Friday, September 30, 2011

Mara Madness Blog Tour: Review of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

THE UNBECOMING OF
MARA DYER

Michelle Hodkin
Young Adult
450 pages
Simon & Schuster
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY
Upon waking up in a hospital bed with needles in her arms and fog in her brain, Mara Dyer learns she is the sole survivor of a building collapse that took the lives of her best friend Rachel, her boyfriend Jude, and another friend Claire. She can't remember anything about the accident or why she and her friends were in an abandoned building at night, she only knows she keeps seeing Claire and Jude when they're not really there.

In an attempt to return her life to normal, Mara asks her family to move so she can start anew, but she quickly realizes that a change of location isn't helping her cope. She's still seeing things. Things that no one else can see. Sometimes awful things.

The one highlight of her new school is Noah Shaw, a young man who charms her despite herself and wiggles his way into her unbalanced life before she even knows what happened. Though Noah is a bright spot in her darkness, Mara continues getting worse instead of better, catching snippets of her parents' conversations that include words like "institution". Mara finally decides to unburden herself to Noah, relaying to him everything that's happened including the small pieces of memory that have come back to her from the accident, and, in doing so, discovers her world will never return to normal.

MY THOUGHTS
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a fascinating testament to how scarily beautiful the mind truly is–limitless in its capabilities and dichotomous in its nature. Our minds can be both our greatest assets but also our worst enemies, able to shield us from tragedies and horrors by blocking our memories while being equally capable of corrupting the foundations of our reality so what once was safe and comforting becomes questionable and terrifying. While reading this story we find ourselves in a perpetual state of anticipation, hovering on the precipice of discovering what is reality and what is hallucination for Mara, and wanting to take that final step that will catapult us over the edge into understanding only to find the edge moves farther from us with each step we take closer to it. Thus we are left in a spectacularly fluid limbo with Mara, the boundaries of our own minds the only parameters present as we float blissfully in a world rich with such delicious possibility.

We have a rather uneasy introduction to Mara, a handwritten note at the beginning explaining she is in fact not Mara Dyer setting an eerily mysterious tone as we find ourselves instantly determined to find out just what that means. Given that Mara remembers nothing of the accident initially, we all start out with our minds wiped clean except for the simple desire to piece together what's missing, and we can't help but wish for Mara's sake as well as ours that her memory will sort itself out and grant us the glory of concrete knowledge. Mara has a good sense of humor despite the difficulties of her past several months, opting to bypass melancholy and fight for normalcy at her new school, and she provides us with plenty of displays of personality to earn our affection even as we question her sanity.

Noah Shaw is a true highlight of this story, a young man who exists outside of classification and tidy labels, and much like the rest of the story, leaves himself open to interpretation. We can choose to believe the reputation he's fostered at school for being a womanizer of rather epic proportions–allowing the words of others to paint our portrait of him–or we can choose to bide our time, allowing his actions to guide the paintbrush that brings his image into startling focus. Each gesture becomes a corresponding stroke in the creation of his likeness, building his personality slowly and carefully until we see him clearly and feel our connection to him is a precious and intimate thing shared between us alone. Ms. Hodkin impresses us with her ability to make him feel so very real, not censoring him or attempting to wedge him into a predetermined young-adult-male-hero box, but rather letting the gorgeous chaos of realism emanate from him with authenticity. He's a character about whom we could easily read an additional four hundred pages and still crave more, and one we know we'll have at the forefront of our minds and the tip of our tongues for a long time to come.

A labyrinthine tale where reality and imagination clash on each and every page, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer keeps us guessing, theorizing, and questioning as we read, developing into something we never see coming and promising to continue blazing its enigmatic trail in future installments. Not everyone will find this story suited to them though, it has a quietness about it that may be unappealing for some as the psychological ramifications of Mara's accident become the focus and the physical action remains more at a minimum. We stumble through Mara's life unsure, a little off balance, and completely unprepared for the gargantuan puzzle that is her existence, yet we remain tethered to safety by the blossoming of a beautiful romance that has the potential to shatter just as easily as the other tenuously constructed illusions of this world, leaving us with an intense desire to flip back to the beginning and start the journey again just to see what we discover a second time through.

