Spotlight Friday (79)

Hi everyone!  I assume that by this point, most of you who were in school are officially out for the summer, which is, as always, EXCITING!  I have loaded myself up with books for the next two weeks, though I have no idea how I’ll read all 9 or 10 of them in that period of time, because I will also be busy.  But I’m going to give it my best shot, so look for many reviews in that time!

Triangles by Kimberly Ann Miller

Release Date: June 18, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads)A cruise ship. A beautiful island. Two sexy guys. What could possibly go wrong? 

In the Bermuda Triangle—a lot.

Hoping to leave behind the reminders of her crappy life–her father’s death years ago, her mother’s medical problems, and the loser who’s practically stalking her–seventeen-year-old Autumn Taylor hops on a ship with her sister for a little distraction. When she wakes up in the Bermuda Triangle, she fears she’s gone nuts for more than one reason: that loser’s suddenly claiming they’re a happy couple… a hot guy is wrapping his arms around her and saying “Happy Anniversary”… and suddenly, she’s full of bruises, losing her hair, and getting IV medication. Autumn visits the ship’s doctor, hoping for a pill or a shot to make the craziness go away. Instead, she’s warned that these “alternate realities” could become permanent.

She just has to ask herself one question—how the hell is she going to get out of this mess?

What’s To Like: I have a weird relationship with science fiction (which I would kind of consider this on the edge of sci-fi).  I enjoy that it explores the idea of things like alternate realities without sounding too crazy.  But then it usually involves lingo I don’t understand.  But I think this’ll be cool because as a kid, I was obsessed with stuff like the Bermuda Triangle (and what happened to Amelia Earhart/Anastasia, etc.).  I’m interested in seeing where this decides to take us.

Ink (Paper Gods, #1) by Amanda Sun

Release Date: June 25, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads): I looked down at the paper, still touching the tip of my shoe. I reached for it, flipping the page over to look.

Scrawls of ink outlined a drawing of a girl lying on a bench.

A sick feeling started to twist in my stomach, like motion sickness.

And then the girl in the drawing turned her head, and her inky eyes glared straight into mine.

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

What’s To Like: I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Japan before.  So that in and of itself is pretty awesome, especially since it’s from the perspective of someone like me, who would be lost in that culture.  But what I’m really interested in are these drawings that come to life.  How cool is that?  I mean, not so cool in real life maybe, but I certainly want to see it played out here.

My review of Ink

The Lost Sun (The United States of Asgard, #1) by Tessa Gratton

Release Date: June 25, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads)Seventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people. Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood–the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd’s Academy. But that’s hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That’s not all Astrid dreams of–the daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities.

When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they’ve been told they have to be.

What’s To Like: It’s Norse mythology again!  I honestly had no idea what Asgard was until my boyfriend finally convinced me to watch Thor last weekend.  (Really, he gave me no choice in the matter.)  What I think is interesting about this book, though, is this Astrid.  I really want to see more of her.  She sounds like someone I would really like to be friends with.

My review of The Lost Sun

Victoria Rebels

First Lines: I hate Sir John Conroy.  Mamma knew that I was never fond of him, though she did not suspect how much I despised him.

This is one of those rare books that I found in the library without having any prior knowledge about.  What happened was a little old volunteer at the library (who, bless her heart, just could not seem to figure out how alphabetical order worked…or which side of the book was “up”) was trying to put the books away I had just returned.  So she was blocking the aisle.  And I happened to see this, and I knew it had to be about Queen Victoria, who has become one of my favorite queens after seeing The Young Victoria.  So I had to grab it.

Based on actual journals kept by the young princess, this is the story of Victoria as a young child.  It was a time of massive changes for England, from agricultural demands to manufacturing jobs.  In a time when few women had any kind of political power, Victoria was being trained to lead a country.  Chronicling her from ages 9-24, we follow Victoria through her teenage years as she fights back against Sir John Conroy, against the “helpful” advise from her relatives who had an interest in her rule, and against stereotypes about women.

