Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review: The Madness of Lord Ian Mckenzie by Jennifer Ashley

What is great about The Madness of Lord Ian Mckenzie is that it has two protagonists that truly compliment one another. I never once doubted that Beth Ackerly was meant to be with Lord Ian Mckenzie. The two share a connection that is both romantic and touching to read. Each character in this book is well developed and given a generous amount of attention, allowing me to enjoy their many distinct personalities and quirks. While my favorite character is Ian, I loved the scenes that featured his man servant Curry and any one of his three brothers. The dynamic in this family is both humorous and heartbreaking. The brothers share so much love for one another but are divided, each nursing a wound that cannot heal. Beth Ackerly is a likable heroine with a wry sense of humor and a great deal of compassion for those around her. Her downfall is her curiosity and tendency to pry into matters that ought not to be disturbed.

The story focuses for the most part on Lord Ian Mckenzie, who is believed to be mad and a murderer. Ian was born with autism and as a young boy his strange behavior often made him a target for his father’s rages. Unable to blend in with others, Ian’s father forced him into an asylum where it was thought that his “sickness” could be cured. Fortunately, Ian’s eldest brother freed him from the asylum some years later, but even after Ian assumed his share of his family’s wealth and became widely known as brother to a Duke, he still found himself the subject of social ridicule. His perceived madness, coupled with his family’s reputation for scandal and the rumors that he is the prime suspect in a murder investigation forces Ian to have very little, if any contact with anyone outside of his family—that is, until he meets his beloved Beth. Ian, who has never desired anything other than to collect Ming bowls for his vast collection, makes it his mission to possess Beth for his own.

I don’t read historical romances very often, but when I do they are usually a joy to read. However, there is that saying that there can be too much of a good thing. In the case of The Madness of Lord Ian Mckenzie, sex is the one thing that there is too much of! I know that there will be those who disagree, but I need more than a marathon of sex to keep me interested and to kick start my libido. I would have preferred a little less sex and a lot more romance. Having Ian dive under Beth’s many petticoats at every available opportunity is fun and sexy to read at first, but gets old rather quickly. One scene that I loved in particular was in the beginning when the two first meet. Ian takes her hand in greeting, but refuses to let go during the entire exchange. He uses his thumb to trace the pattern on the back of her glove, filling her limbs with heat. The author writes, “He sat no closer than Mather did, but Beth’s awareness of him screamed at her. She could feel his hard knee against her skirts, the firm pressure of his thumb on her hand, the weight of his not-stare.” I much prefer scenes of this nature to the ones where they are naked and writhing. Seeing how the character’s relationship evolves is where the real romance can be found. Sex is just the icing on the cake.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award!

Both Selena from The Enchanted Book and Book Kritik have awarded me with The Versatile Blogger Award! Thank you both so much for thinking of me!

Here are the rules:

1.  Share 7 things about yourself.
2.  Pass the award to 15 bloggers recently discovered.
3.  Notify the blogger recipients.
4.  Link to the blogger who gave the award.

7 things about me:

1. I only drink water, but will occasionally make an exception for a fruit smoothie. Yum!
2.  I'm 5 ft tall and am often mistaken for being much younger than I actually am!
3.  Reading is my passion, but I'm also a huge movie enthusiast!
4.  I have never traveled out of the country, but when I do I would like my first stop to be Japan!
5.  I've been in a committed relationship with my boyfriend for almost eleven years. We were high school sweethearts and were voted cutest couple our senior year.
6. I plan to go to Book Expo America next year and I'm super excited!
7.  Someday, when my life doesn't feel so hectic, I would like to write a YA book!

I know it says to give this award to 15 bloggers, but a lot of people seem to have already received this award! Here are the bloggers I gave the award to:

Brooke's Box of Books

Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!

The Heart of Dreams

Supernatural Snark

Manga Maniac Cafe

Fangs, Wands, and Fairy Dust

Small Review 

My Need to Read

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Blog Hop

Hello everyone and welcome to my brand new book blog! Reading YA, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance is a passion of mine and on this blog I will post my reviews and hopefully discuss books with all of you! Happy hopping!

Book Blog Hop Question:

"What is your favorite book cover?"

When I went to ALA in Washington D.C. over the Summer I did not intend to pick up this book. I stood in line for another author, Lucy Christopher, and when I reached the little booth to purchase my copy of Stolen, the woman selling the books asked if I would like a free ARC of Plain Kate. The author, Erin Bow, was also signing, and while I didn’t recognize the title, I was drawn to the beautiful cover and gladly accepted. It took me two days to read this book and I can say with all honesty that it is my favorite book that I picked up on my trip. It is such a beautiful, moving story and the cover is so striking. I like the contrast between the ordered structure of the city landscape and the carefree pose of the girl on the rooftop. The blue scarf adds a splash of color to the hazy, gold backdrop and her drab, brown attire.

Most Anticipated Books of 2011

There are many books published in 2010 that I have yet to read that are sitting forlornly on my bookshelf, hopelessly neglected and yearning to be read. One who loves to read as much as I do is doomed to have a towering stack of books and no time to get through them all! Why is it for every one book I read, five more titles are vying for its empty spot? That is the curse of the avid reader. To make matters worse, I have a list of anticipated titles that will be released next year that I must add to my treasure trove of books!

Here is the list of books that I'm most excited to read in 2011. Once I get my hands on each one of these books, I will shamelessly move them to the front of the line, no doubt making the rest of my books feel dejected and suicidal.

What books are you most looking forward to reading next year? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Shadowfever (Fever #5) by Karen Marie Moning

MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks…until something extraordinary happens.  

Shadowfever will answer all the questions fans have been dying to know in the final chapter of MacKayla Lane's shockingly suspenseful and deeply satisfying adventure.

Defiance (Strange Angels #4) by Lillith Saintcrow 

The heart-stopping fourth novel in New York Times bestselling author Lili St. Crow's Strange Angels series. 

Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.) 

 Second Grave on the Left (Charley Davidson #2) by Darynda Jones

Charley Davidson: part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper.  

Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice.

 Demon Glass (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel Hawkins

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.
That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

 Hunt the Moon (Cassandra Palmer #5) by Karen Chance

  A contemporary dark fantasy revolving around a gutsy female protagonist with supernatural abilities that blends mystery and romance with hair-raising horror. 

Cassie Palmer is a powerful clairvoyant who is finding it difficult to escape her past. Orphaned at a young age and brought up by the undead, Cassie has the ability to communicate with the spirit realm 

The False Princess by Elis O'Neal

Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court.  But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection.  Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.

Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark # 11) by Kresley Cole

He vowed he’d come for her...

She awaits his return...

A gripping tale of a battle-maddened warrior driven by revenge and the Valkyrie temptress who haunts his dreams.

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

This debut, the first novel in a trilogy, is achingly romantic, terrifying, and filled with blistering action.

When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Blog Hop

Hello everyone and welcome to my brand new book blog! It is only one week old! Reading YA, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance is a passion of mine and on this blog I will post my reviews and hopefully discuss books with all of you!

Book Blog Hop Question:

"Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!"

