Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (41)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

I NEED THIS. There really isn't much more to say than that. The cover is as great as I hoped it would be, the jacket copy has been nipping at me since day one, and the author is flat-out awesome. It's so awesome that I broke my radio silence to post this for WoW. Midterms and a statistics class I DON'T EFFING GET are hell and a half on me.

Also... Nah, I'll keep that to myself.

The Falconer (The Falconer, #1)Lady Aileana Kameron can sing, paint prettily, and murder the fae as easily as dancing a waltz. But how far is she prepared to go for vengeance . . . ?

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

18-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined to a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery kills her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season. Between a seeming endless number of parties, Aileana slaughters faeries in secret. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, every night she sheds her aristocratic facade and goes hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But she never even considered that she might become attracted to one. To the magnetic Kiaran MacKay, the faery who trained her to kill his own kind. Nor is she at all prepared for the revelation he’s going to bring. Because Midwinter is approaching, and with it an eclipse that has the ability to unlock a Fae prison and begin the Wild Hunt.

A battle looms, and Aileana is going to have to decide how much she’s willing to lose – and just how far she’ll go to avenge her mother’s murder.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Title: Strands of Bronze and Gold
Author: Jane Nickerson
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Pages: 352 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Strands of Bronze and GoldThe Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.

Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.


Review:


Before I read this, "Bluebeard" was a mystery to me, so I did what I do and read the famous fairy tale. That may have been a mistake. Strands of Bronze and Gold needs to go the extra mile thanks to the tale it is based on, but it never mkes up for readers knowing how the great mystery of the novel turns out. Nickerson succeeds in tapping into the dark horror of the original tale, especially toward the end, but those moments are few and far between.

Blubeard's (here, Bernard de Cressac) characterization and the novel's lovely, Gothic style are two of its few strong points. The first chapter's lovely writing had me and though I wavered thanks to the novel's many other issues, I never stopped loving the writing. As it goes on, the elements of Gothic stories we all love so much, like ghosts who may or may not be real and secrets hidden in a massive manor, take greater and greater precedence. M. de Cressac is appropriately creepy and layered too, showing times of weakness and humanity despite who he is: the monstrous Bluebeard. If only Sophie and the other characters were as strongly established.

The writing can only carry one so far on its own, though. The characters aren't dynamic enough to keep readers going, nor is the plot enchanting enough. Sophia's days are spent exploring the house, getting creeped out by her godfather, wandering the woods (and meeting a boy a few times before that gets nipped in the bud), and other such dull things. I nearly DNFed this novel multiple times because so little was happening and the Gothic elements didn't become well-developed until the latter portions of the novel.

Taking place in 1855 Mississippi as it does, there are plenty of slaves on M. de Cressac's plantation, and Sophia meets more than a few of them. She has the right ideas about slavery (it's wrong, she wants to help them escape, etc.), but the slaves only serve to show off how compassionate and right-minded she is on the issue. While exploring the forest, she meets a wise old black woman named Anarchy who gives her advice. The only other purpose she serves is to let Sophia interact with someone new. That's really... Yeah.

It's a shame my first read of 2013 is such a disappointment, especially since I've been anticipating it for some time. Nickerson will have two more novels set in this world, but I don't think I'll be reading them. This might be a novel only those unfamiliar with "Bluebeard" or able to put it out of mind will enjoy.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: On Demon Wings by Karina Halle

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Blog Tour Stop + Giveaway: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

Title: The Nightmare Affair
Author: Mindee Arnett
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Pages: 367 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley for a blog tour
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

The Nightmare AffairSixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.


Review:


This got pitched as Harry Potter meets Veronica Mars and though I don't know about how it compares to the latter, it reminds me in the former in a lot of small, sweet ways. The Latin spells, the main character made infamous for something she can't control, the bully wizard who reminds me a lot of Draco Malfoy,... There are still plenty of differences between the two, but that flavoring spiced up a book that's good enough on its own.

The characters make the book with their humor and fire, and Dusty never makes you wish you could get out of her head. There are a few who deserve a little more dimension, like the insecure mean girl siren Katarina, but there aren't any characters who are the bad kind of noteworthy because they're offensive. Lance is a character I'd like to see more of purely for crackshipping purposes (he and Dusty reminds me of Dramione in way too many Harry Potter fics SHUT UP SHUT UP). Still, my favorite character has got to be Moira. It was difficult to figure out if she was the Big Bad, a Professor Snape character, or just a really bad mom.

I may have been having too much fun to pay attention to the mystery because for the most part, its resolution caught me by surprise. Suspicions about one character loomed because... Well, explaining why gives it away, so I'll have to be quiet there. The most I can say is that YA trends taught me better. Why did he have to go evil? He's so sweet! Not that he doesn't have a good reason for it. The antagonists actually make a great point about how the current system treats one group of magickind, but like all villains, they're mostly in the wrong and are going about it the wrong way

Some of its internal logic is a little lacking, though. Moira makes a good point when she asks Dusty what the governing body of their society is doing to protect her. Dusty's a valuable dream-seer whose kind is rarely found, after all! People fear her and the killer might want her dead to keep her from dream-seeing his identity, but little to nothing is done to keep her safe. Then again, no one tries to attack her seriously. The villain probably didn't read the Evil Overlord List.

Admittedly, I was only mildly interested in reading The Nightmare Affair when I first got it, and I see more disappoints from the books I barely want to read than books I really want to read. This is one of the rare books that bucks that trend to become a pleasant surprise and give me hope my book senses aren't going bad after all. It's going to be a long wait for the next two books in the series! Maybe there will be a little redemption for the character I like? *wink wink*

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mindee Arnett lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She's addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space. She has far more dreams than nightmares.

www.mindeearnett.com
twitter.com/mindeearnett

GIVEAWAY TIME!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 22, 2013

Revenge of the DNF

If you've been following me long enough, you've seen me plow through some REALLY terrible books like wow, but even I lack the patience for certain books sometimes. Busier school year + book that has nothing to keep me going + stupidity = nope. I've had enough DNF (did not finish) books build up that I think it's time to unload some mini-reviews on y'all.