Honestly, when I picked this up, I had no idea it would start when she was so young.  I figured this would all be a love story between her and Albert, like the movie is.  It wasn’t.  That was a bit disappointing, but it was still a pretty good read.  Just kind of slow because most of the action is intellectual instead of physical.  Like when you see people trying to move Victoria like she’s a chess piece on a board.  And I certainly learned things about her I didn’t know, like how she had step-siblings.  I had no idea.  And I had no idea there were so many illegitimate children floating around.

Anyway, it was still interesting from a historical standpoint.  But it was kind of annoying to read too. Victoria would all always say how she was VERY MUCH amused by a certain person in all caps like that.  Or she’d underline a bunch of words that she wanted to emphasis.  You get used to it eventually, but it’s annoying at first.  Apparently, that’s exactly how Victoria wrote her journals.

And unfortunately for a romantic like me, the Albert years are kind of glossed over.  They’re there, but it wasn’t the epic love story I was hoping for.

Overall, it’s a very factual read that could have used a little more excitement.

With All My Soul (Soul Screamers, #7)

First Lines: I used to hate the fact that my world is built on half-truths, held together with white lies.  My life is an illusion requiring constant effort to maintain.  I lie better than almost anyone I’ve ever met.

Hey guys!  Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’m falling behind.  Besides being incredibly busy this week just because it’s a busy week (or really, a busy month), I just started summer classes.  So please be patient with me as I try to catch up.

*Series Spoilers Ahead.  This is the FINAL book in the series!*

Life as of late for Kaylee Cavanaugh is less than ideal.  Actually, it’s been pretty awful.  Her school has recently been voted the most dangerous of its size in the US.  And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Kaylee vows to stop the war between her friends and the hellions of Avarice, Envy, and Vanity to protect them all.  But it’s harder than it looks.  Then Kaylee meets the hellion of Wrath and discovers she’s farther gone than she ever knew.  When one more person close to her has been taken, Kaylee finds she can’t save everyone unless she gives all that she has.  Will she be ready to pay the price?

I freaking love this series.  It’s a little bittersweet at this point, knowing that Kaylee’s story is over now.  I’ve followed every book and every novella since the beginning.  This is one of those rare times where I was actually all caught up before I got to this point in the series.  With random novellas coming out all the time, it’s so hard to do.

This was a great conclusion to the series.  It was adventurous (in plot, writing, and everything else in between), emotional, and clever.  I really appreciated how this story tackled everything.  As usual, I will mildly grumble that there were no scenes of Kaylee actually unleashing her banshee scream as she used to do in the first two or three books.  I really liked those scenes.

Anyway, this was a fitting conclusion to the series.  It showed all the characters we had grown to love and showed how they stepped up when they needed to.  I liked seeing not only Kaylee grow, but Sabine, Nash, Tod, Emma, and even Sophie.  Can I just call them all my BFFs and end it there?

I was really surprised with this story as well.  Part of the aforementioned adventure and cleverness really shocked me when I read.  (Which it’s kind of supposed to do, right?)  But it feels rare that stories, even at this point in the series, will take such daring chances.  And that perhaps made me love it more than I had before.

So really, it’s a stunning conclusion to a fantastic series.  I will miss Kaylee and her crew, though I do plan on rereading these books eventually.

Spotlight Friday (78)

It’s getting to the point where I feel I need theme music for this post.  And with the number 78 in this particular post, all I can think of is that old game show Match Game, which sometimes had years after it, like ’78.  (What?  I was a game show junkie as a kid.  The ones from the 70s were the best.)  Anyway, it’s Friday and the beginning of vacation for many more kids, so let’s see what summer reading we have today!

Dance of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death, #2) by Bethany Griffin

Release Date: June 11, 2013

*Potential Series Spoilers in Summary*

Summary (from Goodreads)In Dance of the Red Death, Araby’s world is in shambles—betrayal, death, disease, and evil forces surround her. She has no one to trust. But she finds herself and discovers that she will fight for the people she loves, and for her city.

Her revenge will take place at the menacing masked ball, though it could destroy her and everyone she loves…or it could turn her into a hero.

With a nod to Edgar Allan Poe, Bethany Griffin concludes her tragic and mysterious Red Death series with a heroine that young adult readers will never forget.

