Friday, February 28, 2014

Summoning Forces Beyond Your Control

Expected Publication:  June 24th, 2014
Summoned (Redemption's Heir #1)
By: Anne M. Pillsworth
Tor Teen
ISBN-13:  9780765335890

When the Elder Gods extend an invitation, be wary of the strings attached.

While browsing in a rare book store in Arkham, Sean finds an occult book with an ad seeking an apprentice sorcerer, from a newspaper dated March 21, 1895.  Even more intriguing, the ad specifically requests that applicants reply by email.

Sean's always been interested in magic, particularly the Lovecraftian dark mythology.  Against his best friend Edna's ("call-me-Eddy-or-else") advice, he decides to answer the ad, figuring it's a clever hoax, but hoping that it won't be.  The advertiser, Reverend Redemption Orne, claims to be a master of the occult born more than 300 years ago.  To prove his legitimacy, Orne gives Sean instructions to summon a harmless by useful familiar -- but Sean's ceremony takes a dark turn, and instead he accidentally beckons a bloodthirsty servant to the Cthulhu Mythos god Nyarlathotep.  The ritual is preemptively broken, and now Sean must find and bind the servitor, before it grows too strong to contain.  But strange things are already happening in the town of Arkham.....


     I thought that the premise of this one sounded pretty cool.  A boy answers an ad for a wizard's apprentice, to find out the secret behind the authentically aged piece of newspaper containing it.  The mystery is there, because the ad mentions email which was not invented until over 100 years after the ad was taken out!  I thought to myself, okay, here we go.  A book with some humor and mostly about a modern teenage boy training to become a wizard's apprentice.  I even speculated that it involved time travel (that interesting me slightly more than just a wizard character who is centuries old), which would have been spectacular.  I was unfamiliar with the term "Cthulhu Mythos god" and was sincerely hoping that I would have it explained to my satisfaction, or be so minor to the plot that it didn't matter what it was.  None of my expectations were met in a way that I wanted them to be.
     Being that I am not really a horror aficionado, I can't really compare the mythology in this book to that in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.  But I can tell that the author draws heavily from him, on the basis that in her book's world, Lovecraft was part of a secret society in the know and just writing the truth.  That is a cool concept and I would have loved it - had I already been a Lovecraft fan, and been in on the history.  The whole plot of this book relies on prior knowledge of terminology and ideas from a mythology that I was not the least bit familiar with (at least in my opinion and reading experience)  and it wasn't really fleshed out in the novel.  I felt like it assumed prior knowledge, and because of that the terminology was vague to me - something that I was never really able to picture all that well in my mind.  Something that might have made this book a better experience for me would have been highly developed and sound characters.  I love characters that are so real they could walk off the page and share a drink with me at the local coffee shop.  That, or a plot that surpasses my need for intimate connections with the main characters (it takes an extremely special kind of book to accomplish this feat).  Keeping that in mind, me being on the outskirts of this very plot driven novel, with characters whose whole lives seem to revolve around the plot, it never really connected.  
     Eddie was only there to scold Sean for contacting some "creep" on the Internet and to annoy the heck out of him.  To be the one-dimensional best friend (although their strong bond is showcased when later on she knows exactly where to find him when he's missing).  I believe the friendship, but it does nothing for me.  Sean's Dad is the "concerned single parent" who also restores stained glass windows.  That's about all there is to him, other than him being a widower who doesn't date and a skeptic of all things magic/supernatural.  His role is parent and skeptic: check mark.  Most of the other characters are fleeting, just there to move along the plot.  Redemption Orne, arguably the most important character other than Sean, is nothing more than an Internet presence, of someone who might be a mentally deluded weirdo just playacting.  Sean is the typical hero, just goofing off and doing things out of curiosity - until it gets him into real trouble and the shit hits the fan.  I never really got to know him as a character though, outside of his mission to bind the servitor, find out the truth about Redemption and become "serious" in regards to messing with the supernatural.  The message of this book seems to be, don't play with fire unless you're ready to be burned.  And it's not a subtle message, with the very serious consequences of Sean's actions on a pet-killing spree across the neighborhood and sucking his own blood.  The action was spotty, the plot dragged in it's odd pacing and the novel was mostly set up for a series.  The disappearing pharmacy and its quirky pharmacist felt like they belonged in a different novel altogether, the one I had initially thought I was going to read (and its not a coincidence they were my favorite part/little fantasy quirk).
     That said, a lot of people would probably adore this book beyond belief.  I am not by any means stating that this book was bad, or does not have its audience somewhere out there.  Hell, Pillsworth probably has a built in curiosity audience in all the Lovecraft fans lurking out there, waiting for a book like this.  It's modern, approachable for a younger audience and has a very dark, science fiction edge to it.  But as someone who self-proclaimedly prefers fantasy to science fiction it just wasn't the book for me.  I thought it was a fantasy book and was highly disappointed.  But I did finish the book and was interested in the resolution of the whole issue Sean caused, so Pillsworth did manage to draw me in regardless of my slight boredom.  Overall, a decent book but not my thing.  Lovecraftians take notice and add to your to-reads.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is June 24th, 2014.*

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sugar and Spice, but Nothing Is Nice