I don't want to spend more time on these DNFs than I already am, so you get the cover, title/author, where I got it from, and why I didn't finish it. Also, if you're coming here expecting sweetness? You might want to leave. I try to hold myself to a certain standard in reviews, but all bets are off in DNF reports.

Crash (Crash, #1)Crash by Nicole Williams (Bought)

Oh God, there are not words for this. I read a single chapter and... Wow. Just check out my Goodreads review of it for quotes. If I copy the quotes here, it'll take up way too much space. In short, this is one of the worst attempts at writing in a teenage voice that I've ever seen. It may actually be THE worst I've ever seen, it's so bad. That this got a deal with HarperCollins baffles, terrifies, and amazes me.

Okay, here's just one quote: "My heart went boom-boom, my head got all foggy, and I felt this ache inside when he turned and walked away, like we were tied together by a fixed rope. I’d let exactly four of these soul typhoons pass unexplored, but I’d made a pact of the utmost sacredness with myself that I wouldn’t let a fifth go by in the same kind of way. (2)" Just so you know, that really is from page TWO of the book. TWO. I'm way too smart for this bullshit.

Books like this are why new adult can KISS MY ASS.

Twenty Boy SummerTwenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (Birthday gift)

Note to readers? Don't be stupid like me and buy a book because of its title. I bought this one because it implied harem romance I was fully aware wasn't going to happen and all I got out of it was a headache.

This is a major case of me getting what the author is going for and seeing it sometimes but it not working most of the time. Anna just lets Frankie keep pushing her and pushing her about her virginity when it's none of Frankie's damn business. My best friends don't get to push me like that about my sex life or relationship status just like I don't get to push them around about it. If they try to, their ears practically get bitten off once we're in private.

I was so sad to see this one fail as badly as it did too. Ockler her the heartfelt moments in her prose and times where it rang true, but I got so annoyed with Frankie and Anna and everything else that I gave up a little over halfway through. 

MILA 2.0 (MILA 2.0, #1)Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza (ARC given to me by a friend)

I got a bad feeling just looking at my copy and lo and behold, reading it didn't go well. Quit after part one, which was about 34% of the way in. I just didn't have the patience for this.

The way the other girls Mila's age are characterized disgusts me. Kaylee's only traits are that she's boy-crazy, she's angry when the new guy starts paying attention to Mila, and she's vicious enough to start a rumor saying Mila cut off her arm and sent it to an ex-boyfriend after he broke up with her. Another girl named Parker makes mean quips as well about how Kaylee is only nice to her because she's new. The way Mila describes them/their clothing reeks of judgment, like how she expects Parker to preen smugly when Mila notices her haircut and how both girls wear platform shoes.

What, are platform shoes the sign of mean girls now? Then you all better run for your lives because me and my three-inch glittering platform heels? We're the motherfucking devil in disguise.

Mila just isn't that interesting of a character. Her developing relationship with her love interest Hunter is boring and all the information about who/what Mila is gets infodumped on her/us via an iPod she listens to while her mother fixes her arm. Seriously? That's a pretty lazy way to tell us about her origins.

Smokeless Fire (Fire Spirits, #1)Smokeless Fire by Samantha Young (Bought)

Did I really expect anything different from the woman who brought us the hot mess known as On Dublin Street? No, not really. Still, I gave it a try because it sounded interesting enough. Bzzt! Wrong!

This quote left me asking what the hell was going on when I'd barely even begun to read: "Everywhere he glanced those eyes of a thousand nights, eyes that had made love to every spectrum of color this realm and the others had to offer, were refracted on the cold glass and black marble of his home (p. 6)."

Eyes making love? What? Not to mention the poor grammar. Commas: they're important. "Let's eat, Grandpa" and "Let's eat Grandpa" is a good example of that.

There are also words being thrown across a room belligerently, amateur infodumping that doesn't even attempt to seem natural, lots of head-jumping into heads we didn't need to be in, and no commas where there needed to be commas. Also, slut-shaming: not cool.

"OK, maybe it was too early for patience. “What… get high? Get wasted. Sleep around with a bunch of STD-infected skanks (p. 47)."" (Also a failure to use question marks right in this passage, but the slut-shaming is much more important.)

Thank goodness this one was a Kindle freebie when I got it. I don't feel like I wasted any money because I didn't PAY any money. All I wasted was time on this sorry excuse for a book.

---

There are plenty more DNFs where those came from, but I tend to just mark them as gave-up-on on Goodreads, make a small note about why, and leave it at that. What about y'all? Anything you haven't been able to make yourself finish reading for the life of you lately?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Title: Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains)
Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: February 1, 2013
Pages: 309 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: ARC received in a swap with a friend
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains)Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She's desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark's feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now...

Review:


Sure, the title and jacket copy imply that this book is a major geekout, but I wasn't expecting it to be this much of a geekout. I liked it! I may not know much about comic books other than what little X-Men: Evolution taught me and the humongous (but outdated) X-Men guide my brother owns, but Crompton makes it possible for even total noobs to comics to get caught up in Blaze's obsession and get excited right alongside her. Other than a few issues, this is a solidly enjoyable novel.

From the very start, Blaze's engaging voice hooks you and makes you what to know where her personal story is going to take us. It can be difficult to capture an accurate teenage voice, but Crompton manages it like it's as easy as breathing. Even better, it sweeps you up in Blaze's life and emotions until you're experiencing them alongside her. Despite knowing nothing of comics, I got just as into an argument about them as she did with a boy working in her preferred comics store. When Mark does the worst and sends out a sext her best friend originally sent without Blaze's permission, I wanted to hug her.

