Wednesday, January 29, 2014

All That Glows ~ Ryan Graudin Review + Guest Post [@ryangraudin @harperteen #ffbc #QOD]

All That Glows
by Ryan Graudin
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 11th 2014
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg

Emrys—a fiery, red-headed Fae—always embraced her life in the Highlands, far from the city’s draining technology, until she’s sent to London to rejoin the Faery Guard. But this isn’t any normal assignment—she’s sent to guard Prince Richard: Britain’s notorious, partying bad boy and soon-to-be King. The prince’s careless ways and royal blood make him the irresistible for the dark spirits that feed on mortals. Sweet, disheveled, and alive with adventure—Richard is one charge who will put Emrys’s magic and heart to the test.

When an ancient force begins preying on the monarchy, Emrys must hunt through the London’s magical underworld, facing down Banshees, Black Dogs and Green Women to find the one who threatens Richard’s life. In this chaos of dark magic, palace murders and paparazzi, Emrys finds herself facing an impossible choice. For despite all her powers, Emrys has discovered a force that burns brighter than magic: love.

Author Bio & Links, Guest Post, All That Glows Review and Giveaway below!!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Red Rising ~ Pierce Brown (earc) review [@DelReySpectra]

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1)
Del Rey
January 28, 2014
400 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

The first book in the Red Rising Trilogy starts with seventeen-year-old Darrow, a Helldiver, a Red, and his crew mining helium-3. It's their belief that they're doing this all - risking their lives, many losing their lives - to make Mars habitable for future generations. They're pioneers.

Darrow believes wholeheartedly in what they've always been told. His wife, Eo, does not. Risking everything, she shows Darrow that there is more than the underground, barely habitable surroundings they have. Not only has Mars already been terraformed (what they're supposedly working towards), but the Golds enjoy it already.

Fighting against the Golds who keep the Reds enslaved, who enjoy the true bounty of the planet is Eo's goal, however, not Darrow's. He's not even ready to act when he loses his his wife, his love. Forced into some sort of action, its vengeance he seeks. Vengeance against the Golds.

Transformed from the Red he was, he'll be disguised to fit in among the Golds. To find a place at their elite school and bring them down from the inside. The school isn't any school, though. With no classrooms, this is one where learning kakes place on the battlefield. The Golds may be privileged, but they can be ruthless as well - with their own goals.

I feel like the only person who did not just love Pierce Brown's Red Rising. The novel started out very slowly for me, the first twenty or thirty percent reading very slowly. While that beginning was necessary for setting up the characters, who they were and why things after that happened, I wish it had been laid out differently. This is one book where I wonder if, instead of a strictly linear timeline, starting around Darrow's transformation, going back to the beginning for the 'why,' and then continuing the story would have been better? Or for me it would have. (But, as I said, I'm in the minority with my feelings on this book.)

I really liked Eo and how she was portrayed. She wasn't exactly a dreamer, but was much less pragmatic than most of those around her. She knew what she wanted, both in Darrow and in not accepting only what they were given. Whether that was to her detriment or not was not her main concern and in the Red's world that made her stand-out.

Darrow's love for her did feel confusing at times. When it was being used as the impetus or the catalyst for his big transformation into a Gold, it was a grand, encompassing thing. Later, when the plot needed romance (action, tension or just the thought) it seemed diminished. While that's expected to happen over time, some of the waxing and waning seem to depend on whether it was Darrow's motivation or a certain character being discussed.

The action in the middle of the novel, especially, was very well done. While there was more violence, more murder than I typically like in my reading (YA or adult) it was a part of the story here. This is not a clean or happy tale for Darrow or for readers. There is a lot he has to struggle with - from his past, what he wants out of his current situation, how to achieve it, even who he is now, whether he's still a Red or if he's, truly, now a Gold - and not a lot of time to sit back and think about it. With new challenges at every turn and constantly having to strategize, Darrow's on edge and readers will feel the tension.

I never really developed any real connection with Darrow while reading Red Rising. There was worry that he would be found out but more of a curiosity about how everything would come together in the end. Some of the turns were easier to see coming than others - from characters or the story. It was hard to tell if some of the lack of connection was due to not liking him much or if I didn't like him much because I couldn't connect with his character.

