Nightshade (Nightshade, #1)

First Lines: I’d always welcomed war, but in battle my passion rose unbidden.

This book has been on my to-read shelf for a while, thanks to the recommendation from one of my friends.  I eventually got to the point where I wanted to get it off my list.

Life has never held any surprises for Calla.  She’s known her whole life that upon graduation, she was going to marry Ren Laroche and become the alpha female of their pack.  But when Calla finds a human boy in trouble while on security detail, her life starts to change.  She no longer wants the path that is laid out before her, but one that may involve this boy, who is more than he appears.  By following her heart, she could lose everything she’s ever known.  Is it worth it?

When I started this, I was really interested.  I haven’t read a werewolf tale in some time, so I was excited to get started.

But as I quickly came to find out, it was incredibly hard to find a character I liked.  Calla was unpredictable, going from strong and fierce one moment to docile and biddable the next.  It was a contrast that seemed built into her culture, but it was so hard to see in practice.  It made it hard to want to stand up for her.  And the only character I felt I really liked was Ren, and he even made a few missteps from time to time.

The action was pretty good.  I admit that there were some exciting scenes and some scenes rife with tension that were fun to read through.  But it also moved too fast at times.  I never felt like the love story was complex.  It felt rushed and fake.  I never really got into it, unfortunately.

I was expecting more from it, I think.  It wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be and I thought there were definitely some places that could have been vastly improved upon.  I will say that it did have a good mysterious element to it, even though that too felt too easy.

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A Dawn Most Wicked (Something Strange and Deadly, #0.5)

First Lines: I perched on the edge of Eleanor’s hospital bed.  My fingers twisted and twined in my flat cap as I ransacked my brain for something clever to say–anything to break this silence.

Released: June 4, 2013

I know this says that it’s book 0.5 in this series, but it is my sincerest belief that it should be marked as 1.5.  Just for your reference, there are moments in this novella that will spoil the end of Something Strange and Deadly if you have not read it before you read this.

Before Daniel came to Philadelphia, he was a simple engineer’s apprentice on a Mississippi steamboat, the Sadie Queen…a haunted steamboat.  His best friend is Miss Cassidy Cochran, the captain’s daughter…and maybe even the love of his life.  But when Daniel and Cassidy hear that the Sadie Queen may be taken off the river, they’ll do anything to keep her afloat.  Doing that means getting rid of the ghosts.  And if a Mr. Joseph Boyer is to be trusted, they may just be able to do that…

I believe it was last week that I posted my review of another novella that I disliked.  This book is an example of how you do a novella.  It offered new characters, insight into the characters we already know, and gave a past to one of our main characters.

I thought this was a pretty good read.  I like Daniel anyway, and getting to see him before he meets Eleanor was pretty awesome.  It was also really cool to read about steamboats and the Mississippi river around this time.  It’s a different kind of place than Philadelphia is, and I just love reading about American history of this time period.

I felt that this book had more character development than A Darkness Strange and Lovely did.  It’s almost sad that that’s the case.  This little novella made me feel more for these characters than a full length novel in the series did.  It made me rethink my opinion on ADSaL.

This book had a lot of action and shows a side of Daniel, as well as his introduction to Joseph.  That in itself was neat.  I wondered how they’d met.

Spotlight Friday (90)

So it occurs to me (now that I look) that it has been nearly a month and a half since I’ve posted one of these.  I’m remedying that.  Besides, I’ve found some awesome new books that are coming out.  I went to all the authors I’ve read in the past, many of whom just finished a trilogy recently, and looked to see what they were working on now.  I hope you find something you like!

Soul Awakened (Reincarnation, #1) by J.D. Stroube

Release Date: November 10, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads)Imagine being born at the first breath of mankind. What would it be like to live as a witch among men? Would life be less cherished if you were destined to become an old soul; one who must succumb to death only to be reborn repeatedly?

