Thursday, October 31, 2013

Relic ~ Heather Terrell Book Tour (earc) Review

Relic (Books of Eva #1)
Soho Teen
October 29, 2013
288 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/ or Amazon

The truth will test you...

For fans of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games: high fantasy and dystopia meet in this high-stakes tale of a civilization built on lies and the girl who single-handedly brings it down.

When Eva’s twin brother, Eamon, falls to his death just a few months before he is due to participate in The Testing, no one expects Eva to take his place. She’s a Maiden, slated for embroidery classes, curtseys, and soon a prestigious marriage befitting the daughter of an Aerie ruler. But Eva insists on honoring her brother by becoming a Testor. After all, she wouldn’t be the first Maiden to Test, just the first in 150 years.

Eva knows the Testing is no dance class. Gallant Testors train for their entire lives to search icy wastelands for Relics: artifacts of the corrupt civilization that existed before The Healing drowned the world. Out in the Boundary Lands, Eva must rely on every moment of the lightning-quick training she received from Lukas—her servant, a Boundary native, and her closest friend now that Eamon is gone.

But there are threats in The Testing beyond what Lukas could have prepared her for. And no one could have imagined the danger Eva unleashes when she discovers a Relic that shakes the Aerie to its core.

The beginning of Relic actually made me think more of Brave than of The Hunger Games or of Game of Thrones. Thy synopsis sounds much more like THG than the novel itself feels - there's more of a Brave or even The Testing air to it, if anything. As a while, it's a really creative and originally read, though.

The Testing in Relic is about survival -- in an icy, freezing, unforgiving land -- and finding relics of the time before the Healing. While Eva is wary of her fellow Testors, it's due to the rules forbidding them to help each other and them being unsure of a Maiden taking part in the Test, not because they're likely to physically harm her.The gender roles, as they are in Relic, worked well here and there wasn't need for any threat of physical altercations.

The Aerie, where Eva lives, is cold, snowy and frozen -- not like the frozen tundra, but not warm, either. Its climate and the border made me think of:

from Game of Thrones

Eva's belief structure is built around the Lex's rules and the society its set in place. They have a belief of the past (the not so not-now past) that readers will know is skewed, but they believe to be wholeheartedly correct. As a reader you wonder if Eva, who seems naive, when viewed by us but not when viewed as part of her world, is going to find out that perhaps, Apple wasn't a god . . . that not all of what she's learned is true.

And what will happen if she does.

Or, even, why she's been taught those things -- or who made the decision.

Relic is a really intriguing tale. You really are left to wonder just what the people of New North think those of the past were like. There's also quite a bit of tension present, while Eva's taking part in the Testing as you wonder what's going to happen to her with each step in her journey and how things will unfold. Then, what those things will mean for her and the story.

Relic is told in the first person which works very well. It's almost necessary to have that glimpse into Eva's head, to see that she's worrying how the other Testors are viewing her, if they see her as a threat or just don't like that a girl, a Maiden is taking part. What, actually, doesn't work is that it's supposed to be written as if Eva were writing in a journal. The first person narration would pull me into the story, I'd be following along with Eva and her actions . . . then get knocked out of it a bit when she mentioned 'writ(ing) in this journal.' Relic is written using verbs in the present not past tense so that it seems like everything is currently happening, not that it happened earlier and Eva's writing it down in her journal later.

While the journal thing may be necessary (I couldn't tell that it was; just that journal keeping was something others did, as well) or become necessary for the plot, the book just being written in first person would have been better.

We don't learn as much about the characters, other than Eva, as I would have liked. She is the focus of the story so there isn't even much of a chance to learn about then but I do love characters and finding out about them. Some of Eva's naivete seemed to come into play here, too, though and the ending held great promise. I'm really looking forward to what Book 2 holds - both for characters and plot.

Rating: 8/10

electronic review copy received for review thanks to publisher and Edelweiss

About the author: Heather Terrell worked as a commercial litigator in New York City for over ten years, but she has always been obsessed with myth, lore, and the gap between history and the truth. This preoccupation has led to several loosely factual historical novels (The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, Brigid of Kildare) and the pure-lore Fallen Angel series. Relic is the first installment of The Books of Eva series. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family. Visit her at

Get the free prequel, CHRONICLE
Heather's: Facebook / Website

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Unchosen ~ Michele Vail (earc) Blog Tour - Review, Dream Cast, Giveaway

Giveaway & Tour Schedule below Dream Cast & Jump/Cut

Unchosen (The Reaper Diaries #2)
A Freman Publication
October 29, 2013
add to Goodreads/buy for Kindle/or Nook

Unchosen is Book 2 in the Reaper Diaries series - for my review of Book 1, Undeadly, click here

I thought the worst of my reaper training was behind me… turns out I was wrong. Dead wrong.

Molly Bartolucci has done a lot of growing up but after being accused of using illegal magic at her school for necromancers, reaper-in-training Molly 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.

Unchosen begins with a brief recap of the way things work in The Reaper Diaries series, a 'What You Should Know Already' of the reapers, of necromancers abilities. That little refresher is nice and does bring you back into the action a bit, but getting a handle on the plot again is a bit harder.

The story picks up soon after Undeadly, the first novel, ended and we see the repercussions for Molly of what happened then as well as what follows. There's just enough mentioned either by Molly, in her thoughts, or in conversations she has to get a general picture of what happened if you've forgotten some of Undeadly (I had).

