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Saturday, February 28, 2015

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Review: Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

PERSEFoNE #1
Author:
Michelle Gagnon
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reviewer: Sophia

In Michelle Gagnon’s debut YA thriller, Don’t Turn Around, computer hacker Noa Torson is as smart, tough, and complex as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander.

The first in a trilogy, Don’t Turn Around’s intricate plot and heart-pounding action will leave readers desperate for book two.

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her hacking skills to stay anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in a warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.

Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa’s talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation threatens his life in no uncertain terms. But what Noa and Peter don’t realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who’d stop at nothing to silence her for good.

Where there's walking, there's bound to be running. Ironically enough, it wasn't too long ago that I read a book mainly focused on walking.

Michelle Gagnon's first young adult thriller goes straight into the action as soon as the book starts – Noa wakes up to find herself on a table in a warehouse with an IV in her arm and no clue of how she got to that table in the first place. Noa manages to get away from the warehouse and eventually teams up with fellow hacker Peter to find out more about a company called AMRF (who starts threatening Peter's life randomly for reasons of the unknown and attacks the hacktivist group he founded called ALLIANCE).

Don't Turn Around is basically about two hackers on the run – not necessarily together – and being chased by or threatened by an armed group of men. Running and being chased isn't typically my favorite book to read, but walking around and not being chased is much more boring to go through. In this particular case, an exception might have to be made – Gagnon reveals more information about the two hackers as they're on the run and trying to find out the reasons why they're being attacked or got swooped up from somewhere and experimented on in an abandoned area.

Noa is also an interesting character and has officially landed in as my favorite characters of 2015 – even though she didn't have a great childhood, it's amazingly admirable how she manages to remain a cucumber as everything around her falls apart. Noa actually reminds of that one chick (Sarah?) from Tabula Rasa – a fearless female character. What's different between Noa and Sarah, however, is how Noa admits she's scared but doesn't appear to be scared even after she is eventually caught by the bad guys originally going after her and Peter from the beginning of the story.

Similar to the likes of Alex Rider and James Bond, Don't Turn Around is a slow (though fast-paced) yet sure beginning to a series – Gagnon seems to be setting us up for better things to come in the future of the series, and I'm hoping it won't fail when the end finally comes.

4.5 Owls

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

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Book Blast: Winter in the Soul - Excerpt + Giveaway

Title: Winter in the Soul
Author: Jennifer Novotney
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | iTunes | Smashwords

In a world divided by power and greed, seventeen-year-old Lilika harbors an intense desire to return to Winter in the Soul, the place her family left to escape the darkness that was manifesting from a coldness of the soul.

When she meets Talon, their connection is evident right from the start, and together they travel through the Black Kingdom to recover Lilika’s stolen locket. And in search of an answer to the mystery behind Winter in the Soul.

Lilika holds the key to stopping the darkness from spreading. The fate of their world lies in her hands. Will she stop the Black Kingdom before its darkness overtakes them all, or will they succumb to the darkness that is spreading across the land?


Book Trailer


Excerpt:

