Friday, September 30, 2011

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
Good Reads Summary
 
The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what's been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. "The Language of Flowers" is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.

My Thoughts

Victoria Jones’s life is not easy. The story begins with her emancipation and shifts back several times to moments of when she was nine and living with Elizabeth. It is this particular time in her life that will shed some light on why she is the way she is: emotionally distant and maker of one crappy decision after another… and yet, I wanted to see her through. Why? Because despite all her imperfections, I sympathized with her; everything she’d gone through and was going through was a struggle.

One aspect of this story is the deeper meaning of things- flowers, specifically. What she had learned there was a key part of how she saw herself and how she interacted with others. It is this aspect that was new to me but was surprisingly addictive. I loved the novelty of getting your meaning across by other means.

The writing is simple but addictive… it isn’t high octane/action packed as what I’d normally read instead leaning more to the emotional. Should I add that the change in her fortunes read impossibly convenient? I should, but honestly nothing felt forced to me. In fact the ‘fairy godmother’ figures (‘figures’ as there were several,) in here felt plausible to me. If there’s anything I’d complain about it was that Grant’s role was not done justice. I wanted a little bit more. That they shared a common history, and that they shared a passion for flowers, were things I knew; I knew little beyond those. Yet I must not complain, because like Victoria, Grant too was as shaped by their history.

The Language of Flowers is full of emotion~ soft ones, sad ones, depressing ones, at times joyful ones... but in the end it’s mainly about redemption.

Thanks Net Galley!
4/5

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Sweet, Terrible ,Glorious Year I Completely Lost it by Lisa Shanahan

The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It

Good Reads Summary


IN MY FAMILY, when anyone rides the wave of their emotions, we say they're chucking a birkett. When the emotion drives out all common sense, we say they're chucking a big one. The telltale signs are: flaming cheeks, shortness of breath, bulging eyes, and a prolonged illogical outburst.

Gemma Stone is convinced that it's always unseemly to chuck a birkett and that it's actually insane to chuck one in front of a complete stranger. But that was before she fell for a boy who barely knows she exists, before she auditioned for the school play, before she met the family of freaks her sister Debbie is marrying into, before the unpredictable Raven De Head took an interest in her, and before she realized that at the right time and for the right reason, a birkett could be a beautiful thing.


My Thoughts

It’s sweet, cute and ridiculously over the top. Her family is so out there that it’s a wonder Gemma didn’t throw more fits (or “birketts” as she calls them) than she did. The characters are absolutely darling though, and Gemma, the most darling of all. The best thing (and worse thing) about her, is how aware she was. She knew precisely who her family was and what they could be. She was also perfectly aware of how she could act and what she ought not do. The sad thing was despite this knowing, she could behave just as atrociously as others did!

As to what she thought of her family, I loved how they came across…outrageously hilarious and sometimes impossibly insane… what with her sister’s bride-zilla impersonation and her father’s inability to put a sock in it. Yet, there was an obvious affection that tied them together. There had to be an affection, for I simply do not know what would have convinced her to wear a swan get-up as the flower girl despite being 14!

Of course there’s the young girl side of her… crushes and all that, that had me a little swoony. Even this part of her I enjoyed. She’s hopelessly shy, but was crushing on Nick.. it’s this that gets her to audition for a part in a play. And it’s here that she got to know who was “real” and who was not.

Then there’s Raven. It’s Raven’s part of the story that brought out the swoony girly-girl in me, but at the same time had me blinking some tears back because it’s his side of the story that’s tinged with the sad. (I don’t think I have read an Aussie book without a hint of sad in it…)

While a good deal of it is over the top and funny (all care of Gemma,) there’s a sad bit that stems from a not so perfect family (Raven’s.) Goodness me! I really enjoyed this one even though I feel like I could have had an ending that was a bit more stretched out…

3.5/5

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unsticky by Sarra Manning

Unsticky
Good Reads Summary

High fashion, high art, high expectations – this is Pretty Woman for the twenty-first century Money makes the world go round – that’s what twenty-something Grace Reeves is learning. Stuck in a grind where everyone’s ahead apart from her, she’s partied out, disillusioned, and massively in debt. If she’s dumped by another rock-band wannabe, squashed by anyone else at her cut-throat fashion job, or chased by any more bailiffs, Grace suspects she’ll fall apart…

So when older, sexy and above all, wealthy art-dealer Vaughn appears, she’s intrigued against her will. Could she handle being a sugar daddy’s arm candy?

Soon Grace is thrown into a world of money and privilege, at Vaughn’s beck and call in return for thousands of pounds in luxurious gifts, priceless clothes – and cash. Where’s the line between acting the trophy girlfriend, and selling yourself for money?

And, more importantly: whatever happened to love?


My Thoughts

I’m torn between hating everyone in this book to loving it (mostly because I cannot stop thinking about them.) It’s an absolute puzzle really. There was nothing good in them! The girl went from being superficial, whiny and a doormat then worse, and the boy (If I can call Vaughn that) is controlling, manipulative, emotionally stunted and was absolute arse on SEVERAL occasions.

So, why was I reading it again? Should I say it was their very imperfection that drew me? I suppose so because I just could not pull myself away from it. Even if several times I had to relax my jaws from clenching too hard, too long, too frequently. Even if I had to put UNSTICKY down several times because my stomach simply ached at how badly he could treat her… and that she would let him! And it was a feeling that I felt that kept up a good portion of the book. Because ten percent in, twenty percent in… ninety percent, I was still wondering at what a sad pair they made at how broken they were, and at how incredibly fucked up they came across.

I really can’t say as I loved their story, and I might even go out on a limb and say I hated them at times (dislike is too tame a word.) I made the mistake that UNSTICKY would be an easy read… quick, and fun, and maybe with a few moments of me tearing up a little. I was wrong. Both of them made me angry as both of them screwed up time and again, but as their ending suggests, maybe they were made for each other.

It started as a two for me, then steadily increased to an almost four, but I’m swayed by the fact that if really don’t like them as individuals, but in sad romantic way still hold hope for them as a couple. I’m going with a 3.5/5

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield

All I Ever Wanted
Good Reads Summary

Mim knows what she wants, and where she wants to go — anywhere but home, stuck in the suburbs with her mother who won't get off the couch, and two brothers in prison. She's set herself rules to live by, but she's starting to break them.

Now Mim has to retrieve a lost package for her mother.

Does this make her a drug runner?

Why is a monster dog called Gargoyle hidden in the back shed?

And Jordan, the boy she sent Valentines to for years, why is he now suddenly a creep?

How come there's a huge gap between her and her best friend, Tahnee?

And who is the mysterious girl next door who moans at night?

Over the nine days before her seventeenth birthday, Mim's life turns upside down. She has problems, and she's determined to solve them herself. But in the end, she works out who her people are, and the same things look entirely different. 


