Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry

The Earthquake Machine 
by Mary Pauline Lowry
Published: September 2011
Available: Amazon

Synopsis:
The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jesús, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús.

Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels.

Review:
The book will appeal to some readers, however it just wasn't for me. At all. And the synopsis doesn't really represent what this book is focused on. I was expecting a girl's adventure novel, full of challenges both physically and emotionally.  That is not what The Earthquake Machine gives its reader, and I'm finding it really hard to figure out what I want to say about it. 

There are positives to the book. Lowry obviously has a wonderful descriptive writing style. She brings to life the setting and really gives the reader an amazing view of Mexico. 

That said, I felt really uncomfortable reading a lot of the book, and I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable if I knew my teenage niece was reading this book. I'm no prude, and I have no problem with sex, drugs, crude language, and violence in YA novels. They are real parts of many teens' lives. But there is such a focus on detailing the sexual aspects in this book, and combined with the crude language it just felt out of place. I'm not really interested reading a detailed account of a young girl figuring out how to masturbate (on p.5), or finding an 'earthquake machine' that will help her along.

There were so many events that I just didn't buy, because they seemed so unbelievable, especially when they are all combined together. And even those that were believable took a turn into the bizarre, including her obsessive love/hate for a much older man (aka pedophile). I just didn't buy it or most of the other things that happened. 

This almost felt like a tirade against all the men in Rhonda's life, and that the whole book was her journey to finding a sexual identity. All of which is fine if I could have only believed that these things could have happened. There were a lot of aspects of a coming-of-age story, but I just don't think it is a YA novel. For a journey of self discovery, The Earthquake machine just left me with a sour taste in my mouth and the feeling that 10 years down the road Rhonda is going to be a bitter, man-bashing, single woman who blames everything wrong with her life on the men around her.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass 
by Sarah J. Maas
Published: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Available: Amazon (pre-order)

Synopsis:

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I featured the Throne of Glass book trailer earlier and you can see it here.

Review:
I've never really been into fantasy books, although I absolutely love watching movies based on them. I always find myself lost in these worlds that just don't make sense to me, where I have absolutely no frame of reference to even begin envisioning the characters and what was happening in these (usually) incredibly long stories. But the description of Throne of Glass was so intriguing that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to read and review it. Best decision ever!

Maas manages to create a world which feels so full of life without it being overwhelming, mainly because the characters are the focus, while the fantasy elements are simply part of their world and simply help build the mystery. And the characters are amazing.

The main character is Celaena, a trained assassin. She is strong, deadly, brave, intelligent, and independent. She never once relies on anyone else to protect her or even help her. But she is also an eighteen year old girl, who has never had a real friend, who likes looking pretty, and who is drawn in by the charming Prince. This softer side gives her the depth needed for the reader to care for her. She longs for her life to be different, but she doesn't pity herself and she doesn't sit around waiting for her love interests to rescue her.

The other primary characters, Prince Dorian and Chaol (the captain) are both well developed, and the few scenes shown form their points of view add to their depth. Although the two are friends, they are also vastly different. Dorian is a playboy prince use to women falling all over him, while Chaol is much more serious in meeting his responsibilities and making moral choices. By the end of the book both are developed to a certain degree as love interests for Celaena, and although I won't give any hints to her final choice, I was happy with it. I just hope that the next book in the series continues to develop the love triangle in the same smooth and believable way as this first book did.

There is some violence in the book, but considering the main character is an assassin that shouldn't be surprising. I would definitely recommend this for anyone looking to read a book with a strong female lead, lots of action, and a bit of romance.

Book Trailer ~ Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas 

Synopsis:
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.


Check out my review of Throne of Glass by clicking here!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Around the World K!ndle F!re Blog Hop

In celebration of the Summer Olympics authors Courtney Vail and J.L. Campbell are hosting the Around the World Blog Hop!! There are so many great authors, books and locations to discover, as well as prizes to be won, so hop around. If you collect all the various locations featured, you can enter them into the rafflecopter for an extra 25 entry points to win your very own Kindle Fire. And there are only 16 blogs, so it shouldn't be too overwhelming.I am also giving away a $5 Amazon Gift Card and 3 eBook copies of my novel Songbird.


As part of the blog hop I am hosting an interview with Jeanne Bannon, author of Invisible. I have my copy of Invisible on my Kindle and am getting ready to start reading! Don't forget to enter both rafflecopter drawings and check out the other blogs participating in the hop!


Invisible by Jeanne Bannon

Synopsis
Lola’s not pretty. Lola’s not popular. Lola wishes she could disappear … and then one day she does just that...