What’s To Like: I’m a big Edgar Allan Poe fan, and the fact that this is based on his short story quickly grabbed my attention.  And I’ve read the first book.  While it wasn’t perfect, it was still pretty interesting.  It’s kind of steampunk in its setting.  So that’s always fun.  I’m excited to see where this story goes.

Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance

Release Date: June 11, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads)Fields’ Rule #1: Don’t fall for the enemy.

Berry Fields is not looking for a boyfriend. She’s busy trailing cheaters and liars in her job as a private investigator, collecting evidence of the affairs she’s sure all men commit. And thanks to a pepper spray incident during an eighth grade game of spin the bottle, the guys at her school are not exactly lining up to date her, either. 

So when arrogant—and gorgeous—Tanner Halston rolls into town and calls her “nothing amazing,” it’s no loss for Berry. She’ll forget him in no time. She’s more concerned with the questions surfacing about her mother’s death. 

But why does Tanner seem to pop up everywhere in her investigation, always getting in her way? Is he trying to stop her from discovering the truth, or protecting her from an unknown threat? And why can’t Berry remember to hate him when he looks into her eyes?

With a playful nod to Jane Austen, Spies and Prejudice will captivate readers as love and espionage collide.

What’s To Like: This is a trend, yes?  Another book based on a classic work, at least a little.  Now, I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, but I have seen the movie…I think.  (Sorry, not a big Jane Austen fan.)  But I wanted to read this initially because of the spies.  I haven’t read too many series about spies.  So this seemed like fun.  And now, I’m really interested in this Tanner fellow.  I want to know why he keeps popping up in Berry’s world.

Star Cursed (The Cahill Witch Chronicles, #2) by Jessica Spotswood

Release Date: June 18, 2013

*Potential Series Spoilers in Summary*

Summary (from Goodreads)With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate’s friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn’t want to be a weapon, and she doesn’t want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood’s schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she’ll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess’s quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.

What’s To Like: It’s been a while since I read the first book, but I remember really liking it.  Well, I liked Finn, mostly.  But that’s beside the point.  Anyway, I like how this does show magic and what it might have looked like if it were real in New England, which has a history of persecuting witches.  It’s interesting and I’m sure this one will have a lot of action.

My review of Star Cursed.

Angelfire (Dark Angel, #1)

First Lines: The devil walked into a bar.  Purgatory was a bar reminiscent of old lower Manhattan: long and skinny like an alleyway, exposed brick, faded booths and low hanging lights amidst the soft racket of dirty jazz.

I did receive a copy of this from the author in return for a review.  Just to let you know.

So when Hanna contacted me, I pretty much jumped on this.  I liked the way it sounded, and it’s been a really long time since I read a book about angels.  (My records show it could have been as long ago as July of last year…oops.)  So I thought I’d take a chance with this.

Angels have been watching over humanity for thousands of years, protecting the people of Earth.  The angels are ruled by a group called the Elders, who help them keep their city secret and give them a Code to live by.  It’s up to the angels to kill demons and keep their city hidden from everyone else.  Their warriors are given magic through the blood of higher class angels.  Alyxandria is a young warrior who is quite fond of her job and love knives.  But she has a darker past.  Her parents left the angels to become Rogues, dangerous angels who work with demons.  When Alyx saves a mortal, Israel, a boy with a special gift with just as dark a past as hers, she’s told to leave him alone and forget about him.  But she can’t.  An ancient, nearly forgotten Guardian-bond has been enacted between the two of them with one very ugly consequence: if Israel dies, so does Alyx.  As Alyx starts looking into the past for help, she stumbles across some things she shouldn’t have seen, things that make her question everything she grew up hearing.  So how can Alyx keep fighting for good and against evil when the lines are no longer clear?

Initially, when I finished this book, I wasn’t all that thrilled with it.  Like, I liked it, but I thought there were a lot of things that needed work.  For example, the first 30% or so is completely different than the synopsis I just gave you.  Mostly, it’s set-up for the rest of the story, but it drove me nuts that it took so long to pick up.  And there were some parts that I still question, though I’m not sure whether I just read over them too quickly or the information was just missing.  Either way, it made it difficult for me to grasp a few key points.

