Thursday, April 30, 2015

Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

Genre:  YA Paranormal Romance
After the End Series, Book 2
Expected publication date:  May 5, 2015

Note:  This is the second book in a series.  Anything below can reveal plots from the first book.

Description (taken from Goodreads):
When Juneau's clan disappeared, she lost so much more than her friends and family. She soon discovered everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie. Her people's gifts were actually secret abilities that others wanted, desperately enough to kidnap an entire village.

Juneau and her new companion Miles's cross-country journey to find her clan has led them to a game preserve in New Mexico. Now Juneau's people are finally within reach, and she will stop at nothing to save them. But she has a target on her back too, because unbeknownst to her she is the key to unlocking everything. To rescue her people - and herself - Juneau must discover what she, and her abilities, are truly capable of.

This story picks up right where the last one left off: with Miles dying and Juneau trying to save him using the only thing she knows can save him.  As he enters a death-sleep, Juneau tries to help him through it by singing and keeping constant watch over him.  But they're on the run from dangerous people trying to capture them.  And Juneau must use her abilities to keep them hidden until Miles wakes up.  Even with the Miles' looming death, she still has to find and free her clan as soon as she can.

When Miles wakes up, he's a changed person.  And their journey has become a little more clear.  The people they are trying to save are in New Mexico.  But the closer they get, the more they realize the guy holding them hostage is a little more dangerous and eccentric than they first thought.  And while Juneau's elders are riddled with secrets, she finds it's not enough to give up on them and feed the hurt and betrayal.  In the end, sometimes what happened in the beginning is better left unsaid.

I must say I've been wanting to read this one ever since I finished the first.  I had to know more about the Yara and see Miles and Juneau's story to completion.  But I felt like the two points of view kept confusing me, and I wasn't as vested in it as I was with the first book.  Having more explanations about the magic, or Yara, and the medicine that everyone's after: it felt like a hippy meets technology war.  Yes, I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't as bedazzling as the first one, but I still enjoyed it and thought the ending was worth the read.

I still hold to my statement from my first review: read the first and second one together.  Hopefully that will make the second one more enjoyable.  And you won't have lost the sparkle like I did.

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

Genre:  New Adult Fantasy
A Court of Thorns and Roses Series, Book 1
Expected publication date:  May 5, 2015

Description (taken from Sarah J Maas' website):
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin-one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin-and his world-forever.

When I first picked up this book, my immediate thoughts were why did I want to read this again?  I was not the biggest fan of Sarah J Maas' other book, so why would I want to read this one?  Quite honestly, it was the description that caught my eye.  We're in a world of faeries and magic.  What more could a girl ask for?  How about a Beauty and the Beast retelling?  Score!!

Feyre promised her dying mother that she would look after her older sisters and father.  So she's off hunting for food in the middle of winter in the woods where wolves have been known to prowl.  Due to her need for survival, actions occur that bring home food as well as a certain faerie's wrath.  In order to pay for her actions, Feyre ends up on the other side of the wall in the Spring court.  While she tries to figure out how to get home, she finds she needs to learn more about her captor, Tamlin.  And the more she learns, the more Feyre seems to blur the lines between fae and human.

I feel like this is one of those books that ripped the Y from YA (young adult) and replaced it for an NA (new adult).  But I can't really complain about that because I felt like the story had a little more depth.  In the beginning, I thought Feyre (and her older sisters) were setting me up for disappointment.  I mean, what mother in her right mind demands her youngest kid to take care of her elders?  But once I got out of the human world and into the fae world, the fantasy part of mind quickly over-ruled that doubtful one.  This story is a beautifully laid out Beauty and the Beast retelling that doesn't take a lot of thought to get through.  There were parts of the story where I was  absolutely swooning over the characters.

I think Sarah J Maas fans are going to enjoy this one.  And for those who despised Throne of Glass, you might enjoy this one.  Yes, I will say the characters can be a little one-dimensional, but the story pulled me in and forced the characters to grow on me.  I will be reading the second one...

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Genre:  Adult Detective (Suspense/Drama)

Description (taken from Gillian Flynn's website):
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Imagine that perfect couple down the street from you who has it all.  You know the one that you wish your life could be like.  You're life would be more perfect if you had what they had.  Now imagine the wife of that couple vanishing.  And watch as the facade slowly crumbles as questions come.  Questions that the husband can't answer without a guilty heart.

Nick is the golden boy that can get any girl he wants, but he treats them with proper respect.  His smile is the one all girls swoon over, and all of his female acquaintances never have a bad thing to say about him.  Amy is the well-off beautiful girl that every girl wishes they could be.  She has the looks, the money, and the man.  So what went wrong with this couple?  One day, Amy disappears and no one knows what happened.  And as Nick is pushed into the limelight, he tries to decipher Amy's anniversary gift as well as past friendships to find out what happened to her.  But when everything comes to light, we find even the golden couple can look very ugly.

First off, I watched the movie before I picked up the book.  The movie was so good and ended exactly how I wanted it to end.  I figured the book would have to be that much better, right?  Well...  Other than you have a little more insight to the characters, it's not really that much better.  It's still very, very good.  But after reading it, I have to say the movie had the perfect tone and the actors played the story so well that the book didn't really add anything more to it.  I'm in the definite group that says the movie gives you enough story that you don't need to read the book.  By the way, the book is hellishly long, and all of that psychological bullshit is drawn out (and well-played).  It really makes you think how the story would have ended if our world wasn't so set up in gender-roles like it is.

Yes, this book is good.  But if you've seen the movie, you don't need to read the book.  Unless you're a bookaholic.  I wonder what my opinion would have been if I had read the book before seeing the movie...

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.
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