☄ Friday, August 28, 2015

Blog Tour: Cage of Deceit by Jennifer Anne Davis - ARC Review

Tour Schedule
Cage of Deceit by Jennifer Anne Davis

Reign of Secrets #1
Author:
Jennifer Anne Davis
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Reviewer: Sophia

Jennifer Anne Davis's best-selling True Reign series captivated readers from the very first page. Now, get ready to become entangled in the follow-up series, Reign of Secrets. In this new series, follow Allyssa, the daughter of the beloved Emperor Darmik and Empress Rema— and find out what happens after happily ever after.

Seventeen-year-old Allyssa appears to be the ideal princess of Emperion—she’s beautiful, elegant, and refined. She spends her days locked in a suffocating cage, otherwise known as royal court. But at night, Allyssa uses her secret persona—that of a vigilante—to hunt down criminals and help her people firsthand.

Unfortunately, her nightly escapades will have to wait because the citizens of Emperion may need saving from something much bigger than common criminals. War is encroaching on their country and in order to protect her people, Allyssa may have to sacrifice her heart. Forced to entertain an alliance through marriage with a handsome prince from a neighboring kingdom, she finds herself feeling even more stifled than before. To make matters worse, the prince has stuck his nosy squire, Jarvik, to watch her every move.

Jarvik is infuriating, bossy and unfortunately, the only person she can turn to when she unveils a heinous plot. Together, the unlikely pair will have to work together to stop an enemy that everyone thought was long gone, one with the power to destroy her family and the people of Emperion. Now the cage Allyssa so longed to break free from might just be the one thing she has to fight to keep intact. In order to save her kingdom, she will have to sacrifice her freedom, her heart, and maybe even her life.
Advance Copy provided by the author for the blog tour – thanks!

Dear Jennifer Anne Davis,

I have kidnapped your review.

In exchange for the review, please write the sequel as soon as possible.

Please continue making sure Allyssa is not a whiny princess and kicks butt like nobody's business. I would also appreciate it greatly if Allyssa and Jarvik are kept intact and alive. Injuries are acceptable. Death of either two are completely and absolutely unacceptable within any circumstances.

Failure to do the former will result in a raging reviewer complaining about a phenomenal princess turned into a spoiled princess brat. Failure to do the latter will result in a raging reviewer who will happily throw the second book out the window.

Should she be sued by her landlord, she will plead emotional insanity to which no one, NO ONE, will ever understand.


Sincerely,
Sophia Lin

Author Bio

Jennifer graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in English and a teaching credential. Afterwards, she finally married her high school sweetheart. She is currently a full-time writer and mother of three highly energetic children. Her days are spent living in imaginary worlds and fueling her own kids’ creativity.

Author Links:
FacebookTwitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Tumblr | Instagram

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☄ Wednesday, August 26, 2015

ARC Review: The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly (Sophia Draws an Evil Cupcake - No Kidding!)

The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly

The Foxglove Killings
Author:
Tara Kelly
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Reviewer: Sophia

Gramps always said that when the crickets were quiet, something bad was coming. And the crickets have been as silent as the dead. It started with the murdered deer in the playground with the unmistakable purple of a foxglove in its mouth. But in the dying boondock town of Emerald Cove, life goes on.

I work at Gramps's diner, and the cakes – the entitled rich kids who vacation here – make our lives hell. My best friend, Alex Pace, is the one person who gets me. Only Alex has changed. He's almost like a stranger now. I can't figure it out... or why I'm having distinctly more-than-friend feelings for him. Ones I shouldn't be having.

Then one of the cakes disappears.

When she turns up murdered, a foxglove in her mouth, a rumor goes around that Alex was the last person seen with her – and everyone but me believes it. Well, everyone except my worst enemy, Jenika Shaw. When Alex goes missing, it's up to us to prove his innocence and uncover the true killer. But the truth will shatter everything I've ever known about myself – and Alex.
Advanced review copy provided by Entangled Teen via Netgalley – thanks!

I have mixed feelings for The Foxglove Killings. I love it and I hate it, all at the same time.

For most of her life, Nova has lived at Emerald Cove – she works at her grandfather's diner and has been friends with Alex Pace for years. Every summer, wealthy kids take a vacation at Emerald Cove and make life difficult for the lowly residents who live there year-round.

The first half of the book I really hated. Nova only finds a mutilated deer with a foxglove in its mouth one summer morning and life continues on for the residents of Emerald Cove. The majority of that half is essentially outcasts vs. rich folk – both sides go at each other and make their lives difficult. There's a lot of petty revenge varying from past to recent with immature responses consisting of vandalism, useless threats, nasty gossip and rumors.

