Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bargains and Betrayals: A 13 to Life NovelTitle:  Bargains and Betrayals
Author:  Shannon Delaney
Series:  13 to Life
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date:  August 16, 2011
Links:  Amazon | Goodreads
Rating:  Photobucket

From Goodreads:

Locked away at Pecan Place, Jessie finds her situation to be even more dangerous than she feared. While she struggles to maintain her sanity and discover answers about the group that seems less and less like any legitimate government agency, Pietr fights to keep their relationship alive. But very aware that his mother’s time is running out, Pietr makes a deal he doesn’t dare tell Jessie about. Because the deal Pietr’s made could mean the death of far more than his tenuous relationship with the girl he loves.
Review:

Please note: minor spoilers for the previous novels may follow.

The 13 to Life series is so much fun and so different from any other werewolf story I’ve ever encountered. But it’s not just about the wolves. Shannon Delaney owns this story with the inclusion of the Russian Mafia, Cold War experiments gone wrong (or right?), and renegade “CIA” operatives. Not to mention the bittersweet love story.

This plot is just full of crazy. After the events of Secrets and Shadows, you’ve got Jessie locked away in a mental institution. The Rusakovas are trying to figure out how to rescue their mother from the CIA. And Jessie’s dad has started up a relationship with Jessie’s former enemy. Like I said, full of the crazy. But the story is so character-driven and so well-written that the crazy doesn’t seem so crazy. It just seems like another day in Junction for Jessie and the Rusakovas.

In this third installment, the author decided to split the POV between Jessie and Alexi. I thought this complemented the storyline, especially seeing Alexi’s reaction to how his family treats him now, knowing he’s not their true sibling. And very much like Max in the previous novel, Alexi provided the comic relief in Bargains and Betrayals, even if it was mostly sarcastic and self-deprecating. I don’t necessarily like him more now that I’ve seen things from his side, but I definitely have a newfound respect for him.

All of the characters have matured since the story began in 13 to Life, but if I had to pick one character who has matured the most, it would have to be Max. When he took a shining to Amy, he put aside his playboy ways and made a real effort to get to know her. Things aren’t always easy for them, but he doesn’t give up on her. And in this latest book, he really proves how much he cares. I can’t wait to see how that relationship develops, especially in light of the events at the end of the novel.

Much craziness ensued throughout this novel, and there may have been as many as five overlapping minor plots when all was said and done, but the author expertly tied them all together in one nice, explosive package. I can’t seem to find how many books are expected in this series, but I, for one, hope the author never runs out of ideas for it. Next up is Destiny and Deception, due out at the end of January. (She cranks these things out quick, doesn’t she?!?)


***Oh, one more thing, and this is just a personal observation. I remember reading a review for 13 to Life, back when I first started the series, where the reviewer remarked that the author didn’t do her research because Rusakova is a female surname in Russian. I don’t want to berate that reviewer because everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I thought it was interesting that the author finally explained in Bargains and Betrayals why they all share the Rusakova surname. I always try to give the author the benefit of the doubt because they're really the only ones who know where their story is going and where it's been.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Monday, August 29, 2011 with No comments
Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1)Title:  Bloodlines
Author:  Richelle Mead
Series:  Bloodlines
Publisher:  Razorbill
Publication Date:  August 23, 2011
Links:  Amazon | Goodreads
Rating:  Photobucket 

From Goodreads:

The first book in Richelle Mead's brand-new teen fiction series - set in the same world as Vampire Academy.

When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.
Review:

So, I was a naysayer in the beginning. I was burned out on vampires and wasn’t willing to give the Vampire Academy series the respect it deserved. It wasn’t until I got a deal on the audiobook for the first installment in the series that I gave it a chance and decided I'd been missing out. Now imagine my surprise and excitement when I found out that the author had created a spin-off series featuring secondary characters from VA. Me -- a nonbeliever -- had stumbled upon not one but TWO awesome series, all thanks to a sale. I love it when that happens!

