Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: The Body Finder

THE BODY FINDER (The Body Finder #1)
Kimberly Derting
Paranormal Young Adult
327 pages
Available Now

For as long as she can remember Violet has been able to to sense the dead. When she was little it was mostly small animals she was drawn to, picking up their fragile bodies and burying them in proper graves by her home, a gesture which always brought her a sense of peace. At the age of eight however, Violet found the body of a young girl buried in the woods, and it's a discovery that haunts her still.

Luckily for Violet, she has a family who doesn't think she's a freak, and a best friend who has been there for her regardless of her strange gift. Recently, however, something between her and Jay has changed. He's different, more grown up, and she is definitely attracted to him which is a complete and utter disaster since they're best friends.

If this new development weren't enough, Violet's ability to sense the dead is thrust to the forefront when she stumbles across another young girl's body in a lake. More girls end up going missing, and consequently more bodies are turning up, forcing Violet to join the search to help locate the young women as she takes it upon herself to help find the person who's destroying so many lives. Only Violet isn't the only one on the hunt, and it becomes glaringly apparent the killer has taken notice of her and will stop at nothing to add her to his macabre collection.

The Body Finder is a book that ceases to be merely an inanimate object lying innocently in our laps and becomes an entity that appears to be in possession of an extrasensory perception like its main character, transforming itself from simple ink and paper into a story that seems to know us on a personal level and draws us into its world like we're old friends. There's little opportunity to stay detached as we quickly get swept up in the nervous energy sparking like static electricity between Violet and Jay, and despite the not entirely original romantic scenario, we can't help but be involved, wanting desperately to spend a few moments in Jay's head to see if his emotions are as frayed and tangled as ours and Violet's. Then, while we're hopelessly consumed by the palpable tension, Ms. Derting flawlessly threads a mystery through the romance, creating a story with not just one layer but several, thereby more successfully holding our interest as we are forced to snap out of our passionate cocoon to try to find a killer.

Part of the appeal of The Body Finder is the developing romance between not just an average girl and the unbelievably good looking popular boy, but, far more interestingly, between longtime best friends, resulting in a relationship where the tension exists on multiple levels. Not only is there the physical awkwardness and hypersensitivity to any intentional or accidental contact, but there's the added anxiety that should the attraction be unrequited, the loss would be twofold: the potential romance and, more painfully, the friendship itself. Reading as the gestures, mannerisms, and quirks that used to be familiar and innocent to Violet transform into elements increasingly foreign and unexpected is an exquisite torture, one we have no desire to escape free of pain but rather wish to continue subjecting ourselves to, wearing the emotional markers of this complicated connection with the utmost pride.

The mystery element of this story is particularly well-done as Ms. Derting slices through the visceral thickness of our tension-filled haze and infects our growing euphoria with chilling reminders that there is more to this story than a teenage love connection. Interspersed are short chapters from the killer's perspective, his icy coolness a brutal slap in the face after the radiating warmth of Violet and Jay, and his cruelty and brutality is only further emphasized when it's so skillfully immersed in the sweetness and innocence of a budding passion. Perhaps the only drawback to a fascinating and suspenseful tale is the rather lackluster reveal of the murderer, the subtle intensity of the buildup leading us to expect a more shocking unveiling than the one we're given. That flaw aside, the combination of mystery and youthful affection is a successful one, leaving our hearts pounding in our chests and our stomachs in knots for a multitude of reasons.

The Body Finder
is fast-paced, seamlessly blending moments of nerve-wracking action with quiet moments between Violet and Jay that leave us embarrassingly weak in the knees when we attempt to stand and extricate ourselves from the story to return to real life. It also serves to stand on its own in a time when we are plagued with cliffhanger endings, making itself shine a little brighter in our eyes just for leaving us so completely satisfied.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In My Mailbox #23

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing. I always love seeing what everyone else got for their week!

Hard Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires #4) by Chloe Neill
The Goddess Test (via NetGalley) by Aimee Carter
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh
Reunion by Jeff Bennington

This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

A huge thank you goes out this week to Penguin, NetGalley, Jeff Bennington, and Danya of A Tapestry of Words for sending me books I've been absolutely dying to read!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cover Critique: Special Guest Post Edition

Today I have a very special guest temporarily taking over the cover critique reins, so I'd like to give a big Supernatural Snark welcome to my dad. For those of you that missed last week's cover critique commenting debacle, let me briefly explain why he's on the blog today. You see, my dad thought it would be hilarious to pose as disgruntled romance cover designer Mark and give me a lengthy dressing down in the comments–threatening to sue while also making a plethora of snarky comments of his own regarding the covers in question. Not amusing. When I was finally informed that Mark was actually my very own father and not a real commenter, I decided he should put his creative sarcasm to better use and do an actual post. So, this week I've asked him to give us a man's perspective on one of my very favorite covers I've critiqued in addition to one completely new design masterpiece, thinking what better way to celebrate a Friday than to dazzle you all with his impressive wit? And, by the way, my dad's name is actually Bruce, not Mark. Hope you enjoy!

Okay, Jenny, I will accept as just punishment for pulling your leg last week that I should have to provide my perspective on some of these covers you have so much fun with. And after all, I’ve read a lot of books (not these books, but books) and judged them by their covers like everyone else, so I’m thoroughly qualified to comment. Sort of.

I read your critique of this cover and found your bafflement puzzling. It’s quite plainly obvious that our hero character has, quite literally, “thrown over” one woman in favor of another. I assume this is a murder mystery story, and that the feet we see are those of the victim. And I will admit, it seems a little tacky that our hero would carry on with his true love right there in front of the corpse and everything. But hey, maybe Woman No. 1 killed Woman No. 2 (or vice versa) and hero boy is most grateful. You have to read the book to find out–that’s the whole purpose of the cover, after all.

What I find baffling is, what kind of car is that? Clearly it’s a station wagon–how else could the corpse be in that position? Our hero drives a station wagon? And it looks like a new Lexus (but it can’t be because they don’t make station wagons) with a nice curved handle anchored by real African rosewood trim. But then the window must have come from a 1949 Plymouth with that ungainly window divider.

And why is the headliner falling down? And why is it red when the interior of the car is blue?

Those are the things that baffle me. (See, I can find fault too when it’s deserved.)

Oh, and one other thing. Your critique mentioned a reason why in your view, the hero must have a “tongue like a giraffe.” Where did you learn such things, young lady?

*BLUSHES* You were supposed to gloss over that part of my commentary Dad, that way we could both continue to live happily in our father/daughter bubble of denial that either of us is anything other than virginal and celibate. Making mention of the giraffe tongue situation threatens to pop that bubble, and I need it in place to function properly on a day to day basis, so your acknowledgments of my use of sexual innuendo must cease and desist immediately!

And only a man would be more interested in the car aspect of this cover than the weird contortionist sexual extravaganza taking place on (or seemingly through) its seats.

Well, gee, this is just about the perfect cover. You looked just like that when you were a baby, all cuddly in your little pink sleeper with the little bunny hat. Yes, even the blurry focus reminds me of all the pictures we took when you were a little girl. Ahhhhh.