The relationships introduced and established in the series opener are continued in this follow-up novel. Clarissa, the girl at school who's shaping up to be Molly's nemesis is, of course, back - as is their friction. Also back are Rath, the reaper who's training Molly, the one whose good looks she can't deny and her grandparents, the wealthy ones she's not quite sure how to handle.

Molly's struggle to handle it all becomes even tougher when her family is attacked and it's suddenly not just studying enough and figuring Rath out that are her top concerns. Now she has to keep her family and herself safe, as well. All while not neglecting her friends so much that she loses them.

Unchosen was a good bridge book. Which is to say that some big things happened or were discovered in the first novel and this book seems to have set it up for the same to happen in the third. There wasn't as much action or unveiling as I had hoped for, though. The characters learned and uncovered things that will make serious action in the third book possible. Or so I hope.

While I do wish the characters had been a bit more developed, I liked what we got to see in Unchosen.  I enjoy Molly's friends, Ally and Rath and would love to see more of who they are, more background on them. We saw some of that with Ally and one of Molly's friends, in particular, this time and I enjoyed that glimpse into their characters.

I'm anxious to see where Book 3, Unbroken, takes things, where the story goes.

Rating: 6/10

review copy received thanks to Michele Vail and FFBC Tours

  Dream Cast:

Liana Liberato
as Molly Bartolucci
Stefanie Scott
as Ally Bartolucci
Douglas Booth
as Rath
Helen Mirren
as Sandra
Zoey Deutch
as Clarissa
Lena Headey
as Miss Chiles

I was thinking of a blend of the Mean Girls girls and Amanda Bynes' character in Easy A for Clarissa - I think Zoey Deutch could manage that pretty well.

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

THE TREATMENT (The Program #2) by Suzanne Young

Simon Pulse
April 29, 2013
352 pages
add to you Goodreads shelf/pre-order on Amazon

[ Book Sp(l)ot Reviews' review of The Program (#1) ]
Can Sloane and James survive the lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end? Find out in this sequel to The Program, which Publishers Weekly called “chilling and suspenseful.”

How do you stop an epidemic?

Sloane and James are on the run after barely surviving the suicide epidemic and The Program. But they’re not out of danger. Huge pieces of their memories are still missing, and although Sloane and James have found their way back to each other, The Program isn’t ready to let them go.

Escaping with a group of troubled rebels, Sloane and James will have to figure out who they can trust, and how to take down The Program. But for as far as they’ve come, there’s still a lot Sloane and James can’t remember. The key to unlocking their past lies with the Treatment—a pill that can bring back forgotten memories, but at a high cost. And there’s only one dose.

Ultimately when the stakes are at their highest, can Sloane and James survive the many lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end?

All the books I have to review, have on my TBR list or have anywhere near my 'will-ever-read-them' list had better watch out if I am able to read The Program early - it will jump to the absolute tippity-top of the list!

I can't wait to read this one and continue Sloane and James' story.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Iron Traitor ~ Julie Kagawa (earc) review

The Iron Traitor (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #2)
Harlequin Teen
October 29, 2013
352 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

In the real world, when you vanish into thin air for a week, people tend to notice.
Ethan has just been back three days from his week-long disappearance in the land of the fey when Their world comes calling again. Kierran, his nephew (who also happens, thanks to fae-time-wonkiness, to be the same age as Ethan, is missing. With everyone wondering where Kierran is, Ethan's sure it has to do with Annwyl, the Iron Prince's forbidden, exiled Summer love.

Ethan, too, has a forbidden love of his own: Kenzie. After their return Kenzie's father has now forbade them from seeing each other. Not that either of them plans to listen.

When it becomes clear to Ethan that Kierran is somewhere risking everything -- himself, the peace between the realms, perhaps even the way the fae and human worlds coexist -- he knows he'll have to find him. Even if it means, for Ethan, giving up the separation from Them he's held so dear.

Julie Kagawa does a really fantastic job in The Iron Traitor focusing the story on the new characters (Ethan - who's not 'new' new, but teen Ethan is new - Kenzie and Kierran) while pulling in some of the characters from the first Iron Fey series just enough. They don't become the center of the story, but are used when it's necessary and keep it all in the same Iron Fey world.

They know the world these characters are transversing and it makes perfect sense for the 'older' characters to be there to assist.

Not only that, they're a lot of fun. Grimalkin pops up at the perfect times with just the right kind - for readers, not always the characters - of knowledge and advice. Having Puck part of the story was perfect for me as I've always loved his character. It may just have been how I perceived things and/or the story he was part of, but he seemed that tiniest bit more mature here. Still the Puck we've come to love in previous books, but not quite Kierran's peer, either. It worked really well.

I do wish that there had been just one more strong female character. The male characters did have their flaws, but they were the ones in charge most of the time, they had the weapons and knew how to handle things. Kenzie is strong-willed and stubborn but I wanted her to 'do' more. The close timing of the start of this novel with the ending of the last doesn't really allow for her to have developed some great knowledge or skill between the two (and she does learn some), but I still wanted it. At times, it seemed the directive given to Kenzie was this close to 'stand still, look pretty.'

If that hadn't been paired with the 'fickle' queens and rational kings, I may not have noticed as much.

There is quite a bit of 'faery' plot happening in The Iron Traitor but it felt more centered on the development of the characters (namely Ethan and Kierran) and their relationships. It was nice to get more a feel for the characters - especially Kierran - in this novel. Though, the novel ends on a serious cliffhanger, for both the characters and the story plot!

