Tuesday, April 30, 2013

BLOG TOUR Review & GIVEAWAY: Soul Catcher (Soulkeepers #4) by G.P. Ching

Soul Catcher (The Soulkeepers, #4)

Dane Michaels has been to Hell and back and isn't interested in repeating the experience. But as a human caught up in the Soulkeeper's world, his life isn't exactly his own. No one can explain why Dane was allowed through the gates of Eden, but it's changed everything. Now, the only one who can make him feel safe is Ethan, the telekinetic Soulkeeper with a dark past and a heart of gold.

When Malini asks Dane to be part of a mission to find the last Soulkeeper, Cheveyo, more than one team member thinks she's tempting Fate. But Malini suspects Fate has had a hand in Dane's life for some time and that he could be the key to unraveling Lucifer's latest plan of attack.

Author Bio:
G.P Ching is the author of The Soulkeepers Series, The Grounded Trilogy, and a variety of short fiction. She specializes in cross-genre paranormal stories, loves old cemeteries, and enjoys a good ghost tour. She lives in central Illinois with her husband, two children, and one very demanding guinea pig. Learn more about G.P. at http://www.gpching.com and more about The Soulkeepers Series at http://www.thesoulkeepersseries.com.

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Since I haven't reviewed the first three books in this series on my blog I think that I should give a quick summary of them here.  The series revolves around a teenage boy named Jacob who discovers that he is a Soulkeeper - meant to protect mankind against the fallen angels who threaten to destroy the world as he knows it.  Along the way, he finds other Soulkeepers who join with him in the fight against evil.

Now, I have to say that the first two books had their issues and that I wouldn't rate them as highly as books three and four.  I felt that the first book lacked suffcharacter development and I also thought that the book could have used better editing (not necessarily for grammatical errors, but just to help the author tighten up the story and characterization a bit).  That being said, I want to point out that the series has gotten better and better with each progressive book.  I feel that this Indie author has really grown and I love to support that on my blog!  So, I hope that readers will check out the series with this in mind.

Now, on to my review of Soul Catcher.  This book focuses on Dane Michaels, a human who has been thrown in with the Soulkeepers and doesn't quite know how he fits in.  But, Malini (the Healer - and therefore leader of the Soulkeepers) senses that Dane is actually key to their latest mission and sends him out, prepared or not.  Meanwhile, Dane is also struggling with his feelings for Ethan, the only person who makes him feel safe in his unimaginable circumstances.  Is Ethan just a friend or does he feel something more for him?  And if he does feel something more, can he accept this revelation about himself?

I felt that the love story in Soul Catcher was actually the most developed relationship in any of the books so far.  Perhaps this was because there was actually a realistic barrier between Ethan and Dane -  Dane's uneasiness with and indecision about his sexuality rang true and made sense (unlike many relationships in fiction today where the barriers feel manufactured).  I also felt that the story was fast-paced and action packed, so I give the book 4/5 stars.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review: Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1)Title: Poison Princess
Author: Kresley Cole
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Pages: 369, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 4.21 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole introduces The Arcana Chronicles, post-apocalyptic tales filled with riveting action, the dark mysticism of Tarot cards, and breathtaking romance.

She could save the world—or destroy it.

Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side….


Poison Princess was a really riveting read.  The story hooks you at the very beginning with Evie (our heroine) in an extremely perilous situation.  She has been captured by a post-apocalyptic serial killer who is posing as a good Samaritan and she starts to recount her story to him.  With this, we flash back to 7 days before the "Flash" - the disaster that has wiped out much of the life on earth.  

Evie has just returned from a mental institution, where she had been sent because of her recurring violent hallucinations.  All she wants to do is get back to normal life and make it through her last two years of high school so she can escape her small town.  But, Evie soon realizes that she isn't quite as cured as she had hoped as her hallucinations return.  Not only that, but she starts to notice that strange things happen with plants when she is near them.  More hallucinations, or could something real be happening?  To make things even more complicated, Evie finds herself in a battle of wills with Jack, a new boy from the Bayou with a rap sheet a mile long, who definitely does not fit into Evie's mold.  