This being a “romance” novel (says so right there on the cover), obviously we’re viewing the RESULT of the romance, and it looks to have been a happy conclusion. I do wonder what’s happened to Mommy here; perhaps that’s the intrigue contained inside the book. Maybe Daddy did something nefarious, creating another murder mystery. Maybe that’s not Daddy but a kidnapper. Or maybe it’s Hugh Hefner in his very early days raising Playboy Bunnies from the get-go. Yeah, that’s the ticket! It’s a book about a guy raising an entire army of beautiful, sexy women who will go on some kind of mission like “The Dirty Dozen” (in that case, I guess it would be more like a platoon) and save the country from some dastardly doings.

See, it’s the perfect cover. Probably be a 3D movie and video game someday.

And I bet you’ll never ask ME to do a cover review again!

Apparently my dad is somewhat preoccupied with murder mysteries and feels it necessary to rationalize away all sexual content into something involving brutal death. Interesting. Perhaps this has something to do with his own coping mechanisms with regard to the aforementioned father/daughter bubble of denial. While I think he is on to something with his Playboy Bunny line of thought, I just want to point out that the title of this book is actually very creepy when read in conjunction with this image. The title has a sexual undertone given that it's a Silhouette Romance but yet we are shown a man nuzzling an actual baby. Not a woman he calls baby. An actual chubby-cheeked infant with an unfortunate hat on her head. It's just uncomfortable really.

I will neither confirm nor deny that my cheeks were this chubby when I was little, I think Dad grossly exaggerates in our comparison! And this baby looks constipated, I'm quite certain my baby bowels always worked properly and such a look never graced my angelic face;)

Thanks for stopping by Dad, and happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Personal Demons

PERSONAL DEMONS (Personal Demons #1)
Lisa Desrochers
Paranormal Young Adult
365 Pages
TOR Teen
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

Frannie has always been the type of girl to settle for a guy. She leaves the complicated, good-looking guys for her friend Riley, and likes to keep it simple with the less popular, less drama-potential types. Luc is the very antithesis of all of these qualities. He's gorgeous and dark, and the eyes of every girl in school follow his every move. He incites drama. And unfortunately for Frannie, she finds that this time, she's not content to pass on him for someone less interesting.

Luc is a demon. Sent from Hell itself to tag Frannie's soul so King Lucifer can have access to her rather unique abilities. This should be a simple tag job. Get in, get her to sin, tag her soul for Hell and move on to the next soul and the next mark. Lucifer isn't the only one keeping an eye on Frannie though, and Heaven sends its own representative in the form of Gabriel to tag Frannie's soul for them.

While attempting to thwart Gabriel by spending time with Frannie, Luc begins to realize she's not just another soul to tag, and his job is becoming more and more difficult to execute. For the first time in centuries, he's not entirely sure he wants to succeed at his given task, but where there's one demon in Hell, there's another, and Luc isn't the only one capable of getting the job done.

Personal Demons is like a literary soap opera where drama is omnipresent and the characters make inexplicable decisions that have us rolling our eyes and shaking our heads in dismay, but for all their melodramatic antics and shallow emotional conflicts, we still can't find the strength to tear ourselves away from the pages, compelled to continue on just to see what could possibly happen next. Once we embrace the fact that hormones seem to rule Frannie, and we cast aside her at times irrational choices and constantly fluctuating attraction to Luc and Gabe, there's a good story to be found–one that presents us with a choice between Heaven and Hell that on the surface should be so easy to make, but upon further inspection we realize is more difficult than we could have imagined. If either choice would result in a life that became no longer our own, but one where we were merely the puppet of a powerful entity, could we really accept such a fate for either side, or would the desire to control the outcome of our own lives muddle the clarity of such a decision? While wading through all the romantic entanglements can be tedious, there's something inherently interesting about Personal Demons, a draw emanating predominantly from Luc that lures us in as easily as does its daytime television counterpart, keeping us turning the pages as we find ourselves just as susceptible to the demonic pull as Frannie is.

Frannie is a character who we find ourselves trying desperately to understand, but who remains outside of our ability to fully comprehend. She states repeatedly in a journal she writes to her deceased brother that's she's not the type of girl to lust after boys, but her every action says otherwise as she continually waffles back and forth between her affections for Luc and Gabe, neither of whom has done anything to warrant her interest save looking handsome and setting every teenage girl's heart at school aflutter. Though we are privy to Luc's thoughts and therefore understand some of his vulnerabilities as the story progresses, Frannie has no such access, making her instant and continued attraction to him frustrating when his actions blatantly contradict his thoughts. She is extraordinarily weak-willed, her "love" for either Luc or Gabe depending mostly on whose physical presence she's in at the time, but the potential for growth is clearly present (particularly toward the end), providing a sliver of hope that Frannie may escape the swirling abyss of hormones in which she's currently submerged and step out a woman capable of making sound and thoughtful decisions.

Though Frannie is a bit of an emotional mess, we do get to see a progression toward maturity from Luc, his growing attachment to her having some fascinating effects on his demonic essence. Where he starts out self-serving and devoid of sentimental attachments, seeking Frannie's soul as a means to promote himself and garner favor with King Lucifer, he begins to develop a pesky human conscience that prevents him from being so superficially defined and expands his character into multiple dimensions. He sees what tagging Frannie's soul for Hell will do to her, stripping her of any control over her actions and leaving her an empty husk when Lucifer's work is done, and while our connection to Frannie remains troubled, we can't help but feel for Luc as he struggles with this newfound need to put her well being before his own. Despite being a demon of Hell with a soul of darkness, he is the highlight of this story and the main character with whom we form a character and reader relationship.

Ms. Desrochers has written an enjoyable first installment that initially provides entertainment at face value, but leaves us with the potential for future complexity as the battle between Heaven and Hell rages on. Though the teen angst threatens to swallow us whole and Frannie's romantic indecisiveness inspires many a frustrated snort, we still find ourselves curious as to what fate has in store for all three of them, and we are nonetheless involved in their story as we look forward to to the next escapades of a mortal girl, her demonic suitor, and his angelic competition.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Desires of the Dead

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading and here's how it works:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share a snippet from somewhere on that page but be careful not to include spoilers

My teaser this week is from Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting:

It almost would have been easy to disregard the tugging she felt coming from the opposite direction...But it was visceral, the pull, finding its way beneath her skin and slithering there until she itched with it, until she could no longer ignore its enigmatic lure.

The song of the dead.

And it was calling her.

DESIRES OF THE DEAD (from Goodreads)

The missing dead call to Violet. They want to be found.

Violet can sense the echoes of those who've been murdered—and the matching imprint that clings to their killers. Only those closest to her know what she is capable of, but when she discovers the body of a young boy she also draws the attention of the FBI, threatening her entire way of life.

As Violet works to keep her morbid ability a secret, she unwittingly becomes the object of a dangerous obsession. Normally she'd turn to her best friend, Jay, except now that they are officially a couple, the rules of their relationship seem to have changed. And with Jay spending more and more time with his new friend Mike, Violet is left with too much time on her hands as she wonders where things went wrong. But when she fills the void by digging into Mike's tragic family history, she stumbles upon a dark truth that could put everyone in danger.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: Across the Universe

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (Across the Universe #1)
Beth Revis
Young Adult/Dystopian
398 pages
Available Now

With one decision Amy changes her entire future. A future that now will extend far beyond a normal lifetime. Along with her parents, Amy agrees to be cryogenically frozen for 300 years onboard a ship destined for a new planet thought to be hospitable to human life. She is supposed to wake up with her parents to a new and hopeful future, but when her awakening finally comes, nothing is what she expected.

Amy is brutally unfrozen years ahead of schedule, and if Elder, a young man about her age aboard the ship, hadn't found her thrashing around in her clear box, she would have drowned in the cryo liquid. Once fully thawed and aware of her surroundings, Amy is startled by the way of life for people on the Godspeed. Shockingly, they seem to be merely drones, lacking the ability to think for themselves and meekly following the orders of Eldest, the leader and one responsible for all those onboard.

When others of the cryogenically frozen are unplugged and left to their deaths as Amy was, she and Elder begin searching for a killer in their midst, and in doing so, learn long hidden secrets about the ship itself, the history of the people living on it, and the motivations of those in charge.

Across the Universe is a story that's quietly compelling, one where we find ourselves undeniably intrigued by the subtle nuances of the characters and their expansive yet incredibly claustrophobic environment, drawn in slowly and carefully as a startling world unfolds page to page. The subdued quality of this tale is unnerving in a positive way, leaving us feeling as though we're wading through a viscous liquid while reading–the movements of the characters around us slow and measured, their minds seeming to operate on a more simplistic level as everyone attends to their required tasks with a complacency we and Amy don't understand as we struggle to run away and find something familiar. Every quiet whoosh, whir, and click made by the Godspeed causes us to jump, our nerves on edge as a result of the stifling calm, and we wait anxiously to learn the secrets the ship keeps hidden within her cool metal walls with only the sounds of our churning thoughts for company.

Both Amy and Elder are likeable characters, though a potent and unbreakable connection to either of them never truly forms. They hold our interest but don't necessarily haunt our waking thoughts or our dreams as some other characters do, the true strength of this novel lying in the mystery element surrounding Amy and the others' untimely thawings and the rather profound questions this futuristic society raises with regard to human nature. The romance between our two protagonists is a bit disappointing, perhaps due in part to the cover design and back cover excerpts that lead us to believe their connection will be a more vital aspect of the story, whereas it could have been left out entirely and been an equally successful tale.

Though Amy and Elder leave just a little to be desired, Eldest is an utterly fascinating character, a man who acts with the unwavering belief he's doing what's best for those under his care, and with every revelation we question whether he is more worthy of our pity for his flawed logic, or our revulsion at his inability to see he has stripped his people of everything that makes them individuals, allowing his job as leader to be free of emotional conflict and discord and defined instead by a numb pleasantness, blind capitulation, and sanctioned productivity. Even more interesting is that because Eldest lacks the loud, boisterous speeches professing the merits of his villainy and the violent confrontations we expect of those who do evil, we are able to better identify with him and more easily understand the reasons behind his decisions (though we may vehemently disagree with him), his quiet conniving an insidious brand of corruption that more deeply shocks us than any straightforward, frontal attack ever could.

Overall, Across the Universe is an engrossing read, one that lulls a bit after the opening scene with Amy's freezing, but then gradually consumes us as we flip back and forth between the minds of Amy and Elder, attempting to solve a mystery and trying desperately to understand a very alien way of life.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In My Mailbox #22

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing. I always love seeing what everyone else got for their week!

Abandon by Meg Cabot
Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
Geek Fantasy Novel by E. Archer

WON from Megan McCafferty:
Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
Timeless by Alexandra Monir

Thanks so much to Scholastic, Megan McCafferty, Danya at A Tapestry of Words and Casey at The Bookish Type for sending me books this week!

Shadowfever Winner!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my Shadowfever giveaway, picked a number and the winner is:


Congratulations Cathy, I hope you love this book as much as I did! Don't forget that each stop on this blog tour offers a new opportunity to win a copy of Shadowfever, so be sure and check out the other participating blogs so you can read their reviews and enter their giveaways as well!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cover Critique: I Heart Harlequin

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts meant simply to be humorous and not insulting.

Um. Is this vampire sheikh's armpit on fire? That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for his personal hygiene is it? If he manages to emanate a smell potent enough it can catch fire, I'm not sure he's a romance hero I want to spend a great deal of time with. Imagine your just snuggling in for the night (or day since he's a vampire) and you lay your head in that comfortable juncture between a big strong arm and a solid chest, take a deep contented breath and find yourself inhaling noxious flammable fumes. Ah, the romance of it all. I wonder what kind of deodorant he uses? I don't know that even the clinical strength ones could possibly douse flames, so he might want to have that checked out by a professional.

And just look at his face, he's got a look that practically dares us to make a comment about his fiery pits, cocking that eyebrow in challenge and as he seems to be silently letting us know that his sweltering stench doesn't affect his bedroom prowess. In fact, he seems ready to pounce on us, enveloping us in hot, sweaty, armpit man smell. I'm aroused just thinking about it, aren't you?

Looking more closely I realize the odd shapes making up the flames are actually fingers and it's just poor hand placement causing this unfortunate underarm situation, but it took me a few moments of concentrated staring to come to this conclusion. Or maybe I just have an odd fixation with armpits after doing all these romance cover critiques where pits seem to be an unusual focus. The latter is a strong possibility.

Oh my. This is quite possibly one of the least romantic covers I've ever seen. What is going on here? Has she passed out? Does his tie smell of sugar and spice and everything nice and she's just lost in the bliss of the sweet smelling fabric? He seems to be completely uninterested in the fact that he has a woman unconscious on his chest, instead staring out at us as though there is no cause for alarm and women often inhale the scent of his ties and then go limp. That's actually really creepy.

Her eyes are closed, her mouth is wide open, she might even be snoring, and he's just hanging out there against a piano? desk? some piece of dark wood furniture, not a care in the world. He actually seems quite tame to me, I'd say she doesn't have much work to do at all. And if the way she goes about taming men is passing out upright against their chests, I think she has a thing or two to work on in the seduction department. I'm no expert, but I believe naked armpit fire sheikh above has more to offer than our well dressed but snooze-worthy couple here, don't you think?

Whoa. She's going after that end-of-date kiss with a vengeance isn't she? She's leaning in at a rather extreme angle–as though she wants to make absolutely sure their noses won't get in the way, her hair blowing back with the sheer force of her forward thrust to suction herself to his pursed lips. One would think the speed with which she appears to be attacking him would catch him off guard and he wouldn't have time for the pucker, so maybe he has just spent the whole evening with his face in that position to ready himself for this moment.

Based on this title, I think it's safe to assume this couple went on a blind date (please try to refrain from applauding me for my deductive reasoning skills, I know they're extraordinary), and I have to say it seems to be quite the successful one. Now, as someone who has never gone on a blind date, I'm a bit confused about the flower situation and might need someone to explain it to me. If he showed up at her door with flowers, wouldn't she take them inside first and put them in water before they left? If so, why would she have flowers in her hand at the end of the night? Perhaps this is their first meeting and those flowers are the greatest flowers ever grown and she has to show her immediate appreciation by assaulting and undressing him. That's completely normal right?

And can we just review the tagline for a moment? "Let's see Cupid pull this one off..." it says. Um. Dear Cupid, your presence is no longer required. The magical bouquet of sex roses has done your job for you, and our semi-shirtless gentleman no longer needs any assistance as he is moments away from being romantically mauled. Thanks anyway though. What exactly does Cupid have to pull off here? They seem primed and ready to me, no winged cherub necessary Harlequin Blaze.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review: Eighth Grade Bites

EIGHTH GRADE BITES (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod #1)
Heather Brewer
Paranormal Young Adult
182 Pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

Being the skinny, pale kid with the best friend all the girls swoon over is difficult enough. Add in a preference for blood and a pair of fangs, and you have the somewhat unenviable life of eighth-grader Vladimir Tod.

Vlad lives with his mom's best friend who took him in after the tragic death of both his parents. Though he knows his dad was a vampire and his mother was human, Vlad doesn't know anything else about the vampire way of life as he strives to pass as normal each and every day.

Soon, one of Vlad's teacher's goes missing, and there is just a little something off about his substitute: he seems to know Vlad's best kept secret. He also seems to know things about Vlad's father, and very quickly a whole new world full of mysteries, life and death circumstances, and family history opens up and shows Vlad that he's not nearly as alone in the vampire world as he originally thought.

Cute, with that little bit of awkwardness we're all so familiar with but have made every attempt to forget from our early teen years, Eighth Grade Bites recounts this socially uncomfortable phase of life, yet increases the intensity of all those relatable feelings by adding a supernatural hurdle to the mix. Now, not only does Vlad have to face bullies, but he has to ensure he doesn't introduce them to his fangs in much deserved retaliation. He can't trade lunch items with friends because it would be absolutely mortifying should they bite into his twinkie and find the capsule of blood included as a special extra filling. And, as though stressing over the potential of unrequited affection isn't upsetting enough, he has the added bonus of worrying whether or not his fangs might descend at an inopportune moment. All these little moments of familiar yet unfamiliar gawkiness bring a smile to our faces as we either fondly remember our own experiences or mercifully thank the heavens they're long gone.

Part of the charm of this story is the male point of view and the relationship between Vlad and his best friend Henry. Instead of the cattiness, snobbery and general unpleasantness so often dominating female young adult characters and friendships, we get a refreshing glimpse of some good-natured teasing, off-handed quips, and an innocent appreciation for the physical merits of the opposite sex. That being said however, both Vlad and Henry lack in substantial depth as we are introduced to them quickly and then tossed immediately into either action or mystery before we can actually reach out and touch them, thereby denying us the opportunity to add them to the vault of memorable characters we can't bring ourselves to let go. We remain on the periphery in this first installment, but the potential for character and reader intimacy is certainly present and noticeable.

The events in this story are much the same as the character development–a bit more superficial than we might prefer. The action is quite sporadic, catapulting us forward and introducing new information before we've had adequate time to fully digest what we've learned just a few pages prior. Certain elements of the storyline seem oddly truncated, one in particular where our villain is attacking classmates of Vlad's but the assaults and dead bodies are never addressed nor mentioned in any way outside of the short one-page chapter that describes them, leaving us wondering as to the value of them to the plot as a whole. Everything seems to happen very quickly with little overall explanation, and while we are entertained, we find ourselves wishing for something just a little bit more.

All in all, Eighth Grade Bites is a promising start to the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, one that will no doubt delve deeper into both Vlad's emotions and his intriguing family history as it continues. Ms. Brewer has a fabulous sense of humor and I look forward to reading as Vlad and Henry tackle a vampire council, the still stinging loss of Vlad's parents, and the complete and utter terror that accompanies asking a girl to the school dance.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Raw Blue

Kirsty Eagar
Young Adult
274 Pages
Penguin (Australia)
Available Now
Received for review thanks to Bibliophile Brouhaha

Carly loves to surf. It's the one thing in her life that makes her happy and blocks out the event that plagues her every moment out of the water. Not only has she dropped out of university, but she's also been kicked out of her home by her father, is considered a disappointment to her family in general, and struggles daily with the aftermath of her rape.

While surfing her usual spot, Carly runs into Ryan, reluctantly taking notice of him even though meeting strange men is always a traumatic experience for her. When she accidentally collides with him in the water, an impact that destroys both of their surfboards, she finds herself in a position of having forced contact with them while he arranges for them to be fixed.

Ryan seems to be an upstanding guy, though he's not without a past of his own, but Carly's scars run extraordinarily deep, and it remains to be seen whether Ryan has the strength of will to help her fight the demons resulting from the most personal of violations.

Raw Blue is a book that takes us by surprise, blindsiding us with the depth of feeling it explores and knocking us off-kilter as we are pulled into the swirling chaos of Carly's internal struggles like we've been tossed by one of the very waves that are almost characters unto themselves in this tale, leaving us bruised, aching, and gasping for breath due to the unexpected emotional punch such a quiet story delivers. This is not a book of flowery language or one that employs an extensive vocabulary, instead utilizing simple, short phrases and descriptions, but in those few words is a wealth of feeling conveyed so sincerely and poignantly it's as though each syllable has a direct link to our hearts and we absorb every joy and pain, left a slightly different person after reading each page than we were the page before. There is a heartbreaking realism to Carly's story, where her pain is not augmented to increase drama nor her feelings for Ryan cheapened by instant lust and inexplicable pining, instead her shame and guilt are hushed, becoming something she seems to share only with us and the great blue water she so loves–an intimacy that makes the reading of this book one of the most memorable of experiences.

Carly is a character of tragic beauty, a girl not just living life but trying to survive it as her past haunts her in every male voice she hears, wondering if by some cruel twist of fate it will be one she recognizes from the night that is her greatest shame. Though she emanates darkness and pain in visceral waves, there is an inherent strength to her as she lives a life of her choosing, and when her demons sneak up on her, the palpable tension and suffocating fear brings tears to our eyes as we are overwhelmed by the sheer debilitating force of her involuntary response. Because the details of her violation are few in the beginning, our minds are free to fill in the more explicit details, and when Carly's short episodes grip her, we can almost feel the phantom fingers running the length of our bodies as they leave a trail of invisible but permanent dirt in their wake, and our legs clench together in a vicarious protest triggered by her memories. She is a young woman who has our hearts from the beginning, and we read on with the searing hope Ryan's exquisite care and mellow persistence will strip the void in her life of its blackness and fill it with light.

In addition to a stunning main character, Ms. Eagar also introduces us to quirky, heartwarming secondary characters–individuals who lend Carly their strength and bolster her when the temptation to let the guilt swallow her rises painfully to the surface. Her salsa-loving Dutch roommate Hannah provides moments of humor with adorable odd pronunciations and a continued misuse of certain phrases, surrounding Carly with the levity and companionship we wish we could provide for her ourselves. Perhaps most fascinating and welcome is Danny, a young boy and fellow surfer who interprets the world and people through colors. His descriptions of various colors and the way in which he assigns them to those he meets allows us an unusual and uniquely profound insight into their characters. We get a very clear understanding of Carly's current emotional state based on his reactions to her, and their relationship holds us utterly captivated as we wait for whatever nugget of incredibly insightful wisdom will escape his mouth next.

Raw Blue is a story that contains a torrent of emotional conflict between its pages, one that handles personal anguish in a delicate and unassuming way so we don't even realize the strength of the connection we've developed with Carly and Ryan until we find ourselves unable to let them go, clinging to our memories of their interactions for days and weeks afterward. Interestingly, Ms. Eagar provides graphic detail in some areas of both Carly's past and her relationship with Ryan but denies us details in others, making us feel incredibly included in their lives but also allowing them a bit of privacy as well, something we are grateful for as we want nothing more than for them to have moments just between them–moments of happiness and understanding that require no witnesses. What we are privy to is more than enough, and we walk away from this book with the everlasting gift of hope for the two of them.

Rating 5/5

Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: Hexbound

HEXBOUND (Dark Elite #2)
Chloe Neill
Paranormal Young Adult
246 pages
Available Now

Lily Parker hasn't been a student at St. Sophia's School for Girls in Chicago for very long, but in that time she's met a best friend, discovered a latent magical ability, developed a crush on a werewolf, and learned her parents have been hiding things from her – things possibly related to her new status as a girl with paranormal abilities. That's a lot of change in a short period of time.

She's adjusting though, learning about being an Adept, someone who releases their magic back into the universe around age twenty-five; and being a Reaper, someone who seeks to hang on to their magic but must harm others in order to maintain it. And because there is never a dull moment in Lily Parker's life, strange new creatures make their presence known, attacking her and fellow Adepts Scout, Jason, and Michael in the tunnels under St. Sophia's.

Lily has had hardly any time to attempt to focus and harness her power over Firespell, and the one person who can teach her how to use it just happens to be a Reaper. While tracking down these new fiends and dodging Reapers, she's also trying to find time to nurse a budding relationship with Jason and attempting to uncover more information on her parents and the real subject of their research overseas. A girl's work is just never done.


In typical Chloe Neill style, Hexbound gives us a story infused with wit and humor and positively brimming with paranormal action. The words we're attempting to read have a tendency to blur periodically as the pages shake in time to our laughter-induced convulsions resulting from an abundance of snarky retorts, and we instantly feel at home with characters who are accessible, enjoyable and comfortingly familiar. Ms. Neill has a way of writing that seems so beautifully casual, as though we are surrounded by old friends in a warm, cheerful environment despite events often taking place in dark, dank tunnels with characters to whom we've really only recently been introduced. Lily and Scout's penchant for sarcasm immediately draws us in, welcoming us into the fold of Enclave Three and serving to temper the gravity and seriousness of their mission with a sass and flippancy that keeps us continually snorting in amusement.

Both young ladies are endlessly entertaining, the strength of their friendship growing with every snarky quip, and theirs is a healthy relationship we both appreciate and relate to. So often in young adult literature the friendship between two female characters is strained, the connection often fading as jealousy and pettiness infect all aspects of the relationship and leave either one or both wallowing in self-pity or guilt over the words and actions ultimately leading them toward the dissolution of the friendship. With Lily and Scout we see two young women who are thriving, their joys and pains supported by, and shared with, the other as they're able to communicate effortlessly over matters of great or little importance.

The story itself moves quickly, and while we may not walk away from this tale having learned anything profound or been pushed to the very edge of our emotional limits, we are nonetheless entertained by the bits of mystery and romance spread throughout, and find ourselves smiling upon concluding this installment for no other reason than we had a good time reading it. Though there are several different plot threads co-existing in this story, Ms. Neill handles them deftly, addressing each one in turn so we are never left completely in the dark or idly wondering, but are given just enough information to keep our interest piqued as we eagerly await additional details. Lily's life continues to increase in complexity, the family drama put on the back burner a bit in this book but certainly not forgotten, and her romantic and magical entanglements gain in prominence. Werewolf Jason and Reaper Sebastian are both significantly more than they appear to be, and both have fascinating interactions with Lily that give us pause as we ponder what will come of all the things that go unsaid while simultaneously sorting through all the ramifications of the revelations spoken aloud.

Ms. Neill's stories are always a welcome escape, a quick jaunt into a world that makes us laugh and keeps us guessing, and while we don't necessarily emerge from it fundamentally altered by the experience, we do close the back cover feeling pleasantly fulfilled, as though we were just handed a bag of our favorite candy and told we could indulge in as many as we'd like.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, February 12, 2011

In My Mailbox #21

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing. I always love seeing what everyone else got for their week!

The Vampire's Promise by Caroline B. Cooney
Griffin Rising by Darby Karchut

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang
Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

WON from Geeky Blogger's Book Blog:
Visions of Magic by Regan Hastings

Thanks so much to Scholastic, Darby Karchut, and Felicia of The Geeky Blogger's Book Blog for sending me books this week!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cover Critique: Romance Cover Categories Part 4

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts meant simply to be humorous and not insulting.

Okay everyone, today marks the last day of my romance cover categories series (not the last critique ever) and I think I have a few winners for you so I hope you all enjoy! I have one new category to introduce and then some additions to ones I've already mentioned, because, really, some of the past categories warrant a return visit.

CATEGORY: The Stud on a Steed

Let's start with the one on the left shall we? Her officer and gentleman here seems to be in danger of not only falling off his horse, but losing his, um, shirt? cape? toga? as well. Poor studmuffin is doing his best to stay on board by putting a freakishly clawed hand on the horse's flank while he glances behind him with the utmost seriousness, though it seems to me he's facing the wrong direction. If the horse is rearing in fear (as seems to be the case given the wide open mouth), it's obviously afraid of something that has crossed its path. Presumably in front of it. If something scared it from behind, it would most likely be running forward and away. So, as it stands, there appears to be a threat off-page in front of the horse, but our hero is staring down the lack of threat from behind. Well done sir, well done.

I think we should all take a closer look at the horse's head, specifically at the presence of reins miraculously growing directly out the side of its mouth. This is a special horse people. It can grow leather straps from its head. Impressive. Now, even if you haven't spent a lot of time around horses, common sense will help you with this next part. Typically, the reins are attached to either side of the bit in the horse's mouth to help with navigation. Again, not the case here. Both reins are attached to just the left side of its mouth, so I imagine this officer/gentleman combo spends a great deal of time going in circles as he tugs futilely in a single direction. Maybe that's why his cape is dislodged? Clearly, the speed at which he's been spinning in circles for an indeterminate amount of time has disrobed him. Marvelous.

Let's move on though, as there's so much more to see. At first glance, Destiny's Captive seems like a fine cover, nothing overly impressive but also nothing outrageously laughable. Except, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear this shirtless cowboy is either miniature in size or riding the biggest horse ever created. Look at its head in comparison to the cowboy's body! It's enormous! The front half of this horse is grossly disproportionate, it's like he's wading through the river on a moose. And why is he shirtless? I've ridden a lot of horses in my time and I'm pleased to report that I never spontaneously lost my shirt. Not once. Amazing! Of course, I didn't ride mutant water-dwelling moose-horse hybrids either, so maybe that has something to do with it. I guess we'll never know for sure.

CATEGORY: The Prop (again)

Here's what I imagine is going through this highlander's head at the moment:

I am a man. I want all who gaze upon this cover to know that I am a man. A man of muscles who rocks a tartan like nobody's business. If you are unable to tell I am a man given the red, flourish-y font covering up my impressive naked chest, just look at what's in my hands. A sword. That's right, it's long, wide, and I wield it with spectacular skill. As I do the magnificent appendage hidden by my kilt. You're welcome for that visual.

There's nothing wrong with this cover per se, I just find it entertaining that his entire upper and lower body is covered with type, leaving his hand-covered groin as the only part of him we can clearly focus on. Since our gaze really has no where else to linger once we've read the author's name and title, we can't help but notice him holding the large sword so it juts out at just the right angle from his crotch, leaving anyone with a less than clean mind (such as myself) to draw a parallel between the sword we see and the sword we don't but will no doubt be introduced to once we start reading.

CATEGORY: The What Were They Thinking? (again)

It's almost as though the designer of this cover was thinking of me when he created this. Like he knew how happy the utter ridiculousness of it all would make me. And he was right. It makes me giddy happy and completely made my day when I saw it for the first time. Has it made yours?

I think we all know by now that I'm not one to mince words when it comes to these critiques, so I'm just going to say it. This man has quite the rack. Color me a little jealous! I'm pretty sure he has me beat in both size and perkiness. They're just so firm aren't they? Not even a hint of saggage. I wonder if it hurts when he runs? I imagine given their size they get a good bounce going when he moves quickly, so I can't help but be curious as to what sort of support he gives them when he works out. Look at his face too–he's got that little smirk going on that says he knows he's got impressive man boobs and he's just daring us to look away from them, which of course we can't do because they're just so...bulbous.

Once we've blatantly stared at his breasts and gotten our fill, we then have the long silver hair, the black collar, and the large shoulder veins to deal with. It's a visual overload and there's entirely too much to take in at once! I feel like my brain might short circuit due to a prolonged exposure to this magnificent beast–a beast we are apparently going to attempt to cage if we decide to read. He is a marvel, and this is perhaps my new favorite cover ever.

A big thank you to Katiebabs for finding this last cover and to Ash for bringing the find to my attention! Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: Angelfire

ANGELFIRE (Angelfire #1)
Courtney Allison Moulton
Paranormal Young Adult
464 Pages
Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books
Available February 15th
Received from publisher via NetGalley

Ellie considers herself pretty normal. She has normal problems like escalating tension between her parents and the gradual decrease in her grade point average. What is not normal are her nightmares. Every night she sees herself killing and being killed by great monsters who revel in the taste of her blood.

With the horrific murder of one of her teachers and the sudden appearance of attractive and mysterious Will, Ellie's whole view of normalcy is radically changed. According to Will, she's an ancient being sent from above and placed in a mortal body to wield angelfire, thus destroying the demonic reapers that feed on innocent souls and trap them in Hell for all eternity.

As it turns out, Ellie is the only one capable of harnessing angelfire, and Will has been her Guardian for the past five hundred years. Upon her death, she is reincarnated in another mortal body and raised in a human family until her powers are ready to be awakened. Only this version of Ellie can't remember all of her history despite her awakening, and as she attempts to learn her abilities all over yet again, the demonic reapers are uncovering a way to destroy not only her body, but her very soul, thus eliminating her forever instead of a paltry seventeen years.

Fun, fast, and full of action, Angelfire never gives us the opportunity the get up and walk away, forcing us to keep our noses firmly adhered to the pages as we voraciously consume every morsel of information provided. It's a beautifully balanced story, one where the supernatural is tempered by the regular trials and tribulations of a teenage girl, where impressive fight sequences are offset by quiet moments wrought with romantic tension, and where the overpowering weight of responsibility is paralleled by a light-hearted humor. No single element dominates the story and we are spared some of the prominent plot devices running rampant in paranormal young adult fiction, leaving us with a story that perhaps isn't as profound in the emotions it evokes as some, but one that keeps us thoroughly entertained and constantly questioning, reminding us with every devoured page why it is we enjoy getting lost in books so very much.

Utterly refreshing in her acceptance of the supernatural, Ellie surprises us after her initial understandable denial by fully embracing a destiny that has haunted her dreams with its violence and bloodshed. Her moments of "o woe is me" are blissfully limited as we read on with unabashed eagerness, just waiting for the physical strength and mental confidence of Ellie's past incarnations to catch up with her present mortal body. She brandishes some wickedly curved blades with enviable skill, yet remains completely accessible as she juggles her new preternatural obligations with her desire to cling to what is normal and understood–fending off the unwanted affections of a best friend and nursing a foreign yet intimately familiar connection to Guardian Will. It's in these moments of relatable emotional unease, both romantically and between her family members, that Ellie truly wins us over, her fighting prowess impressive but her mental and emotional insecurities ensuring the formation of a tangible character and reader bond.

The lack of a love triangle scenario is yet another welcome exclusion from this story, with Will being the only male of interest, and their relationship progresses at a gloriously reserved pace as they get to know one another again despite multiple lifetime's worth of knowledge. We sense this latest version of Ellie varies more significantly from those who came before, and her temporary amnesia leaves Will on equally unsteady footing in terms of his feelings, unsure as to where he stands with her when she can't remember their shared past. Though Will isn't quite as memorably attractive as some other notable male protagonists, and his utter subservience to Ellie outside times of training or battle is a bit grating at times, the chemistry between them is undeniable–the strands of history connecting them pulled so taut they seem to dangerously vibrate in time to our thudding heartbeats, each loud thump echoing in our chests bringing those fine threads, and them, that much closer to sensually snapping. The tension seems to be a character in and of itself; a living, breathing, pulsing, entity radiating from the pages in waves we greedily inhale as we lick our lips in anticipation of feeling that blistering warmth on our faces one more time.

Completing the sense of balance and leaving us fully satisfied is an ending where the details of the first leg of Ellie's journey are thoroughly explained and her mission accomplished. We aren't left with a teasing last sentence or a taunting epilogue, instead able to close the back cover with a pleasant sense of fulfillment and a strong, but not frustrating, desire to continue onward with Ellie and Will. There are enough questions remaining, along with a multitude of interesting characters in place, that the second installment shouldn't feel like a forced continuation of a completed story, and it will hopefully be sure to stand as alone as this first book has while returning us to a world that pairs angels with demons, romance with mystery, and a troubled past with an uncertain future.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Vyne Blog Tour: Character Interview with Scar

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Scar to the blog, she's a main character in Daniel Walls's young adult fantasy novel The Vyne. If you haven't had a chance to read my review, you can check it out here. Hope you all enjoy and thanks for stopping by Scar!

Describe your relationship with Ash in 5 words or less.

Mutual disparity, trust, emotional, uncertainty

If you could only keep one memory from either the time before you became number 97 or the time you spent as Scar again, what memory would it be?

