Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mid-Winter's Eve Blog Hop!

Welcome to my Mid-Winter's Eve Blog Hop! Thanks to I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Oasis for YA for hosting.

To enter, fill out the form below and be sure to check out the other great blogs that are part of this hop!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Soul to Lose by Rachel Vincent

Title: My Soul To Lose (Soul Screamers #0.5)
Author: Rachel Vincent
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 61
Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Soul to Lose was a short, sweet introductory to Kaylee Cavanaugh and the strange premonitions that finally force her aunt and uncle to commit her to a mental ward.

As with any story where the main character is questioning their sanity I found myself gripping the pages in frustration and urging Kaylee to just keep her mouth shut, play ‘sane’ and do whatever it took to get the hell out of the mental ward. That’s not good advice in terms of her getting help, but it’s how I think.

Vincent’s description of Kaylee’s premonition in the mall was visceral and I couldn’t blame her family for committing her – especially given the fact that she couldn’t quit screaming to speak for herself. In those few brief moments as Kaylee fought the inevitable, Vincent gave her readers an incredibly glimpse of her heroine’s strength of character as well as her best friend Emma’s loyalty and understanding. I found myself loving Emma even more than Kaylee for the way she changed her plans without qualm and stayed by Kaylee’s side while she completely lost it.

The situation in the mental ward was frustratingly bleak and as usual the adult authority figures were just a few shades above useless. Kudos to Vincent for making me feel the hopelessness of Kaylee’s situation and mental state. I was as heartbroken as she was when her aunt dropped off her clothes and left without even seeing her.

In terms of plot, My Soul to Lose doesn’t have much – it’s mostly a lot of exposition and setting up the main attraction that is My Soul to Take. Basically, Kaylee is committed for having an hysterical meltdown in the middle of a mall and during the course of her stay in the mental ward, she comes to realize that her ‘problem’ isn’t psychological or physical. We also meet an interesting character named Lydia who may or may not have died at the end of the novella. Everything is a little hazy as Lydia’s gift of taking Kaylee’s pain leaves her a little hazy on the details – and effectively ‘resets’ Kaylee for the next book.

My Soul to Lose is a nice prequel to My Soul to Take. It gives the readers a taste of Kaylee and whets the appetite for more of her world and experience. I wouldn’t call it a page turner, but it was compelling and the characters were fully realized. 

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Title: Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles #1)
Author: Kresley Cole
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books
Pages: 384
Rating: 4/5 Stars

One of my very good friends was super excited to read this book and did NOT like it, so I approached it with trepidation. I’m pleased to report that despite a few minor annoyances, Poison Princess did not disappoint.

I haven’t read any of Kresley Cole’s other novels, but I went into this book well aware of her status as a published and popular author and her experience and skill as a writer was evident from the first page. Cole created a very vivid and lush world – both before and after the Flash – for her hero and heroine. Her characters are fully realized and real, with strengths and weaknesses that help and hinder them along the way.

Evie is an interesting heroine in that she embodies a lot of qualities – ultra feminine, shallow, materialistic and prejudice – that I wouldn’t normally gravitate toward, but Cole doesn’t turn her into a caricature. I understand her prejudices against Jackson and the other Cajuns when they suddenly transfer to her ultra-posh high school – she’s not looking to hate them, but they come with violent and scary reputations that they promptly proceed to live up to.

Evie is aware of how shallow and vain she can be, not to mention the fact that she thoroughly enjoys the creature comforts of her life at Haven House, but she’s constantly at war with a feeling that she should be striving for more. What I might normally find grating or annoying becomes understandable in light of the fact that she’s just returned from 2-3 months in an insane asylum, questioning her sanity. At the beginning of the story, Evie is craving normalcy and I applaud Cole for not making her apologize for that.

After the Flash, as Evie’s psychic/supernatural abilities continue to flourish, she balks against what she feels is her destiny. This is another thing that I would normally be annoyed with, but again, the way Cole handles Evie’s character, everything makes sense. While she’s not interested in joining in on the battle of the Major Arcana, she’s also driven by a need to know who and what she is and willingly runs toward the battle in the name of the people she loves.

Jackson Deveaux is a pretty typical bad boy, although I loved the added details of the scars on his knuckles from the fights that he’s been in and the fact that he has earned his reputation. He’s not some misunderstood hero with a heart of gold who gained his reputation by fighting for the underdog. He’s got a temper, he’s violent, he’s rude and crass, and as much as he’s drawn to Evie – and vice versa – he really doesn’t like her much. That mutual antagonism provided the perfect breeding ground for a slow-building, passionate romance.

After the Flash, Jackson rises to the occasion and the survival instincts that got him into trouble in civilized Louisiana society serve him and Evie well. Poison Princess is about so much more than the romance between this good girl/bad boy duo, but it progresses steadily throughout the novel so that by the end I could tell that while they still drive each other – and me – a little crazy, they’re no longer denying the connection they share.

The one problem that I have with Jackson Deveaux – other than his love of Ducati’s – is that Cole writes his dialogue almost phonetically. It’s really annoying and pulled me out of the story a lot. I finally just stopped paying attention to the bad grammar, ‘doan’s’ instead of don’t, and the oddly placed ‘me’s’ and you’s’. I assume Cole chose to write him this way to add color to her narrative and while I enjoyed the French Cajun that got thrown in from time to time, I could have done without the phonetically written speech patterns. It’s just not necessary and comes across as pretentious. I get that Jackson is ‘other’, but Cole could have made the same point strictly by utilizing the French Cajun. Aside from a California surfer boy – who’s biggest offense is uttering ‘dude’ too many times – who shows up toward the end of the book, Jackson was the only character who didn’t speak perfect English. This served to set him exaggerate how unlike the other characters he is – and not in a good way. Evie’s reluctance to share who and what she’s starting to think she is already puts Jackson squarely in the ‘outsider’ column. Cole’s choice to have him speak the way he does just made it worse.

