Friday, November 29, 2013

review: BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood

BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood
Series: The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1
Penguin Group: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Released: February 7, 2012
Source: Blogger trade
Page Count: 326

Rating: Loved it!

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship - or an early grave. 

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood - not even from each other.

My Thoughts

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book! I went in expecting a Victorian read that I wouldn't be able to handle (because I really hate that time frame), but instead I received an alternate history that made the story so much more interesting than I had originally anticipated!

The beginning is a little slow and reads like a typical historical fiction book, but I promise you that it picks up pretty quickly! This is a fantastic book about witches, prophecies, an overbearing, male-dominated society, and how Cate is trying to get her sisters and herself out of it alive. Much like Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle books, Born Wicked has a strong female heroine. Cate isn't afraid to make sacrifices for the people she loves, even at her own expense.

I can't wait to get book #2 to more fully explore the backstory and figure out how Cate is going to deal with everything that went down at the end of book #1!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

review: THE SHADOW RUNNERS by Liz Maverick

THE SHADOW RUNNERS by Liz Maverick
Series: 2176 #3
Dorchester Publishing: Love Spell
Released: June 2004
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 327

Rating: Loved it!

JENNY RED


Newgate, Australia: Down Under, anything goes.


In the 22nd century, history repeats itself. Part penal colony, part dumping ground for toxic waste, the land is controlled by "the Parliament," a gang of dissipated self-styled aristocrats who rule in a mockery of the English Regency. To survive here, you have to know the tricks. Like Jenny Red. She knows the score. She's been Down and made it out to tell the tale.


But D'ekkar Han Valoren - the bastard son of the Emperor whom Jenny's family was accused of destroying - knows Jenny escaped, and he wants her to take him back in. Okay, maybe she'll help Deck's team of rebels, his Shadow Runners, like he asks. But not because he's holding anything over her - if he tried anything that stupid, she'd give him a taste of steel. No, she'll do it because of what was once between them. Because of the revolution of her heart.

My Thoughts

After struggling to get through book #2 in this series, I was so happy to see this book get off to a good start. I really liked the characters - both Jenny and Deck - and it certainly didn't hurt that it was set in Australia, which I love to read about!


Of course, Australia in 2176 is pretty messed up. Aristocracy around the world have fled to Australia and formed their own strange, 1700's-like court. And this court wants Deck. All the while, Deck and Jenny are fighting for freedom, heading into the Australian outback to create an outpost for the Voice of Freedom. (This is what ties all of the series together.)


I loved the romance and the world-building in this installment. Hang on to your hats, because it is one crazy ride!

Monday, November 25, 2013

review: JESSICA RULES THE DARK SIDE by Beth Fantaskey

JESSICA RULES THE DARK SIDE
by Beth Fantaskey
Series: Jessica #2
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Harcourt
Released: January 10, 2012
Source: Blogger trade
Page Count: 313

Rating: Liked it

It's one thing to find out that you're a vampire princess. It's whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own.

Determined to clear his name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that without blood to drink, Lucius's time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is - and who she can trust - before it's too late? 

My Thoughts

I was so excited when I found out that Beth Fantaskey would finally be writing a sequel to Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side! That was one of my favorite books of 2009 (the year I started getting into the YA genre).

I did make one mistake, though: I read this book without reading the short story "The Wedding of Anastasia Jessica Packwood and Lucius Valeriu Vladescu." I hadn't realized that this story existed before reading the book, and it was referenced several times throughout. Going back and reading the short story made the book make so much more sense! Not everything that happened between the two books was explained, but it was definitely a big chunk.

My only problem with the book is how Fantaskey treated the adoption side of this story. Jessica is adopted, but she keeps referring to both her mom and her birthmom as "Mom," which is something that always bothers me. Also, she lets Lucius (and all of the other vampires) get away with calling her Anastasia  (her birth name) instead of Jessica (her adoptive name that she's had almost her entire life). If she really loved her (adoptive) parents as much as she claimed, she wouldn't have jumped into her new life and effectively cut them out of it. I also found her parents' behavior pretty despicable, as they made little to no effort to actually stay in contact with her.

Besides that, though, this was an interesting book. It's a little more adult than a lot of the YA paranormal romances out there, as the couple is already married. Although nothing is explicitly mentioned, it's obvious that something is happening when they're sleeping in the same bed. I did like that she eventually grows a pair, though, and learns to stand up for herself.

Friday, November 22, 2013

review: ELFANGOR'S JOURNEY by K.A. Applegate


ELFANGOR'S JOURNEY by K.A. Applegate
Series: The Andalite Chronicles #1
Scholastic, Inc.: Apple
Released: January 1997
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 111

Rating: Liked it

His name is Elfagnor-Sirinial-Shamtul. 

