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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #41

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by  Tynga's Reviews! This meme showcases the books received, bought, or checked out from the library over the past week. 

For Review:
Dead Girl Walking
By: Ruth Silver
In stores now!
A big thank you to Patchwork Press and YA Bound Book Tours!
Forget everything you know about grim reapers.

Princess Ophelia Dacre sneaks out of the castle to visit her boyfriend in secret. A perfect night cut short when she's brutally murdered.

Ophelia is given the rare chance to become a grim reaper. She must become Leila Bele, cut ties with her old life, and follow the rules of the reapers. Her greatest adventure begins with death.

Black Widow
By: Jennifer Estep
Release Date: 11/25/14
A big thank you to Pocket Books!
There’s nothing worse than a cruel, cunning enemy with time to kill—and my murder to plan.

With wicked Fire elemental Mab Monroe long gone, you’d think I could finally catch a break. But someone’s always trying to take me down, either as Gin Blanco or my assassin alter-ago. Now along comes the Spider’s new arch-nemesis, the mysteriously named M. M. Monroe, who is gleefully working overtime to trap me in a sticky web of deceit.

The thing is, I’m not the only target. I can see through the tangled threads enough to know that every bit of bad luck my friends have been having lately is no accident—and that each unfortunate “coincidence” is just one more arrow drawing ever closer to hitting the real bulls-eye. Though new to Ashland, this M. M. Monroe is no stranger to irony, trying to get me, an assassin, framed for murder. Yet, as my enemy’s master plan is slowly revealed, I have a sinking feeling that it will take more than my powerful Ice and Stone magic to stop my whole life from going up in flames.

By: Victoria Laurie
Release Date: 1/13/15
A big thank you to Disney-Hyperion!
Pretty Little Liars meets Medium in this fast-paced thriller and fantastic YA debut from a New York Times bestselling author

Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father's premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client's young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she's unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who maybe connected to it all, Maddie's whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it's too late?

I went to the Sarah J. Maas /Susan Dennard signing at Anderson's in Naperville last weekend, and I bought two books since I only had e-ARCs of them, to get them signed. I already had Throne of Glass and Susan's entire trilogy, so I got those signed, too. I also got to interview Susan, and that will be posted with a giveaway in October. 

Crown of Midnight
By: Sarah J. Maas
"A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie...and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Heir of Fire
By: Sarah J. Maas
Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. 

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

By: Michele Vail
Molly Bartolucci has done a lot of growing up, but after being accused of using illegal magic at her school for necromancers, the reaper-in-training is treading lightly. As the destined leader of Anubis's Chosen, she needs to study hard, train harder, and stay out of trouble. Uh, right. It doesn't help that she's feeling more than academic about her melt-your-bones hot reaping instructor, Rath. And if her relationship drama isn't enough to drive her over the edge, she has to deal with mother issues, nosy little sisters, suspicious friends, and an unnamed force stalking her at school. Then her family is attacked, and her bio-dad ends up comatose in the hospital. Now, Molly has to uncover who's trying to hurt her loved ones-and all without the help of Anubis.

Me with Sarah J. Maas

Me with Susan Dennard

Friday, September 12, 2014

RED BLOODED by Amanda Carlson

Rating: C
Jessica is on her way to Hell. After settling a fragile truce between the vampires, werewolves and witches, the last thing Jessica wants to do is face the demons head on. But when the Prince of Hell kidnapped her brother, he set into motion a chain of events that even Jessica doesn't have the power to stop.

Now, Jessica must go into battle again. But Hell is a whole new beast... new rules, more dangerous demons, and an entirely foreign realm. And when Jessica is dropped into the Underworld too soon, without protection or the help of her friends, she must figure out just how powerful she can be... or she will never make it out alive.

My thoughts on the book:
This is one of my absolute favorite Urban Fantasy series, and I was really looking forward to this book. However, Red Blooded wasn't half as enjoyable for me as the previous installments. It seemed like one of those books that needed to be created in order to progress the story to its next phase, but wasn't the best in the series. I have high hopes for the next novel, though, and I'm looking forward to it. 

Jessica doesn't grow much in this novel. Sure she gains new abilities and a lot of things happen to her, but as a person, she doesn't grown a ton. Rourke is around, but he still feels absent in a lot of ways. I missed seeing a lot of the "regular" characters, like Marcy, since Jess was in the Underworld almost the whole time. Some of the new characters were interested. I hope we get to learn more about the Princess of Hell soon. For the most part, though, not a lot went on in the character department. 

