Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring Fling Giveaway Hop!

Thanks for checking out my Spring Fling Giveaway Hop, hosted by Eve's Fan Garden and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. For a chance to win a book of your choice from the Book Depository, fill out the form below and be sure to check out the other blogs in the hop for more giveaway opportunities!

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The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)

Title: The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 448
Rating: 5/5 Stars

I was incredibly excited to get an ARC of The Eternity Cure and I’d resolved to read/review it before it was released.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute, huh?

My procrastination had nothing to do with the book, however, because as soon as I got around to firing up my Kindle and started reading, I didn’t stop. As with The Immortal Rules, Kagawa crafted a story that was unique and engaging and really kept me turning pages.

Er, pushing the arrow button.

After leaving Eden at the end of book #1, Allie sets off to find her sire, Kanin. She’s drawn to him because of their shared bloodline and even sees through his eyes in the night as she sleeps. She knows that he’s in trouble – captured by Psycho Vamp Sarren – and she’s determined to find him.

She feels she owes him that much.

Truth be told, I think Allie’s just looking for a new family. As much as she tried to be a detached Fringer during the first seventeen years of her life, and then a detached vampire, Allison can’t help but want people, family, a connection. She had a facsimile of that with Zeke and the group of humans that she helped get to Eden in the first book, but that was always a pipe dream, tarnished by the fact that she constantly had to choke down her Hunger and keep her true self secret.

Perhaps Kanin is a second chance at a family that she’ll never have to give up.

Having read two of Kagawa’s books, I feel I can say with some authority that she really likes to take her time with her plots. In any other book, finding Kanin would have been the introduction and the real plot would have started when she did exactly that. Under Kagawa’s guidance, however, The Eternity Cure stays focused on what it’s really about – Allison’s journey. Despite the fact that she’s constantly moving, Allison is not at the whim of her plot, her plot unfolds around her as she goes. As such, the book is half over when Allison and Jackal (what an unexpected and surprisingly enjoyable development) are reunited with their sire.

Zeke also makes another appearance and I found that I enjoyed him much more in The Eternity Cure than I did in The Immortal Rules. He seems more adult in this book and the connection that he and Allie share feels more genuine and organic. By the time I got to the end, I found that I really cared about Zeke and wanted him to stay around.

As much as Allie drives the plot of The Eternity Cure, it moves a lot faster than The Immortal Rules. I was immensely glad of that as I really didn’t need to have a play-by-play of Allie and Jackal’s trek from DC to New Covington.

There were a couple of plot contrivances that I would have liked to see handled differently. Zeke’s miraculous healing abilities could have been set up better – or at all. I don’t think it would have given away anything if Kagawa had mentioned the medical experiments that he’d volunteered for in Eden prior to his Lazarus-like return near the end. The fact that Sarren stayed in New Covington after his desperate escape from the Vampire Towers was…convenient.

Also, I really hate that Allison refers to Sarren as Psycho Vamp. There’s something really pedestrian about that.

Those are minor, but in light of how much I loved this book and how skilled Kagawa is as an author, that’s the best I can do.

Speaking of those skills, like The Immortal Rules, The Eternity Cure just feels solid. There’s this intangible difference between a green author’s debut and an author who has really honed her craft and Kagawa’s definitely honed. I love that and it deserves to be addressed.  Details are richer, plot unfolds more smoothly and the world is vibrant and alive. Awesome.

Now, I have to wait for the next book and after the plot twist at the end, I feel that it’s going to be a very, very long wait.


Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9) by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Pages: 312
Rating 4/5 Stars

Another year, another Sookie Stackhouse book. I seem to read these on a one-a-year basis which puts me pretty far behind the curve.

Now, time for another one of my ridiculous and all-over-the-place reviews.

So, what’s going on in Dead and Gone? Well, the Weres decided to join the Vamps in coming out to the world – and they did so without any warning (to me, the reader, at least). The book opens up with a show-and-tell at Merlotte’s as Sam changes in front of everyone, and it never slows down.

Crystal – Jason’s pregnant, estranged werepanther wife – winds up dead and it’s up to Sookie to prove her brother’s innocence.

