Friday, May 31, 2013

The Keep (The Watchers, #4)

The Keep
Veronica Wolff
324 pages
Releases: June 4, 2013
Publisher: NAL
Source: the publisher

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

WAIT, STOP!  This review contains spoilers from earlier in the series.  You have been warned.  

In the fourth book in The Watcher's series, we find Annelise still at school in her second year, now ranked "Initiate."  The training is tough, but her relationships with others are often tougher.  Many still won't forgive her for her friend Emma's brutal death, but when Annelise discovers there's a chance Emma survive, she hatches a plan to find a way into the castle.  Of course, on top of that is her school assignment to kill a fellow classmate.

Holy moley guacamole, The Keep was an intense novel!  I was on the edge of my proverbial seat the entire time, whether I was fanning myself reading about Annelise's relationship with Carden, or her discovery that Emma might still be alive, or her school assignment to kill a boy.  Yes, you read that right - that's an intense school assignment.  Given all the students that were instructed to complete that task, I mean, whoa, that's gonna cut down the graduation rate.  But the fact that Emma might still be alive: that's what I was really interested in and Annelise's plan to storm the castle, come head to head with some evil vampires, and rescue her friend.  Except...

Much of the plot revolved around Annelise's training and her dreaded school assignment.  They were all interesting, but... in the back of my mind I was thinking, "What about Emma!"  If you know your best friend might still be alive, why are you going to class like a normal person, when you could be storming the castle, right now?!?  Maybe I was a little frustrated with the pace of the novel, even though it was an edge-of-your-seat kind of read.

So finally what I thought was going to be the basis of the novel started happening towards the end and then suddenly... there were no pages left to read.  Wait, what just happened?  Some really big things were not resolved!  The press release I received with the book says this is the "fourth and final" book in the series.  Final?  Surely that can't be right. I sincerely suspect and hope that press release was wrong.

Four stars!  If you're already a fan of the series, you're definitely going to want to continue on.  But if you're new to The Watchers, I recommend picking it up and starting it.  It's an intense take on YA vampire lore that's sure to thrill.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I just joined Bloglovin since Google Reader will be no more after June.  I'll miss Google Reader, but it seems like the majority of book blogs I follow have transitioned to Bloglovin and it looks like a pretty simple site to use.  Sooo... YAY!  Follow me there!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Breath of Eyre

A Breath of Eyre
Eve Marie Mont
325 pages
Released: March 27, 2012
Publisher: KTeen
Source: purchased

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

There really was only one reason I wanted to read this book: Jane Eyre is my favorite piece of classic literature, so any sort of YA piece of fiction based off it is going to end up in my hands at some point.  PaperBackSwap was being slow, so I was ecstatic to find this in my favorite little used book shop in Decatur.  The YA section was filled with youths (*gasp!*) when I arrived and the one girl had it in her hand - I had to use some restraint to not snap it out of her hands and was happy she didn't actually want to buy it.  So I bought it.  For $3.99.  It seriously made my day and I started reading it right away - something I never do.

Was it worth it?  It certainly pulled me out of a funk, so I say yes, but the book only gets three and a half stars from this reader.  I'll tell you why - it felt pretty basic to me.  If the brief swearing and heavy petting and been removed, this very easily could have been a middle grade novel.  Let me start at the beginning, here.

Emma Townsend has just turned sixteen when she returns to her boarding school for a new school year.  She's glad to leave home because her step-mother isn't even coming close to filling her deceased mother's shoes, but things aren't super at school, either.  She's looked down by the rich kids because she's on scholarship and she has a wicked crush on her English teacher.  But she finds a new friend in her roommate and finds herself spending more time with a childhood friend attending a nearby school.

So Emma doesn't have a fantabulous life when she attends school, but it's not horrible either.  Of course, things start getting really interesting when she decides to use Jane Eyre as the basis for her English thesis.  When Emma is struck by lightening she finds herself waking not as herself, but as Jane, arriving at Mr. Rochester's Thornfield.  Emma finds herself right in the plot of Jane Eyre!  This was probably the most interesting part of the novel to me, the sections where Emma was Jane.  I loved the way she fell into the story and how it mirrored her reality somewhat.  It really made me want to reread Jane Eyre, which I haven't read since high school but still remains one of my favorite classics.

Of course, Emma's reality seems to be the more important part of the novel.  She's struggling with friend and roommate issues, as well as a little bit of boy trouble.  Emma and Gray have been friends for a long time, but they don't exactly fall in the same social circle.  So when things with Gray start getting a little serious, Emma's a little confused by that.  I loved watching the chemistry between Emma and Gray develop.  They were each completely different people than they originally assumed.  I was rooting for them, for sure.

Like I said, this one gets three and a half stars from me.  I loved the premise and Emma's world traveling was as interesting to read about as her new romance.  It really made me want to pick up and reread Jane Eyre again, which, by the way, you don't have to read in order to understand the plot of A Breath of Eyre.  Even though I found it a bit basic and predictable, I will definitely be continuing on with this series when I can.  Emma visits The Scarlet Letter in the next book!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Phoenix (Black City, #2)

Elizabeth Richards
350 pages
Releases: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Source: Goodreads win!