My Thoughts


It's been two days since I read this and still don't think what I have to say will do it justice. I LOVED THIS. And while I do believe Marchetta to be the queen of complicated, emotional relationships, All I Ever Wanted left me feeling a little of what I feel every time I pick up The Piper's Son or Saving Francesca or Jellicoe Road. And why? It's the people in it, their screwy relationship; it's how they weren't all lovey dovey for each other but simply present. Add to all that a whimsical element, well it had me smiling a little more. But that there's friendship, old and new, both as complicated and nuanced as the other, had me wanting more. Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Mim has a set of rules about what NOT to become, about how to get out. I suppose the story line of being stuck and wanting to get out, to escape has been done time and again... It has. But, Mim's story stuck to me, is sticking to me. Her version of wanting to get out is so honest... and skewed at the same time. It's angst y and peppered with 'my life is shit' moments, yet I can not find it in me to poke fun at her (as I probably would have otherwise.) Why? What she knows of her 'people' is not a pretty picture and how she grew up was unconventional but like I said, her version of things is skewed. And that ending, had me hoping a little more for her mainly because of her 'people.'

She could be such a brat... and she could  act like one knowingly! I admired her spunk, but at the same time I also wanted her to open her eyes. She kept saying she didn't look down on them, kept saying she didn't hate any of them... but she did, didn't she? So when friendships started to unravel, and her lofty world view started to get shaken up... I needed to know how things would turn out for all of them, Mim, her mother, and Mim's friends.

I can't say that I was surprised by her behavior... because she simply wanted something different. But when it came to other aspects she could be so slow on the uptake. Don't get me wrong, the boy in this one had lovely moments. But moments alone! On the whole he behaved worse than she did. And what's worse is his awareness of her, though much craved earlier, came at the heels of what I felt as 'I want it because I can't have it.' (I hope I'm making sense.)

There are a lot of bitter moments between her and her bestfriend. Their shared history came clear across in how they behaved with each other. And while I didn't like what either of them did or how thoughtless cruel they could be to each other, I bought that there was a them. As to the new friendships formed, I enjoyed the discoveries they made in each other, and how their assumptions of the other turned out otherwise as with Lola and her job, or Kate and her nerddom... and how those two saw Mim, as brave out there and sure of herself. Then there were even more bitter moment between her and her mother. And yet, all was not as she had assumed.

I loved this... the people are far from perfect, so she viewed them as such... and almost missed out on the good in them.

* I went back to copy some good lines out of this. I stopped counting my bookmarks somewhere around
fifteen.

READ THIS!
4/5

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson

The Fox Inheritance
Good Reads Summary


Once there were three. Three friends who loved each other—Jenna, Locke, and Kara. And after a terrible accident destroyed their bodies, their three minds were kept alive, spinning in a digital netherworld. Even in that disembodied nightmare, they were still together. At least at first. When Jenna disappeared, Locke and Kara had to go on without her. Decades passed, and then centuries.
Two-hundred-and-sixty years later, they have been released at last. Given new, perfect bodies, Locke and Kara awaken to a world they know nothing about, where everyone they once knew and loved is long dead.

Everyone except Jenna Fox.


My Thoughts

just as i was about to type this up, the thought that it would be difficult flitted through my mind. as a fan of the first one, i wondered if a follow up truly was necessary (heck, i even thought its epilogue was superfluous.) jenna's story was one of my first psychological thriller (masked as sci fi) reads. and i loved almost every moment of it. so i really wondered if a follow up was necessary.

answer: maybe not, but i read it anyway. you need not have read the first to get the story of this one, but you'll appreciate it more if you do. some of it covers the same things as jenna's story: that of aftermath. only where jenna's is of the physical ~ what she could eat, what she could and could not do; locke's and kara's is one that's more emotional/mental vis the experience of being isolated, the description ( the horrors) of the same. this aspect got a little clearer with each 'lapse' that happened. if only that aspect had been explored more... because beyond that, their story shifts from the psychological thriller that marked jenna to another kind of thriller of chases and knock downs. not bad, but it did get a tad predictable at times.

i liked parts of this. in the same way that i liked parts of locke and kara. with locke, i could feel conflict and guilt... loads of guilt. with kara, it was anger and calculation that jumped at me. and that ending had jenna climbing higher in my esteem too. climbing higher, you might ask, well... let's just say that kara's anger made sense
to me.

2.5/5

Friday, September 23, 2011

Forbidden (Book of Mortals #1 ) by Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee

Forbidden (The Books of Mortals, #1)
Good Reads Summary


New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker teams with Tosca Lee to create this gripping thriller set in a desolate future.

A terrible truth has been revealed to one man: the entire human race has been drained of every emotion except one— fear. To bring life back to the world, Rom must embark on a journey that will end either in his own demise or a reawakening of humanity. But to bring love and passion back into existence will also threaten the powers of the world with the revolution and anarchy that had nearly destroyed them previously.

After happening upon a journal through strange circumstance, Rom's world is shattered. He learns that humanity long ago ceased to "live," that it exists today in a living death of emotions. In a terrible risk, Rom exposes himself to the vial of blood folded into the old leather of the journal. His change is fearful and fraught with mind-bending emotion. A once-pious observer of the Order's passionless statues, he is filled with uncontrollable impulses. He is filled with love.

He is undone, terrified, and alone in the desolate world.

My Thoughts

***There be spoilers ahead***

I am restraining the urge to go all fangirly, given that is the first book of Dekker’s that I’ve read. But me saying ‘I liked this’ is quite the understatement. I don’t know what I was expecting when I first started it, but not this: Forbidden, with some (not all) of its well drawn characters. Or Forbidden, with its political intrigue.  Or Forbidden with its world of fear.

The world. I should not compare this one to Delirium, but it’s what came to mind upon reading the first few pages. The difference is this world came out as more plausible than the latter. In Lena’s world, peace is attained by wiping out love. Here, it is every other emotion that has been repressed, save fear. And it is fear that has led a relatively peaceful world. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Delirium… it’s just that there were some obvious (read gaping) plot holes in it. Forbidden, just took the same thing (repression of emotion for a kind sameness and fear-filled people guided toward Order,) dealt with it better (I still have questions, but I did buy most of it.)

The characters. The lot of them were so far from perfect that I wanted to drop-kick one, some or all of them at one point or another. But at least they some were well drawn. I could understand what motivated them. Note that understanding the why of someone’s actions does not mean I have to like said action.  Take Neah, whose familiarity with fear had her acting in a certain way. Or Feyn, Sovereign- to-be, whose acts revealed not just her wisdom, but faith too. There is, however, a moment in it when a certain someone loses it after losing someone (a la- “My world has ended and thus, I too want to end.) Yet I wasn’t as annoyed as I normally would be. Why? The context, take someone who had known nothing but fear plunk emotion in then let them lose something precious. So yeah, I get why said someone lost it.

Political intrigue. I would never have considered myself a fan of such a thing, but a lot of things in this one just drew me in. Wanting to know what someone would do, being surprised by another’s actions… I really enjoyed a lot of this. But Forbidden isn’t dry nor that difficult to follow. The ‘baddie’ in this one was motivated and ambitious, contrary to the norm. So he simply stood out. Of course, a lot of the time he felt like the token crazy bad guy, but there were bits when I caught glimpses of conflict in him and it was those moments that creeped me out and had me curious about what he would do next.

Like I said, I’ve never read anything by Dekker before… but Forbidden is epic fantasy meets a utopia/dystopia. It’s an epic fantasy of man/boy on quest with people aiding him along the way. His quest?  To find something, (here it’s a someone.) Those who helped him? A  warrior, his Heart and Keepers of knowledge. Then stick them in a society that’s not quite complete particularly since people are limited (even if they are unaware of it.)

