Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead {Review}

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead {Review}Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #1
Publisher: Razorbill on August 16, 2007
Format: Paperback, 332 pages
Source: Gift
4 Stars
The sum up

Snarky, sexy and fun. A promising start to the series.
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Salt by Danielle Ellison {Review}

Salt by Danielle Ellison {Review}Title: Salt
Author: Danielle Ellison
Publisher: Entangled Teen on January 7th 2014
Format: eBook, 266 pages pages
Source: Rockstar Book Tours
3 Stars

The sum up

A solid fast paced book that’s perfect if you want fun witchiness, or need a break from the heavier stuff.

Summary

Penelope is a witch, part of a secret society protecting humans from demon attacks. But when she was a child, a demon killed her parents—and stole her magic. Since then, she’s been pretending to be something she’s not, using her sister’s magic to hide her own loss, to prevent being sent away.

When she’s finally given the chance to join the elite demon-hunting force, Penelope thinks that will finally change. With her sister’s help, she can squeeze through the tests and get access to the information she needs to find “her” demon. To take back what was stolen.

Then she meets Carter. He’s cute, smart, and she can borrow his magic, too. He knows her secret—but he also has one of his own.

Suddenly, Penelope’s impossible quest becomes far more complicated. Because Carter’s not telling her everything, and it’s starting to seem like the demons have their own agenda…and they’re far too interested in her.

My thoughts

Penelope is a witch without her own power. Stolen from her when she was young, she still can do magic, but only when her family is nearby to “lend” her their power. All she’s ever wanted is to find the demon who took her magic, perform a ritual and get it back. She’s been training for years to become an Enforcer, mainly so she can use their extensive research library to find the demon. One day when she’s trapped by a demon, Carter shows up and suddenly she can do magic. How is that possible? And how is she going to pass the Enforcer test without her magic?

Penelope was quite a strong character. She’d lost both her parents and her magic, yet she still managed to be positive, kind and even cheerful. She was respectful of her grandparents, which I loved. She knew what she wanted, and she wasn’t about to let anything stand in her way. Even after Carter entered the picture, she was aware of his effect on both her and the future she had planned for herself. She had a snarkiness about her which I appreciated.

Carter was an enigma – we never quite knew what his motivations were. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but he definitely had secrets. Penelope was more willing to look past those than I would have been. Her sister and grandparents were great, always there for her when she needed help.

There was no sex, but there was chemistry, and some snogging. I kind of wondered whether Carter would turn out to be related to Penelope, because, after all, she could only do magic with her family nearby. But unless the next book in the series takes an alarming turn, that doesn’t seem to be an issue.

I enjoyed the world-building in the story. There’s another world alongside ours that has witches and demons. There are demons of every shape and color, and they can take human form as well, though that usually ends up killing the human. The Enforcers are like the special services of witches. They are paired into teams of two and their job is to hunt all the demons out there.

There were a few grammatical errors and one or two things that bothered me. One of the biggest ones was Penelope’s insistence on becoming an Enforcer. She had to pass 2 major magic tests to become one, but she just kind of glossed over the fact that she didn’t have magic. She was planning on having her sister around for the first test, but the second test didn’t seem to make her all that anxious, which I found odd. For someone so conscientious, she didn’t seem to have a plan in place for that.

Those little issues weren’t enough to make me not want to keep reading and overall, I enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

About the author

Danielle Ellison is from a small town in West Virginia. She spent her childhood pretending to fly, talking to imaginary friends, and telling stories. She hasn’t changed much since then. You can still find her pretending to work, talking to imaginary characters, and writing stories.

When she’s not writing, Danielle is probably drinking coffee, fighting her nomadic urges, watching too much TV, or dreaming of the day when she can be British. She is the author of five upcoming novels.

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Endless by Jessica Shirvington {Review}

Endless by Jessica Shirvington {Review}Title: Endless
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Series: The Violet Eden Chapters #4
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire on October 1st 2013
Format: eARC, 480 pages
Source: Publisher
5 Stars
Summary

LOVE WILL KILL US ALL

Violet Eden thought she was getting things under control. Then all hell breaks loose—literally. In the war between angels and exiles, she’s about to face the biggest baddie of all time. Except she’s not nearly ready.

The dark exile Phoenix is still messing with her head—not to mention her heart. And her undeniable attraction to Lincoln has gotten downright dangerous. When Hell unleashes its worst, Violet must embrace every facet of her angel self to save the people she cares about and the world as she knows it. But death is not the worst thing she will face…

My thoughts * Beware of spoilers for the previous books *

Endless picks up shortly after the conclusion of Emblaze, with Violet’s mother back from the dead, her dad unconscious (from a punch to the face by her mother!) and Lincoln having finally admitted he cares for her. Of course, it’s not all chocolate and roses now. The bad guys have just resurrected the baddest of them all for an as-yet-unknown evil plan, Phoenix still has a mental hold over Violet and The Academy has taken a strong interest in Violet and her fellow Grigori.

I really loved all the characters in this book. Violet was even stronger this go-round. Not only could she kick ass and take names, but she could handle disappointments and just generally rise above the petty stuff that would have upset her in the past. Lincoln was finally over the whole secretive crap and totally upfront about his feelings, which was a nice change of pace. We learned a lot more about Phoenix and got to see his personality, emotions and the reasons behind his behaviors. And dare I say, I actually felt sorry for him by the time all was said and done.

We got to know Violet’s dad and mom, plus witness their interactions with each other. (Remember, until now, he thought she was dead.) Unfortunately, they didn’t have a lot of time to get to rehash the past and do some explaining; a Grigori’s work is never done. Violet’s bestie, Steph, was back and again playing a part in the story. Onyx was still there, causing trouble wherever he could, and Dapper, trying hard to avoid it. There were a lot of new characters involved, especially as Violet and the gang spent an extended period of time in the Grigori Academy. Speaking of the Academy, Violet took some classes about the history of the Grigori, but sadly we weren’t privy to what she learned. I would have liked to know more.

Violet and Lincoln had amazing chemistry, made all the more poignant by the fact that they were soul mates who couldn’t be together. If they were to truly be together (i.e. get it on), it would have joined their souls forever. Then, if one were to die, the other’s soul would literally shatter. So in order to protect the other, they both agreed to hold off on the sexy times. You can imagine all the lip biting sexual tension that might ensue.

The dialogue was just as ironic as the previous books. Violet had a tendency to get a little snarky when the mood struck her. And Lincoln was getting better at responding in kind. Phoenix still liked to say exactly what he knew would rile someone up. All of it added up to highly entertaining conversations.

Jessica Shirvington creates wonderful fantasy worlds that exist within our own world. The mythology, language, even the buildings people visit, were vividly described and I could picture it all. The fights were exciting, the sexy times were very sexy (though not too graphic), the sarcasm was funny and the sad parts made me tear up.

The end of the book finished with not quite a cliffhnager, but not quite a resolution. Somewhere in between. I am anxious to pick up the final book [DON'T click that link unless you've already read books 1-4.] and see how everything shakes out.

The sum up

This is my favorite book of the series and I don’t see how the final one can top it. But I’ll be first in line to find out!

About the author

Jessica Shirvington is the author of THE VIOLET EDEN CHAPTERS also known as THE EMBRACE SERIES, and stand alone novel, BETWEEN THE LIVES. An entrepreneur, author, and mother living in Sydney, Australia, Jessica is also a 2011 finalist for Cosmopolitan’s annual Fun, Fearless Female Award. She’s also one of the lucky few who met the love of her life at age seventeen: Matt Shirvington, a former Olympian and current sports broadcaster for FOXTEL and Sky News. Married for twelve years with two beautiful daughters, Sienna and Winter, Jessica knows her early age romance and its longevity has definitely contributed to how she tackles relationships in her YA novels.

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Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton {Review}

Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton {Review}Title: Some Quiet Place
Author: Kelsey Sutton
Series: Some Quiet Place #1
Publisher: Flux on July 8th 2013
Format: eARC, 350 pages
Source: Publisher
4 Stars
Summary

Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them. Longing, Shame, and Courage materialize around her classmates. Fury and Resentment appear in her dysfunctional home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, save one—Fear. He’s intrigued by her, as desperate to understand the accident that changed Elizabeth’s life as she is herself.

Elizabeth and Fear both sense that the key to her past is hidden in the dream paintings she hides in the family barn. But a shadowy menace has begun to stalk her, and try as she might, Elizabeth can barely avoid the brutality of her life long enough to uncover the truth about herself. When it matters most, will she be able to rely on Fear to save her?

My thoughts

For as long as Elizabeth can remember, she’s not been able to feel emotions. She doesn’t get shy, embarrassed, happy or sad. She tries hard to act normal, because her home is the only place she knows and she doesn’t want to start over somewhere else. Not only can her classmates tell she’s different, but even her parents are freaked out by her. Her mother barely looks at her, and her father avoids her. Unless he’s drunk. All she wants to do is finish school and not cause any waves.

This was a very unique story, and had a lot of elements I’ve never seen before. It was pretty long, and I picked out several parts that could have been cut without effecting the story. It dragged a bit, especially in the middle. But the final third picked up and I really liked the snappy pace through the end.

It was hard to like Elizabeth as a character since she didn’t have a personality. She had opinions and actions, but no cares or desires. It was easy to feel sorry for her, though. Not only did she want to be normal, but her home situation was a mess. It would have been nice if she’d had a friend to talk to, to tell what was going on at home. But she didn’t have anyone constant in her life except Fear, whom I loved. At first, I thought he was only interested in Elizabeth because she was an enigma – she never felt afraid, even when he brought out the big guns. But he started to show some actual depth and I saw a bit of warmth and caring peeking though.

There was a lot of mystery in the story. Not only the whole “Why can’t Elizabeth feel anything,” but also how did she end up that way? Was it the accident? Why does her mother avoid her? Has her father always treated her so badly? Why doesn’t anyone else in the family have the same problem? Why is Fear so obsessed with finding out why she isn’t affected by the Emotions? Who are the people in her paintings?

The romance was subtle, but it was definitely there. You might even say the book had a touch of swoon. And those who dislike love triangles can rejoice, as there wasn’t one here, though it started off looking like there might be.

Kelsey Sutton has a gift, and I was surprised to learn this was her debut novel. She writes like someone with many books under her belt. She creates a world just like ours, with a slight difference (the visible Emotions), and manages to make it real. The writing is evocative and dynamic.

Originally published as a standalone, a sequel has been announced, but I’m not sure if that’s the right way to go. I really enjoyed this book, and you might think that means I’d automatically welcome another in the series, but you’d be wrong. I’ll probably read it, but unless it’s fantastic, I’ll most likely say it would have worked better as a standalone novel as opposed to a series.

The sum up

Different and unique, I enjoyed this romantic take on emotions. 

About the author


Kelsey Sutton has done everything from training dogs, making cheeseburgers, selling yellow page ads, and cleaning hotel rooms. Now she divides her time between her college classes and her writing, though she can also sometimes be found pounding out horrible renditions of Beethoven on the piano and trying bizarre drinks at her local coffee shop. Kelsey lives in northern Minnesota with her dog and cat, Lewis and Clark.

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater {Audio Review}

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater {Audio Review}Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Audio on October 18, 2011
Format: Audiobook, 12 hrs and 6 mins
Source: Purchased
5 Stars
Summary

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

My thoughts

Sean and Puck both live on Thisby island, where the highlight of the year are the Scorpio Races. About the same time every year, lethal water horses swim up on shore to eat whatever animals or humans they can catch. And every year, riders catch the water horses and enter them in the race. Sean’s been in the races for years, and he usually wins. Puck wasn’t planning on ever racing, but family circumstances force her hand and the possibility of winning the prize money is too good to pass up.

Puck and Sean were both very strong characters. Neither had parents and had learned to rely on themselves long ago. Sean had no family at all and was living with the island’s richest family while working at their stables. He was self-reliant and kind, quiet and strong. His quasi-brother was such an a-hole to him, but he maintained the peace and I was impressed with his restraint. Puck lived with her two brothers, one older and one younger. Their parents had died not too long ago and Puck was leaning on her older brother while trying to stay strong for her younger brother. She was in a difficult place, especially as her older brother drifted away so he could do his own growing up.

I liked the secondary characters, they were all full of personality and added that special something to the story. The good guys were fun and the bad guys were real jerks.

Neither Sean nor Puck were very talkative, so there wasn’t a lot of witty dialogue. It was nice for a change, though. They didn’t speak unless they had something important to say, so you really listened to the words. There were a lot of comfortable silences.

There was no grand sweeping love story here. There was just a touch of romance, but it was sweet and innocent. It was the perfect amount; any more would have been out of place in the story.

The writing was absolutely fabulous. Maggie Stiefvater knows how to create a whole new world. The entire island was described in such detail and with such care that you can’t help but picture it perfectly. The bluffs, the trees and bushes, the beach, the houses, the horses, the shops; all of it in perfectly vivid detail. Really, I can’t say enough how much I loved the world-building.

The pace lagged a bit, there was a ton of build-up before anything substantial happened and it was way too long before the actual races took place. Quite a bit of that filler could have been cut out with no effect to the overall story. Other than that, I liked the general direction the story took. There was some mystery as we were kept in the dark about some details, and there was a lot of action, once it got started.

A word of warning for animal lovers – this story (obviously) focuses on horses (with a few other animals thrown in) and it’s not all sunshine and roses. The horses and the riders are hurt, sometimes graphically, and some die. If you have an aversion to stories where the animals suffer (as I normally do), then you’d do best to avoid this one.

Now I need to talk about the narrators. I adored them both, and I would totally listen to them read from the dictionary if they ever decided to do that. They embodied the characters completely and their voices were smooth and pleasant. They didn’t have to yell at the tense parts, they could change their voices to show the mood changes. They are my top two narrator choices.

The sum up

A unique and interesting story with action, adventure and a touch of romance. If you’re going to read it, I highly recommend the audio version.

About the author

maggie stiefvaterNew York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.

All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.

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Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie KagawaTitle: The Eternity Cure
Author: Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden #2
Publisher: Harlequin Teen on April 30, 2013
Format: eARC, 446 pages
Source: Publisher
5 Stars
The sum up

I loved every minute of it and wait not so patiently for the next one.

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Review: Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

Title: Teeth
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher: January 1st 2013 by Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Source: Edelweiss
2 owls

 

Summary

Be careful what you believe in.

Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family’s rickety house.

Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything. Rudy can’t remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being friends with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life.

My thoughts

Rudy’s little brother has cystic fibrosis and is steadily going downhill. His parents find out about this remote island with fish that heal the sick so they up and move the family there. The island is full of mostly elderly people who must stay on the island in order to remain healthy. With only his little brother to keep him company, Rudy quickly grows bored. Things start to look up when he meets Diana, a reclusive girl about his age. Then he meets Teeth and suddenly, he has all the excitement he can take.

Umm… I just… Where do I…? Okay, here goes: this book was weird. Not good weird, or even bad weird. Just weird. The characters were … unusual. Rudy was a typical older brother; he cared about his little brother and wanted to help him, but he was also angry over everything he’d lost in order for his brother to get better. The boy’s parents were singularly focused on making Dylan healthy, to the exclusion of their other son. Diana was reclusive because both she and her mother were hiding something from the island. She was very naiive and coy, but also very trusting. I think she was just lonely. Teeth, well, he was Teeth. Teeth was a half-fish/half-man who was targeted by the island’s fishermen because he tried to protect the fish that the islanders needed to eat. He was angry and shy and curious and protective.

The plot was interesting enough. I liked the idea of the magical fish that could heal anyone. The fact that anyone who was sick must stay on the island as long as they wanted to stay healthy, effectively trapping them there for life, was creepy and interesting. The story of Teeth’s early life was sad and interesting. There were some definite high points in the book, like the friendship between Teeth and Rudy. It bordered on a romantic relationship, but it was never defined as one or the other. I felt that was realistic and honest, just like Rudy’s pseudo-relationship with Diana. Was it or wasn’t it? Did it really have to be named? The writing was easy enough to follow. The sentences followed more of a train-of-thought approach, as opposed to standard sentences. It worked in this story, though; it matched Rudy’s attitude perfectly.

I was able to go along with the idea of magic fish and even a fish boy, until one point in the novel, about 2/3 of the way in. Something happened then that was so far out of left field, it pulled me right out of the story. It was the very definition of jumping the shark. From that point on, I had a hard time staying in the story. It just ruined the whole thing for me. If you’re curious about the particular scene, it is mentioned in several Goodreads reviews, feel free to seek those out.

There is a lot of cussing and you see the aftermath of rape. Descripitvely.

So many people praise this book on their blogs and on Goodreads, so I was surprised with my feelings for it. Perhaps I’m not cerebral or abstract enough to appreciate the writing? Either way, though I felt it was okay, I will not actively seek out any of Hannah Moskowitz’s other works.

The sum up

While I appreciate the story telling and dialogue, I don’t think this author and I clicked.

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Fade by Lisa McMann {Audio Review}

Fade by Lisa McMann {Audio Review}Title: Fade
Author: Lisa McMann
Series: Dream Catcher #2
Publisher: Brilliance Audio on February 10, 2009
Format: Audiobook, 5 hrs and 22 mins
Source: Library
5 Stars
Summary

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They’re just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.

Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody’s talking. When Janie taps into a classmate’s violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open — but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie’s in way over her head, and Cabe’s shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability — and it’s bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what’s to come is way darker than she’d feared….

My thoughts

One of my favorite fictional couples is back. Cabel (swoon) and Janie are still in school, still (secretly) together and still dealing with Janie’s unusual ability. This time, the Captain offers Janie a position with the undercover team. There’s a sexual predator on the loose in their school, and the Captain thinks Janie can use her special talent to help suss out the guilty party. Though Cabel protests (he wants to keep her out of harm’s way), Janie convinces him that this is something she has to do. She wants to use her power for good. He relents and they join forces to take down the bad guy. Only Janie ends up in some dangerous situations they weren’t prepared for.

Once again, Janie was a strong, confident woman stuck in an unenviable position. She was learning to control the basics of her dream jumping with Mrs. Stuben’s help and Caleb’s support. Though Janie was unhappy with her dream-jumping (and her mother’s continued mental absence), she never complained. She just kept on doing her thing while staying focused on her future college plans. Cabel is still one of my top literary crushes. He had his flaws, of course: he was overprotective (in Janie’s opinion, not mine) and he had a hard time letting her make her own decisions. But he truly cared about her and only wanted her to stay safe. Nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned. It turned out Mrs. Stuben had quite a few secrets she was hiding from Janie in Wake. I enjoyed learning about her past and how she handled the same ability that Janie was now dealing with. Some of the things Janie learned were sad and heartbreaking, and I really felt for her.

The plot was a bit farfetched (I really doubt a police force would leave so much of the actual police work up to a pair of teenagers), but I enjoyed it anyway. If you can suspend your belief and just go with it, you’ll like the ride much more. I liked that Cabel and Janie didn’t have an easy relationship, where everything worked out perfect right from the get-go. They both had their issues, and both had to learn to give as well as take. It was nice to see such a realistic relationship in a YA book.

There was cussing and drug and alcohol use. There were also sexual situations, including the topic of rape, though they were handled realistically and honestly. The plot moved along at a quick pace, as did the writing. No extraneous subplots or prose. Simple and to-the-point writing really worked with this story, with Janie’s frame of mind. Again, as with Wake, I think this type of writing worked better in the audio version than it would in print.

The sum up

Another intense story in the series, Fade sets the scene for the final book and I can’t wait to read how everything turns out. And also, more Cabel, please.

About the author

eb80313e-a25d-4cc6-8feb-84eff03ec37c_zps8d39d114
Lisa McMann lives and writes in the Phoenix area. Her books include the NYT bestselling paranormal WAKE trilogy, CRYER’S CROSS, DEAD TO YOU, and the dystopian fantasy series beginning with THE UNWANTEDS. (Book 2, Unwanteds: ISLAND OF SILENCE, comes out Sept 4, 2012).

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