Rating: 8/10

egalley read thanks to NetGalley & publisher

Monday, October 28, 2013

Asylum ~ Madeleine Roux review

Harper Teen
August 20, 2013
310 pages
add to Goodreads/add to Book Depo/or Amazon

Dan Crawford is thrilled to be attending New Hampshire College Prep -- or NHCP, as he soon learns to call it -- the summer program for high school students. It's the chance to finally be around other students who are happy to be students, who want to do their work, who are excited to be learning.

Then Dan learns that the dorm he'd be staying in was known as Brookline, "a 'retired mental health facility'." Which Dan knows means an asylum. It's later that he learns Brookline housed the criminally insane.

With the friends he makes soon into the NHCP program, Ally and Jordan, Dan decides to explore the abandoned - and off limits - wing of Brookline left very much as it was when the asylum was shut down some forty years ago. As the friends explore, they discover that it may not be entirely coincidental they all ended up at the college. Brookline still has its secrets; secrets that should stay secret.
Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux's teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

Asylum is an incredibly read-able book. It's great for a quick Halloween themed read and/or for reluctant readers. The story starts quickly, with Dan arriving in New Hampshire at the college program and we get a feel for who he is quickly with his distaste of those he normally attends school with, his hopes for those in the program. While his character -- he was judgmental, there was something that worried him about himself and handing being at NHCP but we didn't get a clear idea of what it was --  was a bit off-putting he was an okay central character.

The other character: Ally, Jordan and Felix, Dan's roommate, each had something that made their stories interesting. Some of it seemed a little heavy for the little bit of development, time it was able to be given but it still made them intriguing and propelled their stories and the central plot forward.

Asylum is almost a ghost story and almost a horror story and almost a thriller. There are elements of psychology, especially when it comes to Dan's character, and some questions that we're just barely presented with - some of it is the character trying to avoid thinking about, acknowledging things, some is just an omission - but not enough. Certainly not enough to move Asylum into psychological thriller territory, though the possibility was there.

The 'creepy' factor is there in Asylum, more so, definitely, in certain parts than others. It amps up in some places and wanes in others. The ending is where it didn't work for me. Things seemed to really be coming together, with the plot, the characters and how their stories were interwoven, even with the 'creepiness' bit . . . and then it didn't.

If this had been the first in a series or there had been an epilogue, even, I would have liked it much better. As a standalone novel, however, it was too ambiguous, especially for the type of novel it was. The horror-movie type of ambiguity where they killer may be dead . . . or they may not be is fine. Frustrating but good. With Asylum I was just too unsure of too many things after the last page.

While the ending may have slightly soured my review, I did enjoy reading Asylum. I wished that the little things Dan kept barely hinting at, that he worried were affecting him, had been either a larger part of the novel, or more explained but otherwise my only major issue was the ending. The photos add to the novel giving you a better picture, literally, of some of the places and images described by the characters. They help to set the mood and make the Brookline of old seem more real.

Rating: 6/10

 thank you to the publisher for the copy to review

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Testing ~ Joelle Charbonneau (earc) review

So, Allegiant's been released and the Divergent trilogy has come to a close. Luckily, there seems to be a possible, likely successor in the really-awesome-series-that-you-should-read-now-that-will-also-appear-on-the-big-screen: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau.

Released this past summer, The Testing will be follow-ed up in January by Independent Study. 

The Testing
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
June 4, 2013
336 pags
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

The Testing seems a bit like if Divergent and The Hunger Games put in a blender but the more you read, the more the story draws you in and the more it becomes its own tale.
At first,
The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.
Malencia "Cia" Vale is nervous approaching her graduation, but also hoping to be chosen for the Testing. As a Testing candidate she'll be able to prove herself through the tests, become a University student if she succeeds and one of the United Commonwealth's future leaders.

It's when she is chosen as a candidate, though, that things seem less clear cut. On the night of her departure, her father shares with her secrets of his past, secrets that hint the Testing may not be the great hope, Cia seems it as. His advice: trust no one.

Tomas, her childhood friend and fellow candidate seems like someone for whom her father's advice need not apply. He's someone that Cia begins to care for more and more as each day of the Testing --every grueling (if not also deadly) minute -- passes. Whether she's right to trust Tomas, to trust someone is something she'll have to decide . . . while trying to pass the Testing.

The Testing is a great concept that seems very well executed. Some of it bears similarities to The Hunger Games -- the central government, the outlying colonies and the teens chosen to participate. There are some differences that makes this an original story definitely worth reading. Cia's not only hoping to be chosen, she sees the Testing as a privilege. Being a Testing candidate is seen as an honor, despite what actually happens not being known.

Cia is a fantastic character for the novel to revolve around. She's insightful, smart and imaginative. Her reactions serve both her and the story very well, right from the start. She's not a character that leaves you frustrated with her choices, nor does she make decisions that are too perfect. The rationale behind what she does is easy to see and understand while also being commendable and moving the plot along.

Things about the Testing, the officials, the candidates, even Cia herself are revealed through Cia's observations. While she is able to take in a lot about her surroundings and make what seems like appropriate choices -- or retain the information for later use -- Cia does not come across as a detached, scientific character.

Its her reactions to those same observations, to all of those things Cia notices that not everyone else notices, that are some of what help create an emotional connection with her character. Even as she seems calculated taking everything in Charbonneau is balancing Cia's head and her heart. To the extent that Cia can safely to do so.

