Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Wrap Up



Does anyone else feel like time is just moving way too fast? Another month has come and gone, and I feel like it just kind of disappeared. Still, it was a great month of reading. You won't see this bookworm complaining about the books she got to devour :).

This month I also was lucky enough to take on a ghost reader. My friend Ms. K doesn't much like writing reviews, but she is a bibliophile just like me! So if you ever see her sign off on the bottom of a review, or see the "joint review" tag, say hi to her! She's a fabulous person and I'm glad to have her on board.
(Note that her books don't count to my reading total. I didn't read them after all!)

So away we go.
(GR = Graphic Novel / JR = Joint Review / CR = Children's Book)


Books reviewed in March:
(GR) Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks - Review (4/5)
Fire Baptized by Kenya Wright - Review (4/5)
Fair Coin by E.C. Meyers - Review (5/5)
God's Eye by A.J. Scudiere - Review (3/5)
(CR) Kylie Jean: Dancing Queen by Marci Peschke - Review (4/5)
Here by Denise Grover Swank - Review (3/5)
Spontaneous by Joe Harris - Review (3/5)
The Blood Lie by Shirley Reva - Review (3/5)
Fractured Light by Rachael McLellan - Review (3/5)
How To Slay A Dragon by Bill Allen - Review (4/5)
Starters by Lissa Price - Review (5/5)
The Changelings by Elle Casey - Review (5/5)
Until Next Time by Amy Lignor - Review (4/5)
(JR) Inhale by Kendall Grey - Review (4/5)
Croak by Gina Damico - Review (4/5)

Total books reviewed in March: 15


Book read in March but not reviewed:
On The Day I Died by Candace Fleming 
The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Audio Book)


Total books read in 2012: 45
Goal progress: 45 books read out of 150 (30%)


Again, a little ahead of where I hoped to be this month! I'm pretty on track to hit my goal this year and that just rocks!

Favorite book of the month? A tie between Starters and The Changelings. One is traditionally published, the other an Indie book, but they are both fabulous!

How was YOUR reading month?


Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Review: Croak

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Croak
   * Series: Croak #1
Author: Gina Damico
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: Paperback; 311
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Source: NetGalley
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Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Language; Mild Violence
-----------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who love a good mystery, with vivid characters to follow.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business.

Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her Targets like a natural born Killer.

Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in?

Croak caught my eye early on. Grim reapers. A strong and sarcastic main character. What more could a reader ask for? I was looking for something a little bit different in my reading list, and I thought that this would be just the ticket. As soon as I opened the book and met Lex in the flesh, I knew I was in for a treat! This book drew me in right away, and I happily followed along.

First off, I absolutely must talk characters because they are all so fabulous Each one has their own unique personality, and it's impossible not to fall in love with this motley crew. Lex's unflinching sarcasm, Drigg's cocky demeanor, overly optimistic Sofi, they all just shine off the page. I found myself giggling out loud, a lot. I also caught myself reading pages again, just to relive the hilarious banter and altogether random insults that they throw at one another. These are people I'd love to hang out with, and that made reading this book so much more fun.

Now that's not to say that the story here isn't good too. The beginning of the story is a little odd, but once Lex finds herself in Croak everything else starts to make sense. Without spoiling I can tell you that Lex finds herself in some pretty interesting situations. One of which involves some fluttery feelings for a boy. Now don't mistake, Lex isn't the shrinking violet type. Far from it. Let's just say that bruises ensue. Anyway, it is really the mystery aspect of the story that steals the show here. Damico drops just enough hints to keep you reading, and to keep the pace flowing really nicely. Even though I figured out the culprit pretty early on, the book was still a great read. That says a lot.

The one thing that I was so disappointed about was the ending. After being so caught up in Lex's life, and so enthralled by the mystery surrounding Croak, the ending just felt so flat to me. I'm sure others will love it, and still others will feel no big emotion either way. In my opinion though it was just too convenient and kind of anti-climactic. I know that this is the first in a series though, so I'm hopeful! I'll be back for more.


FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review: Inhale



Media Type: Ebook
Title: Inhale
Author: Kendall Grey
Publisher: Howling Mad Press
Pages: Paperback; 453
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Source: Author
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Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers looking for a steamy read with wonderful characters and a unique plot.


Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Strangers in reality, inseparable in dreams…

After years of suffocating under her boss’s scrutiny, whale biologist Zoe Morgan finally lands a job as director of a tagging project in Hervey Bay, Australia. Success Down Under all but guarantees her the promotion of a lifetime, and Zoe won’t let anything—or anyone—stand in her way. Not the whale voices she suddenly hears in her head, not the ex who won’t take no for an answer, and especially not the gorgeous figment of her imagination who keeps saving her from the fiery hell of her dreams.

Gavin Cassidy hasn’t been called to help a human Wyldling in over a year, which is fine by him. Still blaming himself for the death of his partner, he keeps the guilt at bay by indulging in every excess his rock star persona affords. That is, until he’s summoned to protect Zoe from hungry Fyre Elementals and learns his new charge is the key to restoring order in the dying Dreaming. He never expects to fall for the feisty Dr. Morgan…nor does he realize he may have to sacrifice the woman he loves to save an entire country.

