Monday, April 13, 2015

The Leveller by Julia Durango

Genre:  YA Science Fiction
The Leveller Series, Book 1
Expected publication date:  June 23, 2015

Description (taken from Julia Durango's website):
Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.

But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?

Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, thanks to Julia Durango’s cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance adds some heart to Nixy’s vivid, multidimensional journey through Wyn’s tricked-out virtual city, and constant twists keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end.

Nixy works as a bounty hunter and extracts kids from virtual reality at their parents' request.  Having two parents who work for the organization that created the reality gaming world, aka the MEEP, has its perks.  She knows a lot of hacks and also gets to see new modifications before they mainstream.  And that makes her the perfect bounty hunter.  But when the CEO of MEEP is calling her to get his son out of the game, will she be able to deliver?

While trying to locate Wyn, the son who has supposedly left the real-world for a death-by-virtual-reality, Nixy finds herself in a maze of tests.  These tests are the kind you'd expect to see when playing a game on a computer or gaming console, but your mind is in that reality.  It kind of makes it even freakier.  But after completing the tests, Nixy ends up in Wyn's created reality.  It's kind of like an oasis.  An oasis that Wyn is trying to get out of.  As Nixy and Wyn try to figure out what's going on, they find there's more to the MEEP than they realized.

This was such a quick novel that flowed right from start to end.  It's a great opener to a new series.  While I'm not a big gamer, I found myself stuck in Nixy's world watching her face the various challenges.  I was kind of holding my breath while reading.  And once Nixy met Wyn, I kind of got to see what the MEEP could really do for you.  The only thing that had me scratching my head is the main plot was such a tease.  It gave me enough to understand the story but not enough to keep me content.  All I can say is the story-telling is wonderful, but I want more...

This is a stunning opening to a new virtual-reality story that's going to grab readers' attention.  I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next one.

Thanks goes to Around the World ARC Tours for providing me a review copy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Velvet by Temple West

Genre:  YA Paranormal Romance
Expected publication date:  May 12, 2015

Description (taken from Temple West' website):

...pissed off and grieving. After her mother dies of bone cancer, she's uprooted to Stony Creek, a pitiful excuse for a town in the rural mountains of upstate New York. Stuck living on her aunt and uncle's struggling horse ranch, Caitlin vows to simply survive until she graduates high school. Then, it's on to New York and wrangling a scholarship at The Fashion Institute so she can become a designer and start her own line.

But shortly after arriving in Stony Creek, a freak storm sets her on a dangerous path: right in the middle of vampires, demons, and age-old secrets. The only person she can trust? Adrian, the vampire who rescued her. Problem is, he has to pretend to be her boyfriend in order to keep his status as her personal bodyguard under wraps. And in a small town, it's not long before some secrets get real big.

Caitlin has just lost her mother to cancer and is forced to move to the middle of nowhere, New York.  Trying to deal with the family that's taken her in without ever having been there before makes it worse.  All she can do is keep going until high school's over.  While trying to find solitude one day in the woods, she experiences a storm that disorients her.  Cue mysterious vampire boy saving the day.

Adrian has been the guy who's kept to himself ever since he came to Stony Creek.  But he's suddenly opening up to Caitlin.  And while there are definitely ulterior motives keeping them together, Caitlin begins to enjoy life again.  She has the pleasure to meet his little brother as well as gain an interest again in her hobbies.  And as her friendship develops, she finds some things are worth the risk.  But does Adrian agree or is she only an assignment to him?

At best, I'm apathetic to this story.  I felt like this story had 350 pages of romance and 30 pages of action.  And I'm beginning to dislike the fluffy teenage romances and I-must-hate-my-elders attitude that a lot of YA books have.  It feels childish.  But that wasn't my only complaint.  I felt like I was being told the story instead of having the story visualized.  Don't tell me the hot boy is cute and chiseled; instead, describe him in minute detail until I don't even have to be told he is drop-dead-gorgeous.

This book is definitely for the die-hard young adult vampire romance fans.  As for me?  I'm beginning to regret my love of YA vampire romances...

Thanks goes to Around the World ARC Tours for providing me a review copy.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Fistful of Evil by Rebecca Chastain

Genre:  Adult Urban Fantasy
Madison Fox, Illuminant Enforcer Series, Book 1

Description (taken from Rebecca Chastain's website):
Madison Fox just learned that her ability to see souls is more than a sight: It’s a weapon for fighting evil. The only problem is she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing. On the positive side, her money problems are over, she’s possibly discovered her purpose in life, and her coworker is smoking hot. On the negative side, evil creatures now actively hunt her, and deadly experiences are becoming the norm.

When she thinks it couldn’t get worse, a powerful evil sets up shop at a local hotel’s video game convention, and it’s got its eye on more than the gaming geeks: it is hungry for Madison’s soul. Madison needs to become an expert illuminant enforcer overnight to save her job, her region . . . and her life.

Madison is just at her breaking point.  She hasn't been able to keep a steady job, and her bills are piling up.  And this is how she ends up at an interview for a sales position that sells bumper stickers.  I mean, who on earth would want that job?  But she quickly finds out it's all a front to a natural ability she has.