     Pulling her blond locks away from her face, Lilika headed outside her cozy house to do her morning chores. When she hit the doorway, she stopped and lifted her face skyward, soaking in the sun’s beams. She reveled in the heat beating down on her and the feeling of warmth that bathed her skin.
     She walked to the garden and sat down. Lilika pulled the weeds with the sun shining on her. Her fingers ran across something smooth.
     “What is this?” she muttered to herself, digging quickly to try to see just what was in there. She exposed something gleaming from underneath the brown soil.
     What could be under the dirt here? She pulled out a gold heart locket from the garden bed. It glittered in an almost magical way, like nothing she’d ever seen before.
     “Lilika!” Jet yelled through the open kitchen window. “It’s almost time for school.”
     She shoved the locket in her pocket. “Okay! I’m coming.” Her little brother could be such a nuisance sometimes. She would have to wait until later to inspect her find up-close.
     “Hello,” a female voice came from behind her.
     “Hello?” She jumped up and turned around, shielding her eyes from the sun.
     It was so bright, all she saw was a figure blocking out the light, a black silhouette outlined by the sun’s rays. As her eyes adjusted to the change in light, the figure became clearer and clearer: A beautiful, golden-hued woman stood before Lilika.
     “Lilika,” the woman said.
     How does she know my name?
     “Lil! It’s time to go,” her brother yelled again.
     She whipped her head around. “Okay, I’m coming.” By the time she turned back, the golden woman was gone.
     She stood, walked to the side of the house, and peered around the corner, but the golden woman wasn’t there. She swiveled her head to each side, but didn’t see her. Could this all have just been a figment of her imagination? Maybe sitting in the sun was affecting her. Butterflies danced in her stomach at the thought of the locket she’d found, and she hurried into the house to get ready for school.
***
     The mile-long walk to school was a quiet one except for Jet humming to himself. Children said goodbye to their parents and walked out of their rural homes surrounded by lush green grass and foliage, through the center of Spring Bloom. Boys in button down shirts and long pants and girls in light colored, pastel dresses lined the walkways when Lilika and Jet got closer and closer to their destination. Lilika walked along with a solemn expression on her face.
     She couldn’t help but think about the golden woman, whether she’d simply imagined her or if their conversation had really happened. What did it mean? She couldn’t tell Jet or their mother or father. They wouldn’t believe her. Something was actually happening to her for a change.
     The sun cast bright light over all the individual stone cottages and gardens.
     “Good morning, Lilika!” Mr. Woodland waved from his garden.
     “Good morning.” Lilika hurried toward school.
     “Lil! Slow down,” Jet said.
     “Come on,” she said with pursed lips, “we’re going to be late.”
     More and more residents filtered out of their houses, tending to their gardens, trimming their bushes, and cleaning windows of their homes. With every stone cottage Lilika passed, the people smiled and waved. She greeted everyone with a wave and picked up her pace once she reached the hill.
     Standing in front of the school, she paused and caught her breath before opening the classroom door.
     “So, do you want to do something after school? Maybe we can go for a walk or something.” Bryony stopped her just outside the door. Lilika had been friends with her for as long as she could remember.
     “Oh, I can’t.” Lilika sighed. “I have to do my chores right away when I get home since I didn’t have time to do all of them this morning.”
     “Well, I found something I thought you might be interested in.” Bryony pulled out a big book from her backpack and wiped the dust off of it.
     Lilika whipped her head around. “What? What is that?”
     “It’s called The History of Winter in the Soul.” Bryony moved her fingers along the raised gold title on the front. “It’s all about Wits.” Bryony opened it and read from the book. “It was a cold that could only manifest out of the coldness in the soul. That is how Wits got to be known as the Winter in the Soul.”
     “What are you doing?” Violet butted in. Great, she was always putting her nose where it didn’t belong.
     “Nothing. Keep your voice down.” Lilika glanced toward the window to make sure no one was looking. Leave it to Violet to try and join in with them when they were trying not to bring attention to themselves.
     “What do you have there, Bryony?” Violet put her hand on Bryony’s shoulder to get a glimpse.
     “Nothing.” Lilika shook her head.
     “Well, what is it? What’s so interesting?” Violet leaned in closer.
     “Oh, please,” Lilika whispered, “just stop. Someone’s going to see, and then we’ll all be in trouble. Just mind your own business and leave us alone. Go, go on.” Lilika waved her hand at Violet.
     “Fine.” Violet rolled her eyes and stormed off.
     “Bryony, you really shouldn’t have that book. Where did you get it anyway?”
     “I found it under my parent’s bed. Aren’t you curious about Wits?”
     “I am, but…”
     “But what?”
     The golden locket popped into Lilika’s head. Who was she to tell Bryony not to ask questions about Wits? She had questions of her own.
     “Nothing, come on, we’d better get inside. We’re going to be late.”
     Bryony shoved the book back inside her backpack and followed Lilika into school.

Author Bio


Jennifer Novotney was born in Burbank, California and lived in Los Angeles for most of her life until settling in North Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. She attended California State University, earning a bachelors degree in journalism, and Northern Arizona University, earning a masters degree in English. After college, she spent several years writing and teaching, including at Pennsylvania State University.

Author Links:
Website | Facebook | Twitter


Giveaway

  • $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal Cash
  • Ends March 22, 2015
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code 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.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

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Review: Henge by Realm Lovejoy

Henge by Realm Lovejoy

Le Fay #1
Author:
Realm Lovejoy
Publication Date: November 13, 2014
Publisher: Self Published
Reviewer: Sophia

Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.

Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.

But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.
Review copy provided by the author originally for the blog tour

If I weren't so allergic to classics, I may have read the original stories just to see how Morgan became bitter in the first place. In all of the retellings I've come across so far, Merlin and Morgan are always connected in some sort of way, but everyone fails to tell how Morgan became so bitter and cold in the first place (or maybe it just doesn't pertain to the plot and no one cares too much about Morgan aside from making her an integral part of all things magically evil).
Keeping that thought in mind may prepare me to read Camelot Burning's sequel.

Henge doesn't start out terribly interesting – Lovejoy has Morgan competing in a magical competition to join Arthur's Round without her father's knowledge (then getting in trouble), meeting Merlin at the competition, and giving readers flashbacks to Morgan's past that have little to do with the entire competition aside from setting us up for the overall plot of the entire story.

