Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Blackout by Robison Wells @robisonwells

Title: Blackout

Author: Robison Wells

Series: Blackout #1

Publication date: October 1st, 2013

ISBN: 9780062026125

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Laura and Alec are trained terrorists.

Jack and Aubrey are high school students.

There are no reason for them to ever meet.

But now, a mysterious virus is spreading throughout America, infecting teenagers with impossible powers. And these four are about to find their lives intertwined in a complex web of deception, loyalty, and catastrophic danger--where one wrong choice could trigger an explosion that ends it all.

I had never read any books by Robison Wells but I had heard about her Variant series and was anxious to try out her writing for the first time. A dystopian book about X-Men-esk teens was the perfect place to start in my opinion.

Aubrey and Jack were friends in elementary school, but once they entered high school they drifted apart. Aubrey became one of the popular girl with the help of the queen bee of the school, Nicole. Aubrey was happy for the most part, but she also felt like a freak. Aubrey could disappear. Not metaphorically, physically. Once the queen bee of her school found this out, she used Aubrey to spy for her. One such mission ended up causing Aubrey to witness the military breaking into their school dance and shooting one of their students dead. The student wasn't a regular student though. He was like Aubrey. He had powers. He was a freak.

Aubrey stumbles across Jack as she flees the military and they start on the run together. Eventually they are caught anyway and that is where they learn the truth about their crumbling world. There are terrorists bent on destroying America. The terrorists are teenagers with abilities just like Aubrey's. The military now needs Aubrey and even Jack's help shutting down the terrorists, but what they don't know is some of the teenagers who are meant to fight the terrorists may be terrorists themselves. Aubrey and Jack must find a way to survive while also dealing with a blossoming romance. Can they save their country or are they better off running as far and as fast as they can?

I was not too fond of Aubrey's character. She was just all over the place. She was wimpy in the beginning and then she was the ideal soldier and then she got wimpy again. I got pretty sick of her rollercoaster of personality shifts. The saving grace for the book was Jack. I loved Jack. He was determined, level-headed, and even romantic at times. I think if he would have had a better leading lady, the book would have been a smashing success.

Now, let me not dwell on Aubrey's shortcomings. The story line was unusual and unique. I loved the variance of powers the teenagers could present with. I would have liked a bit more background on the terrorists and why they were doing what they were doing, but I am hoping that will be covered in later books. It was unnerving how likely this sort of situation could possibly happen. Teenagers are loose cannons, give them powers to destroy and see if they don't find a reason to do just that.

Blackout is a paranormal spin on a plausible apocalyptic occurrence. It's a glowing example of what science fiction truly is.

Available at:
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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard @aghowardwrites

Title: Splintered

Author: A.G. Howard

Series: Splintered #1

Publication date: January 1st, 2013

ISBN: 9781419704284

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical underland, as well as a girl's pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers--precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother's mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice's tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice's mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

I make no secret of my obsession with Alice in Wonderland. I love the classics written by Lewis Carroll as well as any retellings that may enter the minds of amazing authors. I had been dying to read Splintered but had gotten so backlogged with review books that I hadn't gotten the chance. When I was wandering the shelves of my local library it sat there, calling to me, so I check it out and swore I would finally dive into the story. I knew I wouldn't be disappointed but the extinct of my love for this book even before I read it only grew as I started flipping pages and gobbling up the amazing story.

Alyssa has been hearing whispers from plants and bugs since she entered puberty. She tries to hide it to the best of her ability so she may avoid the same fate that her mother suffered by being locked away in a mental hospital. Alyssa uses her artistic capabilities to silence the chattering foliage and insects. But soon, her distracting techniques aren't good enough. She starts to realize that she's not crazy. All the oddities she notices in her life are not hallucinations at all. They are real. She is really the distant relative of Alice and her family is cursed.

Alyssa decides she will set things straight and relieve her family of the curse that has been plaguing them for generations. But when she dives down the infamous rabbit hole, she's not alone. Her long time crush and close friend has followed her and is determined to get Alyssa home and away from the topsy-turvy world meant only for dreams. Alyssa also seems to have caught the eye of Morpheus who's plans may not always be with Alyssa's best interest in mind.

Alyssa must set right the wrongs Alice left behind on her trip to Wonderland. Along the way she realizes that the cotton candy dreams of a little girl are from the reality of the world she is now inhabiting. Danger lurks around every corner and Alyssa has no idea who to trust and whether she will ever make it home again.