Bryony is a mortal with an immortal soul. She is destined to die at the hands of another immortal during the peak of her life, only to be reborn again. In each life she has a new name, face, and destiny. However, her soul remains constant.

She has no memories of her past lives, but that is about to change…

After a horrifying accident, she loses everything dear to her, moves halfway across the world, and begins having visions of a man with no face; a man who kills her, over and over again. Each life is ended before it truly begins.

Memories of her past lives have been unlocked and along with them, she discovers an affinity for magic. Can she master her abilities quick enough to face her demon head on? Will the memories of her past lives reveal weapons to change her fate? Will she be aware of her faceless death, when he comes for her? Or could her executioner be closer than she thought?

What’s To Like: I’m fascinated by this premise.  I like the idea of reincarnation in theory.  It offers so many more themes than some other books can pull off.  But I really like that Bryony (and that’s kind of a cool name too) is going to use her pasts to save her future.  I think this could be really interesting.

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines, #4) by Richelle Mead

Release Date: November 19, 2013

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Summary (from Goodreads)In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her. . . .

But the struggle isn’t over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there’s still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure—and re-education—looms larger than ever.

What’s To Like: Does this section even needs words?  Let’s all just take a moment to join together in some fangirl jubilation.  Because this release date is less than a month away!!  I find the more I read of this series that I’m starting to like Sydney even more than I like Rose, and that’s totally saying something.  But maybe it’s because I’m more like the quiet academic Sydney than the fighter Rose.

My review of The Fiery Heart.

Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion, #1) by Aimee Carter

Release Date: November 26, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads): YOU CAN BE A VII. IF YOU GIVE UP EVERYTHING. 

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. 

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. 

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

What’s To Like: Yes, we all know the love affair I have with Carter’s style of writing and how I completely fell in love with her Goddess Test series.  And somewhere online I found the first chapter of this book, or a snippet of it.  It’s good.  I have really high expectations about this book.  I’m just totally hoping there’s another character in this series who is as real as Kate and Henry were.

My review of Pawn

To Be A Strong Heroine

As I was reading (a few books ago), I started thinking about this idea of a strong female character, mainly the heroine of the story.  It became obvious very quickly that there were different ways in which female characters can be strong.  Diana Peterfreund (For Darkness Shows the Stars) is completely accurate with this.

Don’t get me wrong–I love heroines who know how to throw a perfect punch and survive physically demanding challenges.  (I’m looking at you, Rose Hathaway and Katniss Everdeen.)  They’re great role models.

But I think there are other female heroines who are meeker, quieter who don’t get as much recognition for being strong.  I think these girls are the ones who deserve the most attention because they are by far the more interesting characters.

In a lot of books, the reason that hero or heroine is our narrator is because they are, somehow or another, a “chosen one” in the world they live in.  Harry Potter, The Goddess Test, even Bella Swan is chosen because she’s special in some way.  And all of this is great, but…

What about those girls who aren’t special?  What if they happen to be fairly normal?  (I realize I’m using “normal” somewhat ironically as my two key examples are paranormal stories.)

The book that inspired this was Elegy by Tara Hudson.  I really found over the course of the trilogy that Amelia was the kind of character who wasn’t particularly special in her world.  She died, got stuck as a ghost like some do, and she faced off against the bad guys without any special powers to her name.  She was just a girl who did what she knew inside she had to do to protect those near her.

I find that inspiring.  Amelia, who was originally nothing special, went on to do some pretty spectacular things just because she loved deeply and wanted to protect them.  Most of the time she didn’t have the physical strength to best her enemies; she had to use her brain to outwit them.

There’s another character who is also very similar to this.  Kaylee Cavanaugh of the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent is a banshee, but she’s nothing special outside of that.  She ticked off the wrong people and became a target.  That’s it.  She’s not the “chosen one”, just an unfortunate girl.  She also has to use her brains to outsmart her enemies.