But now, I don’t know, I feel a little more like I enjoyed it.  I guess getting some distance from it helped.

The characters, like Alyx and Israel, were interesting.  I felt like we got to meet them slowly.  Mostly I think that comes from the book moving slowly, but that’s my opinion.  With the book feeling like it moved slowly, it felt like everything else moved at a slow pace too, even though it was filled with action.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Because getting to know the characters slowly is, you know, actually normal, like how we’d meet people.  Very few times in my life have I met someone and had them info-dump their lives onto me, like the characters in some books do.  The only downside to this is that sometimes they would act out of character (or what I thought was out of character) because I was still unsure as to what their character was, even halfway through the book.

As I mentioned, there’s quite a bit of action here.  Alyx is a warrior after all with a love of knives.  And she knows how to use them.  Those parts were really entertaining and fun to read.  Forget the rest of the story, can we just have a book where Alyx fights?  She’s one of the few heroines I can think of where I would much rather have her fight than try to mentally puzzle her way out of something.

Overall, it’s a pretty good read.  It’s not perfect, but it’s interesting and different.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

First Lines: I stepped inside the railroad car, and three dozen pairs of eyes peered my way.  Gauze masks concealed the passengers’ mouths and noses.  The train smelled of my own mask’s cotton, boiling onions, and a whiff of something clammy and sour I took to be fear.

Finally, a stand-alone novel!  In my stack of books from the library, I could have sworn more than one was a stand-alone.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy series as much as the next person, but when you’ve just read at least 4 in a row, you just want something simple again.

The year is 1918, and the world is falling apart.  16-year-old Mary Shelley Black is just trying to survive, like everyone else is.  With the outbreak of World War I (which they didn’t call it at the time) and the Spanish Influenza, it seems as though everyone around her is dying.  When Mary Shelley leaves home in Oregon to go to San Diego, she’s almost excited because she’s so close to her beloved’s home, even though he’s away at war.  But things take a turn for the worse when Mary Shelley gets entangled in things she shouldn’t, like Spiritualistic photographs and an angry, unpredictable photographer?  Even worse, what happens when Mary Shelley suddenly starts seeing ghosts, mainly the one of her beloved?

For those of you who read my reviews often, you know how I feel about the 1920s.  And I almost passed this up because it was so close to the ’20s.  But I figured ghosts would win out.  And they did.  They got me interested, as did the cover picture with a creepy looking ghost on it.

It was incredibly good.  You ever just read those stories where it doesn’t seem like it’s written for a plot, but written to show life?  That’s what this was.  Sure, the story kinda revolved around ghosts, but it was also about a young girl trying to survive when millions of people around her are dying overnight–literally.  This book shows exactly what the mood of the people was about the flu and what they thought would help fight it off.  Which is funny because many of those “remedies” were things I’m reading about and going, “Why in the world would you ever think that would work?”  So that was incredibly interesting, as was the climate of the US during the war.  It was so hard for me to understand that the US had ever been that way, with all the fear constantly in place like that.  And we’ve got plenty of fear now, too.

Anyway, I really liked Mary Shelley.  She was smart and strong, but also weak and young.  She made mistakes.  Many of them.  Like I said, she was just a girl trying to survive.  I really connected with her and her story, even though I’ve never gone through anything quite like that.  All I’ve got to relate to event-wise is a boyfriend who’s away for the summer, and I only get to see him occasionally.

Also, what’s really cool about this book is that it contains real pictures from 1918 and the surrounding years.  It’s formatted a lot like Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, if you’ve ever read or seen that.  And those were incredibly interesting pictures, let me tell you.  You read about how everyone walked around wearing gauze masks all the time, but it doesn’t quite sink in until you see pictures where literally everyone in the picture is wearing a mask.  It’s incredible.

Overall, I really liked this.  It kinda sent my emotions all over the board, but that’s ok.  It was a good read and I read nearly all of it in one day.  I did have issues getting into though, because there was one character that I had a love-hate relationship with and would have to put the book down for a while when they showed up.