Thursday, November 29, 2012

Severed Review + Excerpt

by Sarah Alderson

Read: October 20-22, 2012
Published: November 29, 2012 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Source: From the author in exchange for an honest review
Category: Paranormal/sci-fi YA
Series: Fated series book 2

Fate brought them together.
Now it’s threatening to tear them apart.

As the last in a long line of demon slayers, Evie’s destiny is to end the war that has raged for centuries between humans and demons.

Lucas, the half-Shadow Warrior half-human who was sent to kill her, has betrayed his own Brotherhood and his family to fight alongside her.

With an army of unhumans on their tail, Evie and Lucas are forced into an uneasy alliance with a group of rogue Hunters who offer protection and the promise of answers.

As the past is untangled and the dark history of the Hunters revealed, Evie discovers that severing the realms is going to require a lot more than just fighting. It’s going to require a sacrifice – one that only she can make.

…More than realms will be severed. (From Goodreads)

Quick recap of Fated
In Fated we are introduced to Evie Tremain, who suddenly learns that she is the last in a line of demon Hunters. Unfortunately she finds this out after a group of them try to kill her, including Lucas Gray who is a half-human Shadow Warrior. Not only does Evie discover a heritage she knew nothing about, she finds out that there is an important prophecy surrounding her. While the Hunters will do anything to make sure she fulfills her purpose, the demons will do everything they can to stop her. 

When Lucas is sent back to spy on Evie and eventually kill her, things don't go as planned - for either of them. At the end of Fated, Evie and Lucas have escaped both the demons and Hunters, neither of which is happy that they are working together. Severed picks up right where the first book ends, beginning with Evie and Lucas on the run.

On Severed 
In Severed Sarah Alderson delivers another action-packed read that is fast-paced, romantic and surprising. The book takes place in L.A. and the grittiness of the city is a great backdrop for danger that Lucas and Evie feel crowding in on them.   

An interesting Fate vs. Free Will debate comes into play in Severed as Evie tries to discover the rest of the prophecy surrounding herDo you make your own destiny? Can you change what’s fated? Or will what is supposed to happen take place anyway, no matter what you do to try to stop it? There are no simple answers to these questions, and I was really intrigued by how they played out throughout this book. I'm also eager to find out how they are answered in the rest of the series.

Severed introduce several new characters, both demons and Hunters - Flic and Jamieson as well as Cyrus, Vera and Ash. Alderson has called Cyrus her favorite male character since Alex from Hunting Lila.  He is attractive, arrogant and good at what he does (you'll have to read the book to find out what that is). But he also has more depth to him than he shows on the surface. You don't want to miss him and the other new cast members.

As Evie, Lucas and the others travel through L.A. and the prophecy becomes clearer, we learn more about the seven demon realms and the demons themselves. However the demon mythology is still the part of the story that I am the least clear about. I realize that the two narrators of this story - Lucas and Evie - have only lived in the human realm, but I'd love some more details about the realms and how they operate. I hope we get more about them in the third book.

I really like the way that Alderson writes her stories, and especially her relationships. She does not give excessive information, or endless descriptions. But that makes the information we do get feel more important somehow. Severed is a great example of the fact that you don’t have to be graphic to be steamy. There is a burning intensity underlying Evie and Lucas’ relationship that I really loved. It is tentative in many ways because they are still very much getting to know each other. But it is also solid. One of my favorite aspects of Alderson's romances is the fact that they are built on mutual respect. Evie and Lucas are protective of each other. They will both do anything to keep the other safe, and that causes some problems for them. Especially, when 'protection' means hiding plans from each other. Although I understood their decisions, it still frustrated me.  

Severed is exactly how I felt when I finished this book. That end. WOW. I’m just glad that the third book in the series Shadowed comes out early 2013. And I’m going to remain hopeful about it. Below is a twitter conversation between me and Sarah Alderson, where she promises good things to come.

Cliffhanger Scale: HIGH 
Love Triangle Factor: None 
Rating: 4 stars


Read an EXCERPT from chapter 1 of Severed

‘Whatever you do,’ Lucas said, shooting Evie a warning glance as he buzzed entry and then led her inside and towards a stairwell, ‘don’t tell them who you are – or what you are. They don’t need to know.’

