Feb 28, 2012

Inhale by Kendall Grey

Publisher: Howling Mad Press
Release Date: May 1st,
Pages: 453
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Series: Just Breathe #1
Source: From the author in exchange for an honest review.

Inhale (Just Breathe, #1)Inhale by Kendall Grey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Strangers in reality, inseparable in dreams…


After years of suffocating under her boss’s scrutiny, whale biologist Zoe Morgan finally lands a job as director of a tagging project in Hervey Bay, Australia. Success Down Under all but guarantees her the promotion of a lifetime, and Zoe won’t let anything—or anyone—stand in her way. Not the whale voices she suddenly hears in her head, not the ex who won’t take no for an answer, and especially not the gorgeous figment of her imagination who keeps saving her from the fiery hell of her dreams.


Gavin Cassidy hasn’t been called to help a human Wyldling in over a year, which is fine by him. Still blaming himself for the death of his partner, he keeps the guilt at bay by indulging in every excess his rock star persona affords. That is, until he’s summoned to protect Zoe from hungry Fyre Elementals and learns his new charge is the key to restoring order in the dying Dreaming. He never expects to fall for the feisty Dr. Morgan…nor does he realize he may have to sacrifice the woman he loves to save an entire country.


*This book contains graphic language, sex, and some violence. Not suitable for readers under the age of 18.


**The author will donate all profits from the sale of the JUST BREATHE trilogy to whale education.


Review:


Alright, so...writing this review is going to be hard. I knew it would be, because writing reviews for books you love is extremely difficult. Writing reviews for books you adore is damn near impossible. I cannot imagine covering in words all the things I want to say or all the things this book made me feel. It just was everything I hoped it was going to be, everything I thought it was going to be, and then some.


The characters were just brilliant. Basically you have five main characters. Zoe Morgan is the MAIN main character. But then there is also Gavin, Scarlet,Yileen, and to a lesser extent, Sinnder. He may not be in the book as much, but he makes a HUGE impact on the scenes he was in. So let's talk. Zoe was awesome. She's a fighter with a bad-ass attitude. She doesn't take lip from anybody and she totally stands up for what she believes in. She loves whales. It's more than love. It's passion. An obsession. And then there's Gavin. Total hottie rockstar with a protective streak. But he's also sensitive and Australian. Oh yes. Australian. With black spiky hair, tattoos, and a lip ring. He's a sentinel, and has been assigned to protect Zoe. They meet in Zoe's dreams and they get to know each other. Very well. Yileen was Gavin's mentor. He was also just a really great character. I loved that he had his own dialect, and he just felt very different from any other character in the book. He also had some really great lines. Then there's Scarlet. I don't think I am giving you any spoilers by telling you that she's the villain. She's also a redhead with a bitch attitude, and she wants Gavin. Badly. Finally, Sinnder. I don't know what the heck was going on with Sinnder, but I want more. Lots more. He was sooo hot. I suppose that Sinnder could make women drop their panties with just a look if he wanted to. Ha. He and Scarlet are Fire Elementals, and Fire Elementals are all about desires and human instincts. Therefore, they tend to be violent. And they like to have sex. Lots of sex. Maybe you can get the gist of why I like Sinnder so much. :)


Incidentally, there is sex in this book. I don't want to ruin it for you by telling you where, who, or why, just know that the scenes are hot. Very hot. And let's be honest. There are two more books in this series, and I can only imagine the steamy scenes will get hotter and more creative. The author certainly knows how to make women swoon and want to get some. And I'm going to move on and leave it at that.


This is the type of book you read to escape in. The world-building was awesome and blew me away. I think the way the author wove in elementals with whales and a dream world was just fabulous. For me, the level of creativity in this book sets the bar for any other books I will read this year. Meet it and you will go into my 5 star hall of fame. Anything that doesn't live up to the level of this book just won't have the same impact or affect me as much as this book did. I could talk about it and give you details, but really more than anything, I just want you to experience it for yourself. I couldn't put it down. I haven't been connecting to most of the books I have been reading lately, and I was beginning to wonder if it was me. It's not. Because this book proved that it wasn't. There's just a lot of mediocre literature out there right now. You won't find it here.


In this book you will find brilliant writing (and I mean it, Kendall can really write). It flows so well and the way she describes things, and places and people...just so vivid. Some of the scenes will really stick out in my mind for a long time. And the relationships. The tension, sexual and otherwise, was really off the charts. The hatred Scarlet has for Zoe really works. Scarlet doesn't really feel like JUST a villain. I'm truly scared for Zoe. I want to punch Randy in the face for being such a douchebag and a perv. Seriously a perv. This book sent my emotions off the charts and I just wanted to keep reading and reading and reading. And the thing is is I usually take notes when I am reading so I have topics to talk about while I am writing my review, but for some reason I could not put this book down to write notes. I just could not stop reading and ruin the environment and escape I was feeling. You know that is a GOOD book when that happens.


So, I usually write down a quote. But this time I don't have one for you. And it's not because there weren't any quotes I wanted to steal for my review, it's just that this is the type of book that flows and moves fast and anything I would have wrote down might have been spoilery. But I can promise you that the dialogue and writing is fabulous. There were some pretty funny moments in this book too. It's just a really great book and world to escape into. It's exactly what I was looking for in a book when I opened it up. And it blew me away.


