Wednesday, February 27, 2013

review: HEXBOUND by Chloe Neill

HEXBOUND by Chloe Neill
Series: The Dark Elite #2
Penguin: Signet
Released: January 4, 2011
Source: Star Book Tours
Page Count: 246

Rating: Really liked it!

Lily Parker is new to St. Sophia's School for Girls, but she's already learned that magic can be your best friend . . . or your worst enemy.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Turns out that even a little magic can turn you to the dark side. That's why Lily has to learn how to control her newly discovered paranormal abilities, on top of avoiding the snobs who think they run her school, nursing a crush on a cute sophomore wth a big werewolf-y secret, and fighting the good fight with her best friend, Scout, as they take on Chicago's nastiest nightlife - including the tainted magic users known as Reapers.

Then one night Lily and her friends are attacked by creatures like nothing they've ever seen before. And in the aftermath, she realizes that she'll have to use her growing powers sooner than she thought - because she's smack in the middle of a paranormal turf war that could tear Chicago apart . . .

My Review

Lily and Scout are back in this amazing second installment in the Dark Elite series. Lily has been through a lot since her parents sent her to St. Sophia's, and it hasn't been the easiest transition from "normal" girl to firespell user. And it's just her luck that, once she is accepted into Enclave Three, strange, slimy things begin to show up in the catacombs beneath the school. As the Enclave investigates, they realize that this new phenomenon may be a part of a larger, much scarier scheme - and if they don't tread carefully, they could end up as lunch for some of Chicago's scarier creatures.

I have waited far too long for this sequel to arrive! Firespell completely blew me away, as it was my first Chloe Neill reading experience and I had no idea what to expect. Lily, Scout, Jason, Michael, and even the more important secondary characters are all well fleshed-out, and their personalities jump off the page. And though I do wish that some aspects of the story had been expounded on, such as Sebastian's role and Lily's parents' job in Germany, Hexbound stands well on its own and sets up the plot for the third book. Thankfully, we won't have to wait as long for Dark Elite #3 as we did for Hexbound - it will be out in July!

Monday, February 25, 2013

review: FIRESPELL by Chloe Neill

FIRESPELL by Chloe Neill
Series: The Dark Elite #1
Penguin: Signet
Released: January 5, 2010
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 246

Rating: Really liked it!

As the new girl at St. Sophia's Boarding School, Lily Parker thinks her classmates are the most monstrous things she'll have to face - but oh, how wrong she is.

When Lily's parents decide to send her away to a fancy boarding school in Chicago, she is not happy. Lily's classmates are the ultrarich brat-pack type - and if that isn't enough, she's hearing and seeing bizarre things on St. Sophia's creepy campus.

The only thing keeping her sane is her roommate, Scout, but even Scout's a little weird - she keeps disappearing late at night. When a prank leaves Lily trapped in the catacombs beneath the school, Lily finds Scout is part of a splinter group of rebel teens who protect Chicago from demons, vamps, and the gone-to-the-dark-side magic users called Reapers. She lets Lily in on her secret, even though Lily has no powers of her own . . . or at least none she's discovered yet.

My Thoughts

It's been a year since I read this book, but I pulled it off the shelf to page through it before reading an ARC of Hexbound. Last year, I wrote tiny reviews, if anything at all, so my only note says: "Firespell is a tantalizing mix of magic, intrigue, and romance. This book promises great things for Chloe Neill's new young adult series." That sums things up pretty well, though. Firespell was my first Chloe Neill novel, and what an introduction it was! Neill has crafted an intriguing universe, and Lily Parker is the perfect protagonist to introduce the reader to the magical underbelly of Chicago's youth. Innocent and too curious for her own good, Lily has no idea what she's getting herself into when she follows her roommate, Scout, into the catacombs beneath her new boarding school. When Lily is struck by firespell, she is thrown headfirst into a treacherous world of magic and deceit. And if she can't learn to control her new powers, she's not the only one whose life is on the line. This is one of the few first-in-a-series novels that doesn't suffer from first-in-a-series syndrome (too much information, not enough plot). It's a great read, and I highly recommend it!