Rating: 5/5


It's the very last day of the promotional tour for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer! Each of the 20 previous stops have each had a single letter included in their posts, and all of those plus the one you'll find below are pieces of a puzzle that, when placed in the correct order, spell out a very important line from the book. Don't worry if you haven't read it yet, you should be able to figure it out without any insider knowledge. Now, what do you get for going through all this effort you ask? Two very lucky people will win signed, finished copies of the book! YAY!

To enter, piece together the phrase with the letters found on each of the blogs (you can find the complete list of participating bloggers HERE) and when you have the it figured out, submit your answer using THIS FORM. As I said, today is the last day of the tour so your chance to enter ends tonight (9/30) at midnight. The correct answer will be posted Monday, October 3rd on Books Complete Me. Good luck everyone!

YOUR LAST LETTER:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Serpent's Kiss

SERPENT'S KISS
(A Novel of the Elder Races #3)
Thea Harrison
Paranormal Romance
336 pages
Berkley Sensation
Available October 4th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY
Rune Ainissesthai is a Wyr and a man who would do anything to save the lives of his friends. This unwavering loyalty and love for his fellow sentinel Tiago led him to agree to a bargain with a Vampyre queen known and feared for her magical abilities. In exchange for Tiago's life, he promised her a favor of her choosing.

A week after the bargain is struck, Rune finds himself called to her home on a remote island in the San Francisco Bay. He goes in aware he placed no stipulations on the terms of the deal, and knows she could ask for something that will take hundreds of years to complete. What he finds waiting for him there is not at all what he expected though. Carling asks only for him to kneel and bow to her and then releases him from his debt, demanding his immediate departure.

Rune senses there's something going on with Carling however, and he refuses to leave until he figures out what it is. When he learns her Power is becoming increasingly unpredictable–something indicating the end of a Vampyre's extraordinarily long life–he vows to help her find a way to reverse the symptoms of her old age and save her. And so what began with a favor owed turns into a life-altering, time-bending race to cheat death and an epic fight for love.

MY THOUGHTS
Third in the Novels of the Elder Races, Serpent's Kiss continues to entertain us with its richly layered characters and increasingly tense political situation while further fascinating us with a rather unique set of problems for our protagonists to overcome. With each book in this series, Ms. Harrison proves the limitlessness of her imagination and the brilliance of her creative abilities, ensuring we read on in rapture as her characters waste little time making a home for themselves in our hearts. Our minds are also kept delightfully occupied in this installment, trying to unravel the knots in the temporal and spacial relationship causing Rune and Carling so many issues. We find ourselves deep in thought yet are never confused, we laugh at the banter between our hero and heroine yet never forget the seriousness of their circumstances, and we relish the physical nature of their partnership yet glory equally in the power of their emotional connection.

One of the highlights of these books is the extreme care Ms. Harrison takes in crafting her characters, excelling at writing alpha men with possessive streaks thousands of miles wide but also never failing to give us women of tantamount strength and skill who rise to whatever challenges face them. Carling is one such woman, a Vampyre feared by many for her gifts with spells yet one who slowly reveals to us the flesh and blood individual behind the infamy and reputation. We start out thinking she will be as cool and reserved as she seemed to be in Tiago and Niniane's story, however Rune's presence imbues her with a comforting warmth that destroys the distance she tries to put between her and the world, forcing us all into close proximity as a figurative pulse begins to beat in her undead chest. She is smart and regal while at the same time unexpectedly playful, taking charge when necessary but also listening to Rune's input when the answers to her problems aren't clear to her, and we find ourselves falling more in love with her as Rune is with each page we read.

Rune is a bit of a deviation from the prior two heroes in this series, his more laid back attitude and his mirth and mischievousness enchanting after the immensity of Dragos's personality and the intensity of Tiago's formidable presence. He can absolutely switch gears into fiercely protective and possessive mode, but his ability to charm a laugh out of a woman who can barely remember how to do so has our limbs liquefying and a dopey grin taking up permanent residence on our faces. For being the half of the couple unable to sense the emotions of the other he reads her remarkably well, knowing just when to push and when to comfort as well as when to seduce and when to grant space between them, allowing him to take ownership of all our hearts as though he has every right to it and would settle for nothing less.

