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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Storm Siren by Mary Weber

Storm Siren by Mary Weber

Blurb from Goodreads
“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”

In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth — meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

5 stars
I have to admit something - I am terribly prejudiced. Well not when it comes to important things. My experience with Christian publishers makes me want to automatically reject anything from the Christian sector. Don't get me wrong, I am a Christ follower - I just think that the quality of writing, plotting and characterization is lacking in the Christian publishing world. I was extremely excited for this book, and then I found out it was published by Thomas Nelson. I began the book prepared to DNF it. But what I found was truly one of the best books of the year. I was surprised, delighted, and I think I giggled a little bit over how good this book was. It had everything that makes a great book. I loved all of the characters - well except for the bad guys. Mary Weber sets up the ending beautifully, weaving an intricate web that culminates in the last few chapters. There is not a scene wasted. I was caught by surprise on a few of the twists, but the ending oh that ending. Ms. Weber, that really wasn't nice. How do you expect us to wait another year?

I loved how Nym struggled with her gift/curse. She is vulnerable and has an active conscious which makes for a lot of internal conflict. Watching her wrestle with the killings made her relatable. And even though she is a slave, she still has a backbone. She is not helpless, nor is she so tough that she thinks she can do it on her own. She was the right balance.

There are several key characters that were well done. Colin, Breck and Eogan complete the ensemble and make the world richer and more fleshed out. Sometimes the minor characters are sacrificed for the main character, but that is not the case here. Each character is drawn as if from a real life person.

The world building was phenomenal, and it was doled out bit by bit as you needed to know things. I hate when a book dumps all of the information about a fantasy world at once. This book slowly revealed the information and made you want more.

I loved this book, in case you haven't been able to tell from my review. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves fantasy with great characters.

Completely clean as far as language and sex. There are some violent moments.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine 

Blurb from Goodreads
There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

4.5 stars
So, so good! It was the perfect blend of plot, characterization and beautiful writing. Oh, and did I mention that it was based loosely on The Phantom of the Opera? Anything to do with Phantom is a must read in my book, and I am so glad that this one lived up to my expectations. I cannot wait to read the sequel to this one! I want to see more of this world. Sarah Fine did a great job of creating a world within a world with the Slaughterhouse. I want Wen to explore more of her world though. I want more history of the two races - why they hate one another so much, how the Noor were conquered and why.

I read some reviews that criticized the book for using the threat of rape. My only problem is that it seemed that all of the men (with the exception of Melik and Sinan) were just looking for any excuse to rape. This is not a fair representation of men. I would have liked to see some more men step up and say that Mugo's treatment of women was despicable. I understand why the workers could not, but at least have some characters object in a conversation. Even the women seem to accept that this is their lot.

I feel that Wen was a strong character. She had the courage to reach out to the Noor and accept them. I felt her remorse at what she feels was her fault was a great display of character, and her forgiveness showed strength.

I wish I had the second book because I would absolutely read it right now - publication date notwithstanding. This is a great read for fans of fantasy and classical story re-tellings.

There was no language.  There is the threat of rape, but no actual sex scenes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Forget Me by K.A. Harrington

Forget Me 

Blurb from Goodreads
On the three-month anniversary of her boyfriend Flynn’s death, Morgan uploads her only photo of him to FriendShare to get some closure—but she’s shocked when the facial recognition software suggests she tag him as "Evan Murphy." She’s never heard of Evan, but a quick search tells her that he lives in a nearby town and looks exactly like Flynn. Only this boy is very much alive.

Digging through layers of secrets and lies, Morgan is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her boyfriend, her town, and even her parents' involvement in this massive web of lies.

4 stars
A well written suspense that will satisfy lovers of the genre. The mystery is thought provoking. The idea that we all have a doppelganger is intriguing. What would you do if the boy you saw get hit by a car was resurrected in another boy only a short distance away? Morgan certainly uses her brain and not just reacting with her emotions. I loved that she was careful and cautious about dangerous situations. I hate when the protagonist runs off and does something stupid because they just know in their heart that it is the "right" thing to do. Morgan is circumspect, but she is still tenacious at getting to the truth. Evan, of course, is adorable (who can resist dimples?).

The mystery was a little easy to figure out, but I think that's because I have read way too many suspense novels. I still enjoyed it. Knowing what was coming did not lessen my enjoyment. It is hard to believe how quick the read is because it is a layered and complex story. The characters really draw you in and make you care. Even the secondary characters are well fleshed out.

Harrington really writes conversations well. I loved the interaction between Morgan and Toni. Their relationship seemed genuine and real - just how I would picture a best friend being in high school. There was no competition between the girls which was refreshing. I've read too many books where the girls compete for a boy's attention. This modeled a positive relationship and was really a joy to read.

I really liked this book, and I am definitely going to be looking up more titles by this author.  There were a few expletives (maybe 5 total) and some kissing.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Madly, Deeply by Erica Crouch

Madly, Deeply

Blurb from Goodreads
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea...

Annaleigh Wells and William Calloway had a love even the angels envied. It was as if the universe spun them toward one another, like the stars crafted their souls to fit perfectly together.