Poison Princess begins nine months after the Flash and puts Evie in an immediately dangerous position. Whenever the story lagged – and as much as I enjoyed it overall, the post-Flash/pre-Jackson period dragged on too long – the promise of finding out how Evie ends up in danger kept me turning pages.

Cole doles out her information about Evie’s destiny judiciously and hits that sweet spot where just when the questions were about to drive me crazy, she put a few puzzle pieces in to keep my curiosity sated.

Poison Princess is very definitely the first in a series. While Cole gives us answers, the book does not end in a place of peace and calm – everyone’s fate is in question as well as Evie and Jackson’s relationship. Overall, the story had a rich plot, fully fleshed out characters, a marvelous and horrifying dystopic world and enough intrigue to reel me in and leave me excited for the next installment. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to my Spooktacular Giveaway Hop graciously hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and The Diary of a Bookworm.

For this hop I'm giving away a book of your choice (up to $15) from the Book Depository! Spooky books are encouraged, but it's winner's choice!

Simply fill out the form below and you're in! Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the hop. This is a big one and there are a lot of prizes to win.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jane Austen Giveaway Hop

Welcome to my Jane Austen inspired giveaway, hosted by I Am A Reader Not a Writer and vvb32reads! Fill out the form below to enter to win a Jane Austen inspired book from the Book Depository (up to $15) and check out the links below for the rest of the people participating in the hop!

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Into Fantasy Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Giveaway Hop! Thanks to The Write Path and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer for hosting!

I'm doing two giveaways for this hop, one for the US and one for my international followers.

For the ARC copy of Kresley Cole's Poison Princess


#1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole introduces The Arcana Chronicles, post-apocalyptic tales filled with riveting action, the dark mysticism of Tarot cards, and breathtaking romance.

She could save the world—or destroy it.

Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…

For my International followers...a book of your choice (up to $15) from the Book Depository. Given the theme of the hop, I'd love it if you picked something fantasy themed, but if there's a book you're just dying to read that doesn't fall into the fantasy category, I'm willing to make exceptions. ;p 

FYI, Poison Princess IS available from the Book Depository and could definitely be your book of choice.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Congratulations to...

TayteH for winning my Fangs, Fur and Fey Giveaway! Check your email, Tayte for info on what to do next!

Thank you so much to everyone who entered and welcome to all of my new followers!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fangs, Fur & Fey Giveaway Hop!

Enter for a chance to win my Fangs, Fur & Fey Giveaway! I'm offering up a book of your choice (up to $15) from the Book Depository. Ideally, the book you choose should fit the theme of fangs, fur and fey, but I won't be rigid about bending the rules. 

Entering is simple...just fill out the form below and you're done! Be sure to check out the other giveaways in the hop. 

The Demon Catchers of Milan

Title: The Demon Catchers of Milan
Author: Kat Beyer
Publisher: EdgmontUSA
Pages: 288
Rating 3/5 Stars

I want to start this review by saying that I enjoyed The Demon Catchers of Milan and I intend on reading the sequel. I liked the world that Kat Beyer created. Her love of Italy and the level of research she did to present Milan as accurately as possible was clear from the first page. I'm no expert on exorcisms, but Beyer's research there seemed equally thorough.

The Demon Catchers of Milan is a plot driven story, rather than character driven. It seems that Kat Beyer had an idea about a family of demon catchers, generations steeped in tradition who provide an age-old service, and created characters to fit that idea after the fact. As a result, the book lacks depth. The characters - while likable and relatable - aren't interesting or unique. The main character, Mia, is an average sixteen/seventeen year old girl. That's both good and bad. On the one hand, I was glad that I didn't have to suffer through an entire first person narrative that was riddled with crippling self-doubt or overwrought teen angst.

On the other, Mia is SO average - everything about her, from her circumstances to her family to her outlook on life is average to the point of being boring. Rather than calling attention to the extraordinary circumstances she finds herself in, Mia's averageness just makes her dull. Within the realm of demon catching she's apparently special and particularly astute, but that idea is only hinted at in this book.

Another problem is that Beyer doesn't let a chapter go by before diving into the action of the story. I appreciate that we hit the ground running, but Beyer is in such a hurry to get to Italy that I have no idea who Mia is or what she was like before the demon possession that prompts her trip to Milan. I know only the bare minimum about her family and I'm allowed only a glimpse of her personal interactions with them before Mia is whisked away to Italy.

Originally, I gave The Demon Catchers of Milan four stars because I really did have a pleasant experience while reading it. Upon writing the review, however, I have to amend that rating to three stars. The book just needs more of something and even will all of my talk above I'm not sure that it's only character depth that is lacking.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop!

Enter to win a signed ARC of Sarah Crossan's Breathe! 

Goodreads Description: 

Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe . . . 

The world is dead. 
The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air. 

has been stealing for a long time. She’s a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she’s never been caught before. If she’s careful, it’ll be easy. If she’s careful.

should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it’s also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn’t every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her. 

wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they’d planned a trip together, the two of them, and she’d hoped he’d discover her out here, not another girl.

And as they walk into the Outlands with two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?

My Review

Enter below and be sure to check out the other Giveaways going on!

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Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Title: Crewel
Author: Gennifer Albin
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 368
Rating: 5/5

I purposefully made myself wait a little bit to review Crewel because I wanted to write a real review - not just a bunch of semi-coherent fangirl squeeing.

I think I might be ready now.

