Spotlight Friday (69)

I really did not realize it has been so long since I’ve done one of these!  Sorry!  My Fridays tend to be really busy.  However, I am here today!  And here are some new books!

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

Release Date: April 1, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads)Throughout their whole childhood, Finn and Autumn were inseparable—they finished each other’s sentences, they knew just what to say when the other person was hurting. But one incident in middle school puts them in separate social worlds come high school, and Autumn has been happily dating James for the last 2 years. But she’s always wondered what if…

The night she’s about to get the answer is also one of terrible tragedy.

What’s To Like: I think this sounds highly relatable.  I mean, how many of us look back on middle school, high school, or even college and think of the people we used to be so close to? We see how their lives have gone and we wonder…What if X happened instead of Y?  I’m really interesting in seeing what Autumn’s revelations are.

My review of If He Had Been With Me

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, #2) by R.L. LaFevers

Release Date: April 2, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads): Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons.

But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

This heart-pounding sequel to Grave Mercy serves betrayal, treachery, and danger in equal measure, bringing readers back to fifteenth century Brittany and will keep them on the edge of their seats.

What’s To Like: I LOVE this series.  The books are pretty thick, but they’re really good.  I love the idea of being a maiden to Death and “serving” him as an assassin.  It’s such an interesting idea for a series, especially when you put it in 15th century Brittany.  Historical fiction with a twist.  I love it.

My review of Dark Triumph.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Release Date: April 2, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads): In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

What’s To Like: I don’t normally read stories from this time period (kind of because there aren’t that many YA fictions I’ve run across from here), but this sounds super interesting.  Anything with a good ghost story is something I’m all over.  This combines the ghost story with a seance.  And history.  Can this story get any better?

My review of In the Shadow of Blackbirds.

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The Sixth Power

First Lines: Sometimes, even when you know that death is imminent, you just have to go ahead and complete your small task in the great plan, Tom though as he glided through the still, dark room.  His bare feet made no sound on the smooth, hardwood floor.  He felt strange sneaking around like a thief in his own house.

I was asked by the author to read and review this book.  It looked like something I would read (and maybe a bit like a few books I had read), so I took her up on her offer.

Tania Westing was a fairly normal girl until her older brother Tom was murdered.    Of course, she knew she was a little different from others.  She is one of the Gifted Ones, people with special abilities.  However, Tania’s powers were never really given the chance to show themselves.  Her power, healing, is particularly rare.  Tom was a genius geneticist who cracked the genetic code for the Gifted Ones, and now the people who killed Tom believe that Tania has the answers they are looking for…and they’ll go to any length to get them from her.  With the help of a boy named Dan and his family that she met on Spring Break, Tania will struggle to become the girl Tom always knew she could be and protect those she has left from dangerous killers.

This book was really rich in characters.  They really drove the story (not that the plot was anything to bash, either.)  The characters were unique and varied.  Tania has had a lot of hardships in her short life, but so have a lot of the other characters.  But they don’t spend much time bemoaning their lives.  I really liked Roger, who was one of Tania’s only friends.  He was such a sweetheart.  And the Maclean family was really neat as well.  I don’t know; I just liked them all.  They were well-written.  Of course, there were a few that I didn’t like as well, but hey.  It happens.

I didn’t realize going into this story that Lord of the Rings played such a huge part.  Everything I know about LotR can be summed up in a creepy character named Gollum who says the creepy line, “My precious” and that the guy who played Dumbledore plays Gandalf.  (Yes yes, I realize some of you are probably weeping at my clear lack of knowledge on this.  My apologies.)  Still, this was a huge part of the book and at one point, I was at a great disadvantage for not knowing anything about the series.  That made it difficult to understand a very important portion of the story.

Like I said above, the plot was pretty good as well.  This story is a bit of a thriller, with a lot of action and danger lurking.  There are parts that drag a little as things are explained at length, but it usually picks up soon after again.  There were some points that I either read too fast or weren’t very well written because I would realize twenty pages later the implications of something earlier I hadn’t understood.  Eventually I got it, but I don’t know whose fault it was.  Probably mine.

One thing that I didn’t really like was the hurry-up feeling I got from the love story portion.  Tania and the boy went from “Hey I just met you” to “I will always love you” well before the end of the story, which covers I think about 4 months.  (Do song references make up for my deficit with LotR?)  Anyway, I know that this happens in books a lot, but I don’t like it.  I think it sets up unrealistic expectations for girls.  It the one thing about books that will consistently bother me.

Overall, though, it’s a really thrilling paranormal/sci-fi story with really great characters.

Bitter Blood (Morganville Vampires, #13)

First Lines: Claire Danvers was in a rare bad mood, and nearly getting arrested didn’t improve it.

Oh Morganville.  When you get to the 13th book in a series, are you really going to stop reading it?  This is the farthest I’ve ever made it with a series (2nd place going to A Series of Unfortunate Events, which stopped at 13).  So even if I didn’t like this series, I’d probably keep reading it at this point.