An Andalite war-prince. The one who gave five young humans the ability to morph into any animal they touch. They are still out there, fighting an evil so powerful there isn't a moment that goes by when they can actually feel safe. Their story continues.

But this is how it all began.

My Thoughts

I decided to read the Animorphs series chronologically rather than in publication order. It's cool, I can do that - I'm a nerd. Haha. Anyway . . .

For those of you familiar with Animorphs, the first official book in the series opens with an alien crashing into Earth. Elfagnor's Journey, the first book in The Andalite Chronicles, chronicles that alien's life before that fateful day. It was very interesting to see this side of Elfagnor rather than the dying, serious alien I remembered. While not exactly humorous, I enjoyed seeing alien civilization through the eyes of a different alien rather than a human.

Quick summary: Elfagnor is a lowly aristh (cadet) onboard a spaceship, essentially still in training. Out of the blue, he is called to action as a pilot when enemy Skrit Na ship is spotted leaving Earth. When a second enemy ship is spotted, Elfagnor and his partner must take the lead themselves and take the ship, and in the process they rescue two human captives. Will Elfagnor be able to return the humans to Earth, or will another mission get in the way . . ?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

review: DAY OF FIRE by Kathleen Nance

DAY OF FIRE by Kathleen Nance
Series: 2176 #2
Dorchester Publishing: Love Spell
Released: May 2004
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 372

Rating: It was okay

DAY DANIELS

Canda: For over a century it's been closed off, quarantined. Now, in 2176, its people thrive. The country still needs peacekeepers, though - and the Mounties are there. Be It All. Do it All. Those are the high-tech police force's twin mottos. They're Day Daniel's mottos, too.

But things are heating up. Someone or something called the Shadow Voice is broadcasting treason, and Day's determined to stamp it out. Seeking the source of the threat, Day enters the techbar, Flash Point. There she meets Lian Firebird, an enigmatic government operative. He offers - no, insists - upon joining her trek to the legendary Citadel. Well, Day decides, Mounties work alone, but she can still do and be it all - even with this hunk at her heels.

My Thoughts

I had a tough time reading this installment in the series. It literally took me months to get through it. There is a fine line between a strong female character and an asininely stubborn one, and Day Daniels often landed on the wrong side of the line. That was my biggest problem with the book. The story itself was interesting, though!


My advice to readers is to slog through this book as best you can, because there are better books waiting for you on the other side!

Monday, November 18, 2013

review: BLOODROSE by Andrea Cremer

BLOODROSE by Andrea Cremer
Series: Nightshade #3
Penguin Group: Philomel Books
Released: January 3, 2012
Source: A bookish friend
Page count: 414

Rating: Loved it!

Calla has always welcomed war. But now that the final battle is upon her, there's more at stake than fighting. There's saving Ren, even if it incurs Shay's wrath. There's keeping Ansel safe, even if he's been branded a traitor. There's proving herself as the pack's alpha, facing unnamable horrors, and ridding the world of the Keepers' magic once and for all. And then there's deciding what to do when the war ends. If Calla makes it out alive, that is.

In the final installment of the Nightshade trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Andrea Cremer creates a novel with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat until its final pages. A dynamic end to a breathtaking trilogy.

My Thoughts

I'll keep this short, sweet, and spoiler-free.

Oh, Andrea Cremer. I don't think my heart is going to forgive you anytime soon for how you ended this series! I love it, and it's perfect, but it's so hard to accept things as they ended.

Loyal fans of Andrea Cremer and the Nightshade books, take note: You will need Kleenex to get through this finale.

Best line of the book: "Sure, there's always the nitty-gritty details, but it boils down to the basics. One of you, two of them. Love's a bitch.

Friday, November 15, 2013

review: THE LEGEND OF BANZAI MAGUIRE by Susan Grant

THE LEGEND OF BANZAI MAGUIRE by Susan Grant
Series: 2176 #1
Dorchester Publishing: Love Spell
Released: April 2004
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 327

Rating: Loved it!

BANZAI MAGUIRE

The year: 2006. The mission: routine. Or so U.S.A.F. pilot Bree "Banzai" Maguire thinks, Then she's shot down over enemy airspace, captured and put in bio-stasis. When she wakes, everything's changed. It's one hundred and seventy years later - 2176 - the world is in crisis, and she's a hotly contested prize.

Once, Banzai's job was to protect democracy; now a mysterious voice claims she must bring it back. But who will help? Two men vie for her heart. Kyber, her captor, the rich, ruthless Emperor Prince of Asia, has all a man could desire . . . except her love. Then there's U.C.E. SEAL commander and would-be rescuer Ty Armstrong. He has all the right moves - but are they enough to keep up with a woman on a mission? With two such choices, Banzai regrets she has but one heart to give for her country.