Even though she doesn’t like him much right now.

Also, Sookie and Eric get married in true Eric Northman fashion – he tricks her. Bwaha! Sookie’s upset, but not nearly as upset as she should be because of the blood bond she and Eric share.

And maybe because Sookie gets a little rush from the idea of being bound to Eric.

Once again, it’s delightful to watch Sookie struggle with Eric’s heavy influence in her life. She likes being around him (or is that the blood bond?) and definitely likes sleeping with him (definitely not the blood bond) but she can’t quite trust her feelings because of…the blood bond.

Sookie decides to have something of a relationship with Eric anyway because, well, why not? He’s hot, really good in bed and he genuinely cares for her and looks out for her. The protection that he offers and the ways that he wants to keep her safe come across as overbearing at times, but Sookie isn’t afraid of him anymore. That makes all of the difference in the world.

The moral of my sum up is that I still enjoy Eric and Sookie and I also enjoy how Harris presents this blood bond. Eric’s not controlling Sookie with it, but it does raise some questions and make her wonder at her motives. It’s an interesting conflict for them without being too overbearing and dramatic.

In addition to the Who Killed Crystal plot, we have a Fairy War brewing with Sookie’s Great-Grandfather right in the thick of things. The Fairy War gets pretty dicey – and Sookie is put through serious hell to the point where I was actually surprised at how far Harris went with it. Things are resolved in true Southern Vampire fashion (quickly) and it looks like Sookie is down one fairy godmother as Claudine heads over to the fairy world on a permanent basis and Sookie’s Great-Grandfather intends on closing the doors between realms.

Fine by me.

I liked the Fairies. I was intrigued by their appeal to vampires, but at the end of the day, I like there to be a level playing field with my characters and the Fairies in Sookie’s world were just a little too all-powerful – although, how hilarious that she could take them out with an iron garden trowel?

In other news, Arlene and the FotS freak finally gets what’s coming to them and I couldn’t be more thrilled. She was just the worst. Ugh.

Octavia heads back to New Orleans (again, in typical Charlaine Harris fashion – quickly), leaving Amelia and Sookie with the run of her house again.

On a side note, having a house guest has been really good for Sookie in terms of asserting herself. It’s kind of cool to watch her stand up for herself when she feels that she needs to and that while she and Amelia are friendly, they’re not necessarily friends.

The mystery of Crystal’s death is solved and it’s…odd. Not bad, just a little odd and pretty sad, really.

In my review of book #8, I said that it felt like filler and while #9 definitely did not, given that the action was completely centered in and around Bon Temps and that the vampires are still recovering from the fallout of the Pyramid explosion in #7, the stakes didn’t seem quite as high as they could have been. I look forward to the action getting back to the vamps, which for whatever reason, I feel is the main action of this series.
And of course, more Eric.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh

Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 323
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Archangel's Kiss had been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time when a March Challenge to dig into my TBR pile finally prompted me to read it. I feel bad only giving the book three stars as Nalini Singh is one of my favorite authors, but three stars equals "I liked it" and that is the truth. I liked this book. Archangel's Kiss was a quick, engaging read that I definitely enjoyed, but it by no means knocked me off of my feet.

I read Archangel's Blood three years ago, so I had a hard time remembering all of the details of that book. They came back to me as I read and I was reminded why I'd made sure to pick up Archangel's Kiss and the next book in the series, Archangel's Consort. Nalini Singh creates characters and worlds that are vivid and engaging - very, very close to the world we currently live in, but different in subtle ways that really matter. Even if I didn't like Raphael, Elena, Illium and Dimitri, I'd be tempted to read Nalini's books just for the world building.

Archangel's Kiss picks up almost right where we left off in the previous book - newly minted angel Elena has woken up in Raphael's home, far from her native New York and the Guild Hunters she considers family. Given that Elena and Raphael are almost dysfunctionally (in the best way possible) in love with each other, Elena's new surroundings aren't as much of a problem as one might think.