While Rune and Carling's story is undeniably intriguing and the nature of their bond a curious puzzle with ever-multiplying pieces, notably absent is Ms. Harrison's stunning set of secondary characters. This tale centers almost entirely on Rune and Carling exclusively until the end, and while their isolation does add a layer of intimacy to their relationship we can't help but miss some of the vibrant personalities we've met in previous books. Overall however, Serpent's Kiss is a book that gives us a taste of everything we could ever ask for, and is led by two characters who we can only hope we'll catch a glimpse of in future installments.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waterfall Wednesdays: Chapters 24-28


Welcome to the very last week of the Waterfall Read-Along! For those of you who don't know, the wonderful ladies behind Tina's Book Reviews, Edgy Inspirational Romance, Irresistible Reads, The Unread Reader and myself are hosting a read-along of Lisa T. Bergren's time-travel young adult novel Waterfall (LOVED!). Each week we'll pose and answer five questions about the book and then hop around to the other blogs who have signed up to check out everyone's answers!

Nic is the host this week, so be sure and pop over to Irresistible Reads to link up your posts and, in doing so, get entered in a giveaway to win signed copies of the entire series.

Also, if you haven't had a chance to hop over to Small Review, be sure and stop by as she's having a River of Time Series extravaganza with all sorts of fun giveaways running through September 30th.

CHAPTERS 24-28

After Gabi is injured, the doctor gives her a tonic. Gabi questions the doctor several times what is in it but he refuses to tell. Would have you taken the tonic in Gabi's situation?

Good question. I consider myself a pretty suspicious person by nature, and given that medical remedies in this time period were not exactly up to snuff, I think I might balk as Gabi did especially since the doctor adamantly refused to tell her what was in it. There would be all sorts of disgusting things going through my head like "Am I drinking feces? Poison? Feces and poison? WHY WON'T YOU TELL ME WHAT'S IN THIS?!"

Before the games Gabi asks Lia to let Lord Forabosch win in the archery event as people, especially Lord Forabosch, are becoming suspicious of them. But during the games Lord Forabosch upsets Lia trying to throw her off her game. So Lia decides to win. Do you think she did the right thing by not letting Lord Forabosch bully her or do you think she took an unnecessary risk?

This scene made me smile. Yes, both girls were starting to raise suspicions. Yes, Lia behaving as a proper lady deferring to her male "betters" (gag) in a display of skill probably would have been beneficial to their cause. However, I just can't find it in me to fault Lia as I'm a competitive person too and would find it extraordinarily difficult to allow someone who thought so very little of me to best me when I knew I could win, repercussions be damned. So, in summary, I like to win. GO LIA!

When Gabi is dying and she and Lia decide to return to the tombs so they can get the cure at home but they have to tell Marcello the truth. Even though Marcello thinks that it is madness that they are from the future he believes in Gabi because he loves her. Do you think this is believable? What would you have done if you were Marcello?

I think given all that's unusual to Marcello about Gabi and her sister it's easier for him to believe they are a from a different time. I think if Gabi had mentioned it right when she stumbled out of the tomb, despite her odd clothing, he would have thought her crazy or working some kind of witchcraft. By the time they tell him though, there had been so many little things adding up that I found his willingness to accept their story believable.

In the end Gabi and Lia return home. Do you think Gabi will return to Marcello? Would you go back?

In a truly spectacular display of deductive reasoning on my part, I did figure Gabi was going to go back to Marcello given that there were two additional books in the series. The way my mind works is intimidating isn't it? Don't worry, we can't all be as magnificently intelligent and modest as me ;-)

The romantic in me would absolutely go back. I would have a very hard time living out my life wondering "what if", and knowing Marcello was waiting for me would eat at me every single day until I could bear it no longer. Deliciously sexy knight pining day in and day out for my return = my hand on that print in the tomb in a second.

Looking back at Waterfall what was your favourite moment?