With her new job as an illuminant enforcer, Madison gets to experience the money perks while quickly realizing the disadvantage she's at.  She never knew her ability to see people's souls was something that could be used to fight evil.  And according to her company, people her age should be experts.  They quickly find out Madison is anything but an expert at fighting evil.  She'll have to use her wits, good lucks, and stubborn determination to fight the evil that's settled in her town.

This story has some nice parallels from another detective series, Stephanie Plum, that I can easily see.  But it's all about fighting the forces of evil.  And I liked seeing Madison's ability being explained and seeing her use it.  One of the easiest things to pick up from this story is good is white and evil is dark, but each person's soul is fairly white with only some tainted dark bits.  It was a good representation of pointing out that not everyone or everything is black and white - there are some grays, unless of course you're fighting pure evil entities.  I was entertained throughout with the paranormal, Madison, and the eye candy involved.

This story is definitely for those who like a good whodunnit and also want some paranormal quirks.  Madison will keep you entertained...

Thanks goes to Rebecca Chastain for providing me a review copy.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Exile by CT Adams

Genre:  Adult Urban Fantasy
The Fae Series, Book 1

Description (taken from Goodreads):
Brianna Hai runs an occult shop that sells useless trinkets to tourists—and real magic supplies to witches and warlocks. The magical painting that hangs in Brianna's apartment is the last portal between the fae and human worlds.

A shocking magical assault on her home reveals to Brianna that her father, High King Liu of the Fae, is under attack. With the help of her gargoyle, Pug, her friend David, and Angelo, a police detective who doesn't believe in magic, Brianna recovers what was stolen from her and becomes an unwilling potential heir to the throne.

Brianna is your typical occult shop owner.  You know the kind that is half-witch-half-fae.  She left the fae world to join her mother in the human world.  And while she collects and sells magical artifacts, her father watches from the only known portal between the two worlds.  Needless to say, it only takes a small catalyst to bring her back to the fae world.

After receiving a gift from her father, King Liu, Brianna has to find something to send in return.  With the help of her coworker and friend, David, she's able to find the perfect piece of art.  When they struggle to get it home, David's brother, Nick, just happens to be in the neighborhood to offer them a ride back to the shop.  Seems like the perfect opportunity to introduce the magic and the fae.  In an attempt to save what's hers, she along with her two companions end up in the fae world.  But it's kind of hard to not make an attempt at war when the other side is willing to kill her.  And of course it draws the attention of her father.  Brianna is now back as princess of the fae.

I loved this book from start to finish.  While I had a hard time with the intro and sticking with the characters as the narrator changed, I was captivated by all of the action.  There were so many side stories keeping up with the main plotline that I felt like I was in an actual person's world.  The only issue I had is I felt like everything tied up too nicely with the ending.  It set everything up perfectly and didn't offer too many twists.  But the story itself is still worth it.

This is a definite for urban fantasy fans.  It has just a dash of romance in it (almost non-existent); it's more focused on Brianna's past and her path forward.  It's good!

Thanks goes to Tor for providing me a review copy.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

Genre:  YA Paranormal Romance
Shades of London Series, Book 3

Note:  This is the third book in a series.  I will try really, really hard not to ruin the second book for you, but I definitely recommend you read the first two books before reading anything below...

Description (taken from Goodreads):
Rory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how do you find a ghost? Also, Rory’s classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte’s in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggles to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the entire city. In the process, they'll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself—and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.

This book picks up right where book number two left off:  in a hospital.  Thorpe is now leading the ghost troupe and taking Rory into a form of witness protection.  As Boo, Callum, and Rory regroup to try to find Charlotte, they slowly begin to piece together what was lost and make sense of the notes they do have.  But when Thorpe asks Rory to remain at the safehouse while everyone else does something to help, she's just not going to listen.

As Rory goes looking for a ghost of her own to retrieve some much needed answers, she finds herself in a cemetery with a little more than she bargained for.  But fortunately for her, she's got a stalker ready to save the day.  Funny how a stalker can save the day, right?  Anywho, as knowledge begins to form coherently, they are closer to locating Charlotte and Jane.  And Jane is the one with a nefarious plan that just might ruin everything in addition to saving the day in the end.  Is it something Rory's willing to risk?

After being so very disappointed with the second one (because I felt like it absolutely did not compare to the first - note: Jack-the-Ripper/historical-London fan right here), I was surprised to see this one kept me reading from the very beginning.  We delve right into the secret ghost societies of London, and there's enough plot-changing intrigue to keep you guessing.  And as one plot wraps up, another one slowly weaves it's way in for the next one (subtle hint that there is a next one).  I think I'm finally adjusting to the psychotic plot-weaving and plot-adjusting that this series tends to do.

I had to take a moment to read my review of the second one because I wanted to better understand why I disliked the second book.  And I think I'm a control freak who has to understand the direction a book is taking before I invest myself in it.  I'm wondering if I would have enjoyed the second one more if I had read it after the third one.  Probably...

I'm still holding onto the opinion that this is a good ghost series for readers.  And the first one is definitely a good one.

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