With a wedding on the horizon, fate had a change of heart. Whispered warnings from phantoms and morbid nightmares darkened every night—but even visions of the future couldn’t save Annaleigh.

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Annabel Lee, Crouch’s period romance Madly, Deeply tells the tale of love so great, it cannot be contained in just one life.

This is a book about loss and grief. It is a beautifully written tribute to the power of love. William loses his other half on their wedding night. It really made me think about losing my husband, my better half, and I realize that even though we have been married for 21 years, it is not enough. William's grief touched me, made me cry, and made me appreciate that love should not be taken for granted. The book took Poe's poem of Annabel Lee and added aspects of the supernatural. It imagined the world perfectly with just the right touch of characters. It wasn't very long, but it was packed full of emotion. I would recommend to readers who don't mind a character driven novel who like a novel to make them feel emotions. And, of course, if you are a big Edgar Allen Poe fan, this will delight you.  It was truly well done, and I will definitely want to keep this one around for re-reads.  

This was a clean read - no sex or language! 

Books I Recently Acquired

A couple of years ago, I came across a book by Kate Forsyth that I knew I had to have.  The only problem is that it was published in Australia, and I couldn't get it.  So I impatiently waited. Well, this week it came up on Netgalley for US audiences.  I clicked on the request button and sat back, feverishly waiting to see if I would be approved. I am very happy to say that I was. Now I just have to wait until closer to the release date of September 23rd to read it.  So much waiting for this book. I hope it lives up to it!

Reading this one now.  Really enjoying it!

And the rest of the books I recently got....
So Close to You (So Close to You, #1)The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare (Alex Wayfare, #1)The FallReally super excited for The Fall too.  I love Edgar Allen Poe, and this looks to be a great retelling!
Illusions of FateThe Perfectionists

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Welcome to the Dark House part two

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria StolarzMy earlier review was written in the mistaken belief that this was a stand-alone novel. I have been informed that there will be a sequel so I will amend my review from 3 stars to 4.  Here goes how the review would have went if I had known there was a sequel...  I liked everything about this novel except for that cliff hanger ending. I am beyond ready for the next book to explain all the creepiness away. The writing was suspenseful and eerie. I have always been afraid of carnivals since I was little, and this didn't really help much. I loved Ivy's character. I thought she was well drawn and believable. I think it takes more guts to overcome a big fear than it does to tackle a smaller fear. And Ivy has guts! I am eager for the next one (now that I know there is more coming). Thanks to the author for correcting me!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz 

Blurb from Goodreads
What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.

3 stars
I have no idea why it ended the way it did. I understand the book was being mysterious and creepy, but there has to be some sort of payoff at the end, and for me this one didn't have it. It was a great build up with interesting characters. I wanted to learn more backstory for each one. Although I'm not sure why Taylor was even included so maybe not her story so much. I would like to know what happened to her. I just couldn't get past the ending to give it more than three stars. The rest of the book was tautly written. The suspense was amazing, and the mystery well constructed. I really liked most of the book so I feel bad for basing my decision on the last few pages, but I was looking for a grand revelation and some closure that I didn't get.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

This is my 100th post, and I couldn't be happier with the book I'm reviewing!

Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief, #1)

Blurb from Goodreads
Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

4.5 stars
Absolutely riveting! I kept putting off reading this one, and now I am left wondering why. Kyra is a great addition to the canon of kick butt heroines (Katniss, Celaena, Elisa, Tris, Katsa, Saba, Enna, you get the point). I truly fell in love with Kyra's character from the first chapter. She is just the right balance between being vulnerable and being steel. Her drive to survive is incredible and makes you cheer for her from the start.

This is a great world to lose yourself in. It is well imagined and creative. When I read, I felt a part of Kyra's world. The detail described is enough to give you the framework, but not too much that you were
overwhelmed with too much information.

Blackburne did a great job as far as pacing. There were no lulls or places where I wanted the story to move faster. It kept you always interested and not sure where the story was headed. The twists and turns were expertly done. I knew I was in the hands of a master wordsmith.

I definitely will be looking up this author for more works. This was a great book that will satisfy fantasy lovers.

Completely clean read!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey

Blurb from Goodreads
The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers.

 4 stars
First, even though the title is catchy, it only pertained to about 1/8 of the book. Second, this book was way too short. I wanted more on all fronts - more plot, more dialogue, more character building.  I feel that I was just barely given a glimpse into Clarice's world.  It was such a compelling world that I definitely wanted to spend more time there.  I know that there will be sequels, but Clarice was such a great character that I feel we didn't get enough of her.  Lackey is famous for her worlds, and this one is no exception. I have not read anything by Mallory, but this book will prompt me to seek out other things he has written.  I did find the names of places to be puzzling. They obviously were taken from our current countries of Europe and Africa.  To me, it would have been better to just use what was currently there, and just make up places like Swansgaard and The House of the Four Winds.

I can say that after reading several books in a row that had a weak and slow middle, this book was a refreshing change.  There was not one point where my attention lagged.  And it wasn't one of those books that was all action and lacked character development.