I can’t help it:

Photobucket



THANKS NET GALLEY!
4.5/5

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Also Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher

 Good Reads Summary

Bobby Steele and his pals, Marcus and Big Poobs, all public school kids from working class backgrounds, are waiting for tenth grade to start when they come across an application form for Whitestone Academy, a prestigious and posh private school. Just for giggles, they decide that a nonexistent kid should apply—and so Rowan Pohi is born. (Named for their favorite hangout, Pohi is IHOP spelled backwards.) Amazingly enough, the phantom Rowan is accepted at Whitestone. Eager to escape the boredom of public school and his unhappiness at home,
Bobby shows up at Whitestone’s new student orientation, reinventing himself as Rowan. He begins a  suspenseful career as an impostor, hoping that the two worlds he’s living in will stay separate forever. For a short, exhilarating time, they do. Ralph Fletcher’s signature light touch in addressing serious issues in young people’s lives is evident in this story of identity lost and found.


My Thoughts

Also Known as Rowan Pohi is a quick read- but that same fact doesn't make it an easy one. A couple of moments had me fanning suspiciously damp eyes. And for what? A teenage boy's made up alter ego? The same boy working out the aftermath of his mother leaving? Or was it, the same boy working out things with his dad?

Mostly, it's that last item... a lot of the things between them hit very close to home. Like Bobby, I could be judgmental... but like Bobby, there's also a moment when one just has to go, 'He is who he is.'

Bobby isn't perfect at all. He lies, on paper and to almost everyone's face... but I could forgive him, if not completely, then a little. Simply because he and his had gone through so much already. Add the fact that I couldn't help but admire how clearly he thought of himself and his situation... and how accepting he was of his mother's choice.

As to his father, I think what happened to him is what I found missing in SPLIT. Bobby senior dealt with the consequences of his actions. I have to respect that. Another thing that struck me was Bobby's thoughts on before's and after's. That his after left him absolutely aware of who his father was and what he could do.

But there were heartwarming moments too.. especially between brothers. I loved that he loved Cody! Even when faced with the hard things, the big brother in him came  through. But it was the simple things of reading a bed time story or shopping when inconvenient that warmed Bobby to me. Then add the fact that he is a goofball. Proof? What other proof than he and his friends coming up with an alter ego and him becoming the same?

It's quick, quirky but not always easy...

Thanks Net Galley!
3/5

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

Witch Eyes
Good Reads Summary

Braden was born with witch eyes: the ability to see the world as it truly is: a blinding explosion of memories, darkness, and magic. The power enables Braden to see through spells and lies, but at the cost of horrible pain.

After a terrifying vision reveals imminent danger for the uncle who raised and instructed him, Braden retreats to Belle Dam, an old city divided by two feuding witch dynasties. As rival family heads Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe desperately try to use Braden's powers to unlock Belle Dam's secrets, Braden vows never to become their sacrificial pawn. But everything changes when Braden learns that Jason is his father--and Trey, the enigmatic guy he's falling for, is Catherine's son.

To stop an insidious dark magic from consuming the town, Braden must master his gift—and risk losing the one he loves.


My Thoughts

I have had my fill of girls going swoon-y over mysterious boys, so of late I’ve been picking up one YA after another with boy protagonists. I haven’t regretted my decision so far. From Anna Dressed in Blood to Ward Against Death, everything that’s passed my hands have been winners in their own right. Where Cas was smug and confident and Ward was coming into his own (if just a bit unsure of what he could should do,) here Braden is something in the middle: he knows he’s special with Witch Eyes and all, yet is unintentionally aware of the goings on around him. And then add that he was also getting used to who he was. So 10 %  in, I was feeling a bit ho-hum about it all (as in, “I think I’ve read this before,”) then I got to chapter nine, then chapter ten, then lo, it was over!

So what do I say now?

It’s a bit like Romeo and Juliet with the family feuds and children of the same falling for each other. Only in Witch Eyes everyone was more suspicious, everyone was holding something back from the other. It’s also a bit like Morganville, as in a town where something suspicious was going on, but for one reason or another, people looked the other way.  And you know what? I liked it! Never mind that Braden sometimes came across a little like Ethan in Beautiful Creatures, because I liked getting to know him. And I also liked getting to know everyone else around him. It’s just too bad that the people weren’t as developed as I would have liked because then I might have taken away more from/of them.

All that said, things did progress quickly with most my questions answered. While Braden’s story isn’t a romance (thank gosh,) there is an element of that that's present, so I cannot help but comment on it. He and Trey made like a believable/likeable couple: awkward at first, a bit unsure later on, and later still, suspicious with a mix of protective and attracted to consider. I was rooting for them because I simply enjoyed watching them interact.

3.5/5
 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
Good Reads Summary

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. 


But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.


My Thoughts

Even in Part One, I felt myself getting antsy and impatient for that final meet up. Reading this required a lot of patience and a shifting of gears on my part. Where I’m accustomed to things happening right off the bat, here Morgenstern takes pains in laying the groundwork. As a result I felt as Celia and Marco did: excited, resigned, and nervous… antsy for a confrontation.

It’s not told in a linear fashion of a first, a then and a finally, rather it jumps back and forth from past to present… and this is just one thing to get used to. But that we have to consider what is expected of them was another thing. Exactly what was supposed to happen?

With a contest of sorts at hand, I found it hard to follow especially not knowing precisely what the rules were, or what the end game would be. But I read on as they both prepared for the same thing in totally different ways, and all the while I found myself trying to pick one to root for one, and not being able to do so because both of them were impressive.. As to the rest, (and they really were just “the rest,” as in extra,) I had my questions for/about them too.

The characters are a study in contrast, where Prospero/Bowen and Alexander are both driven, they did act quite differently: where one was hands on, the other took a more academic approach. But it’s not just the differences that I should emphasize, it’s the characters themselves! I really wanted to know what they had to gain from all of it. And as the story progressed (and it did albeit slowly,) a little more of their shared history was revealed.

So, Harry Potter? I think not! The Night Circus is different, and while it takes some getting used, it’s got loads to offer on its own: magic, mystery and romance.

Read this!
3.5/5

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ward Against Death (Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer #1) by Melanie Card

Ward Against Death (Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer, # 1)
Good Reads Summary

Twenty-year-old Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple job—bring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeon—the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying—so bringing people back from the dead it is.

But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.

However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive…


My Thoughts

This book has a lot going for it: a kick ass heroine, a goofy guy who is in over his head, a cool plot of necromancer meets assassin and action, lots and lots of action! (And then throw in a romance that could have gotten old quickly had there been no role reversal to keep things new.)

The characters are most definitely the most interesting aspect. I enjoyed both of them where he’s “forgetful professor” in the making, she’s all femme fatale. And oh geez, they were fun to meet! The sad/funny part is all Ward; he is so unaware of what’s going on and so unsure about his role in it but he puts his game face time and again and tries to help out. And the kick ass bit? That is all on account of Celia… whom I loved!

As to the story, well that I finished it in a blink must say something. It is quirk filled, funny and fast paced, and refreshing! Their world is wonderfully different. Take assassins on one hand then necromancers on the other then there’s bound to (and was) magic, guilds and flying arrows! Fun! I really enjoyed them reveal each aspect of their world; instead of describing things everything was revealed in a way that went smoothly.