For awhile in the beginning, the writing was a bit impassive and the book didn't seem like something I would end up liking in the long run, despite the idea and the mere fact Morgan IS the main character – when has that happened? Morgan's typically depicted as someone who's cold, bitter, ambitious, and has a major vendetta against the world (and Merlin). The only thing I did keep in mind from early on is how Lovejoy integrated the magical world of Camelot into the modern world with its technology while keeping Camelot's traditional medieval ways – lords, ladies, knights, oh my!

As Arthur's Round continues on toward the end and we get closer to finding out who the Maven will be, Henge gets better – Lovejoy's writing becomes more interesting, Morgan becomes more bitter as she finds out the real reason why her mother was executed a decade ago (thus becoming more like the Morgan Le Fay highly known as today), and us readers are left hanging precariously on a cliff at the very end until the next book in the series graces the world with its presence.

(I'll even battle Rundus for it if I have to. And most likely lose in the process.)

4 Owls

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

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Blog Tour + Giveaway: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Tour Schedule
A Wicking Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Title: A Wicked Thing (A Wicked Thing #1)
Author: Rhiannon Thomas
Links: Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | iTunes
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Read an Excerpt

Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

Author Bio

Rhiannon Thomas is a recent graduate from Princeton University, where she studied English and Japanese, and smuggled bubble tea into the library on a regular basis. She now lives in York, England.

As well as reading and writing YA fiction, she runs the blog FeministFiction.com, where she discusses TV, books, and all kinds of fannish things from a feminist perspective.

I don't hang out on Goodreads much, so if you want to contact me, please swing by my personal website or message me on Twitter.

Author Links:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | YouTube

Giveaway

  • US, Canada, UK ONLY
  • 1st Prize - Signed Copy of A Wicked Thing and Spinning Wheel Charm Bracelet from Etsy
  • 2nd Prize - 2 Signed Copies of A Wicked Thing
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Friday, February 20, 2015

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Review: Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Sophia May Be Scared of Reading the Sequel)

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Grisha #1
Author:
Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: 2012
Publisher: Square Fish
Reviewer: Sophia

Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal--and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.

Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina's extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart--and her country--in two.

Shadow and Bone could have been better – a lot better.

What annoyed me: Alina Starkov.

There is this thing about characters: there are lots of different types – the desperate ones, the annoying ones, the mopey ones, the overly happy ones, the sassy ones, etc.

Alina is the mopey one for – wait for it – a whopping half of the book. It takes her literally half of the book to realize that maybe she should stop being so mopey over Mal, or stop being so insecure about herself and comparing herself to a Grisha of what? Ten plus years? Really, it almost stalls the book as the character tries to get her bearings and a love triangle developing (I've pretty much decided if one couple happens, I'll have a field day.).
I didn't belong in this beautiful world, and if I didn't find a way to use my power, I never would.
She's also the desperate one – a very dangerous combination to put with mopey. Certainly not as desperate as Eon(a), as Alina doesn't resort to doing anything stupid or harmful to herself. She's more of the, "I can't do this, I can't fit in with the others, why am I doing this, etc." type of person rather than, "Hey! Here's how I can fit in and be more manly: pump myself up with sun drugs!" (Admit it – that was totally Eona in Eon. Alina doesn't dress up as a guy to be a Grisha in Shadow and Bone if anyone's wondering. That would certainly be a fun plot twist to see though!)

What actually kept me reading, aka what kept me from throwing my arms up in exasperation: the idea and the setting.

Based off Imperial Russia, Bardugo's depiction of Ravka seems magical – the Grisha and the Shadow Fold seem to fit in nicely into the story without many hiccups if there's even any.

The Grisha idea is pure genius – no guide needed, even though it took me awhile (okay, 30 pages) to actually figure out how to tell which Grisha from Grisha (in common, sensible terms that I understand). As much as it may sound really complicated, it's actually pretty simple.

The first in the Grisha trilogy has a fantastic idea set in a mystical version of Russia, but it really could have done better (I'm probably sounding like a broken record now). With the fear of the sequel being worse than the first one (or any terrifying possibility), I'm almost afraid to pick up the second book.

3.5 Owls

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Monday, February 16, 2015

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Review: The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney

The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney

The Fire Artist
Author:
Daisy Whitney
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Reviewer: Sophia

A forbidden romance literally heats up in this new fantasy from acclaimed author Daisy Whitney.

Aria is an elemental artist—she creates fire from her hands. But her power is not natural. She steals it from lightning. It’s dangerous and illegal in her world. When she’s recruited to perform, she seizes the chance to get away from her family. But her power is fading too fast to keep stealing from the sky. She has no choice but to turn to a Granter—a modern day genie. She gets one wish at an extremely high price. Aria’s willing to take a chance, but then she falls in love with the Granter . . . and he wants his freedom. Aria must decide what she’s willing to bargain and how much her own heart, body, and soul are worth.