Zoe is a perfect protagonist. Sassy, smart and willing to stand up for whatever she believes in. Heaven help you if you get on the wrong side of this girl. Zoe's passion for whales can only be described as an obsession. It's her thing, and she's good at what she does. Then there's Gavin. Brooding, sexy, deliciously Australian, Gavin. He's Zoe's counterpart and protector. Once again, he's good at what he does. Did I mention that he's hot? He is. I could go on for ages about the characters to be honest. They are wonderfully written, and all so different! The biggest compliment I can give here is that they are believable. The ones you're supposed to like, you'll fall in love with. The ones you are supposed to hate? Well you'll hate them with a passion. That's the best part.

The story line in this book is unique, and the plot moves at a nice pace. Grey's world-building is fantastic. The author vividly brings to life the elements of air, fire, earth and water in her world, and gives a voice to the whales. It's all beautifully done, and it will suck you in. Without spoiling too much, I can tell you that Zoe and Gavin meet in their dreams. It is here that the story is mainly built between these two. Zoe isn't sure who the man is in her dreams, but she does know he's "Perfect". Gavin's job is to keep Zoe safe, and he knows he'll only be able to do that if she stays slightly in the dark about what is truly going on. The suspense of waiting for Zoe to figure out the truth definitely keeps you on your toes. I found myself anxious to get back to The Dreaming, just to see what they would do next. I'll admit that there were a few things left unexplained, which was the one thing that drove me a little mad. This is a trilogy though, so it's possible they are just waiting to be shared later on.

STEAM WARNING. This book gets very very intense at some points. Let's just say that the sexy-times in this book are not at all lacking in their descriptions. They don't really take away from the overall story, and in my opinion actually add to it, but they are pretty graphic. If you aren't a fan of these types of scenes, this might not be a book for you. However if you are a person who doesn't mind some steam in your story, read away!

Inhale has a little bit of everything. There is the magic of the elements, sex, love, jealousy, assassination, war, Aboriginal lore, and a good old fashioned love story all melded together in this story. It might sound like a lot to fit in one book, but it's done so well you won't even realize it's all there until you've finished. Kendall Grey has crafted something beautiful and unique here, and I for one can't wait for more. I'd recommend it to adults who enjoy Urban Fantasy, and aren't afraid of some graphic sexual scenes.  Engrossing and quick moving, Inhale is definitely a read to pick up!



This is a joint review. 
Ms. K did the reading, and Jessica did the review writing!

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Celebrating THE GALAHAD LEGACY by Dom Testa!


A huge thank you to Dom Testa and TOR for providing this excerpt and giveaway!

Today I am pleased to have Dom Testa, author of all six wonderful books in the Galahad series, on the blog! He is on tour promoting the newest (and sadly last) book in the series titled The Galahad Legacy.

As a new reader to these books, I can honestly tell you that they are fabulous! My review of the series will be up quite soon, but in the meantime let me assure you that these are a quick, intriguing read and a great addition to the bookshelf of any science fiction lover! Need a new read? Here's your answer.


Now for your viewing pleasure, a snippet from The Galahad Legacy.
She gathered her thoughts for a moment. “First, I know my decision was very unpopular; in fact, almost all of you have expressed that. I stand by my decision to go. I took the safety of the ship into consideration, and weighed the options that I felt we had. Making a popular choice wasn’t as important to me as doing what I felt was best for this crew. There’s not much more to say about that. If you still have issues with me after this briefing, feel free to come see me individually. I’m open to hearing your opinions. For now, however, I’d like to move forward. What’s done is done. Let’s talk about what happened.”

Triana looked around the table and saw no argument.

Intrigued? I don't blame you! To see the next snippet from the second chapter, visit The Elliott Review tomorrow. Or, if you want to catch up and start from the beginning of the first chapter, visit the full list of stops.

Ready for a GIVEWAY?


Up for grabs is the entire series! You'll get all 5 of the books above, along with the featured sixth book The Galahad Legacy. How could you go wrong? A brand new series all for you!

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
(Open to U.S. and Canada only, thanks!)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Enter for a copy of The Changelings by Elle Casey!


A quick giveaway announcement!

Up for grabs is one ebook copy of The Changelings by Elle Casey, courtesy of the lovely author!

If you missed my post earlier this week, I loved this book. Go ahead, read my review. It's nothing but love for this amazing self-published book.

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!


Book Review: Until Next Time

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Until Next Time
   *Series: The Angel Chronicles Book 1
Author: Amy Lignor
Publisher: Tribute Books
Pages: Ebook; 255
Release Date: February 1, 2012
Source: Publisher
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Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Violence
--------------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who enjoy angelic lore in their stories

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
How does a girl choose between the one who steals her heart and the one who owns her soul?

Matt and Emily were created for a specific job. Raised and trained as the ultimate angel/warrior team, they are sent down to save, defend, judge and forgive, depending on the 'life' they've been assigned. What they don't realize is that the power of human emotions, such as love, anger, passion and fear can take over even the best of souls, causing them to make mistakes and follow paths that lead to confusion and heartache.

When the reason for their training is finally revealed, the angel/warrior team find themselves thrust into a world they know nothing about. Matt takes over the life of Daniel, a young man with a great deal of baggage. Emily becomes Liz, a girl living in a remote village who relies on nothing more than her own strength to survive. A violent storm erupts one night, and framed in the window of Liz's establishment is a frightening face. Let in by the soul of a Good Samaritan, the two visitors bring with them a past full of secrets that could literally change an angel's path and a warrior's plans.