I come from a very small family and every year for Thanksgiving my parent's neighbors invite us over to enjoy the holiday with them. I'm thankful that there are people in my life who welcome us into their home on the holidays, which can be quite lonely if you don't have many relatives. Now that I have moved out and I am living with my significant other, I'm happy that I can spend Thanksgiving with both his family and mine, as well as our good friends.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

It is rare for me to give a book five stars, because to me, a book can only achieve such a high rating if:

1. It is near perfect.
2. It affects me on a deep, emotional level.
3. I’m biased towards the author and/or series and I’m not capable of remaining objective.

There are books that I have loved unconditionally and books that I have loathed to ever read again, but despite how my tastes may differ from those who share my love for books, I must insist that if you’re a fan of paranormal romance or urban fantasy, you would be remiss not to read this book! I loved First Grave on the Right. I mean, I REALLY loved this book! It was perfection. Books like this are the reason why I fell in love with this genre to begin with.

First Grave on the Right seamlessly combines mystery/suspense, a romance that sizzles, and an infectious humor that kept me in stitches from beginning to end. The story focuses on Charley Davidson, private investigator and Grim Reaper extraordinaire. She is smart, sassy, and possesses a steadfast determination that has gotten her into trouble more often than not. She also has a penchant for naming her extraneous parts (and not so extraneous parts) with names that are sure to give you a chuckle. Armed with the ability to see dead people, Charley helps both the living and dead seek justice and find closure. It also doesn’t hurt that when she is in a bind, she has a quirky assistant, a sexy skip tracer, and a mysterious supernatural entity dubbed the “Big Bad” to help her whenever trouble is hot on her trail.

Encountering ghosts on a regular basis and helping them find their way to the other side is to be expected of the one and only Grim Reaper, but Charley never expected to experience an intense passion with a mysterious spirit that visits her only in her dreams. The spirit is described as being beautiful, but it is his slow seduction of Charley and the fleeting kisses and touches that they share that had me weak in the knees. I also enjoyed Charley’s love/hate relationship with the skip tracer, Garrett. Their flirtatious banter is amusing and I couldn’t help but root for the guy since he was so clearly smitten with her. Love triangles are a guilty pleasure of mine and I was pleased to discover that I liked both men and would be happy with whomever she ends up with.

I insist that everyone devour this book at the first available opportunity. It was truly a fantastic read. My only regret about winning it on Goodreads First Reads Giveaways is that now I will have to wait that much longer to get my hands on the sequel! If you’re looking to start the new year with a phenomenal paranormal romance, I suggest starting with this one! First Grave on the Right has an intriguing plot with plenty of twists and surprises that will keep you guessing, many memorable laugh out loud moments, and a romance that will entice even the most frigid of hearts.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review: Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1) by Cassandra Clare

I know there are a lot of mixed feelings concerning Cassandra Claire’s writing, but I must admit that I found Clockwork Angel to be an engaging read. It had a bit of a rough start and it took awhile to get used to the writing, but I soon found that I couldn’t put the book down. At nearly five hundred pages, Clockwork Angel ended up taking me several days to finish, but with each day that passed I eagerly looked forward to the time when I could settle down and delve back into a world filled with Shadow Hunters, demons and automatons. Admittedly, the book ended up being too long and there were entire passages where characters would ramble on about their intentions and motivations to the point that I thought my eyeballs would bleed out, but I absolutely loved the world building, the interesting assortment of characters, and the Victorian England setting.

The story focuses for the most part on Tessa Gray, an American who sails to England to live with her brother after her Aunt Harriet dies from a sudden fever. Upon arriving, she is abducted by two nefarious characters referred to as the Dark Sisters who give her a crash course in what it means to be a Downworlder. Tessa grew up believing that the most excitement to be had could only be found in the pages of her beloved novels. Tessa, however, is a powerful shape shifter with the ability to retain the thoughts and memories of those whose form she has replicated. She learns that her brother has been abducted and that she was lured to England because a mysterious creature often referred to as the Magister covets her abilities. Tessa must cooperate with the Dark Sisters or she is sure to lose the only living relative she has left.

Will, a Shadow Hunter investigating the murder of a young girl, finds Tessa by chance when all evidence of foul play leads him to where she is being held captive. She is then brought back to the London Institute for Shadow Hunters where she discovers that there is an ongoing war between the Nephlim and the Downworlders who are determined to disturb the peace and endanger the lives of mundanes (humans). At the institute Tessa works along side the enclave in hope that they can help her save her brother and destroy the creature who will stop at nothing to posses her.

What I found most appealing about this book was the eccentric group of characters. Charlotte, the head of the London Institute and her husband Henry whose peculiar inventions always go awry are the surrogate parents of orphaned Will, Jem and Jessamine. This dysfunctional family can barely function as a unit, but it is clear that despite their vast differences in character they have a great deal of affection for one another. There is a love triangle of sorts between Will, Jem, and Tessa, but the real romance, or should I say bromance, is between the two young men.

I honestly really enjoyed this book and was sad to see it end. This is the first in a trilogy of prequels, so many of the questions raised in this book have yet to be answered. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy in a Victorian England setting, or who doesn’t mind that romance isn’t the primary focus of this tale. Rather, this story explores the idea of what it means to be human and the importance of family, even if those you surround yourself with aren’t bound to you by blood. Clockwork Angel also shows how destructive secrets can be and the damage it can wreak on your relationships and mental health. This book may have its fair share of flaws, but I think the good outweighs the bad and I’m happy to have read it.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Mind Games (The Disillusionists Trilogy, #1) by Carolyn Crane

I enjoyed Mind Games. The premise of a group of Disillusionists using their abilities to “reboot” the bad guys is interesting and clever. The main character Justine Jones is a hypochondriac who struggles with a fear of vein star syndrome. When she meets a highcap (people with unique mental powers) named Packard who sees people’s psychological structures, she is given the opportunity to learn how to channel her fear into others, thereby allowing her to lead a normal life. Justine is reluctant to join Packard’s band of crime fighting disillusionists at first, because she questions whether of not it is ethical to disillusion people, even if said people are known criminals and murderers. Could forcing someone to live out their greatest fear be synonymous with torture? However, when Justine gets a taste of life free of crippling fear she is helpless to give in to Packard’s offer and join his crew. There is a catch of course. Living a life without fear and fighting bad guys isn’t all its cracked up to be.

Packard was my favorite character in this book. As the leader of the disillusionists, he is responsible for finding targets that are compatible with each person’s ability. Justine uses fear to secure her targets, while other disillusionists specialize in emotions such as anger, hopelessness, or greed. His reason for establishing this group of crime fighters is fascinating and his ability to manipulate makes him a dangerous player in a world filled with powerful highcaps. Packard’s relationship with Justine is enticing and the sexual tension between the two is palpable. Packard may toe the line between noble and devious, but how Justine can resist such a man is beyond me! Justine has two other love interests, one of which is her boyfriend Cubby and the other is a mysterious suitor that I won’t reveal. However, I found both of these men to be unattractive and unappealing. What she sees in either of them is baffling.

