Glitter & Doom (Masque of the Red Death, #1.5)

First Lines: “Be pretty,” her mother said, rearranging April’s frilly skirts.  “Keep your eyes wide and innocent.  It’s the only thing that might protect you.”

I really needed something totally different than the indie books I’d been reading, so I jumped to this little dark novella.  (And I’m back on indies again now, in case you were wondering.)  I thought this would be perfect, seeing as I want to get back into the mindset of this story so I can read the next book.

Told from April’s perspective, this is April’s side of Masque of the Red Death.  April appears to be Araby’s frivolous best friend, but she’s more than that.  With a scary uncle dictator, April’s knows how to hide behind a mask…figuratively and literally.  Deep underneath the city, April meets Kent, an inventor who may just be the key to a successful rebellion…

I love novellas, I really do, but they’re always too short for my liking!  I really liked seeing from April this time, as I remember not liking her so much in the first book.  (And I could be remembering wrong, I’m not sure.)  But what was really nice seeing was that she’s more than the frivolous girl I thought she was.  I love stuff like that.

I will say that if you haven’t read Masque of the Red Death, I’d wait on reading this until you had.  There’s a lot of spoilers here, as it’s supposed to be what April was doing during the novel.  And she wasn’t just sitting around looking pretty.  I’ve seen another review where someone said this had lots of spoilers for the 2nd book, but if they’re there, I have no idea what they are or what they spoil.  So I’m not too concerned about that.

Overall, it’s a quick read that introduces (or reintroduces) you to characters while giving them more of a backstory.

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The Agent’s Daughter

First Lines: Melina stared out the window of her classroom and thought of a million things that she would rather be doing.  Her language arts teacher, Mrs. Frerking, gave lectures that could be used to induce hypnosis, so Melina often found herself daydreaming of things far more exciting than class.

I was contacted a couple months ago by the author, who was a really sweet and unassuming person.  When he mailed me a copy of this book, he even included a thank you note (which is just awesome) and a picture he drew of a cowboy.  A little quirky, but I enjoyed it.

Melina had lived a fairly normal life up until six months ago, when her mom got into a car accident that put her into a coma.  But what Melina doesn’t know is that her dad is a spy, and he’s been training her to be one as well.  When her dad discovers some evidence to prove that his wife’s accident may not have been so accidental, he pulls Melina into a world of danger, of politics, and mostly of secrets.  Can they save Melina’s mom before it’s too late?

The first thing the author told me when he emailed me was that he was an engineer who’d had the spark to write this thanks to his daughter.  He kept emphasizing that he was not a writer.  And, admittedly, that shows through in parts.  The writing style is sometimes basic and repetitive when it shouldn’t be.  It sometimes came off as distracting, when Melina would have something happen to her and immediately after it happened, she tells it in detail to her best friend.  Yes, we know that Alex (her crush) just did something cute.  We saw it.  Finally, the voices sometimes sounded fake to me, going back to this contraction argument I feel like I keep having.  Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that most people our age talk in contractions more often than not.  When characters don’t do that, it stands out.

There’s also the little detail that you can kind of tell this was written by a guy about girls.  There were parts that didn’t ring true to me, but were stereotypical of girls.  Most of that was early on in the story and ended before long.

Otherwise, I thought the story was pretty cool.  It took a while to get used to the spy elements because you’re just thrown into those for the most part, but it was fun.  And there’s the mystery that is kind of hard to figure out (probably because there aren’t hints dropped throughout the whole story).  There’s also a fair amount of legitimate physics in the story that I could understand fairly well.  (Says the girl whose only physics lessons come from her weekly viewing of The Big Bang Theory.)

One final point I want to bring up, especially after mentioning the stereotypical girls point, is that there is a lot of female equality and empowerment in this story.  I actually loved that aspect.  For example, the President of the United States was a female.  There was a mom who didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom.  There was a woman who was the first female in her field.  And Melina is an incredibly strong heroine.  Literally.  She can kick butt thanks to all the krav maga she’s been taking.