The basic problem is that she’s dead and needs him around because he is a necromancer… things don’t stay that way though given his attraction to her, his reluctant attraction to her. She’s dead, he has brought her back to life, yet he is strangely attracted to her… if that isn’t interesting, Well, I don’t know what is! The best aspect of this romance is that it’s the boy who’s sunk because the girl is too kick ass and involved in her own issues to give the same thing (much) thought. And even better is how they improved each other, where he gets a better grip of his abilities because of her, she evolves into someone less bad ass because of him. I truly enjoyed how their relationship developed of course the chemistry between the two added a bit more of something for me to like.

So, a kick ass heroine, a goofy guy who is in over his head, then a cool plot of necromancer meets assassin and action, and then some romance...well, read this!

4/5

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Department 19 (Department 19 #1) by Will Hill

Department 19 (Department 19, #1)
Good Reads Summary


Jamie Carpenter's life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein's monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.

Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond - from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it's packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.


My Thoughts

There are bad vampires, a lot of blood, gore and action… and yet, why the three stars?

It isn’t a bad story, but maybe it isn’t a “me” story.

That said, bits of it were pretty good. To start, Department 19 is a secret organization devoted to stamping out vampires. Jamie comes to know of this department after his mother goes missing. A lot of his story is devoted to him meeting new (good and bad) people and getting tougher to get her back. That the department and its history touches on a lot on old familiar stories was interesting, take Stoker and Frankenstein for instance; I thought those were aspects were the more interesting parts, especially as they were explored via flashback. And of course, there’s the added possible romance with an unconventional partner… well, Department 19 is OK.

2.5/5

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Without Tess by Marcella Pixley

Without Tess
Good Reads Summary

Tess and Lizzie are sisters, sisters as close as can be, who share a secret world filled with selkies, flying horses, and a girl who can transform into a wolf  in the middle of the night. But when Lizzie is ready to grow up, Tess clings to their fantasies. As Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her delusions, she decides that she can’t live in the real world any longer and leaves Lizzie and her family forever. Now, years later, Lizzie is in high school and struggling to understand what happened to her sister. With the help of a school psychologist and Tess’s battered journal, Lizzie searches for a way to finally let Tess go.

My Thoughts

WITHOUT TESS isn’t an easy story and only got sadder as it progressed, yet I’d still recommend it to someone looking for something quietly emotional but definitely different. There are a lot of hard emotions in this one and I think those emotions were only compounded by how young Tess was (Liz as well) and how helpless Liz must have felt.

Someone said that WITHOUT TESS touches a little on what the sisters of Imaginary Girls were like. I would agree, only Tess and Liz’s is less magical and a little more of something else: a sister who believed in the impossible and another who wanted to believe.

But it’s not all sad, helpless or angry because there were moments that showed just how connected the writer is to her audience. Descriptions of overly enthusiastic teachers and what not, rang true to me. And if you cannot crack a smile at a double entendre , well, you might be too young or too old for this one.

As for Liz despite all her ‘woe is me, I am sad and I am depressed and unlike most everyone else here,’ I can say that I liked her. Her recollections of her young self, showed precisely what kind of a relationship she had with Tess. And that was sad to read, but still revealing. But Liz, in the present, was a different matter altogether.

The one thing that I have to complain of is how things are resolved. Everything ends too neatly. And through who and how was this resolution (of sorts) attained? Read the book! And despite this, WITHOUT TESS really is quietly emotional but with an ending that leaves one hopeful.

READ THIS!
THANK YOU NET GALLEY!
4/5

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Croak by Gina Damico

Croak (Croak, #1)Good Reads Summary

Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex's parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.
He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach Lex the family business.

She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can't stop her desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?
 

My Thoughts

Take a girl with criminal tendencies then plunk her in the middle of nowhere afterthat see what happens. CROAK happens. I think I enjoyed one (notice my uncertainty). Frankly, there were plenty of modifiers in this one (too many at times,) but there was also a lot of snark. Does the second cancel the first one out?

It's incredibly descriptive given all those modifiers, so while bit long winded, things were eventually clear. It's also very contemporary. The writing, the people speak was all very relatable and at times simply hilarious:


Lex. She isn't a very likeable girl. As said, she's got criminal tendencies and this precisely what necessitates her move to Croak. I liked that she spoke her mind, I didnt like her not thinking before she acted... it was all punch now, deal with consequence later.

Uncle Mort. Their initial meeting was a bit strange. But thinking back, he did in fact behave exactly as she did: acting first then explaining, this might explain why I was leery of him. But after a while, he comes across as less creepy... but just more involved in his own thing. And where all the other adults were weary and mistrustful of her, I was surprised by how freely he let her act (to an extent.)

Then there's Driggs who was obviously from the get going to be the love interest. He also doubled as her tail (sort of.) They didn't hit it off when they meet at first, this aspect was a little typical, but I enjoyed how their relationship progressed from being a major irritation for both to being a minor one coupled with kissing. And the snark, I think this that was the best thing about the two of them, with one throwing an insult at the other and the other not hesitating to throw one back, they indeed gave as good as the other: verbally and... physically. As to that last thing, while it wasn't a good thing, it most definitely was surprising.

Another aspect I enjoyed was Ferbus in relation to Driggs (take the descriptive: heterosexual life partners) in relation to Lex. There was understanding. As such each each knew where they stood, each knew what their roles were.

While the people themselves were OK, I think getting to know them became a bit of a chore. Like I said, the dialogue was accessible, humorous and snark-filled, things just got a bit muddled with all the descriptions thrown in. After picking my way through all that, I still did enjoyed aspects of CROAK.

3/5 Thanks Netgalley! 
*** I couldn't find an image of the cover, but shall rectify that ASAP

The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms #3) by Cinda Williams Chima

The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms, #3)
Good Reads Summary

Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that nothing matters more than saving her. The costs of his efforts are steep, but nothing can prepare him for what he soon discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. Han is hurt and betrayed. He knows he has no future with a blueblood. And, as far as he’s concerned, the princess’s family killed his own mother and sister. But if Han is to fulfill his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.

Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the thief-turned-wizard Han Alister can be trusted. She wants to believe it—he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive—and even that might not be enough.

The Gray Wolf Throne is an epic tale of fierce loyalty, unbearable sacrifice, and the heartless hand of fate.


My Thoughts

I enjoyed THE GRAY WOLF THRONE:
Raisa's life has gotten a tad more complicated. And now, I can think of the Queen Mother and not shake my head in confusion and disappointment, because Raisa finds herself in much the same situation~ making similar deals and offering similar solutions. I just wish somebody had spoken up earlier, maybe in that way none of their troubles would have come to be.

The characters are still awesome:
I still love Amon and I still feel bad about his situation... HOWEVER, I'm satisfied that the back and forth between him and Raisa has been more or less settled. That aside, it's Han who needs to be considered now. I shifted from "I hope they end up together" to "what do they see in each other" in this book. And then there were all the others come sniffing at her: I do not trust Nightwalker.. at all. Then, there's Micah who confused me!

Raisa had some hard things to choose and this made more difficult by the men in her life. The first book had me sad for her and her Captain. The second book had me cheering her on with the street lord. This book had me frustrated and confused with Han and Bayar. Speak of the Bayar's, I had a hard time figuring out what they had planned. Micah with his obligations and interests seem contradictory, making him an even more interesting player~ he is not a straightforward baddie.

In fact, none of the characters are straightforward Take Cat who starts out as of as thief turns into a backstabber and here become something else completely. BUT I think that's what I love about GREY WOLF THRONE, everyone manages to become someone else!