Crewel's premise immediately caught my eye due to its reference - at least in my mind - to the Fates or Moirai who control destiny in Greek (and subsequently just about every culture ever) mythology. The idea of women being called to weave time and matter in a present day setting fascinated me. I was very eager to see how Gennifer Albin would put that idea to paper. The result is The Matrix meets The Hunger Games with shades of the premise of The Handmaid's Tale (or at least what I think of as the premise as I've never read the book), complete with a relatable heroine, moral dilemmas between one's duty to self vs. society, an incredibly vivid post-apocalyptic dystopia and, oh yes, a rather delightful little love triangle that's more scalene than equilateral.

Although, Crewel is book one in a trilogy, so there's time for that to change.

The story begins with Adelice Lewys being called by The Guild to serve as a Spinster, a double edged sword that gives women in a strict patriarchal society the illusion of freedom and power. Adelice isn't interested in that illusion, however, which is why she was purposefully trying to fail at the testing that weeds out the Eligibles from the regular girls. She fails at failing, however, and the Guild comes, resulting in a mad dash escape attempt by her parents that leaves her father dead, her sister captive and her mother MIA.

The beginning is one of only two minuscule quibbles I have with this amazing book. I think Adelice as a character and Arras as a country would have benefited from a couple of chapters of further exploration before we are thrust into the action of the story. Adelice in particular is somewhat illusive as a character for the first few chapters and as much as I fell in love with her fairly quickly, I really didn’t know who she was as a person before being taken from her family by the Guild.

But truthfully, that concern was barely a blip on my radar while reading.

En route to the Coventry where Adelice will presumably spend the rest of her life, she meets the first player in the love triangle, Erik – although she doesn’t learn his name until later. She’s thrown in a cell for the first few days as punishment for her attempted escape and as she’s finally released she meets the second player in the triangle, Josten. It’s really amusing to watch Adelice interact with boys for the first time because she’s never had experience with them before. I appreciate that Albin doesn’t write Adelice as a tongue-tied idiot around members of the opposite sex. Her awkwardness is quickly outweighed by her curiosity and yet she never comes across as desperate or boy-crazy.

God bless Ms. Albin for this.

I don’t want to go too deep into plot details/spoilers from here on out, but suffice it to say that Adelice’s skill and her sharp tongue/quick wit put her at odds with her fellow Eligibles, the head Spinster and the face of the Guild, Mr. Cormac Patton. Her only allies come on the form of Enora, her mentor, Loricel, the Creweler, Erik and Josten. As the story progresses we follow Adelice as she navigates the world of the Coventry and the Guild, trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to keep her squarely under her thumb. She learns that she’s not just any Eligible and that the Guild has really big plans for her.

Well, as big as they can ever be for a woman in Arras.

Before I gush about a few specific reasons why I enjoyed Crewel so much, I’m going to explain my one other quibble – the exposition. There are a couple of chapters where Adelice and Loricel are talking and through an extensive game of twenty-questions we learn a lot about how Arras was formed and its relationship to the Earth we know. We learn what the weave is – in a deliberately vague sense – and the purpose of a Creweler in keeping it functioning. These are heavy info dump chapters and as a reader, I was very aware of their purpose. It wasn’t bad so much as noticeable because throughout the rest of the novel Albin doles out the exposition quite artfully as events are unfolding.

Then again, Loricel is a very old, very wise woman who has taken it upon herself to teach Adelice about her future as a Spinster, so in that sense the chapters function exactly as they’re supposed to within the narrative. So, take that as you will.

No, onto some specifics that I loved…

Adelice Lewys. I love her. LOVE HER. I’ve read the two biggest YA series that have come out in recent years and the biggest problems I had with both of them came down to the heroines. I couldn’t fully relate to them because I couldn’t wrap my brain around their attitudes regarding their own self-worth. Adelice was a breath of fresh air for me – much like Katy in Obsidian – because while she didn’t think she was the most beautiful creature on the planet, she wasn’t crippled by constant thoughts of how plain and ordinary she was. Like most girls, Adelice felt that she lacked in certain areas, but when Erik and Jost showed an interest in her, she didn’t doubt that she could be a desirable creature to either of them.

She doubted her sanity in pursuing either of them, but that’s a whole different issue. ;p

Part of Adelice’s journey deals with how her actions affect her family and friends. While she is very concerned as to how the Guild can use her loved ones against her, she works toward goals that spell freedom for everybody – including herself – rather than contemplating grand schemes that leave her dead like some kind of martyr. Adelice doesn’t mask cowardice behind self-sacrificing delusions of grandeur.

Lastly, Adelice acts. She doesn’t wait for things to happen to her, she makes them happen. She doesn’t let her fear make her afraid of trying to create her own destiny.

Now the boys…Josten and Erik. I have to admit, I love them both. I have my preference as to who ends up with Adelice, but both characters are compelling. I was especially impressed with Josten’s past – there’s a twist in it that not something I’ve come across before. Erik is all charm and smoothness, navigating and circumventing the system from a place of prominence, while Josten is rougher around the edges, fighting his battle from the ground up.

Both boys are made of win and again, I appreciate the fact that Erik and Josten don’t fall into the traditional good boy/bad boy roles. They each play both sides of the spectrum and as such are fully rounded characters.

I could go on waxing poetic about this book for pages and pages. I could go on about the fascinating world of Arras and how I would leap at the opportunity to read an actual history book of the region so that I could learn how the society became so sharply divided upon gender lines. Adelice briefly mentions her grandmother telling her about a time when children weren’t segregated by gender and there were no Purity Protocols to follow and I’d love to read about the politics involved in that change. I could go on about the concept of Arras and the idea of certain women being able to alter the very fabric of its existence. I could talk about the evils of the Guild and how their quest to map Spinsters calls into mind the idea of genetic mapping and designer babies. There are just so many fascinating concepts within Crewel that I just can’t say enough good things about it.

Crewel is one that will stick with you for a long time after you’ve finished reading it and if you’re anything like me, you will be counting down the days until the next book is available.

I. Cannot. Wait.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Title: Breathe
Author: Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Greenwillow
Pages: 400 pages
Rating: 4/5 Stars

The concept that fuels Breathe is fascinating - in an attempt to grow food for the Earth's ballooning population, the entire planet is deforested for farmland. The logic is that there will be enough oxygen being produced by the oceans to sustain life.

That logic proves faulty.

Oxygen levels in the atmosphere deplete to 4% and the world descends into anarchy and chaos. Domes - called pods - are erected across the planet to sustain life and oxygen becomes more valuable than gold. An oxygen tax is imposed upon the populace and class lines become even more clearly drawn. Oxygen is pumped directly into people's homes and closely monitored by the government, speed patrols exist on the street to prevent people from walking more than 3 mph and exercise becomes a privelege of the wealthy. Aided by air tanks, holidays are taken outside of the Pod to take in the carnage left behind after The Switch.

A resistance exists among those in the Pod - of course - and the three main characters of Sarah Crossan's novel get caught up in it. One by choice, two by accident. The story follows Alina, Bea and Quinn as they discover dark truths about the lives they have led and are forced to question their beliefs.

I really enjoyed Breathe. I read it in one day - partly, I'll admit, because I'm so behind on my reading goal. While certain things are constant in dystopic novels - the governing body that controls the populace with half-truths and an iron fist and the resistance that works against them - I'm always fascinated to explore each author's vision and discover what happened to bring about this dark future. I'll admit, I scoffed at the idea of the entire planet being deforested. I know that it's a problem - a scary, disheartening one - but the notion that an entire planet with a population so vast that it needs all of the land mass available for farming food could subsist on the oxygen put off by the ocean is so far-fetched as to be unbelievable.

But whatever. I'll let it slide.

Alina, Bea and Quinn are great protagonists. Crossan writes each chapter from a different character's POV which isn't anywhere near as confusing as I thought it might be. I think maybe once or twice I had to go back and double check who's perspective I was getting, but that was usually because I was so eager to find out what came next that I didn't pay close enough attention to the chapter title. It was really cool to see each character from a different character's perspective, to explore their strengths and weaknesses from all sides. It made the characters more real and put personality quirks that could have become annoying into perspective.

Breathe is more than just the title of the book, it is also the name of the main governing body within the Pods. Throughout the course of the book, we learn more about Breathe and the unsavory methods they're using to stay in power. What I found interesting, however, is the way Crossan also undermines Alina's - and I'll admit my - assumption that the resistance is perfect. Petra, the leader of Alina's faction of the resistance, is pretty awful, having become as much of an iron fist in her desire to protect the trees as the Pod Minister has in his ruling of the people. (It reminded me of District 13 in Mockingjay.) We see Alina's view of the world falter in the same way that Bea and Quinn's falters.

Crossan creates a very vivid world, both within the Pod and without. She's paid close attention to detail and taken advantage of her premise to highlight the ways we take oxygen for granted. Homes have airlocks to aid in the careful monitoring of oxygen use, plants and pets are forbidden. Couples must apply to have children and any show of affection must be carefully weighed against the oxygen tax that may be levied due to the increased consumption. The barren landscape outside of the Pods is equally vivid and macabre. One of my favorite moments in the book occurs when Bea arrives at The Grove and sees the trees for the first time. I really felt the awe, joy and shock at coming face to face with something that she had considered a fairy tale her entire life.

Some things that didn't work -

While Crossan makes the wise choice of dolling out her exposition throughout the course of the story, there are some questions that are never answered to my satisfaction. One, I already mentioned. How did anyone convince the world that we could get enough oxygen from the ocean to survive?

Another question that is never answered is why time is divided into before The Switch and after The Switch. Now, I do grasp the concept that The Switch is being used to identify the moment when oxygen became the most valuable thing on the planet, but Crossan never explains the use of the phrase 'The Switch.'

Crossan's three main characters read young. Very young. That's not a problem, necessarily, but it's something that stuck out to me. They're supposed to be sixteen or seventeen and I felt like they were thirteen or fourteen.

There is a love triangle, but it's weakly executed and somewhat unnecessary. I can't decide if I think it was thrown in there because all YA novels must have a love triangle/romance or if Crossan really felt that it was a dynamic part of her story. Either way, it's a minor subplot that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel any more than my incredulity over the premise.

Breathe is the first in a series and while this book does wrap up the action with an air of finality, it definitely doesn't stand alone. That's not a fault, that's just a fact. I am definitely interested in reading the next book in the series. Crossan is a very capable writer and I very much enjoyed her characters and the world she created.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Obsidian
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 335
Rating: 4/5 Stars

I read this book in nine days! That probably doesn't sound like much of an achievement, but considering it took me six months to read Drood, my nine days with Obsidian feels like the blink of an eye. 

I really enjoyed Obsidian. Jennifer Armentrout spins a delightful little science fiction tinged romance between her two main characters that I'm looking forward to continuing in Onyx. To be honest, I almost bought Onyx before I even finished Obsidian - that's how certain I was that I wanted to continue to explore Katy and Daemon's world. 

I don't like to bog my reviews down with plot details, so I'll get right to what works and what doesn't. 

Works: the characters. Human or alien, the characters in Obsidian are relatable and real, fueled by the same basic desires as the average teenager - love, friendship, to fit in. I think what Armentrout does best is keep these desires from crippling her characters. Everyone feels doubt, love, loss, joy, anger, etc, but very few people allow those feelings to rule every aspect of their lives and Armentrout recognizes that.

I really appreciated that Katy wasn't some paragon of virtue, too perfect and pure to be real. Does she have a problem with drinking? Nope. Does she want to get in a car with her homecoming date who's already two sheets to the wind when he picks her up for the dance? Hell no. Katy gets angry and embarassed, she has a temper. She'll take shit, but she'll also dish it out with zero qualm. She stands up for herself, but she isn't an overbearing, overly sensitive bitch. When it comes time to be a hero, she rises to the occasion to save her friends, but she doesn't have a deathwish. 

Best of all, when she and Daemon start getting their sexual tension on, she doesn't spend chapters doubting the fact that he's attracted to her. 

Speaking of Daemon...he's awesome. He's a dick, he knows it and he doesn't care. And he doesn't change. Sure, he's got layers and goodness hiding beneath that hot, surly exterior, but he is who he is and while he softens around Katy, he's still Daemon. I love this. It makes the handful of scattered moments when he becomes completely vulnerable so much more interesting. I also love how unapologetic he is about protecting his family. Why yes, Katy, he will throw your ass to the wolves if it comes down to you and Dee. 

I like that a lot. 

I enjoyed how Katy and Daemon's relationship progressed. They're good looking people, so their attraction was pretty immediate, but their journey beyond the physical was/is slow. They drive each other crazy and don't spontaneously combust by the end of the novel into a happy, schmoopy couple. 

Thank goodness. 

The war between the Luxen and the Arum was a nice, if somewhat shallow, backdrop for Katy and Daemon's love story. The presence of aliens provides conflict and keeps Katy in Daemon's sphere, but it doesn't go much deeper than that. If you're looking to learn about a race of aliens, get to know their purpose and goals, then Obsidian will disappoint you. The aliens and their fairly typical powers are not the point. 

The plot points that Armentrout explores via Katy and Daemon are your typical high school/teenage expriences. There's no ground being broken here, but that's okay because the characters are engaging. I was perfectly content reading about the same trevails of high school as a hundred other YA books because Katy, Daemon, Dee and the rest kept me entertained. 

Now onto what doesn't work.

Honestly, there's nothing in Obsidian that doesn't work. There are aspects that could be explored more (see above) but there isn't anything that truly fails in terms of story and character development. I have a personal issue with all of the book blogging talk - not the fact that Katy is a blogger, but the fact that Armentrout is so specific about memes and whatnot - but that's just me. 

That said, I really feel that Entangled Teen let Armentrout down in terms of editing support. My copy of Obsidian is not an ARC copy and yet some sections have so many typos that it actually pulled out of the story. The grammar in certain sections leaves a lot to be desired as well. 

I don't fault Armentrout for that.

In my opinion, authors need to have a working knowledge of grammar and punctuation, a command of language and a vivid imagination that they can translate onto the page. They do not, however, need to be perfect and hand in a polished manuscript that's ready for publication on the first try. That's why editor's exist. Editors are supposed to find the typos and find the areas where grammar isn't perfect or word choice is shoddy. They are supposed to look at sections of the book and say "you know, you could use a little more description here and clarify your character's intentions there". They are supposed to help their authors bring the best possible version of their vision to bookstores and ereaders around the world. 

I don't know what happened here, but Entangled totally dropped the ball withObsidian and as you can see I'm kind of pissy on Armentrout's account because of it. 

Frustrations with Entangled aside, I am very excited to not only read more of the Lux series, but also more of Armentrout's work as a whole. I like her characters enough that I really just want to see them play.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Drood by Dan Simmons

Title: Drood
Author: Dan Simmons
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 941
Rating: 2/5 Stars

It took me nearly six months to read Drood. That fact alone could stand as a review, but I shall try to express in more detail why finishing this book - a book I was really excited to read - became such a chore.

Drood is a sprawling tale about the last five years of Charles Dickens life as seen through the eyes of his good friend, and fellow author, Wilkie Collins. The story begins with the Staplehurst train wreck that nearly claimed Dickens' life and ends with the great author's death. In between we learn about the enigma that is Drood and how this mysterious figure arguably drove both men to the brink of madness.

I commend Simmons on his research. I'm not an expert on Dickens, but I know enough that I was impressed with the author's attention to detail and the way he wove the real life history of the characters into his narrative. The language and style of Drood is reminiscent of the era in which it takes place while still managing to feel contemporary, so points for that as well.

That’s all the good I can say about Drood, however.

As much as I tried, I simply did not like this book. I didn’t like it. Dickens is a condescending prick who treats strangers with more care than he does his own family and friends. Collins begins the novel in a fairly sympathetic light, but by the end I just wanted him to shut up and stop whining. Collins is very much a product of his times – a sexist, racist, classist, ageist, misogynistic ‘gentleman’…and did I mention sexist? Damn. I’m usually quite good at putting concerns like that aside, especially considering the era in which the novel took place, but Collins had so few redeeming qualities that it his faults became overwhelming. I really didn’t need or want Collins to be perfect, but I did need something about him to respect.

The reason I picked up the book is because I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with The Mystery of Edwin Drood and according to the description, that’s what this book was supposed to be about. It’s not. It’s not even about Dickens. It’s about Wilkie Collins and his descent into drug-addled paranoia, hallucination and madness. Simmons didn’t even attempt to really answer whether or not Drood was real or merely a figment of mesmeric suggestion and laudanum and I suppose that vagueness could be seen as commendable. After all, the source material is unfinished, so why wrap it all up in a neat and tidy bow?

Well, because maybe then I would have felt like I actually got something out of this book instead of a general feeling of time wasted. I certainly don’t need to have my hand held and have the answers spelled out for me in simple, concrete language, but a few less options would have been nice.

There are a few passages that I really enjoyed and had me turning pages – the Staplehurst accident, Collins and Dickens’ first descent into Undertown, Collins entrapment in the catacombs and Hatchery’s death, Collins meetings with Barris, the death of Agnes, Collins opium and morphine induced dream of killing Dickens – but they’re interspersed far too judiciously amidst all of the dense exposition.