Friday, February 22, 2013

review: DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway!
And the winner is...

IVY from Ivy Reads!

Congrats, Ivy! I will be sending out your book as soon as I confirm your address.

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #1
HarperCollins: HarperTeen
Released: February 3, 2011
Source: Blogger Trade
Page Count: 441

Rating: Loved it!

Love. It kills you both when you have it and when you don't.

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn't understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold.

Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she'll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: she falls in love.

Lauren Oliver, author of the incandestent New York Times bestseller Before I Fall, shows us a world as terrifying as The Hunger Games and a romance as true as Romeo and Juliet.

My Review

This book has generated so much buzz that I was a little afraid it wouldn't live up to expectations. Thankfully, my fears were allayed within the first few chapters, and I soon found myself submerged in a dystopian Portland society, waiting for Lena to contract amor deliria nervosa - that is, to fall in love. To get an idea of Delirium's tone, imagine a dystopian Romeo & Juliet . . . except where their death at the end of the story was tragic, it would be merciful compared to their fate in Delirium should their love be discovered.

Delirium is told in first person through Lena's eyes, so be prepared to be thrown headfirst into a maelstrom of teenage emotions and new love, all heightened by the fact that everything is taboo and therefore somehow better, stronger even, than it would be otherwise. The plot moves slowly (though is never boring) until about two-thirds of the way through the book, mostly because society is so restrictive that nothing splashy could be going on without the patrols taking care of it immediately. But when the pace picks up, it happens so quickly that you almost expect mental whiplash. Delirium ends on one heck of a cliffhanger, and Pandemonium's release date can't come soon enough. If you like YA dystopians, Delirium is the book for you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

review: YOU KILLED WESLEY PAYNE by Sean Beaudoin

Hachette: Little, Brown
Released: February 1, 2011
Source: Star Book Tours
Page Count: 368

Rating: Didn't like it

He's come to do a job.

A job that involves a dead body.

You Killed Wesley Payne is a truly original and darkly hilarious update of classic pulp noir, in which hard-boiled seventeen-year-old Dalton Rev transfers to the mean hallways of Salt River High to take on the toughest case of his life. The question isn't whether Dalton's going to get paid. He always gets paid. Or whether he's gonna get the girl. He always sometimes gets the girl. The real question is whether Dalton Rev can outwit crooked cops and power-hungry cliques in time to solve the mystery of "The Body" before it solves him.

My Review

Dalton Rev has just transferred to Salt River High. It's not exactly an ordinary school, with the cliques ruling like mobs and snipers keeping everyone in line, so it's a good thing that Dalton is no ordinary guy. He's here on business - the private dick business, to be exact. He has been hired to come look into the supposed suicide of one Wesley Payne. With the odds stacked against him, Dalton has a limited time frame to find the killer - unless the killer gets to him first.

You Killed Wesley Payne reads less like pulp fiction / noir and more like a nerdy kid trying to cover it up by acting like his fictional hero, Lexington Cole, a Hardy Boys-esque mystery novel protagonist. This seemed to me to be a play on the Remington Steele television franchise, in which Remington Steele uses bits of old movies to help him figure out what to do next or how to solve a mystery, and so I didn't find it terribly original. The actions of the high school in general I found simply too ridiculous to be believable, and it was very difficult to continue after reading about a palm being greased for the tenth-plus time. Beaudoin includes a bordering-on-obnoxious amount of extra materials along with the story itself, including a Clique Chart, a separate Clique Index, a glossary, Dalton Rev's scholarship application essays, a snippet of a Lexington Cole story, and a list of Lexington Cole novels (which I'm fairly certain don't exist in real life). These extras total 47 pages. 47! Sheesh. Anyway, another point of contension I have with this book is that Dalton's parents don't even realize that he's in the private investigator business. At the very least, they should be questioning why their son is transferring schools right and left. Lastly, the tone that one would expect from a noir novel was, in my opinion, missing. Instead, Dalton comes off as "more ironic than thou," which is the best term I have to describe a social outcast who tries to overcome it by being "cool" but whose social references are sadly lacking. All in all, this was a lackluster novel. I can see some of the emo-type kids I went to high school with (way back in the day) enjoying this novel, but otherwise I wouldn't recommend it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

review: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis

Series: Across the Universe #1
Penguin: Razorbill
Released: January 11, 2011
Source: Blogger Trade
Page Count: 398

Rating: Loved it!

