Saturday, November 23, 2013

Blog Tour: The Lair (The Farm, #2) by Emily McKay

The Lair
Emily McKay
424 pages
Released: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Source: the publisher

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

NOTE: This review will contain SPOILERS from The Farm.  Proceed with caution.

Just about a year ago I read and reviewed The Farm and really enjoyed it.  It was unique and I spent most of the time while reading it on the edge of my seat, so naturally when the opportunity arose to review The Lair, the sequel to The Farm, I was all over that.  (FTC: I received a copy from the publisher for free, but that did not affect my review.)

The Lair picks up where The Farm left off - Mel is now a vampire and must come to terms with not only her new existence, but also the fact that her autism is now gone.  The world is a completely different place for her as she navigates vampirism with Sebastian - the vamp that changed her.  Meanwhile, Lily and Carter arrive at Base Camp with a very pregnant McKenna.

I was on the edge of my seat while reading The Farm and I was for most of The Lair, as well.  This fast paced follow-up is full of twists and turns to keep you on your toes.  Lily and Carter are forever trying to come up with a plan when before you know, circumstances have changed and so must their plans.  I guess it just goes to show, if you're living in a post-apocalytpic world filled with vampires and Ticks - you've got to be flexible!

Pretty much everything in The Lair was interesting to read about - there are so many things I could talk about!  Relationships are key in this series and there are two major ones that come to mind - Lily and Carter, and Lily and Mel.  Lily and Carter's romance was in high gear in the first novel, and while they are still together in the second, I didn't feel that same chemistry between them.  Maybe times are just too stressful for them to have that kind of chemistry, since pretty much everything falls on the line in The Lair.  And course - Lily and Mel who have spent all their days together until point when they are separated for the first time ever.  I admired their courage and resilience in being apart, though they never forgot about one another.

In addition, I was immediately drawn more into McKenna's story this time around since the birth of her baby as imminent.  In a world with essentially no doctors, I knew teenage pregnancy could be dangerous, but imagine trying to handle being pregnant while also fearing for life.  I can't even.  McKenna is such a quietly courageous character and I rooted her, especially in her birth scenes.

Of course, probably the most interesting part of the novel was the ending - now, obviously I cannot give that away, but there were several moments of "What?! I did not see that coming!"  The whole ending set up the scene for what I can only assume is a forthcoming third book, although Goodreads is quiet on that matter.

Four stars!  I really liked The Farm and The Lair was an impressive followup.  The only complaint I have is I wish there had been more Mel in this book, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of her in the next novel.  If you haven't started this thrilling series yet, you might want to check it out soon!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gratitude Giveaway Hop!

Thank you thank you thank you!  I love the Gratitude Giveaway Hop because it's a way to thank my followers for just that - following me!  Enter via the Rafflecopter below to win a ten dollar Amazon e-gift card.  All you have to do is follow me one way or another: GFC, Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, Twitter (@daspanda)… however you want!  Thanks so much!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Reunion Lie

The Reunion Lie
Lucy King
224 pages
Publisher: Harlequin KISS
Releases: November 19, 2013
Source: NetGalley

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

On a whim, Zoe decided to attend her high school reunion despite the fact that she was bullied by practically everyone in attendance.  She thought her successful professional career would finally impress them, but instead all they care about is her love life.  On the spot she makes up a boyfriend and convinces a stranger at the bar to play the pretend boyfriend… but little does she know that Dan Forrester is more than she bargained for and soon the two are embarking on something much more real.

Ah!  It's so strange for me to get all excited over a romance novel, but I really liked this book!  I was drawn in right away and read the whole thing on one sitting, turning the page as fast as I could so I could see what was going to happen next.  It is a romance novel, so we know how it's going to end, but watching Zoe and Dan get there was so much fun, they took so many twists and turns it was like a roller coaster.  And you know I'm a sucker for romances where the girl accidentally falls in love with a famous person (Decked with Holly by Marni Bates is another great read, especially this time of year!)