I recommend this book for adults who like young adult, urban fantasy, or any type of romance novel. There are love scenes. And they are hot. So I won't recommend it for teens. But I know you will sneak and read it anyway, and you should. And that's all I am going to say. If you don't normally read these types of genres but are thinking about branching out into urban fantasy, this is a perfect book for you as well. It's just so good it is impossible not to enjoy no matter what your tastes are.

As soon as buying links are available, I will add them here. For now, just know that this book...






Feb 25, 2012

Katana by Cole Gibsen

Publisher: Flux
Release Date: March 8th, 2012
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: From Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Blurb:


Kill Bill meets Buffy in this supernatural samurai tale.


Rileigh Martin would love to believe that adrenaline gave her the uncanny courage and strength to fend off three muggers. But it doesn't explain her dreams of fifteenth-century Japan, the incredible fighting skills she suddenly possesses, or the strange voice giving her battle tips and danger warnings. While worrying that she's going crazy (always a reputation ruiner), Rileigh gets a visit from Kim, a handsome martial arts instructor, who tells Rileigh she's harboring the spirit of a five-hundred-year-old samurai warrior.


Relentlessly attacked by ninjas, Rileigh has no choice but to master the katana--a deadly Japanese sword that's also the key to her past. As the spirit grows stronger and her feelings for Kim intensify, Rileigh is torn between continuing as the girl she's always been and embracing the warrior inside her.


Review:


Warning: Prepare for a b*tchfest. I will keep it as clean and as respectful as I can, but I can't make any promises. This book made me want to scream. Why, you ask? Because...BECAUSE it had SO much potential that it did not live up to. It could have been great, but it was just mediocre in every way. 


First things first. That tagline? Kill Bill meets Buffy? No. Just no. This book was nothing like Kill Bill. That movie is gory, bloody, gritty, and all kinds of awesome. This book was, blah, not bloody at all, it wishes it were gritty, and all kinds of crap. I just am so frustrated.


But the worst issue I had throughout the whole thing? I wasn't able to  believe in a word the author was saying. In paranormal and fantasy novels, the reader has to suspend disbelief. I tried to do that. I really did. Check the following out (I stole it from Wikipedia. You can do that, right?): 


"It was put forth in English by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative.


And that's just it. The narrative was completely implausible. And the author did a pretty shoddy job of trying to convince me otherwise. I didn't believe in the magic OR the reincarnation aspects. And I certainly didn't believe in the creepy, instalove triangle.


That's right. I said instalove. And love triangle. I would like you to read you a quote from one of the love interests, so you can see why I thought the romances in this book were so utterly icky. 


Whitley crossed the asphalt with quick strides until only inches separated us. "I'm drawn to you, Rileigh. I don't know what it is--but I'd like to find out." He lifted my hand and rubbed his thumb across my knuckles, bringing goosebumps along my arm. "Do you feel it?"


...Uhh...speechless. There are no words. I'll just say that the romances didn't work for me. At all. The other love interest, Kim, was a little better (not creepy), but he still did nothing for me. Even worse was Rileigh's reaction to that declaration of love. She let out a girlish scream of delight. Girlish scream of delight. Really? Excuse me. I'm nauseated.


It had so much potential, but ultimately fell flat. I found the writing unimpressive, the protagonist whiny and annoying, and the rest of the characters weren't developed very well. All the proper story elements were there, but in the end I didn't feel they came together. I just felt like everything in the book was half-attempted and not fully fleshed out. The characters, the plot, the antagonist, the unconvincing love interests. None of it really worked for me or made me believe in what I was reading.


2 stars for an original idea and the fact that I was able to finish the book; therefore, it wasn't that bad. But it certainly wasn't good.


Feb 23, 2012

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry

Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 13th, 2012
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Night She DisappearedThe Night She Disappeared by April Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Gabie drives a Mini Cooper. She also works part time as a delivery girl at Pete’s Pizza. One night, Kayla—another delivery girl—goes missing. To her horror, Gabie learns that the supposed kidnapper had asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper was working that night. Gabie can’t move beyond the fact that Kayla’s fate was really meant for her, and she becomes obsessed with finding Kayla. She teams up with Drew, who also works at Pete’s. Together, they set out to prove that Kayla isn’t dead—and to find her before she is.


Review:


I quite liked The Night She Disappeared. It was nothing original, just a decent thriller with good writing. I didn't think it was particularly special, but I did enjoy reading it. It was one of those books that was more about the plot than about the characters.


Because the story was told in multiple POVs, I never got attached to the characters. A little bit, but not much. It switched around a lot. I know some readers don't like that, and sometimes neither do I, but I think because of the way the book was written that it worked. The book was told from Kayla, Gabie, Drew, and the villain's point of view. I think there were only four perspectives, but I could be wrong. So there were at least four different POVs. And I never felt particularly connected to the characters, but I really wanted to know what had happened to Kayla and if she was going to make it out alive.


The book was told in fairly short sentences with easy writing. When I say easy, I don't mean bad, I mean simple. It flowed and was just a really easy book to read and comprehend. I liked that. It was refreshing. Sometimes I feel that authors who write this type of suspense novel try to hard to make their book more than it is. They make it confusing and puzzling, and it doesn't need to be. So I did like that.


Things I didn't like? I thought the addition of the relationship that was forming between Gabie and Drew was awkward and unnecessary. Why do most young adult authors feel it is required to add a romantic teen relationship to the story? I didn't care for that, and I felt that their chemistry was lacking, and I wasn't buying their relationship at all. They would have worked much better as just friends.