So even though there were some mechanical issues that needed worked out, the story itself is actually pretty impressive.

Something Witchy (Mystics & Mayhem, #1)

First Lines: My problems all started with a dead guy.  Okay, maybe that’s not fair.  I mean, I can’t really blame all my problems on one guy.  I only wish.

I received a copy of this from the author in return for a review.

What drew me to this book, first of all, was the snark that is so evidently oozing from it (as you can see from the first lines).  I love snark.  So this was going to be fun.

Ember Blaylock probably has never been your typical citizen of Moonlight, Missouri.  She constantly gets in trouble with a local cop with a grudge, for instance.  Really, all she wants to do is ignore the dead who try to speak to her and get rid of her stalker of an ex-boyfriend. But this is quickly turning into the worst day ever.  Because of a dead guy.  From the moment Nathan Ashley walked out of that car, life ceases to be the same for Ember.  One minute she’s talking to a really hot guy and the next, she’s kidnapped and developing powers.  Now there’s a demon after her, intent on killing her…can they stop him?

I want to start by saying that I was really into the book for the first four chapters or so.  I think everyone can relate to having a bad day, though maybe not quite to the extent of Ember’s bad day.  Just about everything that could go wrong does.  It’s almost impressive.  You quickly get introduced to her life at home, her friends, and school relatively quickly.  And it’s fun.

And then the kidnapping thing comes into play.

The story just about completely lost me at this point.  Nathan went from being a hot guy who happened to also be a dead guy to…not being hot at all anymore.  I’m actually quite bothered by him and the fact that so many other reviewers have found him sexy even after this point.  Because this kidnapping is the point where Nathan crosses a line and becomes emotionally and physically abusive to Ember.  He was incredibly possessive and demanding.  And no one thought this was weird.  When Ember started accepting this behavior as “good”, then I really had to draw the line.

Here’s an approximation of roughly 2 scenes I can think of:

Ember: I want you to leave right now.  I’m sick of this.  Take me home.

Nathan: You know you want me.  *Proceeds to walk slowly toward Ember, who tries to keep a harsh face*  *Gives in when Nathan kisses her*

I’m sorry, doesn’t this sound like a sickeningly abusive relationship?  This is only the tip of the iceberg here too.  There are some scenes I can’t mention without spoiling things.

So yeah.  I was quickly way over the love interest.  It probably didn’t help either that there were huge doses of insta-love with a splash of author-is-trying-too-hard-to-make-insta-love-feel-real.  (That’s not a joke either.  It seemed every encounter with Nathan was another two pages of the feels Ember was getting.)

And Ember’s snarky attitude started becoming a problem.  She was using her snark to hide her emotions to an extreme.  I was sick of the snark by the end, which I don’t think as ever happened before.  I liked that she was a strong character, and I can respect that she had a temper on her, but she really should have lightened up on the snark.

There also seemed to be few good characters in the book who didn’t hurt Ember.  Everyone from parents to Nathan to her friends at school seemed to hurt her.  There were only one or two I can think of that did, and that’s because they were only in those opening chapters.

This book also had a problem with “show, not tell”.  There was a lot of “Oh hey, by the way, I can see ghosts.”  Cool.  But we saw ghosts in the story all of two times?  And that was for about a total of five pages.  Not really worth making that a plot point.

And here’s where I admit that even after all of this, I still tried to find 20-40 minutes every day to read it.  I’m going to say this was because I viewed it as a train wreck, waiting to see just how bad it got.  Because by the end, I certainly wasn’t enjoying it.

Gravity (Gravity, #1)

First Lines: I remember most of my fourteenth year in fragments, but one night stands out as clearly as the first star after dusk.

I got this free on Amazon some time ago (though I can tell you it’s still free there, if you’re interested).  With school starting, I usually use this time to try to read through my backlog of Kindle books.  This was one of the first I saw.