One thing about both of these girls is that they are willing to sacrifice everything in order to stop the bad guys.  Sacrifice is a huge theme in these books.  It’s almost to a fault because they are so unselfish.  If you think about it, Harry Potter was the same way.  Their friends all know it’s only a matter of time before they’ll try to risk everything to protect others.

I like what these books show girls.  Because it’s not all about finding love (though these characters certainly do), it’s about knowing what is worth protecting.  I don’t advocate someone going to the extremes like Kaylee and Amelia do, but I think it’s important for girls to really understand who–and what–is worth fighting for.  Because girls have the inner strength to make a difference in the world, the same way Kaylee and Amelia do in theirs.

Die For Her (Revenants, #2.5)

First Lines: The first time I see her, I peg her as a jump risk.

After getting through a few books quickly, I decided to take a break from novels and read a couple novellas before jumping back into novels.  What better than a novella from a series I just finished this summer?

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Jules is a revenant who kind of enjoys his job dying for others to save their lives.  He’s spent the last century flirting his way through Parisian women.  All that changes at the moment he meets Kate Mercier, who he is sure is the love of his life.  Unfortunately, the love of her life is his best friend.  Now Jules has to choose between being a loyal friend and loving someone so deeply you’d be willing to risk everything for them.

I was incredibly interested in this because Jules was one of my favorite characters (right up there with Ambrose).  So I really wanted to see how his unrequited love would play out.

…Unfortunately, this novella wasn’t very good.  I expected better.  Mostly, all it did was rehash the action in the first two stories, but from Jules’s perspective.  There was very little that was original to this story besides the very beginning.  After that, it’s all from the other stories.  It got a little old fast because it was so rushed.

I think the biggest problem was that it seems Amy Plum wrote this in response to a poll or something.  The acknowledgements thanked fans for voting for Jules and being so passionate about him.  So it didn’t feel like this story was being written because it had a story to tell, but because it was to please fans.  And it just didn’t work.

I was also quite disturbed by Jules’s behavior in this.  His obsession with Kate was borderline unhealthy and sometimes crossed that line.  Some of the things he did…it was creepy.  Like, more creepy than some of the stuff Edward Cullen did.

Yes, it was nice to finally see inside his mind and understand those little comments he made to Kate that always sounded flirty but were more than that.  But it really wasn’t worth it the way this story was written.

Elegy (Hereafter, #3)

First Lines: Death, demons, deranged Seers–nothing I’d previously experienced terrified me as much as what I was about to do.

I’m typically pretty hesitant about reading the last book in a series for a few reasons: A) they’re usually incredibly emotional, B) they’re usually addicting, and C) they’re either going to be really good or really infuriating.  But my desire to finish another series outweighed all this.  I did, however, make it the last of my libraries books to read.

*This is the FINAL book in the trilogy, so series spoilers are likely*

After everything that happened in New Orleans, Amelia just wants to spend the rest of her afterlife with her boyfriend, Joshua.  Of course, the dark side isn’t content with leaving Amelia alone.  They give her an ultimatum: give herself up or they’ll murder one person per week until she does.  As people begin dying, Amelia believes she may really have to join the dark side.  But then the forces of light give her another option: she can join them in their attempt to gather souls…but once she does, she has to give up her attempts to save her loved ones from the darkness, and she can’t see Joshua ever again.  Face with no good options, Amelia may have to create an option that she likes more…without more people dying in the process.

I’ll fully admit that I’ve never been this series’ biggest fan.  I enjoy it, absolutely, but nothing about it really sparked that “I HAVE TO READ THIS” reaction with me.  The most fascinating thing was how I viewed Amelia as a heroine who really didn’t want to be a heroine.  How often do you run across that?  (I’m actually planning on doing a post about this in the near future.)

I thought this was a good conclusion to the series.  It did a few things along the way that surprised me, but I never really got to a point where I felt like I couldn’t put it down.  I never really got sucked into it.