There are some definite twists involving some of the secondary characters, some of which are more expected than others.  The balance during the Testing of finding out about the characters and, well, their character along with finding out about the Commonwealth and what the country is now like was great. I'm only hoping for more of that in Independent Study.

Rating: 9/10

thank you to NetGalley and publisher for egalley for review

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Way We Fall ~ Megan Crewe review

The Way We Fall (Fallen World #1)
Disney Hyperion
January 24, 2012
309 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you're dead.

Sixteen-year-old Kaelyn and her family recently moved back to the island where she grew up after five years in Toronto. The small island is a common summer vacation destination and, until recently, was also home to the best friend, Leo, that Kaelyn was hoping to patch things up with.

Leo and Kaelyn were best friends but their relationships became estranged while she was living in Toronto and now he's moved away. The book is told through a journal she's writing to him.

The virus starts out innocently enough but then people who were healthy just days before are suddenly dead . . . followed quickly by more, of all ages with no one sure how or why.

As a seemingly ever increasing number of people become infected with no one any closer to the cure and the island quarantined, those still uninfected become more desperate. Not only do they have to fight to stay healthy and alive, they have to stay safe from each other. As time wears on, they must fight for the decreasing supplies - or risk something other than the virus being their downfall.

Even with everything seeming to fall apart, Kaelyn finds unlikely allies -- and maybe even love.

The Way We Fall reminded me of Under the Dome in a lot of ways. Both revolved around a small town suddenly cut off from the outside world and facing a threat from within. The Way We Fall had the extra threat of the virus and the people inside weren't quite as nefarious (then again, it wasn't the one written by Stephen King).

Both the virus that was gradually (or perhaps, not so gradually) destroying the town and its inhabitants and the downfall of the islands social structure were each done really well. While they could have been competing elements, they were very cohesive, symbiotic. We saw how the increasing effect of the virus affected the populace. More personally, we see how this all impacts Kaelyn's life.

Kaelyn's interests and hobbies make it interesting to read about her character and add some different events to the earlier part of the story. They also play into latter parts of the novel in ways that weren't expected (at least by me) but work very well. She still makes some dumb choices that I wanted to stop her from making, but ones that were, even at the time, understandable. Her love for Meredith is, also, a fantastic part of the story.

Both Meredith and Kaelyn are great characters but some of the scenes where they're together were even better.

Tessa's character never quite became more than an 'alright' secondary character for me. There were events and circumstances that could, possibly, have created an emotional connection with her character but something prevented it. Either, that things were told through Kaelyn and Tessa continued to seem so removed or that Tessa was so removed and that didn't work. I appreciated what her character added, to the characters and to the plot, so I'm glad she was a part of things.

This is a dystopia that is perhaps a bit less frightening, in terms of its potential reality, than most others (unless, of course, you live on an island!) but very well done.  After this and In the After I'm reconsidering my backyard . . .

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

** Summary has spoilers for the first book STUNG - my review **

Cured (Stung #2)
Bethany Wiggins
March 4, 2014
Walker Children's
add to Goodreads shelf/pre-order on Amazon /or Book Depo

Now that Fiona Tarsis and her twin brother, Jonah, are no longer beasts, they set out to find their mother, with the help of Bowen and a former neighbor, Jacqui. Heading for a safe settlement rumored to be in Wyoming, they plan to spread the cure along the way--until they are attacked by raiders. Luckily, they find a new ally in Kevin, who saves them and leads them to safety in his underground shelter. But the more they get to know Kevin, the more they suspect he has ties to the raiders. He also seems to know too many details about Jacqui and her family—details that could endanger them all. For the raiders will do anything they can to destroy the cure that would bring an end to their way of life. Bethany Wiggins’s reimagining of our world after an environmental catastrophe won’t fail to stun readers.

What are you waiting on this week?
Link me in the comments

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales ~ anthology (earc) review

Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales
Melissa Marr & Tim Pratt, editors
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
October 22, 2013
368 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

The best writers of our generation retell the classics.

Literature is filled with sexy, deadly, and downright twisted tales. In this collection, award-winning and bestselling authors reimagine their favorite classic stories, ones that have inspired, awed, and enraged them; ones that have become ingrained in modern culture; and ones that have been too long overlooked. They take these stories and boil them down to their bones, and then reassemble them for a new generation of readers.

Today's most acclaimed authors use their own unique styles to rebuild these twelve timeless stories:
  • Sir Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene - Saladin Ahmed
  • W. W. Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw" - Kelley Armstrong
  • Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla" - Holly Black
  • "Sleeping Beauty" - Neil Gaiman
  • The Brothers Grimm's "Rumpelstiltskin" - Kami Garcia
  • Kate Chopin's The Awakening - Melissa Marr
  • Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King" - Garth Nix
  • Henry James's "The Jolly Corner" - Tim Pratt
  • E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" - Carrie Ryan
  • Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto - Margaret Stohl
  • William Seabrook's "The Caged White Werewolf of the Saraban" - Gene Wolfe
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birth-Mark" - Rick Yancey
  • And six illustrations by Charles Vess

The short story collection, Rags & Bones was a nice change for me from the anthologies I've previously read. Not only did it feature a couple of authors I was unfamiliar with -- usually even if I haven't read the books by the authors, I know their work -- but it was retelling of known tales, as well.

Some of the stories retold in this collection, like "Sleeping Beauty," "Rumpelstiltskin" are very well known, with others perhaps less so.