Ariel’s best friend goes missing on a dark night.  Those who knew Jenna believe she ran away, but Ariel thinks differently.  She thinks Jenna met with foul play, and the nightmares she keeps having only reinforce that.  But it seems that Jenna’s disappearance is only the beginning of a bigger mystery.  And Ariel’s going to try to get to the bottom of it.  The only hitch in her plan is the attention she’s suddenly getting from new-kid-in-town Henry, who doesn’t believe that Ariel may actually be experiencing supernatural events.  With the help of also new girl Theo, Ariel sets to work trying to discover the secrets of her town.

I’ll start with the positives.  The characters are really well-written, even the ones you don’t want to like.  I felt really bad for poor Ariel most of the story since she is this unassuming, almost meek heroine who really would prefer to be left alone.  It’s an interesting trait for a heroine, but I liked it.  And her one and only friend disappears before the action of the story really starts.  That’s tough.

As I mentioned, the other characters are well-written as well.  The town is full of snobbish, cliquey adults and kids.  Really.  It’s not just the high schoolers who are immature and show favoritism.  It was almost horrifying to read about some of the stuff the adults were letting happen for some sort of nepotism, as far as I can tell.

And it was a decently scary book.  It wasn’t nightmare inducing, but it did make me pause a few times and go, “Why did I decide to read this after 11 PM?”  I do love a good scary book.

Most of the other stuff in the story I had problems with, unfortunately.  There were virtually no plot questions answered by the end.  You know how I mentioned the cliquey adults?  There’s definitely something going on with that.  The only problem is, I have no idea what it is.  I have my theories, but that’s it.  It was incredibly frustrating because there were plenty of questions to keep you reading, but very very few answers.  I’m not sure I want to read the next book simply because I’m afraid she’ll do it again at the end of that one too.

Also as I previously mentioned, there are some truly horrible things that happen in the book with no sense of justice.  I hated that.  As a future teacher, it really irks me when seemingly tons of YA books are putting teachers in a bad light.  It’s really starting to become a pet peeve of mine.  I just hated the way teachers and school was portrayed, mostly because of the attitude of the “evil” characters.

It really wasn’t a horrible read, but it was hard to stay with it when I started figuring out there wasn’t enough time to get the answers I wanted.

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia Promo and GIVEAWAY!

Hello everyone!  It’s time for a wonderful blog tour dealing with the new book, Unbreakable, by Kami Garcia, one of the writers of the Beautiful Creatures series!  Yay!  I know I’m excited!  Let’s check it out!

Unbreakable

Synopsis:
I never believed in ghosts.
Until one tried to kill me.
 
When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, she doesn’t realize that paranormal forces are responsible–not until mysterious identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into her room and destroy a deadly spirit sent to kill her.
Kennedy learns that her mother’s death was no accident, and now she has to take her place in the Legion of the Black Dove–a secret society whose five members were all murdered on the same night, leaving the Legion in the hands of the next generation: a misfit group with unique skills.
As the new members race to find the only weapon capable of destroying the demon, they use their individual talents to battle paranormal entities and earn their rightful place in the Legion–except for Kennedy.
If she is truly the missing piece of the puzzle, can she stay alive long enough to find out–without losing her heart in the process?
Protect Yourself.
What you can’t see CAN hurt you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
Unbreakable is the first solo novel from New York Times Bestselling author Kami Garcia.  Unbreakable releases on October 1st but you can read the first 7 chapters for free on Amazon. You can also enter below to win Unbreakable swag including jewelry that has the symbols for the book on it.
 
Pre-order links:
Kami Garcia
About Kami Garcia:
Kami Garcia is the #1 New York Times & international bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures Series and the author of UNBREAKABLE, the first book in the Legion Series, releasing October 1, 2013.
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES has been published in 50 countries and translated in 39 languages. The film adaptation of Beautiful Creatures released on February 14, 2013, from Warner Borthers, starring: Viola Davis, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossum, Alice Englert, and Alden Ehrenreich.
Kami has always been fascinated by the paranormal and believes she’s very superstitious. When she is not writing, Kami can usually be found watching disaster movies, listening to Soundgarden, or drinking Diet Coke. Kami lives in Maryland with her family, and their dogs Spike and OZ (named after characters from the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Find out more about Kami Garcia and the Legion Series at: www.kamigarcia.com &TheLegionSeries.com, or on Twitter @kamigarcia.