When the Flash hits, Evie discovers that her hallucinations were really visions of the future and that she needs to rely on them in order to survive.  She also finds herself dependent on Jack, the last person she wants to depend on, as they go on a quest to find Evie's grandmother, who may hold the key to who Evie really is.  Along the way, Evie finds herself confused by the disconnect between Jack's fierce protectiveness of her (and obvious attraction to her) and his gruff, demanding (along with sexist, egotistical, dangerous...) side.  As much as she wants to hate him sometimes, she finds herself drawn to him as well.

So, there are a few things that I know some people will HATE about this book and I think I should give you fair warning.  One thing is that Evie is not a strong, self-sufficient female character.  She is extremely dependent on Jack for survival and has almost no survival skills of her own.  I know that many people (especially women) don't like these types of characters.  I'll reassure you, though, that Evie changes by the end of the book as she takes a bit more control over her life.

I also know that Jack is going to be a controversial love interest.  I warn you now, he is a true bad boy, often treating Evie rudely or like a piece of meat (he tells her on several occasions that he wants to have sex with her, often insinuating that it's mostly because she's the only female around).  This is especially upsetting in a YA novel (Jack is NOT the kind of guy that we want young girls to fall in love with).  The thing that redeems him for me, though is that Cole has made him such a three-dimensional character.   She shows us WHY Jack is who he is.  As more details of Jack's life are revealed, you can understand him, even when you can't like him.  What's more, we see him trying to see things from Evie's perspective (once he switches out of battle-mode long enough to hear it) and even change for her, even when he isn't sure how.  Do we want a Jack in real life?  No, not really.  But, he makes for spectacular, heart-wrenching reading and I have to admit that I was hooked.

Overall, the apocalyptic story, Evie's developing powers and, yes, even the emotional roller-coaster of Evie and Jack's relationship made for really great read.  4/5 stars.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)

Title: Pivot Point
Author: Kasie West
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Pages: 352, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 4.12 stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.


Pivot Point was an amazing book that had me desperate for more by the time it finished.  I read this book in one afternoon because I just couldn't put it down.  Addie lives in a secret Compound where people have special powers.  Her power is that, when faced with a choice, she can see the possible outcomes based on that choice.  Addie is faced with a big decision when her parents decide to get a divorce - to stay in the Compound with her sometimes distant mother or to leave everything she has ever known and go out into the "real" world with her father, who she feels much closer to.  Of course, she decides to use her ability to see which decision will be better for her.  When she starts her search, however, she discovers that the decision might not be as easy as it seems and that both love and pain may be inescapable no matter what she chooses.  

Okay, there were a lot of things that I loved about this book.  Honestly, the ending was 5+ stars in my book.  It was suspenseful and full of action and romance - truly amazing!  I also thought that West did an amazing job with character development.  Addie was charming and slightly neurotic at the same time and I loved reading a book where  I really LIKED the main character (most of the time - she had a few moments where I groaned, but that's being picky).  But the other characters were also incredibly well-developed and I felt like I could understand what motivated each of them to act the way that they did - Laila, Addie's outgoing (but not too extreme) best friend - Duke, the oh-so-cool and confident star quarterback who Addie writes off until she gets closer to him and discovers that he might not be as arrogant and self-reliant as she thought - and Trevor, the artistic, sensitive, but down-to-earth guy who Addie thinks might be new best friend material (and maybe more?).  Speaking of Trevor, I have to say that I am totally in love with him.  I loved that he wasn't the "perfect" boy stereotype - he was struggling with a major injury and a loss of his identity - but he also didn't turn that struggle into typical "bad boy" behavior, which also would have seem stereotyped.  Yes, I was obviously team Trevor all the way.