Rags and Bones features different types of retellings: sticking fairly close to the original plot while adding in some elements, supernatural or otherwise; sticking to the basic story but adding in some twists and turns to give it new life; something inspired by the original, with the same theme but a an original world; and more.

I was only familiar with about half of the original stories prior to reading this collection, so I can't compare all of the 'new' to the 'old.'  Kate Chopin's The Awakening is, however, a novel I love and Melissa Marr's "Awakened" was one of my favorite two or three stories here.

While this collection is probably not my favorite anthology or short story collection as a whole as there were a few stories that just really didn't work for me, there were some I loved. Rags & Bones surprised me when it came to the stories that stood out for me -- and those that did not. None of the stories (to my knowledge, as I'm not familiar with all of the authors) are part of any already established fictional worlds; Rick Yancey's tale seems like it almost could be, though. And I love that.

One of the great things about this collection is that it makes me want to explore the works of both some present day and some past authors.

It's hard to review short stories and not have spoilers, but even with the few that I didn't like, I recommend this highly. Those that are well done, are very well done and not to miss -- don't pass this one up.

My favorites:
"Awakened" by Melissa Marr
"Millcara" by Holly Black
"The Cold Corner" by Tim Pratt
"When First We Were Gods" by Rick Yancey

Rating: 7/10

Note: the illustrations are not reviewed as they were not the final, complete version in the review copy and I have not been able to view all of the complete versions. The one I have seen in a book preview online is great.

thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my earc for review

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Dollhouse Asylum ~ Mary Gray (arc) review

The Dollhouse Asylum
Spencer Hill Press
October 22, 2013
296 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

The Dollhouse Asylum is one of those rare books where I have to give the disclaimer I probably would not have finished it, at least not now, had I not been reviewing it.

About The Dollhouse Asylum: Cheyenne -- and the world -- thought that the Living Rot had been contained, that its threat was over. But it's back. So, when she wakes up in an isolated subdivision to news that the virus, that turns people (basically) into zombies, is back but they're safe there . . . and that its Teo the teacher she's in love with who's saved her? Cheyenne fails to truly see a downside.

Teo has built this seeming suburban utopia, free of the infected so that they can be together. It all seems perfect. Cheyenne and Teo and seven other couples all in a subdivision of large home with perfect lawns.

Only, they've all been renamed, each couple given the names of some of the most tragic literary couples. Cheyenne is now "Persephone." Each couple, as well, has to 'prove' themselves. If they can pass the test, they'll receive their reward. If not . . .
If they play it right, then they'll be safe.

But if they play it wrong, they'll die.
I did like the concept of Mary Gray's novel. Placing the characters in this isolated, seemingly secure environment while a large threat loomed outside, only to have them find out there was an unexpected danger inside, held a lot of promise. It was the execution that didn't work.

The characters and their foundations are where I really had the most trouble with the story. Cheyenne and her naivete -- especially where Teo was concerned -- made me want to bang my head on the wall.  While the publisher synopsis describes him as an 'older man' who has her heart, he's really her twenty-four year old teacher; she's eighteen. What the synopsis proposed is different from what the facts proposed, which is different from what was actually in the novel.

Cheyenne is so smitten with Teo, even as it becomes clear he's very much a psychopath, sociopath or both that it's hard, if not impossible, to relate to her. We don't get enough of a foundation for her character to really understand why she would be drawn to someone like him in the first place - let alone so glued to him that she'd refuse to see what's right in front of her. Yes, we get small glimpses of a girl who did not have a lot of friends and whose father wasn't in her life, but that doesn't seem to be enough.

The scene, later in the novel, that's supposed to explain some of Cheyenne's 'falling' for Teo, doesn't seem to mesh with other parts of the story. Another scene in the story made it not make much sense (for Cheyenne's character, life). And I wasn't clear by the end of the novel if they had a 'relationship' or what the actual timeline of it all was.

There was confusion around Marcus and Teo and their lives, as well, but it wasn't as 'big' or as much as with Cheyenne. One event that was mentioned seemed rather major to be talked about so little, though - and did lead to some of my confusion regarding their history.

The events inside Elysian Fields, the subdivision, did hold some allure. It was intriguing trying to figure out how things would unfold and what would happen to the different characters. Some of the minor characters were very minor and I had a difficult time remembering them all, specifically. There was a lot of imagination in the creation of Elysian Fields and how the characters were renamed, the way that played out; in Teo's character in the 'present.'

At times it seemed like the characters could have brought the action all to a close much sooner than they did - and this is where I wish I could have cared for the main characters and understood them better.

If Cheyenne, the Cheyenne and Teo story and even Marcus and Teo's story could have been better established, The Dollhouse Asylum could have been a good book. I couldn't figure out the timeline of the characters' interactions prior to the start of the novel and understand their relationships nor could I get enough of a feel for who they were to connect with them - or, always, understand the glimpses of their past we did get. While the present action was okay, it wasn't enough without solid characters for a really good book.


received from publisher for an honest review; thank you

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The 5th Wave ~ Rick Yancey review

The 5th Wave (5th Wave #1)
Putnam Juvenile
May 7, 2013
480 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave.
At first it seemed like something people, humanity, we could survive. Then it didn't get better, it got worse. People kept dying.

Somehow The 5th Wave's title is a foreshadowing win, not a spoiler-fail.  We, of course, know that the fifth wave is coming . . . but the story starts out before even the first wave. It's kind of brilliant. Owing to the title, you know so much more is coming - and if you read the full publisher's synopsis, you even know some of what that is. That only heightens the tension, though.

As things get worse and worse, further and further away from what Cassie Sullivan, our main character, knew as normal, as she loses more, our bond with her grows. While Yancey is establishing the world of The 5th Wave, he's also doing a great job building a connection between Cassie and readers.

Eventually she is alone, struggling to keep a promise to her little brother, a promise that would reunite them. Meeting her at this time would have given an entirely different sense of Cassie and I'm glad we met her while she was still part of the, relatively, normal, known world. It's that much easier to experience this drastically new life with her, instead of seeing her as a character used to a world so different from ours. She's someone from our world, thrown into a world now like hers is.

A separate storyline that comes into play adds some interesting elements to the novel; it also adds some questions to Cassie's progress, for readers. There's some foreshadowing here, as well, that's really enjoyable. It's not as clear as it was with the title, leaving some doubt.

The 5th Wave is this fantastic horror, sci-fi YA novel with just a bit of dystopian mixed in. It uses multiple narrators incredibly well, each telling their story uniquely and giving readers a different angle on the current world. The 'waves' were due to an alien invasion, but there are some great times in the novel when it's written so that it's not clear whether a character is human or alien . . . or whether the distinction truly makes a difference.

I'm terribly excited for the sequel, The Infinite Sea (even if I don't want to wait until May to read it!).

Rating: 9/10

Other books you may also enjoy: In the After by Demitria Lunetta and Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

Friday, October 11, 2013

Video Veneris

It's time for another Video Veneris aka Book Trailer Friday post, today's trailer is for:

The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney 
Harper Teen
October 8, 2013
336 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Infinityglass ~ Myra McEntire review

Infinityglass (Hourglass #3)
Egmont USA
August 6, 2013
336 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

*Review links for: Hourglass and Timepiece*

Infinityglass is the third and final book in Myra McEntire's Hourglass series and relies on that fact (if not requiring it) that readers will have already read Hourglass and Timepiece.
The Hourglass is a secret organization focused on the study of manipulating time, and its members — many of them teenagers -­have uncanny abilities to make time work for them in mysterious ways. Inherent in these powers is a responsibility to take great care, because altering one small moment can have devastating consequences for the past, present, and future. But some time trav­elers are not exactly honorable, and sometimes unsavory deals must be struck to maintain order.

With the Infinityglass (central to understanding and harnessing the time gene) at large, the hunt is on to find it before someone else does.
Over the first two books we've met Emerson, Michael, Kaleb, Lily and the other members of The Hourglass and learned what they can do. Almost all the while they've been looking for the Infinityglass. Infinityglass was time for everything to come together.

Lily gave The Hourglass a leg up on Chronos in Timepiece by figuring out that the Infinityglass was a person a not an object now they just have to find him or her, first.

I still loved loved Myra McEntire's writing in Infinityglass but the novel as a whole was a bit of a disappointment. As this was the series conclusion and a culmination of some things, I was expecting it to be a bit bigger, a bit more. When the book concluded, plot wise I was left wanting.

Dune - one of The Hourglass members - along with Hallie, a new character, are the two narrators here; the chapters alternate between their perspectives. Dune is a character we didn't see a ton of in the previous books and there's a lot more to him we're able to learn here. Hallie probably isn't one of my favorite of the new characters to the series but she fits in nearly flawlessly and has a great story.

 MTV's Hollywood Crush called Hourglass "Doctor Who in a YA Package." While this wasn't why, I think it's very Doctor Who-y that McEntire is able to add new characters - and expand the role of older secondary characters - to this series and integrate them into the established world and story so well. Even if you may not like the characters, they fit, they become a part of the story, not the whole story.

With the new setting of this book, I did miss having the other characters as present. That was something I really loved about the previous two novels, not only the characters and their individual personalities but the way they played off of each other.

I enjoyed reading Dune and Hallie's interactions and the finding out more about each of them as the book progressed. Though, the dialogue did get a big cheesy at times, the characters themselves would take it back.

There's still great humor, character development and some fantastic thought put into how the science, time travel works. I did like the previous two books more and wish I had loved this third book as much, if not more.

Rating: 8/10

received for potential review from publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In the After ~ Demitria Lunetta (arc + audio) review

In the After (In the After #1)
Harper Teen
June 25, 2013
464 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Some books take a very long time to read. Usually it's because they aren't any good. Yet, there is that rare occurrence when it's because of how outlandishly, superbly, absurdly amazing a book is.

Why would that make reading the book take a long time, you might wonder. Simple: you don't. want. it. to end. Ever.

That's what happened with In the After.

In Demitria Lunetta's post-apocalyptic debut, Amy is a young teen, home alone while her mother's at work - like almost always - and her father's out, when the world as she knows it comes to an end.
"The had footage of the structure in the park. Something emerged, turned toward the camera, stared. Still coughing, I pressed PAUSE on the DVR remote and stood.
That was the first time I saw an alien." -pg 8
The world's population is decimated when They attack, devouring humans but Amy manages to survive, staying safe day by day. She even finds "Baby" a toddler who soon becomes her only companion in the After. The two do everything they can, in the relative safety of Amy's home, to stay alive and avoid Them.

When what looks like a rescue presents itself, it not only brings more surprises then Amy is ready for, but more questions as well. And possibly even some new dangers.

In the After jumps right into the action fantastically. The scene seems harmless enough, at first, but soon enough it's clear that it's all but the end of the world. It's a great place to start with Amy as we see that she's not some commando, but a typical girl, losing her family and all that she's known as 'normal.'

Though only Amy is present, thanks to her description of her situation -- from where her parents are that morning, what she's eating -- even before They arrive and change everything, makes it feel almost as if they're characters. We don't meet them, but they have such an influence on her life and actions.

There is almost always tension present: the nail biting kind when Amy is in clear danger and you're left wondering how she'll get out of the situation;  a more subtle underlying kind for the ever-present she's under from Them and later. The tension, the suspense and the mystery of where the tale will lead keeps you wanting to read more and more.

While, all the while, not wanting the story to end.

Almost a third of the way through the book, there is an event that takes place. I love how it shifts the story -- and how it was not what I expected, even as things progressed. The newness that it introduced was a great change. I could easily have gone continued with how the first third of the book transpired, seeing where that took things but I don't know that it would have been as brilliant. It's a brilliant twist in the story, one that you're not going to see coming but will love.

Lunetta thought of a great catalyst for the shift in the storyline, something that I didn't see as that when it first happened. The style of the narrative in the latter part of the book is incredibly enticing. It keeps things unfolding in an extremely intriguing manner.

Even when given limited time or examples for interaction, the characters in In the After seem very true and well developed. Despite the very unreal situation, they seem very realistic and they're relationships, reactions and actions are very understandable. Amy and Baby are both compelling, you can feel the love they have for each other, the worry, as well. You fear for their survival along with them.  When something that seems good turns out maybe not to be, your breaks for them.

There's so much else jumbled in my head that refuses to quite straighten itself out -- the more I love a book, the less coherent sentences seem to want to happen.

I do know that I'm not sure I'll be able to wait until June when In the End the second book comes out . . . I'm glad I managed to read the ending to this as slowly as possible, though so it's not as far away as it could be. Easily one of my favorite reads of 2013.

*Goes back to telling people in person to read this*

Rating: 10/10

Another book you're likely to enjoy: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

advance copy won from Epic Reads! (love you Epic Reads & Harper)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

All the Truth That's In Me ~ Julie Berry (audio) review

All the Truth That's In Me
Viking Juvenile
September 26, 2013
274 pages
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Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.
All the Truth That's In Me isn't a book that I would identify as being historical if I simply saw the cover; something that is almost always possible to do. I kind of love that. Julie Berry's novel is not set in the present day, but it's also not set in a known, entirely identifiable oast time and place. Fictional (so far as I know) Roswell Station could be any Puritanical town of the time.

While historical novels that deal with real people and events are fun to read, those that use the time period, the societal norms, beliefs and expectations to plot a story and shape characters accordingly -- all while remembering that not everyone fits the mold, can be fantastic.

When All the Truth That's In Me first starts, it's not entirely clear just what's happened to Judith. You know she was away from her family, from her town for several years but that's she's been back for some years as well. You know that something happened while she was away that altered her, something that's caused everyone to all but shun her. You just don't know what exactly that something was.

As Judith tells her story, you slowly uncover the truth. With more and more unease - and distaste for those around her - as things progress. As she tells more of her story, Even, as she seems to come to terms with and realize more of it herself, just how shocking it all is comes to light.

The style of Berry's prose works incredibly well with her character, her character's communication and with keeping readers just that little bit away from knowing the full story. (Until it's time.) Not long winded or big on flowy description, it's more poetic. While the book is written in prose, the often very short numbered sections within the larger chapters/divisions could be considered either chapters or stanzas.

I listened to the audio version of this novel purely by chance (I was interested in it and my library had it but not the print version) and I'm incredibly glad I did. Hearing some novels, as opposed to simply reading them silently, to yourself read really enhances the enjoyment and experience of the story. This is definitely one of those books. I really recommend listening to it if you can.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, October 4, 2013

Wild Cards ~ Simone Elkeles (earc) review

Wild Cards (Wild Cards #1)
Walker, Books for Young Readers
October 1, 2013
342 pages
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After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

Simone Elkeles' new novel Wild Cards is reminiscent of her Perfect Chemistry series. Set in the invented lakeside, Chicago suburb of Fremont - Fremont and their rival, in Wildcards, Fairfield are also part of the Perfect Chemistry universe - centers around Derek, Ashtyn and their family.

A family that suddenly becomes the same family.

The bad boy who turns out to maybe not be all that bad and the girl not ready to give him a chance, isn't really a 'new' idea. How it plays out in Wild Cards works pretty well, though. Derek isn't an angel - nor is he the 'thug' Ashtyn first decides he is. Ashtyn isn't a damsel secretly waiting to be saved, either. She's experienced, is experiencing her own pain and is stubborn but her character was something different.

I liked that Derek had his own things to work through and knew he was pushing Ashtyn at times and making stupid decisions. I liked that Ashtyn was a football player and fit in with her team but still had her insecurities with her family and boyfriend (and dog).

Wild Cards is a tricky book to review, however. I'm not sure I would have really liked it if someone other than Simone Elkeles had written the same story. Ashtyn experienced problems that were due to her being a female football player, later in the story, and I was disappointed in her reaction. Especially as football was something she hoped to do past high school. It's great if her current team loves her but if she's not able to convince more than those few players that she's capable, what's she going to do?

some spoliers below

I  didn't like that so much of the book is about Ashtyn being this amazing football player. Yet, for any chance of winning state, it all comes down to the great, secret star Derek.I can understand  I can see how this would set things up for the next book(s) but Ashtyn is really only good if Derek helps her in this way and that way. At least, that's how the story makes it seem. He has to come to the rescue.