The plot was action-packed, but moved incredibly slowly. I felt like Jessica was going in circles for the majority of the novel, which was frustrating for me. I wanted the plot to advance, but nothing much really happened until the last 75% or so. The world-building was fantastic, though, and I could picture the odd landscapes of Carlson's Underworld. The ending was a cliffhanger, which irritated me. I felt like we could have cut out half of the Hell scenes and moved the plot forward more so that the readers could see what happened following the ending, but I trust that Carlson has a reason for writing the book the way she did. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next, either way. 

Overall, I'd only recommend this book to you if you've already started the series and enjoy it. You'll need this one for the subsequent installments to make sense. I'd recommend this series to anyone who enjoys Adult Urban Fantasy novels, though. Just because this book didn't blow me away like the others doesn't mean that it wasn't good, and the series as a whole is fantastic.

Order Red Blooded

Thursday, September 11, 2014

VISIONS by Kelley Armstrong

Rating: B
As #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s new Cainsville series continues, Olivia’s power to read omens leads to the discovery of a gruesome crime with troubling connections to her new hometown.

Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s exciting new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.

Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most.

Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder?

Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.

My thoughts on the book:
Visions is an excellent follow-up to Omens. The world that Armstrong created keeps expanding, and I love that the novel is set in Chicago. Olivia continues to evolve, as do the secondary characters, and the plot is complex. I really enjoyed this book, for the most part. I did not enjoy the new romance, though, and that's why I rated this one a B instead of an A. I have extremely high standards for Kelley Armstrong novels because she's my favorite author, so I rate her a bit tougher than most. I know that's not fair, but I can't help it. 

Olivia is a fantastic leading lady. She's very different than the leading ladies from Armstrong's Otherworld series, and I really like that. She stands on her own, but she also is very intelligent and very rarely makes rash decisions. She's quite selfless, but not completely so. She's flawed, but at her core, she's good. I really enjoy reading from her perspective. I also like seeing her discover who she really is outside of the upper class society she grew up in. She's really coming into her own, and it's fascinating to watch. The secondary characters are also well-developed, and I absolutely adore Gabriel. He's so scarred, but he's not angsty. He never feels sorry for himself, but he does go to great lengths to protect himself. I really love his relationship with Olivia, and I hope that it grows into what it has the potential to be. Ricky is probably the least complex character. Sure, he has some depth, but I just really don't like him all that much. There's something there that I really don't trust. He seems too good to be true, almost, and that's never right. I also don't like his romantic relationship with Olivia. It's completely lust-driven, and while that is clearly what Olivia needs right now (or so she keeps claiming), it just doesn't seem "right." I don't think it's supposed to, though. It's the most underdeveloped relationship I've ever read from Armstrong, so I'm pretty sure she's up to something with it. I'm looking forward to seeing what, exactly, that is. The elders are intriguing, as is Patrick. I'd like to learn more about them in the following installments. 

The world-building for this novel is unique and top-notch. I feel that I understand things as well as Olivia does at this point. Also, the setting is described well. Armstrong has either spent a lot of time in Chicago or done her research (or both) because she has everything from the terminology (State's Attorney instead of District Attorney, for example) to the feel of the city down perfectly. The plot keeps thickening and getting more and more complex, and I love it. The pacing is perfect, nothing is too fast or too slow, and the ending isn't a cliffhanger. The murder mystery for this book was wrapped up nicely, but there are still tons of things to find out about the world and Olivia and the other characters. I can't wait for the sequel. 

Overall. I'd recommend this book and series to anyone who is looking for something new and different in the paranormal department. From the characters to the world, everything is fresh. You won't be disappointed with this series. 

Order Visions today!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

THE WINTER PEOPLE by Rebekah Purdy Promo stop!

The Winter People
Release Date: 09/02/14
Entangled Teen

Summary from Goodreads:
An engrossing, complex, romantic fantasy perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore or Maggie Stiefvater, set in a wholly unique world.

Salome Montgomery fears winter—the cold, the snow, the ice, but most of all, the frozen pond she fell through as a child. Haunted by the voices and images of the strange beings that pulled her to safety, she hasn't forgotten their warning to "stay away." For eleven years, she has avoided the winter woods, the pond, and the darkness that lurks nearby. But when failing health takes her grandparents to Arizona, she is left in charge of maintaining their estate. This includes the "special gifts" that must be left at the back of the property.