I had an issue with the character of Detective Thayer. First of all, he was a complete (*&$@*&. And as far as I know, police officers wouldn't treat witnesses that weren't suspects like garbage. If they were being interrogated as a suspect, sure, but these were just kids. And I know it's just my personal opinion, but I didn't care for the way the police were portrayed in this novel. I feel it was just used as a plot device so the book could end the way it did. And I would share that with you, but no spoilers, so...I just felt it was a cheap way out.


There was also a repetitive thing going on in this book. How many times did the author need to tell me that Gabie was meant to be kidnapped instead? That Kayla wasn't supposed to be working that night. That Gabie drove a Mini Cooper. That Drew was a stoner. It got a bit annoying, and I felt like the author was trying to tell me I was stupid. I am always looking for things like that in the manuscripts I edit because the last thing a reader ever wants to feel is that the author thinks they are ignorant. And I personally hate that. So the editor dropped the ball on that one.


I liked it. I didn't love it. There were certainly things I felt could have been improved. But I also couldn't put it down. So I feel comfortable with the rating of 3/5 stars.


Favorite Quote: It's so stupid, but you can't buy fireworks in Oregon, or even have them in your possession. At least, nothing that's any good. Nothing that goes more than six feet along the ground or twelve inches into the air. Which pretty much leaves those black tablets that grow into ash snakes after you light them. Oh, and sparklers. Lame-O.

To pre-order a copy of The Night She Disappeared from Amazon.com, click here: The Night She Disappeared.



Feb 22, 2012

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Publisher: Random House
Release Date: February 7th, 2012
Pages: 368
Genre: Non-Fiction. Cultural
Source: LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai UndercityBehind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb:


In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.



Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”



But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.



With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.


Review:


Behind the Beautiful Forevers was one of the toughest books I have ever had to read. If you are looking for an inspiring read, this is not it. It was depressing, vivid, very real, and made me lose faith in humanity in ways I cannot properly express. It was an amazing book, but one I would never EVER read again. It's not a book that most people enjoy reading. But every now and then you need to read a book like this to put your own life and ego in perspective. It made me sick, I was disgusted, and had to reread a few passages to make sure what I was reading was true.


The resilience of the Annawadi people was astounding to me. I was shocked to be quite honest. Some of the things that happen in this book will leave you speechless, breathless, and in disbelief. I have never actually sat there and thought about the great lengths people will go to to stay alive in a completely hopeless situation. In some cases it's almost inspiring. In others, such as setting your own child on fire because you cannot afford to keep them, not so much. Yes, that happened. I'd like to think I would be strong enough to survive a living situation as tough and as disgusting as this one. There are  impossible questions asked left and right in this book. Most have no right answers. Poverty, hunger, corruption, extreme violence, and that's just the beginning of all that you will encounter here.


The corruption in India is just awful. It's a dire situation. And I'm not going to pretend for a second like I'm an expert and know what I'm talking about because I don't. I just know it's bad. Horribly bad. And you want to hate the police, doctors, jailers, judges, lawyers, government officials, and everyone else involved in the corruption because they are hurting people and completely taking advantage of the lower castes, and in some cases, KILLING them. To me, neglect is murder. But how can I hate them when they get paid an unlivable wage and have higher ups to answer to that would cut them off at the knees if they didn't participate in the corruption? Let's not forget they have families and mouths to feed as well. I just don't know the answer. But I'm sad. It's awful.


As far as the writing, I was mesmerized by the way the individual stories in this book were woven together to give the reader a sense of what living in a Mumbai slum must be like. The author did a fantastic job of painting what was a typical day in Annawadi was like, and a very bleak one at that. She really managed to get inside the heads of her characters. I say characters because even though this is a nonfiction novel, it is written in a narrative style that makes you almost believe this is fiction. Years and years of research folks. Living in the slum day-to-day, following these people as they went about their daily lives with a video camera, and conducting many, MANY conversations with multiple translators to get it all down on paper. Impressive. It really is. And it's totally worth reading. But it was also depressing as hell. And it's not like I was surprised by this. I was prepared, and it still killed me inside.


What I got out of reading this? A little something I put together. It's much easier to fight amongst each other (and take out your neighbor) for the leftover spoils of rich people (whether it be jobs or garbage) than it is to rise up, form a revolution, and fight corruption in the government. This is true in India, but it's also true in other nations where there is such a division of social classes. And as always, there's always someone in the world who has it much worse than you do. Be thankful. Don't take anything for granted. NOTHING.


Favorite quote: "It seemed to him that in Annawadi, fortunes derived not just from what people did or how well they did it, but from the accidents and catastrophes they avoided. A decent life was the train that hadn't hit you, the slumlord you hadn't offended, the malaria you hadn't caught."


Check out the book trailer below.


To order a copy of Behind the Beautiful Forevers from Amazon.com, click here: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity.




Feb 20, 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: August 30th, 2011
Pages: 316
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal
Series: Anna #1
Source: I own a Kindle copy of this book.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Blurb:


Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story. . . 


Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. 


So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay. 


When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. 


And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.