My Thoughts

The Legend of Banzai Maguire is the first in a science fiction romance quintet. It was released in 2004 and is no longer in print (except for the fifth and final book, which is being rereleased by Dorchester in June 2012). However, I was able to track this series down on eBay, and - although sometimes a little cheesy - it was actually pretty good.

We start out with Bree "Banzai" Maguire in 2006 just before she goes on a flyover mission for the Air Force. Fast-forward 170 years, and Bree is rescued from stasis by Ty Armstrong, a S.E.A.L. commander for the U.C.E. But before Ty can take Banzai home, they are ambushed by forces sent by Kyber, the Emperor Prince of Asia.


Susan Grant tries to play Prince Kyber as a legitimate contender for Banzai's heart, but I just never bought it. Ty was such a sweetheart; he was perfect for her.


Gini Koch was my first science fiction romance author, but Susan Grant was my second. This book is a great introduction to the series, and I have high hopes for the rest of the books!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

review: A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis

A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis
Series: Across the Universe #2
Penguin Group: Razorbill
Released: January 10, 2012
Source: Blogger trade
Page Count: 386

Review: Loved it!

GODSPEED WAS FUELED BY LIES. NOW IT IS RULED BY CHAOS.

It's been three months since Elder unplugged Amy. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder learns shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.

Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.

"Amy, you're going to have to make a choice. This ship is dying. Godspeed won't last much longer. And you - you must decide for everyone. Because you're running out of time."

My Thoughts

(This review will be spoiler free for A Million Suns.)

Holy frex! I skipped both sleep and a homework assignment in order to read this book - it was just that good!

I'm always concerned about second-in-a-trilogy books, because they tend to falter in style or only set up the story for the third book. A Million Suns, however, does not fall into any of the usual traps. The plot actually moves, the characters actually develop, and relationships move in a positive direction.

Revis said that she had included a scientific error in Across the Universe. As I do not particularly care for science, I couldn't figure it out before hand. However, everything becomes very clear in A Million Suns, and I was so excited to finally figure out the mystery and see some hope for the future in this series.

This book makes me so happy!

Monday, November 11, 2013

review: CINDER by Marissa Meyer

CINDER by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Macmillan: Feiwel and Friends
Released: January 3, 2012
Source: Publisher (THANK YOU!!!)
Pages: 387

Rating: Loved it!

Even in the future, the story begins with once upon a time.


Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . .


Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


In this thrilling young adult debut novel, the first in a quartet, Marissa Meyer's rebooted fairy tale introduces readers to a heroine and a masterfully crafted world that isn't the Cinderella you remember - but it's the one you won't forget.

My Thoughts

This book showed up in my mailbox as a complete surprise, and I swear I screamed a little when I opened the package! I had been looking forward to Cinder for months, reading every article I could find on it (and generally sharing them on this website). Seriously, people - it's a fairy tale reboot in a futuristic, somewhat dystopian setting. What's not to love?


Cinder did not disappoint. I ripped through this book because I was so caught up in the story that I literally could not bring myself to stop reading! This book is so action-packed that it's almost impossible to put down. The main characters are accessible people who don't seem to have the emotional issues of most characters in light dystopian novels, which I very much appreciated. Characters can - and often do - make or break a book for me, and Cinder and Kai really made Cinder come to life, at least in my humble opinion. Oh, and Iko too. Iko was fabulous, and I hope she works into the rest of the quartet.


I do recommend, though, that readers check out the prequel - "Glitch," which can be found online here - before reading Cinder. While I generally advocate reading books first, the backstory from the prequel really does help to make sense of things in the book.


I've read a few reviews that mention how the story is predictable, and I bet you to please take these with a grain of salt! Of course it's somewhat predictable - it's a retelling! Certain things have to fall into place in order for the story to progress like it's supposed to progress. I'll get off my soapbox for now, though. :)


Overall: Cinder is a tightly-plotted, gripping story set in a wonderfully complex futuristic world. Twists and turns abound, as do robotic feet. Enjoy!

Friday, November 08, 2013

review: UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi

UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
Series: Under the Never Sky #1
HarperCollins Publishers: Harper
Released: January 3, 2012
Source: Blogger trade
Page Count: 374

Rating: Loved it!

For readers who loved GRACELING and THE HUNGER GAMES comes a startling new world and a breathtaking, unforgettable love.

Exiled from her comfortable home, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - called the Death Shop - are slim. Violent energy storms scan strike suddenly, and even the very air she breathes might kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild, dangerous - a savage. He's also her only hope.

Because Aria alone holds the key to his redemption. Perry needs her, too. Their unlikely alliance will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

My Thoughts

Under the Never Sky is right up there on my list of favorite dystopians with Shatter Me and Dearly, Departed. That's not to say that it's exactly the same, but rather that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these stories and  characters and can't wait to read more!