But then I remembered how Last Sacrifice ended, and my heart broke again. If you have not read the VA series yet, I do not advise starting this series yet. Mead does her summation thing again, but very briefly, so it would be best to familiarize yourself with the characters and back-story from the Vampire Academy world first. Trust me on this.

I really thought I’d miss Rose as the main character, but Sydney’s voice is just as fantastic, if not better. Her snark and over-analysis of the world made for a very entertaining narration. I liked her when she was simply helping out Rose in VA, but I loved her in Bloodlines. She has to contend with a lot of issues that make her uneasy and test her loyalties, and she does it all while dressed like an accountant. You can take the girl out of the alchemist world, but you can’t take the alchemist out of the girl.

I only want to touch on the relationships and friendships briefly because I feel most anything I say will be a spoiler if you haven’t read the Vampire Academy series. (And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Didn’t I already tell you I was converted by a mere audiobook??) So, yeah, back to the relationships. I don’t think I’ve ever said, “Oh, huh, I did not see that coming,” to any of the relationships in Mead’s books, but that’s because they are so well-though out. The relationships in VA develop over time, usually with me muttering to myself, “Are those two ever going to make out?” Even friendships don’t happen immediately. The plot may not be the most realistic ever, especially when you consider that there are good vampires and bad vampires in the world of VA, but at least the bonds between characters are.

I think I gave all of the VA series four out of five stars. You’ll notice that Bloodlines got five. That’s cause I like this series EVEN MORE than VA. I don’t know if it was the introduction of Sydney as the protagonist or the fact that there was a lot more Adrian to feast upon, but I loved every second of this book.



I received an ARC of this novel through a giveaway from Jess at Gone with the Words.


In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  It's a weekly meme where we all get to brag about the books and swag we got in the mail, for review, won in contests, etc.




In reviewing the pile of books to add to this post, it's become abundantly clear that I should put myself on a self-imposed book-buying ban.  But then I tell myself that this is all Borders' fault for going out of business, and I'll have calmed down by the time they close the doors for good.  That was until I saw the shopping cart I had accumulated on Barnes & Noble's website.  It has 17 books in it, and those are just the books I plan to pre-order.  So, maybe a ban wouldn't be a bad idea, right?  And then maybe I'd catch up on some of the books I've already got in my collection.  Except that we're moving in September and those are all packed away.  At this point, a sensible person would point out that I have audiobooks on my iPhone that have not yet been listened to and several more unread ebooks on my Nook.  But this girl just isn't satisfied unless she's got a stack of real books waiting for her on her desk after a hard day at work.

Moving on.  Since I neglected to do an IMM post for a couple of weeks, I was tempted to split this into two posts to keep us all from getting new book overload.  But I want to brag now, and also, when you see what all I bought at Borders, maybe you'll shame me into that book-buying ban after all.

Won (or otherwise free):

Bloodlines* by Richelle Mead, ARC courtesy of Jess at Gone with the Words
Shattered Souls bookmark (signed), thanks to Jess at Gone with the Words
Faerie Ring bookmarks (signed) & pin, from the author (Kiki Hamilton)
Forever keychain, courtesy of the author (Maggie Stiefvater)
Scorpio Races postcards (signed), thanks to the author (Maggie Stiefvater)
The Girl in the Steel Corset, thanks to the publisher (Harlequin TEEN)



Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1)The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles, #1)


*This is probably the book I am most excited about in this week's post!!!