Published:  January 7th, 2014
Salt (Salt #1)
By: Danielle Ellison
Entangled Teen
ISBN-13:  9781622663484
Penelope is a witch, part of a secret society protecting humans from demon attacks.  But when she was a child, a demon killed her parents -- and stole her magic.  Since then, she's been pretending to be something she's not, using her sister's magic to hide her own loss, to prevent being sent away.
When she's finally given the chance to join the elite demon-hunting force, Penelope thinks that will finally change.  With her sister's help, she can squeeze through the tests and get access to the information she needs to find "her" demon.  To take back what was stolen.
Then she meets Carter.  He's cute, smart, and she can borrow his magic, too.  He knows her secret -- but he also has one of his own.
Suddenly Penelope's impossible quest becomes far more complicated.  Because Carter's not telling her everything, and it's starting to seem like the demons have their own agenda...and they're far too interested in her.
     It took me A LONG TIME to become invested in this book.  Probably because Penelope is kind of stubborn, stupid and overall annoying for a great portion of this book!  The whole premise of this one, is that Penelope is a witch (part of a secret community of witches) and her sacred duty is to protect the Nons (humans) from demons.  But when Pen was a young child, her parents were killed by a demon who also took away her essence, leaving her without magic.  It should have killed her, but instead it left Pen almost an ordinary human and only able to do magic with family members around to draw power from.  Penelope is absolutely determined to be one of the elite demon hunters prized by her society, since it will give her access to the ritual she needs to restore her essence.  But one problem - without powers she can't pass the tests!  When mysterious fellow witch Carter comes into her life unexpectedly and she is able to draw magic from him, Pen needs to find out why.  Also why are all these demons after her?  Can they discover the truth before it's too late?
     The very first scene of this book, after us learning how important it is to have salt to fight off demons, is Penelope being cornered by one - without any salt, because she forgot it at home!!!  For someone with absolutely ZERO powers, you'd think she'd have a heck of a lot more common sense.  Also, she has a truly asinine need to join the Enforcers and fight against demons.  Every time her Grandma, Grandpa, or younger sister try to reason with her and get her to come to terms with her lack of magic, Pen basically does everything but actually stomp her feet and throw a fit!  She basically sticks her head in the sand and comes up with stupid plans to "work around it," by using her sister's magic secretly so she can pass her tests.  She doesn't seem to think about what will happen afterwards, when she has no one to draw from out in the field, and has to face a demon on her own!  Her family is made up of pretty flat characters, and her sister is especially a cardboard cutout only there when Pen really needs her.  There's a nice moment near the end, when she's forced to tell her boyfriend Thomas the family secret and he breaks up with her.  Then we see a little more depth to Pen's sister - too little, too late though for the most part.
     The whole family secret thing and speshul snowflake reveal of why Penelope is so different from anyone else with no essence, wasn't really all that surprising.  The reluctance of any adult in this book, EVER to listen to reason and do something about the demon crisis also wasn't surprising.  That's what happens when you write a young adult fiction book with NO strong, sensible, capable adult characters and make the teens the end-all-be-all of you fictional world.  They are the only ones able to clean up the mess, even if all they do is make out with each other and fumble the world saving until they barely squeak by.  Carter was nothing special as heroes go, though he was a likeable protagonist and I liked his backstory much more than Penelope's.  But him saving her stupid ass every five seconds from her own inability to THINK BEFORE ACTING got very old.  I'm glad  I didn't DNF, because I truly hate doing that and I did start enjoying myself later in the book.  Near then end it started getting its act together and the cliffhanger left me genuinely curious.  But all said and done, I don't think I'll be reading any further in this series for one reason alone: Penelope.
VERDICT:  2/5  Stars
*I received this book from Entangled Teen on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published on January 7th, 2014.*

Monday, February 24, 2014

Neverwas, Otherwhen & Maybe Soon...

Published:  January 7th, 2014
Neverwas (The Amber House Trilogy #2)
By: Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, & Larkin Reed
Arthur A. Levine
ISBN-13:  9780545434188

"I was sixteen the second time I had my first kiss..."

At the end of AMBER HOUSE, Sarah made a choice that transformed everything -- and now she must choose it all again.

Things are very different -- better -- for Sarah and her family: her Aunt Maggie grew up; her parents are happily married; her grandmother died after a long, productive and respected life.  But other things are different too, and not for the better.

After growing up in the free country of the Pacific Northwest, Sarah Parsons has settled in at Amber House, the stately Maryland home that's been in her family for generations.  But the world surrounding the House feels deeply wrong to Sarah.  It's a place where the colonists lost the 1776 Insurrection, where the American Confederation of States still struggles with segregation, and where Sarah is haunted by echoes of a better world that she knows never existed.

Her friend Jackson shares these visions of a different world -- and together, they manage both to remember the way things ought to be, and to plan a daring mission that will reset the universe once again.  Sarah must figure out what has changed, and why, and how she can fix it -- how she can find her way to an otherwhen.