In a world where the sport of elemental powers is the most popular form of entertainment, readers will be swept away by a romance with stakes higher than life and death.

The cover and the synopsis for The Fire Artist looked so pretty, I had cover fever for a few seconds while trying to decide between 5 plus other books (I planned on walking away with 3 books for 4 weeks, not 100 books).

And the fact it was one of the newest residents at the library and when you own nearly zilch books (two), getting your hands on a shiny copy of a book is a wondrous feeling and a rarity.

The Fire Artist gets straight to the point from the very beginning – there's really no stalling going on here. Whitney reveals early on that Aria has problems as a fire artist, and that it needs to be replenished often if she wants to keep her control and not face her father's wrath. But then Aria is recruited by the M.E. Leagues, the highest honor an elemental artist can get, and she has to find another way to continue keeping her fire powers.

The world building here is amazing – the peace in the Middle East isn't just "there" simply because someone in a prestigious family did something while everyone else went down to rock bottom, said someone succeeded and as a result, everyone respects the person and bows down to them. The history of how the Middle East came to be – in accordance to the book – seems to be based off current events in the Middle East, making the book seem a little realistic rather than utmost fantasy. The granters Whitney portrays throughout The Fire Artist aren't just "there" (though they are just "there") for everyone's beck and call – the granters seemed to be unified with rules and whatnot rather than each granter working individually on their own.

The romance between Taj and Aria also isn't one that rushes quickly – it's slowly developing as the book progresses and it doesn't overshadow the overall plot (a huge peeve of mine). The conversations between the two are entertaining enough that despite the fact Aria takes her time in making her wish, I personally don't mind because I'm too busy enjoying the book to even care.

I do, however, have a little peeve against Aria for stalking the dude before they even met. Surely that never goes well if the dude actually finds out.

Though to be honest, if Aria had made her wish too early in the book instead of stalling awhile, the book would have ended much too quickly. The world building and character development would have been terrible – no one (aside from the author) would ever know precisely how the peace in the Middle East really came to be (oh, so everyone just whipped up a treaty?) or gotten the chance to really know Aria and Taj as characters.

There are no regrets in reading this – The Fire Artist is as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside.

5 Owls

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

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Blog Tour Review: Henge by Realm Lovejoy

Tour Schedule
Henge by Realm Lovejoy
Publication Date: 11/13/14
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Author
Reviewer: Rundus

Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.

Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.

But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.

So I wasn't going to do this book first, but Sophia insisted. She thought I'd like this type of book, and she wasn't wrong. I personally have always been a fan of fantasy, but Lovejoy's style I find to be particularly enticing. The way she threads anger, hopelessness, hope, and a bold sort of determination; all of which managing to have a proper place in the story and creating a certain feeling that the story, though a tad slow right away, leads quickly to a crescendo of plot, chaotic confusion, and the occasional plot hole.

Realm begins her short(ish) 260 page book with a nervous-sounding Morgan LeFay, who gives a brief bit of insight into how her paranoid but protective dad wouldn't approve of the competition she's entered. That competition would be the one in which she is to demonstrate her skill over her abilities to use fire magic for a chance to be called to Camelot to have a chance to become the Maven, or magical companion/guider, or the next King: Prince Arthur.

That all sounds great, and the outcome of the competition was a very obvious hint at the characters who would become important from it. Characters like the graceful, but arrogant water user Vivian and the masterfully talented water user Merlin Ambrosius have memorable interactions with Morgan, ultimately following her there (shocker!). Realm keeps Morgan's shy-nervous side predominant when, after placing 2nd in the competition, her father immediately rushes to bring her home and is not happy. Since it's in the synopsis, I don't feel at all guilty by mentioning the fact that she does get in, somehow. Once she's in, the real fun starts. Random problems with characters who are to become quite important start up very frequently and Morgan's many moods start to show as she deals with them. All of this while trying to learn to be the best in her group and win the title of Maven.

I personally have to interject here to give one of my only two complaints: Morgan was paranoid to the extent of being annoying for a good portion of the book, but the story and characters around her more than make up for it. Just a warning to all readers: while that annoyance may give the impression that Morgan needs to take a chill pill, just stop and consider how boring the book would be if the fire shooting hothead had taken time to reasonably and cooly solve her problems.

While I found myself with a few mixed feelings about the fiery protagonist, the characters surrounding her did a good job of keeping me too busy to really care about Morgan's flaws very much. Some of these characters to look out for would be her overly paranoid dad. It's not hard to see why Morgan's dad acts so protective, and it's easy to empathize with him when she heads off to school. One can relate to him in some ways if they take the time to try and walk a mile in his shoes. Then there's Merlin, who-if you're like me- you'll never develop a solid conclusion about. The guy is definitely the most complex of the characters (in my opinion) and wherever he shows up there is usually some significance to his actions. There are many more, but I'm not here to give you a book report, so I'll leave the characters be for the time being.