Evie’s heart slammed to a standstill. She stared at Lucas, dazed. She had no intention of declaring to a total stranger that she was a half-trained Hunter with zero powers and a debilitating inability to actually slay any demons. And she had even less intention of announcing herself messiah-like as the White Light come to sever the realms. But who the hell were they?

She wished now that she’d asked him about his plan back when they were leaving Riverview. But they’d been in kind of a hurry.

Lucas was now leading her down a dingily lit corridor that smelt of cigarettes and burger grease. He stopped in front of a door with flaking paint.

‘Evie? Are you alright?’

She blinked, realising that she had come to a standstill in the middle of the corridor, her stomach in knots. She walked slightly unsteadily over to Lucas who was staring at her, his grey eyes dark and troubled. Stress was etched across his face, which was still so pale it made her stomach wrench, remembering.

‘Are you alright?’ he asked again, more softly.

She nodded in response. But it was a lie and he knew it.

Severed is available for purchase from Amazon today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sapphire Blue

by Kerstin Gier
(translated by Anthea Bell)
Read: November 24-25, 2012
Published: October 30, 2012 by Henry Holt and Co.
Source: Library Book
Category: YA Fantasy, Time Travel
Series: Edelstein Trilogie book 2 (Ruby Red was book 1)

NOTE: Although this is a second book in a series, I don't really give anything away in this review, so it's safe to read if you want to get a sense of what these books are about. Though I would recommend skipping the Goodreads book description. 

Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out. (From Goodreads)

A setup on the Ruby Red series 
Gwendolyn Shepherd is just a normal teenage girl who goes to school in London and likes celebrities and movies more than historical facts or schoolwork. Gwen is thankful that it is her cousin Charlotte (and not Gwen) who carries the family's time travel gene, and has to spend time learning to dance, fence, walk and talk so that she'll be able to blend into various time periods. Except that Gwen is the one who actually starts time traveling. All of a sudden everyone realizes they've made a mistake, and Gwen is thrust into a world and a secret time travel society that she knows nothing about. 

On Sapphire Blue
When I started Sapphire Blue, I worried that I would have trouble getting back into the series, or that I would think that it was to silly. But after a few chapters, I  also remembered that these books are a lot of fun and that there's something incredibly endearing about them. Or at least about Gwen the narrator. These books are fast paced and quick reads, plus I laughed out loud a lot. One of my favorite aspects of these books is how seriously these characters take their time traveling. From their costumes and hair to how they smile and curtsey, it is quite complicated to travel back in time and blend into the society. Gwen is just as out of her element as she was in the first book, which continues to cause both tension and humor. 

I was surprised at how much I like the main character Gwen. She is silly and flighty at times, but she's also sharp and quite effectively uses to her advantage the fact that people constantly underestimate her. Gwen is hilarious, and I really enjoyed being inside her head. 

Words of wisdom from Gwen
If you were lying, you had to come up with confusing details that wouldn't interest anyone. 
If no one could be bothered to explain any of these rules to me, or the reasons for them, they couldn't really be surprised if I didn't keep them.
There are a lot of characters in this book and even a list of them in the back (though I was never confused). I'm not going to talk about all of them, except to say that Sapphire Blue has only a few new characters. One of the new faces is the gargoyle Xemerius. At first I thought he was strange distraction to the plot, but he definitely grew on me, and I'm thankful that he was added. I'm interested to see the role he plays in the final book. I also continue to adore Gwen's best friend Lesley, whom is equally as funny and sharp. I love the friendship between them, and how much Lesley embraces and helps Gwen with her new found ability. 

As for Gideon, he was very confusing and frustrating in this installment. He's seriously all over the place, and it's hard to figure out his motives or feelings. I don't want to make a pronouncement, because we don't know the whole story yet, but I am holding out hope for good things to come from him. (Don't let me down, Gideon!) I hope the ending of this book is a wake-up for everyone. 

The first book in the series Ruby Red, took place in about 2 days time, and Sapphire Blue covers more than double that time - maybe 5 days or so. But even so, I felt like Gwen had more perspective, and she didn't read quite as young to me as she had in the first book. As the series moves along, I've started to see how some elements that seemed rushed at first, actually make sense in the plot (or at least they don't bother me as much). 

Though the series is split into 3 books, it's written as an overarching story arc with some high points along the way. That essentially means this series was written as if it could be one larger book split into 3 sections. I like that you can see the intricate details of how the book was crafted throughout each story  - a series with a lot of time travel has to be well put together. However, Sapphire Blue still doesn't give us a lot of answers. Although much can be inferred, I have a lot of questions (and many theories too). 