This is also partially an issue novel that takes on slut-shaming. Blaze and her friends indulging in that horrid practice as much as they did got on my nerves and I was happy when "school slut" Catherine Wiggan (who reminds me more of myself than I care to disclose) set her straight. The problem is that Blaze seems to only learn not to slut-shame Catherine instead of learning not to slut-shame period. Blaze's thoughts during that scene imply that now that she knows Catherine is actually a virgin, she won't do it anymore. What about girls that do actually have sex? They don't deserve to be bullied over that either, but I get the feeling Blaze would do that. There is not slut-shaming for the remainder of the novel after that point, so it's never put to the test.

With such a well-developed teenage voice, I look forward to reading more of Crompton's books in the future.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Soulbound by Heather Brewer

Title: Soulbound
Author: heather Brewer
Publisher: Dial
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Pages: 394 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Birthday gift from my friends
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Soulbound (Legacy of Tril, #1)Tril is a world where Barrons and Healers are Bound to each other: Barrons fight and Healers cure their Barrons' wounds in the ongoing war with the evil Graplar King. Seventeen-year-old Kaya was born a Healer, but she wants to fight. In Tril, and at Shadow Academy, where she is sent to learn to heal, it is against Protocol for Healers to fight. So Kaya must learn in secret. Enter two young men: One charming, rule-following Barron who becomes Bound to Kaya and whose life she must protect at all costs. And one with a mysterious past who seems bent on making Kaya's life as difficult as possible. Kaya asks both to train her, but only one will, and the consequences will change their lives forever.

Review:


I've held off on composing this review for days because even thinking about this book makes me start frothing at the mouth. Between nothing happening until the last thirty pages, too many things being explained with BECAUSE REASONS, a awful, ham-fisted approach to a great theme, and these effing characters, I haven't been able to sit still long enough. There's too much rage for my keyboard to take. Expect a lot of CAPS LOCK because there's no way to stop it.

It starts out decently enough with a Graplar killing Kaya's friend--a friend who only gets a rare few mentions throughout the rest of this lengthy novel despite how close she and Kaya apparently were. Then comes the letter from the Zettai Council telling her she better go to this school or else and oh yeah, her Soulbound Barron is dead. It's so completely obvious it's a lie they told BECAUSE REASONS that I spent the rest of the book wondering when they were going to reveal he's alive. Answer? Not until the end. FRUSTRATION.

The further in I got, the more questions I had. This seems like a typical European-society-based fantasy novel, but they've got katanas and a few Japanese words/names thrown in. What's wrong with giving them claymores or longswords or any of the other European weapons? An Asian-European fantasy this is not; it's just European with Asian elements occasionally shoehorned in so these people have an excuse to wield katanas. BECAUSE KATANAS ARE AWESOME.

Why the Barron/Healer society refuses to train Healers (Barrons will always be there to protect them) is idiotic. Barron gets too busy, untrained Healer is left on their own, and then we have a dead Healer because they'd rather stick to tradition than train the Healers they're throwing onto the battlefield in how to fight. I admire Kaya for objecting to this obvious bull, it's done so ham-fistedly it's not worth admiring anymore.

For all its issues, the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead handles the same theme much more decently. The Healers of that series are the Moroi and the Barrons are the dhampirs. The dhampirs are trained within an inch of their lives to defend the Moroi, but the Moroi aren't trained at all because the dhampirs will always defend them... until they're overwhelmed or killed, in which case the Moroi are screwed. In that series, the issue builds over time because that dichotomy is so deeply ingrained in their society, but here, Kaya just has right at it and handles the issues with none of the nuance it deserves.

Then Soulbound introduced me to my pet peeve line, aka a common line that appears in many books that makes you want to punch something. Mine? "Any girl in her right mind would have flirted with him (p. 84)," "It was a wonder any girl could resist him (p. 125)," and all variations of that line. Basically, lines that say ALL women love this guy and/or aren't in their right mind if they don't.

HEY. HEY. CUT THAT OUT, JACKASS. THIS NONHETEROSEXUAL FEMALE BLOGGER IS GETTING PISSED OFF BY YOUR HETERONORMATIVE ANTICS. Not to mention it's stereotyping heterosexual people too, but more importantly, it's acting like LGBT people and asexual people don't exist.

Maybe if things were actually happening, my annoyance wouldn't have been so great, but the majority of this novel is boarding school shenanigans where Kaya sneaks around for training sessions, time with her boyfriend/Barron, confrontations with the one-dimensional mean girl love rival Melanie, and worldbuilding done via classes. Those classes don't even explain the main point: why did Barrons and Healers go to war against the Graplar King a century ago? BECAUSE REASONS, THAT'S WHY. (I told you that was the explanation for everything. You had warning.)

The characters aren't even worth talking about. Kaya is flat, Darius is flat, Trayton is flat, and it took me five minutes just to remember their names. All the relationships are flat as well, happening with little to no development. Just blah blah blah blah blah.

The next novel seems to promise answers to a lot of the questions Soulbound raises, but I won't be sticking around for it. My annoyance levels are too high to deal with more of these characters and this series in general. Ugh! So much disappointment and anger!

1 star!


What am I reading next?: Blaze by Laura Boyle Chapman

Friday, February 15, 2013

Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson

Title: Quicksilver
Author: R.J. Anderson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Pages: 320 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Quicksilver (Ultraviolet, #2)Back in her hometown, Tori Beaugrand had everything a teenaged girl could want—popularity, money, beauty. But she also had a secret. A secret that could change her life in an instant, or destroy it.

Now she’s left everything from her old life behind, including her real name and Alison, the one friend who truly understood her. She can’t escape who and what she is. But if she wants to have anything like a normal life, she has to blend in and hide her unusual... talents.

Plans change when the enigmatic Sebastian Faraday reappears and gives Tori some bad news: she hasn’t escaped her past. In fact, she’s attracted new interest in the form of an obsessed ex-cop turned investigator for a genetics lab.

She has one last shot at getting her enemies off her trail and winning the security and independence she’s always longed for. But saving herself will take every ounce of Tori’s incredible electronics and engineering skills—and even then, she may need to sacrifice more than she could possibly imagine if she wants to be free.