I only get to pick one? That's nearly impossible. I think my favorite moments would be the tension-filled interactions between Marcello and Gabi. Romantic tension is my favorite part of almost any book, and theirs was so tangible I could practically reach through the pages and touch Marcello. Wait. Not Marcello. Touch it. It, as in the tension. And if my fingers happen to fondle Marcello while they were in there I can't really be held accountable now can I? No.


I want to say a huge thank you to Missie, Nic, Serena, Joy, and Tina for organizing this event and allowing me to be a part of it! A special thank you to Lisa Bergren as well for writing such an amazing series and for offering up fabulous prizes to those who participated each week. I hope everyone had fun with the read-along, and for those who continue on with the series after this I have one word for you: GRECO. That is all:)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE
Laini Taylor
Paranormal Young Adult
432 pages
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Available TODAY
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY
Most people think Karou is just the funky girl with blue hair and the crazy imagination. They gather around her sketchbook in their art class in Prague, fawning over her realistic drawings of monstrous creatures and listen riveted as she tells them stories of those creatures' lives. They all think she's just being Karou, but what they don't know is that every word she tells them, and every drawing she shows them, is very true and very real.

Karou knows her life working for Brimstone–the horned creature who raised her and loved her as his own–is unusual, one that has her collecting teeth on his behalf from all over the world for reasons he will never tell her. Her strange world begins to become even more interesting when black hand prints begin to appear on Brimstone's portals all over the world, seared into the metal and wood as a brand.

Accompanying the hand prints are rumors of beautiful and terrifying winged beings seen leaving the scene of each marking. When Karou finds herself face to face with one such being, she feels something she never knew she was missing click into place despite the stunning young man's determination to see her dead. Soon, the reason for the markings on the doors becomes apparent, and Karou finds herself alone with no one to help her figure out what's happened save for the angel Akiva, the young man and possible enemy with the key to her past, her future, and her heart.

MY THOUGHTS
Dark and dazzling, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone reaches out and yanks us into its world from page one as we glory in the refreshing beauty of such an unique tale. Ms. Taylor has a way of writing that resonates on a soul-deep level, so that even should the feeling being described be foreign to us it still seeps beneath our skin with the comforting familiarity of an old friend recently returned and sorely missed. Her descriptions are vivid but never is she overly verbose or flowery, instead reading her words is like having lived our entire lives as a blind person only to suddenly find an individual capable of describing color to us in such lush detail that they at long last grant us the ability to truly see beyond mere imaginings. Her world is incandescent light and smoldering dark, reality and fantasy, and epic love and tragic loss all wrapped up in a story not soon forgotten.

Karou is a quirky protagonist who instantly earns our loyalty and solidarity as she humorously deals with her cheating ex-boyfriend, Ms. Taylor beautifully introducing us to her world with very human emotions before whisking us into its more whimsically sinister side. Like Karou, we don’t fully understand her relationship to surrogate father Brimstone and his team of unique misfits, and so we slowly get to learn and question the realities of her existence along with her, thus making our investment in her life all the deeper. She and best friend Zuzana have us in stitches with their antics, but the bitter tang of all we don’t know is a prominent taste we can’t swallow away–nor do we wish to–as bits and pieces of past, present, and future begin to fall around us in a torrent of possibility, just waiting for us to pluck them from the ferocious downpour and fit them together in our minds.

The way events unfold is truly brilliant, Ms. Taylor baiting us with little clues that allow us to unravel minor mysteries ourselves before expertly weaving the individual threads together to create a pattern so stunningly complex and yet gloriously simple that we sit in shocked silence at the end. To a star-crossed romance so much more is added, elevating Karou and Akiva’s story to one that cannot be accurately categorized, the richness of it too great to dilute with easily understood definitions. Their love is theirs alone, comparable to no other and haunting in its unusualness, and we are left at the last page with a gaping hole in our hearts we wish a happy ending would fill. We take comfort in the knowledge that this story is just beginning though, and while the existing hole is sure to get wider before it's repaired, we still hold out hope for the love that rivals many of the most famous fictional romances to come before it.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, September 26, 2011

Character Interview: Lenzi from Shattered Souls


Today I'm thrilled to welcome the protagonist from Mary Lindsey's upcoming young adult novel Shattered Souls to the blog to answer a couple questions! Lenzi can hear the voices of the dead, an ability I most certainly don't envy her, but it does make her story a fascinating one. Shattered Souls releases on December 8th from Philomel so be sure and mark you calendars, and don't forget to check out the other reviews, interviews, and guest posts that are part of the promotional tour through Teen Book Scene!