I know I talk a lot, but bear with me for a tad longer. I've only got a little more to say.

Now, if you're a person who needs to know everything about everything by the time a book ends, I'd recommend waiting to read Henge until you can get the sequel too. Lovejoy leaves a decent amount of things left unanswered of unaddressed, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. All of those questions and mysteries leave Lovejoy with a lot of wiggle room to create the next installment of the Lefay series, and I personally look forward to getting my hands on that sequel.

Overall I gotta say that I was very fond of the book, and I enjoyed the story. There were some not-ideal parts, but their compensated for, and I have a feeling they will be even more so in the sequel. In the end I gotta give Henge 4 out of 5 owls. Great book overall.

I will have a signature later, just not yet.
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

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DNF Review: Deceived by L.A. Starkey (Oozing the Love)

Deceived by L.A. Starkey

Soul Keeper #1
Author:
L.A. Starkey
Publication Date: August 28, 2014
Publisher: Self Published
Reviewer: Sophia

They say a soul is the immaterial essence, the animating principle, the actuating cause of an individual life.

But what if you had to share yours with the one person you hated the most?

The soul mate principle states that for every one soul there is another that will recognize its match, hence creating the perfect union.

But what if you had two soul mates, which would you choose?

What if your choices had eternal ramification?

Deceived, the debut novel in the Soul Keeper Series, is a modern day love story about the implications of having more than one soul mate, and having to choose between the two of them. The decisions of the gods has left the next generation, their heirs, torn between fate and reality, and the balance of the future hangs in anticipation of what’s to come.
Review copy provided by the author originally for the blog tour

You know when you start wondering, "WHY was I interested in reading this again?" it's going to go bad... very bad. As in, down the rabbit hole and ending with a lot of injuries bad. It's just the matter of how long the book would last before you grew tired of it and just couldn't handle it anymore. From early on in chapter one, I started asking myself that question. Then I hopped onto Goodreads, looked up the synopsis and figured out why I bothered reading the book in the first place.

Deceived is obviously not the book for me – the synopsis even warns me of so: "Deceived, the debut novel in the Soul Keeper Series, is a modern day love story about the implications of having more than one soul mate, and having to choose between the two of them. The decisions of the gods has left the next generation, their heirs, torn between fate and reality, and the balance of the future hangs in anticipation of what’s to come."

It's a modern day love story set in the last year – obviously I shouldn't have taken a second glance after that. Problem? The title was interesting, the idea of ending up with two soul mates instead of one was interesting... I figured it would be something very promising despite the blaring warning this would be a love story. Oh, and I totally give props to the author for saying, "having to choose between the two of them." What are the chances of a book saying there's a love triangle before you even start the story? A rarity, let me tell you.

It's not just any love story – I'm sure you're thinking this would be Romeo & Juliet style – it's a book that is literally oozing with love. The first chapter starts out with Sam and Marcus in a dreamscape, and Marcus tries to remind her of their love in Sam's past lives. And Marcus' speech – it is, as his guardian Aldo (I thought it said Afro) says, bordering towards obsession from the very beginning in their dreams. Then there's a love triangle (of course). Nick apparently drools as well in his dreams with Sam.
“Let it leave your lips, Samantha. Say it. Tell me you know me. That you’ve missed me,” Marcus whispered. “Say it … Come on, Sam ...”
Let's be a little honest here: I don't have major problems with love triangles. I just like one side better than the other, and sometimes I like both sides and am completely happy no matter the ending where the girl finally chooses who she really wants to be with. But in Deceived...

I like no side. I apparently have problems with drooling boys, and it's not just the corners of the triangle. There's a dude that literally calls her sexy and another one who's hitting on her, and before I know it, this may make a new thingamatrope called a Love Pentagon. Perhaps PentaLove sounds better? Either way, considering the complaints you get from Love Triangles, Love Pentagons are going to have even more protests. And, really, it doesn't go well when the main character doesn't like the guy but doesn't reject him – if you don't like the dude, then say it and break his heart gently and early before you're in too deep to back out instead of just leading him on a leash. Otherwise, I deem you a hopeless romantic who is most likely desperate for love.
For now she’d make amends, go out with him a few times so he could get her out of his system and nicely let him down. Dating just wasn’t Sam's ball game.
There's also way too many POVs going on at once – we go from Sam to Marcus to Sam to... who's next again? Certainly not Marcus. But we're going from Sam to Nick to Julie to whoever – maybe end of chapter – in one chapter. I have no problems with multiple POVs, but I start getting annoyed when there are a million views and nothing too much is going on except for the mere fact a centuries old prophecy is about to have its balls rolling.

