Partials by Dan Wells (Book Review)

February 17, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 10 ★★★★

Partials by Dan Wells (Book Review)Partials by Dan Wells
Series: Partials Sequence #1
Published by HarperTEEN on February 28, 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 468
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

I was pretty excited to read this book! As a result of my massive dystopia overdose recently, my expectations were extremely high for Partials. Unfortunately, it paled in comparison to the other dystopias I’ve read over the last month, like Under the Never Sky and Incarnate. And I would not compare it to The Hunger Games like the book’s summary does. Partials was given some pretty big shoes to fill, and going in with thoughts of The Hunger Games proved to cause a letdown. I’m not saying this book wasn’t good. I’m very intrigued, and plan to read the next book. My advice to you would be to take the book at face value and not expect it to be as good or as great as a book that pretty much knocked the genre out of the ball park. I’m going to break up my review and bold the highlights, just in case you’re a skimmer. :)

1. It took quite a while (like half the book) to build up to something really on-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting. There’s some minor action and a lot of science talk in the beginning of the book, and pages and pages of thoughts and explanations with not a lot of character interaction. Like I said, though, about halfway through it things really pick up and I had a hard time putting it down from that point on. I’m not going to say much about the plot because I think the story is more exciting if you discover it on your own. There was a few surprises nestled in there, that were very eye-opening and interesting to learn about.

2. We are kept guessing a lot. Who do I trust? The partials, or the humans? I kept jumping back and forth from one to the other. I felt sorry for the partials. They were engineered for a selfish purpose (to help the humans win a war), and thrown out to pasture when they were no longer needed. They were essentially abandoned with no way to make a life for themselves. I’d hate the humans too, if that happened to me. And then I felt sorry for the humans because their venture backfired, and most of their species died as a result. They both had reasons to hate and deceive each other, but they really needed to get along in order to survive. It was hard to know who was right. And on top of that, there’s a third group of people: The Voice. They are a group of humans who rebelled against the Senate for establishing the Hope Act, which forced all girls 18 and older to be pregnant pretty much all the time and produce as many babies as possible, in the hopes that one of them would be immune to the virus. In 11 years, not one baby had survived. That’s a lot of death. So really, I felt bad for everyone, found myself siding with each group at different times, and was never really convinced who was right! It was pretty entertaining. 

3. My favorite character was Samm (a partial). He actually seemed the most humane and the most realistic. He risked the most in the hope of finding answers. I liked that even though he was engineered to be an emotionless fighting machine, he seemed to have a conscience and a thought process that was extremely human. I found myself rooting for the partials more than the humans, because I felt it was not their fault. The humans made them this way. But again, I was having a hard time sticking to one side. Haha. I liked Kira, but she was a little too self-destructive for me. I liked her boyfriend, Marcus as well. I would have enjoyed getting to know him better. The supporting characters were well done, but forgettable after a while.

4. The end was action-packed. I really, really liked the last 10-or-so chapters. It was definitely my favorite part of the book. Dan has some great suspense scenes, and his writing style was gripping. I went from casually reading when I had time, to staying up until 4:00 AM and reading until I could not keep my eyes open.

5. There were a lot of questions raised throughout the book, but Dan did a great job of wrapping some of the major ones up. There was still a cliff-hanger ending, but it could have been so much worse! Right up to the end, I was biting my nails. New crazy things kept happening, and I kept worrying the book was going to end right then and there. Then I’d click the “next page” button on my Kindle, and I’d see I had at least one more page to lessen the impact of the ending. You will be satisfied with the ending, but curious about where the next book will take you.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. You need to take it for what it is, and not go into it with grand expectations. You also need to be patient and read a ways to get to the good parts. It was very a multidimensional story, and I appreciate that. It gives young adult fiction a good name. The plot was complex even though the original premise of the story is simple: humanity is becoming extinct. The characters were likable, although I never grew close to any of them. Dan Wells’s writing was enjoyable to read. He gave lots of details, and created some exciting, action-packed scenes. Fans of post-apocalyptic dystopians will enjoy this, and crave book #2. I definitely think it’s worth the read, and will appeal to many audiences.

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Sea Change by Aimee Friedman (Book Review)

February 15, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 8 ★★★★

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman (Book Review)Sea Change by Aimee Friedman
Published by Point on June 1, 2009
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 292
Format: Hardcover
Source: Birthday present
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science. . .and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate.

There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship. . .and reality.

Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?