A few criticisms to mention.  First off (and this was the biggest one for me).  I had a lot of the "mysteries" of the book figured out relatively early on.  This bugged me a little bit when I was less than three-quarters of the way through and I was pretty sure I knew several things that were going to happen (and I was right).  This is really what kept me from giving the book 5 stars, even though I was feeling so incredibly 5-starrish by the time I put the book down.  I WILL say, though, that at the very end of the book there were some twists that I did NOT see coming.  So, all in all, I still felt more than satisfied at the end.  One other small criticism is that, for a paranormal book, there wasn't a whole lot of interesting paranormal action going on (once again, until the end of the book).  I didn't mind this so much because I enjoyed the book for what it was, but if you were reading this book expecting a lot of cool paranormal activity, you'd be disappointed.  I was anything but disappointed, though, which is why I give the book 4.5/5 stars.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New books on my TBR list

Okay, I have added a ridiculous number of books to my To-Read list recently.  I have no idea how I'm going to get to them all, but I'm sure going to try!

Here are some of the books I'm most looking forward to (click on the images to see them on GoodReads)-

Mythology  The Star Child (The Star Child, #1)  Branded (A Sinners Series, #1)  Mortality  Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)  Insomnia (The Night Walkers, #1)

There's another book that I thought I added to my TBR list that I now can't find and it's driving me crazy!  (I literally just searched for it for a half hour - that's why I had to cut this list shorter than I was originally planning - I'm out of time!).  The book was about a college age girl who has to keep living out alternate realities based on choices that a younger version of herself is making.  But, I can't for the life of me remember the title and now I can't find it!!  This will probably drive me crazy - I NEED to figure out what book this was because it sounded so incredibly interesting to me.  So, wish me luck!

UPDATE:  I found it!!  I did not give up and Swagbucks searched my way to success.  This is the book I was talking about above - Obviously, the description really struck me since I put so much effort into finding it.  Guess I should read this as soon as it comes out!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Stained by Ella James

Stained (Stained, #1)Title: Stained
Author: Ella James
Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date: September 14, 2011
Pages: 252, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 3.8 stars
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: After a fire destroys seventeen-year-old Julia’s home and kills her foster parents, she chases the half-demon responsible across the country and back, determined to avenge her family and discover why a host of celestial baddies want her dead. With Julia is enigmatic hottie - Cayne, who has his own score to settle with the half-demon, and who might be just as dangerous as the creature he and Julia hunt.


I was disappointed with this book.  At several points while I was reading I couldn't wait for it to be done so I could put it down, which is very unusual for me.  And, honestly, I can't even put my finger on what went wrong for me.  On the surface, I should have liked the story.  Yes, the plot is a bit of a cliche, but that's usually at least okay with me as long as the story grips me in ways that transcend the cliche.  This one did not.  The story is about Julia, a girl all alone in the world, who finds out that there are half-demons chasing her.  A mysterious (and, of course, attractive) guy named Cayne shows up and tells her that he happens to be hunting the same half-demon that is after her, so they team up in order to bring the ultimate bad guy down.  Cayne has lost his memories, which makes him even more mysterious.  Most of the book takes place while Julia and Cayne are traveling across the country together, tracking the half-demon down.   

I think that my ultimate problem with the book was that I just didn't care what happened to the characters.  I was bored for the first three-quarters of the book.  Once I got to the 75% mark (I read it on my Kindle), it started to get a bit more interesting.  Cayne regained his memory and Julia suffered from the trauma of possibly being abandoned yet again (she was a foster child most of her life).  But, I quickly lost interest again once the pair headed on yet another cross-country trip.  I just couldn't get into the story.  It didn't help that parts of the story were also just confusing (especially dream sequences) and the author suddenly switched POV's a few times unexpectedly.  I will say that the very end of the book had me a little bit intrigued, but I'm not sure that I will read the other books to find out what happens.  There are too many other good books on my To-Read list.  2/5 stars.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Debut Author Challenge - My To-Read List!

Okay, as I mentioned, I've decided to join the Debut Author Challenge that's run by Tara from Hobbitsies.  (For this challenge, you have to read and review at least 12 debut YA (or MG) books in 2013.  The books have to be released in 2013 and they have to either be the author's very first book OR their first YA book.)  

So, I think I've come up with a list of books for the challenge - I reserve the right to change this as the year goes on, but this is what I'm starting with.  I'll update this list as the year goes on.  Here's it is (not necessarily in the order I'll be reading them):

For my current list, see my updated post HERE.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Check It Out - Richelle Mead's upcoming novel, Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X, #1)

Is anyone else really looking forward to seeing what Richelle Mead has in store for us in her new Adult novel  Gameboard of the Gods?  I love her YA books, so I'm SO excited to see where this new novel takes us.  If you haven't yet, check out Richelle Mead's blog where you'll find character descriptions and two excerpts from the novel!  The book is coming out June of this year, so be on the lookout!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Debut Author Challenge

I've decided to join the Debut Author Challenge that's run by Tara from Hobbitsies.  For this challenge, you have to read and review at least 12 debut YA (or MG) books in 2013.  The books have to be released in 2013 and they have to either be the author's very first book OR their first YA book.  This seems like a fun challenge, and I love the idea of discovering some new authors so why not join, right?  Be on the lookout for an upcoming post listing the books I've chosen for this challenge!

(By the way, you don't have to be a blogger to participate in the challenge, so check it out!)

For my current list of books I'm reading for this challenge, see my updated post HERE.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: The Secret Circle Trilogy by L.J. Smith

Title: The Secret Circle Trilogy (The Initiation & The Captive Part I/The Captive Part II & The Power)
The Secret Circle: The Initiation and The Captive Part I (The Secret Circle, #1-2)The Secret Circle: The Captive Part II and The Power (The Secret Circle, #2-3)
Author: L.J. Smith

Publisher:  Harper Teen
Release Date: 2008/2009
Pages: 396/390, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4/4.15 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: THE CIRCLE'S POWER HAS LURED HER HOME...

Forced to move from sunny California to gloomy New England, Cassie longs for her old life. Even so, she feels a strange kinship to a terrifying group of teens who seem to rule her school. Initiated into the coven of witched that's controlled New Salem for hundreds of years, she's drawn into the Secret Circle, a thrill that's both intoxicating and deadly. But when she falls for the mysterious and intriguing Adam, Cassie must choose whether to resist temptation or risk dark forces to get what she wants - even if it means that one wrong move could ultimately destroy her.


The third book of the Secret Circle Trilogy (The Power) came up as my Random Read for April.  At first, I planned to just read the first book in the trilogy instead, but then I found that the books were re-published in 2008/2009 as just two books - The Initiation and half of The Captive were in the first book and the second half of The Captive and The Power were in the second book.  Well, I couldn't possibly read one and a half books and not finish off the series, so I decided that I would just read all three and review the whole trilogy here.

I have to confess that I didn't have super high-hopes for this series, especially when I saw that the books were originally published in 1992.  I mean, they would have to be dated, right?  And even though I enjoyed the series on the CW when it came out (which is why I added these books to my To-Read list in the first place), I had lost a bit of interest in the show by the time it had gotten cancelled.  Still, I thought I would check out the original books anyway since books are almost always better than the TV show/or movies that are made from them.

Well, despite my low expectations (or perhaps because of them?), I was pleasantly surprised.  I actually really enjoyed reading this series.  It was a quick read (it took me three days to read the three books) and I thought that the pacing and action throughout the series was great.  I really enjoyed the mythology that L.J. Smith set up and I was impressed by the fact that the book didn't feel incredibly "old" to me (there was one reference to a floppy drive and some of the clothing references were dated, but other than that, it could have been written recently).  I thought that the overarching plot of the series (the coven's fight against an ancient evil witch named Black John) was extremely well-done and I thought that the final battle was won in a unique way.