At one point I told a friend that I wouldn’t be reading any of Dan Simmons’ other work. I take that back. I read a few reviews of Drood and according to some this novel is quite the departure from Simmons’ other work, so I’m inclined to give him another try. He's a good author and uses language well. It just won't be any time soon.

And by the way, if I never hear the term ‘mesmerism’ used again, it will be too soon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Books From My Childhood

When I was in 5th grade I started keeping track of each book I finished. I used a blue spiral notebook and kept it up for years. On a recent trip to my parents' house I found that notebook and since I've posted exactly nothing for over a month and a half, I thought it would be fun to post it here for posterity.

Books Read Since the Beginning of School '91

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gaymerica by Scot Moore

Title: Gaymerica
Author: Scot Moore
Publisher: One T Publishing via Amazon CreateSpace
Pages: 278 pages (Kindle Edition)
Rating: 5/5 Stars

I’ll admit right off of the bat that I’m biased. Not only is Scot Moore a very good friend of mine, but I was fortunate enough to be a part of his process in creating this book – I got to read a rough draft.

Also, I may or may not be the girl on the cover.


Okay, so I am. I’m on a book cover!!! It’s so cool.

None of the above, however, is an excuse not to write a thorough review, so here goes.

It’s 2047. The United States has split into two nations. One, America, is a traditionalist Christian nation dedicated to the practices of Capitalism, evangelical Christianity, and heterosexism. The other, the Western States, is the bastard secessionist spawn of America inhabiting the Left coast of the continent.

Corwin Hawley has been selected by the American government to infiltrate the Western States and aid the process of toppling their evil ruler, the Queen Supreme. But, when he arrives, reality and his training come into conflict. Will he stay the course? Or, will he fall victim to the unrelenting allure of the gays? Corwin's battle with Gaymerica is about to begin…

I'll start right off with the bottom line: READ THIS BOOK. Not only is it a fast, entertaining read, it will make you think.

I’ve put off writing my review of this book for over a month because it’s so hard for me to discuss it without getting overly political. I happen to feel quite strongly about the book's central message, but I don't want to do a disservice to the book by getting on my soapbox. In my opinion, whether liberal or a conservative, Christian or atheist, we’re all humans and we can all benefit from exploring the themes Moore discusses in Gaymerica.

What I like most about this book – aside from the fact that I completely, 100% agree with the message of equality and acceptance it presents – is that it doesn’t condemn the very things that have made 2047 America the hostile, fearful environment it has become. Capitalism isn’t evil, Christianity isn’t shunned and not everybody in Gaymerica is, well, gay. Moore expertly depicts how extremes in thinking, either left or right wing, are detrimental to any society with the gentle way he exposes Corwin to new experiences.

I’m also very comfortable recommending this book from a technical standpoint. Gaymerica avoids the same traps of self-publishing with his command of the English language, grammar and punctuation. Gaymerica is a book that any publishing house would be confident and happy to attach their name to.

Moore tells his story through satire – a great choice, in my opinion because it allows him to discuss some pretty explosive and controversial topics without bashing the reader over the head with his views. Considering the plot, Moore could have written Gaymerica as a political thriller, but in doing so he would have lost so much of the human element that gives the story its heart. Life, the whole human existence, is so wonderfully absurd and Corwin’s journey is one any of us could go on.

And one I think more people should.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fade by Lisa McMann

Title: Fade (Dream Catcher #2)

Author: Lisa McMann

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Pages: 248

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Fade, like Wake, was a ridiculously fast read. Author Lisa McMann dives directly into her narrative and moves at a quick pace all the way through the denouement without letting up for a second. I liked that, as the continued tension kept me turning pages when I might have been tempted to put the book down. While I enjoyed Fade, I didn’t like it as much as Wake.

I didn’t really like the case Janie and Cabel were working on – or rather I didn’t like how it was handled. While the stakes were high with the student/teacher date rape issue, I was disappointed that the antagonists were ferreted out so quickly. Obviously at 248 pages McMann simply doesn’t have the time for a record number of plot twists or red herrings, but Janie identified her main suspect without any missteps and it’s essentially smooth sailing from there. It’s not that I didn’t think it was plausible that she could do it, I just…wanted more of a challenge for her, I guess. Especially given that this was only her second case working as a Dream Catcher with the police.

Where Fade excelled was in exploring more about Martha Stubin and her life as a Dream Catcher. I loved the tragedy in the price she paid for the lives she helped and the signs that Janie’s already headed down the same path. McMann gave the readers and Janie hope in some very practical and logical words from Captain Komisky, but nonetheless, Janie’s future doesn’t look bright.

Janie and Cabel are a great couple. At times, Cabel became too emotional for my taste, but that’s a personal preference. Their relationship was very well-rounded – running the gamut from uber angst to silly hilarity – especially for two people with as many emotional and physical scars as they had. I haven’t even read the back cover for Gone, so I may be jumping the gun here, but I’m pleased that McMann doesn’t go the way of many YA books by introducing a third party into the relationship. I love a good triangle, but I also love stories that buck the norm.

From a technical standpoint, McMann’s writing style in Fade was identical to Wake. Very sparse, occasionally jarring and every once in awhile confusing – and not in a good, keep-them-guessing kind of way. The stylistic specificity works for her I’d say…97% of the time, but sometimes I lost track of who was speaking or doing something and I’d have to go back and reread. I read fast, but I’m not a speed-reader, so I don’t think the issue was mine alone.

While I was a little disappointed in some aspects of Fade I’m still excited to read Gone. In fact, I almost picked it up and read it right away, which is something I rarely do. I like to space out my visits to worlds I really enjoy, so that’s a testament to Lisa McMann’s storytelling right there.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Title: Innocent Traitor
Author: Alison Weir
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 416
Rating: 3/5 Stars

I know a lot about Tudor England - both the fantasies created by historical fiction authors and Hollywood, as well as the factual history of the time. I'm by no means an expert, but my working knowledge made me pretty well-versed in Lady Jane Grey and her lamentably short reign as Queen of England before I began reading Innocent Traitor.