My only real complaint with Mind Games is that I guessed the identity of Packard’s nemesis. This disappointment, however, was short lived, because the author Carolyn Crane was kind enough to throw in a twist or two for my reading pleasure. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the next book and have already put in a request for my local library to order it! The great thing about reading a really good book is that it reminds you why you developed such a passion for reading. Lately I have been reading a lot of YA and as much as I have enjoyed it in the past, I think I’m going to go back to reading more adult urban fantasy. I find adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance to be much more satisfying and entertaining than many of the YA titles offered in this genre today.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review: Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1) by Rachel Hawkins

This was a fun, fast paced book, filled with humor and many memorable quotes that I read from cover to cover in a matter of hours. The main character Sophie is a sarcastic, self-deprecating witch, who was raised by her human mother and knows very little about her magical heritage or her warlock father. When a love spell goes horribly wrong, Sophie is sent to Hex (Hecate) Hall, a reform school for Prodigium (magical folk) where she learns the dangers and consequences of exposure to the human community and how to protect and defend herself from those who hunt the paranormal. Since, Sophie and her mother never stayed in one place for more than a few months, she has always found it difficult to bond with her human peers. Now that she lives with her own kind, as well as werewolves, shape shifters, and fairies, instead of finding comfort and acceptance, she finds that she is even more alone and alienated than ever. It doesn’t help that her only friend and roommate is a vampire suspected of murder, or that a group of dark witches want her to join their coven and aren’t too pleased when she refuses.

My only complaint with this novel is the lack of attention paid to secondary characters. Most of the focus is on Sophie, her roommate Jenna, her love interest Archer, and her nemesis Elody. What about the other students? Sophie has little if any interaction with the Fey, werewolves, and shape shifters that go to her school. Hex Hall encourages its students to intermingle with one another, which is how Sophie gets Jenna as a roommate. However, Jenna is the only character that isn’t a witch or warlock that plays a significant role in this book. Also, what happened to all the male characters? Almost all the characters introduced are female, including the teachers. Archer was the only male character that appeared frequently throughout the novel. Cal the groundskeeper had a very small role and Justin the werewolf disappeared after he was introduced briefly in the beginning! Despite this one flaw, I really enjoyed reading Hex Hall and have already put its sequel, Demonglass on my to read list.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson has shown me that love is like a swing set.


Not exactly. Imagine you’re on a swing. You’re gliding back and forth, your legs are pumping through the air, your hair is wild and it’s getting into your eyes and in your mouth. It’s an incredibly pleasant feeling, but you want something more. So, you pump your legs harder and the swing is rising higher and higher until all you can see is endless blue sky. It’s still not enough. This feeling. You want more. So, when you get as high as the swing will allow, you let go.

For one glorious moment you’re airborne and you’re soaring, arms spread wide like you have wings, and nothing in the world can compare to this singular moment. This rush. This burst of adrenalin.

Until you start to fall.

When you hit the ground it hurts. A lot. That’s love. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is about love. When you love someone, it isn’t just about the jump, or even the fall. It’s about the landing. When you take that first jump you don’t realize how much it’s going to hurt once you hit the ground. Love is having the courage to get back on that swing and jump again, even if doing so is painful.

This was an incredibly touching book. If you’re familiar with John Green’s or David Levithan’s writing, you will not be disappointed. I wasn’t.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review: Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy (Volume 1) by Lakisha Spletzer

I try to be selective when it comes to the books that I read. I don’t relish giving negative reviews and if I feel that a book isn’t to my taste, I stop reading it. I gave Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy my best try. I read about halfway through the book before admitting defeat and acknowledging that I had no desire to reach the conclusion. There are several reasons why I chose not to finish it, which I will divulge, but I hope that my criticism will not discourage the author, who was kind enough to send me a copy of her novel. I should point out that I am not this book’s intended audience. As I have said before in one of my previous reviews, to write a YA fantasy that is appealing to both preteens and adults is quite a feat and I don’t expect all authors to succeed. I do however expect a certain level of maturity in the writing. Werelove succeeds in its creative blending of Werelore and science fiction, but lacks the sophistication in writing style that I am accustomed to in adult fantasy novels.

One of the main issues I had with this novel was the main character. I found Layla to be extremely unlikable. She is part werewolf, part werepanther and lives in a home that feels much like a prison. Her caretakers act as her wardens and they enforce her father’s rules which are to keep Layla isolated from her peers and focused on her school work. Making friends, attending social events, and dating are a rite of passage that every teenage girl should experience. Rather than fight for her freedom or demand her independence, Layla is content to play the role of the victim. She meekly accepts all of her father’s wishes and relies on others to fight her battles for her. One could argue that Layla is docile because she is forced to take a serum twice a week to subdue her dual natures, but the serum doesn’t excuse her tendency to whine about her circumstances, give up when life proves to be too difficult, or hide from those who wish to bully or push her around. I didn’t finish the book, so there is a possibility that Layla finds her strength later in the novel, but I disliked her so much that I wasn’t willing to stick around and find out.

Another issue I had with this book was the dialogue. The conversations between the characters felt unnatural and forced. I found myself often wondering “is this something a 17 year old girl would say?” or “is this how a grown man would speak to a teenage girl?” I also started questioning certain character’s actions and reactions to many of the events that took place. I was shocked when Layla’s age was revealed because I assumed, based on how she interacted with others, that she was younger. One scene in particular that I found very difficult to swallow was when Donil, Layla’s love interest, was trying to help her escape to safety. The dialogue between the two was meant to be flirty, but it came out creepy instead. Layla is on the ground with a broken ankle, terrified and unsure where to turn, and Donil is insisting through telepathy that Layla should “move that cute body out of harms way.” He kept saying ‘Beautiful do this, and Beautiful climb that.’ Why is he hitting on her when he should be focused on keeping her alive?

I should also mention that I am not a fan of multiple first person narratives. The story is told in the third person, but each chapter starts with a different point of view. My limit for first person narratives is three. Any more than three and I start to skim. This is a personal preference and not a criticism. While this book is not to my taste, others will appreciate the creativity that went into it. I’m always looking for books that take a popular theme, in this case werelore/werelove, and mold it something shiny and new. There aren’t too many books out there that explore the possibility of Werehybrids, nor are there many books that mix elements of science fiction and urban fantasy. The ideas in this book are strong but the execution needs improvement.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Review: Sleepless by Cyn Balog

It used to be that if I didn’t like a book within the first fifty pages, I would stop reading and move on to the next one. It seems silly doesn’t it? I mean with some books it takes a hundred pages or more before the story really starts to pick up and things get interesting. However, there are still those books, such as Sleepless, where you try your hardest to give the book a shot, to not judge it too soon, but by the end you just wind up feeling as though the book was undeserving of your time and attention. As it was, I didn’t even make it through the whole story. I skimmed the last eighty pages, just to see how it ended. While the idea of Sleepless and sandmen is interesting, the plot was almost non-existent and the characters were irritating and unlikable.