A story of love, murder, and madness aboard an enormous spaceship bound for the future. 

Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. She expects to wake up on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, Amy's cryo chamber is unplugged, and she is nearly killed. 

Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir. 

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But can she? All she knows is that she must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again. 

Across the Universe is Titanic meets Brave New World. 

My Thoughts 

Across the Universe opens with the line, "Daddy said, "Let Mom go first."" After watching her mother be cryogenically frozen for the flight through space, Amy's father gives her a choice: she can also be frozen, or she can stay on Earth with her aunt and uncle, continuing her life as she knows it. It's not a choice for her, though. As much as she loves her life, her friends, and her extended family, Amy could never choose that over her parents. So she too is frozen, and she dreams, endlessly, until one day she wakes up... fifty years ahead of schedule, and with no way to return her to her frozen state. Elder, the boy destined to become the ship's captain, and his friend, Harley, take Amy under their wing as they investigate why her cryo-chamber was unplugged, all the while attempting to keep the rest of the cryo-chamber's occupants safe. With twists and turns dogging their every step, Amy and Elder's only choice is to try to discover the ship's secrets before whoever is attacking the cryo-chamber can come after them. But uncovering those secrets may be even more dangerous . . . 

Across the Universe was one of my most highly-anticipated 2011 debuts, and Revis does not disappoint with this space-based dystopian thriller. This is thankfully the first in a planned trilogy, so we will definitely be getting more of Amy and Elder's story. Revis deftly weaves intrigue and murder into a Brave New World-esque landscape set in space, but without making the atmosphere so science fiction-y that it would turn off those who aren't fans of science fiction. Across the Universe will blow you away.

I also have to add that the day after finishing this novel, this article popped up on my Yahoo home page about one-way trips colonization to Mars. It really makes you wonder just how far away this science is!

Friday, February 15, 2013

review: THE LATTE REBELLION by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

THE LATTE REBELLION by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Released: January 1, 2011
Source: Good Golly Miss Holly ARC Tours
Page Count: 327

Rating: Really liked it!

"Our philosophy is simple: Promote a latte-colored world!"
- from the Latte Rebellion Manifesto

When high school senior Asha Jamison gets called a "towel-head" at a pool party, the racist insult gives Asha and her best friend Carey a great money-making idea for a post-graduation trip. They'll sell T-shirts promoting the Latte Rebellion to raise awareness about mixed-race students.

Seemingly overnight, their "cause" goes viral and the T-shirts become a nationwide fad. But as their cimple marketing plan takes on a life of its own, Asha's once-stellar grades begin to slip, threatening her Ivy League dreams, while her friendship with Carey hangs by a thread. And when the peaceful underground movement turns militant, Asha's school launches a disciplinary hearing. Facing expulsion, Asha must decide: how much is she willing to risk for something she truly believes in?

My Review

The Latte Rebellion opens with the main character, Asha, dozing off while sunbathing at the Inter-Club Council party. From the sound of things, it’s been a decent, if not fantastic, day. Then Roger Yee has to go run off his mouth and call her a towel head. This event spurs Asha and her best friend, Carey, to begin the Latte Rebellion. What starts out as a money-making scheme to fund their summer vacation plans turns into a nationwide fad. The time and effort Asha puts into the Rebellion causes her grades to slip, and as the Rebellion is drawn farther and farther into the limelight, Carey begins to pull away. Told in flashback interspersed with glimpses into her school’s disciplinary hearing regarding Asha’s possible expulsion, The Latte Rebellion is an eye-opening glimpse into today’s unfortunately realistic attitude toward multi-racial – or “latte-colored” – people.