Review:


Ultraviolet was one of the most intense novels I can remember reading, and upon hearing from the author herself that a companion novel was in the works, I kinda sorta died of happy. Then I got better. Friends have been swooning over this novel in the weeks before I had the chance to read it and I see what the big deal is. Quicksilver is more of a typical thriller than a psychological thriller like the previous book, but it's still just as fantastic.

Though I expected greatness from the beginning, I never expected this! Tight plotting, well-developed characters (Sebastian in particular is so complex that it makes my head hurt),  and some very tense scenes will likely make this one of the best novels of 2013. Tori's passion for engineering feels real and her friend/confidante Milo is a welcome addition to a cast I already knew so well. Some of the commentaries offered on sexism in engineering--and in science in general, really--are spot-on and it called for a feminist fist-bump.

You'll never catch me saying I don't think there are enough people like me in books. Upper-middle-class white girls seem to have a hold on the genre, so there's nothing for me to complain about. Still, I want to thank Anderson for writing an asexual character like Tori because I have never seen/met someone else who identities as asexual in real life or in fiction. Now I can take comfort in the existence of Tori when people act like my sexual orientation is nonexistent.

There really isn't anything to complain about concerning Quicksilver, as I've already discussed, but there was never any personal investment on my part. With Ultraviolet, I was unable to let go of Alison, her internal struggle concerning her sanity, and how her synesthesia enhanced the reader's experience. Quicksilver was a whole other monster. Perhaps Tori being a science whiz has something to do with it; due to my hatred of science, I can sometimes have difficulty connecting to characters who love it dearly and whose love for it plays into the narrative.

I don't doubt fans of Ultraviolet will continue to love it, and the investment issue I had appears to be solely my issue. None of my friends have said anything remotely similar, and it seems the nearly-two-year gap between books was worth the wait.

3.5 stars!




What am I reading next?: Fading Amber by Jaime Reed

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Devil's Metal by Karina Halle

Title: The Devil's Metal
Author: Karina Halle
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: September 21, 2012
Pages: 329 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Promotional Materials and More: author website

The Devil's Metal (Devils, #1)It’s the summer of 1974 and 21-year old Dawn Emerson has only three things she wants to do: compete one last time in the Ellensburg Rodeo, win back her ex-boyfriend Ryan, and become the best damn music journalist at Central Washington University. But all her plans are left in the dust when she’s contacted by Creem magazine to go on the road with one of her favorite groups, the up-and-coming metal band, Hybrid.

At first the assignment reads like a dream come true. Not only will Dawn land some much-needed credibility as a female music journalist, but she’ll finally get to experience life from the other side of the stage, and maybe crack the drunken, enigmatic code that is guitarist Sage Knightly. Instead, Dawn finds herself on an aging tour bus filled with ego-maniacs, band politics and a whole lot of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. When monsters start showing up in dressing rooms and some of Sage’s groupies become increasingly strange and dangerous, Dawn discovers the band is not only going places – they’re going straight to Hell.

And Dawn has a backstage pass.


Review:


I say this so often I'm thinking about adding it to my blog post template: Karina is one of my friends, but this doesn't affect my rating or review.

I'm pretty sure at this point that Karina can't go wrong. Some of her books are better than others, but she's awesome both writingwise and personwise. (Augh! Must stop talking about author! Book time!) After dragging my feet on it for months, I finally read my copy of The Devil's Metal and that leaves me wondering why I waited so long. This book is awesome!

Dawn and Sage get off to a rough start, but they get closer as the novel goes on and you start to feel like they fit together well. Then some of the teasing scenes come in and not until you're close to the end do you see the grand payoff! Ooooh, that scene. My Spanish professor caught me reading it in class and told me to put it away, but I was tempted to tell her in Spanish I was reading an important scene and was passing the class anyway, so let me read, please and thank you. I'm pretty sure she would have let me had I been able to say all that fluently.

The author's experience as a music journalist show through in the vivid scenes where Dawn talks about the bands as they're performing. Writing about music in such a way that you can bring it to life and make people who will never hear it understand it is difficult, but the descriptions do it with ease. Just as easily as she does that, she sends chills down your spine with some of what the characters see. The demonic baby and the mother drooling blood onto it... Ugh. Nightmare fuel!

One thing I couldn't help but notice is that most of the women in this novel are either villains or victims, though. Most of the antagonists of women, there are more than a few dead women peppered throughout the novel (some dead long before the book starts, admittedly), and the one female member of the band eventually loses her mind and drops out of the book. To an extent, even Dawn is a victim. Men suffer too, but what happens to the women sticks out more to me.

The sequel The Devil's Reprise has no set release date yet, but the last time I saw, she was hoping for a fall release with her new publisher Diversion Books.With that cliffhanger leaving me hanging like that, I'll be eager to see it come out!

(I still don't consider this new adult, though. In my head, this falls squarely into adult just like her Experiment in Terror series does. They're both just as chilling and sexy!)

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Title: Dance of Shadows
Author: Yelena Black
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Pages: 447 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer

Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows, #1)Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you're close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner's heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly – and she must be very careful who she trusts . . .

Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school – the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister's shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances – she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames . . .

Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead – and the burning forces about to be unleashed . . .


Review:

Books about dance are awesome. Books about demons are even more awesome. How could Dance of Shadows, a book about ballet and demons (the literal ones; ballet comes with plenty of figurative demons) and how the two intersect, go wrong? A lot of ways, actually.

Dancing comes with a lot of pressure. Eating right, mastering dances that can often be complicated, not making a fool out of yourself during rehearsal or during the show, being reminded how short your career can be and that one wrong step can stop it before it ever begins,... I'm no ballet dancer, but I've read enough books involving dancing to know there are many demons dancers battle. The book's decision to make those figurative demons literal was part of what drew me to the novel in the first place, and this element is what sticks with me the most.