At barely over 200 pages, we as readers learn little about the characters other than that they are impulsive, selfish, and at times violent. The story focuses on Julia, a girl in high school who recently lost her boyfriend in a car accident, and Eron, a sandman who has performed his duties for a hundred years and is ready to move onto the next phase of his life—to become human again. Certain humans who are near death are given the choice to move on to the afterlife or become a sandman, and once they have completed their service they are given a second chance at life. It is Eron’s job to train the next sandman (Julia’s recently departed boyfriend, Griffin) before he can fully transition to the next stage of his life. The one thing that both men have in common is that they are madly in love with Julia and neither is willing to let her go. That’s where the similarities end.

Griffin is a jerk who treated Julia like crud when he was alive (I love how this behavior is somehow justified when she claims that he toughened her up and gave her a thicker skin) and even worse as a sandman. You know that Griffin is truly a winner when he plots the murder of his best friend, simply because he was making advances towards his former girlfriend. As for Eron… well… he is just dull and annoying, and at times even a little bit creepy. Eron describes putting people to sleep as seducing his charges into slumber. Yuck. Helping someone sleep should not be confused as a sexual act, which is exactly what happens when Eron is trying to show Griffin how to perform his duties. As for plot, there really wasn’t much there. First Julie is in danger from Griffin’s best friend. Then Julie is in danger from Griffin. Eron has elected himself her personal hero and must protect her from both. Insert some false alarms and then throw in a little danger and wah lah, you have Sleepless!

Rating: 1/5 Stars

Review: Front and Center (Dairy Queen, #3) by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

As much as I have enjoyed this series, I felt the third installment of Dairy Queen wasn't as strong as the first two. D.J. spends way too much time fretting over her feelings for her friend Brian, when she should have been more focused on basketball and scholarships. Also, her “decision” not to attend a D-1 school because she hates the idea of being the center of so much attention seemed like a huge step back from the first book.

In Dairy Queen, D.J. decides to go out for the boy's football team, because she didn’t want to live her life like one of the cows on her farm. If you haven’t read the book, I realize that this statement may seem incredibly strange, so let me explain. Cows do what they are told. They fall in line, literally. D.J. spent the better part of a year doing what everyone asked of her, never questioning authority. When she realized what had become of her life, she decided to do something about it. I would think after becoming the first woman to play on an all male football team at her high school and having grown up with two famous older brothers, that D.J. would have been accustomed to being in the spotlight by now.

If the idea of playing basketball in front of thousands of people is terrifying, imagine having millions of people read an article about your private life in People magazine, because that is exactly what happened to D.J. in the sequel Off Season. If she can overcome People unceremoniously announcing her relationship with the rival high school’s quarterback, then playing basketball in front of an audience shouldn’t be a problem. I mean, how many times must a person be told that they are an amazing basketball player before they feel confident enough to play ball without being distracted by the number of people watching?

Regardless of any issues I had with Front and Center, this series really is wonderful. The first book had me in stitches and the sequel brought me to tears. Front and Center, while not my favorite in the series, had many memorable moments and a very satisfying ending. Now, if there was any chance that Mrs. Murdock might consider writing Dairy Queen #4, then I take back what I said about the ending being satisfying and I demand a sequel! I want more!

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Wicked Intentions (Maiden Lane, #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt

After spending the past several months reading mostly YA novels, it was nice to dive into something a bit more *ahem* grownup! Historical romance isn’t a genre I explore often, but I am familiar with Elizabeth Hoyt’s writing and have enjoyed her books in the past. When I learned that I had won the first book in her new series on goodreads giveaways I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to hunker down and read it. While Wicked Intentions is not her best work, I still found myself absorbed in the writing and caught up in the romance between the two protagonists, Temperance and Lord Caire.

Temperance is a young widow with a terrible secret who has dedicated her life to helping her brother Winter run the foundling home for orphaned and abandoned children. Lord Caire is a man of great wealth who has built his reputation on his voracious sexual appetite and unusual bed sport. When Lord Caire’s learns that his mistress has been brutally murdered, he ventures into poor town to investigate and seek retribution. The two protagonists meet by chance in a darkened alleyway, and soon after Lord Caire enlists Temperance’s services to guide him around town and make nice with the locals.

When reading this novel, one must keep in mind that this story takes place in 1737, so Lord Caire’s peculiar fetish and Temperance’s deep, dark secret aren’t quite as shocking as one might suspect. This is the 21st century after all, so by this point we’ve pretty much seen it all and then some! I should also mention that the two protagonists don’t embark on a physical relationship until much later in the novel, but when they do, it is quite literally a non-stop marathon of sex. Depending on your taste, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. While I’m happy to have won Wicked Intentions, it isn’t a book that one should spend too much money on. Check it out from the library if you can and enjoy it for what it is—a light, sexy summer read.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

This isn't the first Sarah Dessen novel I have read. While I wasn't terribly impressed by "Along for the Ride," I decided to give "Just Listen," a chance because it came so highly recommended.

I enjoyed "Just Listen" much more than the aforementioned novel, and yet I still felt that the book was lacking. Many of the characters fell flat for me and were devoid of anything even remotely resembling a personality. Also a good chunk of the book was told in the past tense, which was frustrating, because while I appreciate the occasional flashback, I wanted to spend more time in the present and less time hashing out what happened before. Too much of the novel is pure narration. I don't want to be told what happened. I want to experience what is happening in the present as it unfolds.

The characters I had the biggest problem with were Annabel and Owen. Owen was supposed to have anger management issues and yet I never got the impression that Owen was someone who struggled with his temper. The one time he did lose his cool, we as readers didn't get to see it. We're just told that he punched someone outside a bar. As for Annabel, her character was a little too weak for my liking. There were times when I wished I could shake her and demand that she defend herself, speak up, do something, anything! So, when she finally evolves and begins to confide in those around her, I was expecting something more groundbreaking and emotional than: she sat Owen down and told him everything. She sat her family down and told them everything. That's it? That's all I get? My favorite letdown, however, was when Annabel had a chance to confront her attacker in court and the author chooses to just skim over it, rather than let the readers experience what it must feel like for Annabel to be in this situation. I mean, come on!

The character I found to be the most fascinating was Whitney, Annabel's sister. I almost felt like the story would have been stronger, as well as had a greater impact on its readers if Whitney was the central character, instead of Annabel. Another character I wanted to learn more about was Sophie. How could the falling out between Annabel and Sophie not been explored further? Sophie finds out that her boyfriend assaulted her formerly best friend and instead of Annabel and Sophie talking it out, Sophie just fades away from the story. Again... What?! This story had so much promise, but I spent too much time scratching my head and not enough time immersed in what I had been given.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

The Eternal Ones is a story about reincarnation. People who are reincarnated are naturally drawn to the people and places that were once familiar, but it is in her current life that the main character Haven will discover what her future holds. In the many lives that she has lived, one thing has always remained constant—she is haunted by the man that she is destined to fall in love with. Burdened by visions since she was a young child, Haven is marked as an outcast in the small town she grew up in. It is only her determination to leave and the belief that her visions are real that give her the strength to oppose those who believe she is possessed by the devil himself and find the man that she can’t help but love.