What is a problem is the fact that the angel community is not happy with Elena's transformation and she might just be too weak from her injuries to stay alive. Raphael's Seven - his band of loyal angels/vampires - have a major problem with their boss making himself vulnerable because of Elena. They see her as a weakness that Raphael's enemies will exploit and make no secret of the fact that they don't trust/respect her - which is a testament to how deep their resentment goes considering Raphael's less than forgiving nature at having his decisions questioned. The lone exception, of course, is Illium, which is more dangerous than noble as I'm pretty sure the blue-winged angel is in love with Elena.

That won't end well.

Raphael and Elena's burgeoning relationship is framed by two distinct threats - a ball hosted by the oldest (and arguably most detached from reality) Archangel Lijuan and a power play by an unknown enemy to bring about a war among the Archangels. Raphael is adamant that Elena regain her strength quickly - if she doesn't, it could mean death for both of them.

As with the Psy-Changeling series, family - and more specifically children - are at the heart of everything. Protecting one's own is the motivation for nearly every character in both series and that's very apparent here where an otherwise acceptable series of political maneuverings becomes a matter of life and death when an angel child is attacked. The attack brings memories to the surface for nearly every character and as a result we learn a lot more about Elena - what caused the rift between her and her father, as well as her sisters/mother's deaths - and Raphael's past.

For all of the build up to Who's Trying to Star A War and What is Lijuan Up To, the actual denouement happened fairly quickly. That's not a complaint, really, as Nalini's books have always been more about the relationships of her characters than the plot, but it's worth noting.

I'm still having issues with the wings. I just keep thinking about how awkward it would be to cart the damn things around. I did enjoy how Nalini explained the way the angels adapted their clothes to fit around the giant extra appendages protruding from their backs. I commend her for making the wings a very real, very permanent part of the angels. While it may have been more to my tastes if the angels were somehow able to "put their wings away" when not in use, I also think it would have been something of a cop-out to do so.

Oh, since this is a romance novel, I will also say that the sex is pretty damn hot - wings and all. I expect nothing less from Nalini.

So, there it is. A review of a book that I definitely liked, but can't really gush over. I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

Hopefully it won't take me another three years.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 485
Rating: 4/5 Stars

The first time I read the description of The Immortal Rules I knew that I wanted to read it. When I finally got around to doing so I discovered that not only did the book live up to its description, it was also the most surprising story I’ve read in a long time – vampire or otherwise. Throughout Allison’s story, Kagawa kept me on my toes, never doing what I expected.

The story starts in The Fringe, the area on the outskirts of the vampire city of New Covington, with unregistered Fringer Allison scrambling daily for survival. Allison’s pretty amazing – strong, determined, fiercely independent. Even though she considers herself part of a family unit of fellow unregisters, she keeps herself separate because she doesn’t trust that anything in her world can last.

In a way, she’s right.

My first big surprise came when Allison became a vampire about a fourth of the way into the book and I realized how wrong I was about what I thought I was reading. After a Rabid attack that leaves her on the brink of death, Allison is given a choice by a seemingly benevolent vampire named Kanin: live or die. Allison chooses life, despite her anti-vampire convictions, and I totally love her for it.

I love that she chooses life. I’ve read so many different novels that focus on characters that are willing to sacrifice themselves for a principle that it’s refreshing to find someone who wants to live, despite the ramifications.

The next segment of the book focuses on Allison’s introduction to vampire life. Kanin becomes more than her sire, he’s also her mentor, training her to survive in her new circumstances. Again, I thought I knew where the book was going and again, Kagawa pulled the rug out from under me. Suddenly, Kanin and Allison get separated and she finds herself outside of New Covington.


The third part of the book, and I guess I’d say what the story is really about, focuses on Allison joining a group of humans searching for a place they call Eden – not quite the biblical paradise, but a safe haven from vampires, an island city run completely by humans.

Among the group of humans is a boy that brings an added complication to Allison’s already precarious position of being a wolf amidst the lambs – love. I’d been expecting a romantic entanglement, but I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. I liked that The Immortal Rules was about Allison’s journey exclusively. I should have trusted, Kagawa, however, because while Allison did fall for Zeke, the romance never took over the narrative. Her feelings for him became just another aspect of her struggle as a vampire so close to her humanity. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that.