If Rose could have left you one piece of advice to find in this cycle where you have no memories of the past, what do you most wish she would have told you?

Well, I really would have appreciated it if she had let me know there was a crazy dead guy out to kill me for something I did in a past life I don’t remember. That would have been nice instead of finding it out the way I did.

What is the hardest part about knowing you’ve spent lifetimes with Alden but can’t remember a single moment unless he shares a memory with you?

I’m kinda jealous of that. I mean, he knows all kinds of things about me I don’t know about myself. I’d like to know him that well.

Also, I’m kind of embarrassed sometimes because I don’t know exactly what his experiences with Rose have been. I’ve never done this, but the best example I can give is it’s probably like when somebody gets really drunk and does stuff she doesn’t remember. Then, the next day she has to hang out with people who DO remember. Uncomfortable.

Now that you have some experience with resolutions and have embraced being a Speaker, what are you most excited about moving forward?

There’s nothing like that feeling when the hindered spirit moves on. Now that I kind of have the hang of it, I plan to really pay attention and enjoy that moment.

What was more frightening: hearing the voices and thinking you were crazy or fighting Smith?

It was a totally different kind of fear. When I started hearing voices, I thought I was going crazy. That was a personal fear for myself and what my mom would go through if I ended up like Dad. The battle with Smith affected so much more. Lots of lives, potentially. The difference between the types of fear would best be described as dread vs. terror.

Do you think you’ll continue learning more about Rose and what she was like, or are you content with the way things are?

I’d be happy if things stayed as they are, but I keep getting more of her memories all the time, and I look forward to really getting to know who she... I mean, who I used to be.

Thanks so much for stopping by Lenzi! For more information on Mary and Shattered Souls, you can find here here:

Website
Blog
Twitter
Goodreads
Shattered Souls on Amazon

SHATTERED SOULS

A thrilling debut story of death, love, destiny and danger

Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries.

Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In My Mailbox 36 + Fun Book Trailer Opportunity

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!


It's been a little while since I've done an IMM post, so these are the books I've received over the past couple weeks:

FOR REVIEW
Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey
Dark Eden by Patrick Carman
The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton
Embrace by Jessica Shirvington
Lightbringer by K.D. McEntire
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith
Alexander Death by JL Bryan
iBoy by Kevin Brooks

An enormous thank you this week to Penguin and Teen Book Scene, HarperTeen, Tor Teen, Sourcebooks, Pyr, Knopf books for Young Readers and NetGalley, Prometheus Books, JL Bryan, and Scholastic for sending me books I can't wait to read!

WANT TO BE IN A BOOK TRAILER?

Young adult author Daniel Cohen contacted me this week to let me know about a very cool opportunity for readers to be a part of the book trailer for his upcoming release, Masters of the Veil, and I wanted to share it with all of you! You can find the full details HERE, but basically you can submit a short video (or videos if you'd like to do more than one) of you improvising a few lines or just generally having fun pretending to be someone chock full of school spirit who's completely outraged that your high school football team has just royally blown the championship game. For submitting a clip you'll get a signed Masters of the Veil rack card, and if your clip is chosen for the trailer not only will your pretty face appear in the final cut for all to see, but you'll also receive a signed ARC as well.