I’ve been a fan of mermaid romance novels for quite a while now, and have read many of them. There’s so much an author can do when they are talking about a setting that is so mysterious and unknown to land dwellers like us! That’s why I decided to read Sea Change. It’s not necessarily a mermaid book, but it does deal with mythological themes centered around the ocean. While it was not what I was expecting, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the story.

Let me start by saying that the cover is beautiful! It’s even prettier in person than it is on screen because it shimmers! This mystical story of young love lacks a bit in plot, but makes up for it with charm and magic. Miranda is a very likable, relate-able character. She’s been hurt by people in her not-so-distant past, and is trying to heal during her summer on Selkie Island. She’s warned on the ferry of mystical water creatures and is told to avoid the native islanders because they are “different.” Right when she arrives, she knows this island is unique. She thinks nothing of it, but begins to understand as she explores her aunt’s house and the island itself.

She’s a bit of an odd man out on the island, which is full of rich and snobby socialites. The first night she’s there, she’s invited to an heiress party (she’s an heiress since she inherited her aunt’s estate). It’s stuffy, and the “friends” she makes care mostly about money, fashion, and getting in bed with a hot, young, rich, preppy boy.  Miranda’s not that kind of girl. She’s a brainy good girl from the big city and has to work to survive. That’s another reason I like her. She’s real. In her quest for getting away from the snobs, she goes to a marine center on the island. There, she meets the mysterious Leo. He’s extremely attractive, and someone Miranda feels she would never have a chance with. He latches on to her, though, and they form a very sweet bond that’s surrounded by mystery and intrigue. They have to sneak around since he’s a native, and the heirs and heiresses of the island shun natives. I really liked Leo. He’s down-to-earth, honest, caring, chivalrous, and sweet. It’s no secret either that he’s a very different kind of person.

While the story does not have a complex, fast-paced plot, it is quite intriguing. The reader is given different lessons on mythology and history. You are kept guessing, along with Miranda, until the very end. Unfortunately, I was still guessing after the book was over. I doubt there will be a sequel, but there certainly is room for one. I would have enjoyed learning more about the mythology that lives on Selkie Island, but perhaps we’re meant to make that up in our own minds. The descriptions of the island and the houses were beautiful.

My only real complaint was that the story took so long to build up, that the ending was quite rushed. Miranda and Leo’s story went from casual to intense rather quickly. There was plenty of room to slow it down and make it seem more realistic. All in all, though, this was a very sweet book with a lot of southern charm and pure, innocent love. I think it’s the perfect beach read… or the perfect man-it’s-so-cold-outside-I-wish-it-were-summer read if you can’t wait for summer!

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Bookish Finds: Happy "I Love Books" Day!

February 14, 2012 Bookish Finds 4

Bookish-FindsOriginal

Bookish Finds is a feature here at That Artsy Reader Girl, where I highlight awesome bookish things I come across during my exciting life.

 

 

 

 

All you bookish people out there (and your significant others who rarely see you without a book) will understand how truly huge a statement like this is! If I ever find a man I love more than books, I will snatch him up immediately! On this Valentine’s I Love Books Day, though, I will be curled up with Mr. Book of the Day and some chocolate, and relaxing! What are your Valentine’s Day plans? Oh, and I pretty much think you’re the greatest ever for stopping by today!

(Buy this handmade card (or choose from a Ton of others) from Storeyshop on Etsy)

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Invisible by Jeanne Bannon (Book Excerpt and Giveaway)

February 13, 2012 Blog Tour, Book Excerpt, Giveaway, Young Adult 8

Title: Invisible
Author: Jeanne Bannon
Release Date: September 7, 2011
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Format: PDF e-book
Source: Free from the author for the blog tour.
Buy It: Amazon
Add It: Goodreads

Lola’s not pretty. Lola’s not popular. Lola wishes she could disappear … and then one day she does just that…

For seventeen-year-old Lola Savullo, life is a struggle. Born to funky parents who are more in than she could ever be, Lola’s dream of becoming a writer makes her an outsider even in her own home. Bullied and despised, Lola still has the support of her best pal Charlie and Grandma Rose.

Not only is she freakishly tall, Lola’s a big girl and when forced to wear a bathing suit at her summer job as a camp counselor, Lola’s only escape from deep embarrassment seems to be to literally vanish. Soon after, she discovers the roots of her new “ability”.

Slowly, with Charlie’s help, Lola learns to control the new super power. The possibilities are endless. Yet power can be abused, too…

Then, when tragedy strikes, Lola must summon her inner strength, both at home and at school. She has to stand up for herself, despite the temptations and possibilities of her newfound super power. 

Book Excerpt (Taken from the first chapter, so it’s spoiler free!):

Not only am I fat, I’m freakishly tall. God only knows why, since Mom is petite and Dad is on the short side. My older sister Eva is the spitting image of Mom, fair and fine boned. I take after Dad’s side, bulky, dark and thick. Dad says I must have gotten some of Uncle Sammy’s genes, the giant of the Savullo family, who tops out at 6ft 4 inches. Anyway, I’m sure you‘re getting a good mental picture right about now. 
My insides drop as if I placed a foot on a step that wasn’t there when I peer down at the coarse dark hair creeping from my calves to just past my knees, where it gradually peters out. Then I run a hand across the tops of my thighs. The triple bulge of my belly prevents me from a good look at my sorely neglected bikini area. Even in the blazing August sun, I wear baggy cotton Capri pants, never exposing more than an ankle. There’s never been a reason to shave. My eyes mist with tears, but I pinch them away. It’ll be hard enough to go out in public like this, but I won’t give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry. I lift my chin in resolve and open the door. 

The whistle blows, signalling the beginning of the session. Screams of delight fill the air, as the kids jump into the pool to find relief from the 90-degree heat. 

I fasten a towel around my waist as best I can. Towels never seem large enough to wrap completely and comfortably around the bulge of my stomach. To the pool I go, treading silently so as not to draw attention. 

“Where’s Lola?” Sonia, a fellow counselor, asks. 

At first I think she’s joking because I‘m right in front of her. I toss her an annoyed look and don’t bother to answer as I trudge past to the edge of the pool, where I pull off my towel and slip into the water.

 
“She’s probably taken off,” Jerod replies. He’s a year younger than I am, but looks older with his muscular build and chiseled jaw line. The girls love him. “I hope she doesn’t show,” he continues. “Who wants to see a hippo in a bathing suit anyway?”

Sonia laughs, a little too hard and places a hand on Jerod’s shoulder. 

Puzzlement and anger compete on my face. I’m standing no more than three feet away from them. I’m used to rude comments and I know what everyone thinks of me, but this is way beyond mean. The tears in my eyes spill down my cheeks and I slip under the water, hoping to wash away the evidence of my pain. Not that anyone would care, but crying could give them more ammunition; just another reason to taunt me. 

Kids bounce around me, laughing and playing. Justine stands like a sentinel, looking like a Bay Watch babe in her red suit, one hand gripping an emergency flotation device. Her steel blue eyes are focused on the activity in the pool. 

Jerod jumps in, nearly landing on my back. I barely have time to leap out of the way. My anger boils; blood rushes to my temples and pounds there, giving me an instant headache. I hurl myself at him, pushing with all my might, elbows aimed at his chest. I hit nothing but air and fly into the rough concrete wall of the pool, scraping a hole in my one piece and rubbing raw a patch of skin. Small blood pinpricks rise to the surface. 

“Hey!” I scream, bewildered. How’d he maneuver out of the way so fast? 

Jerod slips under the water and emerges at the other end of the pool in one long, slick glide. 

The steel in me comes up, anger replacing humiliation. I pull my bulk out of the water and march over to Justine. 

“Did you see what that asshole just did?” I bellow.

Justine brings the whistle that hangs from her neck to her lips and blows two sharp blasts, making my ears ring.

 
“Stop horsing around,” she calls to a group of boys, who offer sheepish grins and stop instantly. 

I step forward so she can see me. “Justine?” I reach to touch her shoulder but, impossibly, my hand falls through her. 

“Justine?” I call again, louder, my voice panic-laced. With both hands, I grab her, or try to. Again, it’s as if she’s not there. 

My mind is swept along in a current of anxiety. What’s happening? 

Then it hits me… it’s me who’s not there. 

Enter to win your very own copy! 


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This book excerpt and giveaway is brought to you on behalf of Ever After PR.
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When Good Covers Get Wasted on Not-so-Good Books

February 13, 2012 Cover Talk, Discussion 9

So, this post is a companion to my earlier post, When Good Books Get Lost Behind Not-so-Good Covers. Have you ever been walking through a book store, stopped dead in your tracks, and drooled a little over the latest eye candy on the book displays? Have you ever bought a book without even caring what it’s about, just because the cover is drop-dead amazing? Have you ever gone home and read that book, and then thrown it against the wall because its was a major disappointment? I have! This post is dedicated to all those books I didn’t necessarily hate, but had higher hopes for because of their deceptive book covers.

 

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – This cover is gorgeous. GORGEOUS, I tell you! *Sigh* Just read my review.

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble – I love the typography and the swish ornamentation. The book was just weird, though. I love Anastasia, but I did not like this author’s take on it. I don’t even wish to read the sequel. :(

Someday My Prince Will Come: True Adventures of a Wannabe Princess by Jerramy Fine – Look how adorable that cover is! I read this because of that cover. I just didn’t love the story, though. I reviewed it at The Broke and The Bookish, if you’re interested in seeing what I thought.

Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler – This book was CREEPY, but look at the glorious, ominous vector imagery on that cover! Blast! Really, the book was just weird. This guy is “not of this world” and he stalks her… walking down a snowy lanes, and not talking… and they make a point of saying that she sees him naked and he has no male body parts! I mean… WEIRD. Why do we care? I bought this for the cover, and did not consult my fellow Goodreaders. My mistake. *shudder*

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black – PEOPLE. This book is sparkly! Like, those dots are actually shiny foil dots! And her skin is impeccable. I wanted to love this SO bad, but the sequels have come out and I have no desire to read them… The plot was weak, with everything happening over and over again. It was so lack-luster that I didn’t even review it. It was just “meh.”

Sailing to Capri by Elizabeth Adler – Ahhhhh…. Italy. Yacht. Yum. I want to go there. But it was kind of boring with not much of a story line, just a list of characters. No suspense. No real substance. Grar.

Caribbean Cruising by Rachel Hawthorne – Darling cover, and I SO wanted to love it! I read this while on a cruise, though, and the book is SO WRONG (nobody her age would be allowed to have her own cabin, for one thing.). And all the girl wanted was to lose her virginity. That’s all she talked about the whole time! Read my review.

Seduction by Brenda Joyce – That cover looks so romantic! But no, the romance in this book takes a backseat to the politics surrounding the French Revolution. I was so bored!

A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans – I didn’t even finish this one… So much swearing and crap going on. I couldn’t take it any longer! But how cute is that cover? I want to play in the fountain with an umbrella! And the title?? I thought for sure I’d love it, but I was so disappointed. Drat!

Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham – This cover is my idea of the perfect Christmas scene! I want to jump in that cover and live there forever!!!!! The book was just ok…I mean, I liked it. I just wanted it to live up to the cover. You know how it is.

Ok, guys… Which covers have deceived you? I need to know where the wolves in sheeps’ clothing are hiding! I don’t want to be fooled again. And if you loved any of these stories, don’t be upset at me! I still think you’re cool. :)

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Caribbean Crusing by Rachel Hawthorne (Mini Book Review)

February 11, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 5 ½

Caribbean Crusing by Rachel Hawthorne (Mini Book Review)Caribbean Crusing by Rachel Hawthorne
Published by HarperTEEN on April 15, 2004
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
0.5 Stars
The perfect summer story of a girl, several boys, and a cruise ship full of possibilities.

Lindsay has never been on a cruise, but she knows exactly what she wants to do now that she is: climb a waterfall, snorkel, meet lots of cute guys, and look for one perfect guy for a summer fling.

But her to-do list isn't going according to plan, especially when she discovers that it's impossible to have a fling-when you're actually falling in love.

About a week before I was leaving on a cruise, I ran into the bookstore hoping to find cruise books. I love reading books that sync with a vacation I’m on. I found this in the young adult section, and thought it sounded like a cute read for my upcoming week of floating around in the Caribbean.

However… I was annoyed by this storyline. This girl is on an amazing trip, and do you want to know what she’s most concerned with? Losing her virginity. Yes. That’s her main focus. Does anyone else agree that this is poor subject matter to center a book around? There was no plot other than Lindsay’s frustration with being a virgin. Still. Because at 18, surely she should have slept with numerous guys, right? That’s what high schoolers do, right? Every guy she meets makes her think, “Oh! I could sleep with him… Better be nice!” And I can’t tell you how many “hot body” descriptions I read. I was nauseated. I find it rather frustrating that such a book was written, and then placed in the young adult section. This is where 12-year-olds are instructed to buy books from. Is this seriously a lesson they should be taught? And not only was she looking for sex, she was looking for it with no strings attached. A fling. Seriously? Shallow! And of course she couldn’t see a love interest if he smacked her over the head. So she was shallow and dumb. Lovely. I see no reason why she should be someone a teenage girl should look up to.

When I wasn’t downright annoyed at this book, I was bored. I’ve been on cruises. MANY. There is SO much more to write about than this. I can list countless numbers of interesting cruise ship plots. This one just made me want to throw it overboard. Since I don’t litter I didn’t, plus I would have hated for a cute sea creature to suffer as a result of my frustration. I really can’t say I’d recommend this to anyone.

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Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll (Book Review)

February 7, 2012 Adult Fiction, Book Review 8 ★★★★★

Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll (Book Review)Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll
Series: Black Swan Rising #1
Published by Tor Books on August 3, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 396
Format: Paperback
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
When New York City jewelry designer Garet James stumbles into a strange antiques shop in her neighborhood, her life is about to be turned upside down. John Dee, the enigmatic shopkeeper, commissions her to open a vintage silver box for a generous sum of money. Oddly, the symbol of a swan on the box exactly matches the ring given to her by her deceased mother. Garet can’t believe her luck and this eerie coincidence until she opens the box and otherworldly things start happening. . . .

That evening, the precious silver box is stolen. When Garet begins to investigate, she learns that she has been pulled into a prophecy that is hundreds of years old, and opening the box has unleashed an evil force onto the streets of Manhattan and the world at large. Gradually, Garet pieces together her true identity—one that her deceased mother desperately tried to protect her from. Generations of women in Garet’s family, including her beloved mother, suffered and died at the hands of this prevailing evil. Does Garet possess the power to reclaim the box and defeat this devastating force?

On her journey, she will meet the fey folk who walk unnoticed among humans and a sexy vampire who also happens to be a hedge fund manager that she can’t stop thinking about. But the fairies reveal a desire to overpower mere humans and the seductive vampire has the power to steal the life from her body. Whom can Garet trust to guide her? Using her newfound powers and sharp wit, Garet will muster everything she’s got to shut down the evil taking over her friends, family, New York City, and the world.

This book was rich with beautiful literary writing, dynamic characters, and a complex plot. “Lee Carroll” is a collaboration between award-winning mystery novelist Carol Goodman and her poet and hedge fund manager husband, Lee Slominsky. I loved the integration of mystery, intrigue, poetic writing, and exquisite descriptions. These two make an awesome team, and I hope they continue to write novels together in the future.

This was right up my alley! I started reading it as soon as I could, and I was sold by the end of the first page. As I said, and will probably say again, the writing is lovely!

The story takes place in present-day NYC with elements of history, the arts, and Shakespeare. I really liked the main character, Garet, which stands for Margaret (named after her mother Marguerite—which is an important detail). She’s courageous, spunky, and has a good head on her shoulders. She has to go through a lot in this book, seeing as how evil is slowly escaping and seeping into everyday life. At the very beginning of the book, her father gets shot and some valuable artwork is stolen from their business. An investigator comes and believes her father staged the whole robbery and shot himself. This storyline is an underlying part of the entire rest of the story, and has Garet deeply troubled. The evil influences, which come in the form of fog and feelings, weigh heavily on her friends and her father… even the world around her. The evil actually coaxes someone into trying to commit suicide. Garet is the only one who knows why all of this is happening, but she doesn’t sit and complain about it like some heroines do. Instead, she follows in the footsteps of the women she descended from, in order to try and defeat this evil. Through it all, she has this wonderful sense of humor! It helps that she has sidekicks along the way, particularly a small fairy and a sexy vampire. Boy, does this book make him sound amazing! He swoops in and protects her when she needs him (even though he’s forbidden), which makes you want a vampire of your very own.

The authors put a totally different spin on vampires, and it’s really a tiny, tiny part of the story. Even though this vampire is a romantic interest, the romance is almost non-existent. The main focus is on Garet’s discovery of this new world, and what she plans to do about it. Along with the fey and the vampire, she encounters an alchemist, a dragon, a water goddess, and some other interesting people that are not who they appear to be. She experiences so many different things, goes through every emotion, and flip-flops between who to trust and who to steer clear of. It’s a crazy web of events and feelings, but it was written in a way that was not at all confusing.

I really love that we are kept guessing throughout the entire book. I didn’t know what was going on until Garet did. I found myself questioning every character right along with her. Is this guy on my side? Should I be worried about this? What’s going to happen next? I had no idea how the ending would work out. I was shocked every time she was. I trusted the same people she did. It’s like I was doing the thinking for her. That was refreshing, as many mysteries can be easily solved before the book is over.

The only complaint I had was that Garet’s father and close friends slowly slipped into the background. I guess when you’re one woman fighting off the evils of the world, while being sought out by Mr. Evil himself, and befriending a romantic vampire you don’t have much time for family! However… the characters were likeable, so I wish I got to learn more about them.