     I can see why some people would be confused by this book, especially the theory behind the alternate history in it.  It's a whole Hell of a lot to take in, even if you have read the first book in the series.  I did understand that in saving her younger brother, Sarah has managed to reset time.  She is now living in an alternate reality, where the colonists lost the Revolutionary War (known as the "Insurrection") and "America" doesn't exist as we know it.  Slavery continued a lot later on, the Civil Rights movement is basically happening now and North "America" is divided up into territories (the naming of the land as the American Confederation of States confuses me, as it's NOT really America).  In Sarah's own life, her Aunt Maggie is still alive, her brother Sam is okay, her Grandma wasn't a lonely alcoholic who drank herself to death and her parents are still marries.  For the Parsons family, life is good.  Everyone else, not so much.  Oh, and did I forget to mention that the Nazis won WWII and they are still around as a major political influence?  But the major mystery is what exactly did Sarah do that changed things so drastically?  Just saving Sam, or even Maggie couldn't have caused such a ripple effect, so far back in time.  So what else is different?  Where does the buck stop?  And just what lengths will Sara have to go to, to make the world the way it should be?
     I enjoyed trying to figure out the catalyst for the time travel and the break as to where the major shift was caused.  I definitely loved all of the intricacies of the plot involving Sarah's family history and the way it played into the present of the alternate timeline - and Sarah's original timeline as well.  As in the first book, Amber House in this one seemed like a living character alongside all of the people.  The addition of Aunt Maggie mixed things up in the family dynamic, with it causing Sarah and Sammy to not be quite as close as in the original scenario.  Also, the cultural differences definitely showed us that this Sarah was different from the old Sarah.  Similar in some ways, but definitely different in others (this Sarah loves designers, is comfortable with wealth, and only seems to be liberal when it suits her to be).  The relationships between Sarah and Jackson, & Sarah and Richard were at a contrast in different ways in this book than in the first.  Especially with a South that is reminiscent of Jim Crow era-South in our own timeline.  
      Sarah's biggest challenge in this book is to do what she knows to be right.  She spends a lot of the book trying to puzzle through her visions of an alternate timeline, with some help from Jackson, and waffles quite a bit on whether or not she wants to mess with the timeline again.  What if she makes things worse this time around?  Is it worth trying to get back to where she was, if it means the possibility of something even more horrific than her current time?  Probably the biggest problem for me was the contradictions of the alternate timeline.  At times it felt completely clear to me, and others it was a bit of a muddled haze.  How could a failed Insurrection in 1776 lead to WWII?  With a skewed geography, history and timeline of events, you'd think Europe would be more heavily effected than it seemed to be.  Also that means WWI still happened in this timeline.  How much different or the same was that from originally?  This is just the nitpicky history nerd in me though, dying to puzzle everything out, and fit it together!  Overall though, it's definitely a pulse-pounding adventure, sweet romance, historical mystery and time travel adventure of the one-of-a-kind variety!  It keeps you thinking the whole way through, and if you're willing to suspend some disbelief and enjoyed the first one, you should check it out!  Personally I can't wait to see how the ladies resolve it this time around, in the last book!

VERDICT:  3.5/5 Stars

*I received this book from Scholastic on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published on January 7th, 2014.*

Friday, February 21, 2014

Your Kiss Might Kill Me

Expected Publication:  February 25th, 2014
White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements #1)
By: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13:  9780373211104

One kiss could be the last.

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal.  But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal.  Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.

Raised among the Wardens - a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe - Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most.  Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she's crushed on forever.

The she meets Roth -- a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets.  Layla knows she should stay away, but she's not sure she wants to -- especially when the whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue, considering Roth has no soul.

But when Layla discovers she's the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with could brand her a traitor to her family.  Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.


     This just might be my favorite book by JLA now, even more so than Obsidian.  I think Roth has replaced Daemon in my affections!  That said, I know a lot of people awaiting this book are worried that it's going to devolve into juvenile, annoying love triangle territory.  It definitely does NOT go down that road.  It reminded me a lot of her almost-semi-quasi love triangle in her Lux series.  There are a few moments where you think the heroine might really have to make a decision between the two guys.  But then you realize that she is not confused, and knows what she wants.  Layla knows what and who she wants by the time White Hot Kiss ends.  Even if it might be beyond her reach at that point...
     Layla spends a lot of the book at war with herself, and her craving for the souls of others.  Being half gargoyle she doesn't really fit in with the Wardens of Heaven that raised her, due to her demon half which Layla tries to forget exists.  But she knows that she can never be with Zayne, the guy she likes, because of the need to propagate the race of Wardens by breeding full-bloods together.  And she can't even shift like a real gargoyle.  Not to mention, most of the Wardens wish Layla was dead.  Enter in Roth, an Upper Level demon who is all of the sudden one of Layla's classmates at school.  Turns out that someone in Hell is gunning for Layla due to a yen to start the apocalypse.  Her blood opens the door so to speak, and now that she's seventeen it's game on.  Can she trust Roth, who claims to want to prevent the apocalypse?  Or should she confess everything to the Wardens before it's too late?
     The mythology of this book was really well built, and while I myself didn't know it, a friend told me that originally gargoyles were thought to be Wardens of Heaven and protectors of the people.  So there is some basis in history to that particular nugget!  Also, this book had a great secondary cast of characters including Layla's sex-obsessed and boy crazy BFF Stacey.  She absolutely cracked me up!  Sam, another friend, was a font of random knowledge and always said the weirdest stuff, completely out of the blue (which actually works to Layla's advantage later in the book).  Oh and Roth!  Oh my goodness, what a guy!  I loved the fact that his familiars were tattooed on his body (that could come to life).  A killer snake named Bambi, some vicious kittens, and a dragon named THUMPER.  Also, Roth reminded me a lot of supposed "bad-boy" Daemon Black from the Lux series, but he definitely had more of an edge that Daemon did.  Because Roth is a demon from Hell - so he technically is the bad guy!  
     Layla herself was smart, loyal and could kick-ass, even without the ability to access her Warden abilities.  I loved that she refused to let Roth or Zayne (who was seriously overprotective and yo - mixed signals to the max) boss her around.  The revelation of her Mother and Fathers' identities were pretty twisted, especially that of her father.  That one kind of broke me as a reader!  Poor Layla, to have any hope of being wanted shattered was pretty devastating.  The first sixty percent or so of this book though, is more world-building than anything else and moved kind of slow.  But the shit definitely hits the fan at the end!  Overall, I loved it and am super excited to read the next book in the series and maybe get to know Zayne a little bit better.  I highly recommend it if you're looking for something different or are already a fan of JLA.  You won't be disappointed!

VERDICT:  4.5/5 Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie & also from Harlequin Teen on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is February 25th, 2014.*

V is For Villain and A is For A-Hole

Expected Publication:  May 20th, 2014
V Is For Villain
By: Peter Moore
ISBN-13:  9781423157496

Brad Baron is used to looking lame compared to his older brother, Blake.  Though Brad's basically a genius, Blake is a superhero in the elite Justice Force.  And Brad doesn't measure up at his high school, either, where powers like super-strength and flying are the norm.  So when Brad makes friends who are more into political action than weight-lifting, he's happy to join a new crew - especially since it means spending more time with Layla, a girl who may or may not have a totally illegal, totally secret super-power.  And with her help, Brad begins to hone a dangerous new power of her own.

But when they're pulled into a web of nefarious criminals, high-stakes battles, and startling family secrets, Brad must choose which side he's on.  And once he does there's no turning back.

Perfect for fans of The Avengers, Iron Man, and classic comic books, V Is For Villain reveals that it's good to be bad.


     This book reminded me of a cross between the Disney film, Sky High, and a recent superhero read called Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.  It has elements of YA angst, with the majority of the novel being set in a superhero school and the classes being split into those with powers and those without them (or with entirely useless or barely there ones).  The Disney edge about it is that the novel centers around the Baron family, is which Blake has all the powers and works on a team, as a real-life superhero.  His younger brother Brad is ordinary and viewed as an embarrassment to the family, a freak accident of nature.  The Steelheart thing about this book, is that the entire world knows about the superheroes.  They are the celebrities of this world and are followed constantly for coverage of their heroic exploits.  
     Brad is the protagonist of this novel and we spend the whole thing in his head, trying right along with him to decide if the superheroes really are the good guys and if he should become a villain instead.  We definitely get Brad's end of the spectrum quite a bit more, with him almost being paralyzed at the start of the book after being tackled by one of the powered kids too hard.  After mouthing off to his teachers one too many times, Brad is switched over to the A Program, and falls in with a group of kids who call themselves A-Holes.  The real reason Brad is interested in becoming villain though, is to hack into his geneticist mother's computers, and look at his gene mapping.  He wants to know why Brad has powers and he doesn't, when genetically speaking he should.  But digging deeper into his own past brings to the forefront a horrifying secret about the involvement of the government in the existence of super powers in the world - and just who the real heroes and villains are after all.
     I really enjoyed reading this one.  I felt that the characters were well developed, especially Brad and Layla, who were both really trying to think things through and have a sound reasoning for going to "the dark side."  Also, the whole superpower thing with Brad made for an interesting ride.  I wasn't expecting Moore to give him a secret one that he never knew he had.  It did make for a connection with Layla on a completely different level and still allowed Brad to be a societal outcast, albeit in a different way.  I liked the rest of the crew too, but felt like they were little kids playing dress up and sure enough, as soon as shit got real they all bailed out.  Blake was a superb caricature of the smug, self-involved, dumb brute hero character that's common in comics - that is, until he wasn't.  I loved the way Moore lulls you into thinking everyone is something different than really are and rips you apart with revelations.  My only complaint is that while the big reveal about Brad and Blake's respective powers at the end made sense, it was pretty cliched and really damn "muhahaha" in tone.  Other than that, I truly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to fans of comics and superheroes.  It struck the right balance most of the time between humor, action and philosophical musings.

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is May 20th, 2014.*

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pretending That I'm Doing Well

Published:  January 2nd, 2014
By: Susanne Winnacker
Hoddor Children's Books
ISBN-13:  9781444916171

Tessa is a variant with extraordinary abilities.  She could be a hero, but all she wants to do is fall in love...

Tessa is a variant, able to absorb the DNA of anyone she touches and mimic their appearance.  Shunned by her family, she's spent the last two years with the Forces of Extraordinary Abilities, a secret branch of the FBI.  There she trains with other variants, such as long-term crush Alec, who each have their own extraordinary ability.

When a serial killer rocks a small town in Oregon, Tessa is given a mission: she must impersonate Madison, a local teen, to find the killer before he strikes again.  Tessa hates everything about being an imposter - the stress, the danger, the deceit - but loves playing the role of a normal girl.  As Madison, she finds friends, romance, and the kind of loving family she'd do anything to keep.

Amid action, suspense, and a ticking clock, this super-human comes to a very human conclusion: even a girl who can look like anyone struggles the most with being herself.


     Tessa has lived a hard life, with her abusive mother, an absent father and a string of horrible step-dads.  Now she is living with a group of people who are special like she is - they're known as variants.  At a government sponsored training facility, the variant teens are learning how to use their special abilities to help the U.S. government from behind the scenes.  Tessa's ability is especially unique.  She can transform into anyone she's ever touched.  So when a serial killer starts killing people in small-town Oregon, it's time for Tessa's first solo mission - to impersonate Madison, one of the killer's victims who is dying of her injuries.  Taking over Madison's life, it's up to Tessa to find the killer and bring him to justice, before there are any more victims.  But with a family, friends and people that actually care about her, Tessa is beginning to want to stay in Madison's life, permanently.  She can only run so far from herself and her past before everything comes back to haunt her.....
     So, I went into this one excited for something that would be reminiscent of X-Men and have some butt-kicking action to it's story.  That isn't quite how this book went down though.  In reality, this is more of a feelings book with powers, than the other way around.  The first part of the book introduces us the idea of variants, Tessa as a person and her history, hot best friend (who Tessa wants to be more) Alec, her friend Holly and mean girl Kate (who is sort of dating Alec).  I understood where Tessa was coming from, with her past of being abused and abandoned.  That shit messes a person up.  But her fixation of Alec was just embarrassing.  And she lets Holly talk her into transforming into Kate so that she can kiss Alec.  Of course he finds out it's really her, and it's a truly humiliating episode, which is difficult to read about because it's such an immature betrayal of trust on her part.  I felt like Alec was kind of an asshole anyways, treating Tessa like a potential girlfriend half the time, and the rest of it was spent treating her like a petulant child or a complete stranger.  He sends off some of the most confusing signals EVER.
     The real heart of the book and most of what I enjoyed about it, started when Tessa begins to live Madison's life.  The mystery about the serial killer was intriguing, and there was a nice twist about the motivations that I probably should have seen coming, but didn't.  But I never considered the situation as anything other than a run-of-the-mill, everyday, garden variety serial killer!  Tessa's emotions are stressed to the breaking point, falling in love with Madison's family and experiencing a sense of belonging for the first time ever, all the while lying to them and pretending to be their dead daughter.  Plus there's the problem that Madison's twin brother is one of the suspects in the case - so is her ex-boyfriend, who refuses to let her go.  The mystery was the best part of this book.  The romance was disappointing and as I've seen other people point out, there will definitely be a love triangle in the next book!  And I'm not sure how I feel about that, because I'm already rooting for the dark horse in that triangle (i.e. not Alec!!!).  Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to seeing the direction the next one goes in.  I'd recommend it if you're a fan of X-Men, but don't mind trading the action for a whodunit!  And P.S., I LOVE that cover!  It is absolutely representative of the book and I love looking at the differences between half-Madison and half-Tessa! :D

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, Hodor Children's Books, via NetGalley.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published January 2nd, 2014.*

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hold My Hand

Expected Publication:  July 1st, 2014
Copper Magic
By: Julia Mary Gibson
ISBN-13:  9780765332110

Can an unearthed talisman found on the shores of Lake Michigan save 12-year-old Violet's fractured family?  Exploring themes of Native American culture, ecology, and conservation, this historical fiction novel comes brilliantly to life.

The year is 1906, and twelve-year-old Violet Blake unearths an ancient talisman --a copper hand-- beside the stream where her mother used to harvest medicine.  Violet's touch warms the copper hand and it begins to reveal glimpses of another time.  Violet is certain that the copper hand is magic -- and if anyone is in need of its powers, it's Violet.  Her mother and adored baby brother are gone, perhaps never to return.  Her heartbroken father can't seem to sustain the failing farm on the outskirts of Pigeon Harbor, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Surely the magic of the copper hand can make things right for Violet and restore her fractured family.  Violet makes a wish.  But her ignorant carelessness unleashes formiddable powers -- and her attempts to control them jeopardizes not only herself, but the entire town of Pigeon Harbor.

In Copper Magic, land and waters are alive with memories, intentions, and impulses.  Magic alters Violet and brings her gifts -- but not always the kind she thinks she needs.  First-time author Julia May Gibson brings Violet and her community to life in this impressive and assured debut.


     Violet Blake has been living with just her father on their farm for months now, ever since her mother took her baby brother Francis (aka Fry) and left.  Violet doesn't know why she left, when she's coming back and is actually starting to believe that both her Mom and her brother are actually dead.  Twelve year old Violet is stuck between a child and a teenager, outgrowing her shabby clothes and trying to stay a kid, but being forced into responsibility be her meddling Aunt.  The property down by the lake has been "bought" by church people, who are setting up camp for the summer.  Violet makes friends with a preacher's kid and one day by the lake she finds a copper hand, that she thinks is magical.  Maybe the hand can bring back her family and put her life back to normal.  But when the copper hand unleashes powers that Violet can't control and that could cause a lot of harm, and it is taken away by priveleged people who don't understand it, it's up to Violet to save the hand and return it to where it belongs before it's too late.
     The main draw for me was the fact that this book is set in Michigan, near Lake Michigan.  It also didn't hurt that this was a historical fiction book set in my home state.  I love me some decent historical fiction.  The tone was very reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, but without the stately wisdom that seems to assert itself in that novel (even with the main characters being children).  Violet Blake is our protagonist in this one, and while I get that kids were a hell of a lot more innocent/naieve/less jaded in the early 1900s for the most part, I just did NOT feel like I was reading something from the point of view of a twelve year old.  I honestly couldn't think of Violet as any older than nine or so years old.  Especially since most of this book centers around her unwavering belief in the magical powers of a hand made out of copper!
      Probably my favorite thing in this book as I was reading, ended up being the usage of Native American mysticism and culture to bring home the power of belief to make things change.  Also, I really loved the way Gibson portrayed the Native American people in this novel (Violet is actually the product of a half N.A. mother and a white father).  She doesn't ignore the racism and demeaning cultural attitudes of the time period, but still manages to make the characters rich and very developed.  They are never just convenient stereotypes.  There is also some beautiful imagery to do with the beaches, the Hotel that draws in the tourists every summer and the general natural beauties of Michigan.  The biggest complaint on my part would probably be the lack of personal change of Violet's part.  She spends the whole summer apprenticed to a famous lady photographer, trying to make wishes on a magical artifact and trying to retrieve the hand once it's been stolen.  Not to mention her issues with her father and her Aunt, who wants to make Violet into something she's not (and doesn't want to be) - a proper young lady.  Yet for all the heartache and trouble that the hand and her naievte bring into her life, Violet never seems to change all that much during the ensuing drama and tragedy.  Even the aftermath doesn't seem to affect her all that much.  I did appreciate the unresolved nature of the situation with Violet's Mom.  I liked that things were nowhere near as simple as she had made them, and that Violet and her Dad went in search of her Mom, instead of just taking the easy out, and having her return.  Overall, it's a very well written, historical fiction novel worth reading if you like a good mystical mystery.  I just feel like it belongs more in the middle grade catergorization than in the YA pool of novels.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is July 1st, 2014.*

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bite Sized Review: Alice In Tumblr-Land

Published:  November 5th, 2013
Alice In Tumblr-Land
By: Tim Manley
Penguin Books
ISBN-13:  9780143124795

Disney meets Lena Dunham in this illustrated humor book featuring your favorite fairy tale characters dating and finding their way in the 21st century.

The Ugly Duckling still feels gross compared to everyone else, but now she's got Instagram, and there's this one filter that makes her look awesome.  Cinderella swaps her glass slippers for Crocs.  The Tortoise and the Hare Facebook stalk each other.  Goldilocks goes gluten free.  And Peter Pan finally has to grow up and get a job, or at least start paying rent.

Here are more than one hundred fairy tales, illustrated and re-imagined for today.  Instead of fairy godmothers, there's Siri.  And rather than big bad wolves, there are creepy dudes on OkCupid.  In our brave new world of social networking, YouTube, and texting, fairy tales can once again lead us to "happily ever after" - and have us laughing all the way.


     This review is just going to be a quickie, because this book is mainly just drawings from the author's website.  I love anything to do with fairy tales, and I am always saying this - plus, it was a cool concept.  What would fairy tale characters be like if they had to live in a modern world, with all its conveniences?  But they also would have to deal with the pitfalls of a technology saturated world.  This was supposed to be a book of humorous (and I assume), somewhat fanciful drawings of fairy tale characters.  I honestly looked through it and smiled a few times, but for the most part I didn't really find its sense of humor all that amusing.  If anything, this book was pretty depressing.  I associate fairy tales (and their reimaginings) with magic and the high likelihood of love, or at the least a somewhat happy ending.  It wasn't very fun to see beloved characters as mostly miserable, average people.  Overall, this was a disappointment and I wouldn't recommend it unless you have an angsty, worry filled personality.  Or, if you want to look at the pictures.  Those were kind of fun, if you go in with low expectations.  Any sort of credit this gets from me is based on the quality of the drawings, and that's it.

VERDICT:  1/5 Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, Penguin, , via NetGalley.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published November 5th, 2013.*

Monday, February 10, 2014

Canon or Non-Canon?

Published:  September 10th, 2013
By: Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's Press
ISBN-13:  9781250030955

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan... But for Cath, being a fan is her life -- and she's really good at it.  She and her twin, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it's what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading.  Rereading.  Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath's sister has mostly grown away from the fandom, but Cath can't let go.  She doesn't want to.

Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn't want to be roommates.  Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone.  She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who believes fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can't stop worrying about her Dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?  Can she make it without Wren holding her hand?  Is she ready to start living her own life?  And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


     Cath is a difficult character to read about.  If there's one thing that Rainbow Rowell does more memorably than anything else, it's writing characters who are beyond everything else, realistic.  Cath, for example is awkward, antisocial, set in her ways and would rather live in her fandoms on the internet than in real life.  Cath isn't ready for anything to change and panics when her twin sister Wren doesn't want to be college roommates.  Cath just wants to stay in her room, avoid the cafeteria by existing on granola/protein bars, and not make any new friends.  Slowly though, her abrasive and stubborn roommate Reagan takes Cath under her wing, refusing to let her fade into the background.  Cath loves her fiction class as well, but the professor doesn't believe in the validity of fan fiction, which is a major part of who Cath happens to be.  Can Cath let go of the comfort of Simon Snow, boy wizard, and find a place for herself in the real world?  And how can she bring Wren and Dad into this new life she's building, without destroying everything?
     Like I said before Cath is difficult to read about.  She's sarcastic, yet shy and insecure to the point of almost being a hermit.  I understand wanting to shut yourself away from the world and I'm as guilty of it as anyone else.  Only, my hiding place of choice was the library instead of my bedroom.  I can empathize with Cath's inability to know what to say, or do in a social situation.  Also, coming from a home life that is less than perfect, in which problems are largely ignored instead of being dealt with.  But Cath begins to come into her own with the help of Reagan and her strange, but charming friend Levi.  We also get to see just how far Wren has distanced herself from the situation in the other direction - doing things to draw attention to herself that are potentially harmful to herself and people around her (but mostly just herself).  She wants to be the life of the party, but what price will she pay for it?  Plus, there's Cath's writing "partner" Nick, who isn't what he first appears to be.  I was highly impressed with the so-called secondary characters, who all add something important to the plot and move the story along.  The relationship with her Dad is especially hilarious, touching and truthful.  I love the interactions between them when Cath brings her boy home and also when Cath and her Dad stage an intervention on her sister.
      A really big part of this book is about being geeky, letting your freak flag fly and still knowing how to get back to reality at the end of the day.  Cath's big obsession is Simon Snow, who is her world's equivalent of Harry Potter (Except the book awkwardly mentions Potter as if they coexist.  I choose to ignore this!).  Cath is still waiting for the eighth book to come out, but has basically begun writing her own AU (alternate universe) version of it online, in her fan fiction community.  "Carry On Simon" has become such a huge thing in the fandom that people are wearing t-shirts and Cath is getting thousands of views a day!  I love the respect with which Rainbow treats fan fiction in this book.  I feel like she gets that there's nothing wrong with sharing your imagination with others for fun (and free) even if it involves someone else's worlds.  But she also knows that there's a fine line between having some geeky fun, and being unheathily obsessed.  We also see a glimpse of the idea that fan fiction might be squelching Cath's desire to write original stuff, or even her ability to do it.  My biggest disappointment in this was Cath not even attempting to make up her assignment for her fiction Professor.  It felt like she just completely gave up.  Also, I wanted to know what happened to Simon and Baz!  But mostly, this is a novel that is a tale of self discovery, a family's journey to something better (if not perfect) and a story of first love in all it's unpredictability and tenderness.  If you've read Rainbow Rowell before, her first and last name are the only two word of this review even necessary to you.  If not, seek her out.  Fangirl is wonderful, and just wait until you discover Eleanor and Park!

VERDICT:  4.5/5 Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I'll Have You For Me

Expected Publication:  February 18th, 2014
Maybe One Day
By: Melissa Kantor
Harper Teen
ISBN-13:  9780062279200

Zoe and her best friend, Olivia, have always had big plans for the future, none of which included Olivia getting sick.  Still, Zoe is determined to put on a brave face and be positive for her friend.

Even when she isn't sure what to say.

Even when Olivia misses months of school.

Even when Zoe starts falling for Calvin, Olivia's crush

The one thing that keeps Zoe moving forward is knowing that Olivia will beat this, and everything will go back to the way it was before.  It has to.  Because the alternative is too terrifying for her to even imagine.


     Zoe and Olivia have been best friends their entire lives.  They planned to be famous dancers, someday, together.  When that dream went up in smoke and they get kicked out of ballet school, the girls are just focused on being normal high school students together.  All Zoe wants is to find a purpose again and completely forget she ever knew how to dance, because it breaks her heart to think about it.  Neither girl is even contemplating the worst when it happens.  Olivia has been diagnosed with cancer, a form that has a really low survival rate.  Now the girls will go through months of treatment and terror, trying to keep hope alive that Olivia won't lose her fight.  But when Zoe starts keeping secrets, it might not be cancer that ruins their friendship.  Can Olivia and Zoe make it through this, or will they be forced to say one last goodbye?
     This book is narrated from Zoe's point of view, and at the beginning her thoughts mostly revolve around figuring out where she stands now that she can't be a dancer anymore.  She loves Olivia, but feels like she was more affected by the loss than Liv was - especially since Liv is still teaching a ballet class for underprivileged little kids.  Also, Zoe kind of hates the guy her friend is crushing on, Calvin, because he seems to think he's so awesome.  But then Zoe's thoughts jump to something else.  She starts thinking of what the world might be like without Olivia in it, after Liv is diagnosed with cancer.  I loved that this book looks at a deep friendship between the girls, who are really more like sisters, rather than focusing on a romance like most books about terminal illness do.  I almost didn't want to read this book, because I thought it was going to be yet another book involving a friend cheating with another friend's boyfriend, behind their back.  SO SICK OF CHEATERS IN YA BOOKS.  I was pleasantly surprised when this wasn't one of those books!
     It was truly difficult to watch the way Olivia's illness affected her family, especially the way it ate away at her Mom.  It seemed like a pretty realistic portrayal of the devastation of an ordinary family.  For awhile it seems like Zoe is in self-destruct mode, on the verge of doing something truly reckless because of how upset and alone she feels.  But thankfully, Calvin stops her from doing something she might regret.  We do get to see her build a friendship with Calvin, bit by bit and unwillingly at first.  She mostly is around him because he's best friends with Liv's older brother.  Therefore he's at the hospital almost as much as Zoe is.  But soon enough, she starts to realize just how much she misjudged Calvin as a popular player.  The interactions between Zoe and the kids in Liv's ballet class were realistic as well.  I liked that she wasn't miraculously the best teacher ever and it took her quite some time to connect with the kids at all.  Zoe botches things pretty badly at first, barely managing to smooth them over in the end.  But my favorite thing all in all, was the sense of humor Liv and Zoe maintained with each other, throughout the book.  My favorite quip was when the doctor was explaining the cancer to Zoe (per Liv's request) and tells her it is most common in men ages 65+.  The girls joke around about how Liv has old man cancer, and it's so embarrassing!  It made me laugh out loud! :D  Overall, this one is a beautiful look at lifelong friendship and the triumph of love over illness, even if that doesn't mean it defeats death.  I highly recommend this one.