*Hey, 13th Book in the series.  Bound to be some kind of Series Spoiler.*

Morganville is changing, and probably not for the better in the opinion of those in the Glass House.  The Draug have come and gone, which means that now the vampires feel invincible.  And that’s not good for the humans.  Now, things are getting extreme.  You’re either for the vampires, or for the humans.  What does that mean for those in the Glass House, who walk between that line?  Danger lurks around ever corner now…from both sides.  Even worse, a TV crew from a ghost hunting show have rolled into town just as the politics come to a head.  Can Claire and the crew stop things before they end up on the nightly news?

After 13 books of the same kind of thing, I am admittedly getting a little tired of it all.  I still love the crew, from Shane’s jokes to Eve’s snark, but the stories have definitely gotten a bit predictable.  They all follow the same format, even if the danger or the surprises keep rising in…in…suspense?  Does that makes sense?  I can’t think of the right word right now.

Still, this was really good.  I wanted to be like, “NOOOOOO!” multiple times in the story.  The characters are all growing up and things are changing (especially in the next book, it looks like.  Now THAT will be interesting).  I read for about 2.5 hours I think, just to finish it off.

The character dynamics are changing, and I’m really not sure what I think of that.  I like that they’re all growing up, but I have torn feelings over it.  Guess we’ll see what happens.

Overall, it was a very typical Morganville story with danger, snark, and vampires.

Fight or Flight Blog Tour!!

FoF Blog Tour Banner

It’s a blog tour!  Yay!  My review for this book is already up, but here’s a special spotlight on the book and the author!

Official Blurb:

Be smart.
Keep your head down.
And look out for number one.

These are the rules Jay has lived by for the past two years. The rules of surviving life on the streets. But when Em comes bursting into his life, in all of her disastrous glory, the rules go right out the window.

Survive.
Flee what’s been left behind
And never look back.

Em’s plan was simple. Though, it was easier said than done. The city streets are dangerous and unforgiving to a new arrival. Especially, a seventeen year old girl who’s never known anything but life in the suburbs. Sometimes, however, what’s lurking behind those white picket fences can be more frightening than any dark alley.

Both of them made the same decision when life got overwhelming—to run from their demons. Brought together by fate or circumstance, Em and Jay find the kind of love neither of them ever expected. But when those demons come back to haunt them and their love is on the line, which instincts will they choose to follow this time . . . Fight or Flight?

*Warning: This story includes mature language and themes, and is intended for mature audiences.

Book Links:

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Fight-or-Flight-ebook/dp/B00BSIPULW/ref=sr_1_8?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1363090019&sr=1-8&keywords=jamie+canosa#reader_B00BSIPULW

Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17374245-fight-or-flight

Author:

Jamie Canosa is a full time author of YA literature, which she absolutely loves. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. She currently resides in Upstate NY with her husband, and their three crazy kids . . . plus the dog, the bird, and the rabbit.

Her debut novel, Dissidence, was published in 2012 along with several novellas, including the first in her Heart and Soul series, ‘Temptation’.

Author Links:

Bloghttp://jamiecanosa.blogspot.com/

FBhttps://www.facebook.com/AuthorJamieCanosa?ref=hl

Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6150972.Jamie_Canosa

Giveaway Code:

<a id=”rc-0443c36″ href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0443c36/&#8221; rel=”nofollow”>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>

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Fight or Flight

First Lines: Emerson’s feet pounded the sidewalk, through puddles, across streets, around corners, and down alleys.  She didn’t stop.  She didn’t slow down.  She didn’t know where she was going or if anyone was actually chasing her.  She just needed to get away.  Away from the threat of being sent back.

I was contacted by the author to read, review, and become a part of the blog tour for this book.  (If you’re interested, my leg of the tour comes on March 23.)  Thank you, Jamie!  Anyway, I’m kind of picky about which books I accept from authors, based on whether or not I’d pick it up on my own.  Well…I totally would have picked this up.

Jay has been living on the streets for a while.  He knows how to survive and how to stay out of trouble.  Then comes Em, the girl with the pretty face and a penchant for trouble.  Em is just beginning to find out just how hard life can be living on the streets.  But there’s one thing both of them know: they can’t go back where they’re from.

Wow, that was not my best blurb.  Anyway, you get the point.  Pro at living on the streets meets girl who really has no business being there.  Or so he thinks.  It’s told from multiple perspectives between Em and Jay.  But mostly Em, in case you were wondering.

What I really liked about this book was how relatable the characters were even though I could not imagine living on the streets myself.  I mean, that was part of the lure of the book.  I didn’t have any idea what it took to make it like that, living day to day, not knowing where you’ll sleep next or where your next meal comes from.  These are very real concerns for these two.  And many people outside of fiction.

That was another thing about this book that drew me in: I really couldn’t fathom why people would voluntarily live on the streets, but this really puts it into perspective.  It’s eye-opening and thought-provoking.