What I loved the most was the way the author tied Zoe's past as a high school student in with her current life.  As a fan of YA, I really enjoyed that realistic glimpse at Zoe's past and how she was still struggling to overcome it. As we all know, Bullying is a real epidemic right now and a book focusing on the outcomes for those who are bullied will always be relevant.  Zoe didn't need saving, but it was great to see Dan's primal instincts come out when he found out about the bullying.  That's when I knew they had to be together!

A quick note about the Harlequin KISS line of books - it's a relatively new line for the publisher and I've been wanting to try them out for awhile now because they seemed so refreshing.  This is the second books I've read from the line and I've really enjoyed both.  They seem to feature independent, driven women who know how to balance their careers with love.  They also feature some pretty steamy scenes, which is always a plus, eh?

Four stars!  The Reunion Lie and the rest of the Harlequin KISS line seems like a refreshing change for the romance publisher.  I'm looking forward to reading more KISS books soon and I recommend them for those readers who like traditional romance occasionally, but are sick of the formulated plot lines.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
April Genevieve Tucholke
360 pages
Released: August 15, 2013
Publisher: Dial
Source: library

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Another YA book with shockingly absent parents, but Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was absolutely fantastic.  I spent most of the novel quite enthralled with the storyline.  Twins Violet and Luke live in a huge, old mansion in a small town.  Their parents are off painting who knows what in Europe. so they're left to their own devices for the summer.  Violet is reading outside one day when River West, a complete stranger, shows up to rent her guesthouse.  But soon things in town start getting strange; children claiming to have seen the devil, brandishing sticks in a cemetery; a man slits his throat and commits suicide right in the middle of town; a little girl goes missing... something's going very wrong and even though Violet thinks River has something to do with it, she's too in love to care.

Right, so how can you not be drawn in by a plot like that?  River was admittedly swoon-worthy when he's first introduced in the novel and even though it was obvious something was up with River, like Violet I just didn't care.  Their romance is front and center at the beginning of the book, and while it was insta-love, it wasn't the kind so many readers roll their eyes at.  Instead, their insta-love was an integral part of the plot because it was River who made it happen.

But soon it's not just Violet that's affected by River, it's practically the whole town and that's when I snapped out of my dreamy "I love this book because of the love!" and realized something was seriously wrong with River.  The difficult part, however, was figuring out what was wrong with River.  River is liar and it's hard to know when he's telling the truth.  So it was a bit of a relief when one of this relatives showed up to clear things up.  Meanwhile, people were dying and children were acting crazy.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a definite page turner.  If it wasn't one thing then it was another that kept me turning the pages.  Mixed in is a mystery surrounding Vi's deceased grandmother and their family history.  And if you thought all I've mentioned so far sounds crazy, just you wait until the climax of the novel!  I can't even... I was so concerned when I finished the book, I had to rush and find out if there was a planned sequel, and thank goodness there is.

Four stars!  If you love creepy book, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a must read!  It ended in such a fashion, I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel... in summer 2014.  *gulp*  What a long wait.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

The Darkest Path

The Darkest Path
Jeff Hirsch 
336 pages
Released: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: NetGalley

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Oh, what a bummer.  I absolutely loved The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, and I thought Magisterium was pretty good, too, so when I saw The Darkest Path on NetGalley I was like, "Hell yeah I want to read that!"  I feel kind of deflated now and this review will probably be short because I hate writing bad reviews.

There's a civil war going on in the United States, or what's left of it anyway, and Callum and his younger brother are in the Glorious Path - a militant religious group slowly taking over the country.  But Cal wants out, so he and his brother set out with a dog named Bear.  His brother returns to the Glorious Path, but Cal continues on... battles, trouble, and convienient help ensue.