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

In Phoenix, Ash has risen from the dead to be with his love, Natalie.  But things aren't so happy-go-lucky for long, as Ash receives a visit from Purian Rose, who threatens to harm Natalie if Ash doesn't vote in favor to Rose's Law, which will ban Darklings permanently to a newly built concentration camp.  Will Ash be able to find the inner strength to battle Purian Rose and his racist political agenda?

You might recall from my review of Black City that I found similarities to Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Romeo & Juliet.  Well, that was not entirely the case with Phoenix.  If I had to pick one to compare it would be The Hunger Games because Purian Rose reminds me a lot of President Snow.  However, Phoenix is an inventive novel unto itself.  I found the plot on the whole to be unique and just as fast paced and exiting as Black City.  

Based off the prologue of the novel, my first impression of Phoenix was "Whoa, we're in for a good one!"  And we were!  Purian Rose was so angry that everything he worked for was being threatened by Ash that things soon became personal.  The energy of the plot is electric as we follow both what Purian Rose is doing to try and keep his political agenda in line, and what Ash is doing - that is, anything he can to stop Purian Rose from banishing his species to concentration camps.  Thus, even more so than Black City, Phoenix is filled with metaphors for real world problems like genocide and war.  The scenes where Ash, Natalie, and Elijah visit an old concentration camp were definitely spooky to read.

With Ash and Natalie's love story essentially taken care of in Black City, we're left with a truly political and revolution-based plot.  But that's not to say there isn't any kind of romance or sexual tension in Phoenix at all.  In fact, as Ash and Natalie are on their journey throughout the United Sentry States, they're accompanied by Elijah, whose life Natalie saved in Black City.  The tension and attraction between Natalie and Elijah in Phoenix was almost as palpable as that between Natalie and Ash in the first novel.  Something of a love triangle forms, leaving one to wonder - is the attraction Natalie feels for Ash nearly as strong as the attraction he feels for her?  The love triangle was a hugely interesting part of the plot to me, and I kept waiting for Natalie and Elijah to be alone together so I could see how they would interact.  

Four stars!  I read Black City last week because I knew I had won and needed to review Phoenix and it was great being able to read them back to back.  But now here's my problem: I have to wait until 2014 to read the next book!  I can't wait to see how Ash and Natalie's story continues.  If you haven't given this series a look yet, please do.  I don't think you'll regret it!  Phoenix is due out June 4th, so there's still time to read Black City!

PS:  There's a huge plot twist at the end of the novel that completely blindsided me.  Oh my goodness gracious, I must get my hands on the next book as soon as possible.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Free book alert! I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler

Here's something exciting - I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler is featured this week as the iBookstore Book of the Week!  So if you have iTunes and an Apple product to read a book on (iPad, iPhone, what have you...) head on over and check it out for free!

"I'm Not Her is a journey of self-discovery for one teen who learns more about herself and her relationship with her sister and family when tragedy strikes. Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that's okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. Yet the smiles of her picture-perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn't hold it together, who will?"

Ah sounds like a great contemporary.  And to celebrate I'm Not Her being the iBookstore Book of the Week, here's 10 Fun Facts about I'm Not Her from Janet Gurtler herself!

10 Fun Facts About I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler

1. In a hospital scene in I’m Not Her one of the nurses is named Tracey and she takes Kristina’s flowers home to her daughter, Carly.  Tracey is the name of my sister, Carly is her daughter in real life.
2. Every single one of my books has a character named Carly in it. This is a tribute to my niece, Carly. The characters are not based on her per se, but there has to be a Carly in my books. Like a superstition or good luck charm or something.
3. This book is dedicated to my sister Tracey.  I was able to keep it a secret until Final Page Proofs came in.
4. My niece Ciara plays volleyball and her nickname is CEE. She got recruited by a university in the States and is playing there. None of the volleyball players in the book were based on her though. She is a cool like a rock star.
5. I thought Clark Trent was a funny name because of Superman’s secret identity. The Superman cape Clark wears in a scene cracked me up.
6. I named a couple of the teachers in I’m Not Her after dogs I’ve had.  Peppsy (Mr. Pepson) and Meeko (Mr. Meekers)
7. In a scene Tess listens to Hedly on her iPod. I LOVE Jacob, the lead singer for the band. He was on the only season of Canadian Idol I watched.
8. I named the golf course that Nick works at and Tess’s Dad plays at after my husband. Largurt (Larry Gurtler)
9. I’m Not Her was originally called The Weight of Bones, but when I first started writing it I titled it Dance Big Sister.
10. Tess’s love of the Discovery Channel and Myth Busters were inspired by my son

Friday, May 17, 2013

Black City (Black City, #1)

Black City
Elizabeth Richards
374 pages
Released: November 13, 2012
Publisher: Speak
Source: Gifted/purchased (how did I end up with two copies of this one?)