And while I think this third installment would have been a good place end the story, I have got to ask when does the next one come out?

4/5

And just so this review ties in with the ones that I did for books one and two of this series, well, here goes:

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;)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Virtuosity 

Good Reads Summary

Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better?
Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall....

My Thoughts
 
I have got a goofy grin pasted on my face right now because that ending has got me thinking about what could be. It's simply ripe with possibility!

BUT I'm also recalling what I initially felt for Carmen: CONFUSED. I mean, what exactly was the problem here? She had got parents who support her and an actual talent for her passion! But read a bit more, and I saw that getting where she was was not easy especially with a mother who drove her a little too hard and her issues on perfoming on stage. Am I making it so it sounds mundane and basic? It really wasn't either of those, but things did get more exciting and complicated with the entry of Jeremy into her life. It is this same fellow who had me at utterly shocked (and slightly indignant) at one point, only later to have me me at nodding my head in approval.

But other than that open ending, what else did I enjoy? Well, for starters there's an absence of false modesty. Both Carmen and Jeremy knew what they could do and avoided pretending about it. I loved that! But it's the fact that both of them are talented and in the same competition that caused the friction. Note, that I'd normally be put off by the blink-speed rate at which they got together, but I could let that aspect slide because the predicament they found themselves in was a novel one for me. A predicament that hinged on winning the contest because there could only be one winner right? And I seriously doubted that either of them would have taken losing to the other easily. Putting it simply, I wanted to know how things would turn out. Imagine it: They wanted the same thing, but also wanted each other. Could they both get what they wanted?

But I'll never know will I? Because when that thing took place, I was seriously angered! From being interesting and slightly different, VIRTUOSITY took a turn for the overly-dramatic! If that had not taken place, I seriously could have LOVED this book.

Still, I do love how the VIRTUOSITY allows me to come up with my own what could be's.

Thanks Simon &Schuster!
3.5/5

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2) by Cinda Williams Chima

The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms, #2)

Good Reads Summary

You can't always run from danger...

Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean danger isn’t far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden's Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.

The Exiled Queen is an epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.



My Thoughts

funny pictures - i. wuv. dis.

Neither Han nor Raisa nor Dancer ended up where I expected them to. A good deal of EXILED QUEEN is them settling into a new unexpected stage... and it was fascinating.

OK, I'm still not completely sure about what i felt for the princess. I am not sure I like her, but I have to give it to her: she's tough and does what has to be done. Add the fact that she's out there and says what's on her mind. The best about her thing though is her not moping all the time. When she realizes she cannot have her way, she goes out and looks elsewhere. Not that she didn't mope, but she wasn't consumed by what she couldn't have.

And Amon, whose choices and actions broke my heart a little but still made me angry. But this is Han's story (if I'm being honest, his and Raisa's) and I really liked the direction he was going. Granted, his growth from street rat to otherwise read something like Doolittle with her the rain in Spain falling mainly in the plain. But it wasn't just that, it was him finding out what he could do and to what lengths he would go to get what he wanted.

Of course, it wasn't just the magic and soldiering that fascinated me, there were all those close calls of discovery! Of him learning of Rebecca, of and vice versa, of Raisa learning more about Amon's choice. The intrigue was all positively delicious but not that hard to get into

EXILED QUEEN is definitely better than the first book, although it started the same way: slow. And it is only when I got into the last half that I sat up and went "Aw, hell no!" I definitely got caught up in how each person was embroiled in his or her own troubles. BUT it is not limited to the those because there really were moments of sweet.

READ THIS!

4.5/5





Monday, September 12, 2011

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Shut Out

Good Read Summary

Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.


Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: she and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.

Inspired by Aristophanes' play Lysistrata, critically acclaimed author of The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) Kody Keplinger adds her own trademark humor in this fresh take on modern teenage romance, rivalry and sexuality.


My Thoughts

So, I am not the biggest fan of The DUFF. Frankly, I felt that everything was too tidy with the why's and how's of every single moment spelled out in that one. Simply, it left little for me to think out. And this is precisely my problem with SHUT OUT. While the message(s) in this second book are positive ones of girls thinking, and being the boss of themselves and not being dictated/controlled by what other's think, it still felt incomplete to me. Yes, there's a lot of talk in it of teen sex issues, but that's all there was really: talk. So, yeah...

Things are not helped when there are some cringe-worthy crappy lines, take: "You amaze me, Lissa Daniels. Most girls would cave as soon as I gave them the puppy-dog look with these amazing eyes." Ugh. Seriously? It was truly a wonder to me to find out that they'd been together for a year (or was it more than a year?) How could she stand him? He's so full of himself, was such a horndog and could be so douchey. Really? He was almost as bad as the one in DUFF!

Now, Cash Sterling was slightly better (yes, that's even with his "romance-novel worthy name.") It is with him that she loosens up and melts a little him (although I did have issues with their inability ot communicate since it is this same issue that causes their problems.)  Add the fact, that I found everyone one else a bit cookie cutter (im)perfect. Consider the girl who isn't afraid of her sexuality; thus the school slut. Or the virginal girl who's afraid of sex. Or the girl with issues about control.

Not that there weren't moments that I enjoyed. It is about a sex boycott; a lot of it reads teen-comedy funny, so I will admit to there being surprise instances of me laughing out loud.

2.5/5

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Demon King (Seven Realms #1) by Cinda William Chima

The Demon King (Seven Realms, #1)
Good Reads Summary

This novel marks the first giant step in a momentous fantasy journey orchestrated by Cinda Williams Chima, the author of the popular Warrior Heir series. Its two chief protagonists are ex-thief Han Alister, an impoverished commoner, and Raisa ana'Marianna, the headstrong Princess Heir of the Fells. The Demon King brings them together, creating part of a volatile mix of action, magic, and danger. Empathetic characters; wizardly attacks.

My Thoughts

I had theories about who was who and who was whom to others. All those theories? Blown to bits. Me, now? Super fangirl mode which is quite surprising given that the first time I tried to get into DEMON KING nothing clicked. In fact, the first time around I only got to chapter three because things were... confusing:
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So what's got me all excited? Apparently, had I waited it out and read past Mycah and Raisa, I'd have gotten to the parts where Han played a bigger role. So, I suppose my excitement is all on account of Han... except ALL the characters were interesting:

There's Dancer whom I worried over. Was he burned too like Dreadnought in Native Star?

Then, RAISA. I didn't think I could like such a princess-y character. Frankly, my feelings for her went from positive then negative then back. She was so spoiled and bratty at first, but I couldn't fault her. At least later on, I discovered that she was not completely oblivious to goings on around her, or iof she was.. at least she did something about it. So she's not as spoiled as she seemed at first. I hated that she was prissy and flirty and stuff... but later.. later, she was awesome! That someone says she sees the best in people had me gritting my teeth. Because IMO, she did not. She was just blind... like her mother! But could I blame the princess? could I blame the Queen for acting the way they did? Then AMON, goodness me! My second favorite character is tragic and strong and *sigh* (I am in fan girl mode!)

Now, HAN! Oh My Gosh.. I think I have a new book crush in him. And it's not that HAN is perfect. He is so far from being that; he is willful, sometimes obtuse, sometimes crude and a lot of the times angry. But could I fault him those things? Especially since there were moments that he shined: He is a good brother. He's trying to be a good son, and he most definitely is a loyal friend.