From murder to redemption, this angel/warrior team must find a way to keep the faith they have in each other in a world that's ripping them apart.

As a reader who is not generally a fan of angel based books, I was a bit wary going in to Until Next Time. They have a tendency to be a little heavy handed in the religion department most times. I'm happy to say that Amy Lignor's book was an exception to that rule. Although Matt and Emily's story is of course religiously based, it doesn't overshadow their own intriguing plot line. Lignor allows the reader to meet some of the more prominent names in the bible, each in their own interesting and sometimes even adorable ways.

What I really liked about this book is that it is actually two stories in one. The point of view skips between Matt and Emily when they are in heaven, and their human counterparts on Earth. Each one keeps a small part of themselves when they are sent down, but it is only at home that they are truly themselves. I loved seeing how the things they learned on Earth changed them inside. Having an angel's point of view on what happens in our own day to day lives was interesting, and sometimes even heartbreaking.

The romantic elements of this story are perfectly done and believable. Lignor gives her angels the opportunity to experience free will, and the choices they make really shape the story line. I loved both of the men who come into Liz and Faith's lives. They compliment each one just wonderfully. The true love that blooms between Liz and Jason is beautiful and honest. It is these true emotions that let the story really shine off the pages.

In a nutshell, I really did enjoy Until Next Time. I had a few gripes with some small things, mainly dealing with point of view. It's tough sometimes to feel comfortable switching between heaven and Earth with the angels. However there is so much more in this story that really allows it to shine. If you are a fan of angelic lore, or if you enjoy a good love story, this is one to give a shot.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book Review: The Changelings


Media Type: Ebook
Title: The Changelings
  *Series: War of the Fae Book One
Author: Elle Casey
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Kindle; 275
Release Date: February 5, 2012
Source: What's Your Story Book Tours
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Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Adult Language; Violence
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HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Lovers of fantasy, adventure and a great characters!

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon
Jayne Sparks, a potty-mouthed, rebellious seventeen-year-old and her best friend, shy and bookish Tony Green, have a pretty typical high school existence, until several seemingly unrelated incidents converge, causing a cascade of events that change their lives forever. Jayne and Tony, together with a group of runaway teens, are hijacked and sent into a forest, where nothing and no one are as they seem. Who will emerge triumphant? And what will they be when they do?

Picking up The Changelings was something I am so happy I did! After finishing this last night, I'm still reeling from the total awesome package that Elle Casey has put forth in this story. Fabulous characters, an amazing and quick moving plot line, dark ktwists and turns. This is a book that I absolutely devoured. Anyone who tells you self-published books are inferior to traditionally published books...well they haven't read this.

Jayne Sparks is quite a powder keg of a girl! She's feisty, she's tough, and she has more potential brewing inside her than she truly knows. Equipped with a mouth to match her attitude, there are quite a few times where Jayne's sentiments about her situation made me crack up laughing. Be warned, Jayne does have a potty-mouth. If she's feeling it, she's not afraid to speak it (or think it rather loudly). I loved her for that. Her wit keeps the book moving, and her honest feelings keep you in step with her the whole way through the book.

The other characters don't fade into black though, despite how lovely and loud Jayne is. Each of her compatriots has their own fantastic personality, complete with strengths and weaknesses. I grew to adore each of them in time. To be honest I became so wrapped up in them after a while, that any time there was the possibility of a battle I was breathless. You know that feeling when you don't want your favorite person to be snuffed out? Multiply that by the number of characters in this book and you've got a reader who is barely breathing as she flips the pages.

I'm not going to lie, The Changelings initially threw me off. I heard fae, and I thought about every other book I've read pertaining to their lore. Color me surprised when Jayne's story was a lot darker than I expected. The plot moves at a fiery pace, and the twists and turns will keep you on your feet. There is death in this story. There is blood, gore and fighting. Fair warning. If that's not for you, you might want to keep your distance. If you're like me though, you'll eat it up and just read faster.

Long story short, this was a book that I more than enjoyed! I loved it. The ending caught me off guard, although it was perfectly done. With that evil cliffhanger looming over me, you can guarantee that I'll be impatiently waiting for more! Now that I've met Jayne, now that I've seen what fantastic writing Elle Casey is capable of, I'm a fan girl. Count me in for more.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog....


To tell you that I'm a bit MIA this weekend I know!

I'm doing wedding type stuff, and yesterday I found a dress! YES! I am giddy with anticipation for October to hurry up and get here.

Regularly scheduled blog posts resume tomorrow ;).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Starters

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Starters
  Series: Starters #1
Author: Lissa Price
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: Hardcover; 368
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Source: NetGalley
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Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Violence
--------------------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Everyone

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
HER WORLD IS CHANGED FOREVER

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .

We meet Callie as she is struggling to survive in a post-war world. Biological warfare has ravaged Callie's society, and now the only people left are either very young or very old. With modern technology allowing people to live well into their triple digits, things have drastically changed. Lissa Price builds a world that pits the "Enders", or the elders, against the "Starters" or the young people. The idea of borrowing someone else's body sounds far-fetched, but Price manages to make it a reality. This concept definitely keeps the book moving.