Of course, there were some flaws in the book, most of them having to do with the love story.  Apparently, insta-love is not a new development in paranormal YA fiction (and neither is the love triangle) - both of these elements are found in The Secret Circle.  And the insta-love is about as instant as you can possibly get in this book.  To her credit, L.J. Smith does give us a "reason" for the sudden connection between Cassie and Adam (who happens to be Cassie's best friend's boyfriend) in the book - they are tied together by a magical silver strand that is supposed to represent their connection - but it still would have been nice to see the relationship develop more.  This is one case where the CW TV show actually had an advantage over the books because they had LOTS of time to show us these relationships developing.  The love triangle was set up well, though and both Adam and Nick (the cold, loner who only breaks down his icy facade for Cassie) had their positives - I actually would have been happy to see Cassie with either of them in the end and I wasn't sure who she was going to end up with. 

One other shortcoming of the series was how stereotypical Smith made each of the supporting characters in the book.  For instance, Cassie's best friend, Diana, is so perfect and sweet that she just might make your teeth hurt (and her responses to Cassie and Adam's possible betrayal are so calmly angelic and self-sacrificing that they are completely unrealistic).  Still, as a YA novel, I actually kind of thought that this was okay - and I loved having an example of friends who really did their best to do right by each other even in pretty miserable circumstances.  In the end, I thought that the themes of friendship and loyalty were refreshing, if a bit nostalgic.  Will current YA readers be too jaded for these stories?  I'm not sure, but I hope not.  Give them a try!  4/5 stars.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: The Voice by Jennifer Anne Davis

The Voice
Title: The Voice
Author: Jennifer Anne Davis
Publisher:  Lands Atlantic
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Pages: 288, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4.72 stars
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: During her abduction and assault, Audrey begins to hear a voice. She hopes she's not going crazy, because after what she's experienced, that's the most logical explanation. However, as she begins to listen to the voice, Audrey realizes that someone may be telepathically trying to help her.

Unfortunately, rescue isn't all she needs. In order to leave behind the constant reminders, she flees to her Aunt Kate's house in San Diego, and assumes a new identity. It works until the eighteen-year-old twin boys who live next door threaten to break through the protective walls she's worked so hard to build.
Between Caleb going out of his way to befriend her and Justin avoiding her at all costs, Audrey doesn't know if normalcy will ever find her again. But one thing is certain: When a familiar danger resurfaces, it's the same voice that she turns to -- a voice that is not only real, but a lot closer than she realizes.
Gripping and tastefully told, The Voice is a story of healing, trust, and courage.


I had mixed feelings about this book.  After reading several stellar reviews, I had high hopes and I honestly don't think the book lived up to them.  But, again, I was torn.  On the one hand, I thought it was an amazing story of recovery from sexual assault.  The book is about a girl named Audrey who is abducted by her uncle and repeatedly abused.  They story actually begins with her escape and focuses on her recovery from the horrible things that happened to her.  I definitely felt Audrey's pain and I thought that her struggles were handled tastefully and truthfully.  Her uncle is arrested and awaiting trial, but Audrey starts to receive calls threatening that if she testifies against him someone will come after her again. It becomes apparent that this new stalker is watching her closely and Audrey is terrified that she will once again be put in harm's way.  This whole part of the storyline was very well done - I was emotionally invested in the characters and the stalker storyline was suspenseful.

