Monday, September 30, 2013

Mini Reviews: Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris and Tied by Laney McMann

From Goodreads: Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but life is finally starting to resume some kind of normalcy. Until Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay shows up. Somebody from an alternate universe is running a human trafficking ring, kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths - and Ben is the prime suspect. Now his family has been imprisoned and will be executed if Ben doesn’t turn himself over within five days. And when Janelle learns that someone she cares about - someone from her own world - has become one of the missing, she knows that she has to help Barclay, regardless of the danger. Now Janelle has five days to track down the real culprit. Five days to locate the missing people before they’re lost forever. Five days to reunite with the boy who stole her heart. But as the clues begin to add up, Janelle realizes that she’s in way over her head - and that she may not have known Ben as well as she thought. Can she uncover the truth before everyone she cares about is killed? 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The sequel to Unraveling, Elizabeth Norris’ Unbreakable was even better than its predecessor! Not only did it have all the elements of Unraveling that I liked (e.g. tight pacing, tons of action, great character development, etc.), but I was very pleased that we got to explore some of the other universes as well. I also enjoyed the romance a lot more in this book. Usually when there’s trouble between couples in a YA novel, it’s because there’s another love interest or a superficial problem that's introduced. I loved that the romantic tension in Unbreakable came instead as a result of Ben and Janelle’s individual growth as characters while apart. They still love each other, but have done some questionable things in the name of love and so have to try to reconcile the consequences of their actions with their motives.

Unbreakable was released by Balzer + Bray in April 2013. 
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From Goodreads: Normal people don't believe their nightmares stalk them. They don’t fall in love with boys who don’t exist, either. Seventeen-year-old Layla Labelle, though, is far from normal. Her delusions walk the earth. Her hallucinations hunt her, and her skin heats to a burn every time her anger flares. Or is that all in her head? Layla doesn't know what to believe any more because if none of that’s true, Max MacLarnon must be an illusion, and her heart must still be broken. No matter how much she wants to believe Max is real, doing so would mean everything else is, too. How, then, is that possible? The answers lie in an age-old legend the supernatural aren’t prepared to reveal, and with a curse that could tear Layla and Max apart forever - if it doesn’t kill them both first.  

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: A huge reason why I decided to read Laney McMann’s Tied was because I don’t know much about Irish mythology. Unfortunately, I found Tied to be a rather disappointing read. The Irish mythology that I was so looking forward to just wasn’t incorporated into the plot as cohesively as I was expecting, and most of the information was typically provided in info dumps. The entire book was pretty much Layla discovering she hadn’t been told something, finding out more about it (for example, researching and looking at a website in one case), freaking out, and then having the cycle repeat.

My reading experience probably could have been improved if I had connected with the characters. Sadly, I didn’t because they weren’t very well developed.

Tied was released in September 2013 by J. Taylor Publishing. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (J. Taylor Publishing) for free.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Red by Alison Cherry

From Goodreads: Felicity St. John has it all - loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair. Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power - and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note: I know your secret. Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say "strawberry blond." Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it - money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school. Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I first saw the summary of Red by Alison Cherry, I thought it sounded like a weirdly interesting read. Only after I read Red did I realize that it’s a satire. If you substitute being redheaded for different cultural ideals of beauty, you quickly see that it’s not just in the fictional town of Scarletville that some people have a higher status than others based on some absurd criteria. 

In terms of the characters, I found it easy to empathize with Felicity because her mom is one of those parents that claim to want what’s best for their child but really just want their child to be a younger version of themselves. And because Felicity doesn’t want to disappoint her mom, she constantly worries about her ‘red cred’ – even going so far as to do whatever her blackmailer tells her to do – while trying to figure out how she can achieve her own goals without hurting her mother. My favourite character, however, was Ivy because she was so individualistic. 

Although I did like Red, I had several issues with it. As a satire, I thought it required a lot of suspension of disbelief, yet turned out to only be an average read. I also didn’t like the idea of resorting to blackmail to change the status quo. Had the cause for change begun in a positive manner, I think I’d feel a bit more sympathy for Felicity’s blackmailer. Lastly, the novel wasn’t as mysterious as I expected; Felicity basically suspects one person to be her blackmailer, confronts her (pretty early in the book), and finds out that she’s right.

Red will be released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on October 8, 2013. 

Comments About the Cover: There’s nothing particularly special about it. I do like the model’s pose though. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

From Goodreads: Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her - or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved the fantastic world that Leigh Bardugo created in Shadow and Bone, I couldn’t wait to read Siege and Storm. Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint! 

After running away from the Darkling with Mal, Alina is physically feeling the effects of not being able to use her power on a daily basis. She’s also struggling to feel useful because unlike Mal, she can’t make herself fit in easily everywhere. Soon enough though, the Darkling manages to find Mal and Alina … and he appears to be even stronger than before! 

While I was disappointed that the Darkling wasn’t as present in Siege and Storm as he was in Shadow and Bone, I loved that his actions very much continue to influence Alina throughout the novel. That being said, Bardugo does incorporate a new character who manages to be just as enticing as the Darkling. Sturmhond is charismatic, cocky, witty, ambitious and unafraid to take risks. It’s impossible not to fall in love with him!

Another thing that I really liked about Siege and Storm was how Bardugo addresses the seductiveness of power. In Shadow and Bone, there’s a clear difference made between the Darkling and Alina. But in Siege and Storm, once Alina starts hungering for more power, you see how having a taste of it can begin to change someone and their motives.