Though not multi-racial, I am an adopted mutt of both Eastern and Western European descent, so I can definitely relate to the main character. This was certainly an interesting read, and I would recommend it to those who are interested in viewing the world through a different cultural lens. I could see The Latte Rebellion being an interesting pick for a school book club, as the discussion would be very thought-provoking.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

review: ECSTASY IN DARKNESS by Gena Showalter

Series: Alien Huntress #5
Simon & Schuster: Pocket Star
Released: October 26, 2010
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 502

Rating: Loved it!

New York Times bestselling sensation Gena Showalter enthralls with a dark, tantalizing world of humans, otherworlders, powers beyond imagining, and a seductive vampire undone by his insatiable hunger for one woman . . .

Growing up poor on New Chicago's meanest streets, Ava Sans had two options: be the predator or be the prey. No contest. Now, working for Alien Investigation and Removal, she's been ordered to capture the biggest, baddest warrior of all - a vampire too beautiful to be real, with the ability to manipulate time. Once the leader of the entire vampire army, McKell has been deemed savage and unstable, spurned even by his own kind.

To McKell, humans should be nothing more than sustenance. Yet the petite, golden-skinned Ava is a fascinating contradiction - vicious yet witty, strong yet vulnerable, lethal but fiercely loyal. Against his better judgement, McKell craves that loyalty, and much more. When the chase leads to seduction, McKell and Ava will race to discover the truth about his past. But the answers will come at a price, even for a woman who thought she had nothing left to lose . . .

My Thoughts

Oh, Gena Showalter. I have loved everything of yours that I've read so far, and Ecstasy in Darkness is no exception. Ava radiated spunk, and I loved that about her! She had just the right balance of cockiness and loyalty to perfectly balance McKell, who desperately needed someone as bright as Ava to bring him out of the funk he'd been in since Bride got together with Devyn in Seduce the Darkness. Ava and her friend Noelle were hilarious. It's difficult to pull off that kind of kookiness in an adult novel, but Showalter handled it brilliantly. Their scene in the woods while attempting to snare McKell set the tone for the entire book. All of the characters, both old and new, were so fantastic that this book was literally unputdownable. After reading all of these Alien Huntress books in a row, it's going to be a very long wait until Dark Taste of Rapture (Noelle and Hector's story) comes out in August!

Monday, February 11, 2013

review: "TEMPT ME ETERNALLY" by Gena Showalter

"TEMPT ME ETERNALLY" by Gena Showalter
in the Deep Kiss of Winter anthology
Series: Alien Huntress #4.5
Simon & Schuster: Pocket Books
Released: October 13, 2009
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 436

Rating: Liked it

Aleaha Love can be anyone - literally. With only skin-to-skin contact, she can change her appearance, assume any identity. Her newest identity switch has made her an AIR (alien investigation and removal) agent and sends her on a mission to capture a group of otherworldly warriors. Only she becomes the captured. Breean, a golden-skinned commander known for his iron will who is at once dangerous and soul-shatteringly seductive, threatens her new life. Because for the first time, Aleaha only wants to be herself . . .

My Review

Note: I am only reviewing Gena Showalter's story. I love Kresley Cole's series but am not far enough along in it to read this story just yet.

I wish I had read this before reading Seduce the Darkness, as this is essentially the backstory for Aleaha and Breean, who first appear in that book. (It doesn't seriously detract from the reading experience, but I am a stickler for reading everything in order. My friends like to point out that my initials stand for "anal retentive.") Breean was probably my favorite part of this book, because not only was his character hot as all get out, but he also gave a great insight into why the aliens were coming to earth. A lot - though certainly not all - of the intrigue surrounding the virus is finally explained. Breean and Aleaha work well together as a couple, and it was lovely to witness Breean make Aleaha accept herself for who she is, not who she can become.

