Tuesday, September 30, 2014

OF NEPTUNE by Anna Banks

Rating: B
Emma, who is half human and half Syrena, and her Syrena love, Galen, need time together. Alone. Away from the kingdoms of Poseidon and Triton. Emma’s grandfather, the Poseidon king, suggests the two visit a small town called Neptune.

Neptune is home to both Syrena and Half-Breeds alike. But Emma and Galen didn’t sign up to be peacemakers between the ocean-living Syrena and the land-dwelling, freshwater counterparts. They didn’t bargain for meeting a charming Half-Breed named Reed, who can barely disguise his feelings for Emma. And they especially didn’t expect to find themselves in the middle of a power struggle that threatens not only their love, but their ocean kingdoms.

In this stunning conclusion to her bestselling Syrena Legacy, Anna Banks thrills fans with more action and romance than ever.

My thoughts on the book:
Of Neptune is an excellent conclusion to this trilogy. Banks does not disappoint with this thrilling conclusion. Told from alternating viewpoints, Emma's first person and Galen's third person accounts of the story add depth to the already complex world that Banks has created. Additionally, the setting for the book, Neptune, Tennessee, is almost a character of its own. While the story drags in a few places, for the most part, this novel is action-packed and full of suspense and romance. The Epilogue adds a beautiful end to Emma and Galen's story. This is one book and trilogy that mermaid fans cannot miss. 

Emma really shows how much she's grown in this story. She's still not quite as strong as she could be (in my opinion), but she's certainly strong enough to search for the life she wants. She sticks to her beliefs and refuses to compromise them for anyone. I really respect that about her. She's also loyal, though she does have moments of weakness, and intelligent. Emma approaches many of the problems in this book with logic, though her emotions still run amok while she does so. This contrast makes her feel like a real, live human girl. Galen is a bit more two dimensional, but he still seems as real as any mermaid can. He is a bit more focused on Emma than she is on him, though he just seems like the type to go overboard with anything he does. He wants to protect the ones he loves, and while his temper gets the best of him sometimes, he tries to do what's best. I really love that Banks created flawed, but still likable characters. Reed is no exception. I feel like we don't get to know Reed as much as we could have, considering his part in the book. What we do learn about him is commendable, though. He is a good character, and he offers (and represents) an entirely new set of options for Emma. Antonis really surprises me in this novel, and I found that by the end of the book, I really loved the old mermaid. 

This plot is a bit darker than the previous two novels, and Galen's part in particular is a bit rough to read sometimes. There are plenty of bad guys in this book, and every time you think the characters have gotten rid of one, another one appears. Also, it's hard to tell who is working with whom, which leads to a feeling of suspense and mystery throughout the course of the novel. Romance takes a back seat to the action this time around, and I enjoyed that. Also, Banks does a fantastic job of showing that while Emma and Galen feel like the world revolves around them, often times (as many couples in love do), their actions and decisions have big implications for the entire Syrena world. The balance between Syrena law and the evolution of their society and Emma and Galen's romance is nicely done. Furthermore, the world-building and setting descriptions for Neptune are perfect. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book and trilogy to anyone who loves mermaids. Banks offers a unique view on the mermaid myths, with the two different branches of the Syrena family tree, and the characters are realistic and complex. This trilogy definitely stands out among all of the mermaid tales out there. 

Order Of Neptune!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sandra Waugh Interview and LARK RISING Giveaway!

Hey everyone, I got the opportunity to interview Sandra Waugh recently, and she was nice enough to tell me all about her upcoming book, LARK RISING. Check out the info below!

Title: LARK RISING (Guardians of Tarnec #1)
Author: Sandra Waugh
Pub. Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Pages: 384
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Full of romance and nature magic, this debut fantasy is perfect for fans of Shannon Hale, Juliet Marillier, and Kristin Cashore.

“A beautifully realized world, a unique voice, and a compelling, action-packed story. This is a striking debut novel with a lovely folkloric flavor.” —Juliet Marillier, author of Wildwood Dancing

Lark has foreseen two things—she will fall for a young man with sage green eyes, and he will kill her.