This is some dark stuff, no? Did I mention that the same man she is destined to love may also be the same man who killed her in her previous life? I honestly don't know how I feel about this book. The story was engaging and at the same time aggravating and even a little bit creepy. It always felt like Haven was making brash decisions and putting her trust in the wrong people. She would make a choice, only to change her mind at the last moment and do something else entirely. Then there is the never ending question, can she trust the man that she loved once upon a time or is he her enemy? She knows next to nothing about him other than the small tidbits she gets from her visions and it's only towards the end that all the pieces fall together and the truth is revealed. There is quite a bit more to the story than I'm letting on, but I don't want to reveal too much, because half the fun of reading this book is trying to figure it all out. While I wasn’t terribly invested in the outcome of this story, as the events unfolded and secrets were revealed, I found it increasingly difficult to put the book down. I wanted to know if in this life Haven would finally get her happy ending…

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

I loved the first half of this book. The interaction between the two leading characters was amusing and refreshing. The story centers around a young vampire prince named Lucius, who comes to America from Romania to find his betrothed. Jessica, the bride in question, is reluctant to accept this unexpected suitor, that she too is a vampire, or that their marriage will unite two feuding vampire clans. This is a great concept, no? I thought so too, until I got to the second half of the book.

Honestly, the more YA fiction I read, the more I find myself growing tired of bland, cookie cutter male leads. Lucius, however, turned out to be fun, flirtatious and highly amusing. I enjoyed the light banter between the two leading characters; how he arrogantly lectured those around him on proper etiquette and his sarcastic, exasperated letters to his uncle. So, imagine my dismay when he devolves into a typical, spoiled, angst-ridden American teenager who thinks that he is the only one in the world who is suffering. I kept waiting for Jessica to tire of his whining and say "to hell with Lucius!" Jessica, instead, prefers to pine miserably for her betrothed, who can't make up his damn mind about who he wants to be with or what he wants to do with his life! Does he want to marry a Dragomir princess, or does he want to fool around with the head cheerleader? Does he want to bring peace to his people or let them go to war? Choices, choices... Then there is the obvious (or not so obvious) question, to live or not to live? Later in the book, when Lucius decides that his fate should lie in the hands of an angry mob, I was very tempted to stop reading altogether.

I kept waiting for the story to redeem itself, but alas I was disappointed. The ending was rushed and very far-fetched. What happened to Jessica's parents? Am I supposed to believe that Jessica's overprotective parents would just let her run off to Romania with her vampire uncle to confront a homicidal prince? They hid the car keys from her when she tried to save a suicidal Lucius, but they're fine with her flying off to a country on the brink of war? Sigh... I understand that there is a moral to the story, several in fact, but they meant little to me as I struggled through the latter half of this promising, but ultimately disappointing novel.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Review: Waking The Witch (Women of the Otherworld, #11) by Kelley Armstrong

I’m a big fan of Kelley Armstrong’s earlier novels. Bitten and Stolen are by far my favorite books in the series, and while I didn’t love Dime Store and Industrial Magic, I still enjoyed reading about Paige, Lucas, and Savannah. I struggled through Haunted (not a fan of Eve, I guess) and couldn’t finish Broken, despite the fact that I was thrilled that Clay and Elena were back in the spotlight. So all in all, I had pretty much given up on the Otherworld series. I even attempted to read Armstrong’s YA series at one point, but couldn’t get through the first book. When I heard that a new book was coming out about Savannah, well… that’s all the information I needed to kick start my fickle interest in the Otherworld series again. Savannah was such a kickass character as a kid and I couldn’t wait to read about her as an adult.

I liked Waking the Witch. I did. Really! It’s just… the story revolved around a murder mystery, which was interesting, but the plot rarely deviated from its set course, which was to solve the case and capture the murderer. Mysteries aren’t really my preferred genre, and while Waking the Witch is technically urban fantasy, it read like a straightforward murder investigation with only a hint of the supernatural to spice up the plot. If not for the fact that the main character is a Witch and that the crime committed may have had something to do with a sacrificial ritual, it didn’t feel much like reading urban fantasy. What happened to all the characters I loved? There were very few cameos, with Adam the half demon being the only exception. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m not going to give a plot summary. I will say that it was written very well with plenty of clues thrown in to keep me guessing what would happen next and who the killers might be. I expected the book to have a clear cut ending with all the loose ends tied up nicely, but was surprised to discover that it was open ended, meaning a sequel to this particular tale is in the works!

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

I read urban fantasy/paranormal romance for the most part, but every now and then I like to venture outside my chosen genre and read something a little different. In this case, it was good old fashioned fantasy. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Brightly Woven. I would pick up my library copy with every intention of reading it for only a short time, only to find that while reading it, more time had passed then I realized. The story’s general premise is fairly simple. Two kingdoms are on the brink of war when one kingdom suspects the other of assassinating its King. It turns out that a rogue wizard is the one responsible for the King’s death and the main character Sydelle, a weaver by trade, is whisked away on a journey across the country with the reckless, young wizard North to stop the war before it even begins. It should be noted, however, that in the beginning Sydelle is an unwilling participant. In exchange for ending a drought in Sydelle’s village, North requests that she accompany him on his expedition, and her father is all too willing to hand over his only daughter, if only to keep her safe and far away from the soldiers of the enemy kingdom.

As readers, we don’t learn North’s motives for dragging Sydelle along until much later in the novel, but we are given plenty of clues. One clue that we are given in the beginning is that Sydelle is able to repair North’s cloaks, which he uses as talismans to channel magic. Each cloak represents a different element, and the ability to repair a talisman without destroying its effectiveness is very rare. Sydelle quickly becomes his assistant, and by learning about magic and its history, how to make elixirs, as well as the source of North’s dark past and painful childhood, she slowly discovers the truth about whom or what she really is.

I enjoyed seeing how their relationship developed throughout the novel. While, North was never entirely honest with Sydelle, and withheld important information from her on more than one occasion, it was obvious that he cared about her and that her safety was of the utmost importance. I didn’t appreciate, however, how North kept abandoning her in inns and pubs while he ran off on some mini adventure or duel. The girl isn’t fragile! I think she has proven more than once that she smart, resourceful and perfectly capable of holding her own. She isn’t some delicate flower that needs to be locked away in a cupboard at the slightest hint of danger! All in all, this was a very enjoyable book with some surprising twists and a sweet, innocent romance between two people who never expected to fall in love.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between (Rhiannon's Law, #1) by J.A. Saare

I’m sort of at a loss with Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between. I had high hopes for this book because the overall consensus was that it was really good. The story started out strong and stayed that way well beyond the halfway point, but started to lose me when the two main characters hooked up. Since this is the first book in the series, it sort of takes the fun out of reading future novels if the relationship between the leading lady and her love interest has already reached its peak. Half the fun of reading a series is wondering when the two main characters are going to get together and admit their feelings for one another. However, the moment they do, suddenly all the sexual tension and delicious innuendo in the relationship goes poof! If I were reading a standalone novel this wouldn’t be an issue.

The one thing I really loved about this book was the protagonist, Rhiannon. She is a necromancer with an attitude. She will never hesitate to throw a punch or execute a roundhouse kick if she thinks you deserve it. She will also never miss an opportunity to demonstrate her vast knowledge of insults and cuss words should she feel that you need a cold dose of reality. One of her more memorable quotes was:

“Well, well, well. Tickle my elmo ass silly. I was sitting across from a person who enjoyed talking to dead people, and if they wouldn’t talk, then by God, he’d just wake their corpses up instead. Next to him was a moody, chain-smoking vampire who just might be bipolar and smoked like a corncob pipe.”

Her relationship with the men in her life is highly entertaining, particularly with her love interest Disco and mentor Ethan. Disco is a vampire who enlists her services in locating the individual responsible for the deaths of many vampires in the area. Ethan is a necromancer who is beholden to Disco’s family (aka coven of vampires) and needs Rhiannon’s assistance with locating the spirits of the vampires who have been murdered. Both men are so polite and good-humored, making Rhiannon seem so crass and difficult in comparison. She has a soft side as well, but her life hasn’t been easy and acting tough and keeping others at a distance gives her a sense of security.

The biggest problem I had with this book was the ending. It was completely random! Imagine if you will, you’re reading a historical romance. I’m not saying that this book is a historical romance, but rather I am attempting to illustrate how ridiculous the ending of Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between was. As with most historical romance novels the main couple reaches some form of marital bliss by the end or in the epilogue. Now imagine that just at the moment they say I do, a giant spaceship swoops down and uses its neon beams to abduct the happy couple and carry them off into space. That is what the ending to this novel felt like. It came completely out of left field. I will read the sequel when it comes out because I’m curious, but I’m a little wary of what new surprises I will find.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

I wanted to love this book. It had all the right ingredients: a sassy heroine, inventive world building, an appealing love interest who was more than just eye candy, and just the right balance of humor and drama. So why didn’t I love it? The answer is simple. The writing was too young for my taste. This isn’t a flaw; it’s simply a personal preference. I read YA all the time, but not all YA is to my liking. To write a YA fantasy that is appealing to both preteens and adults is quite a feat and I don’t expect all authors to succeed. I do however expect a certain level of maturity in the writing and a protagonist who has strength of character and is able to learn from his/her mistakes and grow as an individual. I believe that Paranormalcy succeeds in this respect.

Evie is a character that many can identify with. She is vibrant, clever and feisty, and is just as determined to make friends as she is to create enemies. However, Evie is more than just a spunky heroine. She is also a young girl who has spent most of her life without a family to call her own. She is constantly surrounded by others, both human and paranormal, but it is hard not to be lonely when the woman she would call mother keeps her at a distance and her best friend is a mermaid who lives behind a wall of glass, unable to provide touch or comfort.

Evie spends most of her days hunting down and tagging unregistered paranormals because of her ability to see through glamour. While she is suited and well adjusted to this lifestyle, she yearns for a simpler life, where getting your driver’s license and choosing a prom dress is more important than catching a hag or luring a vampire out into the open with a boat-neck t-shirt. It isn’t until she captures Lend, a boy with the ability to change his face that she begins to question authority and her place in the world. Something or someone is destroying paranormals and Lend claims he is searching for answers on how to stop it. The IPC (International Paranormal Containment Agency) is reluctant to believe him, especially since they can’t identify what he is. Together, Evie and Lend embark on a journey to find answers and stop whatever evil is destroying the paranormals.

The issues I had with this story are few, but bothered me all the same. I thought that Evie was too trusting of Lend in the beginning. For someone who she knows next to nothing about, she sure was eager to spend most of her free time getting to know him in his cell. I get that there aren’t a lot of people her age at the IPC, and that growing up with only a mermaid to talk to can be quite lonely, but use some common sense! Just because there is a cute boy in the vicinity doesn’t mean that all rationale needs to be tossed out the window! As far as love interests go, however, Lend was definitely one of the more appealing choices with his easy going nature and dry sense of humor. The other issue I had with the story was the pacing. Too much time seemed to be spent on things that didn’t push the plot forward. I think it’s great that the TV show Easton Heights gives Evie some sense of normalcy, but did so much time need to be spent discussing it with everyone? Overall, this was an entertaining read with likable characters and a unique take on how humans deal with paranormals.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Other by Karen Kincy

I must admit, I was rather looking forward to reading this book. It's a debut novel from a first time author and I think she did a decent job. The story takes place in a small town in Washington where people are struggling to coexist with supernatural beings, also known as Others. The main character Gwen is half human, half pooka and has never met her Welsh pooka father. She grew up with her human mother, stepfather, and half-sister and spent most of her life homeschooled because her parents wish to keep her Other half a secret. Gwen is in a relationship with Zack, a boy who comes from a very religious Christian background, and she fears telling him about her Otherness almost as much as she worries about losing her virginity. The story really starts to take off after Others in her area start turning up dead and Gwen decides to investigate these murders, along with her friend Tavian, a kitsune or fox spirit. He is the one character that I grew quite fond of while reading. He eventually becomes a rival for Gwen’s affection, and I find it terribly endearing that he is only 5’4, while Gwen towers over him at 5’7. What can I say, I like short guys :o)

What I loved most about Other was how Gwen continuously struggled with her Otherness and with what it means to be only half human. Those who live in her small town perceive and judge Others because they fear what they can’t understand. There is an interesting example of this when Gwen is grocery shopping with her father and they run into a centaur in the fruit and vegetable aisle. Gwen simultaneously wants to embrace her Otherness and reject it. She hates the idea of being different from the norm, but is quick to defend those who are being slandered. When her family makes ignorant remarks toward Others or when people use slurs such as "gick" or "cur,” she becomes incensed, yet when victims start turning up, she is quick to accuse a local Werewolf of being the murderer, simply because of her own prejudice against Weres. The common assumption is that to be a Were, one must also be a violent criminal. There is also her prejudice against Others that are made instead of bloodborn. She takes pride in the fact that she was born half pooka and looks down on vampires and Weres because they were made or are “diseased.”

My biggest issue with Other was that it was predictable. I guessed that the killer would be one of two people and was disappointed to discover towards the end that my assumption, more or less, was correct (I can’t explain without spoilers). I also suspected which characters would turn up as victims of the serial killer, which lessened the impact of their untimely deaths. There are always those people who no matter what they read or watch on TV, always seem to know what is going to happen and who the killer is. I'm not one of those people. Not by a long shot. So for me to figure certain things out within the first hundred pages of the book was disappointing. It was also difficult for me to truly lose myself in the story. I kept setting little goals, such as “I'm going to read up to page 250, before I stop reading and do this...” Get the idea? One shouldn't be so conscious of the fact that they are reading during the act. It takes all the fun out of it! I’m not saying that the book was boring, but it wasn’t particularly thrilling either. I’m interested in reading the next book in the series, which centers on a character named Brock. You’ll have to read Other to learn more about him!

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

I’m on the fence about this one. I enjoyed reading Bayou Moon and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series and yet… The things that I didn’t like are gnawing at me. The book was open-ended for one. There was a time when books within a series had satisfying endings. Sure, not all questions were answered, but there was a degree of finality about a book that, if nothing else, made you feel content until the next book in the series came along. Now more and more books within a series have huge cliff hangers and open endings that frustrate readers like me to no end. It begs the question, why read a book when you can just wait until the whole series has been published? That way you don’t have to torture yourself wondering what is going to happen next. The ending in Bayou Moon was far from being awful or torturous, but it was still unsatisfying. The major issue was resolved, but the seed of the problem still remained.