For seventeen-year-old Lola Savullo, life is a struggle. Born to funky parents who are more in than she could ever be, Lola’s dream of becoming a writer makes her an outsider even in her own home. Bullied and despised, Lola still has the support of her best pal Charlie and Grandma Rose.

Not only is she freakishly tall, Lola’s a big girl and when forced to wear a bathing suit at her summer job as a camp counselor, Lola’s only escape from deep embarrassment seems to be to literally vanish. Soon after, she discovers the roots of her new “ability”. 

Slowly, with Charlie’s help, Lola learns to control the new super power. The possibilities are endless. Yet power can be abused, too…

Then, when tragedy strikes, Lola must summon her inner strength, both at home and at school. She has to stand up for herself, despite the temptations and possibilities of her newfound super power. 
What gave you the idea for the book?   
  
Invisible is about bullying and overcoming it. While in grades 7 and 8, I was bullied. I suppose a lot of the emotional aspects of the book came from my experiences. It was easy to write for that reason.  
 
Invisible is not autobiographical but I did put a lot of how I felt at the time of my being bullied into the main character, Lola Savullo. Lola, however, is much more courageous than I ever was.   
 
Who are your main characters?  
 
My main characters are seventeen-year-old, Lola Savullo, her eighty-year-old grandmother, Rose, her androgynous friend Charlie, her secret crush, Jon and the school bully, Nino.
 
Who is your favorite character and why?     
 
My favorite character is Lola. She’s the main character and the book is written in first person through her eyes. I love Lola for her courage and fighting spirit as well as her depth of character. She’s a teenage girl but in many ways she’s more mature than those around her including her own parents.     

 What was your biggest challenge writing this book? 

 Writing Invisible was really quite easy. I look at it as a gift of sorts. I’m writing another book now and I’m certainly not having as easy a time as I did when writing Invisible. It only took four months to complete. A feat I know I could never repeat.    

Where do you live?   

I live in a small town outside of Toronto, called Bolton. I’ve lived here for twenty years.     

Tell us a little about an interesting landmark in your country.   

 Toronto is home to the CN Tower. In 1995, it was classified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. It was built in 1976 by the Canadian National Railway Company. At 553.33 m (1,815 ft, 5 inches), it is the world’s tallest Tower.    

Since the Tower opened, Canadians and tourists from around the world have made the trip to Toronto to celebrate this marvel of civil engineering. Besides serving as a telecommunications hub, the Tower provides world-class entertainment and a wide range of unique attractions, exhibits and food and beverage venues. 

 What's the most well known city in your country and why?     

Canada has many well known cities, but I imagine Toronto is the most well known. It’s a large city with a great deal of diversity in terms of ethnicities and cultures. It’s also home to the Toronto Blue Jays, The Raptors and our beloved Maple Leafs.     

What's a little known fact about where you live?   

 Canada is the largest country in the Western hemisphere. How large? 9,910,610 square kilometres, and stretching 5,500km from Pacific to Atlantic. That's how large! Nearly 800,000 sq.kilometers of Canada's land is covered by bodies of fresh water such as lakes and rivers, making Canada the largest source of fresh water in the world. Also, the coastline extends approximately 244,000 km.     

Name two famous people who've been sighted in your corner of the world.     

There are many famous people born in Toronto. Norman Jewison lives somewhere near me, though I have no idea where, lol. Also, Jim Carrey, David Cronenberg, Martin Short (who I’ve met and is a wonderful man) and Howie Mandel are all Canadian, to name just a few. I know, I can’t count. You’d asked for only two.     

What's your favorite restaurant and what type of food do they serve?     

My favorite restaurant is a little place here in town called Caruso’s. It’s an Italian restaurant and the food is made with fresh ingredients with no compromises. I’ve also met and become friends with a fellow writer who works there, named Vanessa Grillone.     

What are you giving away on you blog?     

I will be giving away an ecopy of Invisible.    

Who is the author you are highlighting on your blog?     

Leslie DuBois, author of The Queen Bee of Bridgeton
 
Where can readers connect with you?
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Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: iFeel by Marissa Carmel

iFeel 
by Marissa Carmel
Published: June 15, 2012
Publisher: GMTA Publishing
Available: Amazon

Synopsis:
Lust. Anger. Hate. Desire. Love. Happiness. Joy. iFeel.

