Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Stolen by Kelley Armstrong

Whew!  Just under the wire to meet the deadline for the
 Women of the Otherworld Challenge....

by Kelley Armstrong
Beware ... Here be spoilers for book #1 ... Arrrr

It was in Bitten, Kelley Armstrong's debut novel, that thirty-year-old Elena Michaels came to terms with her feral appetites and claimed the proud identity of a beautiful, successful woman and the only living female werewolf.

In Stolen, on a mission for her own elite pack, she is lured into the net of ruthless Internet billionaire Tyrone Winsloe, who has funded a bogus scientific investigation of the "other races" and their supernatural powers. Kidnapped and studied in his underground lab deep in the Maine woods, these paranormals - witches, vampires, shamans, werewolves - are then released and hunted to the death in a real-world video game. But when Winsloe captures Elena, he finally meets his match.

Genre:  Paranormal Romance
Rating:  *  *  *  *  
My Review:
I just can't get enough of Elena and Clay!  They are one of those couples you read about and just want more.  I may even love them more than Cat and Bones from the Night Huntress series (and I do have to say Kelley Armstrong writes a better sex scene than Jeaniene Frost; you know passionate, but not overly graphic ... I should never have to think "ewww").

So this book is all about the suspense.  Who's an ally and who's the enemy?  How will this come play out?  How bad are things going to get?  I read this 468 page book in a few days.  I COULD NOT put it down. I NEEDED to know what was going to happen.  The funny thing is that because this book was so much about the suspense, I felt it ran slow at points.  I was also disappointed that (ummm... the following sentence might be considered a very minor spoiler, just fyi)  the shaman in the first chapter didn't play any further role from beyond the grave.  Nonetheless, this was a fabulous book and I look forward to following Paige's story in book #3.  Yay!!!

Cover Reveal: Reaper by L. S. Murphy

This one looks like sooooo much fun!!!!

by L.S. Murphy
Release Date: January 7, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy

Back of the Book:
There's no way sixteen year old Quincy Amarante will become the fifth grim reaper. None. Not over her shiny blue Mustang. Her Jimmy Choos. Or her dead body.

She’s supposed to enjoy her sophomore year, not learn about some freaky future Destiny says she has no choice but to fulfill.

It doesn’t take long for Quincy to realize the only way out of the game is to play along especially since Death can find her anyway, anywhere, anytime. And does.

Like when she’s reassuring her friends she wants nothing to do with former best friend Ben Moorland, who’s returned from god-knows-where, and fails. Miserably.

Instead of maintaining her coveted popularity status, Quincy’s goes down like the Titanic.

Maybe ... just maybe ... that’s okay.

It seems, perhaps, becoming a grim reaper isn’t just about the dead but more about a much needed shift in Quincy’s priorities—from who she thinks she wants to be to who she really is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Release Day Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)
by Julie Kagawa

Goodreads Description:
In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

Genre:  YA Fantasy/Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Publisher Type:  Non-Indie
Rating:  *  *  *  *  * 

My Review:
I LOVE the creativity that went into this book.  It's post-apocalyptic with zombies running a-muck with a dystopian government run by vampires.  Hello!?!  How crazy and completely awesome is that?!?  In Immortal Rules, Julie Kagawa builds yet another incredible world that is so complex and amazing, it leaves you struggling for air.

Allie is such memorable character; she's definitely jaded by the harshness of her world, but not so much so a reader cannot connect with her (much more likable than Katniss for me).  The story is deeply compelling and heart-wrenching, but is so action packed that the story never slows despite the crazy painful drama Allison goes through.  My heart broke for her several times, especially in those events right before she becomes immortal.  Speaking of immortal, Kanin was an intriguing puzzle of a character and I can't wait to learn more of him in the later books of this series.  I was hoping for some romance between him and Allie, though Zeke is an amazingly likable guy.  I guess I tend to go for those dark and brooding types.

Overall this is a book not to be missed.  Whether you love your sparkling vamps or the more vicious Morganville variety, this is a roller coaster ride of adrenaline and quintessence!