Friday, February 08, 2013

review: SEDUCE THE DARKNESS by Gena Showalter

Series: Alien Huntress #4
Simon & Schuster: Pocket Star
Released: June 30, 2009
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 405

Rating: Really liked it!


The war between otherworlders and humans changed Earth beyond recognition. It also saved Bride McKellis's life. Before, the gorgeous vampire was a target for every fanatic with a stake and a crucifix. Now, she's free to roam the streets - and desperate to find others of her kind. One man clains to have the answers she seeks. Devyn, King of the Targons, is a warrior and a womanizer, and he makes no secret of how much he wants Bride - and how dangerous he could be to her in every way.

An avid collector of women, Devyn easily seduces human and otherworlder alike. Until now. Not only does Bride resist him, but she leaves Devyn feeling something entirely new . . . a bone-deep need bordering on obsession. Her blood is the key to curing a vicious alien disease, but helping Bride uncover her origins will compel her to choose between electrifying passion and a destiny that could tear her from Devyn's side forever.

My Review

Bride McKells is a vampire. Having survived the war between otherworlders and humans, she is pretty confident in her ability to maintain her human fa├žade. So when Devyn, King of the Targons, recognizes her almost instantaneously as a vampire – and she detects on him the scent of her best friend whom she hasn’t been able to track down in years – she has to know more. Devyn is the ultimate womanizer, but Bride is a mystery he can’t seem to solve, and he finds himself more and more drawn to her. Even as Bride and Devyn continue to grow closer, they face the danger of the new alien virus – and Bride’s blood is the only cure.

As much as Devyn is a womanizing jerk, it was so great to watch him realize that there may truly be one woman out there for him – Bride McKells. Devyn and Bride go together perfectly. The only issue I have with this story is that there seemed to be characters with whom the group was already familiar, but I had no idea who they were – until reading the short story, “Tempt Me Eternally,” in Deep Kiss of Winter. The short story was published after Seduce the Darkness, but it comes before this book chronologically. I wish I had read the reader comments on Showalter’s website recommending that the short story be read first. I feel like I would have had a richer reading experience had I done so.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

review: SAVOR ME SLOWLY by Gena Showalter

SAVOR ME SLOWLY by Gena Showalter
Series: Alien Huntress #3
Simon & Schuster: Pocket Star
Released: December 26, 2007
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 384

Rating: Loved it!


Mishka Le'Ace was created to be an undercover operative . . . literally. Her beautiful body has been mechanically augmented to give her superhuman strength - strength she's going to need. Her latest mission sends her to rescue Alien Investigation and Removal agent Jaxon Tremain from torture and death. With him, she discovers a passion unlike any other. A passion she was forbidden to know . . .

From the moment they meet in a darkened cell, Jaxon craves her touch. But the machine half of Le'Ace forces her to do things she doesn't always want to do. Even betray him . . . and ultimately destroy him. Now Jaxon must battle the man controlling Le'Ace, and even Le'Ace herself, to at last claim the woman he's come to love.

My Review

Mishka Le’Ace is a robot operative – or at least the closest thing to it. She never allows her emotions to get in the way of her assignments. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because she has no heart. She simply has no choice. Her latest assignment, though, won’t allow her to keep her emotions separate. One look from Jaxon Tremain leaves her shaking with need. It’s only a matter of time before Mishka is forced to make a choice between life as she knows it and the love of her life. The question is just how much she is willing to go to sacrifice.

I’ve been looking forward to reading Mishka’s story since first reading about her in Red Handed. There has been a lot of intrigue built up around her character, and it was fun to finally get to the bottom of the mystery – especially after losing some steam in the young adult portion of this series. Mishka and Jaxon are a great couple! This is such a great read.

Monday, February 04, 2013

review: BLACKLISTED by Gena Showalter

BLACKLISTED by Gena Showalter
Series: Young Adult Alien Huntress #2
MTV Books
Released: July 17, 2007
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 228

Rating: Really liked it!

Alien hunting can get a girl killed. It can also get her a date.