The wealthy kids who visit every summer are known as the cakes. WHY are they called cakes? HOW did Nova, Alex, and the kids who live year-round come up with this nickname? I'm very perplexed, but I had an absolute field day giggling every time "the cakes" appeared. I imagined vanilla cupcakes with evil little horns sticking out from the velvety red frosting and fangs sticking out from evil grins.

Okay, okay. I'm not making fun of the Tara's word choice. I just want to know WHY the cakes are called "the cakes" so I don't actually giggle like a little girl that just witnessed someone embarrassing themselves (like overly-exaggerated impersonations). I'm seventeen. I'm mature most of the time, but you can't expect me to be THAT mature. (Mom says I should be more mature at this rate. This might be why she's mopey all the time.) Also, that is probably just one of the few hand-drawn artworks you'll ever witness.
It was two sides made up of teenagers going at each others' throats while the adults went on with their lives, and it was highly annoying to read. It's not until one of the wealthy teenagers who visit every summer disappears, turns up murdered, and Alex is accused of being the potential murderer that things actually get remotely interesting.

The second half continues the whole revenge of the outcasts theme, but it's not the main focus anymore. There's a bit of tension in Emerald Cove after one teenager is found murdered and a lot of people just want to get the murderer found and over with so everything can be normal again. There's more drama after another teenager is found murdered and Alex goes missing – finally it's not all about petty high school drama brought into summer vacation.

Nova and Jenika put aside their differences and start tolerating each other as they try to prove that Alex isn't actually the murderer – it's someone else entirely. When they actually find out who it is, the whole petty high school drama theme actually goes along with the entire plot of the book. Tara Kelly gives us a guessing game in The Foxglove Killings – it was a thrill to take guesses and find out I was completely and absolutely wrong.

3.5 Owls

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☄ Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review: A Faerie's Secret by Rachel Morgan

A Faerie's Secret by Rachel Morgan

Creepy Hollow #4
Author:
Rachel Morgan
Publication Date: June 15, 2015
Publisher: Self Published
Reviewer: Sophia

Calla Larkenwood wants nothing more than to be a guardian, but her overprotective mother has never allowed it. When circumstances change and Calla finally gets to join a Guild, she discovers guardian trainee life isn’t all she hoped it would be. Her classmates are distant, her mentor hates her, and keeping her Griffin Ability a secret is harder than she thought. Then an initiation game goes wrong, landing Calla with a magical ability she can’t control. She needs help—and the only way she can get it is by bargaining with the guy who just discovered her biggest secret.

Join beloved characters and new heroes as the bestselling Creepy Hollow series continues.
Review copy provided by the author via eBooks for Review

The fourth novel to the Creepy Hollow series pretty much made me realize that there were actually some loose ends left untied in the third book – I'm not sure if I mentioned it felt like an almost abrupt ending (I probably did).

Anyways, A Faerie's Secret is set approximately ten years after the events in The Faerie War. Rachel introduces us to a new main character – Calla Larkenwood, Ryn's little sister who made a few appearances in the first three novels when Violet is the main character.

Calla is definitely different from Violet – she's just as kick-ass, adorable, and doesn't actually follow orders from others. She's a bit bratty sometimes (within reason) and a seemingly hopeless romantic who longs for companionship. She desires to be a guardian, and actually trains in private before something happens and her parents approve of her joining a guild. She gets a crash course of all four years in a month before starting as a fifth year guardian, where a lot of her peers and her mentor believe she doesn't belong. She's determined to prove everyone wrong and show that she definitely belongs with the guild.

Rachel seems to have focused more on giving the series more action, which doesn't really work out too well. There's an entirely different faerie world that we are introduced to, and it's different from when Violet was a guardian – not just with time, but with everything that happened in the third book. The author does a pretty good job with easing us into the new guild, but I'm a little curious on what the new guild looks like now that everything seems to be nice and dandy.

I have very little idea on what the past characters are up to a decade later. I'm very up to date with what happened to Ryn and some of the characters, but I don't really know what happened to Violet, Raven, and Flint. There's some cryptic dialogue that tells me something, but it's not sure. (It's not exactly safe to assume.) I know they survived, and they're still good friends. I don't know if they retired from the guardian life and pursued another career or something else entirely.

I may have enjoyed A Faerie's Secret more than the last two books – there's more danger and adventure with Calla as our new heroine. I don't really know what will happen in the next book – I'm left with an open ending where I have some questions that I hope to be answered in the sequel.

4 Owls

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☄ Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: The Heartbeat Thief by A.J. Krafton (A Book That Really Only Has a Moral)

The Heartbeat Thief by A.J. Krafton

The Heartbeat Thief
Author:
A.J. Krafton
Publication Date: June 12, 2015
Publisher: Self Published
Reviewer: Sophia

Haunted by a crushing fear of death, a young Victorian woman discovers the secret of eternal youth—she must surrender her life to attain it, and steal heartbeats to keep it.

In 1860 Surrey, a young woman has only one occupation: to marry. Senza Fyne is beautiful, intelligent, and lacks neither wealth nor connections. Finding a husband shouldn’t be difficult, not when she has her entire life before her. But it’s not life that preoccupies her thoughts. It’s death—and that shadowy spectre haunts her every step.

So does Mr. Knell. Heart-thumpingly attractive, obviously eligible—he’d be her perfect match if only he wasn’t so macabre. All his talk about death, all that teasing about knowing how to avoid it…

When her mother arranges a courtship with another man, Senza is desperate for escape from a dull prescripted destiny. Impulsively, she takes Knell up on his offer. He casts a spell that frees her from the cruelty of time and the threat of death—but at a steep price. In order to maintain eternal youth, she must feed on the heartbeats of others.

It’s a little bit Jane Austen, a little bit Edgar Allen Poe, and a whole lot of stealing heartbeats in order to stay young and beautiful forever. From the posh London season to the back alleys of Whitechapel, across the Channel, across the Pond, across the seas of Time…

How far will Senza Fyne go to avoid Death?
Review copy provided by Xpresso Book Tours via Netgalley – thanks!

Strangely enough, I enjoyed The Heartbeat Thief. Senza is the most perfect character I've ever met – she's flawless, admired, wealthy, loved, intelligent. She knows it, but she doesn't want to flaunt it, which is what I really liked about Senza as a character. She hates going to parties and balls, and she dreads getting married off to a man that she doesn't want. I think I have a thing for characters who have an inner rebel in them.

Senza seems to have a perfect life until her grandmother dies. After that, she seems lost and obviously wants to carve her own path in life instead of letting her mother take the reins from her. Her discovery of eternal life is almost like a deal with a devil. She has to sacrifice her life to become immortal and keep her looks forever, but she has to carefully steal the heartbeats of another if she wants to keep her immortality. If she's not careful, those around her would be able to find out about her and accuse of witchcraft or something equally sinister.
Your spell must be fed, one heartbeat at a time. You must learn to steal them from the living. One here, one there. A person will not notice a skipped beat, and they must never know it is you who is making them skip. And you must do it, or the spell will fade and die.
Krafton's latest novel is a book I'm just interested in how the story will play out. Senza doesn't really come across as a selfish person in general until she decides to play with the strings of fate. As time goes by, she has to disguise herself from those around her so they don't find out what she did. Senza goes from place to place and she meets all kinds of people from all walks of life throughout the book. There's not exactly a clear plot going on here, and I almost expected a tragic ending where karma decided to finally bite back at Senza.

The Heartbeat Thief is a book with a unique storyline where one eventually realizes just what kind of price is really paid when death is defied. It's nicely done for a book where there's a character who doesn't have any flaws whatsoever.

3.5 Owls

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☄ Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Audiobook Review: On A Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers

On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers

On a Clear Day
Author:
Walter Dean Myers
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 6 Hours, 17 Minutes
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Listening Library
Reviewer: Sophia

Young heroes decide that they are not too young or too powerless to change their world in this gripping, futuristic young adult novel by the New York Times bestselling author of the Printz Award–winning Monster.

It is 2035. Teens, armed only with their ideals, must wage war on the power elite.

Dahlia is a Low Gater: a sheep in a storm, struggling to survive completely on her own. The Gaters live in closed safe communities, protected from the Sturmers, mercenary thugs. And the C-8, a consortium of giant companies, control global access to finance, media, food, water, and energy resources—and they are only getting bigger and even more cutthroat. Dahlia, a computer whiz, joins forces with an ex-rocker, an ex-con, a chess prodigy, an ex-athlete, and a soldier wannabe. Their goal: to sabotage the C-8. But how will Sayeed, warlord and terrorist, fit into the equation?

I've never been so confused with an audiobook. I don't really know why, either.

There's not much of a plot going on – just a group of teenagers from random parts of the world (I think) banding together to take down a major company while figuring out how a terrorist fits in with it all. If you want a shorter version, it's a group of teenagers coming together to take down a monopolizer.

On a Clear Day is probably better to listen to than actually reading the book. There are some parts that are read rapid fast, but Rebecca Soler is an amazing narrator. Like Amanda Dolan in Red Queen, the story is narrated realistically and it was just far more enjoyable to listen to. I felt like I was listening to a recording of a conversation (that might actually be very accurate).

The narration might have been why I even completed the book. Maybe the heat is getting to me (not likely), but I feel like I'm just chugging along and nodding without interpreting anything going on. I don't feel like I know much about any of the group of teenagers aside from what they're well-known for – chess prodigy, math/computer whiz, athlete, musician, etc.

I feel like I'm reading the middle of a stand alone series where I'm supposed to know all the major characters really well and Myers can just focus on developing the plot. The points to the point disappeared somewhere. The end feels like a pause that Myers will never get around to. It's a happily ever after with loose ends and an unknown future.
C-8 had backed off from acquiring another company. For now.
2.5 Owls

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☄ Monday, August 17, 2015

Review: Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout (Sophia is Not a Happy Asian)

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Hello, I Love You
Author:
Katie M. Stout
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Reviewer: Sophia

A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star in this fun and fresh romantic novel in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss.

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

I listen to far too much kpop songs for my own good. When I heard that Hello, I Love You is a book about kpop, I just had to read the book.

I despise this. Katie Stout's debut novel isn't about kpop – that's just a small element. It's just about an American girl trying to run away from her past and ends up falling in love with a Korean superstar. Oh, and that Korean superstar is also running away from HIS past, so hooray! Past runners colliding.
It's obvious Grace didn't do much "research." She's tired of eating rice every day, and she wrinkles her nose in disgust at fish – does she realize that rice and seafood is quite literally associated with every part of Asian culture or what? How else do Koreans or Japanese survive when they're surrounded by ocean all around (the seafood part)?

Grace's research basically consisted of typing in "international boarding schools," clicking on the first result that seemed interesting and decided, "Why not? It's the way out." She doesn't even know why she chose Korea. It's all about running away from the past, and that was probably repeated multiple times in the book. I just want to throw a book at Grace and say, "Suck it up, buttercup."
I've kept a big distance from it because it reminds me too much of my past, too much of what I left behind.
Methinks the lady doth protest too much.
I suppose I can't blame her because the mom's worse – she's all, "Hi, Korea. I'm FARRR more superior than you." *sticks nose up and saunters away in ten inch heels* If Grace is so "language impaired," she could have considered England, Canada, Australia or New Zealand where English is the primary language, thank you very much. -_-
I'm not happy at all. I'm not even Korean. I'm Chinese and Vietnamese. I don't know if my Asian meter has been insulted or not. I suppose I'll applaud Stout for trying to write a book about kpop, but that's about as far as I'll go for Hello, I Love You.

2 Owls

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☄ Saturday, August 15, 2015

This Trifle Business Called Smelly Males

In a lot of books, there's a bit of romance that develops at some point in time. Aside from Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart (you'll find a review for that later this month), there hasn't been a book this summer that didn't have an ounce of romance in it.

And most of them have at least one thing in common: The love interests smell.
I know, I know! You probably find this really funny, but I'm serious! The males smell. They smell pleasant – there are variations from citrus to sandalwood to ocean. If they don't have a smell, it's just a "manly" scent.
WHAT IS THIS MANLY SCENT Y'ALL AUTHORS ARE HOOPLAING ABOUT?
It's obviously not body odor – that usually comes across as gross and icky and absolutely disgusting. But of course it is. I mean, it's B.O.! Who said THAT smelled great? This manly scent is still pleasant for some reason unless that male is actually just a side character. That side character is usually an outcast (possibly chubby with the glasses and ensemble) and made fun of by a Prom/Homecoming Queen or King. Maybe even both.

Cologne and shampoo totally exists – I've been told I smell like chocolate once (it was actually coconut, but okay...). They have smells, and I totally get there's going to be a waft of coconut or Hawaiian breeze floating around for a day or two.

But... but... what happened to the infamous Axe bomb? What about not having a scent at all? There's obviously that one person who throws on perfume and smells really, really nice and you can smell it across the state. Then there's that one person who throws on perfume and it's a vomit-inducing smell and you can practically smell it across the state as well. Sometimes it's strong enough you can probably smell it from across the country.

Let's face it: I'm very sensitive to perfumes and colognes – I'm not allergic to anything, I swear! I'm probably the first one who'll smell something if anyone decides to throw on perfume. Put on Axe ten times and I'll probably smell it halfway across the gym. Get really close with an unpleasant smell and I'll look like a very unpleasant person who is blatantly trying not to gag.
I admit that is an absolute disadvantage when you work at a restaurant. It's rude to walk away or make gagging faces, so I pretty much start hoping the order is small... really small.

I start wondering: Is there actually a character out there who has a nose as sensitive as me? Do we really just go up to random guys and take a whiff of them like nobody's business? And why are female characters attracted to and getting so excited over this manly scent that's probably made of 99% of sweat and oil?
It's a trifle thing that I'm curiously perplexed about.
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