The tone of Bayou Moon was rather violent and depressing at times. This isn’t to say that it didn’t have its lighter, funnier moments, but for the most part it was a downer. The story follows William, a changeling from the Weird (a land full of magic) and Cerise, a young warrior from the edge (the border between the Weird and the Broken, aka our world). Both characters join forces when they cross paths on their journey to Sicktree and discover that they have a common goal. William is intent on finding and killing Spider, the leader of a group of assassins called the Hand. Cerise is searching for her parents, who were abducted by the Hand for being in possession of an object of great value. Many battles are fought during their travels and I must say that the violence in this tale was a bit more graphic then I’m used to. Every time some character lost a body part or died in some gruesome fashion, I paused, gave the customary “eeeewww,” and then read on.

One thing that I think is important to mention is that there are A LOT of characters in this book and at one point I couldn’t keep them all straight. The main character, Cerise comes from a very large family and keeping track of all her cousins, aunts, uncles—even her siblings were a challenge to remember. When a character died, I would be at a loss as to who it was and what relation they were to Cerise. However, towards the end I was starting to get a handle on who was who. When the final battle came to a close, I was desperate to find out who made it out alive, but all I was told was that 15 adults survived. Ok… Well… Which 15?! I became attached to a lot of these characters and I wanted to know who made it and who didn’t!

I wanted to love this book, because I love anything written by Ilona Andrews, but despite the steamy sexual tension between the two main protagonists and the imaginative world building, this story was slow paced and bogged down by too many first-person narratives and scenes that didn’t push the plot forward. It’s a shame really, because the first book in the series, On the Edge, was really very good. If you’re a fan of Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniel’s series, I really urge giving this series a try.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Skin Game by Ava Gray

In the words of a good friend of mine, Skin Game was a fun popcorn read. The story plays out much like an action movie. The two main characters are Kyra a con artist with the ability to steal a person’s talent through touch, and Reyes, a sexy hit man who was hired to track down Kira, retrieve the money that she stole and kill her. To get close to Kyra and attempt to earn her trust, he poses as a drifter and insists that she give him a lift when one of her cons starts to go sour. She is reluctant to trust a man so eager to hitch a ride in her car, but Reyes proves to be quite charismatic and she can’t deny her desire to get to know him a little more intimately. Reyes is drawn to Kyra as well, and keeping his mind on the mission and his hands to himself proves to be much more difficult than he ever imagined!

I suppose Skin Games could be considered a paranormal romance, but other than Kyra’s unusual ability, there are no other supernatural elements in this book. In terms of plot, not much happens other than the occasional explosion, bar fight, kidnapping and narrow escape. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. The highlight of Skin Game is definitely the relationship between Reyes and Kyra. Reyes realizes that if he hopes to learn any of Kyra’s secrets, he must do more than simply seduce her. He needs to be open about himself and honest about his past. At first it is just an act, but soon Reyes discovers that his feelings for her are genuine and the idea of causing her pain or being permanently separated from her is unbearable. Kyra has never had a deep, lasting relationship with a man before because of her ability, but with Reyes she can let her guard down and just enjoy being affectionate with someone for once.

While Skin Game didn’t have the most original premise and the ending was rather predictable, it was still a fun read with enjoyable characters and a romance that would make your toes curl! There are plenty of steamy moments throughout this book, many of which took place in a moving vehicle, and admittedly those were the more memorable ones! The next book in the series it titled Skin Tight, which features two secondary characters from Skin Game and I’m interested to see where their story leads.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

When I commit to reading a book over 400 pages, I assume that the extended length is necessary, even crucial to the developing plotline. In this case, however, the length can be attributed to the fact that the author couldn’t make up her mind about whether to write a love story or an urban fantasy. The love story is about a popular cheerleader named Isobel, who is at the top of the social pyramid, but unexpectedly takes a tumble when she finds herself identifying more with the loner Goth kid, Varen, than with her friends. The urban fantasy is about a normal girl losing her grasp on reality because she is caught between the real world and the dream world. The two conflicting stories grated against one another, making the transitions between the love story and the urban fantasy feel jarring.

The story that I was most interested in reading and found myself skimming entire chapters to get to was the love story between Isobel and Varen. The two form a shaky alliance when they are paired together on an English project, but with each encounter this alliance slowly transforms into a tentative friendship, and eventually a budding romance. I appreciated that Isobel didn’t fall instantaneously in love with him, despite finding herself strangely drawn to him. I also appreciated how strong Isobel was in her convictions. She wasn’t swayed by her friend’s opinions, she didn’t put up with her boyfriend’s bullying, and she even willingly committed social suicide because to do otherwise would have been morally reprehensible.

Another aspect of the book worth mentioning that I found refreshing for once, was that Isobel came from a two parent household. Too often YA books have divorced, abusive, or absentee parents. I’m sure having a broken family makes for more interesting storytelling, but for every dysfunctional family out there, there are a dozen functional ones. Isobel’s parents were actively involved in her life. They cared if she didn’t call to say that she would be home late and that she was suddenly spending all this time with a guy they had never met. They helped her with her homework, expected her to be present at meals, and grounded her when she didn’t follow the rules. I’m tired of reading YA novels where the parents play no role in the story, are portrayed as the enemy, or are too accepting and understanding of their child’s erratic or reckless behavior.

Looking through the reviews of this book, I’m surprised to see that they were overwhelmingly positive. Some even boasted that this was the best YA book of the year. I adamantly disagree. I have no desire to continue this series. For once, I wished that a book didn’t have a paranormal spin to it. I wanted a shadow to just be a shadow and a dream to just be a dream. Nevermore was a great love story and a very mediocre urban fantasy. I’m sure many who read this book will love it and won’t care that it doesn’t make any sense and that more questions are created than answered.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Review: Hunted By The Others (H&W Investigations, #1) by Jess Haines

It isn’t that Hunted by Others is a bad book. It’s just not terribly original. I’ve read so much urban fantasy/paranormal romance in the past few years, that I can’t help but compare this book to more successful, prominent series in the genre. This debut novel was enjoyable for a time, but I found myself losing interest the further I got into the story. I also couldn’t help but notice the glaring similarities between this book and Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series. Three stars is generous considering that I skimmed the last hundred pages. Perhaps had I been new to the genre, I would have enjoyed this book more. It’s really difficult nowadays to find a series that brings something new and different to urban fantasy.

The story centers on a young woman named Shiarra Waynest, a private detective who gets hired by the Circle (a group of mages) to find an ancient artifact that can control vampires and werewolves. Shiarra is living in a world where those of supernatural origins chose to reveal themselves to human society after the events of 9/11. Since Shiarra is human, she is reluctant to get involved in paranormal politics, but agrees to take on this very dangerous case because the money turns out to be too good to pass up and without it she risks losing her business. The job entails that she get up close and personal with the infamous vampire Royce who owns half the city and is suspected of being in possession of the artifact in question. She also finds that she has become a target of the werewolves and the whites hats (an organization of humans who hate supernatural beings and whose goal is to exterminate them). With the help of her business partner Sara, a quirky mage named Arnold, and a special belt that gives her super strength and speed, Shiarra fights to stay alive and finish what she started.