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

It was good-bye reading slump when I picked up Black City!  Black City had two elements of what I love most in YA literature: short chapters and a fast, action-packed pace that made the book fly by.  I was eating it up!  Black City has a little something for every YA lover: it was action packed, had paranormal beings, and of course, a heart-pumping, steamy romance.

In a post-war world filled with humans and Darklings (a vampire-like species), Natalie is the daughter of a government official and Ash is half-Darking, half-human.  No one would expect these two to be together, but when Natalie starts a new school and they meet, they're instantly attracted to each other on a deep level.  But why?  What's pulling them together?  Meanwhile, their city is still recovering from a dramatic war and the government wants to segregate Darklings from humans.

I'm a girl, so you know I have to gush about this romance for a minute.  Yes, it was insta-love reminiscent of a Twilight kind of romance, but there was something so endearing about it.  The chemistry between Natalie and Ash is palpable and they were an exciting couple to read about.  By the end of the Black City I couldn't wait to pick up the sequel to find out how their story continued.

What I really liked about Black City, beyond the exceptional romance between Natalie and Ash, were the issues Black City covered.  So much more than a fluffy teenage romance, Black City covers serious topics like racism, war, and prejudice.  As I was reading, I also found parallels to the Holocaust.  Black City really helps demonstrate to the reader how unfair prejudice is and how all people should be treated as equals.

Five stars!  As I was reading I came across similarities to Twilight, Hunger Games, and Romeo & Juliet.  It might seem contradictory, but Black City flows so well I was turning the pages late into the night.  Overall, I loved Elizabeth Richard's debut novel and since I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of its sequel, Phoenix, due out this June - I've already started reading it!  Get on this series as soon as you can, it's going to be big!

Help support Brian Rowe's latest project!

In 2011 and 2012 author Brian Rowe contacted me to review his Happy Birthday trilogy and I loved them.  So when he recently contacted me about his latest endeavor, I was interested.  Over The Rainbow is Brian's latest work and is the story of a teenage girl whose family tries to send her to "anti-gay" camp when she falls in love with another girl.  As you might guess from the little, it's based off The Wizard of Oz, which seems to be all the rage right now.  Sounds great, right?  But Brian needs a little help from book lovers to get this project moving, which is why he started a Kickstarter campaign seeking donations.

I'm going to get on my tiny soapbox for a minute.  Brian is a talented writer and his Kickstarter page mentions that he's tried to submit Over The Rainbow to some publishers, but even though they liked the book, they won't take it on because they don't know how to sell a book with a lesbian female protagonist.  This is unfortunate to me.  It's about time that traditional publishers start figuring out how to market these books.  In fact, I don't think it would be all that difficult because I'm positive there's an audience for this kind of thing.

So now I'm stepping off my soapbox to tell you how you can get involved!  Visit Brian's Kickstarter page to learn more about the book, read an excerpt, and consider donating for his project.  The money will be used for marketing, a new cover, and a professional book trailer.  Everyone who donates gets a little somethin'-something' in return.

PS: Here and here are the links to my reviews of Brian's Happy Birthday trilogy.  If you haven't had a chance to check them out, consider getting the ebooks - or even better, donate to his Kickstarter campaign and get the ebooks for free!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fall of Night (Morganville Vampires, #14)

Fall of Night
Rachel Caine
338 pages
Released: May 7, 2013
Publisher: NAL
Source: the publisher

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I'm still in love with this series and as always, the latest installment has me salivating for the next.  Fall of Night picks up where Bitter Blood left off - Claire is leaving Morganville for the elite halls of MIT and a personalized graduate program.  Things are different, exciting, and a little bit terrifying for Clarie in Massachusetts.  Her roommate is an old high school friend, but comes complete with a crazy stalker.  And Claire can't completely escape Morganville - her professor is also from there, and when they begin to work on Claire's invention, things quickly get out of control.

There was something refreshing about the latest Morganville Vampires book... the setting.  We're taken out of Morganville and transported to MIT - new characters, new plots, new experiences - a breath of fresh air!  And while I really enjoyed the new experiences Claire was facing, I also loved that she couldn't really escape Morganville.   Her professor hails from that very town and it really demonstrated how the vampire world is much bigger than Claire originally thought.  Who knows what other places Claire might find herself in in the future.

The most exciting part of the novel to me was Claire's relationship with her old friend/roommate, Liz (who seemed to have some sort of personality disorder, maybe?) and her crazy stalker.  This guy was seriously creepy.  Of course, Claire's work on her VLAD device was also interesting to read about.  If I lived around vampires, I could see the benefit of a device that would hold off attack.  Think of how profitable that device would be!

I don't want to give anything away, but I will just say I really liked how Shane was in this book.  That's all I'm going to say about that.   I can't wait to see where the next book takes us!  I'll be waiting eagerly for Daylighters, due out this fall!