Aria is a bit naive, but that's to be expected from a character who has been sheltered from anything real for her entire life. Her background shows through from time to time, but she eventually proves to be incredibly adaptable, which was a trait I found admirable. Perry was unexpectedly likable, too. This probably came from his viewpoint. FYI: Each chapter is labeled with the name of the character who is narrating it. This makes for very easy transitions.


The Aether storms were a very interesting phenomenon, and I hope to read more about them in the next book. It sounds crazy that something could completely ruin the landscape, but Rossi's descriptions show just how devastating they can be in this world and provide a good explanation as to why Aria's ancestors found it necessary to lock themselves into pods like Reverie.


I loved the paranormal elements in this story. It can be tough to find a dystopian that is paranormal instead of tech-y (like The Hunger Games). I always love stories that involve genetic modifications, environmental or otherwise.


Rossi is great at plot and character development. Under the Never Sky is a must-read!

Monday, November 04, 2013

review: THE RUNNING DREAM by Wendelin van Draanen

THE RUNNING DREAM by Wendelin van Draanen
Random House, Inc.: Alfred A. Knopf
Released: January 2011
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 332

Rating: Really liked it!

What would you do if you lost the one thing that mattered most?

Sixteen-year-old Jessica is a runner. It's not just what she does, it's who she is. So when a tragic accident causes her to lose one of her legs, she is shattered - inside and out.

Though doctors say she'll be able to walk again with a prosthetic leg, recovery is slow and full of pitfalls. Jessica wonders if the girl who died in the accident didn't get the better end of the deal. But as she struggles to reclaim her life, Jessica gets to know Rosa - a girl with cerebral palsy whom she and her friends always overlooked. Not only does Rosa come to Jessica's rescue in math, she also helps her to reach for a future that is full of unexpected opportunities. And Jessica starts to wonder: Is it possible not only to walk again, but to run?


My Thoughts

I bought The Running Dream on a whim over the summer, and I am so glad that I finally read it! Jessica is a very accessible character, especially considering what she's gone through, and I admired her spirit even though she was quite depressed in the beginning. (Who wouldn't be after losing a leg?) I teared up during a few points of the story. I loved how supportive her pre-accident best friend, Fiona, is and how she didn't let Jessica get away with being completely sorry for herself. I loved Jessica's track teammates. I especially loved the friendship between Jessica and Rosa and how it really made Jessica think of something besides herself and her lost leg.


I thought this book would be depressing, but van Draanen manages to make this a frank but easy read. (It helps that Jessica is in such good shape and recovers quickly.) I really enjoyed it!


If you've read this book and are looking for something sort of similar, try All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard. No one loses a leg in that one, but there is a bad accident, recovery from head trauma, and an amazing plot twist that is based on a true story.

Friday, November 01, 2013

review: HELLO, GORGEOUS! by MaryJanice Davidson

HELLO, GORGEOUS! by MaryJanice Davidson
Series: Gorgeous #1
Kensington Publishing: Kensington Contemporary Romance
Released: March 2005
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 215

Rating: It was okay

THEY WANT HER TO SAVE THE WORLD. AS IF.

One minute I'm out with my sorority sisters; the next there's a terrible accident (beyond my friend Stacey's outfit) and I'm waking up in some weird clinic transformed into a human cyborg - with a mission: to stop evil and stuff. Uh, hello? I've got a beauty salon to run.

Granted, it is cool to run faster than a Ford Mustang when I need to, even if it's totally hard on my shoes. But then I have to bring in another human cyborg on the run? One who happens to be male, totally gorgeous, smart, funny - and, um, his "enhancements"? - as if!

My Thoughts

A quick summary that should be read with one breath: Caitlyn dies and is turned into a cybernetic being without her consent and just like The Bionic Woman she doesn't want to work for the government except she does and she has to take out another cybernetic being because he's killing people except he thinks she's the killer and there's a TWIST and somehow they fall in love happily ever after and the climax is rather anticlimactic. The End.


This was a cute story, and very typical of MaryJanice Davidson, and I finished it pretty quickly. However, if the book had been any longer, I would have been totally burned out by the end. Caitlyn has attitude just like Betsy and Fred do in the vampire and mermaid series, but it just doesn't feel the same. By the end of Hello, Gorgeous!, I was pretty much ready to strangle her.


Personally, I prefer my romance to have a little less anonymous sex that magically turns into full-blown soulmate love and more . . . oh, I don't know . . . actually getting to know each other? It bothered me that not one but two romances started out with mostly anonymous sex.


Sidenote: My version of Hello, Gorgeous!, which has the above cover, actually has more pages than I listed in the notes, but the last 80 or so are an unrelated short story ("Ten Little Idiots," also found in the  Wicked Women Whodunit anthology) and an excerpt from a future book (Doing It Right). It really felt like the short story, at least, was just there to pad the book because it would have been too short otherwise.