Liv Christianni is isolated, alone, tortured and withdrawn, saddled with the torrential downpour of the world’s emotions. Accepting of her providence Liv has lost all hope, until one day fate steps in and spins the course of her life like a spiraling top. Hunted by a Spirit Stalker, Liv is forced to gain control of herself and her surroundings, threatened by the touch of her immortal love; she must find a way to survive both physically and emotionally as her reality is shaken up like dice on a Craps table. Can she find the courage to accept her true self? Can she love unconditionally cognizant of the condemning consequences? Can she rise from the ashes to become the person she was always meant to be?

Funny, witty, real, and poignant, iFeel rips into your soul, and sets your emotions on fire.

If you are a fan of Charmed or Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle this series is for you!

Review:
So I have to say, I've never actually read or watched any of the works iFeel is compared to in the synopsis, so I'm not really sure how it compares, but I can say that it is an enjoyable read. Carmel starts off really strong, and throws the reader right into some action. The book is fairly fast paced, and I didn't feel like I was having to wade through a bunch of extra stuff just to get to the plot.

The main character Liv is nicely developed and I thought Carmel did a good job of creating a character that while she is anti-social and scared of what she believes is her deteriorating mental health, still manages to be confident, independent, and smart. Justice, her main love interest, is intriguing in his guilt complex and his determination to do his job as a Spirit hunter.
 
The plot was interesting and I thought the idea of the Spirit Stalkers was an interesting twist. The special abilities Liv, Justice and the Seraphs have are nicely described and I liked that they're still trying to figure out what Liv can do.

There were a few things that bothered me, though. Everyone is wealthy. I never figured out what Liv did to earn money, other than a reference to the family business, but there are lots of references to expensive brands of clothing, fragrances, and purses, along with frequent salon trips. The Seraphs, in addition to their beautiful house, are all gloriously beautiful and immortal.

The final issues was the editing. This really read like an early draft with lots of grammatical and spelling  errors. I also had some issues with the letter 'l' on my Kindle version. Most words with double 'l's came out with the second 'l' missing. I've had this happen before so it might be a formatting error in the Kindle's part, or on the software being used to format it. 

Overall, I think iFeel is a great start to a series, and I would definitely consider reading the sequel. 

You can check out the guest post by Marissa Carmel as part of her iFeel Blog Tour here, and don't forget to enter the Lazy Days of Summer giveaway for a chance to win 1 of 5 ecopies of iFeel!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop

Giveaway Time!! Yea! Thanks go out to Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Laura over at Colorimetry for hosting this blog hop and to Marissa Carmel and GMTA Publishing for donating the e-copies of iFeel!

So what can you win? 1 of 5 e-copies of iFeel by Marissa Carmel! For more info on iFeel, click the pic below and it'll connect you to Marissa's Blog Tour Guest Post, and then come back tomorrow to read my review of iFeel! **In addition to winning a copy if iFeel, each winner will also receive a copy of my novel Songbird!


This giveaway is open Internationally!
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Don't forget to check out the other blogs participating!

Blog Tour: iFeel by Marissa Carmel Guest Post

I am so excited to be hosting the next stop in Marissa Carmel's iFeel Blog Tour!!  In addition to the guest post and excerpt below, enter to win 1 of 5 e-copies of iFeel at the bottom of the post, or on the Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway button (to the right)!! Come back tomorrow to read my review of iFeel!

 
Guest Post:

You plan, God laughs. This is the story of my life.

There are ideals and expectations I assume everyone has; whom you will marry, what your career will be like, where you will raise your kids. And yes, I had all those ideologies in my head, except mine were more like, have a career, don't get married and absolutely no kids. Boy was I wrong. Today I am married with two kids, and living in a state I only passed through on occasion. And my career? Well let’s just say, I have more than one, and I never saw that coming. Who needs more than one career? Apparently me. To make a long story short, I started my first career as a logistician, yawn, I won’t bore you with the details. The second career came shortly after.

I've always loved to write. Always. My imagination constantly runs away with itself, and I am without doubt following it. My best subject was creative writing. So when I would write, it was primarily for me (or a good grade). As time went on though, I found myself imagining more and more and wanting to create, but my life was so busy, and what would it get me anyway? Until one day my mother- in- law dropped a bomb that would change my life. She was talking to one of my husband’s cousins who was complaining about getting her college degree (she was already married with 4 kids. Yikes. I’d be complaining too.) And my MIL, the wise woman that she is simply said, honey, time is going to go by anyway, so you might as well do it. Well, it felt like the sky fell on me. The advice wasn’t even directed at me, but it resonated. I started writing that night. And never stopped.