Sixteen-year-old Lark Carew is happiest close to home, tending her garden and gathering herbs for medicines. But when her Sight warns her that monsters called Troths will soon invade her village, Lark is summoned on a journey to seek help from the legendary Riders of Tarnec. Little does she suspect that one of the Riders, Gharain, is the very man who has haunted her visions. Or that the people of Tarnec have called her there for another reason: Lark is the Guardian of Life, the first of four Guardians who must awaken their powers to recover four stolen amulets. Together, the amulets—Life, Death, Dark, and Light—keep the world in Balance. To take back the Life amulet, Lark will have to discover her true inner strength and give in to a love that she swears will be her downfall.

Question: What are some pros and cons to having your characters live in a fantasy world as opposed to a “real life” setting?
Answer: For me, the pros far outweigh the cons! With fantasy I can create anything (as in: no fact-checking)!  There’s great pleasure in letting the imagination run wild, drawing maps and building creatures, thinking ‘well that totally belongs in her world,’ even if it’s outrageous in ours. The con of course is that I have to be careful with language, particular words and references. I especially had to be careful about moments where my characters are frustrated or shocked—there are no easy Oh my God!s  because there is no reference to religion of any sort. I couldn’t let them curse the way we might!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired the world Lark lives in? 
A: In many respects, Lark’s world is simply my outdoors.  I’ve spent years struggling to keep the grounds of our old house in some kind of order, only to watch the wilderness creep back the moment I set down my clippers. That, and the fact that there are woods that border our field, are very much the way I picture Dark Wood on the doorstep of Lark’s village, and Lark’s particular struggle with the thorny ghisane. Merith, on the other hand, represents a certain yearning I have for an idyllic ‘home’—a community of caring neighbors, sharing the wealth of physical, creative labor—farmers and herders and tailors and blacksmiths and weavers and the like. Beyond Merith, beyond what Lark knows, are dramatic landscapes of places I’ve yet to be (and yet what I borrowed from visually): the Himalayas, New Zealand, the Amazon, for example. Rich or stark, and beautiful.

Q: Would you want to have Lark’s ability to see the future?  If not what supernatural gift would you want to have?A: I’d rather not see into the future! But I would like to fly.

Q: Can you describe some of the monsters in Lark’s world?
A: In the Guardians of Tarnec series there are many beasts yet to be encountered, so I’ll keep them under wraps.  But—in Lark Rising we are introduced very quickly to Troths.  They are a recurring threat, troll-like creatures with dagger teeth, slits for nostrils, gristly gray skin and luminous, disc-shaped eyes that see well in the dark.  Swifts are another threat. They are birds, heron-sized and eagle-beaked, but with human eyes.  If they touch things of Earth they explode and so are used almost like missiles.

Things from earth and sea and sky will terrorize this little world, but I’ll add that not all the monsters are fantastical creatures—there are human monsters as well.

Q: Do you listen to music while you write?  If so, what songs were on your playlist for Lark Rising?
A: I absolutely listen to music! I rotate at least thirteen playlists I’ve created with music that inspires my imagination (admittedly of the melancholy minor-keyed variety).  However, I write to instrumental music since I find lyrics distracting. Many of my playlists are drawn from soundtracks.  Here are some of those composers/film/TV/cd:  Ramin Djawadi/Game of Thrones; Rachel Portman/Never Let Me Go; Jocelyn Pook/Flood & Untold Things; John Summer/Inceptions and Joseph Newton Howell/The Hunger Games.

Q: If you could have dinner with one of your characters, who would you choose and why?
A: I’d have dinner with Harker, the seer.  Partly because I’d be so curious what he’d say about me and partly because I feel very sorry for him.  He is a tormented man; I’d want to give him a hot meal and a chair to sit in for once.

Q: I know that some authors use Pinterest for character/architectural inspiration.  What do you use to inspire you?
A: I probably do the opposite. Mostly I draw from Nature around me, travels I’ve taken, and my own imagination. Afterwards, I sometimes look online to see if I might find something that represents what I’ve described.  If I find it, then I’ll pin it, but that’s been rather slow going.  I haven’t found anyone that looks like Gharain yet!

Q: Do you free-write, or do you write from an outline?
A: I free-write.  I struggle with this admission, because it seems so much more professional and organized to work from an outline.  But while I add to copious notes as I go, I find it (so far) impossible to be that structured as to set things up in advance on a page.

Q: What are your favorite genres to read?
A: Favorites? Fantasy, YA/MG, and the classics.  I think my most favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?  
A: Give yourself a schedule—a deadline—choose however many words/pages/chapters/novels you want to finish each day, how many days per week. Then sit down and stick to it.  It doesn’t matter how ‘bad’ what you’ve written seems, because you’ll have a manuscript to hone and shape into what you love.  And having something down on the page is one less thing to beat yourself up about.