Starkey may have a good concept at play in Deceived, but I just don't connect with the writing or the entire idea at large. Plus, the flood of romance? Love is in the book. I don't mean the weird version where it gets all awkward - I mean LITERALLY.

1.5 Owls

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

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DNF ARC Review: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Seeker #1
Author:
Arwen Elys Dayton
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Delacourte Press
Reviewer: Sophia

The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor.

As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world.

And she'll be with the boy she loves--who's also her best friend.

But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes.

Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought.

And now it's too late to walk away.
Advanced Copy provided by Random House for review via Netgalley – thanks!

I was honestly excited to read Arwen Elys Dayton's Seeker, as the idea seemed very promising and the book is set in Scotland and Hong Kong – a rarity in books. Simply put, I thought this would actually go quite well.

Let's face it: Dayton does have talent. The setting of Scotland is richly detailed to the point where it's as though you're there; the book is action-packed, page-turning (in the first part), and intriguing; and the characters seem to be extremely well-developed.

But here's the conclusion: Seeker had a lot of potential to be an amazing book, but somehow, in the execution of the book, something must have exploded and went horribly wrong (because I wouldn't have DNF it if it were THAT good).

The first chapter went pretty well, aside from the hefty load of information about the characters, the setting, and whatnot. Personally I don't mind it that much as long as I don't feel like I'm reading a textbook and reading unnecessary information like a character's weight (unless it pertains to the story).

The second chapter though... I had thoughts of DNFing because throughout the most of the chapter (if not the entire chapter), John wouldn't stop yapping about how he's had a crush on Quin since he first arrived on the Kincaid estate in Scotland, and his desire for her, blah blah blah – all in all, John is quite cringe-cheesy in the romance department. I could have sworn at one point there was going to be a scene that I would feel very awkward reading about and would absolutely hightail out of the book with my tail between my legs as soon it happened.
But she and John had daydreamed about camping trips across the river, or rooms in an inn somewhere, someday, when they would finally be able to give themselves to each other.
And here's the nutshell version of what happens later: John fails, he gets kicked out of training by Briac Kincaid, there's a centuries old power struggle between "houses." As a result, John decides to attack the Kincaid estate just to get an athame and he and Quin aren't even allies when that happens. All of the characters go on their separate ways or died in the process of the attack and we don't hear any of them make a peep aside from the love triangle (Quin, John, and Shinobu) since forever. Then, when Quin gets to Hong Kong, she chooses to lose all of her memories and doesn't remember anything from the last fifteen to sixteen years, Shinobu makes a living by searching for artifacts in Victoria Harbor with a dude named Brian and they spend their money from that on "drug bars" and looking like gangsters. Then John makes an appearance in Hong Kong and makes an attempt to win Quin's heart back after shooting her in the chest and nearly killing her during the attack in Scotland.

Tell me that isn't a bit questionable, because between the end of Part 1, the Interlude and Part 2, my brain got horribly scrambled and I became overly puzzled.

Simply put, Seeker didn't turn out well – it crashed and burned.

1.5 Owls

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Friday, February 6, 2015

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Blog Tour: Deceived - Excerpt + Giveaway

Tour Schedule
Title: Deceived (Soul Keeper #1)
Author: L.A. Starkey
Publication Date: August 28, 2014
Publisher: Self Published

They say a soul is the immaterial essence, the animating principle, the actuating cause of an individual life.

But what if you had to share yours with the one person you hated the most?

The soul mate principle states that for every one soul there is another that will recognize its match, hence creating the perfect union.

But what if you had two soul mates, which would you choose?

What if your choices had eternal ramification?

Deceived, the debut novel in the Soul Keeper Series, is a modern day love story about the implications of having more than one soul mate, and having to choose between the two of them. The decisions of the gods has left the next generation, their heirs, torn between fate and reality, and the balance of the future hangs in anticipation of what’s to come.