The story line takes off at a quick pace, expertly weaving the past with the present to give the reader a bigger view of this new world. Callie isn't given a moment to rest, as she tries to unravel what Prime Destinations is really up to. As a character, Callie is just wonderful. She is the perfect mixture of a normal teenage girl, and the mother figure that her world has forced her to become. Her affection for her brother is palpable, and it made me adore her that much more. No matter what decisions Callie made, I was always right there with her. Price has created a character who is easy to fall into step with, and it makes this book that much more immersive.

I'll stop gushing for a moment to make a small announcement. I've seen other reviews that complain about the lack of character description, and unanswered questions about the past, in this book. I'll admit, it's true that some things are aren't blatantly spelled out. For me though, that was half of the magic of this book. I was given a great base world, and as I read I filled in information for myself. I was lost in creating Callie's life in my head. Building it word by word. Perhaps it's my fantasy based mind at work, but it didn't phase me at all. I'm all for literary escapism, and Starters definitely allowed me that opportunity.

So, if you couldn't tell already, I loved this book! Starters has a unique premise that makes it a deliciously quick read. By the time I reached the ending I was out of breath. I also probably had a shocked look on my face. Yes friends, there is a cliffhanger and it's a big one. Starters, and its lovely creator Lissa Price, get my highest seal of approval and adoration. I know that I'll be eagerly awaiting the next book. Hurry up and get your hands on a copy of Starters so you can join me.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: How to Slay a Dragon


Media Type: Ebook
Title: How to Slay a Dragon
  *Series: The Journals of Myrth #1
Author: Bill Allen
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Pages: Paperback; 228
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Source: NetGalley
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Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Nothing of note
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HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who enjoy good witty humor and word play in their reading.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Ruuan is a very large dragon. Twelve-year-old Greg Hart can't slay a dragon. He'd be lucky to win a fight against one of the smaller girls at school.

Now the magicians of Myrth have mistaken him for a legendary warrior, so they've yanked Greg into their world of sorcery and danger. Nothing will stop the people of Myrth from believing Greg will rescue King Peter's daughter from Ruuan the dragon. After all, Greg has been named in a prophecy, and no prophecy has ever been wrong before.

Until now.

For Greg Hart, fantasies are a part of life. His journal is a place to share the person that he wishes he was. A hero. A strong, quick and brave character who slays vicious baddies with one hand tied behind his back (and of course always gets the girl in the end). Little does poor Greg know that he is destined to set off on a actual dangerous quest! In this story Greg really is the hero, and one false move will land him on the dragon's lunch menu.

I honestly loved Greg as a character, and I know that the reading group this book is aimed at will as well. He is funny, honest, and downright noble at times. Beneath the scrawny boy that everyone sees on the outside beats the heart of a hero. Greg has a quick wit that made me laugh out loud more than once. I adored how the author allowed his character to have doubts and fears. Greg isn't certain the prophecy is about him, and he's willing to (loudly) voice that to anyone who will listen. Still, he knows that a princess' life is at stake. Despite his fears, off he goes on an epic adventure.

Bill Allen weaves a story that will have you glued to your seat, with your eyes in the book, from page one. Trolls, dragons, witches, you name it and you'll probably find it in this fast moving story. The trials that Greg faces are too much fun! (Well maybe not for him, but definitely for the reader.) You get to follow him as he grows and changes, and by the time the end of the story comes it is almost heartbreaking. I know I'm definitely looking forward to more of Greg's adventures.

The last thing I want to mention, because it amused me so greatly, is the word play that is present in this book! How to Slay a Dragon is peppered with puns, jokes, and just plain silliness. I am not afraid to admit that I giggled. A lot. There are some parts of this story that are just so absurd that you have to! Fans of fantasy stories will love this. I'd absolutely recommend this to upper middle grade readers as well. They might not get all the puns, but I guarantee they'll fall in love with Greg.

Long story short? Get a copy. How to Slay a Dragon is a great addition to any adventure lover's shelf.




FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated in any way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Picks with Cole Gibsen, author of KATANA



Today on the blog we have Cole Gibsen, author of Katana. Now it might just be the amazing cover, or the fact that this girl looks fierce, but I'm in love with wanting to read this book! 

Cole has stopped by to share some of Gimhae Kim's book picks. I'll give you an inticement in the form of a book synopsis and then give the floor to Cole! Enjoy!

Rileigh Martin would love to believe that adrenaline had given her the uncanny courage and strength to fend off three muggers. But it doesn't explain her dreams of 15th-century Japan, the incredible fighting skills she suddenly possesses, or the strange voice giving her battle tips and danger warnings.

While worrying that she's going crazy (always a reputation ruiner), Rileigh gets a visit from Kim, a handsome martial arts instructor, who tells Rileigh she's harboring the spirit of a five-hundred-year-old samurai warrior.

Relentlessly attacked by ninjas, Rileigh has no choice but to master the katana--a deadly Japanese sword that's also the key to her past. As the spirit grows stronger and her feelings for Kim intensify, Rileigh is torn between continuing as the girl she's always been and embracing the warrior inside her.

Gimhae Kim’s book recommendations for samurai in training:

1. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. This book is one of the best books every written on samurai philosophy. Its teachings can be applied on the battlefield as well as everyday situations. The perfect go to for the eternal question, “What would a samurai do?”