About Sandra:
Sandra grew up in an old house full of crowded bookshelves, in walking distance of an old library that allowed her to drag home a sack of six books at a time. It goes without saying, then, that she fell in love with the old house in Litchfield County, CT, because of its many bookshelves, and she lives there now with her husband, two sons, and a dog who snores. Loudly.

LARK RISING is her first novel and the first in the GUARDIANS OF TARNEC series. SILVER EVE follows in 2015.

Giveaway Details: 3 Prize Packs

1 winner will receive a leaf necklace, $25 Amazon gift card, sachet, a signed hardcover of LARK RISING, and a bookmark and a postcard. US Only.
1 winner will receive leaf earrings, cuff, soap, sachet and a signed hardcover of LARK RISING, and a bookmark and a postcard. US Only.
3 winners will receive a signed hardcover of LARK RISING, and a bookmark and a postcard. US Only

Rafflecopter Code:

Check out the rest of the tour: 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop!!!

Hey everyone! To celebrate the fact that I'm back and better than ever, I joined this giveaway hop. I just want to let you guys know that I really appreciate you all not abandoning me while I was on my hiatus. I am so glad to be back. To show my gratitude, this giveaway is international and you can choose any book (no pre-orders, please), up to $20, from the Book Depository. Here are some books that I'd recommend (Click the photo to check the book out on GoodReads):

Fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway. The rules are that you can choose one book from the Book Depository with a value of up to $20.00 USD. If you are chosen as the winner, you will have 48 hours to respond to the email before another winner is chosen. Thanks for participating!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

WHITE HOT KISS by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rating: B+

One kiss could be the last. 

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses. 

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she's crushed on since forever. 

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she's not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue, considering Roth has no soul. 

But when Layla discovers she's the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

My thoughts on the book:
I went into White Hot Kiss expecting something different, and while the world and setting were different, the "formula" reminded me a lot of the Covenant series. I did enjoy the Covenant series, and Layla is a bit different from Alexandria, and Roth is a bit different from Seth. However, Zayne really reminded me of Aiden. The situation is different, but I don't know. This just wasn't original enough for me. I enjoyed the book, and I'll continue the series, but it didn't stand out. 

I really liked Layla as a character, but like Alex, she had two human best friends (one boy and one girl) who are more than likely going to hook up. Layla is independent, but she is more careful than Alex. She's quite mature for her age, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective. Roth is kind of like Seth, in that he's a bad boy who actually cares about Layla instead of just himself, but that's where their similarities end. He is an extremely interesting character, and his origins are fascinating. I hope we get to learn more about him in the next installment. Zayne reminded me a lot of Aiden, but I am not Team Zayne like I was Team Aiden. Layla has known Zayne her whole life and they're super close, which is about the only difference between Zayne and Aiden. However, I feel like Roth is the better match for Layla.

The love triangle didn't really bother me because let's face it, with the book's title, it's not like you don't know you're getting a romance novel. JLA does love triangles well, and of course I picked my favorite of the two. I don't hate Zayne, but I do like Roth better. The world-building is done well, and I felt that I had a pretty decent grasp on the world in which Layla lived. I felt like I knew as much as she did, at least. I'm looking forward to learning more about it as time progresses. One of the plot twists is a bit unexpected, and really disturbed me. The pacing is pretty spot-on, and the action scenes are scripted well. Of course JLA does a great job with the romance scenes. She always does. The ending ties up a few things nicely and isn't a cliffhanger, but it leaves room for the next book in the series. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book to people who are fans of JLA. If you enjoyed the Covenant series, then you'll love this series, too. 

Order White Hot Kiss

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

MADE FOR YOU by Melissa Marr

Rating: A
Release Date: Today!!
Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely books Melissa Marr’s first contemporary YA novel is a twisted southern gothic tale of obsession, romance, and murder. A killer is obsessed with Eva Tilling. Can she stop him, or will he claim her?

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

For the first time, New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr has applied her extraordinary talent to contemporary realism. Chilling twists, unrequited obsession, and high-stakes romance drive this Gothic, racy thriller—a story of small-town oppression and salvation. Melissa’s fans, and every YA reader, will find its wild ride enthralling.