My husband once asked where my creativity comes from, and in return I asked him if he ever heard voices in his head. His reply, I needed to see a shrink. I told him a keyboard and a curser is the best therapy. I have always loved the supernatural, thanks in part to my mom; Charmed was one of our favorite shows to watch together and still is. So when I started writing, it only felt natural that it took on a paranormal feel. But I didn't want to write about vampires or werewolves or really anything that had been done. I'm like that; I always tend to steer towards the opposite of popular and then proceed to make fun of it. So I started researching, and brainstorming, and concocting my mix of love, humor and emotion. Liv was already an entity in my head, festering. I'd often imagine a dark haired girl with amethyst eyes, suffering and alone. When I finally established who she really was, and what kind of supernatural elements she would possess, (an Empath-someone who can feel the emotions of others- with active abilities) I asked myself, what would it be like for someone like that to carry the world's emotions? Torrential I thought. What would it be like for her to fall in love? Even worse than torrential. The story evolved rather quickly after that, but I didn't rush it. It took me a little over a year to write, over two years to edit. I learned a lot about my writing style during that time, developed my voice and really tried to give it a life-like feel.

So here I am almost four years later, a husband, 2 kids, and a home in what feels like a foreign country; a daytime career and a nighttime career, all jumbling together, fighting for a piece of my time. Go hard or go home, my husband and I always joke, if we have a story, it needs a theme and that is it. I wouldn't change it though, not for anything. Life is nothing, if not a venture - (I have no idea who said that).

~ Marissa Carmel

iFeel 
by Marissa Carmel
Published: June 15, 2012
Publisher: GMTA Publishing
Available: Amazon

Synopsis:
Lust. Anger. Hate. Desire. Love. Happiness. Joy. iFeel.

Liv Christianni is isolated, alone, tortured and withdrawn, saddled with the torrential downpour of the world’s emotions. Accepting of her providence Liv has lost all hope, until one day fate steps in and spins the course of her life like a spiraling top. Hunted by a Spirit Stalker, Liv is forced to gain control of herself and her surroundings, threatened by the touch of her immortal love; she must find a way to survive both physically and emotionally as her reality is shaken up like dice on a Craps table. Can she find the courage to accept her true self? Can she love unconditionally cognizant of the condemning consequences? Can she rise from the ashes to become the person she was always meant to be?

Funny, witty, real, and poignant, iFeel rips into your soul, and sets your emotions on fire.

If you are a fan of Charmed or Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle this series is for you!

Excerpt:

I direct my anger towards the mocking bottles of crazy pills settled in the cabinet. I attack them; clearing all the glass shelves in one angered fit. Tiny orange bottles fly all around my white tiled bathroom, exploding an array of colored pills against the walls and floor. It feels like I am bombing my past; liberating my future and releasing myself from whatever binds me. I want to be free, and if that means destroying my whole apartment in the process to get there, I am willing to do that.

I can feel the rage course through my veins; my head throbs and my throat burns as I thrash at my tiny bathroom. All I can hear are the voices of people who mean the most to me, those who encourage me, those who support me. To my surprise, the loudest voice is the one who is farthest away. Justice’s words echo against the tiled surface, telling me to let go, to accept my fate, to be magical and not mental. It makes me miss him all the more, but what he said finally makes sense.

My breaths pulse quickly in my lungs, as if the air is thinning. I have worked myself up into a crazed frenzy to expel my true self. My enraged fit has resulted in a bathroom bloodbath, me versus myself.

And I won.

Author Bio 
 Marissa Carmel has been writing since a young age and although it has always been for personal enjoyment, she finally decided to breakout and share her imagination with the world. She hopes that her universe is as fun and intriguing to her readers as it is to her. Marissa Carmel is originally from NJ but moved to Maryland several years ago, she enjoys reading, writing, and catching up on her DVR library. She is currently working on the sequel to iFeel, Gravitational Pull, which she hopes to release sometime in 2012.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: The End by Laura Barcella

The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It's Too Late
by Laura Barcella
Published: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Zest Books
Available: Amazon

Synopsis:

You’ve probably heard rumors that the end of the world is going to happen in the year 2012. But people have been making predictions about how and when the world is going to end for ages. The End is a fun, comprehensive, pop culture read about the 50 top movies, books, songs, comics, artworks, and plays—from the movie Shaun of the Dead to the pop song "It’s the End of the World as We Know It"—that have been created about the apocalypse. Each item includes:
- a synopsis of the apocalyptic work
- information about the apocalyptic theory behind it (from alien invasion to meteors, nuclear war, and natural disasters)
- an explanation about why this work is important in pop culture
 
Love doomsday talk and the art that is made about it? Check out this fun and entertaining read!