This appears to be the only strong suit Dance of Shadows has. Vanessa is too bland for me to understand why she's so extraordinary even when it's explicitly stated. The statement simply doesn't ring true. The motivation that brings her to NYBA--finding her sister-- almost immediately falls by the wayside and she makes little to no effort to try and find her. Progress is made only when it ties in with other girl's disappearances. Vanessa is also rather dim. The person who has long, private training sessions with the evil mastermind? They're probably in on the evil plot. That doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out, but she walks right into that trap.

I don't care for either of her love interests and overall, the cast falls flat. Some characters are given backstories, but they never truly play into who these characters are and why they do what they do. A plot point in which Blaine, the stereotypical gay male dancer of the book, says he feels the same odd thing Vanessa does when she dances is dropped completely and it is regarded as if he never said anything for the rest of the novel.

Mid-read, I likened reading this book to being slapped in the face with a neon pink fish that screams "HEY! THIS IS SUSPICIOUS! BE SUSPICIOUS OF IT!" constantly while the characters remain clueless. Paired with slow pacing that waits until the very end to advance the supernatural elements, Dance of Shadows gets frustrating very quickly. It almost seems like a spoiler to say there are demons because they come into the novel so late, but it doesn't count as a spoiler when the novel's initial publication announcement mentions demons.

Worse than that, I saw all the twists coming. Cover-ups? Called it. How said cover-ups are done? Same. To be honest, the cover-ups are horribly done; all it took to unravel it for one person was a single phone call home. No one ever thought to try that in twenty years? There are more called twists I am too frustrated to name. One of the notes I have written down for this book close to the end is "I DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING AT ALL. /sarcasm" and I would have been kinder had so much of my time, patience, and faith not been wasted.

Dance of Shadows begins a trilogy and it's unlikely I'll be around for book two despite a strongly written finale and a tantalizing set-up for book two. One more bad book from a book packager (The InkHouse, in this case; it gave us Fallen by Lauren Kate) like this and I'm done with them for good. I've given that part of the industry many chances and I have almost constantly been failed. (But before anyone gets confused, that has no influence on my rating/enjoyment of this book. This is simply how it happens every time.)

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Title: Dualed
Author: Elsie Chapman
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Pages: 304 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: E-ARC from the publisher
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | book trailer | author website

Dualed (Dualed, #1)You or your Alt? Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Elsie Chapman's suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.


Review:


Writing reviews that overuse "I" are the bane of my existence, but this is going to be one of those reviews. Dualed is highly reminiscent of Divergent in a number of ways and there are therefore going to be many people who will love this novel, but Divergent was not my cup of tea when I read it last year and neither was Dualed. An intense storyline and a strongly developed main character kept me glued to my copy, but the most typical pitfalls of YA dystopian novels (a lack of strong worldbuilding and an overall message about society/people in general) strike again.

The book starts off with a bang; by the end of chapter one, West's older brother named Luc, is a Peripheral Kill/unintended casualty during his friend Chord's completion (which is what it's called when someone kills their Alt). West already came off as a very emotionally distant heroine after her other two siblings were killed by their Alts, her father committed suicide, and her mother was a PK. After the death of her only remaining family member, she became even more closed off and despite how difficult it was to connect with her, I felt like I knew her. This is one YA heroine I could pick out of a lineup and remember.

The storyline is a little repetitive in its action-close call-action-close call-action-close call format, but the story is nonetheless intense--and not just in its action sequences. I still don't understand why West did half of what she did during the novel, but the quiet power of her emotions throughout the novel made it hard to put down. With such intensity, a strong message about identity in a world where there is always someone exactly like you, the nature of human beings, or society was close at hand, right?

Unfortunately, wrong.

The identity theme would not have been difficult to tackle and surely would have been done well considering the power of Chapman's writing, but Dualed is only about the action and the killing. West's Alt is never even given a name; she goes the entire novel nameless. Halfway through the book, I'd developed my own ideas for how the girls might come together, trick the system, and bring it down so no ten-year-old would have to be activated and forced to kill someone ever again. They'd come to know one another as individuals, not just as each other's Alts. Sorry to ruin it, but nothing of the sort happens. The plot is a straight shot without any surprises.

Other messages that might be applicable to this novel are similarly ignored in favor of action. What the system does to families of the Alt who gets killed? Some minor coverage through West because her siblings both lost to their Alts, but otherwise nonexistent. The nature of human beings and their need for vengeance when their loved ones are hurt? There are strict laws against vengeance kills, but the laws in our world function exactly the same way and the family of a victim will still try to attack and/or kill the perpetrator despite the consequences. There simply isn't a plausible way for the world to get to this point, in my point of view.

Asking questions about the worldbuilding will get you nowhere. This is the setup: a cold vaccine caused irreversible infertility, the human race bwas kept alive via biological intervention, people fell back into war (how? I have no idea), and the city of Kersh was founded as the last safe place. The price of living there is killing the Alt who is created at the same time you are via gene manipulation. That's it, really.

The polio vaccine went through five years of human test trials before it was licensed. How long was the cold vaccine put through human test trials? Did no one notice the infertility side effect? This bothered me for the entire book due to the fact that this is all we get. My only choice is to take it and go with it and that is a worldbuilding method that almost never works for me.

Now then, the romance. Funnily enough, I do believe West and Chord love one another, but I do not believe in their romance even for a second. Their bond is demonstrated throughout the novel in how Chord never tries to stop helping West and how she constantly tries to kick him out of her life because she's afraid of getting hurt if anything happens to him, but I feel this is familial love, not romantic love. These two only come off as brother and sister to me, and it eventually turning into  a romance was a little strange.

The novel comes with a solid conclusion, a departure from the killer cliffhanger norm I've seen lately, and I have trouble seeing where its sequel Divided will go. Will we see the war taking place outside of Kersh, perhaps? Considering how much potential Dualed had and how swiftly it laid waste to that potential, I'm not sure whether or not I want to read in order to see if Chapman can hit the nail on the head this time or skip it with the thought in mind that it will be as much of a miss. There's a long stretch of time between then and now, so we'll see.