It is going to be very difficult to wait an entire year to get my hands on Emerald Green (anyone want to read and translate it into English for me???). I'm ready for Gwen to show everyone that they made a big mistake in underestimating her. I'm also looking forward to seeing how all the pieces of the story fit together, especially when there are scenes we've witnessed from other time periods that haven't yet happened in the present time (if that's confusing, you need to read the book to see what I mean). I think this is a series that I'm going to want to sit down and re-read straight through so that I don't miss anything.

*Make sure to check out the short preview for Emerald Green at the end of the book. It made me very excited for what is to come, especially the last sentence.*

On the translation
There are a few awkward words and phrases in this book that seem to be a result of the translation (though they could also be the British English). Am I the only one who didn't know what blancmange was, let alone use it in regular conversation? And I thought there was an over abundance of exclamation points at the ends of sentences, which bugged me a little! But besides that, I was very impressed with the translation.

Ruby Red is going to be a movie in German called RubinrotI hope it comes out with English subtitles, because I want to watch it. I like that the mood of it seems more serious and darker than the first book came across in print. 

Cliffhanger Scale: Medium. At the end of book 2, the characters are not in immediate mortal danger, but A LOT is uncertain. 

Love Triangle Factor: Despite everything, I'm sticking with Mild, though this book is leaning towards Its Complicated.

Rating: 4 stars 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nine Coaches Waiting

by Mary Stewart
Read: November 21-22, 2012
Published: May 1, 2006 by Chicago Review Press (Originally 1958) 
Source: Purchase
Category: Suspense Gothic Romance

A governess in a French château encounters an apparent plot against her young charge's life in this unforgettably haunting and beautifully written suspense novel. When lovely Linda Martin first arrives at Château Valmy as an English governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, the opulence and history surrounding her seems like a wondrous, ecstatic dream. But a palpable terror is crouching in the shadows. Philippe's uncle, Leon de Valmy, is the epitome of charm, yet dynamic and arrogant—his paralysis little hindrance as he moves noiselessly in his wheelchair from room to room. Only his son Raoul, a handsome, sardonic man who drives himself and his car with equally reckless abandon, seems able to stand up to him. To Linda, Raoul is an enigma—though irresistibly attracted to him, she senses some dark twist in his nature. When an accident deep in the woods nearly kills Linda's innocent charge, she begins to wonder if someone has deadly plans for the young count. (From Goodreads)

I love to discover popular authors from the past. When I heard that Nine Coaches Waiting has been compared to both Jane Eyre and Rebecca, I knew I had to pick it up. While I could see elements of both in the story, including direct references to Jane Eyre, this book does fall somewhat lower than both those classics. However, it was still a lot of fun, and exactly what I needed after the heaviness of the last book I read. 

Nine Coaches Waiting follows Linda Martin who has just landed in France for her new job as a governess to a wealthy family. Her charge is Philippe de Valmy the 9 year old nephew of the residents of Chateau Valmy. Linda has grown up in an orphanage after her parents' death, and she's excited to escape that life to become part of the Valmy household. But Linda is not sure what to make of Philippe's uncle Leon de Valmy, who is a formidable presence even wheelchair bound, his cold wife or his handsome son Raoul. When an accident nearly kills her young charge, Linda starts to question whether it was a deliberate action, and whom could be to blame. 

Originally published in 1958, the culture and language of Nine Coaches Waiting definitely reflects the time. I forgave some of the sillier elements of the book because of the time period. But I really enjoyed reading about France in the mid-twentieth century, especially the mix of the old world - wealthy families that employ servants and governesses - with the modern conveniences of planes, telephones and plumbing. While the novel doesn't really have the spooky quality of a true Gothic novel, it was definitely tense and fast paced in places, and there were a few parts that had me on the edge of my seat. 

I liked Linda Martin. She has been dealt a difficult hand in life, and understands her place, but she is no shrinking violet. She's not afraid to take action or jump to the defense of someone if necessary. I think it's best to discover the other characters in the novel organically. Some of them were purposely hard to decipher, which made them quite intriguing for development of the the story. 

