Monday, March 31, 2014

Haze by Paula Weston

by Paula Weston
Read: August 7 - 8, 2013
Published: (AU) May 22, 2013 by Text Publishing 
Published: (US) September 9, 2014 by Tundra Books 
Source: International purchase from Fishpond
Category: PNR, Angels, NA

Series: The Rephaim #2 (four books total. Shimmer comes out in Australia in July)
Find: Goodreads | Amazon

Gaby Winters’ nightmares have stopped but she still can’t remember her old life. Still can’t quite believe she is one of the Rephaim—the wingless half-angels who can shift from place to place, country to country, in the blink of an eye. That she was once the Rephaim’s best fighter. That demons exist. That Rafa has stayed. 

But most of all, she can’t quite believe that her twin brother, Jude, might be alive. 

And Gaby can’t explain the hesitancy that sidetracks the search for him, infuriates Rafa, and sends them, again, into the darkest danger.

Note: Haze is book 2 in the Rephaim series. My thoughts may contain spoilers for Shadows. See my review of book 1, HERE.

Haze is a rush from start to finish. It begins soon after the end of Shadows, and I daresay it’s even more exciting that the first book in the Rephaim series. Haze features more action and intrigue, and it amps up the tension big time. I wasn’t sure how Paula Weston would pull it off, but she does with exclamation points!! Haze also incited lots and lots of one of my favorite bookish related activities: discussion. 

Although I find the overarching Fallen angel/Rephaim plotline to be interesting enough, I think what sets this series a part for me are these dynamic characters and the complex relationships between them. I’m totally caught up in all of the drama, confusion and pain over Gaby and Jude’s disappearances and then Gaby’s reappearance sans memory. 

While I had a bit of trouble warming up to Gaby in the first book, I fell hard for her throughout book 2. She's incredible. I was right there feeling everything along with her: trying to find herself in a world she doesn’t remember, struggling to manage all the differing opinions about herself, and attempting to connect who she is today with the person everyone else tells her that she was before. I think Gaby’s struggle with identity is the most moving part of this book. While I’m really eager for her to regain her memory, I’m also nervous for her. What will she remember and how will it change the awesome person she’s become? Although there’s no way to tell what Gaby was really like until she remembers, it seems like her loss of memory has enabled her to regain some of the humanity that she’d lost over the years. 

And then there’s Rafe who not only has gotten even hotter as this series has progressed (romance fans, do yourself a favor and pick this series up!), but we see so much more of him emotionally in Haze. We see Rafe’s tender side and how much he’s truly started to care for Gaby, but also his own agony over losing Gaby and Jude. What I love about Rafe is that he’s very protective of Gaby, while at the same time he’s pushing her to be stronger and more confident in the person that she is. The two of them have an amazing dynamic that is also brimming with tension. You thought it was high in the last book, but the fire between Gaby and Rafe just gets hotter. Of course, the big question is what will happen between them when Gaby regains her memory. 

In my opinion, Haze is paced perfectly, even though the major plot action picks up well into the second half of the book. Weston took a lot of care to match the action with the growth of her characters, and both are done incredibly well. We also get lots of awesome revelations, as well as many details that we’re just starting to piece together. I know you’re all wondering about Jude, but all I’m going to say about him is READ THE BOOK. If you’re wondering about Mya. She’s in here too. Thankfully, she's one area where we get some clarity, and I will just say that I was pleased with the information. 

The end of Haze is crazy! Knowing ahead of time that it was going to be a cliffhanger helped me deal with it. I’m excited for book 3, but I wasn’t freaked when this one was over and I didn’t have it in hand. Perhaps you will not agree, but I think the end is the perfect set up Gaby’s continued growth in the series. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Medium/High

Friday, March 28, 2014

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

Plus One 
by Elizabeth Fama
Read: November 26 - 27, 2013
April 8, 2014 by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (Macmillan) **UPCOMING**
Source: ARC from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Category: Alternate Reality, YA

Find: Goodreads | Amazon

Divided by day and night and on the run from authorities, star-crossed young lovers unearth a sinister conspiracy in this compelling romantic thriller.

Seventeen-year-old Soleil Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller prohibited by law from going out during the day. When she fakes an injury in order to get access to and kidnap her newborn niece—a day dweller, or Ray—she sets in motion a fast-paced adventure that will bring her into conflict with the powerful lawmakers who order her world, and draw her together with the boy she was destined to fall in love with, but who is also a Ray.

Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights, and a fast-paced romantic adventure story.


Since the flu pandemic of 1918, society has been split into Day and Night, with rules and strict curfews separating the groups. Sol is a Smudge who goes to school and work at night. She doesn't care for school, and resents the drudgery of her job. But she doesn't spend a lot of time dwelling on that, because all of her energy is focused on caring for her sick grandfather Poppu. Sol's brother Ciel was switched to a Day schedule two years ago, and despite how close they were growing up, she has not seen him since. Her brother has now married and has just become a father, though Sol and Poppu have only heard the news through Ciel's state sanctioned texts. 

Determined that Poppu should get to hold his granddaughter before he dies, Sol hatches a gutsy plan to make that happen. Unfortunately, Sol's planning derails almost immediately after she meets 
D'Arcy Benoit, a Day boy and Medical Apprentice. He's too perceptive for his own good. But Sol is determined, and she's not giving up that easily. Somehow they both become embroiled in a power struggle much bigger than the one they're fighting against each other. 

Although Sol is ridiculously impulsive and has no concern for her own well being, she's fiercely loyal to her family and those she loves, and is determined to bring her grandfather peace before he dies. She's also not at all naive about the insanity and probable consequences of her plan. I love how clear Sol is about what she wants, and the way that she attacks it so completely, whether it's caring for her grandfather or a new and very unexpected romance. 

My perception of D'Arcy was not favorable at first, but my view of him changed right along with Sol's perspective of him. D'Arcy is a careful, dedicated, Ray Medical Apprentice, who has seemingly nothing in common with Sol a Smudge factory worker. But slowly, along with Sol, I realized that I had completely misjudged him. He easily matches her wits, and I had a lot of fun watching them constantly try to outsmart each other (or rather, Sol trying to outsmart D'Arcy and him getting in her way every time) until they eventually realize that they work even better with their powers combined. This boy completely stole my heart. 

Both slow burn, taking time to percolate, and fast paced rush. It is multi-layered, smart, sweet and made me swoon. It features two people who seem diametrically opposed, but are actually incredibly well matched, which is one of my favorite kinds of love stories. 

Science and Place
Even though Plus One is alternate reality, Fama grounds her book in both science and physical location. One of my favorite aspects of Fama's writing is the way she makes her story seem real and possible. 
This includes the characters' travel thru Chicago and its surrounding areas, visiting national parks and places in around and under the city that really exist. But also, the day/night divide and the social and medical problems associated with it are also well thought out. I could fully imagine this divide being created as a way to solve a dangerous problem, and then developing its own issues the longer it was in place. (Isn't that the case of most every policy?) Another aspect of this story I enjoyed was the characteristics that are unique to this society, like the way they use technology and the gangs that have cropped up. Every aspect of this story has been carefully crafted. 

Not your regular dystopian 
I've gotten tired of the typical alternate society/dystopian book that follows the same plot. You know, when the 17 year old MC somehow ends up at the forefront of it. Mainly, because it seems to be the same plot over and over again, and a completely unrealistic one. What I like about Fama's story is that it is a book about one girl in her world, and the way her life changes based on a decision that seems small at first. There are larger implications, but they are not the main focus of the story. This is also a standalone, which is rare for this genre. Though I wouldn't mind a sequel(!), the end also felt right for this story. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Empty Mind is a Safe Mind Blog Tour + Giveaway
Fact or Fiction in the Russia of Sekret

The Sekret Blog Tour is organized by MacTeenBooks
See the full schedule HERE and below

Find my review of Sekret HERE

I've said this before, but historical fantasy is becoming one of my favorite genres. Especially when it is well researched and set in a background of true world events that give the reader a flavor of the time period. Sekret does well at both of these points.

To discuss this further, author Lindsay Smith has come by today to talk about what's true and false about the setting of her story.

Welcome, Lindsay! 

Fact and Fiction in the Russia of Sekret

When I started writing a historical fantasy about psychic Russian spies, I had to make a lot of tough choices about how much “fantasy” I wanted in my history. I love a good conspiracy theory, and the extreme oppression and secrecy of the Soviet Union’s history coupled with America’s and Russia’s determination to win the Cold War at any cost (including actual research into the possible use of psychic abilities for espionage) made for fertile storytelling ground. But I also wanted to do justice to the reality of Soviet life, and accurately portray the harsh conditions and bewildering truths of the Soviet Union. In most cases, I found that the truths of Soviet Russia were far stranger than any fiction I could have devised!

KGB Headquarters on Lyubyanka Square

KGB Headquarters at Lyubyanka Square
Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #142949 / Vladimir Fedorenko / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Fact (with some liberties taken). First it was the Cheka, then the NVKD, then the KGB—the Committee for State Security—and now it’s the FSB, but ever since “Iron” Feliks Dzerzhinsky (whose bronzed likeness watches over Lyubyanka Square) established the secret police of the Soviet Union, the building has housed offices and even prison cells like those in Sekret. Thankfully I’ve never seen the inside of the Lyubyanka, so I took some liberties in the interrogation and infiltration scenes, but Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn describes his imprisonment here in The Gulag Archipelago.