2.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ellen Oh and Negative Reviews: How Much Can Authors Say?

I'm a little sad to report on this event because I think this author is  a kind person, but the greater conversation it can start makes it worth posting. Make sure you click all the images to see what's going on.

In the one time I got to go on Goodreads yesterday (2/10/13), I saw that my friend Miranda didn't want to read Ellen Oh's novel Prophecy anymore because of something she saw the author post. I clicked all the links she posted and before anything could get deleted, I got screencaps.

Tumblr and how it works can be kind of confusing for people who don't use it (I barely know how it works and I DO use it), so I'll start at the beginning of the "thread". That's the easiest way to explain what it is and what happened. This was the original image another user posted:


This is what Oh added when she reblogged it (she has since deleted the post):


And this is what Miranda added when she reblogged it (and she was not the only person to disagree with Oh):




After that, Oh sends two messages to Miranda's inbox that she answers before telling Oh to leave her alone.



That was all that had happened up until the point I went to bed. While checking Goodreads between classes the next morning (2/11/13), I saw a notification for new comments in Miranda/Merle's review. The new comment brought up that Oh was now talking about what happened on Twitter. Indeed she was! This is one big conversation:


When I say I think the author is a kind person, I mean it. She did something for me that she didn't need to because it didn't involve her in any way and I'm still thankful to her for it even though I was no fan of her book. Still, what she posted was out of line. Her choice of words on Twitter when she said Miranda "twisted [her] words into a mockery of [her] true intent" and her declaration that what happened is all her (Oh's) fault don't match up either. ETA 2/12/13: What I've heard since making this post initially is making me reconsider this, though. Sad.

I've got a lot more to say about what Oh posted and none of them are kind, but I'll keep them to myself because that's not the issue here. What I'd like to see discussed is how much authors are allowed to say about books--books that aren't their own, in most cases.

When we see an author complain loudly about a negative review of one of their own books, we usually write them off as a Badly Behaving Author and go on with our lives. It's a different story when they're talking about someone else's book. Everyone has the right to be honest about how they feel about books, but you don't see a lot of authors who review and give out one-star or two-star ratings. One of the few I know of who does so is KT Grant (who I have secretly admired since I started blogging, but I guess it's not a secret now).

The way it seems, most authors don't do negative reviews. I can imagine why: they don't want to put off readers because of a single negative review or otherwise cause trouble with it. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" seems to be an unspoken rule there.

When I get published, that's the end of my book-blogging career. Boom. Done. I'll make a post saying the game is over for The YA Kitten, my reader Goodreads account will go dead and I'll let my author account be a clean slate, and I'll only maybe keep reviewing on Amazon for the sake of staying in the Amazon Vine program for as long as I feel like it. There have been occasions where I wavered from this resolve and wondered if maybe I could be an author who reviewed books honestly and wasn't afraid to say a book was bad, but incidents like this put me right back where I started. This is what I've had planned since I began blogging.

Authors like Grant and a few others (some of whom are my friends, I have to admit) can pull off being authors who review honestly, but I've seen them get some flak for it too. I won't be able to deal with that because I'm not very good at holding back. If you've followed me long enough and seen me review a book I passionately hated, you know exactly what I mean. I might not even be able to hold back if someone tied me up and put tape over my mouth!

Enough about me. What say you? Is it what the author says, how they say it, that they say it at all, or some Frankenstein's monster-esque combination of the three that causes issues like these?

ETA: This is not her first time saying something questionable about negative reviews, it seems. Some tweets are quite pointed toward her own reviews.




Friday, February 8, 2013

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

Title: City of a Thousand Dolls
Author: Miriam Forster
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Pages: 361 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

City of a Thousand DollsAn exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.


Review:


There are plenty of European-influenced fantasies novels on the market and Asian-inspired fantasies are on the rise too, but fantasies drawing on other cultures? You're hard-pressed to find those. City of a Thousand Dolls is one of those rare books that draws on another culture: Indian. I expected it to take that originality somewhere, but this one is another dud. Between sitting around doing nothing while waiting for some appointments and reading this book, I preferred doing nothing to reading it.

To give credit where it's due, I loved Nisha's (admittedly unquestioned and unexplained until it's dropped on us at the very end) ability to be able to speak to cats  and the cats themselves are such fun characters! You should have known I'd love them; I'm the YA Kitten, after all. Cats and books are equally loved in my heart. The mystery even managed to keep me on my toes until the very end. Then Forster throws in some Chinese (policies governing how many children a family can have, the preference of male children over female) and Japanese (poetry is in haiku style for the most part) bits in addition to the Indian caste system her novel makes heavy use of. Nice!

You'd have to be psychic to be able to tell from the cover and/or jacket copy that this book comes with a heaping helping of misogyny. The in-world sexism is so over-the-top that this book ought to come with a trigger warning slapped right on the cover. The women are bought by MEN, trained to suit the desires of MEN, and are considered worth so little compared to MEN that women are often abandoned as young children. This habit is why the City of a Thousand Dolls (emphasis on DOLLS; that's basically all women are in this world) was founded: to put women to good use.

Seriously, fantasy novels can stop falling back on this tried-and-true way to create easy conflict. It's been covered already. There's not much more you can do with it now other than annoy people. I'm glad Nisha and other characters came to object to it later on, but it came very late in the novel. Even then, nothing is really done about it. Women are still going to be considered lesser and trained to suit men's desires, but they get a choice in which man claims them. Not much change, is it?

The characters themselves don't get much dimension. Nisha has some, but everyone else is about as flat as a board. Nisha isn't even a very good main character because she often doesn't ask questions she really ought to ask and does really stupid things. Why can she speak to cats? She never asks herself this. If a character hadn't dropped that bomb on us at the end, we never would have known  why. Going to meet a killer alone? Also really stupid. And for goodness's sake, have no girls ever wandered into the forest or been dared to go in there? It's ridiculous the house back there stayed such a secret when discovering it was so easy!