Spotlight Friday (89)

It’s a new day…a new Friday at that!  So let’s look at some more books coming out soon!  (I may have to take a break from this for next week because I’m so far ahead on books I’m finding that are coming out.)

Altered (Crewel World, #2) by Gennifer Albin

Release Date: October 29, 2013

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Summary (from Goodreads)Life. Possibility. Choice.
All taken from Adelice by the Guild—until she took them back.

But amid the splendid ruins of Earth, Adelice discovers how dangerous freedom can be. Hunted by soulless Remnants sent by Cormac Patton and the Guild, Adelice finds a world that’s far from deserted. Although allies are easy to find on Earth, knowing who to trust isn’t. Because everyone has secrets, especially those Adelice loves most. Secrets they would kill to protect. Secrets that will redefine each of them. Torn between two brothers and two worlds, Adelice must choose what to fight for.

In this thrilling sequel to Crewel, Adelice is about to learn how tangled up her past and future really are. Her parents ran to protect her, but nothing can save her from her destiny, and once she uncovers the truth, it will change everything.

What’s To Like: I really liked the first book in the series because everything is so twisted and the villains are truly villains.  They’re slick and they’re terrible.  I loved it.  So I’m really expecting big things from this one, as we get to see Earth from Adelice’s perspective.  And I just want to see Adelice again.

My review of Altered

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

Release Date: October 29, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads)In the world of Sorrow’s Knot, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry and nearly invisible, something deadly. The dead can only be repelled or destroyed with magically knotted cords and yarns. The women who tie these knots are called binders.

Otter is the daughter of Willow, a binder of great power. She’s a proud and privileged girl who takes it for granted that she will be a binder some day herself. But when Willow’s power begins to turn inward and tear her apart, Otter finds herself trapped with a responsibility she’s not ready for, and a power she no longer wants.

What’s To Like: I’m interested in this because of the girl on the cover.  First of all, it looks like she’s doing like, Cat’s Cradle and those other finger weaving things we learned as kids.  Secondly, she appears to be Native American.  Which I don’t know whether she is or not, but if she is, that’s incredibly cool and I really want to read this.  With names like Otter and Willow, I’m kind of willing to believe it too.  Anyway, what’s really grabbing (besides the fact that it is a standalone novel at the present) is the mythology behind it all.  I’m a sucker for mythology.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Release Date: November 5, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads)Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

What’s To Like: 10000% Yes, I want to read this.  Besides just loving Jennifer Lynn’s brand of humor, who wouldn’t love to see a bunch of skilled teenagers solve mysteries?  It’s like the Mystery Inc. Gang, but without Scooby!  I’m a sucker for mystery novels with serial killers (yes, it worries my boyfriend too), but it’s gonna be good.  Once the FBI steps into a story, everything just got so much cooler.

My review of The Naturals

BOLD is FREE on Amazon!

Hi guys!  Remember that interview I did not too long ago with authors Julia Swift and Andrew Landis?  They told us all about their book, Bold.  Well, I have exciting news (if you haven’t already guessed).

BOLD is FREE on Amazon from today, September 4th, through Sunday, September 8th.  Yes.  Right through this little link.

So if you would really like to check out this book (or even if you’re just vaguely interested), you should totally grab it while it’s hot.  Below is the cover and description of the book, in case you forgot.

Sasha, a shy, 15-year-old girl who hides from the world, almost dies in a car crash and vows that if she survives, she will be bold and live life to the fullest. Her newfound courage is tested when she meets Will, who just moved to her Air Force desert town after his journalist father’s disappearance. Will is fascinated by Sasha’s brush with and secret knowledge of death.
Sasha and Will push each other to take chances and break out of their sheltered suburban world. But will they discover there is a difference between being bold and being stupid before they put themselves, or someone else, in danger?