Excerpt:
     Julie finished picking up her room and quickly changed into her pajamas. She slid into bed, finding comfort in the darkness. Something was off, but she couldn't quite put her finger on what it might be. She tossed and turned in her bed, sleep evading her, worry starting to consume her thoughts.
     "Sister ..."
     Julie sat up, full of fright. She slid out of bed, tip-toed to the window and peered through the misty glass. A young man about her age, beautiful and enchanting, stood in the grass below, smiling up toward her as the night wind tousled his dark hair. She jumped back from the window with a soft yelp leaving her lips.
     Brother. The thought came and went like a ghost in the night.
     Brother? Who is he for real? Julie asked herself as she slipped on her slippers and rushed down the stairs, heading straight for the back door. Seriously? Am I seriously rushing out the back door toward some random person I think I know? And from where? It was useless. Her feet were moving faster than her senses could keep up with, rushing to get to him before he disappeared.
     Julie burst out the back door and ran across the yard, stopping a few feet from him. As she reached out, instead of touching him, her hand passed through his body, warmth teasing her fingers. Her widened eyes filled with tears. She knew this boy and loved him.
     “Is it you, Brother? Am I asleep?" Julie's voice was no more than a whisper.
     "Yes, you’re asleep. I’ve missed you so much over the last few years. To see you here on Earth breaks my heart." He ducked his head, but it was too late. She could see the tears rimming his deep jade gaze.
     "I don’t understand. How am I breaking your heart?” Much to her discomfort, she took another step toward him. “Where have you been, I haven't seen you in a lifetime. Why have you not visited me more often? What is this Earth you speak of?" Julie's mind was overloaded, trying to catch up.
     Where are these words coming from? This guy is my brother? As in, real brother? Because he is certainly not Brent.
     What is Earth? Uh, how about Earth to Julie?
     I’d better be dreaming. She shifted uncomfortably.
     "The prophecy’s coming near. You being born to this plane tells me this much. My grief for you over the events to come is more than my soul can bear. I shouldn't have come here …" He turned and began to pace, having a conversation half with himself and half with her.
     “Why do I do this to myself?” He shook his head. “I wish I were here in the flesh so I could reach out and hug you. I’d implant in you the memory and strength of my love, but I can’t. It’s against the rules, Sister, and everything has to be fair. However, you know all of this as well as I do.”
     He chuckled sarcastically. “These rules are supposedly ingrained in all of us at a cellular level. What a load of crap.” Nick paced back and forth with disgust drawn in the deep worry lines of his forehead.
     “Fair, ha, as if,” he huffed. “Where is our even playing field? Where is fairness to us, you evil witches?” he loudly cursed the sky, as if daring someone in it to strike him dead where he stood.
     Julie shivered in fear, overwhelmed by his tirade. Her brow wrinkled in confusion at who he was addressing.
     “Why don’t you just end this battle of wills, this ridiculous prophecy, even before it begins?” he continued. “No, of course not. I’m not that lucky, am I, Sister?”
     "Please, stop this madness," Julie pleaded with him, reaching to take his hand into hers and finding nothing of tangible essence. "No matter what happens, I love you. Tell our brother I love him too. That his sister cries for his fate, as she cries for yours." Julie shook her head, desperately trying to wake herself.
     She was merely an onlooker, staring out of her own body, watching someone else pull the strings.

Author Bio

Laurie Starkey is the author of the upcoming Soul Keeper Series, a supernatural young adult series, and The Liarus Detective Series, a supernatural middle grade series. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Jacob and three beautiful kiddos.

She is a CPA by trade, a church planter and entrepreneur at heart; however, writing and reading are passions she just can’t help but indulge in. With more ideas than one person should be allowed, she is blessed to have a muse that doesn’t seem to take a vacation and more energy that one might consider healthy.
Author Links:
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter


Giveaway

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Well Hello There



Hey all you people. My name is Rundus (the 1 is optional) and I have been so kindly invited to join this fine blogging establishment. I do plan to post many reviews (that I write myself) and become an active member.  All the other stuff I will take care of in due time, as I am swamped right now.  I would've waited until I had time to do stuff to join but I promised Sophia the first report by a certain time, and by George I'm a man of my word.  I'll take care of bios and all that stuff later, as I am only posting this to say hello to those who may read this. Just letting you all know of my impending participation on this blog.  I don't have my stuff set up, so it might take some time to respond to any comments you may have, so sorry about that.

Escaping the panopticon,
Rundus
(This is my sign out phrase :D.^ I shall end all of my posts with it.)
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

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Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (Totally a Winner)

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Trilogy #1
Author:
Marie Rutkoski
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers
Reviewer: Sophia

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

You never know what kinds of books you'll find when you take your time at the library.

The Winner's Curse, to say the least, is perhaps one of the best, if not the best, book I've read so far in 2015. The characters, the writing, the world, the plot – I loved it all (or most of it, but technically it's still all of it).