Cover Art:
Ummm... why isn't the woman on the cover Asian?  Allie is definitely Asian, but I don't get this from this otherwise fabulous cover.  I do love the dramatic feel that is in step with the dystopian/post-apocalyptic darkness of the novel.  The eerie lettering for "Immortal" is rocking, though I feel the "Blood of Eden" wording could've been better placed.  Nonetheless, I really dislike when a cover doesn't reflect the character well and that's just not Allie on the cover.  No way, no how.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Expected Publication: May 1, 2012

Goodreads Description:
This dark and thrilling adventure, with an unforgettable heroine, will captivate fans of steampunk, fantasy, and romance. On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.

Genre:  Steampunk/Fantasy/Romance
Publisher Type:  Non-Indie
Rating:  *  *  *  *  *

Cover Art:
Okay, so usually I give you my thoughts on the actual story first, but I could NOT wait to talk about how much I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this cover!!!  It is sooooo ...just WOW.  So now I'm gushing and am not sounding very intelligent, but there you have it.  Look at it!  Isn't it awesome!?! I requested the book on Netgalley completely based on the cover.  Assuming the blurb was the same as the above from Goodreads, I can't say I'm overly impressed with the blurb, but the cover totally did it for me.

My Review:
I am completely jump-up-and-down, twirl-around, and squeal-with-joy over this book!  I utterly and totally loved it!  This is my very first dip into steampunk and found it fabulous.  Per some reviews I've read, it's not deeply steampunk, but that works in its favor for me.  With true historical fiction, I'm not a fan of being bogged down with weighty descriptions or too many factual references and have no doubt I'd feel that way about steampunk.  I did love the hints of true history and all the fantastical inventions and the old-timey feel of the novel.  

Simply put, this is a fantastic story.  It has whimsical and fun elements (I heart Ms. Mumbles, the cat) and darker elements of fear turned oppression, parental abandonment and the emotional abuse of being told you are, deep down, a monster.  The twists and turns of this grand adventure was thrilling!

Lena is a great character.  Her naivete and general lack of worldliness is obvious, appropriate for the time period and endearing.  She's also struggling with her identity and her place in society.  I really connected with her.  I felt for her and I liked her.  Her growth into self-acceptance is a main theme in the novel and is so well done.

Jimson is another favorite for me.  He is a steady force throughout.  He's loyal, kind and passionate.  He gives people the benefit of the doubt but seeks the truth over personal feelings.

The entire cast of quirky, impassioned characters made me as excited as Lena to embark on this adventure.  I really hope that this is not a stand alone novel.  I really want to learn more of the Peculiars and of Scree!

So in conclusion,  I loved the creativity and the fun of this book.  The story and characters will leave you thinking about The Peculiars long after finishing the book.  The cover is amazing and made me want to read it despite the lack luster blurb.  You've got to read this one!  It's a great ride!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Release Day Celebration & Giveaway: Between by Cambria Hebert

It's finally here!!!

and to celebrate, the author is offering up 
one e-book version of this awesome novella!

Don't know what all the fuss is about.... check out my review here.
So, if you'd like to win it, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below
(can't see it?  Just click here).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cover Reveal: After Dark by Emi Gayle

Here's one from debut author, Emi Gale due out this fall.  I'm crazy intrigued by this young adult paranormal romance cover.  Very mysterious!!!  And I love the series name...hmmm.  Can't wait to read this.  What do you think?  Will this go on your wish list?

by Emi Gayle
Release Date: October 31, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance

Back of the Book:
What eighteen year old Mac Thorne doesn’t know will probably kill her.

In exactly eight months, five days, three hours and thirteen minutes, Mac has to choose what she’ll be for the rest of her life.

She has no choice but to pick. As a Changeling, it’s her birthright. To Mac, it’s a birthchore. Like going to school with humans, interacting with humans, and pretending to be human during the pesky daylight hours.

Once darkness descends, Mac can change into any supernatural form that exists — which makes her as happy as she can be. That is, until Winn Thomas, the biggest geek in her senior class figures out there’s more to what hides in the dark than most are willing to acknowledge.