There's a lot in this novel that isn't done with any finesse. The reveal of the culprit(s), their motives, why Nisha can speak to the cats, what the cats are (because they obviously aren't normal cats), and more are all dropped on us at the very end of the book with two or three chapters of straight revelation/infodump. It's ridiculous! When you're revealing information you've kept hidden well for an entire novel, a reader shouldn't find the minutiae of a contract more interesting!

Then the book ends on a very middle-grade-esque note with everyone living happily ever after. All the wrongs are righted, Nisha gets what she wants, everything is perfect, etc. This kind of ending is rather unrealistic because of how violently misogynist her world is. Implementing the same solutions wouldn't eliminate it in our world, so why should it in hers? Maybe this was aimed at the younger YA/older middle grade group, but I've read middle grade novels that handled their issues with a much more deft hand. There's really no excuse for this novel to go so badly. My adivce? Skip it.

1.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Title: Unravel Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Pages: 480 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC in a swap with a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)tick
tick
tick
tick
tick
it's almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch. Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.

Review:


I'm going to be completely honest here: if Warner weren't such a fun character, I never would have bothered with Unravel Me. The prose of Shatter Me bugged me, Adam and Juliette's relationship wasn't well-developed enough to make me believe in it, not much happened, and characterization overall was underwhelming. Still, hot villains obsessed with the heroines are like catnip to me. It's a good thing the catnip brought me back for once because there's a great deal of improvement here!

Juliette's angst is still deep enough to drown in and at times, the urge to shake her (or the book in place of her!) is irresistible. She could have saved people so much trouble if she'd just opened her mouth and told people things, but she kept it all to herself to the very end! Characters like this are beyond frustrating. Thank goodness Kenji is here to be the voice of reason when he's not being annoying. Juliette needs someone to call her out every now and again. Too bad he couldn't coax her to say things that could have saved people's lives.

Speaking of saving other people's lives, stuff actually happens this time. They go on missions, they steal stuff, they save people, and more people get shot. Juliette even starts learning more about her powers! I like where the plot takes us for most of the novel, but some twists are just ridiculous. Why so many novels have decided to reveal the love interests as relatives of each other either late in the first book or sometime in the next book is anyone's guess, but it's catching on. It irritates me.

Her love for Adam isn't really expanded on either. They love each other and that's that. They spend a lot of the book apart anyway, so it's not really anything that matters. Juliette's attraction to Warner (which I think she's mistaking for love when she just thinks he's incredibly hot) is what gets more attention. The infamous chapter sixty-two? It's focused on them and pretty steamy. I approve of the moment, but not of them becoming canon. I don't like to see my crackships turned canon!

The prose, which was a major point of contention for readers of Shatter Me, sees a lot of improvement. Less repetition, less strikeouts, less "whut?" moments,... Instead of being like a child who is out of control and scribbling all over the walls, the prose is now more like a child whose parents disciplined it until it learned better, but it still has its occasional tantrums. There are still some awful moments, though. Moments like these (all quoted from the ARC):

"My head is full of missing buttons and shards of glass and broken pencil tips (p. 226)."

"I'm checking my pockets for spare words and sentences but I'm finding none, not an adverb, not a preposition or even a dangling participle because there doesn't exist a single response to such an outlandish request (p. 282)."

"My fists are full of unlucky pennies and my heart is a jukebox demanding a few nickels and my head is flipping quarter heads or tails heads or tails heads or tails heads or tails (p. 296)"

Also, try speaking in strikeouts and parenthetical asides. Hard, isn't it? That's why people shouldn't use either in dialogue. use them all you want in every other part, but when people are talking, they aren't going to be speaking in strikeouts.

The ending swears on its life that Juliette has grown as a character and she's going to take many more steps up in the third and final book of the series. I want to believe it. The way it looks right now, I'm going to be sticking around to see how everything ends. (But seriously, if Warner and Juliette end up together, I will be an angry little kitten. My crack pairings can have moments in canon like this Warner/Juliette did in chapter sixty-two, but making them canon? Uh, no. Please don't.)

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (40)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

This jacket copy has it all for me: a secret admirer who is most likely dangerous, a mystery, and nothing being what it seems. From the moment I saw it, I knew it had to be MINE ALL MINE MWAHAHAHAHA. Now excuse me while I go look up the publicity email address and beg for a review copy of this. I'll give them whatever they want! (I think there are a few spare souls around here I can give them...)

Truly, Madly, DeadlyTruly, Madly, Deadly
by Hannah Jayne
July 13, 2013 (Sourcebooks Fire)
304 pages (paperback)

Sawyer Dodd has it all. She's a star track athlete, choir soloist, and A-student. And her boyfriend is the handsome all-star Kevin Anderson. But behind the medals, prom pictures, and perfect smiles, Sawyer finds herself trapped in a controlling, abusive relationship with Kevin. When he dies in a drunk-driving accident, Sawyer is secretly relieved. She's free. Until she opens her locker and finds a mysterious letter signed by "an admirer" and printed with two simple words: "You're welcome."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mind Games by Kiersten White

Title: Mind Games

Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Pages: 256 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

Mind Games (Mind Games, #1)Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost


Review:


Kiersten White wrote the first draft of Mind Games in nine days and at times, it shows. In real time, the events of this 256-page novel happen in two days with half the events taking place in flashbacks and it's a fast book to read. Still, it surprised me by being much better than expected. A little undeveloped and in need of more time in the editing oven, but it's an otherwise pleasant surprise from a novel I expected the worst from.

Some readers can't stand it when a book is divided half into flashbacks and half into what is going on in the present, but I quite like it. What I dislike is that White ends all the present-time chapters with cliffhangers that make me want to skip the flashbacks altogether! White did a fine enough job giving Annie and Fia their own voices and avoiding one of the biggest pitfalls for a dual POV novel; I never needed to check the beginning of the chapter to figure out who was speaking.