What is interesting about the romance is that it leaves the impression that Linda got to know her suitor much better than the reader does. In fact there are a few encounters between them, including one significant date, which are mentioned but not described in detail.  At the end of the book he was still somewhat of a mysterious character to me. However, I suspect that is the style of the author to more heavily weight the mystery, and also the time period in which the book was written. 

Even so there were some sweet moments between the couple, and a good deal more is described than either of the earlier novels I mentioned above. The romance in the story was a bit predictable at times and somewhat of a whirlwind, but it was the type where I would have been disappointed if certain elements didn't occur, and I was satisfied when they did. 

One thing that did bother me about this book was when Linda would make accurate observations about someone's questionable behavior but then pass them off immediately ("I must have been mistaken when I noticed that person doing/saying that suspicious thing" etc.). I think the book would have been stronger without these moments, allowing the reader to observe the action and make conclusions for themselves. However, I saw that more as an issue of the writing than a character flaw. 

Nine Coaches Waiting - cleverly named for a poem - has mystery, suspense and a forbidden romance between social classes. I kept thinking of an old movie as I read this book, and I could imagine it clearly as a film (in black and white of course). The predictable elements actually worked to this story's advantage, and I think they made it more endearing. Actually, I'm fairly sure that this is a book that I will enjoy better the second time through it. I definitely plan to read it again!

Love Triangle Scale: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

Rating: A strong 3.5 stars 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

In My Mailbox (4) / Stacking the Shelves (1)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren
Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews

Happy Thanksgiving everyone in the US! Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, I am thankful for my readers. Amidst lots of family time, I have made time for reading (of course) and have received a number of books. I just finished reading What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton, which was excellent. 

From the library I received two books this week.
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier

I purchased one book.
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart 
Originally published in 1958 this book is a mystery, romance and was a lot of fun. 
Look for my thoughts later this week. 

From HarperCollins I was sent two books. 
The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi 

Regarding Unravel Me, I was so desperate to get an advanced copy of the book, that I wrote a letter to HarperCollins titled "In Defense of Adam Kent" in which I included the following paragraph (yes, I really wrote this):

"I am very worried that Adam is being thrown to the side in the wake of Warner’s rise in popularity. Don’t get me wrong, Warner is brilliantly written. He is an excellent VILLAIN. In fact he’s one of the best (or worst) I’ve read. But I am very uncomfortable with the idea of him turning from villain to love interest. However, Warner will do anything to succeed, so I am also not surprised by these turn of events. In light of this, I would like to take this opportunity to declare my undying support for Adam Kent. The guy who will do anything to keep Juliette safe and wants more than anything to give her a chance at freedom."

This week they sent me a copy of the book!!! I have read it, and I'm still defending Adam. I have a LOT to say about the story and the dreaded love triangle. Begrudgingly, I no longer despise Warner. Well played, sir. Stay tuned for my thoughts.

For review from an author I received one ebook.
Hale Maree by Misty Provencher

I reviewed two books this week. 
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

What books have you gotten recently? 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Days of Blood and Starlight

by Laini Taylor
Read: November 14 - 21, 2012
Published: November 6th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Library book 
Category: Fantasy YA (But really for everyone)
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone book 2

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.
This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream? (From Goodreads)

NOTE: I'm starting with SPOILER FREE thoughts on Days of Blood and Starlight (spoiler free for those who have read Daughter of Smoke and Bone), and moving on to some that are a little less free. I'm not giving away anything specific, but enough could be inferred that you may not want to read that part it until after you've finished the book. I will tell you when you get there. 

I know this is a bit unconventional, but so many people have written fantastic reviews of Days of Blood and Starlight, that I don't feel bad. If you have yet to read this book (or series), I STRONGLY encourage you to do so, and I'd love it if you'd come back and read my more spoilery thoughts once you're done. 


“Dead souls dream only of death. Small dreams for small men. It is life that expands to fill worlds. Life is your master, or death is.”
Days of Blood and Starlight begins sometime after Akiva's devastating revelations to Karou at the end of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I won't tell you where the characters are or what they're doing at the start of the story. But I will tell you that this is a difficult book, and it is painful to read at times. But even at the heaviest moments, I saw threads of hope and life weaving their way through the story. Even if it felt like one single strand, I found something to hang onto. It doesn't hurt that the way in which Laini Taylor crafts her words is magical. I found myself stopping to admire how she tells the story at so many points while I was reading it. 

Taylor breaths life into the world and people she created, and they come alive in astonishing detail. I loved getting to know Eretz better and especially the Chimera and Seraphim who live there. I found myself longing to explore the landscape for myself and meet the colorful characters that inhabit it. In Days of Blood and Starlight we see some old faces and meet new ones. Some surprised me, some made me smile and several made me want to punch something. 

Karou and Akiva would never have survived without the support of others, or had the capacity to hurt each other so deeply without the warring nations who surround them. The things they are facing in this story are vast and staggering at times. It makes sense then that in addition to the former lovers, this book follows various viewpoints, and they worked so seamlessly into this tale that I did not mind the many points of views.  

In Daughter of Smoke and Bone it was the blue haired girl Karou who stole my heart. Akiva remained a bit of a mystery (although an intriguing one). For me, Days of Blood and Starlight belongs to him. I felt like I truly got to know his character and his heart, and it blew me away. I can't even express the amount of respect I have for him at this point in the story. 
Their world was a storm of misery and they were caught in its center, in the deceptive stillness that had allowed them to forget, once upon a time, that all around them was a stinging whirl of hatred that would catch them.
(Possible SPOILERS ahead, you've been warned): 

Although there are times where Days of Blood and Starlight felt like one downward spiral, I really loved watching Akiva and Karou rediscover their hope throughout the story. Even though they are physically and emotionally separated through most of the book, their journeys actually parallel each other. They’re both caught up in a horrible war, and neither of them is innocent. But they begin to remember their dream and slowly start to want something different from what they have. Karou’s change is slower to come, but she fell the hardest most recently. When the book opens, she is confused and her spirit is broken. But then she remembers who she is, and she finds reasons to hope despite everything. As for Akiva, his inner strength and utter honesty in who he is and what he has done completely slayed me. My heart bled for him.

I think what is beautiful about Akiva and Karou’s love story is that despite all the horrible things that have taken place because they dared to love, they are hanging onto the dream they created together, no matter how warped and unrecognizable it has become. Although this book doesn’t have any happy reconciliations, their living dream is proof that not everything that came out of their love was ugly. Their dream is the thread of hope that I watched strengthen throughout this book. 
Akiva had never been a stranger, and that was the problem. A kind of call echoed between them, even now, and from the hollow of Karou’s heart where there should have been only enmity and bitterness, came a slow pull of …longing.
I don't know what the future holds for Karou and Akiva, or if they could ever rebuild a relationship. But I have hope. I’m ready for them to stop reliving those moonlit nights in the temple, and make some new memories that aren’t as soul ripping painful.

(End of spoiler section)

Cliffhanger Scale: Medium
Love Triangle Factor: Mild 

Rating: 5 stars

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Top Ten Books/Authors I'm Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish

Top Ten Books and Authors For Which I'm Thankful:

This is an impossible list to create, because I am thankful for ALL THE BOOKS and ALL THE AUTHORS. But here are a few of my THANKS from this year. 

1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - If someone asks me what my favorite book is, I tell them THIS one. Seriously, there is so much goodness in here. I've re-read it several times and I love it again and again.

2) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - Twilight introduced me to the magic of young adult fiction, and for that I will ever be grateful. I also have a very close group of IRL friends that formed because of this book series, and is now about so much MORE than just reading. My life wouldn't be the same without them. 

3) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - I read this book as part of a read-along this summer and I credit it for my introduction to so many blogger friends. I am so THANKFUL for you guys! 

4) Elizabeth Fama author of Monstrous BeautyOne of the first authors I've ever met, and I am so thankful it was someone so enthusastic and welcoming. Actually, I met her entire family and they are the BEST. It was so fun to hang out with them - and pretend I was part of their family for an evening. (Read about the event HERE

5) Maggie Stiefvater for writing The Scorpio RacesI love all her books, but that is my favorite. And for being such an engaging storyteller in person. She's one of three authors I met this year, and I am thankful for writers who enjoy meeting their fans. Plus she drew a picture in EVERY person's book with a smile on her face. That is some stamina. 

6) Melina Marchetta - I have loved every single book that she's written. MM is one of those authors that speaks to me on a deep level. I love the way she uses words and creates characters. (See my recent gushing thoughts about Quintana of Charyn) I hope she keeps writing forever.

7) British Authors - This is an extremely broad spectrum, but so MANY of my favorites come from the British Isles. I'm not sure what it is, but this land breeds great writers. Roald Dahl, Jane Austen, JK Rowling, Sophie Kinsella to name a very few.  

8) There's a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards - I love children's books and I read a lot of them now. This is one of my absolute favorites from childhood. I loved it unconditionally, no critical thinking required. 

9) Slammed by Colleen Hoover - I am thankful for ebooks which have bread self-published/indie books. And authors that write what they love and aren't afraid to put their books out there. I've loved many, but this is one of my absolutes. And one of the several that has been picked up by a major publisher!

10) Cynthia Hand and Cassandra Clare for writing love triangle books that I like. Though maybe I should wait until the Unearthly and Infernal Devices series are complete for final judgement. 

What books and authors are you thankful for this year? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Heart's Blood

by Juliet Marillier
Read: November 9-13, 2012
Published: October 2, 2009 by Tor
Source: Kindle purchase
Category: Fantasy/Fairytale retelling (Adult with crossover YA appeal)

Whistling Tor is a place of secrets and mystery. Surrounded by a wooded hill, and unknown presences, the crumbling fortress is owned by a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan's family and his people; those woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.

For young scribe Caitrin it is a safe haven. This place where nobody else is prepared to go seems exactly what she needs, for Caitrin is fleeing her own demons. As Caitlin comes to know Anluan and his home in more depth she realizes that it is only through her love and determination that the curse can be broken and Anluan and his people set free. (From Goodreads)

Heart's Blood reminds me of how much I love Juliet Marillier's novels. I love that they are steeped in Irish history - this story takes place around the time of the Norman invasions - but they also have a unique fantasy element that works seamlessly in the Irish culture. Besides the way Marillier mixes history and magic in her stories, I adore her strong heroines and unlikely heroes.

I got excited when I realized that Heart's Blood is a fairytale retelling, because Marillier excels at retellings (If you haven't read Daughter of the Forest, go get it now.). The basic story structure of Beauty and the Beast is clearly visible in Heart's Blood, but it is also uniquely Marillier's storytelling. She takes much loved tales, crafts them into her own stories, and in the process draws out so much human emotion. 

Heart's Blood follows the story of Caitrin, a girl who, when the story begins, is on the run from an abusive past. She seeks employment at Whistling Tor, a fortress surrounded in deep mystery and suspicion. Where rumors of curses, danger and a host of inhuman inhabitants circulate. 

Anlaun is the Tor's chieftain. Crippled by a deformity, he is in desperate need of Caitrin's abilities as a scribe. Caitrin needs the remote setting of his home to hide from those who want to harm her. But Anlaun's appearance and the secrets that he holds have made him as distrustful of outsiders as they are of him, and he comes across as cold at first. Caitrin is determined to be brave in her new - and strange - home. But she has been beaten down by recent circumstances and is wary of the hostile nature of her new employer. Despite the magic in this story, Marillier's characters have very human struggles and flaws. 

What I've always loved about this fairytale is the fact that Beauty comes to love the Beast not in spite of who he is, but because of it. That is no more apparent than in Marillier's story. Caitrin and Anlaun are both strong people, but they also have an innate vulnerability because of what they have faced in their lives. It is not surprising that their own personal struggles within themselves are just as important as what they face from the outside. Caitrin and Anlaun are a fantastic pair. Despite how different they appear on the surface, they compliment each other well. I love that Marillier pairs people who seem very unlikely at first glance but who make perfect sense on a deeper level. 

In addition to Caitrin and Anlaun, this book has a unique and colorful supporting cast that is one of my favorite parts of this story. There are no talking teapots, but these characters bring both a lightness to the book and serve to highlight the mystery and desperation of the place. The setting of Whistling Tor also has a great atmospheric quality to it that made it feel like a living presence in the story.

What broke down for me about Heart's Blood were some of the details of the plot. Most specifically, I thought it was clear early on who/what is the villain in the story, but it took a long time for the characters to put it together. Certain things were observed by them, but I became frustrated with how long it took for them to connect the dots, or for anyone to ask any questions. 

Although Heart's Blood has so many of the elements that I love of Mariller's stories, it still didn't capture the magic of Daughter of the Forest or Son of the Shadows for me. However, I still did enjoy this book and will certainly be back for more from this world.