Review:


You know, I get why people loved this book so much. I really do. I didn't love it as much as everyone else seemed to, but there's no denying that this was a great book. The problem for me was something I seem to be facing a lot lately. I was unable to connect to the characters as much as I would have liked to. Usually this hinders my enjoyment of the book completely, and that really didn't happen here. There was enough great stuff going on that I still enjoyed what I was reading immensely.


There were some great characters in this book. Anna was awesome, and I found it really strange that I was rooting for a mass murderer. But it was all about the way she was written. She was flawed, but she was real. The story behind her murder really got to me. That scene was incredibly intense by the way. I was upset. I have this thing about realistic violence. I don't like to read about it, I don't watch movies with it in it, and if I had known about it beforehand, I would have prepared myself. But I got through it.


Aside from Anna, Thomas and Carmel were pretty cool as well. I loved Cas' mom. The villain was evil and freaked me the hell out. I was pretty scared, I'm not going to lie. And the thing is, I never thought I scared easily. I still think I don't, so parts of this book are pretty intense and maybe a little bit creepy. It was atmospheric. It was gory. If haunted houses freak you out, then well...That scene where they used a circle to bind Anna to find out what happened to her was extremely intense. I was disturbed.


As for the writing, it. was. awesome. I wasn't a huge fan of the first person pov, but Kendare can write well regardless. I loved her writing voice. And I loved Cas as a character. I maybe didn't connect with him as much as I would have liked to (I think it had a little to do with his monster ego), but I appreciated how tough he was. And how determined he was to figure out what happened to his dad and to follow in his footsteps. This was certainly an original story and a great twist on the typical ghost story. 


The end of this book was terrifying. I wanted to hug my dog while reading. I have a big dog. So holding a dog while reading is kind of impossible and the logistics of it never really worked out, but I totally wanted to do it. 


One thing I have to comment on. And this was minor, not a criticism, and made me giggle. At one point the author says Chicago is accent-neutral. Chicago? Accent-neutral? Has this author ever talked to anyone from Chicago? Definitely not what I would have said. 


Favorite quote: "This is no ordinary cat," Thomas says through his teeth. He is staring unblinkingly into Tybalt's green eyes--green eyes that flicker to me and seem to say, 'This kid is a knob'. His tail twitches at the tip like a fishing lure.

To order a copy of Anna Dressed in Blood from Amazon.com, click here: Anna Dressed in Blood




Feb 17, 2012

Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk

Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: March 13th, 2012
Pages: 235
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Guy Langman, Crime Scene ProcrastinatorGuy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Blurb:

Guy Langman can't be bothered with much. But when his friend Anoop wants Guy to join the forensics club with him in the (possibly misguided) hopes of impressing some girls, Guy thinks why not.They certainly aren't expecting to find a real dead body on the simulated crime scene they're assigned to collect evidence from. But after some girlish, undignified screaming, the two realize it is indeed a body. Which means they have stumbled across a real, dead murder victim.Meanwhile, Guy has been looking into the past of his father—a larger-than-life character who recently passed away. He was much older than Guy's mom, and had a whole past Guy never even knew about. Could his father's past and the dead body be linked? Does Guy want to know? He's going to need all his newfound forensics skills to find out . . .From the Hardcover edition.

Review:

Guy Langman was a really weird read for me. I really wanted to put it down during the first fifty pages and go read something else. But I stuck it out, and I guess I am glad I did. I guess, but I'm not really. I didn't hate the book, but I did find it extremely disappointing. But the main reason I stuck with it was because I needed the state this book was set in for a reading challenge.

My main issue with this book were the jokes. 95% of them were not funny. And then there were a select few that pretty much had me rolling. But when those hilarious jokes are bookended by two stinkers, it kind of ruins the effect. As far as the types of jokes? There were penis jokes, fart jokes, your mother jokes, religious jokes--no stone is left unturned. Also, if you need to explain the punchline of every joke, that means they aren't funny. I get that this was sort of Guy's shtick, but I hated it.

I didn't like Guy very much either. He was kind of a tool. He complained a lot, he was always making fun of people that were different from him, and he wasn't very nice to anyone. Not even his best friend Anoop. I realize that teenage boys are often unruly like this, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. He just really got on my nerves. Top that off with all the ridiculous and unfunny jokes, and I just couldn't connect to him or root for him.

And then there was the plot itself. I was just really confused. And so will you be after I try to describe it to you. The book started with like no plot. I was at page 35 and I was looking under cushions for anything that could tell me where this story was going. The pacing was sooo slow. And at only 235 pages, it was very troubling. The plot eventually snuck up on me around the 90 page mark. But I still say there wasn't a main plot. It was disjointed, and to me it felt like spurts of story in different chapters that all led back to the same thing. And there were times when I thought, "Is this the main plot? No, no, this must be the main plot." And then I was wrong again. It just felt very all over the place for me. It's not something that is easily described in words, but just know that I didn't like it. Thoroughly confused?

In the end, there were a few things I liked. I think the storyline itself was fairly fun to read. But I would have liked it a lot more if the book had been structured differently. I just couldn't get past that. And the fact that Guy made me hate teenage boys all over again. I think some readers will be able to connect with him, but I was not one of them. I just didn't care for this one all that much.



Feb 14, 2012

The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: January 3rd, 2012
Pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: I own a physical copy of this book.