Review:
Society has a morbid fascination with the end of the world. And really, who can blame them? I certainly can't since I'm one of the many morbidly curious.

The End is a look at pop culture's many dooms day predictions, and how they continue to influence the masses and media. There were many pieces I had never heard about, or only had a vague concept of, and it was interesting to see how they connected to other more current works. I do have to admit that as a zombie fan, I was wanting them represented a bit more, but I'm sure I could come up with at least 50 pieces for them alone!

This was a pretty quick read, with each piece of work broken down into a summary, Inspirations for the piece, unforgettable moments, reality factor, and the impact it has had on our culture. The Kindle formatting I received through Net Galley did make it difficult to read, but I notice that at this time it's only available in paperback, which I think would be cool to see, as there are photos to go with each 'vision'. This is definitely a fun look at pop culture!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers


This is Not a Test 
by Courtney Summers
Published: June 19, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Available: Amazon


Synopsis:
It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?


Review:
Zombies. Do I need to say more?? Probably not, but I will :)

Sloane is on the verge of death. Not just because there are zombies pounding at the doors, but because she has given up on living long before the dead arose. The only reason she's not dead is she didn't want to endanger the other survivors.

This is Not a Test goes beyond surviving zombies and looks at what it really means to be a survivor and to have the strength to live. Sloane's life fell apart bit by bit. Her mother died, her father became abusive, her sister deserted her, and just as she's about to end it all, zombies attack. Holed up in the local high school with five other teens, Sloane discovers that there are things worse than death, but that those things are often what makes life worth living.

For a zombie book, there's not a lot of blood and gore, although towards the end things become a little more detailed as Sloane wakes up to the realities of what is happening. Summers keep the atmosphere dark and somber by examining how these teens start to break down as they realize everyone they love is dead. She brought all six of the teens to life, giving them distinct personalities and survivor stories unique.

I read this straight through, long into the night, and when I went to bed, remembered why I shouldn't do zombies after 10! Absolutely amazing read! This may just beat out The Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan as my favorite zombie book.

Book Trailer ~ This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?


Check out my review of This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cover Reveal ~ Shift: Firstborn #2 by Raine Thomas



Shift: Firstborn #2
By Raine Thomas
Release Date: August 24, 2012 (e-book)

Having the ability to shapeshift, Sophia is familiar with change. But even she feels the rising tension in her homeland.

A shadowy male and deadly beast reside in their midst. The births of the newest Kynzesti loom. Hostile Mercesti continue to hunt for the Elder Scroll, and a traumatized female is too afraid to use her abilities to stop them.

Topping off Sophia’s stress is Quincy, the male she’s convinced can’t stand her. She rues the loss of their friendship, but can’t figure out how to move past it. She’ll soon learn, however, that mending that rift bears more significance than she ever imagined.

The search for the Elder Scroll takes on unexpected urgency, and Sophia finds herself in a race across the mainland. To stop the Mercesti led by Eirik, she and her companions must get past their differences and unite against them. If they don’t, Eirik will acquire the immense power he seeks, and two of the beings Sophia loves most will die.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits  
by Katie McGarry
Published: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Available: Amazon (pre-order)

Synopsis:
So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Review:
This has got to be one of my favorite YA contemporary romances this year, if not ever! It is a fast read, made so by McGarry's strong voice, and her brilliantly crafted characters.


When I started reading Pushing the Limits I was expecting something a little softer. I'm not sure exactly why, but it just seemed more of a fluffy good girl falls for bad boy story. Pushing the Limits is so much more. Noah and Echo come from completely different backgrounds, but both had their lives torn apart, and now they are struggling to survive in the lives they've created for themselves. There is no insta-love, and there is no game playing. They come across as genuine people trying to understand what happened to them and why. Even the secondary characters were beautifully developed. Noah's friend Beth is even getting a book of her own, and I can't wait to read it!


It's really hard to pin point specific things I loved about the story, because doing so would reveal spoilers, and this is definitely a book I would hate to spoil for anyone. I will say that I cried for about the last third of the book, I got angry, and ultimately I felt hope that Noah and Echo wouldn't forever be defined by the things that happened to them, but by how they survived. Despite my tears, and the obvious serious nature of both Echo and Noah's lives, I wasn't left with a heavy feeling. Pushing the Limits is an amazing debut novel for McGarry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Starring Me by

Starring Me 
by Krista McGee
Published: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Available: Amazon

Synopsis:
Kara McKormick is told she's auditioning to star in a new teen variety show. But it's what she isn't told that could change her life.