High school senior Camille Robins and her best friend are determined to snag the attention of their crushes before graduation next month. Armed with red-hot outfits and killer hair, they sneak into the hottest nightclub in town - which caters to the rich and famous, both human and alien. They end up following Erik (who is human) and Silver (who isn't) through a guarded door and are soon separated and under attack . . . and not the good kind.

Bad boy Erik spares Camille's life, but the two are soon being chased by gun-toting Alien Investigation and Removal agents. Camille's more confused than ever because Erik's finally showing real interest in her, but the agents are accusing him of dealing Onadyn - a drug that ruins human lives. Suddenly, with the heat of his kiss lingering on her lips, Camille has to decide whose side she's on . . . and whether she's willing to put her life on the line to save Erik's.

My Review

Camille Robins is a good girl, has never once gotten into any trouble. But when she and her BFF decide to go to a club in hopes of attracting their crushes' attention, Camille ends up on the run from A.I.R. with Erik, an alleged Onadyn dealer. With her future - and her life - on the line, Camille must decide just how far she is willing to trust Erik - and whether she will trade her life for his.

I was so happy to see Erik given a chance to clear his name after the bombshell that Showalter dropped in the epilogue of Red Handed. Blacklisted has a very different tone from the other Alien Huntress books, as this time arond we see the public face of A.I.R. rather than the insider's view. As the book progresses, we come to find that A.I.R. has contrived some poor policies regarding both aliens and alien-sympathetic humans, and their agents are not always in control of their emotions. It is definitely an eye-opener, and this tone is the reason that the rating isn't higher. It's a good story, especially as Erik is given a second chance, but it's tough to hear bad things about characters that you've come to love. The plot is a little rushed, but otherwise it's easy to understand how one wrong move could so quickly lead to huge problems for the main character. If you read the first Young Adult Alien Huntress novel, then I would definitely recommend tackling this second (and last) installment. Otherwise, it's not really necessary to understand the characters of the adult series, so it's not necessary to read this book. If you do, be prepared to have your view of A.I.R. and the agents changed, and not for the better.

Friday, February 01, 2013

review: SLAYED by Amanda Marrone

SLAYED by Amanda Marrone
Simon & Schuster: Children's Publishing
Released: October 5, 2010
Source: Star Book Tours
Page Count: 240

Rating: Liked it


Daphne Van Helsing hates being a vampire slayer. All she wants is a normal life - firends, school, her own room - but her parents have devoted their lives to the cause, and Daphe's along for the ride.

Their latest job is in Maine, where not only are they hunting a fierce strain of vamps, but they're forced to work with The Harkers, a rival slayer family. Just her luck: Tyler Harker is totally crush-worthy, and he's her sworn enemy.

But just when things start looking up, something truly evil comes to town. Something more powerful - and more frightening - than anything Daphne's encountered before.

She thought she'd seen hell on earth. She ain's seen nothin' yet.

My Review

Daphne is a vampire slayer. With a last name like Van Helsing, it's pretty much required! But she's tired of constantly being on the road with her, moving from one freelance job to another without ever going home - not that they have one. It's just her parents and the van, and neither one is great company. Still, Daphne knows she has a job to do, and she's good at it. When their latest job is thrown for a loop by one Nathan Harker, some deep, dark family secrets come to light, but that's still not enough to make Daphne rethink her line of work. Enter Kiki Crusher: former child star, current party girl, Kiki witnesses Daphne slaying a vampire and quickly talks herself into becoming Daphne's trainee. The two girls quickly become friends, even amidst the chaos and danger of hunting abnormally strong vampires. But can they survive long enough to finally stand up to their parents and do what they want to do with their lives?
Amanda Marrone's books are quick, cute, light reads, and Slayed is in keeping with that tradition. Daphne comes across as a reluctant superpower-less Buffy, and I loved her as a character. She was understandably bitter about her situation but not angry, and funny as all get out when paired with Kiki. If you're looking for an easy, entertaining vampire read, Slayed has it all!