The Darkest Path is a boy book.  Now before you get all up in arms about gender-izing books, let me tell you I'm the last person to believe in "boy books" and "girl books."  Books are books if you like them, great, and if you don't, I don't think your gender has much to do with it.  But as I read The Darkest Path, all I could think was that it was a boy book and it's hard to say why specifically.  Perhaps it was the violence or the crummy romance story, but I've enjoyed plenty of other books filled with violence (Quarantine, for example) or crummy romances (hello, Twilight was my first book love).

Let me get off of that topic though and give you some real reasons The Darkest Path didn't do it for me.  The plot didn't hold my attention - that's number one.  I kept putting the book down and picking it up days later.  Number two - it was a bit confusing.  Every time I picked the book back up, I had to remind myself which side was which and who was winning.  And thirdly, the romance.  As I mentioned before, it was pretty crummy and didn't do much for me, which is fine I guess because the romance was the main point of the story.

On the positive side, I do think the book has a serious and important political message.  But I hate talking about politics in public places, so it's up to you to read and figure that one out for yourself.

Augh, I just don't know, but this one gets only two stars, unfortunately.  But if you're a dude, pick this up and give it a try.  Maybe I should make my husband read it and tell me what he thinks...

Reality Boy

Reality Boy
A.S. King
368 pages
Released: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown
Source: NetGalley

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I'll admit it up front, I've never read anything by A.S. King before, so I didn't really know what to except out of Reality Boy, except that its description on NetGalley really drew me in.  I didn't get anything close to what I excepted though - I thought I was going to get a fluffy comedy piece about a kid who used to be on television and is now struggling with the after effects.  I expected maybe a three star book filled with humor, instead I got a hard-hitting, honest book, filled with realistic, raw emotion... a five star read hands down and you should pick up a copy today.

Gerald was five when a camera crew came into his home to film some episodes for Network Nanny (think Super Nanny).  Soon Gerald was known across the country as "The Crapper," the kid who crapped on the kitchen table, his sister's bed, and his parents' shoes.  But now Gerald is seventeen and the world still knows him as "The Crapper."  Gerald has anger issues and he desperately wants to escape his public persona, but how?

I immediately realized Reality Boy wasn't going to be fluffy at all, but that turned out to be for the best because what I did get was a book I couldn't put down.  I was sucked into the story right away, which alternated between Gerald's present time and scenes from episodes.  The stories unravel simultaneously and it becomes apparent quickly that Gerald isn't crapping on tables for a simple "behavior" problem.  Instead, there are deeper family issues at work.  But evidently deeper family issues don't sell interesting television, because for the entire book "Nanny"did not pay attention to what young Gerald or his siblings were trying to tell her.  Instead, the shows were scripted and scenes were filmed repeatedly.  The story the public saw was fake, so is it any wonder they thought Gerald was just some dumb kid who crapped on his family's things.

But I really and truly felt bad for Gerald for the emotional abuse his sister and mother put him though.  As the novel continues both Gerald and the reader learn about what really happened and I was appalled at his mother.  I don't want to spoil it, but I don't understand how any mother can act in the way she did and then try to get pity for herself.  I certainly didn't give her any.

There's also a love connection in Reality Boy and while it was a significant part of the novel, it wasn't a love-y dove-y romance at all.  In fact, Gerald's anger coach and told him repeated to not get involved with girls because eventually they would just do things that angered him.  But when Gerald met Hannah and they started to fall for each other, I knew he had no choice but to give love a chance.  Their relationship added a real balance to the story line and helped keep Gerald grounded.  They had their cute romance moments, but it was clear that each of them needed the other for a little bit of saving.

And how incredibly poignant at this day in age, when "reality" television dominates the airwaves, the more dramatic the better for ratings, but who really thinks about what it does to people?  How about the young children on these shows, what will their lives be like when they're teenagers?  I was thinking about the Gosselin children the most as a I read this book - America was fascinated with their family and then there was all kinds of fallout regarding both of their parents.  How will they grow up?  Only time will tell, but maybe we should be using Reality Boy as a warning.

Five stars!  Read this book!