The Alchemy of Forever (Incarnation #1)The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Seraphina's first love made her immortal...her second might get her killed.Incarnation is a new series that introduces a fresh mythology perfect for fans of bestselling series like The Immortals by Alyson Noel and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

After spending six hundred years on earth, Seraphina Ames has seen it all. Eternal life provides her with the world's riches, but at a very high price: innocent lives. Centuries ago, her boyfriend, Cyrus, discovered a method of alchemy that allows them to swap bodies with other humans, jumping from one vessel to the next, taking the human's life in the process. No longer able to bear the guilt of what she's done, Sera escapes from Cyrus and vows to never kill again.


Then sixteen-year-old Kailey Morgan gets into a horrific car accident right in front of her, and Sera accidentally takes over her body. For the first time, Sera finds herself enjoying the life of the person she's inhabiting--and falls for the human boy who lives next door. But Cyrus will stop at nothing until she's his again, and every moment she stays, she's putting herself and the people she's grown to care for in great danger. Will Sera have to give up the one thing that's eluded her for centuries: true love?


Review:


I had The Alchemy of Forever on my maybe read list for the Debut Author Challenge. With the recent bad author behavior, however, I moved it up onto the definitely read list, and I am extremely glad I did. This was a great book. It's getting some mixed reviews, and no, it wasn't perfect, but I did find it enjoyable. And truthfully, I really fell in love with the story. But before I get to that, I want to get the negative out of the way first.


I had a major plot hole issue. Or maybe you wouldn't call it a plot hole exactly, but I felt there were some things that needed explaining, and the author never managed to get there. Let me elaborate. I understand that the incarnates stole bodies from people that either lived alone, were addicted to drugs, or made bad decisions with their lives (as if this is supposed to somehow excuse the fact that they are still committing murder), but what about the families of these people? They don't notice that the victim somehow disappears? They don't contact the police? Their faces aren't plastered all over the television and internet? Just because someone lives alone or is a drug addict doesn't mean that they don't have family that cares. This was never explained by the author and it kind of ticked me off. You can't just gloss over explanations. Your readers need to know. To me it was a cop out and an easy out to just avoid explaining the difficult stuff. You can't do that. It's extremely lazy writing.


If you can overlook this though, which I somehow managed to do, I thought this book was a great read. To me, the writing was the perfect combination of setting the scene, creating emotion, and storytelling. The plot was fast-paced and I found the storyline to be awesomely orginal. It was a great concept. I just wish the actual alchemy aspect had been explained more. I really felt the author glossed over a few of the important details.


Sera was an amazing character. I wasn't as forgiving of her past actions as she was, but I did think that she was working hard to become a better person. And you have to start somewhere, right? I did love all the differing conflicts in her personality and that ended up making me really root for her. She was perfectly flawed, but still loveable.


The villain was kickass and terrifying. Really. He could hide in any body at any time and you would never know he was there. Not to mention, he was a straight up sociopath. Scary stuff. The scenes with Cyrus kind of freaked me out to be honest. The thought of someone like that existing made my skin slightly crawly.


The ending. Had I not been warned about the monstrous cliffhanger at the end of the story, I would have thrown this book across the room. But I was warned and I went ahead and spoiled the ending for myself before reading. I hate cliffhangers. Especially the kind that have absolutely no resolution whatsoever. And that's exactly the kind of cliffhanger that this story has. There is not a completed story arc here. It just cuts off. And it sucks.  But like I said. I was prepared so I didn't care all that much. And I'd love to talk about my theories on the ending, but I don't want to spoil it, so if you want to discuss, come and find me.


So my final rating is 4/5 stars. It would have been 5, but for the plothole that made me want to throw things. The author needs to stop glossing over details to suit her story. You can't do that. Facts are facts, and reality is reality. I hope to not find that in the next book. Still a great story though. Loved the originality and I couldn't put it down.

To order a copy of The Alchemy of Forever from Amazon.com, click here: The Alchemy of Forever: An Incarnation Novel




Feb 12, 2012

Unfrozen by Susan Franceschina

Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: September 19th, 2011
Pages: 8
Genre: Short Story, Dystopian
Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

UnfrozenUnfrozen by Susan Franceschina
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Isolated from the outside world, New City boasts to be the only pure city; the only society free of the life-prolonging, but often dangerous, Dozer chambers. It is behind these walls that Josie dreams of escape. Her fear of capture is amplified when the Commander's army captures Building X where her husband's illicit Dozer complex is housed. Time is running out, and Josie must decide if reaching the mysterious outside world is worth the risk entailed.


Review:


Brilliant, brilliant short story. And I don't read a lot of them, but this one was completely amazing. It's hard to imagine that everything I read was packed into 8 pages. It was also well-written, and I expect there are great things to come from this author.


I thought the idea of the story was really cool. And my first thought when reading was, "Wow. What a creative mind." And I was jealous. Jealous that my mind doesn't work this way. And then I thought, "I wish this was a novel. I'd really like to see this world and storyline expanded upon." Because the world-building was fantastic. And I wanted more.


I don't really have a whole of of anything else to say. There are no criticisms here. The writing flowed and I was just blown away by all of it. If you are into short stories, or even if you aren't, you should read it. Easily one of the best short stories I have ever read.

To order a copy of Unfrozen from Amazon.com, click here: Unfrozen.



In My Mailbox #19



This is In My Mailbox #19. I haven't done one of these for a few weeks, but I've finally started to get a few books in. I also know more are coming, so I don't want them to start piling up. This one is pretty big. I've gotten a lot of books for review over the last couple of weeks. I've purchased none. IMM is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

First up are the books I actually got in my mailbox.