My thoughts on the book:
Made for You is an intriguing and thrilling mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. Told from three different points of view, I was kept on the edge of my seat, wondering who would make it and who would not. The main characters are extremely well-developed and unique. The pacing is perfect, and Marr's writing is excellent. While I was able to guess who did it pretty early on, the author still had me second-guessing myself throughout the story. This is an excellent read. 

Eva is the main character, and I really enjoyed reading from her perspective. She's independent and strong, and even though she's popular, she doesn't blindly follow the herd mentality. She makes her own rules as she goes. I didn't like her romanticization of the south and southern customs. As someone who grew up in the south, I found it to be a lot less charming and a lot more close-minded and terrible. Also, the cliches like "she's a strong southern woman" really got on my nerves. There are strong women everywhere, just like there are weak women everywhere. However, that just showed how Eva was raised - with southern pride. Grace is a fantastic character, too. She didn't get a lot of chapters to tell from her POV, but the few she got, she owned. She's from Philadelphia, and she views the small southern town more like I would. She's a unique character, and her loyalty and logic really stand out. "Judge," the killer's perspective is really freaking creepy. As an aspiring writer, I can't imagine (at this point, at least) being able to put myself in a dark enough place to make someone like Judge's POV seem realistic, but Marr did a great job with that. The killer's voice stood out as being his/her own (I don't want to spoil this for anyone), and it was believable. I was blown away by Marr's writing ability in Judge's chapters. As far as secondary characters go, the people closest to Eva are very well-developed. I really loved Nate, and her parents were adorable/great. Her other friends were a bit more cookie-cutter, but they still seem to have their own personalities. 

The plot itself is intricately woven. The reader watches as Judge's obsession escalates with every murder. I was properly horrified for the majority of this novel. The more we learn about Judge, the more horrific things get. The pacing is spot on, and Marr makes sure the reader doesn't feel safe for long. After about the first 1/4 of the book, I could not put it down. I had to see what was going to happen next. While I had Judge's identity figured out pretty early on, I had no idea how things were going to end. The way the POVs were set up, any of the characters, including Eva, could die, and the story could easily continue. Because of this, I was completely hooked. The supernatural gift seems a bit random because it's never explained. However, I think that if someone actually got some weird gift after they received brain damage, it would probably play out a lot like Eva's ability to see people's deaths. In the real world, things like that just aren't explained, and that gives the novel an added bit of authenticity. I assume that a part of her brain was damaged, which caused another part to "activate," and that part of the brain hides dormant abilities. I'm no scientist, but that explanation worked for me and allowed me to achieve a willing suspension of disbelief. Also, I absolutely loved the ending. Eva really shows her strength (and sometimes her stupidity/rashness) in many ways in the final chapters. By the end, I really admired her for her bravery and commitment to herself and her own values. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something a little bit different than your run-of-the-mill mystery and/or YA paranormal romance. This book is dark and creepy and intriguing. Once you start reading it, you won't be able to put it down. Be prepared to lose some sleep with this one. 

Order Made for You

Monday, September 15, 2014

Zhukov's Dogs Cover Reveal!

Curiosity Quills is excited to reveal the cover for new-adult science-fiction, action- adventure Zhukov’s Dogs, by Amanda Cyr, which is scheduled for release October 27, 2014. The awesome cover was designed by the talented Alexandria Thompson of Gothic Fate.  

Zhukov's Dogs, by 

Amanda Cyr - CoverAbout Zhukov’s Dogs:

Lieutenant Colonel Nik Zhukov is just like any other desensitized seventeen-year-old living in the year 2076. At least he likes to think he is when he isn’t busy eliminating threats to national security, breaking up terrorist organizations, and trying not to get blown up. It’s all in a normal day’s work for one of the military’s top dogs, and he’s never disappointed. Never failed. Never lost sight of his dream of making it to the elite force, even as each new job forces him to see just how morally corrupt his leaders are. On the verge of promotion, Nik is dispatched to the underground city beneath the icy Seattle tundra, his final mission handed down directly from The Council. It should have been a simple in-and-out, but the underground is full of dark secrets and he soon finds himself swept into battles, lying to his best friend back east, and growing a bit too close to the rebels he was sent to spy on. Nik realizes too late that he’s broken the number one rule within his ranks; he’s allowed himself to feel normal for the first time in his life. He might be able to turn the job around, become the soldier he was once was, except for his growing attachment to the rebel leader. A guy. Yet another first for Nik. It’s a mistake he pays for dearly when he learns The Council’s true intentions for the city. It’s never ‘just harmless fun’ when you’re a government dog, not when The Council holds the leash. Nik knows there are some lines you can never come back from crossing, and he’s forced to choose whose rules to play by. He races toward the invisible divide, aware he’ll be called traitor by both his nation and by his friends. Aware that even the right choice can be deadly to make. Add Zhukov’s Dogs to your Goodreads 'to-be-read' list. -- Amanda Cyr, Zhurkov's Dogs