The consistency of its elements is where things start going downhill. Sometimes, the way Fia speaks in run-ons and repetition thoroughly gets across that what she has been through has reduced her to the emotional maturity of a ten-year-old girl. That's how she reads most of the time. (Also, small niggle, but it bothers me that she hates the number three and yet does almost everything in threes.) Other times, it's just annoying. Sometimes, the love the sisters have for one another is palpable and their complex relationship feels real. Other times? Nope. Fia's got a reason for her sections being badly written, but Annie sure doesn't.

Just about every element of the novel, from the romance-ish thing Fia has going on with James to other characters' personalities and motivations (especially James), suffers from this issue--which is exactly what I feared might happen when I heard how long it took to write the first draft.The book was both written--and read thanks to its pacing--so quickly that deeper development isn't there.

There are still too many questions the novels leaves unanswered, though the sequel will surely answer them. What does Keane want? He's collecting young girls (because only girls have them for whatever reason) with psychic powers to give out as gifts to politicians, yeah. Still, what is his ultimate goal? Hopefully, the sequel I'll probably stick around for will offer much deeper development than Mind Games.

2.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Monday, February 4, 2013

Into the Hollow by Karina Halle

Title: Into the Hollow
Author: Karina Halle
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Release Date: November 15, 2012
Pages: 238 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Promotional Materials and More: series website

Into the Hollow (Experiment in Terror, #6)Perry Palomino has fought her demons – and won – but the battle is far from over. She’s now left broken and on her own, leaving behind her life and family in Portland to focus on giving Dex Foray – and the Experiment in Terror show – a second chance. But their past mistakes continue to tease and test their relationship, as does the wild and desolate terrain of the Canadian Rockies. The snow-covered peaks and ravenous forests hide an urban legend too unbelievably frightening to be true and the only way the duo has a chance of surviving is if Perry can let in the very man who sent her to hell and back.

Review:


You know the drill: the author is my friend, but this didn't affect my review or rating in any way.

After five books of these two misunderstanding each other left and right and doing more than a few things than would make a normal person give up on someone altogether, Dex and Perry finally get it together! Into the Hollow is everything I expected it to be after the utterly fantastic On Demon Wings and it's good to see so many issues finally being addressed. This is a short one because gushing over this one is about as easy as pulling a tooth or making me get a shot, but I'm sure fans of the series will find exactly what they're looking for here.

Seriously, almost every issue and misunderstanding between Dex and Perry from the last five books, from the medicine switch to the lies to just about anything else you can think of that hasn't been dealt with is here. After going through hell in the last five books, our favorite duo has changed a lot. Their hearts have been broken, they've nearly been killed a couple times over, and they know much more about who they are now. They're also to a point where they can engage in some very steamy scenes the likes of which the previous books can't compete with!

I've gotten used to seeing typos because you can't catch everything, but there's that and then there's a smile spreading inside Perry's stomach. That is a place where smiles should not be. The uneven pacing had me flipping the pages so quickly that it hurt my fingers one occasion and then made me have to fight to read more the next. This isn't helped by the supernatural factor coming in so late in the novel, but once it's there, it's worth it.

One scene in particular leaves a sour taste in my mouth every time I think about it. It's a scene deep in the novel: Mitch knocks out Dex and attempts to rape Perry, which readers have probably expecting him to do for some time based on all the looks he gave Perry. Once Mitch gets the snot beaten out of him, Dex and Perry take off on their own...and run right into the monster they were trying to avoid. Rape scenes in general are uncomfortable, but they're even more uncomfortable when they come off as a plot device used to get characters where they need to go. That's how this scene comes off to me because I can think of at least one other way to get them to the same place.

Is that going to stop me from reading on? Of course not! Especially not since Come Alive, book seven in the series, will be told in Dex's POV instead of Perry's. That makes it an absolute must-read for me!

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pivot Point by Kasie West

Title: Pivot Point
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Pages: 352 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

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

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


Review:


Nothing about Pivot Point really screamed "READ ME" to me, but on a friend's recommendation, I decided to pick up an ARC when I had a chance. (Amazon Vine is beautiful. Just sayin'.) Well, color me swoony because it came out of nowhere to impress me. Books like this are why I still take chances on novels I'm unsure about: gems occasionally pop up.

Addie's such an accessible character that growing to care about her happens quickly. There doesn't seem to be much conflict in which life she should choose because one life seems leagues and leagues better than the other, but her personal struggle with it is perfectly understandable. West's easy prose and quick pacing as each chapter rotates between each life make the book a quick read, but it takes a while to get used to the constant switching. You just have to remember they switch with each chapter or recognize if the defined word at the chapter's start has "para" or "norm" in it.

The love interest Addie has in her life with her father is such a sweet guy and I'll remember him as one of my favorite love interests in any novel. Trevor's not really swoonworthy, but he's the subtle kind of sweet you like anyway--kind of like my Paris-themed, candy-scented perfume. The other one, football player Duke, should go to a special hell where he has to kiss a cactus that kicks him in the nuts every three seconds forever. THAT'S how bad he is in my eyes. One character deserves that and a whole lot more.

Laila earns almost as much of my ire as Duke does thanks to her lack of depth and character development. Also, rule number three of the sister code? NEVER push your best friend off a stage just to get her close to a guy you think she might be good with. Matchmaking attempts will happen, but there are limits and that is well beyond them. I'm also unimpressed by the one-note characterization of jealous love rival/cheerleader/Norm Stephanie. Her only characterization is that she dislikes Addie because she's a girl Trevor is close to.

There's just one question about the ending. There's really no way to explain it otherwise, so here's a vague explanation that may seem like a spoiler but it's not: Addie has Laila Erase her memory of both paths to keep them from effecting whatever path she chooses to take. With no memory at all of what she saw in her Search to guide her in her decision, why does she choose to live with the parent she ultimately does? She just gets lucky and chooses the "right" path?

I honestly didn't expect to care much for Pivot Point, but it came out of nowhere to surprise me. I'm staying tuned for both the next book in this series and West's next novel, The Distance Between Us (July 2013).

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi