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Sunday, August 30, 2015

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ARC Review: The Wanderers by Kate Ormand (Shapeshifting Parrots! Seals! Horses! Oh My!)

The Wanderers by Kate Ormand

The Wanderers
Author:
Kate Ormand
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Reviewer: Sophia

A Unique Twist on Shape-Shifters with Fast-Paced Action, Thrilling Adventure, Mystery, and a Bit of Romance.

Flo lives an eccentric life—she travels with a popular circus in which the main acts star orphaned children with secret shape-shifting abilities. Once Flo turns sixteen, she must perform, but she’s not ready. While practicing jumping a flaming hurdle in a clearing beside the circus, she spots a dark figure in the trees and fears he saw her shift. The news sends the circus into a panic.

In Flo’s world, shifters are unknown to humans with the exception of a secret organization—the EOS, referred to as “hunters.” Hunters capture and kill. They send some shifters to labs for observation and testing—testing they don’t often survive—and deem others useless, a danger to society, and eliminate them. To avoid discovery, shifters travel in packs, constantly moving and keeping themselves hidden. Up until now, the circus was the perfect disguise.

Believing she has brought attention to the group, Flo feels dread and anxiety, causing her to make a mistake during her performance in front of the audience—a mistake that triggers a violent attack from the hunters.

Flo manages to flee the torched circus grounds with Jett, the bear shifter who loves her; the annoying elephant triplets; and a bratty tiger named Pru. Together they begin a new journey, alone in a world they don’t understand and don’t know how to navigate. On the run, they unravel secrets and lies that surround the circus and their lives—secrets and lies that all point to the unthinkable: Have they been betrayed by the people they trusted most?
Advance copy provided by Sky Pony Press via Edelweiss for review – thanks!

Kate Ormand takes a unique twist in The Wanderers, following a group of nomad shapeshifters traveling under the guise of a circus. Flo has been part of the circus ever since she was young, but has always thought of what the world would be like if she were not a part of the circus. When she accidentally reveals what the circus really is publicly, shapeshifter hunters attack and take away everything she has ever known.

There aren't a lot of shapeshifter books out there – all the ones I've come across so far typically have characters that shift into wolves (technically werewolves are like shapeshifters. They're interchangeable). The Wanderers, on the other hand, don't really have wolves (I don't think there are any here). Ormand takes the concept and expand the idea of shapeshifter to include all kinds of animals – bears, seals, tigers, horses, etc. It's a breather to have all kinds of animals instead of the usual furry four legged ones. Have I mentioned there's a shapeshifting parrot? Uber-cool.

Flo (I started imagining her as that Progressive chick) has elements of a good character – she's realistic and brave, even though she's watching her back constantly for hunters. She has a constant inner battle with a desire and curiosity to see the world outside of the circus, but has no clue if she wants to take that opportunity when she's old enough to be offered a life outside. But Flo is a bit of a mystery to me, and so are most of the shifters.

The Wanderers feels more like a discovery book – no one aside from the "elders" know how the circus originated in the first place. Flo and the other shifters seem as though they've been there all their lives – they all have a similar past and their way to the circus are all similar. The book becomes more of a survival book after the attack and the remaining shifters work together (albeit the tolerable tension some have towards Flo) to escape the clutches of the hunters going after them. In the midst of it all, Flo discovers a disturbing plot and sets about breaking it before other shifters get hurt as well.

Ormand pulls off an ending similar to Bruchac's in Killer of Enemies – there's a solid ending, but it's very open-ended and lots of things could potentially happen. The ending to The Wanderers feels very fitting with the story considering the title and the concept. Even though I'm not a huge fan of this book, Ormand has certainly left a mark with just the entire idea.

3.5 Owls


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Friday, August 28, 2015

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Thursday, August 13, 2015

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Book Blast + Giveaway: Nature of Grace Boxed Set by S.R. Johannes



Title: Nature of Grace Boxed Set (Nature of Grace #1-3)
Author: S.R. Johannes
Buy Links: Goodreads | Amazon (99 cents until August 16!)

The Nature of Grace books have hit many of the top young adult/teen and thriller bestseller lists including: Best Debut, Movers and Shakers, Top 100 in Thrillers, and the Top 100 in Teen Action Adventure books.

This new Nature of Grace Exclusive Box set is for readers who love wilderness thrillers. 16 year old Grace grew up in the woods determined to make a difference in the North Carolina wilderness. When she comes across conservation threats, she uses her survival and wilderness skills to stop them, no matter what the cost. In addition to being a thriller/mystery - other book themes include conservation, nature, animals, survival, wilderness, endangered animals.

The box set includes all 3 books in the Nature of Grace (Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable). It also includes an exclusive short story, Unspeakable (from Mo's perspective) as well as the original Untraceable before it was changed.

The box set also includes a large section of Special Extras that include interviews with the author, characters, and additional information on the nature and animal conservation the books support.

Untraceable (Book 1) - When Grace's forest ranger dad disappears on patrol, she fights twon authorities, tribal officials, and nature to prove he's alive. Torn between a hot boy and cute ex, she heads into the wilderness to find her dad. Soon, she is caught in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder.

Uncontrollable (Book 2) - When Grace enters the Red Wolf Reintroduction Program. When wolves start showing up dead, Grace must work through her fears and hunt down clues to find out who is sabotaging the wolf program and why. Little does she know, she is being hunted too.

Unstoppable (Book 3) - When Grace moves to the Everglades to live with her grandmother, Birdie, she makes new friends with Dylan and his girlfriend, fellow animal activist, Sadie. After finding an injured Florida panther, she stumbles upon a large roadside zoo illegally filled with a variety of endangered and exotic animals. There, she and her friends are kidnapped by the ruthless owner and dragged deep into the Everglades for a hunting challenge. Only this time, Grace is the prey.

Unspeakable (Short story from Mo's perspective) - When Mo sees a strange girl in the woods, he follows her. He soon realizes they are both in a dangerous position and may not get out alive.

Untraceable's Original Ending - Never released before!

Exclusive Extras - including author interviews, character interviews, insider scoop on the series, and additional animal and nature conservation information on the issues covered in the series.

Praise:
"A Modern Day Katniss" - Reel Life with Jane
"A suspense-filled mystery with surprises that keep you guessing all the way to the end." - IndieReader
"A dramatic entanglement of mystery, deception, and teen romance!" - Kirkus Reviews

Author Bio

S.R. Johannes is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling Nature of Grace thriller series (Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable). She is a winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award in YA, an IPPY Silver Medalist for YA Fiction, a finalist in the Kindle Book Review's Best Young Adult Fiction, and a Finalist in US Book News Best YA Book.

Since leaving corporate America, she has followed her passion for writing and conservation by working with the Dolphin Project, the Atlanta Zoo, other animal rescue organizations, and by weaving conservation themes into her books.

Currently, she lives in Atlanta, GA with her two Doodles, English-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their prince and princess, which she hopes - someday - will change the world.

Author Links:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Giveaway

  • $100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
  • Ends August 31, 2015
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com eGift Card or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

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DNF ARC Review: The Last of the Firedrakes by Farah Oomerbhoy (The Newest Damsel in Distress)

The Last of the Firedrakes by Farah Oomerbhoy

The Avalonia Chronicles #1
Author:
Farah Oomerbhoy
Publication Date: August 15, 2015
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Reviewer: Sophia

16-year-old Aurora Darlington is an orphan. Mistreated by her adopted family and bullied at school, she dreams of running away and being free. But when she is kidnapped and dragged through a portal into a magical world, suddenly her old life doesn’t seem so bad.

Avalonia is a dangerous land ruled by powerful mages and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms—including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora’s arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear.

With the help of a young fae, a magical pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within herself. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.
Advanced review copy provided by Wise Ink Creative Publishing via Netgalley – thanks!

If there's one thing positive coming from me in regards to The Last of the Firedrakes, at least it has a spine. Cheesy pun intended.

Farah's debut has the bare bones of a novel. Her writing is vivid and there's definitely evidence the world is meticulously planned. The main character, Aurora, is a character who's curious and inquisitive – she wants to learn as much as she can about Avalonia from its residents from the moment she enters the world, which brings back my point of a well-built fantasy world. The residents of Avalonia are colorful – we have an all-too-serious professor, a cheery "old" fairy, a jolly duke. There's high school drama, but it lasts for a chapter or two and isn't a problem.

But lots of things just fell short.

The writing feels too amateur – I'm just not feeling it. It's just not good enough.
There's this evil queen who may or may not be pulling the actual strings who wants to get rid of Aurora. There's this archmage who's on the hunt for this book that can enable him to control demons or some other evil creature, and probably the one pulling the strings in the queen's ears.

Then there's Aurora.

Aurora is an absolute damsel in distress. I don't know if she cried much in her past – Farah brings us from high school drama to Avalonia early on. Aurora doesn't do much fighting – she's saved every single time while doing almost nothing. Every time, it's the same mysterious dude named Rafe who Aurora can't stop thinking about constantly and falls "in love" with.

At that point, I don't buy it. I don't buy it AT ALL.
I don't know how Rafe even knows where she is at the right time – is he just stalking her to make sure she doesn't get into trouble? Is it just a coincidence, because of all the times she's rescued, it's beginning to not be a coincidence and just makes me think he's probably stalking her while making illegitimate excuses that the character falls for. Aurora falls into a tight snitch and seconds or minutes later, Rafe is coming to the rescue.

Have I mentioned Aurora's in love with the bleeping guy? Yeah... she's falling in love with him after all he did was come to her rescue – without her lifting a finger – after so many bleeping times?

I think the only thing I achieved from reading The Last of the Firedrakes is find the new crown holder for Damsel in Distress. Katy Swartz just passed on the crown to Aurora.

I think Aurora is going to have that crown for a very long time.


1.5 Owls




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Sunday, August 9, 2015

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Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard (Sophia Really Just Liked the Dark Twist)

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered #1
Author:
A.G. Howard
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
Reviewer: Sophia

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence.

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

I loved Splintered, even though this is such a peculiar book.

As the descendant of Lewis Carroll's inspiration for Alices Adventures in Wonderland, Alyssa and all the females after Alice Liddell can hear the thoughts of plants and animals. In an attempt to stop the whispers, Alyssa collects bugs and plants and uses them for her art. She keeps it hidden from those around her, but deep down she knows that she'll eventually be in an asylum like her mother. To fix the madness running in her family, Alyssa has to journey down the rabbit hole Alice went and fix her mistakes.

Splintered is quite phenomenal – the writing is extremely vivid and doesn't stray too far from the original classic while the story is being set up. After the story is set up, Howard sends us down the rabbit hole with a dark and grotesque twist of the original classic. We have skeletal rabbits, carnivorous plants, a ghost from Alice's past that's out for vengeance, and other dark creatures that makes Wonderland a complete irony of its name.

But... but... there's a love triangle.
Jeb and Morpheus both have a history with Alyssa – Morpheus just has a past with her in dreams while Jeb has a history with her in flesh and blood. None of them are absolute strangers to Alyssa. They're both possessive and over-protective. They antagonize each other, have a few brawls here and there throughout the story. By the end, Alyssa chooses a side, but we might as well be back at square one when Howard brings us back to the dark makings of Wonderland again in the sequel. There is no way Jeb and Morpheus won't be at each other's throats again.

I like neither of them. I don't like Jeb, I don't like Morpheus. I don't care they're hot – I just don't like them. I feel indifferent towards them and it could go on either a good route or bad route. Enough said on this love triangle.

Simply put, I loved every aspect of Splintered and the dark adventure Howard takes us down the rabbit hole. I just don't like the candidates of this love triangle.

Methinks Tim Burton and other horror directors doth approve of this retelling.

4.5 Owls


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Friday, August 7, 2015

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Review: Elemental by Antony John (Confused x 3 - One for Each Book?)

Elemental by Antony John

Elemental #1
Author:
Antony John
Publication Date: November 21, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Reviewer: Sophia

A lost colony is reborn in this heart-pounding fantasy adventure set in the near future . . .

Sixteen-year-old Thomas has always been an outsider. The first child born without the power of an Element—earth, water, wind or fire—he has little to offer his tiny, remote Outer Banks colony. Or so the Guardians would have him believe.

In the wake of an unforeseen storm, desperate pirates kidnap the Guardians, intent on claiming the island as their own. Caught between the plague-ridden mainland and the advancing pirates, Thomas and his friends fight for survival in the battered remains of a mysterious abandoned settlement. But the secrets they unearth will turn Thomas’ world upside-down, and bring to light not only a treacherous past but also a future more dangerous than he can possibly imagine.

The first book in the Elemental trilogy is set in a futuristic United States colony where people called Guardians have powers over the elements: water, wind, earth, and fire. For years, sixteen-year-old Thomas believed that he doesn't have powers like everyone else in the colony, until pirates kidnap the Guardians and the remaining colonists fight for a survival on an abandoned town.

Elemental has its good elements that worked out well in favor, but it had some elements that just didn't work out too well – it just had more elements that didn't work out really well.

The book is primarily a survival book, but there's a mysterious aura surrounding the book that kept it somewhat interesting. However, the mysterious aspect? Antony John overdid it. You're immediately thrown into action when the book starts and it doesn't actually stop. A huge chunk of the beginning is dedicated to surviving from the pirates who kidnapped the guardians and Thomas and his friends trying to survive on this mysterious Skeleton Town.

There's not much about this Plague the Guardians keep talking about or how their elements work – what, precisely, is an echo? It's obviously a side effect, and it seems to leave a negative remnant on the person, but what is it exactly?. I'm confused on how this Plague works or how it started, even with that newspaper-esque clip – it sounds like an experiment gone absolutely awry and blew up not only in the experimenters' faces, but the entire world. No one appreciates an experiment gone awry inside and outside the lab, but the dead can't complain.

There's this "solution" the pirates are looking for, but Antony jumps between Griffin and Thomas intermittently – I'm still not too sure who the "solution" is. I'm not sure about this whole Guardians thing – sounds like an experiment similar to the one done to Captain America in a different style – even with Thomas and his companions coming across things in Skeleton Town that make them question the origins of the Guardians.

Elemental is also heading into highly awkward love triangle – it's in absolute danger zone and I'm not sure I want to stick around for two girls pining for Thomas' attention. It's not noticeable yet – it's very subtle and certainly doesn't disturb anything going on in the story or the overall plot.

By the end, Antony John leaves you with curiosity and perhaps a need to continue the series, but he leaves more questions and confusion with loose ends than a solid answer or two.

2.5 Owls


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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger (THIS BOOK LIIIEEEED TO ME!)


Lying Out Loud (The DUFF)
Author:

Links: The Book Depository
Publication Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Scholastic
Reviewer: Ella

Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend's house every night because she has nowhere else to go. Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with - secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross.

Ryder's the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can't stand - a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.

 But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually 'like' him. Only there's one small catch: he thinks he's been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she's the girl he's really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy?
Review copy provided by Publisher via Netgalley - thanks!


LYING OUT LOUD BASICALLY LIED TO ME. After how much I utterly adored THE DUFF I really thought I'd love or at least LIKE Lying Out Loud. I really, really, didn't. Maybe it was because I was expecting so much from it...but still, I never thought Lying Out Loud would be this bad.

Sonny has got to be one of THE most frustrating annoying and just damn unlikeable main characters in THE HISTORY of YA fiction. Sonny lies about everything in her life and when of course everything goes completely to shit she then wonders why! *headdesks* BRAINNNNN SONNY USE YOUR BRAINNN!

 http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-M2L8mu8e_CU/VcuekbKSWEI/AAAAAAAAE3o/0DrFxxNR-kk/s320/Abbey-Lee-Use-Your-Brain.gif
Sonny's POV feels EXACTLY like Bianca's except about a million times more whiny. I loved Bianca's voice in The DUFF but Sonny's voice was like having a mosquito stuck inside your ear drum.

Ryder - I hate your guts. Dude, do me the biggest favour and take a running jump off the nearest cliff. As love interests go, Ryder has got to be one of THE worst. He's dismissive and derogatory towards Sonny and when ANYTHING goes wrong in his life he has the biggest tantrum and blames it on everyone else, often Sonny. >_> Ryder sucked. Majorly.

The Wesley and Bianca cameos were frankly terrible. They came across as awkward and nothing like the Wesley and Bianca I loved in The DUFF, which made me a reallllllly grumpy bookwyrm.


The romance? URGH NO. I DO NOT SHIP RYDER AND SONNY (who gives their kids names like that anyway??!!) AT ALL. AT ALLLLLL. It was poisonous and painful and angsty and just URGH. 

I'm not sure why I'm giving Lying Out Loud 2-stars instead of the 1.5 it really deserves but I think it's because by the end of finishing Lying Out Loud I just didn't care anymore. I really didn't like ANYTHING and that was that. So 2-stars it is.



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