In this first of the 19th Year Trilogy, Winn might know more about Mac than even she does, and that knowledge could end their lives, unless Mac ensures the powers-that-be have no choice but to keep him around.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: Bonds of Fenris by S. J. Bell

Expected Publication:  May 7, 2012

Goodreads Description:

Talia Thornwood's life ended one year ago, when she became a werewolf. She survived the attack, and the horrifying transformation a month later, but the life she has now is barely worth living. She lurks about in a filthy, run-down house, with too many werewolves crammed into too small a space. Every day is a struggle against the stress of human contact, the romantic prodding of her obnoxious packmate Pierce, and the gnawing hunger for flesh in her soul.

She's all but resigned herself to a dreary existence on the margins of society when she meets Corwin. Corwin is a werewolf like none other. He walks among humans as if it was nothing, and can keep his wolf under control even when the moon is full. Talia's mind is suddenly opened to the possibilities before her, and the realization of how little she really knows about lycanthropy.

Corwin claims that he can teach her how to cope as he does, even how to transcend her affliction. But it will not be easy. It is a hard education that requires her to question everything her pack taught her, and confront exactly what she has become. And, more amazingly, what she never stopped being.

Genre:  Urban Fantasy 
Publisher Type:  Indie Author
Rating:  * * * *

My Review:
To be succinct, this is a compelling read.

Well, of course I can't just leave you with that... succinct and I are really not compatible.

So... this is an urban fantasy that leans more toward a drama (but not the whiny type) than action adventure.  No crazed vampire verses werewolf fight clubs here; this is more subtle.  Think Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls rather than Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld.  Both are crazy good series, just so you know.

Bell's writing is straightforward, which is amazingly perfect for this book.  He is able to tell Talia's story in a way that you are so completely sucked into the story, but he doesn't go overboard taking us into Nicholas Sparks territory (I'm sooo not a fan of super-drama-y).  While the pace is slow, the story never drags and instead you feel as if you are walking along with Talia as she struggles with her otherness.  Each character is believable and you care what happens to each one, even Pierce who tends to be a jerk.  There's some great suspense in this story.  There were a couple moments near the end that had me holding my breath.  The ending was just what it should be.  **happy sigh of contentment**

I wondered at the name of the book and, after finding no Fenris within it's pages, I turned to Google.  Here's what Encyclopedia Mythica has to say:  Fenrir (or Fenris) is a gigantic and terrible monster in the shape of a wolf. He is the eldest child of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. The gods learned of a prophecy which stated that the wolf and his family would one day be responsible for the destruction of the world. They caught the wolf and locked him in a cage. Only the god of war, Tyr, dared to feed and take care of the wolf.

Cover Art:
This beautiful cover drew me in right away.  I love the silhouetted wolf against the stormy moonlit sky.  The typeface is clear, artistic and just the right shade.  I love a well-done cover and this is a perfect example!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: The New Death and Others by James Hutchings

by James Hutchings

Death gets a roommate...

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...

44 stories. 19 poems. No whiny vampires. There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it - but from which direction?

Short Stories, Dark Fantasy, Dark Humor

Publisher Type:  Indie Author

Rating:  *  *  *  *

My Review:
This book is Shel Silverstein* for grown ups, especially those grown-ups with a twisted sense of humor.  Actually, I'd absolutely love to see this book published with Silverstein-inspired illustrations to go with these witty and ironic pondering.  These stories and poems are smart, strange, sarcastic and sometimes quite deep.   I can't say I loved them all, but every story was unique and interesting.  Each story had it's own voice and style.  Though I'm not a huge fan of either short stories or poetry, this book was such an enjoyable read.  And to top it all, this is a $ .99 book (& currently free on Amazon, but I don't know for how long)!

Cover Art:
This is a fun cover that fits the book quite well.  I love the block-print look to the graphics.

*Just in case your not familiar,  Shel Silverstien (my very favorite poet in the whole world) wrote children's books such as The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cover Reveal: Blue Moon by J. A. Belfield

I'm super excited for this one!  This is the next full book in the Holloway Pack series by one of my very favorite Indie authors, J. A. Belfield!  And it is hot, hot, hot!!!!  