As you can probably gather, I think the plot of The Immortal Rules is excellent. The world building is equally impressive. Kagawa creates a rich and vivid dystopia with a backstory that’s simple enough to be utterly believable. A plague erupts that threatens humans and vampires alike and in the search for a cure, Rabids are created – mindless, deformed vampire-like creatures that prey on literally anything living – essentially destroying the world as we know it. There are a lot of dystopias going around these days and Kagawa’s isn’t necessarily the most original, but it doesn’t matter. Originality doesn’t count when it comes in a convoluted package. As I said, Kagawa keeps it simple and it pays off in spades.

I could go on and on about The Immortal Rules, digging into intricate plot details and the relationships between characters, but it would be a better use of your time to just go read it. Seriously. If you enjoy dystopias, vampires, romance, family, the struggle we all face to be the best version of ourselves no matter the circumstances and old fashioned good vs. evil, The Immortal Rules has it all.

In one book.

So go read it. I’m going to get back to my advance copy of The Eternity Cure.

Be jealous.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Feed Your Reader Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Inspired Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer has launched a new site aimed at bringing you the best Kindle Ebook Deals and Steals.

Each day on feedyourreader.com you'll find a new list of available ebook deals (most for under $3).

And of course there will be lots of  Featured Freebies too!

To celebrate the launch of the new site she is giving away a Kindle Fire, Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash.

Win a 7" Kindle Fire (US only)

Or $100 Amazon.com Gift Card (International)

Or $100 in Paypal Cash (International)

Giveaway Details 
1 winner will receive their choice of a Kindle Fire 7" (US Only), $100 Amazon Gift Card or $100 in Paypal Cash (International).
Ends 5/5/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Prize value $100-$159 US.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Titanic Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to my Titanic Giveaway Hop hosted by My Devotional Thoughts and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. Check out their giveaways and be sure to thank them for hosting!

April 12th is the 101st anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and in honor of that event, I'm featuring a series about an epic love triangle - perhaps THE epic love triangle. The triangle that started it all and brought about the downfall of the greatest kingdom in Great Britain's history.

Goodreads Synopsis

Camelot--a vibrant pageant of love, heartbreak, hatred, jealousy, revenge, and desire--as seen through the eyes of its queen, Guenevere. Raised in the tranquil beauty of the Summer Country, Princess Guenevere has led a charmed and contented life, until the sudden, violent death of her mother, Queen Maire, leaves the Summer Country teetering on the brink of anarchy. Only the miraculous arrival of Arthur, heir to the Pendragon dynasty, allows Guenevere to claim her mother's throne. Smitten by the bold, sensuous princess, Arthur offers to marry her and unite their territory while still allowing her to rule in her own right. Their love match creates the largest and most powerful kingdom in the Isles.

Arthur's glorious rule begins to crumble, however, when he is reunited with his mother and his long-lost half-sisters, Morgause and Morgan. Before Arthur's birth, his father--the savage and unscrupulous King Uther--banished his wife's young daughters, selling Morgause into a cruel marriage and imprisoning Morgan in a far-off convent. Both daughters will avenge their suffering, but it is Morgan who strikes the deadliest blows against the King and Queen, using her evil enchantments to destroy all Guenevere holds dear. When the Queen flees to Avalon, Morgan casts a spell on Arthur and seduces him. 

In the chaos that follows his betrayal, Arthur sends a new courtier to protect Guenevere, the young French knight Lancelot. Her loyalty to Arthur already destroyed, Guenevere falls in love with Lancelot, a love that may spell ruin for Camelot.

Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country is the first book in Rosalind Miles' Camelot trilogy and it made me fall in love with one of my favorite love stories all over again. If you've read The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, you'll love this new take on Author, Guenevere, Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table. 

For my giveaway, you have the choice of a copy of Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country or any other disaster/epic love story novel of your choice. To enter, simply fill out the form below! 

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Be sure to check out the blogs below for more great giveaways!