The feisty New Yorker moves to sunny Orlando to participate in a month-long audition, where she'll live with nine other contestants and an eccentric housemother. Kara knows that the show already has a big-time celebrity lined up for the co-host, but she doesn't know who it is.

Chad Beacon quickly rose to fame after winning America's Next Star, but he doesn't want his entire career to be about singing. There is so much more he wants to do-like act. The new variety show sounds like the perfect next step for him, but his parents want him to have a co-star who shares his faith since they'll be spending so much time together.

Acting is high on Kara's priority list. But a relationship with God? Not so much. In fact, she's tried to stay away from anything religious. But God is after Kara's heart and He's put people in her life who are showing her there's far more to Christianity than rules and judgment.

And just when it seems that Kara's going to have to give up her acting dream, God reveals that she may have a starring role after all-in a story so big only He could write it.


Review:
Starring Me is a very sweet light-hearted story. I can't say romance, because there isn't really a romance, as the main characters only interact three times the entire book. Not that that is a bad thing, but from the blurb I'd been expecting some kind of romance. This really is simply a tale about a girl coming to realize that there is a God and becoming a Christian. It is due to her new Christian faith that everything works out perfectly for her in the end.

I really wanted to like this book, but I just didn't connect with any of the characters. The main character Kara had potential. Her doubts about God and religion felt honest as did her questions, but everything was too easy for her. This is a girl who comes from a nice, loving home, who has already starred in a reality show and is now being offered two chances to make her dreams come true. She's talented, pretty, and just all around great. The only problem according to all the other main characters is that she's not Christian. Chad, her love interest, is a perfect Christian boy, who just happens to be a superstar. Her best friend Addy is another perfect Christian, and Addy's Christian boyfriend Jackson is the president's son. Chad's super nanny, Flora, was annoying as the perfect matronly Christian chaperone spouting Jane Austen every chance she had.

It was the perfection of everyone that drove me nuts. The Christians were good and the non-Christians not so good. Life isn't this easy. It's not black or white. Becoming the only Christian in a non-Christian family is hard. Being a Christian in the entertainment industry is even harder. Yet none of this struggle is there, and that is what I was looking for.  There wasn't anything about the book that I disliked, but nothing that I really did like.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Power Within by C.L. Causer

Power Within 
by C.L. Causer
Published: March 12, 2012
Available: Amazon

Synopsis:

Charlotte 'Charlie' Gordon wants nothing more, than to be a normal girl. But having a near death accident as a child, she finds out that she has powers. After accidentally electrocuting her sister and blowing up her mother's kitchen, she suppresses her powers for ten years. Unknowing that there are more people like her out there. A lot more.

That is until a secret group of them try and hunt her down because of her unusual abilities. Forcing her family into hiding, she goes on the run. Having to learn about her powers and her past, she meets many new friends along the way. But you can't run forever. She learns that someone has betrayed her to the very people she is running from.

Review:
Power Within is one of those books I'm on the fence about. There is an interesting premise, but I just couldn't get into the story completely, especially in the beginning. Causer starts off with some good action, but I couldn't really get into it. Then about halfway through the story, things started clicking for me. The plot seemed to be stronger and I was actually starting to connect with Charlie.

In the first half of the story, Charlie is helped along by her best friend Jake and they have a really sweet friendship, one I was immediately hoping would become the romantic part of the plot. Then Jake disappears, and a new love interest pops up. Tyler was more of the typical YA love interest. Good looking, mysterious, rough around the edges, and he and Charlie immediately dislike each other. Even though the romance was a bit predictable, Tyler grew on me, and I liked that Charlie never relies on him to save her.

Charlie was really the reason I kept reading. She's not one of those over the top characters. As the central character, Causer does a good job of keeping us primarily in Charlie's head, and it's a nice one to be in. She's a nice girl. She loves her family and her friends, and wants to protect them, but she's also not stupid. She's willing to accept help, and it's trying to keep everything hidden, although she is smart enough to have some trust issues with people she's just met.

The one thing that kept me from from enjoying the story was the editing. I did read the updated version the author sent me, but there were frequent grammatical errors, and while I can ignore a certain amount, they became an annoyance the further I read. An example would be the continual misuse of sat and stood. Sentences which should have said "They were sitting at the table." were written as "They were sat at the table." or instead of "They were standing at the door." it was written as "They were stood at the door.". 