I don’t remember actual things from before I became 97. It’s more like a dream. What is most real to me than anything is my time with Ash. Everything seemed so vivid. And if there was one moment in time I could relive it would be the nights Ash used to sneak down to his father’s fishing trawler to visit me. It was so…perfect. I know it sounds weird—being trapped, hiding the shadows of his father’s boat. But we had everything we needed. We had each other. I never expected Ash to come. But he just did. Every single night he would show up with food and we would sit and just talk. Sometimes we wouldn’t talk, we’d just sit there in silence, staring out the little frost-covered porthole, out over Willow Lake. It was so peaceful. But that was before they found us. Before everything erupted.

No matter how many times you tell Ash not to trust you he continues to stand by your side, what is it about you that you think inspires his unwavering loyalty?

I often wondered that myself. At the time it didn’t seem rational. But there was just something about Ash. You can’t fake that kind of compassion for someone. I feel like he never really allowed himself to love another person (his parents, friends, even himself) until he met me. I know that sounds very assuming, but you don’t know Ash like I do. He’s a very special person. And this world is luckier than they’ll ever know for having him in it.

If you were to put one object in a time capsule that you think best represents the world of The Vyne so future generations could see what it was like, what would it be and why?

For nostalgia’s sake, it would be the deep-green, hooded coat he lent me. But then again, that wouldn’t be very informative about the entire world of The Vyne. So I guess the best thing would be…well, let’s see… Actually, the best thing for future generations to see would be a broken-down, rusted drone-soldier. That way they could get a glimpse of what tore our world apart. Hopefully this would help in deterring them from repeating the same mistakes.

What is the first thing you remember thinking when Ash found you in the woods?

Fear. Not because of Ash. In fact, the moment his face came into focus something began to change. Even as the villagers were passing through the woods, somehow I knew that things would be ok. I’ve never felt that way before. And I never will again.

What is the biggest regret you have from your time with Ash and company?

Running out on Ash when he took me to the Clock Tower. I think I did some damage that night. I wish more than anything in the world that I would have just let go and let Ash open up the way he wanted to with me. Things changed after that moment. It was like he clammed up again and became unsure of himself, unsure about me.

There are so many interesting places in your world, is there one area or city in particular you’d most like to visit?

As beautiful as Copi Bienna was, it was a terrible, frightening experience. I really thought that I was going to die. There was something about the world beneath the water’s surface (when we were traveling to the Colonel’s cabana) that was so…quiet and calming. It felt like we were able to be unseen by the rest of the world. It felt safe (although it wasn’t). But in all honesty, my favorite place is still Garbbit Harbor. Everything good happened there. Well, I guess not everything. But it was where I met Ash. It was more special than I even realized at the time.

If Mr. Walls could rewrite your character, is there anything you would request he change?

Are you kidding me? Everything. Everything about me. I’m sorry, I can’t do this interview any longer…

THE VYNE (from Amazon):

For as long as he can remember, Asher has possessed unexplainable abilities, which his widowed father has forced him to keep hidden. But when an elusive girl named Scar enters his village, Asher's life is forever transformed.

Bound by despair, the teens plot to run away. However, when a mystical medallion finds its way into Asher's hands, they soon learn that running is not an option, it's imperative. Asher is thrust into the pursuit of a legendary treasure, believed to possess the power to save the world from the prophesied apocalypse. And the key to unlocking this power lies within the secret of his curse.

While hunted by dark forces, Asher realizes that Scar has secrets of her own; she is not the girl he thought she was. Time is running out as he struggles to find the strength to let go of his feelings and summon the courage to embrace his destiny.

A chilling, heart-wrenching tale of colliding worlds and forbidden love, The Vyne reinvents steampunk-fantasy for a whole new generation.

For additional information on this tour, please click on the banner below.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Vespertine

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading and here's how it works:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share a snippet from somewhere on that page but be careful not to include spoilers

My teaser this week is from The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell:

"How strange," Miss Brosmer said.
Poisonous curiosity drove me to turn back. "Is it?"

She held it up, rubbing the imprint of my name with her thumb. "The ink looks like blood."

And truth, in the slanting vermilion light, it did.

THE VESPERTINE (from Goodreads)

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review+Giveaway: Shadowfever

SHADOWFEVER (Fever Series #5)
Karen Marie Moning
Urban Fantasy
594 Pages
Delacorte Press
Available Now
Received via TLC Book Tours for review

This review contains NO spoilers.

MacKayla Lane used to have a pretty simple life. She was pretty. Boys always liked her. She had a home, loving parents, and a best friend in her sister Alina. Then, with no warning, Alina was brutally taken from her, leaving behind only a cryptic message that changed Mac's life forever.

Now, having been in Dublin, Ireland for months trying to determine who killed her sister and forced into an uneasy alliance with the mysterious Jericho Barrons, Mac is no longer that pretty southern girl. She knows darkness and she knows pain. And as she finds herself more deeply immersed in the world of the fae and the hunt for the Sinsar Dubh, her life is more complicated and dangerous than ever.

She thought she knew what side she was on. She thought she'd already experienced the worst pain and loss a person can endure. She thought her sister was the one who mattered most. She was wrong. On all counts. Questions abound, blackness hovers ominously at every turn, and the young woman with a love for all things pink finds herself a key player in the most epic of battles in the conclusion to this stunning series.

The Fever Series is extraordinarily aptly named, inciting a burn in us from the very first page that increases in intensity with each subsequent book until it culminates in a finale that sends our hearts up in flames as we lose ourselves in the all-consuming visceral awareness of Mac and Barrons, and the palpable, complicated friction between them. Our body temperature ratchets up with every wordless communication they exchange and every careful avoidance of physical contact until sweat beads on our skin in a conditioned physiological response to seeing their two names side by side in inky blackness, just as the pages practically smoke as a result of the speed with which we're flipping them in our haste to know every last detail of this spectacular fantasy. This story is passion and fire, pain and loss, and vengeance and forgiveness, reaching out with invisible fingers to wrap our hearts in an unyielding grip as it promises not necessarily a tale of joy and hope, but rather one of addicting darkness. Part of the appeal is an end that has the potential to deny us the happiness we seek, keeping our feelings in constant flux as we consider the possibility we may arrive at the last page with the hope of finding our emotional wounds stitched together and healing, only to discover a mere tourniquet awaits to help slow the bleeding.

Mac is a character who begins her journey as a young girl of sunshine and warmth, content with being pretty and blond as she revels in pastel colors and other superficial trivialities. What she becomes is a woman of substance, fundamentally altered by the trials we experience vicariously by her side, watching in shock, awe, and incomprehensible pain as she is emotionally eviscerated, physically beaten, and almost completely stripped of all her comforting and recognizable attributes. Though her story is dark and she at times makes decisions with a flawed logic that results in yet another mental or physical scar, she always manages to maintain a death grip on that rainbow girl we met four books prior, and we hold tight to that remnant as the black and crimson of Dublin's battle with the fey comes in various forms to render us both monochromatic.