2. The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Another great book for battlefield strategies as well as regular life decision making strategies.

3. Code of the Samurai: A Modern Translation of the Bushido Shoshinshu of Taira Shigesuke by Thomas Cleary. This book provides excellent information regarding the customs, rules, and expectations of a samurai warrior. This book explains why a samurai acts the way they do.

4. The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master by Takuan Soho. What were once valuable insights for the samurai class have now become valuable teachings for anyone who wants to succeed in whatever they do.


I love writing, day-old chinese food, and my nail polish is always chipped. My YA novel, KATANA, will be released, spring 2012 by Flux. You can check out my website at www.colegibsen.com Word to your mother. (But seriously, you should call her. She worries.)

When Cole Gibsen isn't writing books for young adults, she can be found rocking out with her band, sewing crazy costumes for the fun of it, picking off her nail polish, or drinking milk straight from the jug -- provided no one is looking.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Fractured Light

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Fractured Light
Author: Rachel McClellan
Publisher: Sweetwater Books
Pages: Hardcover; 312
Release Date: February 8, 2012
Source: Publisher / Teen Book Scene
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Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Violence
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HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers looking for something paranormal, even though this looks like a Fantasy book.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Llona Reese is used to living on the run. After the Vykens killed her parents, she knew they would eventually come for her too. But she never felt ready to face them---until now. Defying the Auran Council and everything she's been taught, Llona must learn to use her power over light as a weapon if she wants to survive.

Going into Fractured Light, I really expected to be reading fantasy. I'm not sure if that was my own fault, or the synopsis, but the Aurans peaked my interest. I looked at this as something new and different in the fantasy realm. On the bright side, it was indeed something new. On the down side, this reads much more like a paranormal romance novel than anything else. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm just warning those of you who might be mistaken like I was. I'll save you the wondering.

At the beginning I'll admit that Fractured Light was a little tough for me to get into. Llona starts out as a tough character to enjoy. She's distant, coarse, and at times whiny. I understood why. Rachael McClellan builds up a good back story for her protagonist, and it's easy to see why Llona chooses to keep to herself. It doesn't make it any easier to like though. Add in the fact that the first few chapters felt shaky and kind of off, and I almost put this book down.

I'm happy to say I didn't though, because things really do improve about a third of the way through. Llona's attitude changes, the book picks up pace, and we meet more of the characters who are going to be a part of Llona's journey. At this point I honestly felt like I was reading a whole different book. Whereas the first few chapters were shaky and oddly paced at times, at this point in the book things really evened out. I found myself fully immersed for the first time, and I fell in love with Llona and her struggle to just exist.

Although some parts of the plot felt a little forced into place, I ultimately ended up liking Fractured Light. The climax of the book is just perfect, and the ending is wonderfully done. It leaves the book open for a next in the series and, in all honesty, now that I've read the whole book I'm ready for the next one. If you are a reader who enjoys a good mystery, this is a book that will peak your interest. I'll be waiting for more!




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

And...Discuss: Spoilers in Reviews


Hi everyone!

Welcome to my new sometimes post, that throws a topic out for you all to discuss. I'll post it whenever something is on my mind, shoot my mouth off about my opinion, and then leave the floor open for you.

(Yes, I'm channeling some Coffee Talk. "Grape Nuts - It contains neither grapes, nor nuts. Discuss.")

Anyway, this week's topic is...


SPOILERS IN REVIEWS


Here's my take on the matter.

As a general rule they drive me nuts. This is one of the reasons I don't read any reviews of books that I plan on reading, before I actually get to the book. The last thing I want is to find out that the main character dies, or that they choose boy A over boy B. It's my defense mechanism, to keep myself from looking like the little guy below.
"But Jessica!" you exclaim, "Surely there are exceptions." 

Indeed there are. I don't mind them if it's a book I don't plan on reading, or will probably just never get to even if it is on my wishlist. One of my best blogger buddies often says "Hey can I spoil a book for you that I just LOVED?" and I'll say sure! I know she'll give me a good run down, and chances are I'll never get to the book anyhow. So many books, so little time.

See, so I'm a flip flopper. Fence sitter. Call it what you will. I'm torn.

You'll find that in my reviews there really are no spoilers. If it's not blatantly spelled out in the synopsis, or at least massively hinted at, I won't include it at all. You'll see that the words "I won't spoil it for you..." often find their way into my reviews.


So now it's your turn!

Throw out those opinions. What's your take on spoilers in reviews? Does it matter if it's a book you weren't planning on getting to anyway? Do they make you batty?

I'm all verklempt....talk amongst yourselves...


Friday, March 16, 2012

Book Review: The Blood Lie

Media Type: Print Book
Title: The Blood Lie
Author: Shirley Reva Vernick
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Pages: Hardcover; 141
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Source: The Teen Book Scene
-----------------------------------
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Violence
-----------------------------------
HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who enjoy very realistic historical fiction novels.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
September 22, 1928, Massena, New York. Jack Pool's sixteenth birthday. He's been restless lately, especially during this season of more-times-at-the-synagogue than you can shake a stick at. If it wasn't Rosh Hashanah, then it was Yom Kippur, and if it wasn't Yom Kippur, it was the Sabbath. But temple's good for some things. It gives him lots of time to daydream about a beautiful but inaccessible Gentile girl named Emaline. And if she isn't on his mind, then he's thinking about his music and imagining himself playing the cello with the New York Philharmonic. Yup, music is definitely his ticket out of this remote whistle-stop town—he doesn't want to be stuck here one more minute. But he doesn't realize exactly how stuck he is until Emaline's little sister Daisy goes missing and he and his family are accused of killing her for a blood sacrifice.

