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 US...an ARC copy of Kresley Cole's Poison Princess

From goodreads.com

#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.