Inhale by Kendall Grey (Thanks to Kendall Grey)
Walter's Muse  by Jean Davies Okimoto (Thanks to TLC Book Tours, Jean Davies Okimoto, and Endicott and Hugh Books)
Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin (Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire)

And then we have the E-books (All from Netgalley).

 




The Weepers: The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker (Thanks to Marshall Cavendish)
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (Thanks to Feiwel and Friends)
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth (Thanks to Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Thanks to Henry Holt and Co.)
The Raft by S.A. Bodeen (Thanks to Feiwel and Friends)

And that's it for this week. I am really excited for ALL of these. I have some great blog tours coming up soon. The first is on March 9th with author Becky Banks. I am currently reading her book The Legend of Lady MacLaoch, and it's awesome. 

Leave me links to your blog posts down below and I will try to come and comment.



Feb 9, 2012

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release Date: February 14th, 2012
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller
Source: Netgalley, from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

The Butterfly CluesThe Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place--possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.


But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"--a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.


As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues," with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined--a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death.


Review:


I love starting a book when I have literally no expectations. I went into this one with an open mind and ready to rock. And by the way, this is totally not the type of book I would choose to read, but I am really trying to widen my scope when it comes to my reading preferences. And I'm glad I read this one. This book was a complete trip. Like I seriously cannot find the words to say what I want to say. It was a thriller, sure, but it was also a psychological mind screw. It was sort of literary as well. I'm not sure even the author knew what she was doing.


It's not like it was hard to figure out who the killer was. The clues were there all along, but this was one suspenseful ride. And I really enjoyed it! It was scary, because this was real life. These things could actually happen. They do happen. In crime-infested cities. Every day. Regular citizens don't just go randomly hunting for killers. That's not exactly what I am talking about. But the whole murder of an innocent girl, strip-clubs. Areas of town that time has forgotten. Places that the police don't even care about patrolling anymore. It happens. And it's frightening.


This was not a happy book. Obviously. And there were still some things after it ended that I am unsure about. Like for instance, if I was a teenage girl I could totally not date a homeless guy. Call it shallow, call it what you want, but I just don't think it's a good idea. I mean what does that guy have to offer a girl? What kind of life would they have if they got married? Seriously. He might be a nice guy, and he was, but really? Be his friend. At least until he gets his life together. That's no way for anyone to live. I feel bad for saying this, but what kind of parent would let their daughter date a homeless dude? I know I wouldn't. And that really has nothing to do with my like or dislike of the book, it's just a personal feeling that I had to get out there. Because real life just doesn't work that way.


As far as the book itself, I don't really think this book is going to sell well, or appeal to the masses. But. It needed to be published. Why? Because it was different, original, and had something to say. Something that made me want to open up and talk about society. And real life. And I am glad there are still publishers out there that will publish books like this. No, it wasn't perfect. Not by any means. But it made you think. What is the true value of a person? Who or what dictates how valuable we are in society? Money? Where we live? Our possessions? Who we know? Why should the murder of a stripper be any less important than any other crime? This book was kind of mentally confusing. And I still don't really understand what I am trying to say. Just read it. If you find the time, pick it up. It'll make you think. That is for certain.

To order The Butterfly Clues from Amazon.com, click here: The Butterfly Clues.



Feb 8, 2012

Frost by Marianna Baer

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: September 13th, 2011
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: I own a Kindle copy of this book.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Blurb:


Leena Thomas’s senior year at boarding school begins with a shock: Frost House, her cozy dorm of close friends, has been assigned an unexpected roommate: confrontational, eccentric Celeste Lazar. But while Leena’s anxiety about a threat to her sanctuary proves valid, it becomes less and less clear whether the threat lies with her new roommate, within Leena’s own mind, or within the very nature of Frost House itself. Mysterious happenings in the dorm, an intense triangle between Leena, Celeste, and Celeste’s brother, and the reawakening of childhood fears, all push Leena to take increasingly desperate measures to feel safe. Frost is the story of a haunting. As to whether the demons are supernatural or psychological . . . well, which answer would let you sleep at night?


Review:


This is going to be a quick review. I just finished this book last night, and to be honest, I'm kinda angry. I just felt the ending was so anticlimactic. I was expecting Fight Club (after discussing plot elements with my husband), and I got something on the other end of the spectrum entirely. I hate when I'm reading and I feel a book has so much promise only to get to the ending and be let down. I can't tell you what happened without spoiling it, so I won't. I just want you to know how utterly disappointed I was.


The characters? Wholly unlikeable. But I let it slide because I thought there was a decent reason for it. I enjoyed the plot enough to keep reading even though the characters made me want to hang them and myself. The protagonist was a little abnormal. Okay, a lot abnormal. She had an addiction to prescription drugs and spent a good part of her day in her closet, anthropomorphizing a wooden owl named Cubby. Doing that as a kid is not such a bad thing. But as a 17 year old? Pretty bizarre. She was crabby and whiny. Her best friend, Abby, was shallow and mean. David, her boyfriend and roommate's brother, was way too close to his sister. They had this gross incestuous thing going on. Celeste I liked at first, but by the end, I wanted to throttle her just as much as the others. There was this big mystery surrounding the characters, and it turned out to be a huge lead turd.