If you love a good urban fantasy, a strong heroine, a little mystery, evil lurking around every corner, amazing and beautiful writing (see, I told you I’d mention it again), detailed descriptions, a smidge of romance, a dash of action, and a hint of Shakespeare, then I think you’ll love this book! I’m really excited to start on the sequel, The Watchtower.

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Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (Book Review)

February 5, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 7 ★★★★

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (Book Review)Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Series: Study #1
Published by Mira on November 18, 2008
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 405
Source: Birthday present
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Choose: A quick death… Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

Much like Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, I was really worried about this book. I don’t usually like books where the main character(s) are violently mistreated. In both instances, I read the back of each book and skeptically thought, “Who on Earth could enjoy such a violent and tragic storyline?”  However, I’d heard AMAZING things from friends and fellow book-a-holics that I trusted. I loved The Hunger Games, so I dove right into this book with the same expectations.  I loved this one too!

Yelena lives in the land of Ixia. She has been convicted of murder, and is therefore sentenced to death by hanging. While lying in her dark, grimy, rat-infested dungeon cell she awaits the noose made especially for her. After living in that cell for just under a year, a guard comes and scrapes her emaciated body off the floor and takes her away. She can only assume it’s her turn to die. However, she is presented with a way to live—a new life. There’s a catch, though. If she’s going to live, she has to do it as a servant in the Commander’s home as his food taster. The previous food taster has died, and since the favorable method of assassination is by poison, the commander needs a new food taster immediately. The code states that the next person in line for the noose has to be offered the position. She accepts, thinking that surely there will be opportunity for escape in the future. Valek, her new handler, takes her through an extensive training curriculum, even poisoning her in the process. She comes through with a complete knowledge of all the poisons and begins her job.

Brazell, the father of the man Yelena murdered wants her dead. Her life becomes an obsession of his and she has to fight him and his guards off along the way. Not only is he after her, but so are some of the other servants she lives with. On top of that, someone has noticed some special powers she possesses and insists on either killing her or training her. If she does not learn to control these powers, she could cause major trouble for not only herself, but the world she lives in. This makes life difficult, obviously, and Valek, takes her into his suite so he can protect her. Along with Valek, she finds a few friends in the castle who help her and teach her new things.

When a conspiracy arises against the Commander, Yelena is forced into the middle of all of it. She has to face the man who drove her to kill, the demons of her past, and the man who just might ruin her future. She also has to quickly discover her true potential in order to help protect those she is bound to by vow and bound to by love. Throw in a ton of suspenseful scenes, some menacing characters, and a love interest or two, Yelena is in for a bumpy ride on the road to self-discovery, love, loyalty, and friendship.

I really enjoyed the unique storyline and cast of characters. Yelena is so spunky. You’d think that with the crappy past she had and the dismal life she ends up surrendering to, she’d be all whiny and woe-is-me all the time. She’s a fighter!  She takes no crap and she kicks butt a few times! It’s really entertaining and refreshing to see such a strong female character. Here’s this skinny, weak little thing fighting off some of the strongest and most evil people ever. There’s a few lessons I think I need to learn from her. I loved Valek from the beginning. He’s got that hardened, cold, stand-offish persona but you just know there’s a teddy bear in there somewhere. That kind of man is very appealing and you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read about a man like him. The other characters were also likable. Really, the only ones I did not like were the villains (go figure). The storyline was so unique to me that it really pulled me in. I was constantly turning pages wondering how the author would treat the subject matter. It took me way too long to read, since I was on vacation, but it kept calling to me from my carry-on bag or my suitcase. 

I could not give the book 5 stars, just because I really hated how horrible some of the people in this book were treated. I had a hard time hearing about the sad life of Yelena, as well as the people from her past. I loved the suspense, the little bit of romance, and the unique storyline.

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Coliloquy Titles On Sale Through February!

February 4, 2012 Bookish Deals 3

Hi again! So, I’m sure you’ve heard about the digital publishing company, Coliloquy, that publishes “active fiction” for Amazon Kindle. They are like choose-your-own mystery books! For the month of February, they are all on sale for $1.99 (usually priced around $5-$7) on Amazon. I just bought Getting Dumped and Witch’s Brew, and thought you might like to see check them out as well. Here they are! I’ve included the summaries below.

Dead Letter Office:
When Celia’s father is killed in Afghanistan, she moves with her mother to New Orleans, the city where her father grew up. Struggling to adjust and haunted by troubling dreams, Celia finds comfort in new friends like Tilly, a practicing witch, and Donovan, the son of police detective. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences rock the city. Celia meets the mysterious Luc and finds a letter, over a hundred years old, addressed to her.