If you've missed my previous reivews of Holloway Pack stories, click on the following: 

by J.A. Belfield
Release Date: December 1, 2012
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance, Werewolf

Back of the Book:

Someone is watching the Holloway pack, and this time, the female isn’t the target.

Life with a group of seven male werewolves worries Jem Stonehouse not one bit. She is engaged to the Alpha’s son Sean Holloway after all. So what has Jem’s territorial instincts on high alert?

The pack’s latest addition. Both of them.

None of the men think there’s a problem with the new girlfriends. Jem's intuition tells her otherwise—that and a nagging suspicion the new females aren't there to partake.

Jem believes they’ve joined in to take.

The question is ... What?

As the eve of the blue moon draws ever closer, Jem’s running out of time to find the answer and outwit a thief of the worst possible kind.

A woman who believes she can’t lose.

Previous Books in this series include:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Review: Eden by Janelle Stalder

by Janelle Stalder

Goodreads Description:
Stuck in the cruel world of hormones and high school bullies, Aiden is convinced life has something more to offer. A stranger soon brings him to a world that co-exists alongside our own called Eden. Here he will learn to trust himself and those around him, as all of Eden finds itself on the brink of war. With the handsome rider Wolf, his sidekick Logan, and the beautiful archer Elisa at his side, Aiden will battle to save Eden and learn just what he is capable of.

Being the only girl in the King’s Army, and the Captain’s daughter, Elisa constantly feels the need to prove herself. It doesn’t help that she is betrothed to Wolf, who challenges her at every turn, and who she refuses to marry. With the new stranger, Aiden, now involved, Elisa finds her life even more confusing than ever.

Rose is a prisoner of the war, taken by the army from the North. Her captor, the exiled Prince Callum, intrigues her and terrifies her all at the same time. Now she must choose to either betray her heart, or the memory of her family.

Eden is packed full of romance, adventure, humour, and action.

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher Type:  Indie Author
Rating:  *  *  *  *
My Review:
What an exhilarating and engrossing story!!!  A mix of Narnia and Game of Thrones, This is a smart, absorbing book you really must read.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.  I expected to like it, but I loved it!!!

I'll admit through the first few chapters I wasn't sure how much I'd like this book.  Yes, the prologue was intriguing and immediately introduced the conflict in Eden and the first chapter introduces a very likable Aiden and his frustrating reality.  But I was concerned with the palpable risk of hokeyness when a plot involves a reality-based protagonist entering into a fantasy-based environment.  Also, the author's way of describing things was somewhat off for me, especially in the first portion of the book.  She's very straightforward in her descriptions and sometimes it feels forced.  Despite my reservations starting out, the A-M-A-Z-I-N-G story more than makes up for the minor description flaws and, as it turns out, the hokey factor was very minimal.  

I loved the characters.  Not one of them was flat.  No one was a simple filler character.  I savored the array of relationships from Turk & the High King to Wolf & Elisa to Rose & Callum.  Protagonists were not simple bad guys.  I enjoyed reading of Callum, Brutus the Red and their motivations.  The story of Rose & Callum was my favorite.  With all the various stories, this is hardly just "young adult," but an "everybody" fantasy novel.

The ending did feel a little rushed, but I still liked it.  I appreciated the twist that while not everything was wrapped up, we are given enough information to see where things are leading for each of the characters.  I however will miss these characters and would love to have spent more time with them.  Perhaps the author will write short stories telling more of what happens to the people of Eden and of Aiden after he returns to his regular life.  Please, please, please --with sugar on top of it-- Janelle, please write more for me!

So, overall, a story I'm so glad I didn't miss out on.  A very satisfying read!!!  I still want more!

Cover Art:
I'm torn on this cover.  On one hand, it's a well done cover with stone-like texture and perfect typeface.  The simple bow graphic reflects the importance bows and arrows play in this story.  The drawback is that it's not a cover that compels me to buy the book.