Bought on my second trip to the Borders liquidation sale:

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent
My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins



My Soul to TakeMy Soul to SaveMy Soul to KeepMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Stolen: A letter to my captorBefore I FallAnna and the French Kiss


Bought on my, ahem, third trip to the Borders liquidation sale:

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink
Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink
Possession by Elana Johnson
Abandon by Meg Cabot
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly



Prophecy of the Sisters (Prophecy of the Sisters, #1)Guardian of the Gate (Prophecy of the Sisters, #2)Circle of Fire (Prophecy of the Sisters, #3)Possession (Possession, #1)
Abandon (Abandon Trilogy, #1)Ruby Red (Edelstein-Trilogie #1)Angel Burn (Angel Trilogy, #1)


Audiobooks:

Storm Runners by Roland Smith
Immortal by Gillian Shields
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Enclave by Ann Aguirre



Storm RunnersImmortal (Immortal, #1)Wuthering Heights
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)Watership DownEnclave (Razorland, #1)



So.  Yeah.  Obviously, I need to do my IMMs more frequently if I'm going to keep up this habit of mine.  That, or I just need to exhibit some willpower.  Cause I don't think my bookshelf can handle much more of this.

What did you get in your mailbox this week?  Were you able to control yourself, unlike me?

Friday, August 26, 2011

TGIF #6

Friday, August 26, 2011 with 1 comment


TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads!  In this weekly feature, Ginger poses a question to her followers and then asks everyone to link up at the end of the post, sharing their responses.




This Friday's Question:

Book Associations: Which genre, authors, or particular books do you think people associate with your reading style? 


I think it's pretty obvious that I prefer YA sci-fi/fantasy novels, but I've been on a dystopian/post-apocalyptic kick lately, and I don't foresee that coming to an end anytime soon.  When people recommend books to me, they usually opt for paranormal-type reads, though, based on previous experience.  I don't have a big history with contemporary novels, but I have been known to give them a shot now and again, and in fact, find that I enjoy them a lot more than I expected to.

That said, I think most people connect my reading style with paranormal novels, those that include monsters like vampires and zombies.  And for the most part, they'd be right.  But I'm trying to branch out, even if it's only to read an adult paranormal novel.  (My hubby keeps pestering me to read all of the Anne Rice vampire novels, but he hasn't read any of them...he just really liked Interview with a Vampire.)  If you looked at the books I've read so far this year, probably 80% of those contain some type of paranormal element.  I can't help it, though...I was raised by a Trekkie with paranormal tendencies!  :D

My new favorite genre, though, is definitely dystopian/post-apocalyptic.  My love of this genre started way back in high school, though, when we were required to read 1984, Animal Farm, and Fahrenheit 451.  Those are still some of my favorite books, and they paved the way for a love of all things related to the end of the world as we know it.  (Aw, geez, now I have that song stuck in my head!  Great.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Descended by Blood (A Vampire Born Trilogy, #1)Title:  Descended by Blood
Author:  Angeline Kace
Series:  Vampire Born
Publisher:  Accendo Press
Publication Date:  August 26, 2011
Links:  Amazon | Goodreads
Rating:  Photobucket

From Goodreads:

Brooke Keller is a high school junior who has never spent much time living in one place. She is finally in a town long enough to almost snag the boy of her dreams, until her life is threatened after killing a fanged man in his attempt to kidnap her. Brooke begins a dangerous journey in an effort to find out who is after her and how to stop them. In a world with powerful and prejudiced vampires, Brooke must tap into the side of her that she never knew existed at the risk of losing her life in order to save it. 
Review:

Before I proceed, I’d like to note that this was really more of a 3.5 star read for me. I can see the potential future novels have in this series, and so I wanted to rate it higher, but I’m rating this particular book, not the potential it garners.

The best thing about this novel? The inclusion of a hot Russian guy. The worst thing? The parallels I kept drawing between this novel and the Vampire Academy series (see aforementioned hot Russian guy). Not a terrible thing considering how much I enjoyed that series, but I did notice some similarities. However, I’d prefer not to be snarky and point those out, so I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

The first thing I observed was the immaturity of the protagonist’s voice. I noticed the same thing with Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King, though, and the subsequent novels totally blew me away and I actually found myself liking the main character in that series, so much that I didn’t like the fourth novel as well because she wasn’t featured in it much. So, I’m trusting the author of this book to do the same, and I believe Brooke’s character will grow and develop into a worthy character through the trials and experiences she undergoes in forthcoming books.