This book took me awhile to read, partly because of personal stuff and partly because I didn't find the first half particularly compelling. There was little besides my own determination that prompted me to turn each page and see what happened next. I hate to blame that on the author, though, because I really don't want to fault her for the fact that I knew the subject matter. That said, I think the fault does lie within the subject matter.

Lady Jane Grey, though incredibly smart and well-educated, was boring. Tragically boring. She was used as a puppet from the day she was born until the day she was executed. Because of her sex, her faith, her age and her station, she had no control over anything. She was utterly powerless. Her entire life was one, big, disappointing tragedy and what I will say for Ms. Weir is that she does an excellent job of hammering that point home. Where Elizabeth Tudor used her intelligence to navigate what could easily be described as the most perilous heritage and early life imaginable, Jane does very little to direct her own course, differing instead to her religious convictions and duty to obey - her parents, her sovereign, her elders, her faith. Jane's faith is her guiding light and as admirable as that was, it was also infuriating how it kept her from ever taking any personal action on her own behalf. There were times I almost put down the book because I just couldn't deal with her anymore. She suffered her trials like the Protestant martyr she later became, but that's all she did, and knowing how it would all end, it nearly became too much.

Reading Innocent Traitor has made me question my future reading habits. I'm going to think very carefully about whether or not I'll pick up the next novelization of an actual historical figure - especially one who has a tragic end. There is merit in Jane's story. Her unwavering faith is something to be admired regardless of religious affiliation and her grace in the face of death is inspiring.

But it is the injustices and the frailities of the human race that leave the lasting impression and I'm not sure how often I really need to be reminded of how cruel we can be to each other. Even taking into account that Innocent Traitor is a work of fiction, the sad truth is, Jane was executed. Ms. Weir may have taken creative license with the steps that brought her to the chopping block on February 12th, 1554, but steps were taken and I have no trouble believing that Ms. Weir came close to reality. Lady Jane Grey died as she lived, a political pawn in a game she wished no part of.

Since, I don't want to end this review on a dire note, from a techincal standpoing, I liked how Ms. Weir used a shifting first person narrative. Every major player had the opportunity for their viewpoint, their voice, to be heard and it made for a fairly well-balanced story. I am not inclined to ever sympathize with Queen Mary, but it was hard to hate her in this novel, despite her actions.

I'd really like to give this book 3.5 stars because it is a thoroughly researched and vividly imagined novel. Subject matter aside, I enjoyed Ms. Weir's style and I will definitely try her other works.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Twitter Account!

Given that @fallinangelz21 is my personal Twitter account and my assumption that those who follow my blog may not be interested in hearing my - often profanity laced - thoughts on random things, I've created an account just for my blog.

Far Escape Reviews now has its own Twitter Account - @FarEscapeReviews. There's a follow button just to the right of this post for your convenience, so...follow away!

YA Giveaway Hop! And the winner is...

Congrats, Lexie and thanks so much to everybody who participated in the giveaway!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross

Title: The Strange Case of Finley Jayne
Author: Kady Cross
Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
Pages: 78 (Kindle edition)
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Strange Case of Finley Jayne was a fun, quick read that I enjoyed more than The Girl in the Steel Corset. Although this novelette is a prequel to TGitSC, Finley seemed more comfortable with her duel natures and as such I found her more fun as a heroine. Strange Case also benefits from less of a focus on romantic entanglements and by extension the Victorian ettiquette of the time.

In other words, the aspects of TGitSC that prevented me from giving it four stars, weren't an issue in this novelette.

On the heels of being fired for striking an overbearing governess, Finley is hired by Lady Morton as a companion to her daughter Phoebe. From the beginning, Kady Cross metes out clues that the job isn't as simple as it appears and the story moves quickly to a satisfying - if predictable - conclusion. The predictability is not a detriment to the story, at least not to me. Putting clues together while reading a mystery is often the best part.

I enjoyed seeing the Morton's world through Finley's eyes, especially because they not only embraced her uniqueness, it was the reason Lady Morton sought her out. Phoebe and Lady Morton are great characters and friends to Finley. I also enjoyed seeing more of Finley's mother and stepfather, Silas. There are a handful of mentions of Griffin, the Duke of Greythorne, which was fun wink at what we as readers know comes 'after' the events in this story.

After reading TGitSC, I was marginally disappointed and on the fence regarding Kady Cross's Steampunk Chronicles miniseries, but after reading The Strange Case of Finley Jayne my interest has been restored.

The Girl in the Steel Corset Review

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Young Adult Giveaway Hop!

The wonderful bloggers I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Down The Rabbit Hole have combined forces to host a Young Adult Giveaway Hop! There's tons of blogs participating and I'm excited to be one of them.

In honor of the upcoming release of Daisy Whitney's The Rivals, book two in The Mockingbirds series, I am giving away an ARC copy of the book that started it all - The Mockingbirds!

Goodreads description:

Some schools have honor codes.Others have handbooks. Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

To enter, reply to this post with your total entries.

+1 - Follow this blog.

+1 - Follow Daisy Whitney's blog.

+1 - Share this giveaway via Twitter or Facebook and supply link in reply.

I attempted to create a form for this giveaway, but was unable to due to the fact that I'm only semi-computer literate about the whole idea. LOL

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Title: Cleopatra: A Life
Author: Stacy Schiff
Publisher: Little Brown & Co.
Pages: 368
Rating: 4/5 Stars

I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but I'd heard so many interesting things about Cleopatra: A Life that I decided I had to give it a shot. I'm quite glad I did.