As to the story itself: there was a rough start (for me) that had me trying my darndest to go with the flow. THANKFULLY, that middle of the book collision (when all the players "meet" each other?) was simply awesome in an "Uh-oh" kind of way. I could almost hear Homer go, 'Dope!" for what Han was doing.

The biggest thing that I have to complain about is that no one was doing anything. I wonder why no one was had acted sooner. I mean, it was rather obvious where things were headed, (Bayar just sounded too ambitious.) So, why did others allow things to progress as far as they did?

That said... me, on EXILED QUEEN?

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4/5

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Hidden Goddess (Native Star # 2) by M.K. Hobson

The Hidden Goddess (The Native Star, #2)

Good Read Summary

In a brilliant mix of magic, history, and romance, M. K. Hobson moves her feisty young Witch, Emily Edwards, from the Old West of 1876 to turn-of-the-nineteenth-century New York City, whose polished surfaces conceal as much danger as anything west of the Rockies.


Like it or not, Emily has fallen in love with Dreadnought Stanton, a New York Warlock as irresistible as he is insufferable. Newly engaged, she now must brave Dreadnought’s family and the magical elite of the nation’s wealthiest city. Not everyone is pleased with the impending nuptials, especially Emily’s future mother-in-law, a sociopathic socialite. But there are greater challenges still: confining couture, sinister Russian scientists, and a deathless Aztec goddess who dreams of plunging the world into apocalypse. With all they must confront, do Emily and Dreadnought have any hope of a happily-ever-after?
 
My Thoughts

This was not what I was expecting. With Dreadnought about to be invested as the Institute's Sophos, there was little chance of him and Emily getting together. It's this separation that allowed for a lot of discovery. This second book brought me back to what I loved in Native Star: adventure and a peculiar mix of magic and fantasy. It was a little heavy on the true love stuff. BUT as both of them discover, sometimes that just isn't enough. It's that last bit that had me reading on.

There are so many discoveries in this one, so many aspects of their personalities, their responsibilities and history that ccme in to view. I honestly don't know if I liked what I found. One thing is certain, theirs is not a simple relationship.

First, what the hell had gotten into the two of them? This was not the Emily I'd come to admire in Native Star. If then, she was all take charge (sometimes blindly so,) here, she allowed her to be swept along by others. And that thing with the kissing, to get her to shush up? That. Seriously. Pissed. Me. Off. What had become of her? If this was what 'true love' was her doing, I was really not so sure of the direction of the book.

Then Dreadnought?! Holy Hell... all that secrecy and sweeping her off to the side to "protect" her? I don't remember him being so protective! I recall both of them giving as good as they got. I recall them fighting at every turn not afraid to call each other out. But here? Everyone was worried about what the other would feel. It got on my nerves.

It's the last couple of chapters that truly excited me. Prior to that it was all behind the scenes subterfuge, manipulation and betrayal. Not bad, (exciting in it's own right,) but not as exciting as a knife-nailed dark goddess, me thought. Seriously, though? There was danger coming at them from all sides, even from one least expected to be a threat.

There was one thing that I saw coming but still wish had not come to pass: Love triangle (square?) Ah, Dmitri. He's mysterious different, focused and motivated by something else. That he falls for her and wants to protect her, I thought wasn't a necessary addition to an already complicated story. At first, I really liked him and his motivations. I just wish their relationship (his and Emily's) had not veered into where it did (through no fault of Emily's.) I really could have done without that change in the dynamics! Already, I was doubting the wisdom of an Emily and Dreadnought pairing, throwing Dmitri in was a bit a little too much for me.I will say that I liked his role as reluctant protector. I liked the similarity of his and Emily's histories.

The first part was rough, but good golly, the second part made all that effort worth it.

4/5

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

Good Reads Summary

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd – whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself – Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

My Thoughts

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said.
When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?

Here's the reason Patrick Ness is one of my favorite writers: his stories are never run of the mill. And what is A Monster Calls exactly? It looks like a horror novel, doesn't it? Even the title reads like one, right? And I suppose it is... given what Connor is going through, but there are lessons learned here. Couple that with illustrations that grabbed me... Well, that I love this book is a teensy understatement.

Collin is a boy similar to Todd in Chaos Walking, but boy did he need a hug! He is one with too big a responsibility on him; a boy growing up to fast. And by the end of his story, I was a wreck! I got so involved and invested in wanting to see him be OK. I felt for Connor.

And, book art <3! (Have I mentioned the dark, broody, beautiful illustrations?)

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It's unexpectedly sad and has heart; it's left me a wreck.
If there ever were a sad book to read, this would be one.

Read this!
5/5

On my copy: I do so love getting stuff from the post, so here's shout out to Piper: MUCH THANKS! Receiving it was pleasant surprise (as I wasnt expecting it for a couple of more days,) but reading it was an absolute PLEASURE!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna Dressed in Blood #1) by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna Dressed in Blood, #1)
Good Reads Summary

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.


My Thoughts

"I'd like to leave now. I'd very much like to leave now."

I haven't had this much fun reading a YA, since Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. And it's not just because there's a similarity in tone to the both of them. Yes, Cas is funny and snarky, but he has a confidence that guys like Cassel (White Cat; Red Glove) and Necromancer did not have. Cas knows what he was and is driven. It's this confidence that drew me in and bugged me a little. He could be so smug at times. But again, his confidence was not necessarily a bad thing because at least he took charge and knew what had to be done that is until Anna.  Now, Anna. What a character! . She scared the crap out of me. When she's initially introduce, well, there's no pussy footing in describing what she is.

"She doesn't wear her death wounds like other ghosts do. They say her throat was cut, and this girl's throat was long and white. But there is the dress. It's wet, and red, and constantly moving, It drips onto the ground."


But like I said, it's got its funny bits too. While the scary bits seemed to have come straight out of The Amityville Horror, well... things are bound to ease up with mentions of those four guys and marshmallow monster, right?  Or try,

"I've been Obeahed by an Obeahman? Is this like how the Smurfs say they smurfing smurfed all the time?"

I seriously enjoyed this one and here's why:

1. Cas is not a simple character, this above all is what I liked. He is not Mr. Perfect. He didn't have a superhero complex and was in it for his own reasons. Well, maybe did have the "loner, I'll do this on my own terms"  bit down, but other than that he wasn't a complete superhero wannabe. He wasn't as under-doggy like Cassel either because where Cassel had his butt handed to him time and again, here Theseus Cassio knew what he was doing. He's the dutiful son, but had a tendency to behave like a douche.
2. It's very accessible. The story is not that hard  to get into. In fact, IMO, it's quick, straight forward, with the snappy dialogue, and clear description.
3. The book knows what it is. It's horror and there's blood and gore and houses that eat the dead. The little added element of lurve is present but it IS NOT what moves the story. It's Cas going about his business: killing those already dead.
4. Cas sounds his age.

Mind you there were moments when I wanted to see them walk to their ends. A couple of these characters were TSTL (case in point Carmel and Thomas snooping.) And then there's item number # 3, which had me wondering, was such a thing really a a necessary addition to an already intriguing story?

Winding down, this is horror; ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD doesn't pretend to be anything else. It isn't one coming of age; it isn't one discovering of friendship or a love-conquers-all tale (much). It's just one bloody scary tale... not all of which happens in the present! Plus, don't you just love that title?