The premise, while not entirely unique, was intriguing and easy to follow, though not quite up to par with what I expected from this novel. I’m looking forward to seeing how everything pans out for Brooke, though, especially with that ending. Like I said, this story has definite potential, and it was a fun read. So, if you’re into vampires or hot Russian guys, or both, give this book a try. Per the Amazon product listing, the Kindle edition is on sale for $0.99 through September, so you can’t really go wrong!

And in case you needed further convincing, here’s the trailer for Descended by Blood:



An ebook of this novel was provided by the author for review purposes.

Friday, August 19, 2011

TGIF #5

Friday, August 19, 2011 with 1 comment


TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads!  In this weekly feature, Ginger poses a question to her followers and then asks everyone to link up at the end of the post, sharing their responses.




This Friday's Question:

The Reviews We Don't Write: Have you ever read a book and not wanted to review it? Are some books too personal that we want to keep our thoughts our own? 


Well, I try to review everything I read on Goodreads, even if it's just short and succinct, but I'm definitely less likely to post a review on my blog for a book that I did not particularly enjoy or that I just couldn't get into.  It's hard for me to say anything negative about a book when I know how much effort, how much of themselves, authors put into their books.  It's one thing to be constructively critical but something else to completely bash a book you didn't like, though I'm ashamed to admit I may have done so in at least a couple of instances when I first really started reviewing what I read. 

For the books I couldn't read fast enough (read:  4 or 5 stars), the reviews come easily enough, though sometimes it is difficult to find just the right words to describe why I loved the book so much.  Even the 3-star reviews come relatively easy.  It's when I get to the books that I rate 1 or 2 stars that I find myself questioning whether I should even post a review.  Sometimes I delay the review, just to see if reflecting on the book longer will change my opinion, maybe help me see something clearer that actually made the book better than I originally thought.  I don't think that's actually happened yet, or it's rare enough in any case that I don't remember a specific instance, but I write the review anyway.  Because maybe there are other readers out there with similar tastes, and my review may help them choose a book better suited to their own tastes.  And truthfully, I enjoy reading a good, honest review that highlights the negatives in a book but doesn't brutally abuse the author.

As for a book being too personal, I don't think I've ever come across a book that affected me that way.  I relate to a lot of characters or situations in books, but never so much that I don't want to share the experience.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 with No comments
Forever (Wolves of Mercy Falls, #3)Title:  Forever
Author:  Maggie Stiefvater
Series:  Wolves of Mercy Falls
Publisher:  Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date:  July 12, 2011
Links:  Amazon | Goodreads
Rating:  Photobucket

From Goodreads:

 The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stievater.

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. In Linger, they fought to be together. Now, in Forever, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.
Review:

Forever was the perfect ending to The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. Perfect. I love a well-written happy ending as much as the next girl. But even better is a well-written open-ended finale that leaves the reader with hope and a burning desire for a fourth novel in a series with only three books. Check and check.
 
The lyrical writing of Maggie Stiefvater is unrivaled. The way she conveys emotion with words, well, it leaves me at a loss for words. It’s simply beautiful. So clearly does she describe emotion that if feels like I’ve been written into the pages of her novel, experiencing everything first-hand. I can almost envision the pained looks, swiftly exchanged glances, eyes brimming with love. And the way that she describes the forest, Beck’s house…everything. It’s almost scary how realistic a picture this woman can paint with words.

Speaking of words, holy cow, did she sneak some good ones in! I love adding new words to my vocabulary! And she used context clues, so I didn’t even have to crack open a dictionary (or use Google) to figure the terminology out. One example that stands out: ouroboros. Seriously cool word and awesome usage in the book. (Picture a dog chasing its tail.) I love that she writes for a more astute audience.

And the characters! I’ve loved Grace and Sam since I first met them in Shiver, and I adjusted to the addition of bristly Isabel and arrogant Cole in Linger. But I really think they all came into their own in Forever. Maggie was just giving us a taste of who these characters were before, but after the events of the first two novels, these guys really showed their true colors. In a good way. They were so developed, so realistic and ultimately relatable. I’m really going to miss them!