Unfortunately, it was the paranormal part of the book that fell flat for me.  Throughout her ordeal with her uncle, Audrey is encouraged and strengthened (and possibly saved) by a voice that she hears in her head.  She is not sure if the voice is real or if it is just her mind's way of helping her through her trauma, but she feels a true bond with "The Voice" (as she calls it).  Even after she escapes her uncle, The Voice helps her stay sane when things become too much for her.  I won't spoil exactly who The Voice turns out to be (although it is incredibly obvious - so obvious that I honestly don't think the author was trying to hide the fact from the reader, just from Audrey herself).  Unfortunately, this is where the story gets frustrating for me.  Because the person who is actually The Voice doesn't want Audrey to know who he is, he walks around not speaking to her or disguising his voice around her.  The whole thing gets a little ludicrous.  I honestly would have preferred if Audrey would have recognized the person's voice right away, but doubted herself because it just didn't seem sane.  The author could have said that the voice sounded slightly different because it was being heard through her ears instead of directly in her head - this would have been a good enough reason for her to hear an eerie similarity, but still doubt that it was him.  As it was, it just got tedious having this character avoid letting her hear his true voice. Because of this, we had to have important plot points explained in a letter rather than in person.  Plus, there were times that Audrey heard the character talking to other people and there was never a good  reason why she wouldn't have recognized his voice in those circumstances.  Another issue that bugged me - Audrey told The Voice details about her life, but whenever she asked for details about his own, he wouldn't respond.  Why?  He didn't have any reason to believe that Audrey would eventually end up in his town (across the country from where she lived) and be able to figure out who he was, so why was he so secretive?  And his explanations about why he concealed his identity from Audrey in the first place seemed weak to me.  I can think of lots of good reasons why he might want to hide his abilities, so it's not that I felt like he didn't have them - I just thought that his explanations were somewhat lame.

Okay, so that all seems very negative.  But, in the end, I did still enjoy the book overall and I found myself not wanting to put it down despite its flaws.  I also really enjoyed the characters (especially Audrey and Caleb, who I didn't really mention much in my review, but who is a very big part of the book).  Overall, I give it 3/5 stars.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

April Random Reads

I found this fun idea on I'm Loving Books. Sarah came up with the idea of picking one random book out of your Goodreads To-Read list (using Random.org) to read within the month. Check out her site for more details...Random Reads Meme – Hosted by ImLovingBooks.com

This sounded like a fun way to pick my next book, so I decided to go for it. Random.org chose book #38 for me, which happened to be The Power by L.J. Smith.  The only problem is that The Power is book #3 in The Secret Circle series and I haven't read the first two books.  So, I decided to bend the rules just a little bit and read The Initiation (the first book in the series) instead.

The Initiation (The Secret Circle, #1)

I actually added this book to my To-Read list on April 1, 2012 because I was watching the TV Series on The CW. This peaked my curiosity about the books (since the books are always better than the shows, right?).  I obviously didn't pay much attention when I added the books to my list, though, because it took me by surprise when I saw my Random.org choice and saw that The Secret Circle series was written in 1992!  Just take a look at the cheesy 90's cover and it becomes pretty obvious, but I had no idea. But, don't you worry - I'm never one to back down on a challenge.  After all, it's all part of the fun of choosing a book at random. I'll let you know how the book compares to the show. And I just might have to read the Vampire Diaries books too.  (Once again, I had NO idea they were so old!  But I LOVE The Vampire Diaries!).  So, stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: Splintered (Splintered #1) by A.G. Howard

Splintered (Splintered, #1)Title: Splintered (Splintered #1)
Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher:  Amulet Books
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Pages: 371, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 4.02 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.


Okay, I confess.  This was one of those books that I absolutely had to read based on the cover alone.  I mean, really, look at it.  It's gorgeous and it screams awesome YA fantasy novel, right?  Of course, amazing covers, don't always equal amazing books, but in this case I was definitely happy with the results.  Splintered is an exhilarating read that keeps you guessing about what could possibly happen next. The story starts out by introducing Alyssa, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the original Alice (from Wonderland). Alyssa can't escape the tiny voices of plants and bugs that speak to her and she spends her life in fear of the day that she will go well and truly insane, just like her mother who has been committed to a mental institution. Her only solace is her loving father and her best friend Jeb who has always supported her through every heartache, but doesn't know the truth about her mother or her own precarious sanity. But, when Alyssa realizes that Wonderland just may be real after all and that she and her mother might be under a curse caused by the original Alice, she decides that she has no choice but to go down the rabbit hole herself to try to undo the damage that has been done to her family.