The paranormal repercussions continue when Celia learns that Luc is the restless spirit of a young man murdered in 1854, only able to assume solid form at night. And then, to her shock, Celia finds that the letter, which describes the suspected murder of a man in 1870, contains uncanny parallels to the present-day death of Abel Sims, a homeless veteran.

With help from Luc, Tilly, and Donovan, Celia races to solve the murder—and the mystery of the letter—using both magical and forensic clues. 

Kira has written Parish Mail like a TV series–there are over-arching mystery and romantic story arcs that extend between the episodes, while each episode has a smaller case that is presented and solved. Along the way, she asks you, the reader, to make several small decisions as you read. These choices do not impact the overarching storyline, but certain combinations “unlock” clues to the series’ mystery, which are embedded in the text. Kira also asks you to cast a vote at the end of the episode, to get additional feedback from her fans about their preferred love interests in future episodes.

Getting Dumped:
Losing a cushy marketing job only to end up driving heavy equipment at the landfill would be a tough blow for most women.

But JJ Schultz isn’t most women, so she gamely swaps office politics and dry cleaning bills for a chance to crush garbage with a 150,000 pound machine. As it turns out, she doesn’t miss her old life too much…though her love life was sure a lot simpler when she didn’t wear a hardhat every day. Between her hot new co-workers and her on-again-off-again boyfriend, JJ has her hands full.

The drama kicks into high gear when JJ and her sister, Lori, find evidence of a counterfeit handbag operation – something local police deem only slightly more urgent than collecting fruit flies. JJ soon finds herself unraveling a sinister plot in the company of a tie-tugging accountant, a straight-to-video action hero turned secretary, a suspicious but sneaky-hot engineer, and a host of other characters with questionable hygiene and morals.  

In Getting Dumped, Tawna gives you one very simple choice point: Which guy should JJ call? Depending on your choice, you’ll get to know one of the guys a bit more intimately. Don’t be afraid to read all three versions–it’s for JJ’s own good, after all! And of course, feel free to re-read YOUR favorite over and over again. Tawna still isn’t sure who JJ should end up with, so she’s eager to see who her readers prefer. She sees the aggregate statistics on who gets picked the most, so the more you read, the more you influence what she writes.

Witch’s Brew:
The Spellspinners of Melas County is a fantasy YA romance series about a witch, a warlock, and their fight for their forbidden but prophesied love.

Once soulmates, the witch and warlock covens of the California coast have been estranged for a century. Raised to hate each other, their teenagers meet in the Solstice Stones, a magical battleground where they draw energy from each other to maintain their balance. 16 year olds Logan and Lily have spent years training for their first Stones…only to discover just days before that the enemy may not be what either of them had thought.

In Witch’s Brew, Lily is torn between her feelings for Logan and her coven’s need to know who—or what—he is. The young lovers race against time, their distrust for each other, and the powerful influence of their elders to unravel the mystery of their pasts before their future is destroyed.

In Witch’s Brew, Lily and Logan’s fate is already decided, but Heidi explores several different possible pathways for how they get there. She shares scenes that wouldn’t normally fit in a book format and gives readers more precious moments between the two young lovers. As the series progresses, you’ll see some normal narrative forms, interspersed with smaller scenes, alternate points of view, and a lot of “what if” scenarios.

Arcania:
In Arcania Trial By Fire, your input influences what happens to Adia, a young sorceress. Born without arcania in her blood, Adia has lived in the shadow of her magical twin, until the day she inherits her sister’s spellcasting talents. As she leaves for the training academy, there are plenty of people to show her the ropes: Grey, the darkly passionate top shield, Seger, a swashbuckling rogue with a talent for daggers, and Finola, a clever and empathic healer. With a battle heating up, Adia must learn to master her magic and earn a spot on a fighting team before the ancient war between the forces of magic destroys her loved ones on Earth. The author sees the aggregate statistics on what option gets picked the most, so the more you read, the more you influence what she writes! 

(According to the Goodreads descriptions, “Active fiction” is a new type of e-reading experience that allows the reader and the author to interact with each other and the text in new and different ways.)