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is February 18th, 2014.*

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #18 - Books That Make Me Cry

     Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, which allows bloggers to share lists of some of our favorite (and not-so favorite) things.  This week we’ll be highlighting the top ten books that made us cry!  I am not usually a crier, and it takes something really emotional to jerk my heartstrings into phoning it in to my tear ducts!  I think this list was difficult for me, because I have so few books that really affect me that way.  But the ones that have are beautiful and definitely need to be shared with more people.  Some of them are pretty famous though (which is for good reason).  I hope you guys check them out and love them just as much as I do!
     As always, happy Tuesday and have fun everyone!  Also, MAKE SURE TO LEAVE A LINK TO YOUR POSTS SO I CAN VISIT YOU GUYS TOO!!!  Without further adieu, the books (it's always all about the books)!  :)  All of the books are linked to their Goodreads pages. 

Top Ten Books That Made Me Cry

  1. A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks:  Back when he'd only written a couple of books and this was such a thing among all the girls in my middle school!  Oh God, did I ever bawl like a baby at the ending! 
  2. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick:  This was a very personal read for me and I can't exactly divulge why (as it's a really big spoiler), but I was bawling my eyes out by the time the book ended.  It seriously wrecked me for days.
  3. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery:  Seriously, when Gilbert is ill and Anne is regretting their estrangement I was choking back sobs (all the times I've read it; which is many!).  Poor Anne and Gil, almost losing their chance at true happiness!
  4. Christy by Catherine Marshall:  Ohmigod!  Fairlight! And anything Miss Alice ever says, along with all those poor and proud kids.  I absolutely adore this book, but it always mists me over.
  5. The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder:  This book is to me what The Fault In Our Stars seems to be to everyone else in the book world, on the internet and in the YA circles in general.  It's a cancer story, but it's so much more than that.

     6.  Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell:  This made me cry as much for Eleanor and Park's ill-fated, 
          beautiful first love as it did for Eleanor's life in general.  By the ending I was in love with both of them.
     7.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:  The others got to me, sure, but even when the big WTF 
          happened at the end of HBP, I didn't cry.  This one though, was nonstop!  Hedwig, George's ear, 
          Remus, Tonks, Fred, and also the Ron reunuion, etc.  SO MANY FEELS (which the epilogue 
          promptly RUINED)!
     8.  Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares:  Maybe because it was the last one in the series.  Or 
          maybe because there was a character death that was strategically planned to make the tears gush.  
          Also, Bee goes through the most it seems like, and she's my absolute favorite of them all.  Insta-tears.
     9.  Ordinary People by Judith Guest:  It's about the distinegration of a family after the death of their               oldest son.  It's a sad and depressing book to begin with, but when Conrad finally lets loose in his                 shrink's office my floodgates open.
   10.  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt:  Considering the whole theme is choosing between living 
           forever or just one lifetime, tears aren't surprising.  But at the end, when we find out Winnie's choice, 
           I always feel weepy.

Honorable Mentions

Unite Blog Tour - Excerpt!

Title: Unite (Project Integrate #1)
Author: Jamie Campbell
Date of Publication: December 3, 2013


United They Stand.

Seventeen years ago an entire generation of aliens were sent to Earth
in order to save their home planet and integrate into the human
population. Now, those aliens are being hunted.

Amery Jones is your typical teenager, except for the fact she is an
alien and a member of the government's secret Project Integrate.

When Amery's best friend Lola is kidnapped in order to get to her,
there is only one person that can help - the exceedingly annoying and
charming Lochie Mercury.

Together, Amery and Lochie must put aside their differences and
attraction in order to rescue Lola before it's too late.

Goodreads link:

Purchase links


About Jamie Campbell

Amazon #1 Bestselling Author Jamie Campbell was born into a big, crazy
family of 6 children. Being the youngest, she always got away with
anything and would never shut up. Constantly letting her imagination
run wild, her teachers were often frustrated when her 'What I did on
the weekend' stories contained bunyips and princesses.

Spending quality time with her laptop named Lily, Jamie has written
several novels and screenplays. Spanning a number of genres and
mediums, Jamie writes whatever inspires her from ghost stories to
teenage love stories to tantalizing murder mysteries. Nothing is off

A self-confessed television addict, dog lover, Taylor Swift fan, and
ghost hunter, Jamie loves nothing more than the thrill of sharing her

Mailing List:


"I know a real alien. From, like outer space. There aren't cameras here, right? You're not punking me?"

Lola looked around the room, trying to find the hidden cameras that didn't exist.

I laughed, I couldn't help it. Perhaps my life wasn't about to fall apart after all.