However, that said, I do have a bit of a bone to pick with this.  I thought there were some gender stereotypes in place revolving around Em and Jay.  Em seriously could not do a single thing right.  It was a lot like on old Scooby Doo shorts when Daphne would end up messing up the plan.  And who’s there to save her?  Well, in Scooby it was Fred, but here it was Jay.  It just drove me crazy.  I gave Em kudos for trying, but her luck was just always bad.  I would have liked to have seen her being able to stand on her own two feet.  I will admit that the tables to become turned later in the story (well, not exactly “turned” I can’t think of a better phrase).  I just would have felt better if she’d been able to have just one moment of success.

Overall, it’s a pretty cool read.  I flew through it in only a few hours.  Definitely worth the discussion you’ll want to have afterward about runaways and homelessness.

The Essence (The Pledge, #2)

First Lines: In the privacy of my dreams, I’m a warrior.  I’m still me, of course, just a tougher version of me.  More valiant and fearless.

This took me a really long time to read, partly because it fell over my spring break and well, I had other things I wanted to do.  Like play way too many hours of Just Dance 4 (but that game is boss, so…).  But I finally finished it.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Well no, nothing potential about this.  There’s a major plot twist at the end of The Pledge that is the crux for this book.

Life has changed quickly for Charlaina, from being a vendor’s daughter to being a queen.  She’s defeated Sabara, but only Charlie knows that Sabara isn’t truly gone…because the essence of the old queen has infused itself to Charlie’s spirit, waiting for the opportunity to return.  Charlie’s far from weak, but everything’s hitting her at once.  She has to learn the rules of being queen, try to change her country, love the man she loves, and prepare to go to the annual queen’s summit.  At the summit, she’ll go toe-to-toe with other queens from nearby lands to try to make more changes.  But someone in her crew has betrayed her.  Can Charlie find out who it is before it’s too late?

I love the way Derting crafts her stories.  It’s just awesome, even if I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is that makes it so good.  The dialogue is great, along with the characters and action.  I just really enjoy the way she writes.  It brings everything to life.

That said, this is probably the first book of hers that I’ve taken over a week to finish.  Part of it is likely because I had so much going on in my life and didn’t give the book much time until lately, but it could also be that it just didn’t grip me until nearly halfway through.  I just couldn’t find a good foothold into it.  There were so many new characters introduced and I kept forgetting who was who.

As for the mystery about who the betrayer is, it’s decent.  I mean, they don’t exactly focus on it they way you would think.  Everything else in Charlie’s life sort of took precedence.  Finding the betrayer was like, 3rd or 4th on her list of priorities.

I also had a problem with the fact that my favorite character had very little face time in this book.  They were barely in it at all!  I was not a fan of that, but I did get to see more of other characters that I like, so it kind of made up for it.  And I got to see the narrative from their perspective.  That was fun.

Overall, I think it’s still a good book, just with a few weaknesses.  And I just took too long to read it to get really invested in it.

The Next Big Thing (14)

Wow, it’s been a really long time since I’ve done one of these!  But it’s about time for one, right?

The Next Big Thing – Mysterious Mythology

I’ve already done one segment on Greek mythology, but now we’ve begun moving away from that and onto mythology relating to other cultures, like the Egyptians and the Norse.  Personally, I think this is because the huge push for Greek mythology lead to an overabundance of Hades/Persephone stories (not that I’m complaining; I love them).  Now, they’ve just switched to different mythologies.

If you’re interested in Norse mythology, you should check out Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson about Ellie, an average girl who goes to spend her summer in Norway only to find out that myths may not be just myths.

For Egyptian mythology, look no further than The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White, the author of Paranormalcy.  It’s the story of Isadora, daughter of Egyptian gods, who just wants to live a normal life, but can’t.  Of course, there’s also the Rick Riordan series beginning with The Red Pyramid.

Interestingly, in my searching, I found a story called Middleworld by Jon and Pamela Voelkel, which incorporates Mayan mythology.  I also found one about Maori (New Zealand) mythology called Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey.  Japanese mythology is also starting to take off, with books like Ink by Amanda Sun.  And I’m not entirely sure, but I think that Wildefire by Karsten Knight is about Polynesian mythology.

And depending on your definition of “mythology”, this could even include stories of Faeries or of English and European mythology.  I would count fairy tales into that, because they are a kind of mythology.  And since there are so many of those, I will refrain from putting those in here.  However, if you’d like to, you can check out American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which I’m sure will be an insightful look at American “mythology”.  I haven’t read it, so I can’t be sure.

If you’re a fan of Greek mythology, don’t fret!  It’s still around, but it takes a bit of a twist as compared to what you may be used to.  There are stories like The Dollhouse Asylum by Mary Gray, which is a dystopia story about couples trying to make it to the safety of the Elysian Fields, but they have to assume the identity of doomed lovers and pass a number of challenges.  (The main girl becomes “Persephone”, so you know there’s some Greek going on here.)  There also seems to be a touch of Greek in The Last Academy by Anne Applegate, in which the academy is called Lethe Academy (the river of forgetfulness, if I’m not mistaken).