But Alyssa discovers that the Wonderland that Lewis Carroll wrote about was an extremely watered-down version of the real thing. Wonderland is far more twisted and dangerous than she ever imagined and she learns that the story that the book that was written about Alice's adventures doesn't tell nearly the whole story. She also realizes that her own story is not as simple as she once thought. Alyssa struggles to figure out who to trust - should she depend on overprotective Jeb, (who she is secretly in love with and who will do anything to keep her safe)? Or should she give in to her adventurous (and sometimes dark) side and follow the mysterious Morpheus who she is both attracted to and appalled by?

I loved the dark twist on Alice in Wonderland and the interesting re-invention of the stories we know from the books. I also loved that I was constantly guessing about Morpheus' true intentions - was he helping Alyssa or manipulating her?  It seemed that the answer changed constantly (after reading the entire book, I'm still not 100% sure). The story never went exactly where I thought it was going to go, which was a pleasant surprise. 

The one area that I thought the book lacked slightly was in the love triangle.  I just didn't find myself truly rooting for either of the two love interests. Controlling Jeb fell a little flat for me and Morpheus was just too obviously crazy (and possibly evil) for me to want Alyssa with him.  I found myself in Jeb's camp by the end, but I wish I felt like I had more reasons to be there, especially from the beginning.  Still, this was one book where the love story didn't overshadow the plot so much that it took away from my enjoyment of the rest of the book.  Splintered was an exciting read and I will definitely read future books in the series.  4/5 stars

Review: The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

The Best of All Possible WorldsTitle: The Best of All Possible Worlds
Author: Karen Lord
Publisher:  Del Rey
Release Date: February 12th, 2013
Pages: 308, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 3.8 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.


I have to start out by saying that this is not the type of book that I would normally love. In fact it's a very difficult book to review because I don't know what to say about it.  Plotwise, not a lot happens until the end (which I usually hate). The book sends you on a tour of many of the cultures of the planet Cygnus Delta - a sort of melting pot planet where dying races go to survive extinction. The Sadiri are one such race. Their home planet was destroyed and, being a logical and calculating people, they now seek a genetically, psychically and culturally compatible race with which to intermarry so that their race will not be lost. Because of this, emotional, impulsive Grace Delarua finds herself on a year-long expedition with the Sadiri to explore all of the cultures on Cygnus Delta that have Sadiri blood. Like I said, this is not normally my favorite type of book, but I found the world that Lord created delightfully intriguing and I found myself caught up in her characters. The book is written from the perspective of Delarua, who learns much about herself on the journey and about the sometimes strange and stoic Sadiri. Overall, The Best of All Possible Worlds is a compelling read.  4/5 Stars

Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver

Title: Requiem (Delirium #3)
Requiem (Delirium, #3)Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher:  HarperCollins Children's Books
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Pages: 391, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 3.87 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.


Requiem was a fitting end to the Delirium series.  This book finds Lena and her group of friends struggling to find their place in the world.  The Wilds are no longer safe, and the group is divided on whether they should try to find a peaceful place to hide or join the revolution in full force.  

Part of the story is told from Hana's perspective and we get a first-hand look at what a post-procedure life   looks like.  Except that Hana secretly fears that her procedure hasn't been completely successful and that she may yet fall prey to emotions that are beyond her control. She also begins to see that her cured life may not be as safe and predictable as she was led to believe.

Meanwhile, Lena desperately wants to rebuild a relationship with Alex, but he has come back from the Crypts changed, unable to let go of the pain of his imprisonment and Lena's betrayal. Lena follows Raven's advice and tries to let go of the past and focus on the present with Julian.  Still, Lena cannot escape the pain of the choices she has made. 

Is love a disease? In the end, Requiem is a powerful story of freedom - the freedom to choose our own path in the world.  And to live with the consequences. 

I will say that some people probably won't like how the book ends.  Oliver doesn't give us a tidy ending to every subplot (I won't spoil which are tied up and which are not), but leaves us with the idea that life is uncertain and that the best we can do is make our choices and live them out to the fullest.  Personally, I don't know how she could have ended on a better note.   4/5 Stars