Kestrel may be one of my favorite characters – I just love how she resists (flouting them may be more accurate) her father's and society's rules, values, and expectations throughout the entire book, and even how she resists being bossed around by Cheat near the end.
"If a woman can fight and die for the empire, why can't a woman walk alone?"
Frankly, it's fantastic. It's fantastic how she doesn't really care too much about what society thinks of her relationship with Arin, despite the fact the rumors weren't true at the time. And it's even more fantastic how loyal Jess and Ronan are to Kestrel – they stick around even while Kestrel's reputation is obviously going down the drain with each action she takes that society looks down upon (though Ronan may be questionable).
"It doesn't matter what they think. Dance with me."
Then there's the writing – it's beautiful. The parallel structure the author uses occasionally throughout seems almost poetic, or if not poetic, then there seems to be a rhythm every so often.
She would have stopped him. She would have wished herself deaf, blind, made of unfeeling smoke. She would have stopped his words out of terror, longing.
I'm also not typically a fan of authors revealing what really happens through another character (while another character hears differently), but with The Winner's Curse, I find I rather enjoy Rutkoski revealing what really happens through Arin while Kestrel hears something else. Perhaps it's just the character itself, as Arin is an intriguing character and seems to have an air of mystery about him right when he is first sold to Kestrel – the author reveals that there's something up with him, but is vague enough not to give too much away.

The ending to The Winner's Curse is full of tension – with the second book already released or being released soon, I really want to read the next book, in hopes the sequel is as wonderfully written and unpredictable as the first to the Winner's Trilogy is.

5 Owls

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Monday, February 2, 2015

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Review: The Queen's Choice by Cayla Kluver (Walking Galore)

The Queen's Choice by Cayla Kluver

The Heirs of Chrior #1
Author:
Cayla Kluver
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Reviewer: Sophia

Magic was seeping out of me, black and agonizing. I could see it drifting away. The magic that would let me pass the Road to reach home again.

When sixteen-year-old Anya learns that her aunt, Queen of the Faerie Kingdom of Chrior, will soon die, her grief is equalled only by her despair for the future of the kingdom. Her young cousin, Illumina, is unfit to rule, and Anya is determined not to take up the queen's mantle herself.

Convinced that the only solution is to find Prince Zabriel, who long ago disappeared into the human realm of Warckum, and persuade him to take up his rightful crown, Anya journeys into the Warckum Territory to bring him home. But her journey is doomed to be more harrowing than she ever could have imagined.

The Queen's Choice may not be my favorite faery book (it's far from being my favorite, but I didn't actually hate it), but it's definitely about time someone wrote about fairies in an entirely different way other than the usual summer and winter fairies.

Kluver has all the good things to write a fantastic book – the world building is interesting, the characters are complex (for the most part), and her writing style is interesting enough that it somehow managed to keep my attention with the whopping 500 pages it has (for the most part).

On the fabulous elaborations of "for the most part," Anya and her companion (Shea, for the most part) probably spent approximately 300+ pages walking, getting attacked, and avoiding the Constabularies of the Warckum Territory. Then the cycle pretty much repeats itself – no particular pattern. Anya spent approximately 100+ pages being healed before all of that walking, attacking, and avoiding began – perhaps I'll even call it WAA for the fun of it all – does it sound appealing? Probably not.

But somehow, in someway, Kluver managed to keep my attention, despite the fact I don't really "connect" to her writing. Maybe it's the writing style (eh... not really), or perhaps the complexity of her minor characters (Illumina and Shea are certainly complex enough that they're not entirely predictable). Maybe it's just the entire idea behind the book in the first place, though that part is most likely not true.

And then there's Anya. Anya the main character, Anya the Royal Faery of Chrior, and maybe Anya the Hopeless. Anya seems a little stereotypical – or perhaps, more accurately, Anya simply makes quite a few assumptions sometimes that may be hilarious to a little human like me. Certainly not as hilarious as Of Mice and Men, to which I make fun of the book the entire time I'm reading it just so I'm not bored. It's no wonder why I'm called the sarcastic one among my circle of friends.
"Now, how do I get on this thing?" she asked, taking the reins to her mount from me.
"You don't know?"
"Nope. Not the slightest idea."
"I thought all humans knew how to ride horses."
You know, for a nonhuman who seems to visit the human world as often as possible, you would sort of expect them to not assume all humans can ride horses. Really, I'm not terribly sure how one can be born with a talent like riding horses. Though, oddly enough, that's probably possible. The person would then have to nurture it. But really, humans are not centaurs. For one to be a centaur, we're missing a horse's ass. Pardon my language (and the grotesque image coming soon), but no horse – and certainly no human – would appreciate being cut in half and glued together to become a centaur.

Grotesque image and crude comments aside, Kluver puts us at a sort of a cliffhanger with something Anya discovers about Illumina in the last couple pages in the book. Much as I'm interested in the sequel, I'm not terribly sure I want to continue reading about Anya walking and traveling constantly (and avoiding and being attacked).

3.5 Owls

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All reviewed books posted on Bookwyrming Thoughts are purchased/gifted, loaned or provided by the author/publisher for free in exchange for a honest review. There is no compensation in any way or form aside from a complimentary copy of the book, and it does not influence the review.