The last third of the book really picked up the pace and I really got into the flow of the story. I enjoyed the ending and thought it was a really strong conclusion to the first book in the series. I am definitely open to reading more by Causer.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Trailer ~ Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn't grow up.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cover Reveal ~ Inquest by DelSheree Gladden


Inquest by DelSheree Gladden

   When Libby Sparks walks into her Inquest, she is sure she’s walking to her death. As a small child Libby realized that her tremendous power made her different, and not in a good way. She has successfully hidden her secret until now. Revealed as the Guardians’ sole enemy, the Destroyer, she is nearly murdered twice within minutes. Only the arrival of the head Guardian offers her protection. But at a price. She must bury her talents forever, or face his blade. He offers, sure she’ll fail and he’ll be the one to kill her and secure his crumbling reign. Libby takes the deal regardless of his intentions. She tells herself she won’t reveal her true power for any reason, but when Milo, the only friend she has left, is attacked, Libby is forced to make a choice. Abandon her friend and talents to save her own life, or embrace who she is and truly become the Destroyer.

Coming 2012 from Briona Glen Publishing!

Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent (Divergent #2) 
by Veronica Roth
Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Available: Amazon

Synopsis:
One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Review:
Sequels always concern me. There is a lot potential for the second book in a series to be great, but also to be terrible. With the amazingness of Divergent, Insurgent had a high bar to meet. Luckily it did.

Insurgent picks up right off where Divergent left off, and doesn't waste time with a lot of back story. Tris is in survival mode. People she loves have died, she's killed, and she's almost been killed. All of this is impacting how she reacts to Four and even her brother. Tris's transformation in this book is what really kept me invested. The plot was good, but I wanted to know what she would choose to do about what was happening. Roth does an amazing job of breaking Tris down to her lowest point, in making her realize how her actions are what is keeping her from moving forward. I am sooo tempted to go into detail, because there are a few scenes that really gripped me and brought me to tears, but I have no desire to spoil it for anyone, even those looking for spoilers. 

I usually get frustrated with the ending of sequels because I know they're going to leave a lot of things hanging in order to care on with the third book in the series. With Insurgent Roth doesn't really leave us hanging. The entire book is focused on what the leaders are trying to hide, and we do get our answer. It wasn't what I'd been expecting, but it definitely intrigued me and I am now waiting anxiously for the nest book in the series to come out!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: Fury's Fire by Lisa Papademetriou

Fury's Fire (Siren's Storm #2)
by Lisa Papademetriou
Published: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available: Amazon

Synopsis:
At the end of Siren's Storm, the Sirens were defeated, and now the town of Walfgang is once again a peaceful beach community.
Or is it? Gretchen and Will are still haunted by the memories of the night the Sirens were destroyed—Gretchen because she can't remember what happened and Will because he doesn't know how to tell Gretchen what he saw. He doesn't even understand what he saw, but he does know now that Gretchen is more than what she seems, more than a human girl. And at the same time, he is more in love with her than ever.

Gretchen knows there's something wrong, too. She feels like an alien in her own body, but she doesn't know why. And she feels a presence stalking her at every turn. Have the Sirens returned to Walfang? Or has some other force come to claim her?


Review:
Let me start off by saying that I haven't read the first book Siren's Storm. Because I somehow missed the opening line of the synopsis about this being a sequel, I was pretty confused when I started reading Fury's Fire. By the second chapter it was pretty clear I had missed some pretty big events, but I didn't let that discourage me. I kept reading, and I'm glad I did, although I would recommend that if you plan to read Fury's Fire, check out the Siren's Storm first.

I liked both main characters, Will and Gretchen. But the relationship bet ween them is where I found myself losing interest. Will is over protective, deliberately hiding things from Gretchen and acting possessive and jealous. As for Gretchen, I couldn't understand why she was with Will. There are no thoughts about their relationship. All of that comes form Will, making it seem very one sided and I wasn't invested in their romance because of this.

What kept me from giving this 4 stars is the over use of dreams and retelling of the past. I lost track of how many chapters started with a dream or memory, and even the ending seemed to be disconnected. After the main action, there is no aftermath, just an epilogue that tells me what has happened in the weeks since. I also had a hard time understanding why the villain in this story always went for the public kill. There were plenty of opportunities for the villain to get to Gretchen when only the two of them were present. It just didn't make sense to me.

Overall, Fury's Fire is an interesting read, and even though I wasn't sure exactly what happened in Siren's Storm, Papademetriou fed in enough back story so I was able to fill in enough details to figure out what was going on. She had a clean style that kept the plot moving at a nice flow, and the book was a very quick read.






