Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows, #1)

Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows, #1)

First Lines: In the harsh glare of the lights, Chloe’s shadow stretched across the stage. Her toes pointed and taut, her arms fluttering like wings, she arched her neck and watched as her own silhouette seemed to move without her…

I bought this book a long time ago for super cheap and I have been meaning to get around to it for a long time. (Why is it so much harder to read books I own?) I consider myself a dancer, though I never took ballet or anything like that. But that means I’m always drawn to stories about dance and with the touch of paranormal in this one, I thought it would be something I enjoyed.

Vanessa has just been enrolled in the world-renowned New York Ballet Academy. It would be the dream of a lifetime–if it wasn’t that this was the same school her sister, Margaret, disappeared from three years ago. Vanessa is here in part to find out what happened to Margaret. But when Vanessa lands a lead role in a NYBA production most girls would kill for, she’s suddenly thrown into a world of secrets that stretches beyond NYBA. Someone–or something–wants to use Vanessa for more than her talent. Will she be able to fight back…or could she end up sharing the same strange fate as her sister?

Some things about this book turned out to be pretty good. The characters, while sometimes not being fully fleshed out or just following stereotypes, were still usually entertaining. It’s just that there are so many named characters that, beyond Vanessa and a couple of her closest friends, you really don’t get to know anyone else well at all. Teachers, enemies, villains, everyone is really just a stereotype. You have mean girls, mysterious persons who know more than they should, people who are only in the story to drop a bombshell and you never hear from them again, etc.

The mystery was intriguing most of the time. I thought it started off well and I had questions about it all the time as new little clues came to light. But the final “payoff”…boy, was that not what I wanted. Sure I saw it going that way, but it was kind of weird. And I thought the ending had some tone problems because, for as serious as it was, there were a ton of jokes being cracked the whole time.

I do like the subject matter. As a dancer myself (though not a ballet dancer), I related to a lot that Vanessa talks about and experiences. So I did like that a whole story revolved around dance so much. But this is just a weird story. 

Jillian Cade: (Fake) Paranormal Investigator

First Lines: On the rare occasion that I meet a new guy, he inevitably has one of two reactions: he wants to save me or screw me.  Since I’m not up for either, I don’t get asked on a lot of second dates.  Technically speaking, none.

I was offered an ARC of this from the publishers in return for an honest review.  (Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve said that!)  It was something of a perfect storm for accepting this: I had time, it looked interesting, and I’ve had good interactions with this publisher before.  (FYI, it’s SOHO Teen.)

Jillian Cade’s father is a famous paranormal researcher, a fact that never ceases to make Jillian roll her eyes.  She doesn’t believe in the paranormal and only feels bad for the people her father dupes.  Still, she’s milking his reputation in order to earn a little money as a paranormal investigator–money she desperately needs since her dad left her to do “research”.  When Jillian takes on a missing persons case, it seems pretty normal…until Jillian suddenly discovers that the paranormal world may indeed be very real.  Jillian reluctantly takes on the help of Sky Ramsey, the new boy in school, who can’t shut up about her father’s work.  As they investigate the together, the case keeps getting stranger and stranger…as does their work relationship…

I was originally interested in this story for the irony of Jillian being a nonbeliever in the paranormal working as a paranormal investigator who then finds out she should’ve been a believer after all.  I like irony.  It spices things up.

It was a cute read.  Jillian is sassy and snarky, which is 100% a defense mechanism.  Her home life is complete crap, and so she uses sarcasm as a shield to protect her from the world.  I get it.  And it was funny when she’d throw a good zinger out at someone.  But it was interesting that this book did make it a point to show that it was a defense mechanism.  Some books don’t, simply making a character sassy because readers like those characters.

The mystery, while having a nice twist at the end, moved a bit slow.  The whole book tended to focus exclusively on the mystery, with little deviation to any kind of subplot.  Nothing inherently wrong with that, but it just didn’t feel like the story really went anywhere for a while.

And, ok, there’s something weird about the way Jillian feels toward Sky, and I’m not simply talking about romantically.  It was just…off.  I wish I knew what it was about it.  But something didn’t feel quite right.  I think it has something to do with her condescension and/or attitude, but I can’t say for certain.