To the victor go the spoils...and also the scribes who write the history. I've been aware for a long time that history is subjective and the myth of Cleopatra VII clearly illustrates that. Most of what is known about her life is written from the perspective of a patriarchal Roman society that feared the intelligent, independent woman and thus painted her as the beautiful, seductive, devious creature she's known as today.

Stacy Schiff does a remarkable job in sifting through the known record, not just on Cleopatra's life, but also on the culture and people of the era in which she lived. The result is perhaps less romantic than Shakespeare's version of events, but no less dynamic or enthralling.

If you're looking for 'truth', Cleopatra: A Life may frustrate you. The truth about the last Queen of Egypt has been lost to the centuries and buried beneath the sensationalized accounts of her exploits - often written by those who were hostile toward her. What you will get is a carefully weighed narrative that deconstructs the patriarchal viewpoint of Cicero, Plutarch, Dio, etc. in order to present a more balanced and realistic picture of a woman born to be a queen.

Schiff champions Cleopatra with common sense and an amazing understanding of the era in which she lived, often at the amusing (at least to me) expense of her detractors. To some, the bias may be annoying, but in my opinion, after two-thousand years of being annointed the 'wickedest woman in the world' I'd say it's about time someone championed her. Schiff's Cleopatra is a strong-willed, well-educated, ambitious and enthralling woman who's greatest skill is not her feminine wiles, but her ability to read people and manipulate them to serve her agenda. She is a consummate politician...which is why it makes perfect sense that the Roman society that defeated her has had to reduce her to little more than a whore.

I liked Stacy Schiff's writing style very much and if she happens to write about another figure or historical era that I'm interested in, I will definitely read it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Booking Through Thursday - Do You Skip?

Found this at The Once and Future Librarian and thought I'd like to play, too. Even though it's almost Friday.

Do you ever skip ahead in a book? If so, do you feel bad about it?

I never skip, but if I did I know I'd feel bad about it. I don't even skim the 'boring' parts. I'd like to say that I have more respect for the author and the blood, sweat and tears they poor into each carefully chosen word, but the truth is I'm just a little OCD. I won't feel like I really "read" the book if there's any part that I didn't consume with the utmost care and attention.

Which is why I often end up rereading portions of books because my busy minds starts to wander.

So, how about you? Any cheaters out there? ;p

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week I'm waiting on...

Goodreads Description:

The sky is dark with wings. . . .

In RAPTURE, the highly anticipated fourth and final novel in the FALLEN series, Luce and Daniel are together . . . but for how long? Can history be rewritten? Or are some punishments eternal?

Why I want it:

Take a look at the cover. I swear, Lauren Kate's novels have cornered the market on 'Covers That Make Me WANT'. The book could be about fishing in Maine or geography and if it looked like the book above - with the barren landscape, stormy grey sky, brunette in a white dress with the dark hair all fluttering in the breeze - I'd be all over it.

Plus, it doesn't hurt that I've read the first book of the series (actually, I bought it for a friend as a Christmas gift based SOLELY on the cover) and fully intend on reading the rest. I love tales of star-crossed lovers in pretty much any form.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

Title: From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace
Pages: 321
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

By book 8 of The Southern Vampire series, I enjoyed the world of Bon Temps so much that I really didn't care about the plot. I just liked being at Merlotte's, hanging out with Sam, matching wits with Eric, turning up my nose at Bill, snickering along with Pam, wishing death on Arlene and the FotS freaks, and wondering what kind of trouble Amelia, Jason, Holly and all the rest are going to drag me into next.

And by me, of course, I mean Sookie.

When I started the series, I wasn't a huge fan of Sookie, but now that she's been immersed in the supernatural world long enough to feel old hat about it, I really enjoy her. From Dead to Worse actually addresses the question of whether or not Sookie would change things if she could and go back to the time where she didn't know vamps existed - let alone shifters, fairies, demons and the like. Much to my relief and without quivocating, Sookie said she would not. Despite the nearly constant threats to her life, Sookie no longer feels like a freak because of her telepathy and that is more important to her than anything else.

I appreciate that because I really didn't want to read book after book of a heroine bemoaning her lot in life.

In terms of story, From Dead to Worse felt like filler. Entertaining, enjoyable filler, but filler nonetheless. We learned about the interspecies politics of the Vamps, Weres and Hotshot Werepanthers. A new packmaster takes over in Shreveport, a new vampire becomes king of Louisiana and Sookie, of course, was right in the middle of it. Sam was also pretty heavily involved which I like because I've always liked Sam.

Sookie also meets more of her family - her great great grandfather as well as her...second cousin? Her cousin Hadley's son Hunter, who is a very cool little kid.

Ms. Harris ties up a significant number of loose ends in this book and I'm hoping puts them to bed permanently. I like that details spill over from one book to the other, but Bob the Cat eventually needed to go back to being Bob the Man.

On the Sookie Romance Front, Bill continued to annoy and Eric continued to be awesome. I LOVE the bond between Sookie and Eric, not just because I enjoy them together best, but because it's amusing to read how much it annoys Sookie at times. She doesn't have a problem being bonded to Eric, she just hates that the bond manipulates her emotions. So amusing.

I will say I was surprised by how abruptly Sookie ended things with Quinn. I don't blame her for deciding to do so, she just arrived at her conclusion SO much faster than I expected her to. I would have thought, considering the circumstances, she would have given him more of a chance. I suppose being so immersed in the world of the supes has toughened her up a bit.

This review is a bit all over the place and that's because the book is a bit all over the place. I'm not trying to hold back on spoilers, but if I were to be more detailed I'd have to basically recount the entire story and that's not my usual method of review. Suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next one. In fact, I almost picked it up and started it right away. There is something infectious about Sookie's world and no matter how hard I tried to avoid being charmed by them, I have been.