A man and character who utterly defies definition, Jericho Barrons has us melting at his feet despite the fierce independence of which we think ourselves so capable the moment he opens his mouth and overwhelms us with intensity of his presence. He is a man who embodies qualities that should unnerve us, emanating an unforgettable and predatory sexual ferocity as well as a confidence and intelligence that is neither assumed nor learned, but is part of his very makeup. Though we may struggle and attempt an ultimately futile resistance, we find ourselves drawn into the inexplicable force field he projects–consumed, owned, and shockingly addicted to a complete enigma. This is a man we know virtually nothing about despite having read four novels of which he is a main character, and every tidbit of information we are given in this final installment only serves to further increase our hunger for knowledge–thrusting us into a perpetual cycle of information gathering and seeking from which we have no desire to escape if it means we get to linger a few more moments in his company. In this last book we learn more about him that we ever have before, and we drink in the new facets of a man that has haunted us greedily, quenching a thirst years in the making.

A simple review can never adequately describe Shadowfever, words on a page being spectacularly poor substitutes for the strength of feeling and broad emotional spectrum captured between its covers. Ms. Moning is more than a storyteller, her characters far more tangible than fictional beings could ever be thought to be, and she has created a world of infinite complexity that openly challenges us, dares us to experience it and remain only a passive observer, and then yanks us in with a shocking brute strength as it subjects us to the sharpest of pains sparsely interspersed with the warmest of joys. Enter into this final piece of the puzzle with a first-aid kit at the ready, as Ms. Moning is a master at inflicting wounds designed to injure but not kill, and she subjects both her characters and us to numerous events that leave indelible marks on the soft flesh of our hearts. Despite the pain, we revel in the emotional injuries, honored to be privy to a book capable of having such a remarkable effect.

Rating: 5/5


Thanks to the fabulous people at Random House and TLC Book Tours, I have a copy of Shadowfever to give away to one very lucky commenter. This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and will run through midnight EST on February 14th after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog.

Each stop on this blog tour offers a new opportunity to win a copy of Shadowfever, so be sure and check out the other participating blogs so you can read their reviews and enter their giveaways as well! Good luck everyone!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In My Mailbox #20

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing. I always love seeing what everyone else got for their week!

Clarity by Kim Harrington
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakely-Cartwright, Catherine Hardwicke
Fairy Bad Day by Amanda Ashby
Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar (just finished this one and LOVED it)
The Samaritan by Fred Venturini

An enormous thank you this week to Scholastic, Little, Brown books for Young Readers, Penguin, Linds from Bibliophile Brouhaha and Kristy Eagar, and TLC Book Tours for sending me such wonderful books for review!


Thanks so much to everyone who entered both my Haunted E-Book and Iron Queen giveaways. I've finally gotten around to picking winners and they, as chosen by, are listed below. Congratulations ladies!

WINNER: Melissa of Books and Things


You've both been emailed and should be receiving your prizes shortly. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to enter!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cover Critique: Romance Cover Categories Part 3

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts meant simply to be humorous and not insulting.

Alright everyone, originally this was going to be the last week of the romance cover categories, but I've found too many good covers so I'm going to extend this series for just one more week. Until I find even more. Then I'll have to share because, really, these are too much fun to keep to myself. If you happened to miss the last two weeks, you can find them here and here. Hope you enjoy everyone!

CATEGORY: The Chest Appreciation

Ah, yes. The breast worship. What's sexier than that? Nothing I tell you! Look at him. He's in middle-sized, clothing-covered boob heaven isn't he? I don't think anyone has ever been as pleased to run their face through fabric as this bare-chested gentleman, he's down on one knee paying homage to this woman's shirt like it's the greatest thing that's ever happened to him. Maybe it's silk?

Since we've had a bit of an armpit theme these last few weeks, I just want to point out the location of his right hand. In her pit. What is going on with these romance heroes? I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt that he's trying to be respectful by not grabbing her breasts like a heathen (instead, he'll just breath on them and weirdly rub his face up against them–not sure that's any better Mr. Celtic Fire) so his hand is safely off to the side, however that leaves his thumb directly in her armpit. Why romance covers, why?

Now that I've drawn attention to the armpit situation, I would like to discuss just what is happening with this woman. She is flailing those arms about like it's nobody's business, swinging them above her head with impressive abandon. Maybe she's ticklish and that thumb-in-pit action has whipped her into a frenzy? And everyone take a quick look at her right hand up above the "A" in Nash. Sweet baby Jesus. What is wrong with it? Why does she have a mutant green hand? Are her extremities rotting? Does she morph into a troll or zombie when aroused? That would be a heck of a twist wouldn't it. Our boob-loving hero wouldn't see that coming would he? He'd just be going along, paying attention to her tits and pits (like any good lover does), then WHAM! her monster hand drops down to stroke his hair and puts that Celtic fire right out. Glorious.

One last thing on this cover: her hair. I have no words for it. She's got a poof and what looks like a receding hairline on the side there but I think it's just a play of the light. Love it. Good thing his eyes are closed so he doesn't have to see the brilliance of it, because as soon as he opens those bad boys and takes a gander at that hair along with her Frankenstein hand, I don't think even his obsession with her chest will be enough to keep him interested.


This is probably the most famous of classic romance cover poses. Always a man in various stages of undress towering over a woman who seems positively overcome with passion as he bends her down for a kiss (or just to stare at her, whichever). For how commonly this pose is used, I can honestly say I don't think I've read a single romance novel wherein the hero and heroine actually find themselves in this position, so I can't help but wonder why they are always pictured like this on the cover. Has anyone read a story where the hero, being shirtless of course, has dipped the heroine back with one leg in the air and then hovered as though he was going to kiss her?

Is it me or does she look like she's about to sneeze? She seems oddly congested, as though she's suffering from allergies and is about to blow snot all over that tawny skin of his. I almost wish this could be a moving picture so we could see that happen, I don't know that he'll want to be her beloved highlander after he's covered in spittle. She just looks uncomfortable doesn't she? Normally, the hero is the one lifting the heroine's leg up and supporting it, but not this fellow, nope, he's being the opposite of helpful and applying downward force on her knee so she has to strain to keep it in place–look at that calf muscle flexing! No wonder she's going to snot on him. Payback.

CATEGORY: The What Were They Thinking?

Where to start? Well, I'm not going to beat around the bush on this one, I'm just going to dive right in with the fact that there's lightning shooting from his junk. I'm going to gloss over the fact he's wearing strange and very short shorts at the moment and focus on the more disturbing issue–that the cover designer thought it would be a good idea to leave the bolts of lightning positioned as they are as opposed to moving them in any other direction so attention wouldn't immediately be drawn to his business. Now, I haven't read this book, so perhaps this gentleman can in fact shoot divine fire from his crotch and this is therefore a completely accurate cover image. If that's the case, I retract my snark entirely.

In addition to his, um, special ability, he also appears to be a giant given the way he's towering above the trees in the background. Maybe that's the explanation for his absurd shorts. He can't find clothes in his size because he's a lightning-wielding monstrosity of a man and the only thing he could wedge himself and his gifted manhood into were these very tight, very small shorts. Why wouldn't they have cropped him at the waist? That would have solved all the major issues with this image and we wouldn't be giggling or snorting or shooting liquid out our nostrils because we drank something before viewing this cover, we would instead most likely appreciate the man's pecs and be on our way. But no, he had to be shown in all his glory. Electric penis and all.

Happy Friday everyone!