4/5

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bloodsong (Lharmell#1) by Rhiannon Hart

Blood Song (Lharmell #1)
Good Reads Summary

I wanted to turn but I was held captive by the song on the wind. I’m coming, I told the voices. Please, wait for me.

When her sister becomes betrothed to a prince in a northern nation, Zeraphina’s only consolations are that her loyal animal companions are by her side – and that her burning hunger to travel north is finally being sated.

Already her black hair and pale eyes mark her out as different, but now Zeraphina must be even more careful to keep her secret safe. Craving blood is not considered normal behaviour for anyone, let alone a princess. So when the king’s advisor, Rodden, seems to know more about her condition than she does, Zeraphina is determined to find out more.

Zeraphina must be willing to sacrifice everything if she’s to uncover the truth – but what if the truth is beyond her worst nightmares?
 
My Thoughts

Blood Song is an easy kind of fantasy (fantasy lite, if you will). Zeraphina's world is not at all difficult to get into. The set up is pretty bare, and like the character we don't know that much. Consider, there's Amentia, her home. Then Pergamia, another kingdom. And of course, the mysterious Lharmell. But we do know some stuff: we know that she's the second daughter of an impoverished kingdom. We know that her sister is to wed the prince of another. And we also know what Zeraphina has this craving for blood.

The basic mystery really is what she is. And truth be told? I wasn't that surprised to find out the answer to that question (given that there were lots of clues to pick up on long ways before the reveal.) But what comes as an absolute delightful surprise is the love interest. I know! I'm sorry, but I feel as I did when I read Eona. It wasn't the epic fantasy, people journeying, or archers and magic that had me sitting up and paying attention. I was all about Rodden and Zeraphina!

I enjoyed reading how they played off on each other, where she is sometimes prissy, sometimes bratty, more often than not single minded; he is mysterious, quiet, broody and suspicious to the point of being paranoid! But as they got drawn together, well, I was a puddle! Everything she complained of in him, was true. Likewise, most everything he disliked in her was true too. Yet they simply clicked. I suppose some would have a problem with him being overbearing and bossy and needlesly mysterious, and some would have a problem with her her being bratty (given her initial tendency to hurl things and stomp like a child in a tantrum when she didnt get her way!) But they both grow... and adjust. I liked seeing them work things out but not to the extent that the sparks between them disappeared. One word: Cute. Wait, make that two: it was cute and entertaining reading how much they repelled each other but were drawn to each other nonetheless.

I didn't really mind all her "what am I, who am I?" questions. Questions like these have been tackled before and here that aspect of the story progressed much the same as other stories have. And other than reading their developing relationship (which, like I said, I totally got a kick out of,) I also enjoyed reading more about the baddies in this one. Lharmell The place? Deadly. Its people? Magical, creepy, and bloodthirsty! I would have liked to read more of the creatures though especially given her relationship with Leap and Griffin.

It's fantasy lite and easy to get into. But for myself, I'm all about Rodden and Zeraphina... I WANT NEED the next book now!

3.5-/5

P.S. Cover? Awesome, me thinks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gil Marsh by A.C.E Bauer

Gil Marsh

Good Reads Summary

Good looking, athletic, and smart, Gill Marsh is the most popular kid at Uruk High School, even though he is only a junior. When Enko, a new kid from Montreal, shows up, Gil is wary. Yet Enko is easy going and matches Gil's athletic prowess without being a threat. Soon, the two become inseparable friends, practicing, studying, and double-dating.

Then suddenly, to everyone's shock, Enko succombs to an aggressive cancer.

When Enko's parents take his body and return to Canada, Gil is unable to even say good bye. He is inconsolable. Determined to find Enko's grave, Gil sneaks away and heads north.

Closely based on the ancient story of Gilgamesh, the Sumerian King from 3000 BC, A. C. E. Bauer has carefully woven the classic elements of myth to follow Gil's quest and explore the grief and growth of a young man.

My Thoughts

I had no clue that this was a play on The Epic of Gilgamesh. There is clever use of elements from the original, but this modern version is one that paints a story of friendship, grief and coming of age, with the teensy magical thrown in.

I didn't feel a connection to Gil at first. When he is introduced, he is blessed but when he reacted the way he did... well, it read to standard. With a new guy showing up how should the 'king' react? Magnonimity masking insecurity some jealousy leading to territoriality then what? Friendship, an aspect that wasn't explored deepy but read quite deep and emotional to me. Then there's Enko, the new guy, the good guy, who is so nice and perfect. It's their friendship that leads to Gil's search (quest?) for closure.

I did enjoy where the story went mainly due to how the magical element was explored. A teensy exploration, of course given at its core Gil's story is one friendship, loss then letting go.

It's his journey that was the most eye opening. While it was his friendship with Enko that was heartbreaking, I was never totally emotionally invested. Again, I found it difficult to connect because everything happened too quickly~ from being rivals to being inseparable; from Gil's being territorial and insecure to being his inconsolable and grief struck. However, it's the outcome that sets him off on his journey,a journey that exposed him to all manner of people: the good, the bad and those in between.

3/5
THANKS NETGALLEY!

The book comes out on February 2012

Monday, September 5, 2011

Forbidden (Demon Trappers #2) by Jana Oliver

Forbidden (The Demon Trappers, #2)
Good Reads Summary

Riley's beginning to think being a demon trapper isn't all it's cracked up to be. Her dad's been stolen by a necromancer, her boyfriend's gone all weird and she's getting warm and fuzzy feelings for someone who's seriously bad news. It's tempting to give it all up and try to be normal, but that's not an option. Because the demons have plans for Riley. And they're not the only ones.

My Thoughts

I was not very impressed with the first one. In fact, I found that it had a lot of the same elements of other books of the same genre. A love triangle, no square of a girl who is in a lot of trouble, with a bestfriend who's secretly in love with her; then a dog-cat relationship with another, only not really. And of course the really good guy. Old hat, I thought. Me, On Forsaken (Demon Trappers #1) by Jana Oliver

But this second book comes as a great surprise because as it addressed some of those concerns it also brought a whole lot more to the story. AND THEN had me reacting in a number of ways. Peter, for instance, backtracks and no longer acts like bestfriend denied. Yay! But one big thing he did had me going:

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Then of course, Simon. Oh... Simon, Simon, Simon! What's to be done with you? The way he turned out seriously had me had me all,



But it's all REALLY good because this time around Beck wasn't sounding like the "Backwoods Boy" she'd come to call him instead he is troubled and confused. I think I like him more in this installment than I did when he was first introduced. His accent isn't that big of a deal because it's how he acted and behaved that had me gritting my teeth and wondering "When are you going to get your act together? Plus there's the wonderful fact that Riley wasn't the center of his world given that there's a lot going on, a lot more to think over (a hot reporter for one and demon hunters moving into the trapper's territory for another.) I liked seeing him be himself where Riley wasn't concerned. The one thing that had me trying to remember him was Ori. Who the heck was he again?

But once things were all out... well, now.. I WANT the next book!

3.5-4/5

Sunday, September 4, 2011

There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

There You'll Find Me
Good Reads Summary

In a small cottage house in rural Ireland, Finley discovers she can no longer outrun the past.

When Finley travels to Ireland as a foreign exchange student, she hopes to create a new identity and get some answers from the God who took her brother away and seems to have left her high and dry.