About Amanda Cyr:

Amanda Cyr is a tea-loving freelance journalist, viral content curator, and debut novelist. She studied creative writing at Seattle University, where she developed all sorts of opinions before becoming a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. She is currently represented by Kimberley Cameron of the Kimberley Cameron & Associates Literary Agency.
Growing up, Amanda moved around a lot. She began writing to make the transitions easier and make up for her lack of friends in middle school. An awesome professor in Medford, Oregon tried to convince her to pursue writing professionally, but Amanda was deadest on a law career. It wasn’t until an unpleasant professor in Seattle, Washington told her she was a terrible writer that Amanda really committed to the idea of getting published, mostly just to spite her professor.
When Amanda’s not hunched over a laptop she enjoys sleeping, video games, Netflix binges, and wrestling with her two polar bear dogs. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she spends her days hissing at the sun and missing Seattle. Her least favorite things include the mispronunciation of her name, screaming children, and California.

Find Amanda Cyr Online:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

CHASING BEFORE by Lenore Appelhans

Rating: C-
“I’m a ticking time bomb. And one day soon everything is going to explode.”

Felicia and Neil have arrived in Level 3 and are supposed to prepare for their divine vocations.

But during Felicia and Neil's training period, a series of explosions rips through Level 3. Tension is high, and casualties are mounting. A rift forms between the pair, one that grows wider when Felicia receives memories from the Morati. The memories cast doubt on the people she loves the most, but Felicia can't stop her curiosity. She has to know the truth about her life – even if it means putting at risk everything she’s worked for in her death.

My thoughts on the book:
Let me start this review by saying that the world-building, descriptions, writing, pacing, and plot were all fantastic. Had it not been for the completely unlikable characters, I would have enjoyed this book immensely. However, reading from Felicia's bratty point of view really ruined things for me. Instead of letting the mysteries unfold and being excited to find out what came next, I found myself sighing and checking to see how many pages I had left before I could end this whinefest and read something a little less obnoxious.

Felicia is one of the most selfish characters I've ever had the displeasure of reading. Additionally, she's bratty and needy. She's unhealthily obsessed with her boyfriend, Neil, and he's no prize, let me tell you. He's a self-righteous, judgmental bigot. The entire book consists of Felicia complaining and whining that she's not good enough for Neil and that he's the only thing that brings out her good qualities. Well, if those are her good qualities, then I'd hate to see her bad ones. Also, I completely disagree with her. Anyone that dependent upon someone else needs to do some serious self-evaluation. With Julian (the only redeemable character), Felicia thinks about others instead of just worrying about her relationship with Neil. She wants to do what's right because it's right, not because it will impress self-righteous Neil. Julian makes her much stronger, and something needs to. She's a completely weak and pathetic character. I really hope that Appelhans has Felicia grow some, and quickly, or I'm going to have to quit what would otherwise be an extremely interesting series. Felicia needs to break up with Neil and learn to stand on her own so that she's a worthy YA heroine. As it stands, she pales in comparison to the actual strong and likable heroines out there.

Aside from the characters, this book is fantastic. I really loved learning about Level 3, and the mythology behind the levels of ascension is intriguing. The plot is also tightly woven and engrossing. Furthermore, the pacing is spot on, and nothing drags or feels rushed. Also, Appelhans is a fantastic writer. Her descriptions really helped me picture the world around Felicia. The unraveling of the mysteries is also handled very well, and the ending ties things up nicely. The romance makes me want to gouge my eyes out, and I really hope that it goes away soon.

Overall, I'd only recommend this book to you if you don't mind really bratty, immature, weak characters. I know this is a YA book, but Felicia is supposed to be 18, not 8. It's time for her to act her age and learn to stand on her own. If you're looking for something different, though, this series definitely fills that requirement. Just be prepared to be super annoyed by Felicia.

Buy Chasing Before