Dilapidated Imperial Russian Mansions
Fact. When the Bolsheviks took power during the Russian Revolution, they seized all property for the state, and turned many of the former nobles’ homes into schools, cultural centers, or communal housing. The classic film Doctor Zhivago depicts this process excellently—the lucky nobles who weren’t executed or sent to labor camps during purges now shared their ostentatious mansions with dozens of families who came to Moscow and Saint Petersburg seeking work and a reprieve from the famines that ravaged rural Russia.

By the 1950s, however, most families sought housing in the standardized “Khruschevka” apartment towers like Yulia visits early in Sekret, leaving the state with numerous imperial properties they had little desire or funding to preserve. I envisioned such a house would make a great place to train budding spies away from public view. As for the secret passage Yulia and her friends use to relax in—many nobles did stash away their belongings during the turmoil prior to the Russian Revolution, like this amazing collection of art and antiques recently unearthed, wrapped in newspapers dated from 1917.

East German Launch Site
Fiction (mostly). Most documented Soviet space launches took place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in what’s now Kazakhstan, but when the USSR captured East Germany at the end of World War II, they acquired a number of German rocket testing sites, where Nazi scientists had developed the V2 rocket that the US and USSR ultimately used as the basis for their extensive caches of ballistic missiles. For Sekret, I indulged in some of the more apocryphal claims of secret Soviet space programs: undocumented launches, ultra-secret experimental designs, and, of course, highly secure, undisclosed locations. I used one such site, Kaserne Krampnitz, more for its super-creepy blend of Nazi and Soviet aesthetics than any historical significance in the Soviet space program.

Secret Communist Party-Only Metro Line

Moscow Metro Station 
            Attribution: Marc Veraart on Fotopedia

Fact. Urban explorers in Moscow have only partially mapped the extensive network of tunnels, train stations, and bomb shelters beneath Moscow, but the secondary Metro line, known as Metro-2 and documented in KGB archives as D-6, fascinates Russians today. In The New Nobility, a survey of the FSB (the KGB’s successor organization), Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan devote a whole chapter to the spelunkers’ battles with the FSB over the secret tunnels.

Whether public or secret, the Moscow Metro is an incredible work of art—the “palace for the people” that Stalin demanded—and it continues to inspire Russian artists today. A wildly popular Russian post-apocalyptic book and video game series called Metro 2033 takes place in the train tunnels, including the mysterious D-6 line and the vast network of houses, government buildings, and bomb shelters it connects.

The Black Market
Fact (mostly). While physical marketplaces like Yulia visits at the beginning of Sekret were rare and quickly dispersed by the KGB, average Russian citizens maintained elaborate networks of contacts to secure the goods and services they needed for daily life. The workers’ store shelves were frequently empty, and obtaining goods from the State meant lengthy lines (from daily bread lines to decades-long waiting lists for cars and apartments), so Russians bartered, bribed, and begged with one another instead. By the 1980s, it’s estimated that this shadow economy rivaled the official one in scope and volume.

Lenin’s Preserved Body on Red Square

Lenin’s Mausoleum on Red Square
Attribution: Appaloosa on Flickr. Direct link to image

Fact. Russians love their preserved corpses—Saint Sergei, the patriarch saint of Russia, supposedly lies in a divinely preserved state. (I’ve visited his shrine, though I wasn’t allowed to view the body because I’m not Russian Orthodox.) At the Cosmonaut Museum in Moscow, I’ve seen the taxidermied bodies of Belka and Strelka, two dogs who survived a day-long trip aboard a Sputnik satellite. And while he was “under repairs” on my first two visits to Russia, I finally saw Lenin in his eerie, waxy, polka-dot-tied glory on my third trip. 

About the Author

I’m Lindsay, author of the YA historical thriller, SEKRET (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children’s, Winter 2014). I’m an ex-Oklahoman and an unapologetic Washingtonian. I have an unhealthy fascination with foreign affairs–Russia in particular–which fortunately pays for my voracious reading habit. When I’m not reading or writing, I can be found nerding out over food, board games, modern history, the Science channel, and all things cheesetacular. I write historicals and fantasies, sometimes in the same book.

·         Read Doppel, a new short story by Lindsay Smith set in the world of Sekret.
·         Download and read (for free) the first five chapters of Sekret.


Sekret Blog Tour Schedule

Monday March 24

Tuesday March 25

Wednesday March 26

Thursday March 27

Friday March 28

Monday March 31

Tuesday April 1

Wednesday April 2

Thursday April 3

Friday April 4



WIN a copy of SEKRET by Lindsay Smith 

Thank you Macmillan for this generous giveaway!
Giveaway is for US or Canada residents only (Sorry, other international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE

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