Blood Lie was inspired by a real blood libel that took place when a small girl disappeared from Massena, New York, in 1928, and an innocent Jewish boy was called a murderer.

The synopsis above essentially says it all. The Blood Lie is a rather short, extremely realistic, look at one Jewish boy's first look into what is now commonly termed "Religisim". When Daisy goes missing the townspeople look for someone to blame, and Jack becomes their target. Jack is shown that his religion can trigger people to hate him and it changes his whole perception of life.

What I did enjoy about Shirley Reva Vernick's take on these actual events is how innocent she shows Jack to really be. From the beginning of the story, his whole thought process is basically focused on Emaline and his music. Jack has big dreams. He hopes to remove himself from his tiny town. His thoughts are pure, and rather adorable at times. Then, when everything takes a turn for the worse, you can easily see how much it affects his psyche. Poor Jack. Just an innocent boy who is thrown into the middle of a blood libel.

Everything else about The Blood Lie was pretty cut and dry though. It read less like Historical Fiction to me, and more like Non-Fiction. I know that Vernick obviously had to make Jack's character a lot more vivid than the original story would have. Still, there is very little to the story that is overly dramatic or exciting. It moves at a nice pace, slowly inching along to the end. When I got there I was a little underwhelmed. I'm glad I read this. It provided me with new knowledge. However I didn't feel anything besides that about this book.

Truth be told this probably just wasn't a book geared for a reader like me. There is nothing wrong with the writing in The Blood Lie, or with the characters, or even with the pacing. It's just that the story is so realistic that it lost the wow factor that my fantasy based brain clings to. Therefore I still highly recommend this to others! If you like a realistic story line, if you are a fan of historically based books, this is one for you.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gina Damico shares her favorite childhood books, plus a CROAK prize pack!



Bringing a little of the dark and macabre to the blog today is Gina Damico, author of Croak. This was a book that caught my eye straight away! After all, who doesn't want to reap the benefits of a good book? Okay, bad pun. I know. Read on.

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business.

Pretty fabulous, am I right? Now I'll let Gina take the floor! She's here to share with you some of her favorite books from childhood, and she's brought along a GIVEAWAY! Read on, my friends. Read on.

***

When I was five, I was in love with a book called Herman the Helper, by Robert Kraus. I checked it out every single time I went to the library, because I guess it never occurred to me to actually buy the thing. Anyway, it's about a little octopus named Herman who is very, well, helpful. He rescues trapped fish and other awesome things like that. My favorite helpy thing that he does is direct ocean traffic, because he can station himself in the middle of an eight-lane intersection (because such things exist in the ocean, duh) and hold a stop sign in every tentacle.

By the age of eleven, I had moved on to more grownup things - namely, babysitting. Yes, I drunk the Babysitter's Club Kool-Aid, and quite happily so. This obsession was made all the more strange by the fact that I never - not once in my life - actually babysat. Oh, I took a local class. I got CPR-certified. But when the next-door neighbor wanted to leave her young ones with a responsible young teenager, who did she choose? My sister. My younger sister. But I digress. I loved those crazy girls from Stoneybrook, though I can't recall actually having a favorite among them. They all irritated me too much in one way or another. Kristy was too bossy, Maryanne was SO boring, Stacey was a snob, Dawn was too much of a hippie, and please, Mallory and/or Jessi were no one's favorites. I guess if I had to choose I'd pick Claudia, since she was all arty and had a wacky old grandma. And sorry ladies - Logan was a snoozefest, and no, he does not get bonus points for skiing over to Maryanne's house during that snowstorm. SNOOZEFEST.

I, like approximately half of all teenagers who had to read it for school, adored Catcher in the Rye. I liked it for all the stuff he had to say about phonies, and man, adults just don't get it, and no one understands my pain - but mostly, I just thought it was really funny. My friend and I used to write down all the quotes that we loved and send them back and forth to each other as notes. Such as: "You can hit my father over the head with a chair and he won't wake up, but my mother, all you have to do to my mother is cough somewhere in Siberia and she'll hear you." Comedy! 

In my late teens and beyond, I was all about the Kurt Vonnegut, with my favorite being Sirens of Titan. It's got time travel, space travel, aliens, a dog - everything you want in a good book. Kurt Vonnegut had such a unique ability (one that I feverishly envy) to blend absurd humor and devastating heartbreak, all in the space of one friggin' sentence. Seriously, the man was a golden god. I have read every single one of his books to date, and I plan to read all of the ones he releases from beyond the grave, too.

Thanks for having me, and happy reaping reading!


I grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. I received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, where I was active with the Committee for Creative Enactments, a murder mystery improv comedy troupe that may or may not have sparked my interest in wildly improbably bloodshed. I have since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker, and breadmonger. I live in Boston with my husband, two cats, and a closet full of black hoodies.