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Matched by Ally Condie (Book Review)

February 3, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 8 ★★★★

Matched by Ally Condie (Book Review)Matched by Ally Condie
Series: Matched #1
Published by Speak on November 30, 20120
Genres: Dystopia, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 366
Format: Hardcover
Source: Christmas Present
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I read this book right when it came out (and reviewed it at The Broke and The Bookish), but have decided to post my review of it on here as well because I’ll be reading and reviewing the sequel, Crossed, as soon as I possibly can! This is a wonderful dystopian book, that really made me think. The people of this world live in a time where everything they do is governed and decided by the Officials of the Society. People are matched up with their spouse, their job, their extra-curricular activities, and even the day they will die. All the literature, music, and art have been paired down to the best 100 pieces of each. The Officials have destroyed everything else. The people are not allowed to write. Everything they do is monitored—even their dreams are recorded. They are only allowed to exercise a certain amount. If they go over that time, or do it too vigorously, they are marked as a person with body image issues. They are only allowed to eat a certain amount of food, which is delivered to them three times a day. Pills control their emotions. Their possessions are regulated. What kind of life would that be? What purpose do the humans even serve anymore? If they go against the rules, they are marked and are no longer a respected part of society. They are pulled out of the Matching Pool, no longer allowed to be married, and are given menial jobs that lead to an early death. Choices are against the law. This is the world Cassia lives in, only she’s not happy about it.

The Officials messed up. A glitch in the system showed Cassia the corruption behind the decisions these Officials made, and now she’s rebelling—hoping that she can somehow beat the system. Sure, the guy chosen for her might be the most ideal, most compatible, and most practical Match for her, but what about the one she’s fallen in love with? Love doesn’t matter anymore.  What if she doesn’t want the job they assigned her? Too bad. She can’t even choose the clothes she wears. The only time she was ever even allowed to wear a color was for her Matching Banquet, where she was assigned a mate while wearing her beautiful green dress (hence the symbolic book cover image of a girl in a green dress, trapped in a glass ball of dictatorship)—a green dress she chose from a catalog of approved choices. Of course, she could not keep this dress. She was sent a small piece of the dress fabric mounted between two pieces of glass after the Banquet was over.  This is the control these Officials have. The people are being drugged to forget things. They are all lost in a world of conformity. They are being brainwashed into thinking this is all ok. Cassia finds a person who remembers the past. He has access to old “destroyed” writings. He knows how to write. He knows the history of humankind, and it’s a whole lot better than what they’re going through now. The more Cassia rebels and learns about the past, the more corruption she notices. She’s also falling deeper and deeper in love—with the wrong person. She’s going to do something about it. She’s going to change her destiny.

I really loved this book. Many of the passages are extremely poetic, and somewhat lyrical. The descriptions of the scenery make you feel as though you were there. The emotions and feelings are easy to understand. The situations are easy to relate to. The characters are real people. I connected so well to the entire storyline. Cassia is a great heroine. She is not the rule-breaking rebel to the extent of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, but this IS only book one. We might see more rebellion in the future books. She was weak in the beginning, but learned more as the book went on. She grew a backbone! I liked her character development. I really enjoyed the love triangle, which I think ultimately symbolizes rebellion vs. submission. She was told to do one thing, but really wanted the forbidden. It’s a relatable dilemma on many levels. I enjoyed the relationship she had with each of the two boys in this triangle. One was very sweet and innocent—two childhood friends realizing they’re going to get married and exploring the new feelings the Society says they should be developing. The other one was forbidden but equally, if not more, sweet. They snuck around and tried to stifle the underlying tension of wanting, but not being allowed to have. I love this relationship more than the other. It seems more real to me. There could have been a bit more chemistry between them, but I understand that it had to be very hidden in order to protect both of them. With the rebellion I expect to see in the coming books, I expect to see more chemistry as well. All in all, this was a great book, and I really enjoyed it!

Discussion: I love a book that makes me think. At the very beginning I enjoyed the idea of being matched with my ideal man. I wouldn’t have to date a bunch of jerks to find him. He’d just be delivered to me, and we wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not it was going to work out. I would have never been dumped, and I wouldn’t have had to dump anyone! Wonderful! But… then I thought about the what-ifs. What if I fell in love with the wrong person? What if I did not love the guy I was paired with? Then the what-ifs started spiraling out to encompass everything. Part of the wonderfulness of life is that we CAN choose who we marry, what we do for a job, what we read, what we listen to, what we eat, when we eat, what we wear, etc. I think life would be pointless without decisions. It made me grateful for the life I have. Next time a really crummy date goes down in flames, I’ll remind myself that at least I had the opportunity to choose! Haha. So tell me. What do you think about Cassia’s world? Would you enjoy having your entire life planned out for you, or would you fight back too?

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