I liked the fact that once Dominick learns the truth about Clarice's gender, he wasn't miffed. He simply accepted the truth, and then realizes that what he was feeling was love all along.  This was a different reaction than your typical gender bending books that it caught me by surprise.

And it was clean of sex and language!  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that. This writing duo shows that you don't need to resort to that to have a great book.

My main complaint is the one I already stated. It just simply wasn't long enough. Still it is a great read full of magic and intrigue.  I look forward to reading about more of the sisters in future books.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

One Past Midnight by Jessica Shirvington

One Past Midnight 

Blurb from Goodreads
Name of overseas edition of Between The Lives.
Above all else, though I try not to think about it, I know which life I prefer. And every night when I Cinderella myself from one life to the next a very small, but definite, piece of me dies. The hardest part is that nothing about my situation has ever changed. There is no loophole.

Until now, that is...

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ′other′ life - a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she′s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she′s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she′s always wanted... But just what - and who - is she really risking?

4.5 stars
I don't know what is going on lately, but this book made me cry too. This is a book about possibilities. What is waiting in your future that has the potential to make you happy? Sabine experiences two lives. She has double the potential, but she doesn't see it that way. This book is beautifully written, and it evokes a lot of emotion as well as making you stop and take stock of your life. Chances are we only have one shot unlike Sabine. You have to suspend belief and logic with this story. So if you are one that needs a methodical and scientific solution to paranormal happenings, this book will frustrate you. But it you are able to go with the flow and just accept Sabine's condition, I think you will fall in love with this book. I love the movie Sliding Doors - it is one of my all time favorites. This book reminded me of that movie. And now I have a book hangover. I don't know what to read next because this was so good, and I am afraid nothing else will measure up. I definitely want to read more books by this author and will be looking to see what else I can get my hands on as soon as I submit this review. I really enjoyed the journey with Sabine. She grew and matured as the book progressed, and I think the majority of readers will appreciate that.

Starbreak by Phoebe North

Starbreak by Phoebe North 

Blurb from Goodreads
The Asherah has finally reached Zehava, the long-promised planet. There, Terra finds harsh conditions and a familiar foe—Aleksandra Wolff, leader of her ship’s rebel forces. Terra and Aleksandra first lock horns with each other . . . but soon realize they face a much more dangerous enemy in violent alien beasts—and alien hunters.

Then Terra finally discovers Vadix. The boy who has haunted her dreams may be their key to survival—but his own dark past has yet to be revealed. And when Aleksandra gets humanity expelled from the planet, it’s up to Terra, with Vadix by her side, to unite her people—and to forge an alliance with the alien hosts, who want nothing more than to see humanity gone forever.

Phoebe North doesn't disappoint. I will admit... this made me cry. When you get to the end you will understand.

It was wonderful to be back with Terra again.  Phoebe North is amazing at world building. The "aliens" were fascinating and complex. I will admit to be a little squeamish about the romance. I understand that the point is that if two people love each other then they should be together, but I still wasn't comfortable. Of course, that is my problem not the book's. And the ending did make me cry so I couldn't have been too upset by Terra and Vadix. I don't know if there will be another book because this one wrapped up everything in a box with a pretty bow. I hope that there will be more, maybe from Ettie's POV. I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good sci-fi book with great world building and characters.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Conversion by Katherine Howe


Blurb from Goodreads

It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

3.5 stars
I've often wondered what the people of earlier times did for fun. Obviously these girls depicted here were having a lot of fun. There have been many theories posted about why the girl accused fellow Puritans. This was an entertaining read about those girls and some modern day compatriots. We never quite know what is going on with the modern day girls. Are they faking or is it caused by some evil? I thought Howe did a great job of keeping the tension as she alternated between Annie's story and Colleen's story. I'm not sure that I got the answers I needed after reading their stories though. I'm not partial to tales that make you decide for yourself how the book was meant. I don't have enough imagination. I am willing to go on a journey with the author, but I definitely want them to tell me how they see the story ending.

I did like that the love story took a back seat to the more immediate troubles. Spence was a good guy, and I really appreciated that. He was supportive of Colleen, didn't treat her or others around him like dirt, and had a pleasant demeanor. No brooding bad boy means a happy me!

Colleen shows just how the pressure we put on our kids academically has gotten out of control. Colleen did put the pressure on herself, but she did it because she thought is what her parents wanted. Think of all the life that passed her by when she was furiously chasing the valedictorian dream. Although as a mother of a teen, I kinda want her to be into something passionately if it will mean no drugs or boys. Colleen was a great role model, and I appreciated that she kept her head when it came to Spence. So many girls in YA books lose their head if a boy shows interest. I really liked Colleen. Which brings me to the part that I didn't like... SPOILER AHEAD

The teacher/student romance. Emma is consumed with a teacher who should know better. I don't care if she is almost 18, there is a dynamic of power that is imbalanced. I did not like that part of the book.

I was really drawn in by the writing and the great main character. Howe really has a gift for painting St. Joan's and the pressures that come with a quality education.

There was some language including the f bomb.  Sex was alluded to (not graphically), but it was between a teacher and an underage girl.