Either way, I am hoping I fare better with Book 2 in the trilogy. Though it may not necessarily sound like it, once I got past the beginning bit (which was slow for me), I did quite enjoy this book. With Book 2 I do hope that, with a new location, we'll get some more world building as I found little bit we saw of Mars' surface very intriguing.

Rating: 6/10

thank you to the publisher for my e-galley through NetGalley

Monday, January 27, 2014

And We Stay ~ Jenny Hubbard (earc) review

And We Stay
Delacorte Press
January 28, 2014
240 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.

This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow
In And We Stay, author Jenny Hubbard looks at a school shooting very differently. Not only is the shooting not as large and dramatic as might be expected, the event itself is also not the focus of the novel. Rather, it's Emily, the victim (or most direct one) and how she's affected in the aftermath that is the focus of And We Stay.

Neither Hubbard's novel nor Emily's character come at you with a lot of visceral emotion. It might seem, given all that Emily's been through, that she would be just bursting with it all. Instead, she seems to go the other way. She comes across as almost detached.

It's understandable that she doesn't want to tell everyone what happened back home (and with the story set pre-internet in 1995, that works). Yet, it also feels that she doesn't want to tell herself what's happened. Her poetry - most of the plot is told in prose but Emily's poetry, while part of the story also tells the story, too - does give a bit of a glimpse into what she's keeping under wraps.

Every once in a while, we're given just enough, from Emily, to know that not only is she really struggling, but that she is aware of it: "'I don't feel strong on the inside,' As a matter of fact, Emly wants to say, my insides feel like a hurricane, and not the eye part, either." (34%)

Emily keeps things bottled up and when things start to become too much for her, when the poetry, the secrets, the connection with Emily Dickinson, and her past all comes together, it's clear something has to happen. I wasn't sure if just enough happened for me at the end, but some grand something would have been out of place for Emily.

If we had gotten to know Emily better - the Emily before who was a cheerleader but seems to have no friends, who could turn to her parents, but isn't close to them, etc - it may have been easier to see a fuller future for Emily past the ending and, therefore, find it more satisfying. So much seems focused on Emily Beam understanding and getting closer to Emily Dickinson, the girl and the poet, though, that we don't get all of Emily Beam, the poet and the girl.

One odd thing was how often main character Emily was referred to by her full name. It was likely to differentiate her from Emily Dickinson who was mentioned quite frequently and possibly avoid confusion, but was still odd. Perhaps the author wanted to keep the two 'Emily's in the narrative, to have the repetition of their names, but I wish this hadn't been in third person. While we wouldn't have gotten the same Emily/Emily juxtaposition with a first person narration, it may have helped create a connection between Emily Beam and the reader.

It is still a good read. The poetry is very well done and the prose is, itself, very poetic. While I wish I had gotten to know Emily better, I will definitely take how much I did get to know her over not meeting Emily Beam, K.T., Amber or any of the other characters at all.

Rating: 7/10

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Breath of Frost ~ Alyxandra Harvey (earc) review [@AlyxandraH @BWKids]

A Breath of Frost (The Lovegrove Legacy #1)
Walker Children's
January 7, 2014
496 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

In 1814, three cousins—Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope—discover their family lineage of witchcraft when a binding spell is broken, allowing their individual magical powers to manifest. Now, beyond the manicured gardens and ballrooms of Regency London, an alluring underworld available only to those with power is revealed to the cousins. By claiming their power, the three cousins have accidentally opened the gates to the underworld. [. . .]

By unknowingly unlocking their magical abilities, the girls have not only opened an entire, previously unknown, world, full of magic, spells and creatures, but put themselves in danger as well.

Now they have so much more to worry about than simply  navigating parties and society as debutantes. Hiding in the library (Gretchen), looking for the most suitable dance partner (Penelope) and staying out of sight (Emma) isn't going to be the easiest way to get by any more. Not with the bodies of dead girls appearing, ones that Emma keeps finding. And dangerous warlock sisters , thought to be gone, now back and wreaking havoc.

If they can keep themselves safe, if Emma can figure out the forever hot and cold actions of Cormac, then maybe they can figure out their new-found magic . . . and the murders.

The Drake Chronicles series, Stolen Away and Haunting Violet have made it pretty clear that I love Alyxandra Harvey's storytelling but A Breath of Frost was really something else. That same spark, humor and wit that I love from her characters was definitely present once again. While it was Regency London and the plot seemed to hold true (while involving witchcraft), the characters - the female characters, especially - had that little extra something separating them from the status quo.

The girls aren't so different that they seem modern day or out of place, but they also have a bit more audacity, maybe more mettle than one might expect. It makes them and the story superb.

Emma, Penelope and Gretchen are not Lucy and Solange from Harvey's Drake Chronicles series but that strong friendship, that almost sisterly bond that was done so well in that series is present with the cousins here. It's different as they are different characters in a different setting, situation but the love, the fierceness of their will to protect each other is there. It's a bond I hope to see grow over the series.

Much of the novel focuses on Emma and her story - with her mother, with Cormac and with her magic. We learn a lot about her in this first book, some things that are easier to see coming than others. It will definitely be interesting to see how each of the things that happened, that she uncovered affects her, the other characters and the story down the road.

The glimpses we got into the other girls lives very much left me wanting to know more about them - and wondering if we'll find out even a third as many secrets as we did with Emma. (Penelope's character and what we saw with her has me especially intrigued.)

Cormac and his sisters are kind of a fantastic addition to the story. His sisters were not a big part of the story but I loved the little bits that they were in it and hope that was not all we will see of them.

As for the plot, it's kind of really great. With witches, warlocks, society, societies, madcaps, gargoyles, enchantments, and familiars all with family drama, school, possible mean girls and confusing boys, A Breath of Frost has it all. Alyxandra Harvey weaves a brilliant tale, told at a great pace that connects readers with all of the characters and the (slightly modified?) Regency London world they're living in.  You'll love not only where things end up but how it got there -- all while eagerly waiting to see where they things go next.

My review is really long already but it needs to end with this: Alyxandra Harvey's books? <3

Ratiing: 10/10

You may also enjoy: Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey and Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

digital galley received for review, via NetGalley, thanks to publisher

I think my WOW post for this has it listed as Moonlight and Madness and/or Witching Season: Stormcaster so I'm listing those just for search purposes :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Heartbeat ~ Elizabeth Scott (earc) review [@escottwrites @HarlequinTeen]

Harlequin Teen
January 28, 2014
304 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Life. Death. And...Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

There is something - or, perhaps, a lot of somethings - rather perfect about Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott.

The premise of the novel, with Emma's mother brain-dead, yet being kept 'alive' via machines so that the baby inside her can continue to grow and live, has the potential to be controversial, even message-y. Heartbeat is not, though. The story is Emma's story. It's the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who has lost her mother . . . without physically losing her just yet.

As Emma herself says at one point (digital galleys don't have page numbers*), "I thought you were gone. I forgot that you are." Emma is going through the heartache of losing her mother, but at the same time it's both compounded and complicated by the circumstances.

Every day that she sees her mother - her dead, yet not dead mother - we can feel Emma's pain and see the wall going up between not only Emma and her step-father, but also Emma and her unborn sibling. There's more angst and pain than I've read in any of Elizabeth Scott's other novels and, yet, I absolutely love it.

When Caleb comes into the story, things only get better. He's far from a ray of sunshine. He doesn't make everything better; doesn't have promises of remedying it all for Emma, but he's just what both Emma (this new Emma, changed by grief and and unthinkable situation) and the story need.

Emma and Caleb are a bit reminiscent, for me, of the characters in Katie McGarry's novels and the bonds they have. Caleb has his own, unique life that has shaped him into the character that meets Emma. It's different from anything I've read before but also very plausible and fits who he now is. As well how his story fits with Emma's story and their story.

The part of the novel dealing with the baby, with Emma's sibling, was done very well. It was, I will admit, the one thing that had me a little bit worried. Prior to starting the book, I was a little anxious, on a personal level, if I would like the outcome, how it was handled. As I read more and more, got to know Emma and connected to with her, I worried over the outcome for her. I don't think it could have been done either differently or better.

A bit different from Elizabeth Scott's previous novels, it's easily my favorite. Most, if not all, of us will never be in Emma's situation, but Scott connects readers with what could be very foreign siuations. From Emma's grief, her anger, her confusion, even possible love, it's all encapsulated beautifully here. Heartbeat ends just when it needs to end, but is a book that will not soon leave your head - or your heart.

Rating: 10/10

thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital galley for review
*checking against print, final version when possible

Monday, January 20, 2014

Incarnate ~ Jodi Meadows (audo) review [@JodiMeadows @EpicReads @HarperTeen #IncarnateReadAThon]

Incarnate (Newsoul #1)
Katherine Tegen Books
January 31, 2012
print: 374 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon
audio: 9 hours 14 minutes; Katherine Taub, narrator
add to Goodreads/buy from Audible

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.

Ana has always know that everyone - everyone - knows more than her, is more learned and wise. It's not just her personal belief, but a fact. The million souls of Range have been reincarnated for thousands of years, living lives again and again, with each other. Only, something happened eighteen years ago and instead of one of the expected souls being born again, it was Ana. The newsoul. The nosoul.

No one knows why she happened. Nor are they happy about it.

Though we don't see that much of the other characters, it's easy to see how some of them, while viewing Ana as not only mortal but also potentially dangerous could want to treat her as they do. Her life would seem like only a drop in the bucket compared to all of the time, the lives they have. Though life expectancy is never really discussed in Incarnate, with dragons, the sylph and all of the other creatures, it doesn't seem too many are living to be senior citizens.

Yet, the way the danger and the insularity of Heart is so apparent, also helps in understanding Sam's opposition to that way of thinking. Though a million people is not 'small,' exactly, after lifetimes upon lifetimes, the way everyone knows everyone (and their past, has opinions of them, etc) is apparent.

I do wish we were able to see more of some of the characters who made only the smallest of appearances - some just a sentence or two - because they really gave an interesting glimpse into other parts of Heart. Incarnate had a lot that needed to happen and be explained though with Ana's story and with Heart, however, and the focus seemed to be kept where it was necessary.

There were places where the emotional connection created between Sam and Ana (and the reader) was just superb. Their tension was fantastic and kept at a great level. The emotion, the tension between other characters didn't seem click nearly as well but I think that was, at least partially due to my listening to the audiobook.

While I recommend reading Incarnate, I really cannot recommend the audio version. The first fifteen seconds were enough to tur me off to it, but I needed a book to listen to and really wanted to read Incarnate. The narrator, Katherine Taub,has some sort of suhper dihfferent, almost Valley Girl voice going on (where i feel like there are a lot of extra 'h's thrown in?). It may be intended to sound teenage, but it . . . doesn't really work. Farther into the book, things either even out or become less noticeable. There are two characters (sometimes in the scene together, sometimes not) who of different age and gender, who sounded exactly the same to me. It was very distracting. Particularly in a scene I wish it hadn't been.

I'm really looking forward to the second book in this series, Asunder and to reading it.

Rating: 8/10 for the book; 4.5/10 for narration

Don't forget about the Incarnate Series Read-A-Thon going on now!

the rest of the series:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Incarnate Series Read-A-Thon [#IncarnateReadAThon @JodiMeadows @EpicReads]

Incarnate is the book I kept meaning to and meaning to read but never did for whatever reason . . . Now, with the Incarnate Series Read-A-Thon, I have a great motivator!

Check out some more links, the schedule, sidebar banner and more here on A Backwards Story

and Incarnate is still only $1.99 an an ebook so you can get started reading right now!

Have you already read Incarnate? (What about Asunder?) Looking forward to Book 3 -- or are you going to read them (like me) for the first time?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Erased ~ Jennifer Rush (earc) review [@lbkids @Jenn_Rush]

Erased (Altered #2)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
January 7, 2014
288 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

** contains spoilers for Altered - see my review here **

The ending of Altered brought a lot of answers but at least as many questions, as well. It's only the beginning of the questions, the things that may need to be reexamined, as Erased begins are brings even more things to light.

They thought they had escaped. They were wrong.

After fleeing the Branch with Sam, Cas, and Nick, Anna is trying to make sense of the memories resurfacing from her old life. At the same time, she's learning how to survive in hiding, following Sam's rules: Don't draw attention to yourself. Always carry a weapon. Know your surroundings. Watch your back.

Then a figure from Anna's childhood reappears. Is it a Branch setup, or could it be the reunion Anna has hoped for? Uncertain of where her loyalties lie, Anna must fight to learn the truth -- before she is betrayed again. Ultimately, the answers hinge on one question: What was the real reason her memories were erased?

Jennifer Rush delivers a thrilling sequel to Altered in a novel packed with mysteries, lies, and surprises that are sure to keep readers guessing until the last [p]age is turned.

Some lingering questions - including that I had, as a reader, not necessarily those posed obviously for-slash-by the characters - were answered in Erased. We find out much more about the characters prior to Altered. It's a slow, at times agonizingly so, unveil, but one that keeps that plot moving at a fantastic pace. The right people are kept in the dark for the right amount of time. (Maybe someone else's - or just the novel's - 'right' but still right.)

I still do not really get Sam and Anna together. I like both Sam and Anna individually plenty and Jennifer Rush does a fine job of writing how Anna sees (and thinks of) Sam, but something there just doesn't click for me. In Altered it was that the plot just didn't allow for the time or circumstances for things to develop. Here, though, I thought another character was a better fit for one of them.  It doesn't make anything with the book bad in any way, however, and I really appreciate that. They don't have to work for me for me to like the remaining story.

How the different character's stories come together, what we learn of who they were, what they learn of who they were really helps make the story fuller. Add in who they're becoming now, away from the farm house, if not, yet, from the Branch and characters that I liked in the first book became characters I started to love in this second book.

The twists and turns Erased took, some more unexpected than others, were all great. Even if one step was predicted, its ramifications or everything, everyone it affected were not. There were some great surprises in Erased that have me really looking forward to whatever is to come in the third book.

The ending of Altered had some surprises but it really had nothing on the ending to the sequel, Erased and the surprises and twists it has in store.

Rating: 9/10

Altered Series:

thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my egalley

Monday, January 6, 2014

Imperfect Spiral ~ Debbie Levy (earc) review [@bwkids]

Imperfect Spiral
Walker Children's
July 16, 2013
352 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Danielle Snyder's summer job as a babysitter takes a tragic turn when Humphrey, the five-year-old boy she's watching, runs in front of oncoming traffic to chase down his football. Immediately Danielle is caught up in the machinery of tragedy [. . .]
Danielle wants only to figure out how to mourn sweet little Humphrey, the boy who, really, became her friend over the summer. She doesn't want to be forced to deal with the police investigation, her own family and neighborhood drama, or what happens when it's discovered the the driver that hit Humphrey is an illegal alien.

Happy to avoid it all, a new relationship with a boy she meets in the park, Justin, and some newly revisited old relationships seem ready to help her face things. Yet, as more comes to light, not everything is as it has seemed.

Imperfect Spiral is told alternately through the present day: post-Humphrey's accident and the past: the summer while Danielle was babysitting Humphrey. It's a great way to tell the story as readers start the novel knowing what's happened, or thinking we do, at least. As things progress, it becomes clearer that it really was only the big picture that we were given at the start.

The closer we see Danielle and Humphrey grow, the more of their summer together is shown, the more you both want and don't want to know exactly what happened on that fateful day. Though the end result will, of course, be the same.

The glimpses we're given into Danielle's 'before' life make 'after' Danielle make a lot more sense, along with being a much more compelling way to tell the story. I'm really glad this wasn't told in a straight chronological way.

Where things did get a little muddled for me was when the larger debate came into play. I was able to see how it was important for the grieving and growth process Danielle was going through - and understood, especially after reading the author's note, why it was a part of the novel, Knowing that something was good for the characters and a smart addition, didn't quite make it fit, still. It was almost too much.

The characters in Imperfect Spiral were very well done. They were well developed, complex and had their own personalities, quirks and unique traits that made them distinct characters. Humphrey was only five but he was very much his own person. He had things that were definitely unique to him and made him stand out both to Danielle and to readers, but didn't make him seem older (or younger) than his age.  The changes we see in Danielle from the summer through the accident and after seemed to make sense given the circumstances. She already had her own struggles that were then compounded by something so tragic.

Imperfect Spiral was sweet, emotional and a good read.

Rating: 7/10

thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for me egalley

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