The thing that sticks out in Lewis Carroll's story of Alice in Wonderland is it's vivid imagery. A reader can see all these oddities in bright colors and cartoonish style. A.G. Howard stuck to that way of describing the numerous characters Alyssa came face-to-face with. I could picture them perfectly in my mind and I was even a bit creeped out by a few of them. Howard wove a darker tale of Carroll's Wonderland but made it her own. She spun the familiar characters into something completely different but still oddly familiar. It was beautifully written to the point where I long to see it on the big screen.

The love triangle was my second favorite part of the story. I was team Jeb all the way, but Morpheus totally had his swoonworthy moments as well. Splintered has one of those romances where you wouldn't mind seeing the heroine end up with either of the male leads. A rarity to be sure.

All Alice in Wonderland buffs need to read Splintered, it is unlike any retelling I have ever read and will not disappoint.

Available at:
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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: Chosen by Blood by Virna DePaul @virnadepaul

Title: Chosen by Blood

Author: Virna DePaul

Series: Para-Ops #1

Publication date: July 7th, 2011

ISBN: 9780425241547

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Leader of an Otherborn clan, half-breed vampire Knox Devereaux would do anything to find a cure for the anti-vamp vaccine slowly starving his people into extinction. When the FBI contacts him about leading a team of hand-selected Others on a mission to reclaim the stolen antidote, Knox accepts. His new assignment places him in direct contact with Special Agent Felicia Locke, the beautiful human he’s craved since their very first meeting.

While checking out books at my local library, I found this little gem. I had thought I had a book for review by the author and that I may need to read this in preparation for the review copy, but turns out I was wrong. Either way I chose to read this book to try out the author's style and also so I could read something for enjoyment purposes only.

Knox has always loved Felicia but has kept his distance out of respect for her. But when his wife dies his main goal after mourning her is to win Felicia over. The problem is his people want him remarried and producing children again as soon as possible. Knox is determined to make the time he is single count and win Felicia over to the fact that they can be together even if he does have to marry someone else. As the leader of the vampires in their town, it's a tough place to be to have to choose between the woman he loves and the duty to his people.

Felicia is a hostage negotiator for the FBI. She is used to talking people off ledges and calming them down from intense situations. But when she is around Knox she could use her own hostage negotiator. She feels an unspoken connection to Knox and she knows they are soul mates. The problem is Knox is married to her best friend, oh, and he's a vampire. Vampires are not permitted to marry humans because an anti-vamp vaccine has gone worldwide and the vampires are a dying race. The vaccine makes the nutrition value almost zero in humans who have taken it. To keep the race going, vampires must only breed with vampires. This leaves Felicia as either playing the role of the other woman or staying far away from Knox. She chooses the latter... up until the FBI gets wind of a cure to the anti-vamp vaccine.

Now Knox and Felicia are thrown together to participate in a mission to steal the cure and save Knox's people. With a motley crew of Otherborns and humans alike, it is up to the couple to save vampires and combat the attraction they feel for each other.

I was a little put off by the whole "other woman" thing in the romance portion of the story. It is no secret that I like monogamy in my stories and I could see why Felicia wouldn't want to be involved in that sort of twisted three-way action. I found Knox to be a bit pretentious at times and Felicia a bit of a wimp. He is the leader of his people, yes, but does he have to be so snooty at times? And she's a big bad FBI agent, can't she stop the sniveling over her tough romantic situation? But, it seemed to work in the end. I liked the world Virna created and I liked the scientific aspects of the story. It was new and different and that's rare in books today.

Chosen by Blood is a unique take on the war between vampires in humans. This is a story of the after effects of fear and the struggle to make things right to save a race from going extinct.

Available at:
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Blog Tour Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen @TLCBookTours

Title: The Queen of the Tearling

Author: Erika Johansen

Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1

Publication date: July 8th, 2014

ISBN: 9780062290366

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen's Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon--from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic--to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea's kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun--a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend... if she can survive.

The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.

I received a physical copy from the author in exchange for an honest review and participation in a blog tour.

As a rule, set forth by myself, I normally don't venture too far out of my comfort zone with my reading material. Normally every story has to have some sort of romance in it to keep me locked into the story. The Queen of the Tearling was my first real delve into epic fantasy. I was a bit unnerved and skeptical that I was going to like it, but as I usually am with books I receive for review from TLC Book Tours. I was so wrong. 

The story opens on a nineteen-year-old girl reluctantly being taken from her beloved foster parents to take her place as the Queen's heir. Kelsea has been taught all her life what she needed to know about her kingdom and their policies, but it's quite different for her actually have to follow them and make decisions that can totally rock the known state of things within her kingdom. She learns that once things are set for decades, not many are willing to change even if it's for the better. She thought she was going to take the throne and govern over existing laws and keep order within her kingdom. Instead she finds discord and suffering among her people. Never the kind of person to sit idly by, Kelsea sets out to change her kingdom and free her people from pain and torment. 

