or Fiction, Legend or Reality?

Published:  May 19th, 2005
Horseman (The Hollow #1)
By: Christopher Golden & Ford Lytle Gilmore
ISBN-13:  9781595140241

New to Sleepy Hollow, teens Aimee and Shane Lancaster find that upon their arrival an ancient curse has been unleashed upon the town, tracing back to the town's famous legend, which just might be more truth than myth.  Now an array of evil demons is after them, with the infamous Headless Horseman leading the pack.


     So, let me just start by saying that I've read all four books in this series at least four or five times each!  It might have something to do with my slight obsession with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, in just about any form.  Surprisingly there aren't that many retellings of the legend.  So, I make do with what is available.  This series just so happens to be extremely well-written, so thankfully it lends itself to re-reading!  Horseman is the first of four books, and while it does do a lot of plot set-up, it manages to be pretty action filled anyways.  From the moment Shane Lancaster and his sister Aimee cross the town line of Sleepy Hollow with their Dad, weird stuff starts happening.  All the street lights blow out, people report seeing what sounds like a hellhound and then the murders start.  The only problem is that the murderer can't be stopped by normal, human means - seeing as he's already dead.  The murderer is the Headless Horseman himself, back from the grave and terrorizing the town once more.  It's up to Shane and Aimee, along with their friend Stacia, to figure out why the Horseman has reappeared now and what he wants - before their heads are the ones left rolling!
     The series mixes real-life teen drama (and family drama) with the supernatural and the series itself reminds me of some of those dime-a-dozen Alloy series from the late 90s.  You know, the mass-produced, short and sweet teen books.  Most of them were crap.  This isn't.  It deals with the fact that the Lancasters are all grieving the loss of their Mom/Wife and dealing with it in their own way.  The kids' Dad decided to move them to a small town and he buries himself in running the local newspaper.  Shane has buried himself in schoolwork and books, shutting out people.  Aimee has become the life of the party, taking risks and breaking rules.  But in the face of danger and the unknown, Shane and Aimee manage to band together to investigate and stay safe.  Albeit, not without some sibling rivalry and heated, sometimes truly nasty, bickering.  There was a LOT of thought put in to the twists and turns of the plot and it was obvious the writers knew what they were talking about.  There are a lot of references to Washington Irving, Ichabod Crane, Baltus Van Tassel and other people thought to be fictional.  
     There are some great investigations, like when Stacia and Aimee check out a supposed Gossip Tree, which is far more sinister than it sounds.  Or when they go to put a protection ward up at the crossroads and run into the hellhound-like black dog called Hizzoner.  I won't say too much more so as not to spoil it, but one of my favorite scenes is the flashback sequence with a ghostly Theodore Hasselbeck at Aimee's friend (and Shane's crush) Stacia's house.  It explains quite a bit, and turns the legend on its head!  Be prepared to rethink everything you thought you knew about Sleepy Hollow.  If you're looking for a fun, slightly creepy read greatly steeped in myth and legend for the Halloween season, I highly recommend this series!

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, September 16, 2014

Anything For You

Published:  April 10th, 2014
By: Jonathan Friesen
ISBN-13:  9780142412299

Why'd I do it?  I suppose it's the only question that really matters.

Seventeen-year-old Crow will stop at nothing to protect her younger sister -- even if it costs her her own life.  But then she's given a chance to come back and make things right.  There are a few catches, though.  First, she won't come back as herself.  And before she can set things straight, she'll have to figure out what's what -- and things aren't exactly as clear-cut as she remembered.


     Crow has been protecting her younger sister Addy from any harm, ever since she can remember.  It started when their father left, and the girls' mother got involved with a seemingly nice Doctor.  Crow doesn't trust him, and it turns out to be for a good reason.  Now as teenagers, Crow is still trying to protect Addy, this time from a boy she thinks just wants to use her good-hearted sister.  This time Crow winds up in a coma, between the paths of life and death.  She's granted a walkabout, a chance to make things right in her own life.  Crow uses it as another chance to go back as someone else and protect Addy.  But can she actually change anything that's happened in the past?  And how can she stop her own bitterness and pain from devouring what's left of her soul whole?
     I liked the characters in this one.  In a way, Crow reminded me of myself.  Always trying to fix things for other people and never having a life for herself.  But during the walkabout, Crow is given a chance to look back at her life through new eyes and realize that nothing is quite as black and white as she had originally thought.  I liked that Crow got to go back and interact with her younger self.  First as a middle-school-aged girl named Shane, and then as a teenaged boy named Shane.  She's there on the pretext of protecting Addy.  But then she really starts to get a look at herself and the things that she's done, how she has nothing other than her sister.  She starts to care about younger Crow and finds herself trying to save, well, herself right along with Addy.  I liked the ending and while the idea that she couldn't stop some of the bad things from happening might piss off some people, I like that she realized that maybe Addy didn't need as much saving as her own soul did.  Kind of a beautiful concept and I liked the realizations.  The only thing that weirded me out a little was the slight Shane/Crow romance.

VERDICT:  3.5/5 Stars

*I reviewed this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published April 10th, 2014.*

Friday, September 12, 2014

Queen of Zombie Hearts (White Rabbit Chronicles #3) by Gena Showalter

Expected Publication:  September 30th, 2014
Queen of Zombie Hearts (White Rabbit Chronicles #3)
By: Gena Showalter
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13:  9780373211319

In the stunning conclusion to the wildly popular White Rabbit Chronicles, Alice "Ali" Bell thinks the worst is behind her.  She's ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, leader of the zombie slayers...until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends.  It's then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters...and the worst has only begun.

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies...and she isn't the girl she thought she was.  She's connected to the woman responsible for killing -- and turning -- Cole's mother.  How can their relationship endure?  As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima -- even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.