3 stars for great writing, a fun boarding school atmosphere, and an unreliable narrator done fairly well. I enjoyed the book up until the end, so I can't give it one star. But what would have been a 4 star read for me became a 3. Shame.


Favorite quote:


David was sitting next to me. I felt his hand warm on my knee. He squeezed it and I squeezed his hand and I thought, maybe we should just die right now in a car accident. Because it didn't get better than this.

Because I was not satisfied with a large part of this book, I will not be providing links to buy. But if you feel it might be something you would like based on my description, feel free to do so.



Feb 6, 2012

Partials by Dan Wells

Publisher: HarperTEEN
Release Date: February 28th, 2012
Pages: 472
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic
Source: Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Partials (Partials, #1)Partials by Dan Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials--engineered organic beings identical to humans--has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.


Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them--connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.


Dan Wells, acclaimed author of "I Am Not a Serial Killer," takes readers on a pulsepounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question--one where our humanity is both our greatest liability and our only hope for survival.


Review:


I would like to thank Dan Wells for creating such a desolate and dangerous world as the one I found in Partials. The writing took it to another level. You would think a book such as this would be action, action, action...but it wasn't. Depending who you are, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. I am honestly okay with either, but the impression I got from the cover was that this would be a very plot-heavy book. It really wasn't though. There was a plot, sure, but there was also a lot of world-building which did slow the pacing down. But at the same time, it's hard to tell the author that something was wrong with the book, because honestly, I loved the world-building. I couldn't imagine any words that were in this book being taken away. There were times when I felt almost as if the breeze was blowing on my face, the setting felt so real to me. So I'm kind of at a wall here. Maybe just appreciate it for how good it is? Yeah the pacing was a bit slow, but if it hadn't been a young adult novel it wouldn't have bothered me.


Kira was a kick-ass character. She was one tough girl and a heroine to believe in and root for. She's my favorite protagonist of 2012 so far, and I can see her making it all the way to the end of the year; I loved her so much. The following is a Kira quote that made me giggle.


"Haru can carry it," said Kira. "You just run. I'll bandage this when we get someplace safe."



"My arm's practically broken," hissed Haru.




"Nut up and carry it," said Kira, shoving him toward the Partial. She took Jayden's semi-automatic and checked the chamber. "I'll take the rear, now run."



I thought it was kind of funny that she told Haru to nut up, considering he's probably the biggest douchebag in the book. Did I say that? Yes, I did. Aside from the crazy Senate, Haru's actions and words made me more angry than I have been over a book in a long time. Can't tell you why though. You'll have to read it to find out.


There was a romance in this novel. I didn't feel it was central to the plot at all though. In fact, if it hadn't been there, the story would have gone on and been just as awesome as it was. It didn't add to or detract from the story. I will say one thing about it though. There were times when I really liked Marcus, and there were times that I didn't. In the end, I don't feel he is the right person for Kira. I didn't always like the way he treated her. He was always trying to protect her, and she didn't need to be protected. I felt he was trying to hold her back from all the good she could do. So in future books, I'd like to see them both find new love interests. But I don't want it to become central to the plot either. This is not a romantic series and I will be disappointed if that's made into a big deal in the next book.


To me, the writing flowed better in this book than almost any other book I have ever read. It was a beautiful thing. It's not that the words were particularly significant or anything like that, but there was something about the author's style that really spoke to me. It allowed me to paint some great pictures in my mind, and you know how big I am on imagery.


Characters? Yeah, they could have used some work. That's the one place in this book where I felt something was really missing. I was a little bit connected to them, but I felt there could have been so much more. I didn't really care what happened to any of them, except for Kira. Not Samm, not Haru, Not Marcus, not Jayden. I just didn't care that much. The depth of the characters left a lot to be desired. I hope that is fixed in the next book because this series has the potential to be awesome. In the end, I even felt Kira needed a bit of work. I loved her, but I didn't feel there was enough conflict in her past. Not enough to make me really upset or emotional.


Finally, there was a cliffhanger ending. Of course there was. Did you expect anything different? I have never wanted the next book in a series so badly as I want this one. I thought it was a great ending though. I'd like to see more action in the next book now that the world is fairly well-established. The last 30 or so pages were unbelievably fantastic and mind-blowing. In a saturated genre, this is one dystopian novel that should stand out. I hope it does too. It's a very special story.


Favorite quote:


"I've never been a real traditional guy," said Marcus. "Besides, I'm not saying I know a bright side, I just think this would be a good time to look at one."



Jayden raised his fist, and the group stopped walking.




"Jayden just heard a bright side," whispered Marcus. "There's an uplifting metaphor creeping through those bushes."


To pre-order a copy of Partials by Dan Wells from Amazon.com, click here: Partials. I am an Amazon affiliate, and so I will receive a small commission if you order the book through my links.



Feb 4, 2012

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: February 28th, 2012
Pages: 187
Genre: Middle-Grade
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Humming RoomThe Humming Room by Ellen Potter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Hiding is Roo Fanshaw's special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment's notice. When her parents are murdered, it's her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.


As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn't believe in ghosts or fairy stories, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.


Despite the best efforts of her uncle's assistants, Roo discovers the house's hidden room--a garden with a tragic secret.


Inspired by The Secret Garden, this tale full of unusual characters and mysterious secrets is a story that only Ellen Potter could write.