As with any great change, there are always people who rebel against it. One of those people is Kelsea's uncle, the Regent. He wants to keep his place on the throne and keep his kingdom how it was. He didn't care about the shipments of slaves he sends to the Red Queen every month or the evil deeds running rampant in his streets. All he cares about is his women and his wine. Kelsea threatens his happy life and so he sets assassins to sniff her out and dispose of her accordingly. But he's not the only one plotting against her. She has no one she can trust. Not the dashing King of Thieves who causes her cheeks to brighten every time she thinks about him and not her Queen's Guard Captain who seems to always have her best interests at heart.

Can Kelsea overcome the enemies surrounding her and learn to rule her kingdom in the best interests of her people or will she lead her kingdom right into ruin?

I could not get enough of this story. The writing flowed so well and the language used wasn't too complicated or too simplistic. It was not a story riddled with tough subject matter and it wasn't a fluff piece that was too busy avoiding hard issues to get to the root of the story. The characters were realistic and relateable. I found Kelsea to be much the same as me: bookish, hungry for knowledge, sympathetic, plain, and strong willed. I noted a bit of a love triangle possibly forming (fingers crossed!) and I am dying to read the next book in the series. Erika Johansen did spectacular in her debut book and she has made it onto the prestigious list of my top 10 favorite authors.

If you like adventure, suspicion, political maneuvering, and tales of survival set in a fantastical world of magic, The Queen of the Tearling is the book for you!

Available at:
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Rest of the Tour
April 21st: Literally Jen
April 23rd: Bibliophila, Please
April 24th: Book Loving Hippo
April 25th: The Written World
April 28th: More Than Just Magic
April 29th: Book Marks the Spot
May 5th: Must Read Faster
May 7th: Reading Reality
May 14th: Adorkable Me
May 15th: Giraffe Days
May 21st: Mel's Shelves
May 28th: Booknerd
June 5th: One Book at a Time
June 6th: Not Yet Read
June 6th: BoundbyWords
June 9th: Books and Bindings
June 10th: The Infinite Shelf
June 11th: Spiced Latte Reads
June 13th: The Road to Here
June 16th: Open Book Society

About the Author:
Erika Johansen grew up and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went to Swarthmore College, earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and eventually became an attorney, but she never stopped writing.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge @rosamundhodge

Title: Cruel Beauty

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Series: Cruel Beauty Universe #1

Publication date: January 28th, 2014

ISBN: 9780062224736

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

I received an e-copy of this book from the publishers at Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Growing up one of my favorite stories was the story of Beauty and the Beast. I was read the book, I watched the movie, and I dreamed of a grand love that overcame evil and a library filled with every book I could ever want. I had heard some amazing things about certain fairytale retellings and when I learned of one in particular that featured Beauty and the Beast, I was so excited. That book was Cruel Beauty. I was dying to dive into the book and lose myself in a different take on a tale as old as time.

Nyx's story begins when she is preparing to marry the Gentle Lord as her father bargained. In order to fill her father's obligation she was become the wife of the ruler of their lands. A demon some say. An ugly beast of a man with glowing red eyes who will likely kill her the moment she is brought to the disheveled castle she is to live in with him. But the Gentle Lord is not ugly, he does have glowing red eyes, but he is extremely handsome. That does not make up for his monstrous behavior. For all intents and purposes, Nyx knows that even with astounding beauty the Gentle Lord, Ignifex he calls himself, is pure evil.

Nyx spends her days searching for the four elements of the house in order to bring down the Gentle Lord's magically enchanted home and free herself and her people from their confines. As she plots the demise of Ignifex she is forced to get to know him as well. Along the way, she learns that there is more to the demonic man than meets the eye and she may just be able to entertain the idea of falling in love with him.

Eventually Nyx is faced with the ultimate decision: stay with the man she loves and leave her town to their misery or give up her love and free her town for all time.

As I stated before, I was incredibly excited to read this book. And I was surprised how different it was from the classic Beauty and the Beast story. However, it had some fine points to it that rang true in my childhood tale. I loved that it branched out so wide from the foundation of the original concept and made it completely different. No there were no singing teapots or stodgy clocks, but the relationship between Beauty and the Beast was similar to Nyx and Ignifex.

The language was very proper and sometimes a bit hard to understand until it is reread in the accurate inflections. I did listen to part of the book on audiobook which helped a lot, but audiobooks always seem too slow for me. I read faster than they do since I'm not focusing on every word and syllable. That was my only criticism and it isn't even that much of one. I loved the book, proper language and all.

Cruel Beauty is a fantastic retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast that rivets its reader and drags them into a world where the bad guy has depths beyond destroying the hero.

Available at:
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