     At the beginning of this book things have calmed down a lot since the last one.  Ali and her friends are easing back in to normal life, and her biggest worry is normal, nightly zombie patrol and whether or not Cole will let them go all the way finally.  Nana is supervising their every waking moment, so one night Ali sneaks in Cole's window for some late-night, naughty time.  In the middle of them making out, the house is attacked.  They soon learn that Anima has attacked ALL of their fellow slayers as well, killing four of them and gravely injuring or kidnapping others.  Another side plotline is introduced, with the Witness ghost of Helen, who gifts Ali with some of her own special powers to help in the fight.  She also has a secret connection to Ali's past that comes between her and Cole, due to Helen's betrayal of his mother.  It's an interesting way to create relationship conflict just when things were rock solid.
     The introduction of a street gang of zombie slayers, led by a guy named River, was an interesting addition.  I did feel like there was way too many characters at quite a few points, and got a little bit confused as to who had done what and been in the previous books.  The plot twists regarding Ali's new powers, the true goals of Anima and the connection with Helen weren't necessarily all that surprising, but the action moved at a really good pace in this one and I loved the finality of the conclusion.  The last big shock though (which I won't spoil) had me screaming in rage - in a good way!  The last Witness visit is going to kill you so hard!  All in all, a great end to an interesting series.  And for all you Cole and Ali fans, don't worry too much.  Their ending will make you happy!

VERDICT:  4/5 Stars

*I recieved this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is September 30th, 2014.*

Monday, September 8, 2014

Beyond the Ominous Gates

Expected Publication: September 9th, 2014
By: Kate A. Boorman
Amulet Books
ISBN-13:  9781419712357

Emmeline knows she's not supposed to explore the woods outside her settlement.  The enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, attacking at night and keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters.  Living with the shame of her grandmother's insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent.

When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it's an opportunity for Emmeline to wash the family slate clean -- even if she has eyes for another.  But before she's forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her into the woods, where she uncovers a path she can't help but follow.  The trail leads to a secret that someone in the village will kill to protect.  Her grandmother followed the same path and paid the price.  If Emmeline isn't careful, she will be next.


     Emmeline has a curiosity about things beyond what she's allowed to know.  It's what causes her to break the rules of her settlement and skip services, instead exploring things that are only treasures in her own eyes, natural ruins of another time.  She is shunned by much of her people, for a sin that her grandmother committed, a Stain against their family name: going beyond the settlement walls.  Just as Emmeline begins to feel things for a boy named Kane, the settlement leader asks for her in marriage.  But then her dreams lead her out into the woods, where a dangerous secret lies.  Can Emmeline find out the truth and will it destroy her - or set them all free?
     I had to put this one down and could not bring myself to pick it back up again.  Emmeline seemed like she was being contrary just 'cause, and I couldn't stand her from page one.  The dialectical decisions of the author left something to be desired.  WHY are they speaking French words?  Where are we, what happened to bring these people there, and why after mutliple generations are they (as described in the Goodreads summary above) are they still in an "unfamiliar land?"  I found myself not giving a crap, as the sentence structure was atrocious.  As I saw another reader observe, it felt like most of the words were chopped in half and the sparsity left a lot to be desired for me personally.  In other words, it was driving me absolutely insane.  Not to mention, been there and done that - the gates, the big secret in the woods.  Can you say rip-off of The Village or what?  Just not the book for me, and I wish I would not have even wasted my time.  I seem to be in the minority with that opinion though, at least on Goodreads.


*I recieved this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is September 9th, 2014.*

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bright and Fake Things...

Expected Publication:  January 6th, 2015
All the Bright Places
By: Jennifer Niven
ISBN-13: 9780385755887

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself.  But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom.  And when they pair up on a project to discover the "natural wonders" of their state, both Violet and Finch make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself - a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all.  And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them.  But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.


     Violet used to be a happy-go-lucky cheerleader, and all-around popular high school student, who ran a blog with her sister Eleanor.  She was involved in extracurricular activities and had the perfect boyfriend.  Then she was in a horrible car crash that took away her sister, and left her drowning in her grief.  Now, almost a year later, Eleanor is barely making it day by day.  So when the school weirdo, Finch, finds her up on the ledge of the bell tower and talks her down, Violet is kind of annoyed with him.  Finch begins inserting himself into her life, with his inability to understand the word "no" and his larger than life, quirky personality.  Partnered for a project on state "wonders," Violet begins to let her guard down and live life again.  But Finch, who is struggling with crippling depressive episodes, is sliding further down as Violet climbs her way upward.  Can they save each other, or will their story be unable to find a happy ending?
     I have superbly mixed feelings about this book.  On one hand, the portrayal of depression in the character and behaviors of Finch, was very realistic and I appreciated that the author didn't diminish his struggles and make everything get resolved magically at the end of the book.  On the other hand, Finch's quirky, variant personality was a little too "different."  It was a case of the author trying to hard to make him interesting, unpredictable and relatable.  If I want to care about a character, he doesn't need to be so unique as to almost circle around again to Gary Stu status.  Violet was the opposite.  I really thought she was extremely dull, lifeless and just all-around two dimensional.  I understand that she's still grieving her sister, but it was like she was the personification of the color gray.  I liked the writing style and the literary quotes.  Some of the one-liners were awesome.  I just feel like this book spent so much time trying way too hard to be the next big thing, that it delved into cliche territory and overreached itself.  And the ending was believable, but at the same time, contrived to make the reader emotional and tearful.  I myself was emotionless and scoffing.  Overall a decent effort and definitely points for beautiful writing.  But really nothing all that memorable or special.

VERDICT:  2.5/5  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.  This book's expected publication date is January 6th, 2015.*