***

And now it is...

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below and have a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jennifer Archer: "A Poet Is A Nightingale..." plus a giveaway!


Huge thanks to Jennifer Archer for this original guest post!

“A POET IS A NIGHTINGALE . . . ” by Jennifer Archer

In my novel, THROUGH HER EYES, which was released last year by Harper Teen, Tansy and her family move to tiny Cedar Canyon, Texas and into an old house at the edge of town. From the Cedar Canyon residents she meets, Tansy soon hears about a seventeen-year-old boy named Henry who lived in the same house in the 1930’s. Henry has become a local legend – it’s believed that he took his own life by jumping from a bridge into a small canyon on the property and that he haunts the house and grounds.

Tansy finds a journal that belonged to Henry, and the handwritten poems on the pages inside seem to be written just for her. Soon Henry is everywhere – in the poems she reads, in her thoughts, in the pictures she takes with her camera. And when a bird begins showing up each night at her window, its melancholy song drawing Tansy deeper and deeper into Henry’s world, she wonders if the nightingale is the physical manifestation of his soul, calling out to her from the spirit world.

Perhaps because they fly, since the earliest of times birds have appeared in literature, folklore, myth and religion as representations of a supernatural link between people and the afterlife. A deceased person’s soul ascending to heaven is symbolized by a dove in Christianity, and birds are often depicted as redeemed souls in Christian art. Similar representations appear in the Christian Bible, as well. Ecclesiastes, Chapter 10, Verse 20 reads, “. . . a little bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” Christianity isn’t the only religion linking birds and the afterlife. In the Islamic religion, souls manifest as birds until Judgment Day. Frequently, too, Asian and Middle Eastern philosophies speak of birds as a symbol of everlasting life. And according to The Myths Encyclopedia, “ancient Egyptians believed that the soul, the ba, could leave the dead body in the form of a bird, often a hawk.” And, “The feather cloaks that Central American and Mexican priests and kings wore may have been connected to the idea of a soul journey.” 

The idea to have Henry, the ghost in THROUGH HER EYES, visit Tansy in the form of a bird came to me after reading a quote by one of my favorite poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose wife, Mary Shelley, wrote the classic novel Frankenstein. In “A Defense of Poetry," Shelley writes: "A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”

Discovering this quote seemed like serendipity to me! It described Henry perfectly. Henry is a poet and a musician. Tansy is “entranced” by him. I was intrigued. After I did some research and discovered all the many ties between birds and the afterlife, I knew I wanted to include such a connection in my own story. But what kind of bird should Henry be? I wasn’t sure, so I did more research and learned that in mythology, nightingales often typify love and longing. I knew then that I’d found my bird! In my mind, the fact that nightingales don’t exist in the United States made the presence of one in Cedar Canyon, Texas even more eerie and haunting.


At the age of ten, Jennifer Archer made up her mind to become a writer. Then she grew up, became “sensible,” and earned a business degree with a minor in accounting instead. After years of trying to find her way through a confusing maze of debits and credits she realized that, for her, accounting was no more sensible than becoming a World Federation wrestler. So in 1993, she enrolled in a creative writing class, and five years later, sold her first novel. Since then, Jennifer has published several novels for adults, as well as numerous non-fiction works.
Find more at Jennifer Archer's website.

And now it is...

Jennifer Archer has sweetly offered up quite a prize pack to one lucky winner! 

You will receive:
- An autographed copy of Through Her Eyes
- A Through Her Eyes bookmark
- An autographed copy of Mari Mancusi's Night School


To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Spontaneous

Title: Spontaneous
Author: Joe Harris
Illustrator: Brett Weldele
Publisher: Oni Press
Pages: Hardcover; 144
Release Date: February 22, 2012
Source: NetGalley

Phenomenon, conspiracy, or delusion? "Kelvin" Melvin Reyes was only three years old when Spontaneous Human Combustion took his father from him. He''s since devoted his life to exploring the mystery behind the phenomenon, searching for a pattern and predictors that he might save others from that same fiery fate. But the closer he gets to his goal, the further things lead down a well of secrets, horrors, and terrible truths. Is SHC real? And, if so, can it be stopped?
Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N

It was really the premise of Spontaneous that first prompted me to review this. Spontaneous Human Combustion is something that we really don't stop to think about. I was intrigued to see what path author Joe Harris would take. So with an open mind, I dove right in.

The story flies by as the pages tell Melvin's story. The problem with this brevity is that there is really no time to develop the characters. Melvin is a tormented soul, and that's him through the whole book. Emily is that no-holds-barred reporter who is dead set on getting her story, and again she doesn't change. In fact most of the secondary characters don't even get enough face time for the reader to fully even notice them. I liked that the book moved so quickly, but I would have read for longer if it meant more time to spend with the characters.

What's good about the way that this story is written is that there isn't any down time at all. From page one the reader is drawn into the mystery of the people who are suffering from this odd fate. Melvin's story blossoms beautifully, slowly letting the reader see just enough to keep them intrigued. I think this is where Emily's character truly shined. As you are doing your best to figure out what Melvin is going to do next, Emily is uncovering the story behind it all. At the end I honestly did a double take. It was that interesting.