Cliffhanger Scale: None (Marillier's series are generally all companion books)
Love Triangle Factor: None

Rating: 4 stars 

Thursday, November 15, 2012


by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Read: November 12-14, 2012
Published: November 6, 2012 by Spencer Hill Press
Source: Kindle purchase
Category: YA Paranormal
Series: Covenant series book 3

"History is on repeat, and things didn't go so well the last time."

Alexandria isn't sure she's going to make it to her eighteenth birthday--to her Awakening. A long-forgotten, fanatical order is out to kill her, and if the Council ever discovers what she did in the Catskills, she's a goner... and so is Aiden. 

If that's not freaky enough, whenever Alex and Seth spend time "training"--which really is just Seth's code word for some up-close and personal one-on-one time--she ends up with another mark of the Apollyon, which brings her one step closer to Awakening ahead of schedule. Awesome. 

But as her birthday draws near, her entire world shatters with a startling revelation and she's caught between love and Fate. One will do anything to protect her. One has been lying to her since the beginning. Once the gods have revealed themselves, unleashing their wrath, lives will be irrevocably changed... and destroyed. 

Those left standing will discover if love is truly greater than Fate... (from Goodreads)

I'm just going to get right to the point.
Deity has been reviewed a lot lately, and I'm going to lend my voice to the masses. But I'm going to get right to the practical of this book. I think Alex would appreciate my efforts. 

What is this book about, anyway?
Deity is the third book in Jennifer Armentrout's Covenant series, which started with Half-Blood, and it is all about answers. More specifically truths that had previously only been hinted at are finally confirmed about the main cast of characters. We find out who they are, what are their motives, where their loyalties lie - which are villains and which are allies - and we also solidify relationships. Most of this information was hinted at in the first two books, and I wasn't surprised by much of what was revealed. But I liked finally having my suspicions confirmed.

Deity does include some pretty intense moments, and I was definitely on the edge of my seat at times. But there are also several quieter periods where things happen that made me smile - or swoon. I loved those passages. Alex remains her impulsive self throughout this book, but she also has people surrounding her that know her and anticipate that behavior from her. I really like the balance that they provide for her, and the perspective that she gains in this book. Many things that happen are eye opening for Alex, and I loved seeing her growth.

Alexandria picks a boy.
Alex finally makes her choice between Aiden and Seth. Personally, I don't think that there was all that much choosing that had to happen. It's been pretty clear to me throughout this series where her heart lies. Also I have never fully trusted one of the guys. But I loved seeing everything come together, and I was actually surprised by how romantic this story was. I probably shouldn't have been with how well Armentrout has established her ability to build the chemistry between her characters. My heart swelled three sizes for one guy while I read this book. 

However, there are two more books to come and I'm always nervous when so many good moments come this early in a series. I have a feeling that I'll be flipping back to remind myself of these passages when I'm reading Apollyon. And for those of you who stubbornly - and incomprehensibly - liked the other guy, I have a feeling that you're going to have some moments to come (unfortunately). 

The big event arrives at last.
Deity lays out everyone's cards before Alex turns 18 and the crazy begins (if you've read the first two books in this series, you know what that means). Although no one knows exactly what will happen on Alex's birthday (or if they know, they're not saying), it's pretty clear that everything is about to change for these characters. As the date approaches, Alex naturally begins to think and worry more about it. Thankfully, after three books worth of anticipation, she finally turns 18 at the end of Deity. Although we'll have to wait until Apollyon is released to find out what her birthday means for everyone. I'm already freaking out though!!

The elephant in the room (Please don't send me hate mail).

I'm going to come out and address the issue of the similarities between this series and The Vampire Academy books. I don't think that anyone who's read both series could miss how alike they are, especially the first book Half-Blood. Although the beings are different (vampires vs. descendants of greek gods), the structure of the world and many of the characters are eerily similar. If not a bit remixed. Even many of the major plot points occur at the same places. You guys know how my head connects books automatically, so this has been hard for me to get past.

However, I am happy to report that the Covenant series has been coming more and more into its own as it progresses. And I am able to separate them out in my head. Even so, it's hard not to read these books and compare the two series, or to anticipate certain types of things happening, because I read The Vampire Academy first. 

What I still don't get about this series.

This doesn't really fit specifically into my review, but one thing that has been bothering me about the world building of the Covenant series is, how on earth are there so many half-bloods running around? They are the product of Pures and humans, and there are enough of them to make up half the population of several schools around the country, plus countless servants. But the Pures appear to live pretty shut off from the human population, so I don't understand how they're making so many half-blood babies each year?? It must be a rite of passage to cheat on your spouse and have a baby with a human? Pures marriages are arranged, so I'm thinking that whoever is arranging them is doing a poor job. 

I know it's a minor detail in the grand scheme of things, but this is one example of how something small can make it very hard for me to suspend my disbelief and accept an author's world as truth. Perhaps someone can explain this to me so that it makes better sense? It's possible I've forgotten something important from the first books.

Despite all of this, Jennifer Armentrout is a great writer, and I think that's what's kept me coming back. 

If you've read Deity, make sure you check out the novella from Aiden's perspective called Elixir. It takes place after the end of the book and gives a good look at what is to come in Apollyon

Cliffhanger scale: Medium-High
Love Triangle Factor: Mild because Alex's heart never wavers. Medium because of some of her actions.

Rating: 4 stars. Despite it's problems, I really enjoyed this book! It's my favorite of the series so far. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Sea of Tranquility

by Katja Millay
Read: November 4-5, 2012
Published: September 5th 2012 by Antisocialite Press LLC (indie)
                        UPDATE: June 2013 by Atria Books
Source: Kindle purchase
Category: Contemporary YA (Mature)
Series: Standalone

I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Full of rage and without a purpose, former pianist Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone discovering her past and to make the boy who took everything from her pay.

All 17 year-old Josh Bennett wants is to build furniture and be left alone, and everyone allows it because it’s easier to pretend he doesn’t exist. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, a hot mess of a girl who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. The more he gets to know her, the more of a mystery she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he may ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a slow-building, character-driven romance about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

Please Note: This book contains mature content including profanity, drug/alcohol use, and sexual situations/language. (From Goodreads)

The Sea of Tranquility is an emotional, heartbreaking story about two very broken people who find each other. The story wrung me out and ripped me apart, but it also filled me with hope. The more I read, the more I was hooked. These are the types of characters that stick with me even after the story is finished, and I still haven't let them go. 

I started this book knowing almost nothing about the story and its characters, although I had seen several very positive reviews, and I think not knowing made the experience even more profound. One of my favorite aspects of this story was the way in which the who, what and why of the characters was revealed. I was surprised more than once, and I urge you not to read too much about this book before you begin it. 

What I will tell you is that The Sea of Tranquility is a contemporary issue/romance told in the alternating perspectives of Nastya Kashnikov and Josh Bennett. They meet when Nastya transfers to Josh's school. But though this book begins in the typical young adult book fashion, it is not your standard contemporary storyline. Both of these characters could be frustrating, and they certainly knew how to bring out my emotions. But I also wanted so much from them, and in the end I was blown away by them

The pacing of The Sea of Tranquility started of slowly and it took me some time to get into the flow of these characters' story. Nastya and Josh are reluctant to tell us much about themselves, and I felt like we all had to warm up to each other before much information could be revealed. Even so, the book is also quite wordy in the beginning. The voices of Nastya and Josh are chatty, which is surprising because it takes them a while to start opening up to the reader about who they are. But they are both observers, and have a lot to say about what is going on around them (sometimes it's very amusing). However, after the first quarter I felt like the book hit its stride, and I was fully immersed in the characters. 

I don't usually talk about covers and titles of books, but I did want to talk about these. The title The Sea of Tranquility is the sort that makes beautiful sense once the book has been read, but is rather ambiguous at first. I honestly saw it and thought - self help book? The cover also gives no clue as to what kind of book this is. In some senses I liked that, because I really had no idea what to expect when beginning this story. But I also think it could turn people away, because there's not much about it that makes one think that this is a contemporary young adult book. I am thankful for all the glowing reviews of this book that I've seen, or else I probably wouldn't have given it a chance. 

**UPDATE: The Sea of Traquility has a new cover and it is perfect for this book. It really make the title POP as well. The book will also be released next year by Atria Books!***

I urge you to pick up The Sea of Tranquility and experience Nastya and Josh's story for yourself. Although I don't want to tell you anything more about this story or its characters, I will leave you with one tantalizing quote.
"Being kissed by Josh Bennett is kind of like being saved. It's a promise and a memory of the future and a book of better stories."

Love Triangle Factor: an uncomfortable Mild

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