But from the moment she boards the plane and sits by Beckett Rush, teen star of the hottest vampire flicks, nothing goes according to Finley's plan.

When she gets too close to Beckett, a classmate goes on a mission to make sure Finley packs her bags, departs Ireland-and leaves Beckett alone.

Finley feels the pressure all around. As things start to fall apart, she begins to rely on a not-so-healthy method of taking control of her life.

Finley tries to balance it all-disasters on the set of Beckett's new movie, the demands of school, and her growing romance with one actor who is not what he seems. Yet Finley is also not who she portrays to Beckett and her friends.

For the first time in her life, Finley must get honest with herself to get right with God.

My Thoughts

I read to enjoy and mind it greatly when something gets too preachy, so normally, Christian Fiction? Not my thing. And yet, THERE YOU'LL FIND ME has me feeling a bit different. A good portion of it is Finley's struggling to find her center again, her faith. I cannot say that I enjoyed reading her struggle but I did believe it. I felt it. As an MC she's quite different. I liked that she's stand-offish and that she had a goal in mind in everything she did. I enjoyed her trying to find her place... with her family, in her academics, with the new boy she'd come to be with... and yes, even in her world that's so influenced by her God.

That there's a boy in it is no surprise. It's at this point that things felt typical and cute. which was a nice change of pace from the more serious aspects. And truly, their banter was the most enjoyable aspect. I wouldn't say it was cats and dogs at first, but I will say that they were initially very unimpressed with each other. There's nothing new in said set up; however, it did allow a getting-to-know you process. That I enjoyed! Even if they didn't get to know each other completely because it's this that spurs on the conflict between them.

Did I say conflict? There's a multitude of the same that this book introduces... so many in fact that I felt it a tad overdone. These "issues" ranged from the the boy's fame issues and wanting 'the normal' to the girl's grief and search for closure then to her possible eating disorder as well as the MC's obsessive nature then to another girl's bullying, and finally top all that off with an old lady's tale of bitterness and anger. I can honestly say there's a lot to take in (almost too much). And while some aspects were dealt with completely some aspects were let by. This is fine though because overall I did enjoy reading this: the sad parts, the cute parts and all.

The part that felt most believable to me was was the slow realization by her and others that she might have had a problem. The sadder part was Mrs. Sweeney's tale... hers is a cross of Grumpy Old Men and Tuesdays With Morrie. The sweet and uplifting part was Finley and Beckett coming to an understanding even though getting to that point was difficult (and at times YA typical.) Biblical verses abound in this one, but it's understandable given that Finley's tale is one of faith and her search for God's voice, so it's a surprise to me too when I suggest that others read this. It's not overwhelmingly preachy and has moments that had me giggling and others still that had me wanting to know a little more...

3/5
THANKS NETGALLEY!
The book officially comes out on October 4, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Stick by Andrew Smith

Stick
Good Reads Summary

Fourteen-year-old Stark McClellan (nicknamed Stick because he’s tall and thin) is bullied for being “deformed” – he was born with only one ear. His older brother Bosten is always there to defend Stick. But the boys can’t defend one another from their abusive parents.

When Stick realizes Bosten is gay, he knows that to survive his father's anger, Bosten must leave home. Stick has to find his brother, or he will never feel whole again. In his search, he will encounter good people, bad people, and people who are simply indifferent to kids from the wrong side of the tracks. But he never loses hope of finding love – and his brother.

My Thoughts

It read like the Perks of Being a Wallflower but had me reeling the same way I did with Smith's Marburry Lens after that kidnap-grope scene. This one had me angry and hurting for all of them, all at once... particularly the first half. The jump into the second half had me reeling for other reasons though. Specifically, where had Dahlia been all their lives? That alone had me a little bi more angry. To think of all the things they'd gone through with such horrible people! When all the while she was there... or could have been there!

Stick sounds a lot like the lead in Perks of Being a Wallflower. Both were innocent, clueless and naive until I reminded myself that he was just thirteen. I kept having to recall that STICK was just THIRTEEN. And like in Perks, I found myself asking, is this kid for real? Did he really have no clue as to what was what and or what went where? Perhaps his naivette was a product of how he was brought up... perhaps not, but he simply read young to me, much younger than a purported thirteen. And talk of his upbringing made me want to PUNCH somebody, specifically his parents! It's this aspect that had me reeling. As I said, there's a moment in it that struck me the same way that kidnap grope scene in Marbury did: complete and utter shock then disgust. Suffice to say, it brought out a lot of emotions in me, not all of them positive.

The shining moments in this sad painful read are his relationships~ with his brother and his peers. Still, his relationship with his brother gave me pause. He idolized his brother; in truth they idolized each other. But it's a relationship that worried me a little too. One could not leave for fear of the other's future while the other could not man up because the elder was always there. So I worried for them, and hurt for them. And before things did get better, things got worse.

Read this with the knowledge that it isn't easy, but given a voice like Stick's that was sometimes improbabaly innoccent, well, I had to see it through.

3.5/5
THANKS NETGALLEY!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Every Other Day

Good Reads Summary

Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human.
And then every day in between . . .She's something else entirely.

Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.

When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.
 
My Thoughts

Every Other Day is all in your face, straight to the point and fast. There's little explanation as to what she is and what kind of world hers is at the beginning, but you piece it together eventually. This alone might put some off, but I didn't mind. Why? Once I caught on, well, I found that I liked the idea of her being "different" only every other day (thus the title.) I also liked the idea of a world where the preternatural is accepted. Now, what I found a bit off, (as the MC did,) is how some creepy-crawlies were accepted as fact, while others found improbable.

I'd recommend this for anyone who likes straight talking leads and gore - lots of gore because there's both in this. It's dark, broody and bloody. Barnes' take on PNR (or is this UF?) is all that. She does not flich in writing someone off, or in decribing events in vivid, icky detail. All the blood and guts and knives and such. Refreshing? Nope, but most definitely bloody.

A big plus is that romance angle wasn't the focus so much. Even if the love interest had a pretty interesting role here, given that he's mostly in her head. Love story, this one isn't. EVERY OTHER DAY is mostly about Kali figuring out what she is as well as her figuring out how to get out of the tangle she'd wound up in.

It's not all as good as that though. While descriptively bloody, some of of the lines came off as cheesey and over the top. As when she'd taunt a preternatural with a "Here snakey, snakey, snakey." Moments like those just had me cringing inside.

As to the characters not all of them were intersting as Kali because most of them once mentioned were forgotten. Take the the odd ball group she found herself hanging out with. They added nothing! Take a mathlete of a giant, skinny guy of indeterminate descent and non-girl looking Genevieve who all sound interesting, right? Sad to say all you get are said descriptions because once she's out of contact with them well, they're gone from the story too. The only two who play a more active role here are the mean girl and self-proclaimed "school slut." I enjoyed both of those girls for different reasons. The mean girl isn't just a mean girl, because behind her Ms. Perfect act is a girl with issues of her own. But she too was all over the place... mean then contrite then nice then mean again... I could never tell what was going to happen next with her. The other girl, Skylar was a source of confusion too... but by book's end she made sense.

It took a while to get used to things in EOD but I liked how things turned out. Since there's likely to be a next one, I wouldn't mind reading more of Kali.

3.5/5
THANKS NETGALLEY