There were a lot of little humorous scenes.  You know, goofy humor moments where someone does something silly.  I like weird humor.  So cute scenes to make me giggle are always appreciated as comic relief.

Overall, I thought it was an entertaining story, but it just moved a bit slow.

Normal is the Watchword

NITW_Cover_finalpurple6-210x300First Lines: Normal.  That’s what every teenager both craves to be and also hates to be.  It’s nice to feel normal when you are surrounded by strangers and dying to fit in.

I was given a copy of this by the author to read and review.

Alright.  So I was approached about this in the hay-day of my Supernatural obsession this summer.  (Not that I’m not still obsessed with the show, but it has cooled now that I’ve seen 8 seasons.)  Anyway, this book clearly had a supernatural edge to it, and I wanted to see what would happen.

For most of her life, Juniper has lived on the fringe of social circles.  While she wants to be normal, she is more observant than her classmates, and that makes fitting in difficult sometimes. Armed with her camera, Juni sees the world differently than others.  Her favorite subjects are Carrie, her best friend, and Darius, the mystery soccer player who is too charming for his own good.  But when Juni witnesses something that wasn’t meant to be photographed, normal life is no longer an option for her.  Now, every moment is about real survival, not social survival.  Then Carrie goes missing.  Suddenly alone, Juni turns to Darius for help.  Mysteries start unfolding and it seems there may be a war of supernatural origins about to start…

This was a pretty exciting read.  I mean, I constantly struggled to find a place to stop.  Even when I had to do normal things like, you know, eating, I struggled to turn off my Kindle and walk away.  The mystery (or mysteries, since there is definitely more than one) kept the story interesting and entertaining.  I kept reading in huge chunks because, really, isn’t that the only way to read a book?

I will say that the beginning a bit slow.  The first quarter or so of the book is a bit of a drag as everything gets set up.  It seemed like it too forever to get to the action.  I won’t say that I was bored with the story, but I was definitely anxious to get to the conflict.  And here I go, inserting my teacher words into my reviews.  Oy vey.

There was actually a very cute and sweet romance in the story as well.  Juni is a strong heroine who isn’t looking for a guy to make her whole.  (Just saying, I loved that.  Girls need more role models like this.)  Darius is sensitive and caring while carrying his own strength.  They work well together, and I liked seeing them struggle to find out what exactly their relationship was.  I think too many stories just jump right into the relationship and don’t do justice to the awkwardness of new relationships.  This had awkward moments that were still sweet.

Again, there are a few little issues here as well.  First of all, there were a lot of moments in the romance where I went, “Um, this happens in Twilight too.”  It just made some of the sweeter scenes feel a bit cliche.  So while I still liked them, they just didn’t feel as original.  Also, Juni is a bit cerebral when it comes to Darius.  She tends to think about him and then question what she’s thinking about and then think about it some more.  That was a little annoying, but she eased up on it later in the story.

So…yeah.  I think I’ve covered most everything.  This was really exciting and gripping once I got into the story.  The characters are lovely and I really look forward to what comes next.

Incubus (Daughters of Lilith, #2)

First Lines: The late September sunlight had its own kind of magic.  Spears of mid-morning light broke through a heavy bank of clouds to strike the leaves of an expansive aspen tree, setting each one aglow with an emerald fire.

Jennifer, the author, was kind enough to give me a copy of this book months and months ago.  I ended up forgetting about it until she contacted me again this month about reading it.  So I knew I had to bump this up on my to-read list.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Braedyn Murphy no longer thinks of herself as a normal girl.  In fact, if she hurts any humans using her Lilitu powers, she may never have a normal life.  Braedyn fights her heritage in order to save and protect her family and friends from the Lilitu that roam her city.  But a new threat may have its sights set on Braedyn.  With the final battle looming over Braedyn’s head, she may have to begin making some tough choices, choices that could change her life forever…

I’ll start by saying that with my new responsibilities as a budding teacher, I ran really short on reading time this past week or so.  I couldn’t get enough time to make a dent in the book.  And I really hate dragging a book out for over a week.