With Sturmhond vying for Alina’s attention and the power differential between Mal and Alina, there’s admittedly some tension that builds in the relationship between Mal and Alina. It felt very natural though, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the two of them get over the issues that developed in this novel.

Although I didn’t love Siege and Storm as much as Shadow and Bone, I did think this darker installment was a worthy sequel. Siege and Storm was released in June 2013 by Henry Holt and Co.  

Comments About the Cover: I just realized that part of the cover design of both books in the trilogy alludes to which one of Morozova’s amplifiers the book will be dealing with!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Author Interview: Laney McMann

Normal people don't believe their nightmares stalk them. They don’t fall in love with boys who don’t exist, either. Seventeen-year-old Layla Labelle, though, is far from normal. Her delusions walk the earth. Her hallucinations hunt her, and her skin heats to a burn every time her anger flares. Or is that all in her head? Layla doesn't know what to believe any more because if none of that’s true, Max MacLarnon must be an illusion, and her heart must still be broken. No matter how much she wants to believe Max is real, doing so would mean everything else is, too. How, then, is that possible? The answers lie in an age-old legend the supernatural aren’t prepared to reveal, and with a curse that could tear Layla and Max apart forever - if it doesn’t kill them both first.

As part of the blog tour for Tied, I'd like to welcome author Laney McMann to my blog. 

A bit about Laney (as found on Goodreads): With a passion for the supernatural and all things magical, Laney developed a voracious appetite for reading fantasy at a young age. A vivid imagination helped set the stage for creating her own worlds and placed her onto the writing path. By the time she reached her teens, she'd accumulated notebooks full of poems, which led to short stories and finally novels. Young adult dark fantasy, paranormal romance, and mythology are among her favorite genres. A former classical dancer and chef, she grew up in sultry Florida where she still resides with her family. 

What was the inspiration behind Tied? 
I'm fascinated by mythology, and even more so by Irish myths because I'm of Irish descent, so the idea to write something in that direction has always been in the back of my head. The idea to recreate one of the lesser known mythologies just hit me one day, and the more I wrote, the more it took shape and flowed out.

How much research did you do for Tied?
A good amount of research went into the creation of the storyline, and as mythology can be a tangled web to weave through, it was a challenge at times. The story itself is a mixture of history, mythology, and my own fantastical spin on it all.

Tied contains a variety of paranormal creatures. If you could be any paranormal creature, what would you be and why?
Hm ... that's a good question. I'm not sure to be honest. Maybe one of the Fae.

In Tied, Layla finds out that people have been lying to her whole life to protect her. What’s a lie (big or small) that you believed in for a long time and how did you find out it was a lie?
Another good question I'm not sure about. I guess, when we're little, we all believe in different fantasy stories – I did anyway, and as we grow up we lose some of that magic. We start to doubt it and question it. That's probably why I write fantasy. I'd rather still believe.

Layla thinks that Max is an imaginary friend for quite a while. Did you have an imaginary friend growing up and if so, tell me a bit about him/her.
I didn't that I remember, although my mom may say different. ;) My imaginary worlds were entirely built on books. Even now, I can get completely consumed by good stories, and I hate it when they end.

A big thanks to Laney for taking the time to answer my questions!

Laney can be found on: [her website] [her blog] [Twitter] [Facebook] [Goodreads]
Tied can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [The Book Depository] 

Monday, September 09, 2013

Review: Darker Days by Jus Accardo

From Goodreads: Jessie Darker goes to high school during the day, but at night she helps with the family investigation business. Cheating husbands and stolen inheritances? They’re your girls - but their specialty is a bit darker. Zombie in your garage? Pesky Poltergeist living in your pool? They’ll have the problem solved in a magical minute. For a nominal fee, of course ... When gorgeous new client, Lukas Scott, saunters into the office requesting their help to find a stolen box, it sounds like a simple case - until the truth comes out. The box is full of Sin. Seven deadly ones, in fact. They’ve got five days to recapture the Sins before they're recalled by the box, taking seven hijacked human bodies with them. Easy peasy - except for one thing ... There’s a spell that will allow the Sins to remain free, causing chaos forever. When the key ingredient threatens the life of someone she knows, Jessie must make the ultimate choice between love and family - or lose everything.

My Rating: Wavering between 3.5 and 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Darker Days by Jus Accardo was a light, entertaining read featuring a feisty heroine and a great mother-daughter relationship. I do think however that I was in just the right mood for this novel as I wasn’t as bothered by certain things that typically annoy me (e.g. insta-love).

The main character, Jessie, was someone I liked. Although her choice of curse words was a bit strange, she was relatable for the most part. I also found her to be snarky, loyal and very determined.

Another thing that I liked was the close relationship Jessie had with her mother. It was nice to read a story where the main character not only had good rapport with her parent, but more importantly, idolized them as a role model.

As much as I enjoyed Darker Days, I wish that Jessie and Lucas hadn’t fallen in love so fast. I also found that despite being the personification of Wrath, Lucas was remarkably in control of himself most of the time. It would have been more interesting to see him lose his temper a few more times to remind us that he’s not a normal guy.

The first book in The Darker Agency series, Darker Days wraps up satisfyingly, without a cliffhanger.

Darker Days was released in August 2013 by Entangled Publishing. 

Comments About the Cover: I think the model’s pose suits Jessie’s personality, and like how the background shows both Penance and the Shadow Realm. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Entangled Publishing) for free.
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