Review:


Note before I begin the review: The Secret Garden is probably my favorite classic. At least I find it to be the most memorable of any book I read in my childhood. I remember checking it out from the library during summer vacation and reading it over and over and falling in love with the story. I even remember pulling it off the shelf for the very first time. So when I requested The Humming Room I knew it was going to be an I-love-it-or-hate-it book for me. Good news for Ellen Potter. I loved this book so effing much I would sing from the rooftops. If I had a rooftop to sing from. And a physical copy of this book to hold up like Mufasa holding up Simba for all the world to see. I thought it was brilliant. I don't read a lot of re-tellings because oftentimes I think the original is good enough (why retell it), but I took a chance on this one. And I'm glad I did.


It's a short book at only 187 pages, but to me it made a huge impact. This is what a middle-grade novel should be. The author took a very special classic and made it her own. The imagery and setting were out of this world. It's been a long time since I read The Secret Garden, but this novel brought it all back for me and really has me wanting to read it again.


I loved so many things about The Humming Room. I loved how Roo put her ear to the ground to listen for living things in the earth. She did this a couple of times in the book. I loved how Roo loved animals and I loved how the author wrote about them with such reverence. There were quite a few different plant and animal species mentioned, and I thought that was super cool. As an animal lover and someone who thinks that books have such an impressionable effect on our youth, I think this book provided some really important lessons.


By far my favorite part of the book was when Roo discovered the garden. Just like it's my favorite part in the original, it was also my favorite part here. There is something about that scene that is just so damn memorable. I loved watching the garden grow and come to life. I loved the little black squirrel that followed Roo around the island. I loved the Heron, Sir, that followed Jack around. There was also a mink and a nesting ground full of terns. Special, I tell you.


I thought the setting development was done really well. The rivers and the different islands were so vividly presented. The house was creepy (as it should have been), but at the same time so enchanting. The hidden garden was done in a really cool way and I found all of it totally plausible.


If I had one complaint, it was that I felt the ending was rushed. The regeneration of the garden and the family happened too quickly and I felt the back half of the book wasn't evenly balanced with the front. Shame, but otherwise a brilliant retelling of a children's classic. Not enough of a criticism to give this book any less than 5 stars. I enjoyed it that much. It's not very often that I fall in love with middle-grade novels, but this book sent me over the edge.

To pre-order a copy of The Humming Room from Amazon.com, click here: The Humming Room.



Feb 2, 2012

The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: January 3rd, 20120
Pages: 272
Genre: Middle-grade, Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself for my Kindle

The Cabinet of EarthsThe Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb:


On their first day in Paris, Maya and her little brother, James, find themselves caught up in some very old magic. Houses with bronze salamanders for door handles, statues that look too much like Mayas own worried face, a man wearing sunglasses to hide his radiant purple eyes . . . nothing is what it seems. And what does all that magic want from Maya?


With the help of a friendly boy named Valko, Maya discovers surprises hidden in her family trees brother. And now the shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths, at the heart of all these secrets, has chosen Maya to be its new Keeper.


As she untangles the ties between the Salamander House, the purple-eyed man, and the Cabinet of Earths, Maya realizes that her own brother may be in terrible danger. To save him, Maya must take on the magical underworld of Paris . . . before it is too late.


Review:


This was a really weird read for me. On one hand, I really enjoyed it. But on the other, I had a really, REALLY difficult time remembering anything I read. This never happens to me. I would walk away from this book, come back to read it, and not remember much that I had just read hours ago. And it's not that I wasn't interested in the book; I thought it was a really fun middle-grade read, but I just couldn't remember hardly anything! And obviously that is going to affect how I write this review and my feelings and thoughts about what I read. But I'll try to do the best I can.


First things first. This book was pretty short. I read it in a few hours. And one of the things I noticed was that each chapter had its own title. I love when authors do this. I feel like I am unearthing a mystery as I start each chapter. Some of the chapter titles were: Chapter 4-The Baby Who Sang in the Ruins and Chapter 9-Chocolate and Anbar. What is Anbar? Ooooh-oooh I can't wait to find out. See what I mean? It really works. I know it doesn't work with every book, but I love when I find it in books because it usually means I am in for a great tale with a lot of subtle nuances and fantasy elements. And I say bring it on!!


As for Maya? I thought she was a terrible main character. She was a miserable, whiny, spoiled brat. All she did was complain and moan about everything. She never had a positive thing to say about anything, and I hate when I can't relate to the protagonist in any way. I wanted to slap her and send her into time out. I felt the other characters were kind of flat as well. Most of them had one personality trait and because of that I couldn't get attached to any of them. They didn't feel like real people to me.


The story itself was fun and really creative. The author has a really great imagination. I loved the setting in this book. Paris. The really creepy building with all the stairways that had a bronze salamander on the door that came to life. Was it alive or not? The Cabinet of Earths full of different kinds of dirt. Trying to figure out what it all meant was really exciting.


But the problem remains that I was never really drawn into the story. I could never fully focus on what I was reading. I found myself getting distracted a lot. I thought the climax and the twist were pretty awesome even though I saw them coming from a mile away. But I still loved the way it unfolded. The last forty pages or so of this book were much stronger than the rest. The story didn't really get going until I approached the end. Because the book was fairly short I was able to keep reading, but I'm not sure this book would hold the attention of a younger reader. And that's a shame, considering it is a middle-grade novel.

To purchase a copy of The Cabinet of Earths from Amazon.com, click here: The Cabinet of Earths.



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