Alas, I passed up Shiver on the bookshelves at Borders many times before finally giving this series a try.  To think that I never would have visited Mercy Falls or watched Sam and Grace fall in love!  Okay, I'm going to have to wrap this up and stop reminiscing, or I'm going to start crying again.  Seriously, such a great ending!






Wolfsbane (Nightshade #2)Title:  Wolfsbane
Author:  Andrea Cremer
Series:  Nightshade
Publisher:  Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication Date:  July 26, 2011
Links:  Amazon | Goodreads
Rating:  Photobucket

From Goodreads:

When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer—one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack—and the man—she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.
Review:

I know I’m in the minority with this sentiment, but I wasn’t as enthralled with this novel as I was with the first installment in the series. Rather than feeling like a supplement to the first book, this addition to the series almost felt like starting over. A slew of new characters, a completely different setting, and a tedious account of Searcher history all made the first half of this novel very lackluster for me, which I found very frustrating considering how much I was anticipating this book.

I really liked the strength of Calla’s character in Nightshade, but I felt like she lost some of herself in Wolfsbane. Maybe that’s just because Shay was more assertive, though, growing into his inner wolf, if you will. I liked his character less in this novel, too. He seemed possessive of Calla, controlling even, especially whenever mention of Ren was made. That said, I didn’t really feel the connection between Calla and Shay as much, especially with Calla so conflicted over Ren. The love scenes between Shay and Calla felt kind of forced and awkward. I was completely Team Shay at the end of Nightshade, but now I’m on the fence and leaning closer to Team Ren after Wolfsbane. Probably doesn’t hurt Ren’s case that he’s so tortured when we finally get to see him again. I do so love the tortured bad boy.

The second half of the book, though, made up for the flat first half. Plenty of fight scenes, secrets, making out…all the stuff that made the first novel so much fun. I understand the history lesson was necessary to get us to the startling revelations at the end of the novel, but sometimes less is more. I delight in finding hidden clues and putting things together myself, but because of the long-winded chronicling of Searcher history that was provided, I discovered the shocking secret very early on in the book.

Still, I may not have loved it as much as Nightshade, but the events of Wolfsbane are critical for the big finish I know Andrea Cremer has in store for us with Bloodrose. Just a little friendly advice, though: if it’s been awhile since you read Nightshade, I recommend you pick it up again for a re-read before starting Wolfsbane. I only read Nightshade earlier this year, but I was still fuzzy on some of the details from that cliff-hanger of an ending.



Friday, August 12, 2011

The Scorpio RacesMaggie Stiefvater is one talented woman.  Yet again, she's created another awesome book trailer, this time for The Scorpio Races, due out in October of this year.  On her blog, she calls this book "basically the most me novel that I've ever written."  I was excited to read it before, but now I must have it!  I don't think I can wait until October!  And I might not have to...Maggie is giving away three ARCs as part of a contest to get the word out about the novel!  Click here for the details on the contest, then scroll down to view the Maggie-created trailer for the novel.  Also, to pre-order a signed, Maggie-doodled copy of your own, visit Fountain Bookstore.

From Goodreads:

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
 
And here's how Maggie describes the novel:
 
"The book started as a short story written for a tiny anthology I did with the Merry Sisters of Fate, back when we began. It's based on a legend I've always loved (Irish water horses) and deals with two character types I adore. A fierce girl with loads of brothers (I have lots of brothers myself) and a Mr. Darcy sort of love interest (my first Mac was named Mr. Darcy. You know, difficult to get to know but worth it in the end. GET IT?). It's about a deadly horse race run at the base of chalk cliffs, and it is all about siblings, repressed love, and revenge. I spent months researching cliffs and islands and Irish horse racing and buns made with lots of honey to write this novel, and it's basically the most me novel that I've ever written."
 

 

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