   

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book Trailer ~ Guardians Inc: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain

Guardians Inc: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain
GUARDIANS INC.: THE CYPHER is two stories in one. A glimpse into a multinational company that is in reality the oldest of secret societies, one that spans close to seven thousand years of existence, weaving in and out of history, guiding and protecting humanity from creatures and forces that most of us believe are only mythology and fairy tales.

The other is the story of Thomas Byrne, a young man thrust into secrets he shouldn’t be aware of and dangers he shouldn’t face but, that he ultimately will, for he is a Cypher. The only one who can steer humanity’s future.

The ultimate conspiracy theory is that Magic is real. Kept in check by technology but, every five hundred years the balance can shift and, if it does, technology will fail and those creatures we’ve driven into myth will come back with a vengeance.

To protect the present, Guardians Incorporated needs to know the future.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Help! Missing Books!

I was updating my reviews page and I realized that despite the almost 100 reviews I've done since starting this blog, I am missing titles starting with a few specific letters! J, Q, V, X, and Y are my lonely letters :( So I have decided to start a quest to fill in those spaces.

I do have a couple books going for V already. Vampire Crush by A.M. Robinson has been sitting on my shelf for a couple months now, and I have an advanced copy of Velveteen by Daniel Marks. But the others are going to drive me crazy.

So, I am officially requesting help in finding great YA books starting with J, Q, X, and Y. You can leave a comment on this post with suggestions, or you can send me recommendations through Goodreads.

**Okay, some how I missed the obvious Queen Bee of Bridgeton by Leslie DuBois my fellow Little Prince Publishing author! But I'm still looking for more Q's!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Blog Tour: Knee Deep Review


I am thrilled to be hosting the next stop on the Knee Deep Blog Tour! After reading my review, don't forget to click the banner to check out other stops along the tour! Thanks go out to Tribute Books for allowing me to be part of this tour!

Knee Deep by Jolene Perry
Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Tribute Books
Available: Amazon, Nook

Synopsis:
Shawn is the guy Ronnie Bird promised her life to at the age of fourteen. He's her soul mate. He's more uptight every day, but it's not his fault. His family life is stressful, and she's adding to it. She just needs to be more understanding, and he'll start to be the boy she fell in love with. She won’t give up on someone she’s loved for so long.

Luke is her best friend, and the guy she hangs with to watch girlie movies in her large blanketopias. He's the guy she can confide in before she even goes to her girlfriends, and the guy who she's playing opposite in Romeo and Juliet. Now her chest flutters every time he gets too close. This is new. Is Ronnie falling for him? Or is Juliet? The lines are getting blurry, but leaving one guy for another is not something that a girl like Ronnie does.

Shawn’s outbursts are starting to give her bruises, and Luke’s heart breaks as Ronnie remains torn. While her thoughts and feelings swirl around the lines between friendship and forever, she’s about to lose them both. 

About the Author:
Jolene grew up in Wasilla, Alaska. She graduated from Southern Utah University with a degree in political science and French, which she used to teach math to middle schoolers.

After living in Washington, Utah and Las Vegas, she now resides in Alaska with her husband, and two children. Aside from writing, Jolene sews, plays the guitar, sings when forced, and spends as much time outside as possible.

She is also the author of Night Sky and The Next Door Boys.


Review:
Knee Deep was one of those books that I found myself talking aloud to the characters.

I really liked Ronnie and it infuriated me when she made choices that I didn't agree with. She was a little different in her style and she didn't come across as one of those simpering Bella clones. She is strong, although she doesn't know it, and it's that lack of knowledge that has her making excuses for Shawn.

When the story opens it is very clear that Ronnie and Shawn are in love and that they have one of those ideal high school romances. They've always known each other and even better they always knew they belonged together. This was what made Ronnie's choices so believable. She doesn't want to accept that the boy she once knew was completely changed.

Luke and Shawn both come across as typical guys. Luke is a player and even though he is in love with Ronnie, he doesn't sit around home moping. He dates and has friends outside of her. When he finds out what is happening between Ronnie and Shawn, he tries to help her in a way that won't push her away. I wish he'd done more, but again, I could understand why he didn't. Shawn was an interesting character. I liked him in the beginning, and even up to about the half way point I had some sympathy for him, but by the end I was just disgusted.

I thought the ending was really strong. Everyone around Ronnie has to deal with the abuse and outcomes, and although I wanted more satisfaction for her, the response she got from Shawn was probably as close to real as it gets.