Ok, I’ll also fess up and say that I kinda forgot some of what happened in the first book, even with my notes.  So I had to use a lot of Braedyn’s little hints to catch back up.

On to the review!  I remember being really sucked into the new world of the Lilitu in the last book.  It was utterly fascinating.  However, this book seemed to fall away from that a little, probably because the last book was a lot of lore and set-up and this one wasn’t.  There were definitely still things that Braedyn learned along the way, but the didn’t have the same umph.  If that makes sense.  (I’m always just really fascinated by the lore.)

I thought the characters were still pretty good, the ones we really got to see.  A couple of the main characters from the last book have taken much smaller roles in this book.  I was a little disappointed about that.  However, I got to see one of my favorite characters, Murphy (Braedyn’s dad), play a more emotional role this time around.  I think he just became one of my favorite fictional dads.

Most of the story revolves around the new threat in town and what that threat represents to Braedyn and her friends.  That was fine.  (Though I will say that I guessed the ending before it happened, though it was almost entirely accidental how I came to that conclusion.)  I liked that there was a new threat in town that no one really knew how to deal with.  It kept the characters on their toes.

I just felt like there were times in the story where the plot or even some of the characters pulled away from the point of the story.  There was a lot of extra stuff in the story that was supposed to serve as a distraction to Braedyn, but it ended up detracting a bit from the actual plot.  I understand why it was there, but it was almost too much at times.

Overall, though, I thought it was a good addition to the series.  Braedyn is showing growth in her character, as are some other characters.  The story is definitely moving toward a grand finale, though I have no idea how it’s actually going to happen.  Guess we’ll find out soon, when the next book comes out at the end of this month.

Paper Valentine

First Lines: My sister, Ariel, is sprawled upside down on the couch, pointing with the TV remote.  “News 4 anchorman Ron Coleman is totally doing it with special correspondent Cora Butcher,” she says.  “I bet they make out like hyenas as soon as Jim Dean starts giving the weather report.”

For 2014, I’m really trying to diversify what I read in terms of genres (paranormal, science fiction, realistic fiction, etc.)  This one fell into two categories: paranormal and mystery.  Winner winner chicken dinner.  I’m off to a good start.

It’s the hottest summer on record in Ludlow.  It’s insufferable, stifling, and it probably doesn’t help that someone in the neighborhood is killing young girls for fun.  This summer hasn’t been easy for Hannah.  It’s her first summer without her best friend Lillian, who died the winter before and now haunts Hannah.  While Hannah tries to figure out why Lillian self-destructed, Lillian keeps pushing Hannah to solve the new string of murders.  And Hannah’s got to stop thinking about Finny Boone, the delinquent who enjoys petty larceny and acts of kindness.  With the entire city in a panic, Hannah realizes the only way to get her life back to the way it was before is to solve the murders and get rid of the ghosts that plague her…before the murderer kills again.

Originally, I didn’t quite feel in the mood to read this.  Most of the last books I’ve read have been contemporary romances and, well, murder is kind of the opposite direction of that.  But once I kind of sunk into the story, I was better.

I love a good mystery, I really do, because I love trying to guess who is responsible.  Before I was halfway through the book, I took a guess based on the clues I had available to me at that point.  And…I was right.  Mostly.  There was one small twist I didn’t account for, but I was right.  I love that and kind of hate it because that meant I spent most of the book going, “This is the murderer!  Here are the clues that support my guess!”  It zapped some of the fun out of it when I could guess it so quickly.

I did like that there was a lot of minor plot stuff that you kind of had to figure out on your own.  They never explicitly say how Lillian died, but it’s easy enough to reach that conclusion.  I thought that fit the characters, because if they never wanted to talk about it when Lillian was alive, why would they start after she died?

When it came to characters, I was a little more iffy.  I liked Hannah, I did.  But I wasn’t sold on Finny Boone.  Someone was off about the way he was presented.  One minute, he’s a tough guy who really does commit crimes, and the next he’s doing something nice for Hannah.  I realize there’s a difference between reputation and the real person, but I just didn’t quite like him as much as Hannah did.  My favorite character, actually, was Ariel.  She had some spunk.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting story.  The mystery was good (maybe a little graphic at times in descriptions), but interesting.  I thought there were some good themes explored in how looks influence how people react to you.  However, there were parts that felt slow and chugged along.