There is something incredibly unappealing about a main character who is afraid of everything. Any time Shairra was confronted with something supernatural and/or magical she either A. screamed her head off, B. shook uncontrollably, or C. curled into a fetal position. It wasn’t until she got the belt that she started to show any emotional/physical strength whatsoever. I should also point out that all skills used when wearing the belt, including any semblance of calm that she conveys during a fight comes from the dead hunter’s spirit that gives the belt power. The belt part was nifty, but the main character was annoying and weak and redeemed herself only towards the end of the story.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: The Frenzy by Francesca Lia Block

I did not like this book. There were times while reading it that I thought I would change my mind—that perhaps I may have misjudged it and that there was, in fact, some good stuff lurking in these pages. It turns out, however, that my initial feeling was correct and that I should have stopped reading The Frenzy long before I reached the ridiculous conclusion. I realize now how misguided I was to actually believe that the author was going to somehow transform this seemingly cliché story about a girl who is a werewolf and is struggling against her true nature, into a powerful, moving novel that leaves you feeling haunted long after you’ve finished reading the last page. I thought, The Frenzy would have an impact on me. It did in a way—it’s called revulsion.

The main character, Olivia is a werewolf. I know it. You know it. The author certainly knows it. Yet she just can’t seem to put two and two together and figure out that she’s not entirely human. She has blackouts around the full moon and wakes up completely naked and, often times, covered in blood. Check! She has a strong desire to be in the woods and never leave. Check! She is consumed with rage, has a fine layer of hair covering her entire body, and can communicate telepathically with a “pack” of strange boys with gold eyes. Check, check, check! It takes her the entire novel to figure out things that the reader can determine within the first 50 pages or so. Secondary characters are all but shaking her and yelling, “You’re a werewolf!” and still she resists the obvious truth. One could argue that she is in denial, but to be in denial, Olivia must first address the possibility of being a werewolf and then reject it. However, it never even occurs to Olivia that she may be a wolf until she is actually conscious of turning into one!

These next few lines may be considered spoilers, if I felt that there was anything to spoil, but since the author all but spells out everything for her readers, just be assured that I’m not telling you anything that you wouldn’t be able to figure out on your own just by reading the first half of this novel. For example, Olivia looks nothing like her parents, but there is a strange man in town who, like her, has red hair and green eyes. Hmmmmm. All the victims of the full moon murders are the fathers of kids who wronged her in some way when she was growing up. Hmmmmm. Her best friend has become involved with a boy that he meets in a haunted house. Olivia has never met this boy, nor has anyone ever seen him before. Hmmmmm. There are “clues” sprinkled throughout the pages of this entire novel that Olivia fails to piece together until the very end. I kept waiting for there to be this huge twist, because everything just couldn’t be this transparent. I was wrong.

If there is one thing that the author did right with The Frenzy, it is that she created a main character that for once, isn’t physically perfect. Too many times I have read urban fantasy novels where the main character is a werewolf or a vampire and he or she is beautiful beyond measure and people cannot help but be drawn to them in some way. Olivia, however, is a pariah in her small town. Imagine being a teenage girl and you’re completely covered in hair. Regardless of her “monstrous” appearance, Olivia is still able to find love with a human boy, and I must admit the romance between them was very sweet, even if it bordered on the obsessive at times. If you have plans to read this book, don’t bother. It may be a quick read, but it is not worth the time.

Rating: 1/5 Stars

Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Yet another cliffhanger ending in a YA urban fantasy… I feel like there should be a warning label on these types of books. Read at your own risk—book may leave you feeling cheated and unsatisfied! Nightshade came highly recommended to me and while I enjoyed it to some extent, I thought the overall story was just all right and didn’t really add anything new or exciting to the genre. There is the classic love triangle between the heroine, the man she is supposed to love, and the man who she can’t help but love. Throw in a prophecy, some werewolves, an ancient ongoing war, and you have a well written novel in some serious need of some editing! One can only read so many pages about the main character obsessing over her impending nuptials and forbidden love without wondering, “To what end?”

The main character, Calla, is the young alpha female of the Nightshade clan. The Nightshades and their rival clan, the Banes, serve the Keepers (wizards) by protecting a mountain where an ancient power called Haldis resides. A group of rogue wizards referred to as the Searchers are after Haldis, and in order to prevent them from getting to it, the Keepers force the two wolf clans to form a third clan, consisting of all the young pups from both the Nighshades and the Banes. Since Calla is the alpha female, she is expected to marry the alpha Bane male, Ren. I should point out that she is not entirely unhappy with this arrangement. Ren and Calla are friends, and while Ren is a bit of a flirt and has a reputation for going after the ladies, the two are mutually attracted to one another. The problem is that Calla doesn’t know if she will ever love him the way a mated couple should love one another. Bring in Shay, a human boy that Calla exposes her true nature to in order to save his life, and Calla’s resolve to marry Ren starts to crumble.

Now I’m all for love triangles, but this particular group of lovebirds really grated on my nerves. Calla’s inability to choose between the two men was selfish and cruel, because she essentially led them on throughout the entire book. When she was with Ren, she was horrible to Shay, going so far as to humiliate him in public in order to ensure that no one would recognize her feelings for him. However, when the two start spending more time together as a result of some events that occur in the book, Ren is led to believe that he is an insufficient mate because he can’t understand why an alpha female would rather be with a human boy then with her mate and her own kind. Jealousy and fighting ensues, and inevitably Calla must choose between duty and love.

The biggest issue I had with this book is a spoiler, so skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t already read the book. Obviously the only way for Calla and Shay to be together is if he becomes a wolf, so it was inevitable that the author would find a reason for Calla to turn him. However, the manner in which he was turned really made me angry! Calla is dying and the only way to save her is with pack blood. Since her pack isn’t there, turning Shay is her only option if she doesn’t want to die. The next part is where the author starts to lose me. Calla, who is half dead, somehow manages to summon the strength to bite him and recite a complicated incantation to turn him into a wolf. It takes Shay mere seconds to seize uncontrollably and have his soul ripped in two before he is able to swoop in and save the day. Considering that Calla only has a few precious minutes to live before the poison reaches her heart and lungs, I have to say I never knew that turning a human into a wolf was so quick and easy!

I am interested in continuing the trilogy, but I’m not particularly excited to read the next novel. The werewolf history and culture was by far the most interesting aspect of Nightshade. I especially liked how Calla described what it is like to be a werewolf. Unlike in other stories where werewolves are ruled by lunar cycles and strong emotions, Calla is both human and wolf all the time and she can choose which form she wishes to inhabit and move freely between the two. If you are a fan of werewolf stories and you’re looking for a well written YA, then Nightshade is definitely a good choice. Just be warned that the main focus of this novel is on the love triangle, and many pages are devoted to Calla agonizing over who she should choose.

Rating: 3/5 Stars