I did, however, really like seeing the characters develop more.  (That’s kind of my thing, after all.)  I definitely like Amelia, but I really liked seeing characters like Joshua and Jillian grow.  Jillian especially.  She’s a deeper character than you originally think.  And really, I most enjoyed seeing Ruth because she’s an awesome spunky grandma.  She doesn’t take crap from anyone, and that’s just fun to read.

Overall, I guess I’m just trying to say that there wasn’t anything overly spectacular about this book or series.  They’re all good (especially the 2nd book), but there wasn’t anything that made me sit up and take notice.  This probably won’t end up on my reread list. An interesting series, and cute, but not much is new.

Interview With Author Katja Rusanen!!

Hello everyone!  I was lucky enough lately to have author Katja Rusanen (And You Must Love Me and But He Loves Me) agree to an interview!  Her YA books take place over in Europe and cover some darker topics.  Read on to learn more about the books and the author!  Enjoy!

But He Loves MeHere is the blurb on the back of the book:

Renate quits her studies in Bergen, Norway, and moves to buzzing London. She tries leaving her tragic past behind but nothing can stay unrevealed forever. During a reckless party night with her new best friend Madeleine she meets Mr Right, who finds out about her dark secrets and doesn’t run away.

Despite having already decided “never again”, Renate finds herself falling in love, and there are plenty more unexpected things heading her way. She refuses to listen to warnings from her well-meaning friends, making excuses for her boyfriend both to them and to herself with “but he loves me…” But how much is too much even in love? What happens when Renate finds out that she is not the only one with a secret? The dangerous cat and mouse game back in Norway was just a warm-up for this one.

*****

Where did you come up with your ideas for But He Loves Me?

“But He Loves Me” is the sequel to “And You Must Love Me”, the first book in a trilogy. It’s a transformational story which centers on the experience of Renate. When I was doing the research for the book, I came across some heart-wrenching stories that you wish were not true. These stories gave me inspiration to write this book, they pushed me to write the broken and ugly parts as I want to raise awareness.

Renate seems to struggle with the idea of love vs. her friends’ opinions of her Mr. Right.  Is this something you think lots of girls struggle with?

At least I did! I wanted to fit in the group and their approval was important. Later on I learnt to listen better to my own intuition and select my own path. 

Where there parts of your story that were difficult for you to write?

Yes, it was an emotional roller-coaster. While writing, I saw the world through the eyes of my characters – sometimes they took me to pretty dark places…

What made you want to write a book aimed at teenagers?

I didn’t sit down and think that now I start out to write a YA trilogy; I just had a story to tell. Once I had completed my debut novel, my publisher classified it in the young adult genre due the age of the characters. I would also add my books under transformational novels.

It seems that Renate travels a lot.  Do you have a lot of experience travelling?  Have you visited the places Renate goes?
Sure, I love travelling and I have visited the places where Renate goes. It was the fun part of the research for my book. What a brilliant excuse to travel to beautiful Bergen and lively London!

What do you hope readers will come away with from your story?

I hope readers will come away from the book more aware what it means to be a prisoner of the past… My hope is that I have told the story in a way that it provokes thought in readers – about what it means to be free and about the potency of hope that we are actually capable of healing our wounds from the past. We are so much more than our story. ❤

I’m looking forward to receive more feedback from readers, and I would also like to invite them to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

 Here’s the link to my e-book:
Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/1cz1E3S

Please feel free to interact with me!
Website: www.katjarusanen.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rusanenkatja
Twitter: @KatjaRusanen

 

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Katja Rusanen

My bio:

Katja Rusanen is a Finnish writer who has been living in Barcelona since 2004. ‘But He Loves Me’ is her second novel. It is the sequel to her debut novel ‘And You Must Love Me’ which was published in 2011.

She is a Spiritual Life Coach and writes a blog about how you can become the star of your life. She is involved in charity work and participated in a Kilimanjaro charity climb for the Amani Children’s Home in Tanzania, in February 2012.

If you would like to find out more about Katja, check out her website; www.katjarusanen.com