The Silent Soldiers – A Blog Promo and Excerpt!

Hey guys!  So I’m changing it up today and giving you a little something different.  This is a promo for some paranormal funness.  Keep reading for more!

SS SERIES AD

 

From the new Young Adult Supernatural Fantasy author comes the newest supernatural superhero series that will keep you wanting more.

Luke is an ordinary young boy, or so he thinks, living with his uncle and cousin after the death of his parents shortly after his birth. Little does Luke know, he is about to embark on a life changing journey to his grandfathers’ house for the summer.
Upon his arrival at his grandfathers’ estate he learns the world he lives in and what he is, is not what it appears to be. Luke finds himself fighting for his life with a team of supernatural kids his age against a powerful dark wizard and all his minions.
Filled with demons, faeries, vampires, werewolves and more, this novel will put Luke through a gauntlet of trouble and turmoil, leading up to a final climatic battle.

Read the Reviews

“This is the first book that I reread right after I finished it the first time. Can’t wait for book #2 to come out.” ~Amazon Customer Review

 

“I just finished reading this book, and I must say that it is one of the best young adult books I have ever read. It’s full of action, suspense, and mystery. There is some plot twists and turns that are easy to figure out before you get there, but overall, for a first time published author, it is a home run. I’m looking forward to seeing more from this author, particularly in regards to this series….” ~Amazon Customer Review

Excerpt Below!

“It is almost time Master. The child will come of age in less than two weeks.  How soon will you be able to return to the earth realm?” asked a woman’s voice.

“It has been nearly fourteen years since the child was born, and I was banished. I am waiting for the precise moment in which I can make my return,” said a man wearing a long black cloak.

A hood completely covered the figures head.  The only part of the man’s body, that was visible beneath the dark colored garment he was wearing, was his glowing red eyes. The man was standing in the middle of a cave barely lit by the fire of a single torch hanging on one wall. Suddenly the man’s image started to fade and we realized he wasn’t in the cave at all.  The man had projected his image from some unknown location.

“I have completed the final arrangements for your arrival. We are ready to assist you in capturing the child, Master. The woman’s voice came from the shadows of the cave just out of reach of the light from the torch. The outline of her body was visible, but it was impossible to see any of her features.

“Have you located the child? My plans can be carried out much more smoothly if we can take him before he learns about our world.

“No, Master, I have not. We have done everything in our power to locate and capture him. His parents went to great lengths to ensure that no one would find him. We have a lead that he could possibly be hiding in the Dallas area. We are searching the area day and night I assure you.

“You have done well my child. According to the prophetess the child will be returning to the mansion soon,” the man said looking toward the old lady crouched against one wall of the cave.

The old lady against the wall was bound with small silver chains wrapped around her body. She whimpered softly. Suddenly a long silver whip flashed out from the woman in the shadows. It struck the old lady in the back causing her to scream out in pain.

“You will keep quiet in the presence of our Master,” says the woman fiercely. The chained old lady became instantly silent before the man began to speak again.

“We must obtain the child. He is a key element in my plans to rule this horrid planet the humans call earth. If he unites with good he will forever be my enemy.”

Author Bio

1Travis Stinnett has worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse in long term care for 11 years. He lives in South Arkansas with his beautiful wife Crystal and his three wonderful children Jordan, Katie, and Levi. He has been reading young adult paranormal fiction for decades and has created his own style in this genre of novels. “The Silent Soldiers” is Travis’s debut title and is the first in a series of books in the paranormal fiction genre. “Back To School” is the second novel in “The Silent Soldiers” series and will be released early 2014.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/trvsstinnett

Twitter: www.twitter.com/trvsstinnett

Book 1 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Silent-Soldiers-Travis-Stinnett-ebook/dp/B00BGRGRV2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386691948&sr=8-1&keywords=the+silent+soldiers

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6966686.Travis_Stinnett

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Travis/Stinnett