/end spoilers

Derek's decisions made sense for the book. Meaning, they were what you could mostly predict would happen for the story to continue to progress, but each successive one almost lacked enough motivation for it to really work, the last especially.

All of that said, Elkeles can write contemporary YA romances that make you happy or want to smile. Even if all of the little things don't seem to work looking back, while you read it it's a very enjoyable read. (Just, maybe, don't think too hard on it after you read it?)

Content wise, this is either closer to New Adult or is New Adult, with language

Rating: 8/10

thank you to LBYR and NetGalley for my egalley for review

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Unbreakable ~ Kami Garcia (earc) review

Unbreakable(Legion #1)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
October 1, 2013
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Supernatural meets The Da Vinci Code in this action-packed paranormal thriller, the first book in a new series from New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia.

I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels.

It seems like most of the time when a book summary promises a book is 'A meets B' or 'like X meets Y,' said book is guaranteed to be nothing like A, B, X or Y. So, I was definitely skeptical when I saw that the expanded synopsis of Unbreakable the solo novel from Beautiful Creatures co-writer Kami Garcia had Supernatural as one of its 'meets.'

Pairing that (working successfully) with ghosts and a secret society and it sounded like the book for which I have been waiting quite a while.. (There are not enough ghost-slash-evil-or-not-spirit books in my opinion.) I just had to hope my expectations weren't too high.

Fantastically enough, they were not.

Unbreakable is really brilliant. While I can't speak to any Da Vinci Code feelings you may or may not get (having neither read nor seen it), it does have a Supernatural vibe to it. (A few parts had me thinking of the episode, "Asylum," and not just the more obvious ones.) There's the most obvious similarity: two good looking, demon fighting brothers - who aren't without some tension, drama between them.

Jared and Lukas have someone that Sam and Dean could really use, though: Priest their own resident weapons inventor and member of the Legion. Macgyver meets James Bond's Q, Priest has moved far beyond rock salt shotgun shells. He's the youngest of them all but definitely holds his own and stands out.

Priest and the fourth member of the Legion Alara were two of my favorite characters. Alara was a great character, very well developed. I loved all of the little quirks and interesting traits she had. Though Lukas and Jared were the more primary characters, after Kennedy, they didn't leave as strong of an impression as Alara and Priest. They were more Jared-and-Lukas than Jared and Lukas, two characters.

I liked that the story started with Kennedy separate from the Legion and from the other characters involved. We saw more about how she reacts to things and the entire 'paranormal' aspect wasn't just taken as the norm this way. Her situation being thrown into such chaos, so quickly, while horrible for her to experience was great for the book. It allowed a lot to happen and change, for Kennedy to have to come to terms with a lot and figure herself and the situation out rather quickly, all in the midst of something extraordinary.

There were a few instances where it started to seem like Kennedy would be venturing into Mary Sue category. Except for those scenes, however, she still had her troubles, she was still learning where she fit now and the characters helped her and hindered her in the right amount.

While I loved Alara and Priest, I am hoping that I do love Kennedy, Jared and Lukas just a little more in the next novel - should everyone appear. I very much want to plot to be more of what I loved in this first book because oh did I love it.

Rating: 9/10

Other books you may also enjoy: Strange Angels by Lili St Crow, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White and 'Red Run' by Kami Garcia (also/originally in Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions anthology)

thank you to LBYR and NetGalley for my egalley for review

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Marie Antoinette: Serial Killer ~ Katie Alender (earc) review

Marie Antoinette: Serial Killer
Scholastic Press
September 24, 2013
304 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

Acclaimed author Katie Alender brings heart-stopping suspense to this story of revenge, betrayal, intrigue — and one killer queen.
The newest book from author of the the Bad Girls Don't Die series, Katie Alender, Marie Antoinette: Serial Killer seems a bit, while you're reading it, like a book that shouldn't work. Yet, it does.

Though the novel's title, cover and synopsis put 'serial killer,' 'pale vision' and blood front and center, they almost feel secondary whilst reading the story.

Colette, the main character, is where a lot of the story is focused. She's someone very focused on maintaining appearances, on what people think of her. Whether that's the general Parisian public or her best friends, two very image conscious girls. With her family situation - and her financial situation, as a result - recently altered, Colette is especially anxious with keeping up her image and not losing her her friends.

Even to her own detriment.

It's when she begins seeing a vision, that some of the other elements are brought into the story. While her reactions seem almost muted, action wise, thought wise, they are great. It brings up some great things character wise and gives a deeper look into Colette. The look we get into the past and the French Revolution -- albeit, some of it fictitious -- is very enjoyable as well.

The mystery/killer side of Marie Antoinette: Serial Killer may not have felt especially strong until the last ten to fifteen percent of the novel, however, the friendship,  coming-of-age, romance, historical fiction aspects were fantastic. Except for the ending, it didn't feel like Colette or the others were in danger, but that worked here. There was some intrigue, compelling characters, and Paris was written about beautifully.

Rating: 8/10

other books you may also enjoy: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Bad Girls Don't Die by Kaite Alender

thank you to Scholastic and NetGalley for my egalley for review
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