Salome discovers she’s a key player in a world she’s tried for years to avoid. At the center of this world is the strange and beautiful Nevin, who she finds trespassing on her family’s property. Cursed with dark secrets and knowledge of the creatures in the woods, his interactions with Salome take her life in a new direction. A direction where she'll have to decide between her longtime crush Colton, who could cure her fear of winter. Or Nevin who, along with an appointed bodyguard, Gareth, protects her from the darkness that swirls in the snowy backdrop. An evil that, given the chance, will kill her.

“I think I know why people might be perky after coming here. Check out the new baristas.” Kadie nudged me in the ribs, pointing to the two guys behind the counter.

The first one didn’t look much older than us with his shaggy golden  hair and skin that seemed to have a natural bronze glow. His brown eyes would make a cup of coffee jealous. I gasped and my stomach took a tumble, like I was falling off a mountain. A smile tugged at his  lips when he saw us staring. As if he’d expected us to notice him.

Next to him stood a guy with curly dark hair and eyes the color of  topaz. His gaze did a head-to-toe sweep of Kadie then he gave her a smile that lured her right up to the counter.

“Afternoon. What can I get you?”

“I’ll have a mocha-latte.” Kadie sounded sultry. “With a cherry on top.”

She was a complete seductress. Poor guy, he didn’t have a chance. But he nodded, unfazed by her in the least, and went to work preparing her drink.

“And for you?” The blond guy’s voice sounded like warm, rich chocolate. He stepped closer and turned his deep brown eyes on me. 

For a moment it felt like he knew my every secret; the way he watched me made me think he recognized me. My insides twisted and churned, and I shifted my gaze to his tattoos, following the strange looping design up his arm. The intricate green and gold strands changed into vines around his bicep, like a cuff.

Vines? Since when did tats change shape in front of my eyes?

Oh no, not now. Not again. I really was crazy. I reached for the counter as my legs grew weak.“Salome, hey, are you okay?” Kadie gripped my arm, urging me to sit down.

I buried my head in my hands for a few seconds, attempting to push the images away. I had to get it together or Mom would send me to the shrink if she found out I had had another episode. She’d been on the verge this morning.

I forced myself to clear my mind. Keep calm.

“S—sorry, I’ll have a caramel cappuccino,” I said, as the blond guy leaned toward me.

“Coming right up.” He stood, his nametag catching my eye. “Gareth?” 

I said aloud.“Yeah?” “That’s an interesting name.” I shot Kadie a glance in an attempt to shift their attention from me. “Well, this here is Simeon.” She grinned, gesturing to the dark haired guy. Kadie took a sip of her latte then said, “Gareth and Simeon, your names sound like they belong to medieval knights.”

“And doth the damsel need rescuing?” Simeon leaned against the counter, his arms folded at his chest.

“Always.” She batted her eyes at him.“How does Saturday work for you?”

“Perfect,” Kadie said. I watched the two exchange numbers and turned to see Gareth peering at me, his long golden lashes making me envious. He closed the lid on my cup, but kept staring. Did he know something?

Shit. If I kept this up, I’d be questioning everyone’s motives for even glancing at me. This guy was just a barista, although he looked more like someone who ought to be a bodyguard or a bouncer.

Gareth handed me a napkin.“Try and take care of yourself.” His fingertips brushed mine, and I was filled with sudden warmth, like sunshine hitting you on a summer day.

I stared at the tattoos once more—the shapes looked different now. Instead of the spiraling loops, they seemed more gothic, almost pointy. Had I imagined the vines?

Chills raced up my back, making my scalp itch. I managed a shaky smile. “Um, thanks.”

“I’ll see you around,” he said as we headed to the door.

“Yeah, maybe.” I glanced at him one last time as we walked out of the café. Would I see him again? Better question, did I want to? Yet another person who’d learn how crazy I really was. And of all people, I didn’t want him to know. That sounded insane, right? I shouldn’t care what this virtual stranger thought of me. But I did; I deeply wanted him to accept me, befriend me, and love me even.

“Get over yourself, Salome,” I muttered to myself, shaking my head, 

“He’s just a barista.”

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About the Author:
Rebekah Purdy grew up in Michigan, where she spent many late nights armed with a good book and a flashlight. When not hiding at her computer and getting lost in her stories, she enjoys reading, singing, soccer, swimming, football, camping, playing video games and hanging out with her kids. She loves the unexplainable like Bigfoot, the Dogman, and the Loch Ness Monster (lots of good story material)! She admits to still having all the books she bought throughout her childhood and teen years, and she may or may not have an obsession with anything chocolate…

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