In terms of illustrations, Spontaneous is a lot different than other books I've seen. The art style is a mixture of hard, bold lines with soft watercolor providing some warmth. The people in the story look more like sketches than anything else. More like caricatures than actual people. It works for the story though, and I'm honestly impressed by Brett Weldele's talent. His illustrations allow the story to shine through, without taking over.

Final verdict? Spontaneous is definitely something to check out if you are a fan of graphic novels. The story is unique and quick moving, and I'm certain that you'll fall in love with the illustrations.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Mar 12)

Thank you to Book Journey for hosting!
Click the button to join in!

A pretty good week of reading! I had a varied set of books to read, so I wasn't bored, and my enjoyment of them was across the board. Hopefully you'll find something to add to your TBR list amongst these babies!


This Week's Reviews:
Fair Coin by E.C. Meyers (5/5) Review - Loved this one! Original and awesome.
God's Eye by A.J. Scudiere (3/5) Review - Paranormal romance with a twist.
Kylie Jean: Dancing Queen (4/5) Review - Really cute story! Perfect for the ballerinas in your life.
Here by Denise Grover Swank (3/5) Review - A mix up of a lot of different genres. Interesting read.


Also Finished:
The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa (4/5) - Great YA Science Fiction! I devoured this.
The Blood Lie by Shirley Reva Vernick (3/5) - More nonfiction than fiction, but still good!


Currently Reading:
You think your school's scary?

Get a load of these teachers:

"Ms. Fang," an 850-year-old vampire

"Dr. Dragonbreath," who just might eat you before recess

"Mr. Snakeskin"--science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie

"Mrs. T"--break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry "Tyrannosaurus rex"

Plus

Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose

The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch

And

The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost


Also Reading:
Really excited for this one! I haven't started it yet, but I'm almost there, and I can't wait to get to it :).
Llona Reese is used to living on the run. After the Vykens killed her parents, she knew they would eventually come for her too. But she never felt ready to face them---until now. Defying the Auran Council and everything she's been taught, Llona must learn to use her power over light as a weapon if she wants to survive.


That's it for this week!
I'm sure I'll get to something else, but I don't want to set myself anything specific :). I enjoy the surprise of picking something on my own once in a while!

What are YOU reading? Share out! 


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review: Here

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Here
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Paperback; 350
Release Date: November 11, 2011
Source: The Teen Book Scene
---------------------------------------
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Violence
---------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who are looking for an interesting mix of mystery, science fiction, and romance.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Sixteen year old Julia Phillips buries herself in guilt after killing her best friend Monica in a car accident. Julia awoke in the hospital with a broken leg, a new talent for drawing and false memories of the accident, in which she dies and Monica lives. The doctors attribute this to her head injury, but no one can explain how a bracelet engraved with her name ended up at the scene of the accident. A bracelet no one has ever seen before.

Classmate Evan Whittaker paid Julia no attention before the accident, let alone after. Now suddenly he’s volunteering to tutor her and offering to drive her home. She can't ignore that his new obsession started after his two-day disappearance last week and that he wears a pendant she’s been drawing for months. When the police show up one night looking for Evan, he begs Julia to run with him, convincing her that Monica is still alive. Julia agrees to go, never guessing where he’s really from.

My thoughts upon finishing Here are really a jumbled mess. My apologies in advance to you, dear readers. Denise Grover Swank has written something completely different than what I've seen before. Here is a crazy mix of paranormal abilities, with some romance, a dash of contemporary and then science fiction that flies in right out of left field. It even has a little bit of a dystopian feel at times. Point being? This wasn't what I expected at all.

I was so drawn in at the beginning, and I genuinely enjoyed the first half of the book. Julia's story is intriguing. We have a girl who wakes up after an accident, with no recollection of what happened, and feels the full brunt of her friend's death. After that she just tries to blend into her surroundings so that she doesn't have to keep reliving those feelings. Safe in her own isolation. This I liked. I liked the original Julia who had to be coaxed out of her shell by her parents, friends and teachers. Her story had more of a contemporary vibe and I was feeling it.

Then Evan started noticing Julia and things went a bit haywire. Now I was just hanging on for dear life, mostly reading to find out what on earth was going on. I started to put the pieces together as Evan dropped hints. Swank does her best to put in tidbits of information here and there to help ease the transition into the second half of the story. Still, when the transition finally did come it was very jarring for me. It threw me for a loop and made the rest of the read odd.

My other problem was just that Julia changes so drastically as a character from one half of the story to the next. In the second portion she jumps around in her emotions so often that it was emotionally draining for me as a reader. I felt bad for Evan. There are moments where she was just downright mean. If someone is saving your life, you really shouldn't snap at them. I understand the whole stress aspect, but really? It also blew my mind how easily Julia's feelings for both boys in the story flip flopped. It made me dislike her a bit, I'll admit.

Anyhow, to wrap things up, Here was a book that I was torn over after finishing it. I loved portions, and then was lost at others. I adored Julia, and then wanted to shake her. There was so much in this story that had potential that I feel got lost in the modge podge that this book becomes. This is the first in a series, and I'll likely give the second one a shot to see if I am back on board. The ending is really cute, and a cliff hanger. Final verdict? Give Here a shot. It's an interesting read, and you might find yourself connecting with it where I didn't.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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