I love that Daniel and Spencer Hill Press are trying to get readers and fans involved in the making of the book trailer, and if I didn't freeze like a freak of nature with a stupefied expression on my face when confronted with a video camera I would do this in a second! I'm really looking forward to seeing the final product:)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Interview: Tera Lynn Childs


Today author Tera Lynn Childs is joining me on the blog to chat about her newest release, Sweet Venom (LOVED!), and I could not be more excited to have her stop by! If you haven't had a chance to read Sweet Venom yet I hope you pick it up (you can read my review HERE), it's a hugely entertaining story and the second book cannot release soon enough. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Tera at a book signing a few weeks ago and she's just an all-around adorable person which of course makes me love her books even more. Fangirl moment over. On to the interview:

Of the three unique individual abilities the girls have, which would you most find useful in your own life?

Definitely autoporting. I want to see everywhere in the world and I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like. Being able to pop anywhere I wanted to visit in the blink of an eye would be amazing.

If two women who look just like you were to show up at your door claiming to be descendants of a figure in Greek mythology, what would be the first words out of your mouth after hearing them out?

I’m not sure I could get words out. There would be a lot of stammering and jaw-dropping. Then I would probably give my parents a call. They’d have a lot of explaining to do.

Are there any “G” names you had picked out for the girls but ultimately discarded in favor of Grace, Gretchen, and Greer?

Yes, actually! Gretchen was always going to be Gretchen, but the other two changed a couple of times. At first, Grace was going to be Gwen. I think Greer was Grace for a while (a la Grace Kelly) and also Genevieve.

You’ve just hypnotized someone like each of the girls can. Who have you hypnotized and what is the first thing you are going to ask them to do while under hypnosis?

Oh, dangerous. There are so many choices! I think I would head to a museum—maybe the Getty in Los Angeles—and ask the curator to let me wander the collections when the museum is closed to the public.

If you could pair Grace, Gretchen, and Greer with boyfriends from other young adult novels, who do you think would best suit each of them?

Well, I don’t want to step on any other authors’ toes, so I’ll match up the girls with boys from my other books. Grace would get along really well with Troy from Oh. My. Gods.. Greer would do well with enigmatic Xander from Goddess Boot Camp. And Gretchen would take Quince from Forgive My Fins head on.

What is your favorite creature in all of Greek mythology?

The Pegasus. Growing up, I had a collection of Breyer Horses and one of my favorites was the beautiful white Pegasus.

If you could rewrite the ending of one myth, what myth would it be and what exactly would you change?

I would rewrite the ending of Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s so tragic that Orpheus failed to save his love from the underworld because he couldn’t stop himself from turning around to make sure she was following. In my ending, he would keep looking forward and they would be together happily ever after.

Has there ever been a moment when writing any of your books where you surprised yourself with what found its way to the page when you started typing?

All the time! I can think of two really big examples. First, the identity of the character who was sending Phoebe anonymous notes in Goddess Boot Camp. I never once considered that character until the moment I typed the name. The other is the choice Lily makes at the end of Fins Are Forever. Throughout the entire book, I believed she was going to make the opposite choice.

What is the last book that kept up late reading?

Abandon
by Meg Cabot. It’s such a fun and intriguing retelling of the Persephone myth.

Name one line from a book that has stuck with you for a long time and will continue to do so for whatever reason.

Oh, this is a really big spoiler, so anyone who hasn’t read Catching Fire please stop reading now. I’m still haunted by the last line. “Katniss, there is no District Twelve.” I sobbed for five full minutes when I read that.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Tera! For more information on her and her wonderful books, you can find Tera here:

Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook

SWEET VENOM (from Goodreads)

Grace just moved to San Francisco and is excited to start over at a new school. The change is full of fresh possibilities, but it’s also a tiny bit scary. It gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door. And even more shocking when a girl who looks just like her shows up to fight the monster.

Gretchen is tired of monsters pulling her out into the wee hours, especially on a school night, but what can she do? Sending the minotaur back to his bleak home is just another notch on her combat belt. She never expected to run into this girl who could be her double, though.

Greer has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But that all tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they're triplets, supernatural descendants of some hideous creature from Greek myth, destined to spend their lives hunting monsters.

These three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned by myth, must reunite and embrace their fates in this unique paranormal world where monsters lurk in plain sight.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Iron Knight: Trailer Sneak Peek


I'm super excited this afternoon to be one of several blogs to bring you an exclusive sneak peek of the book trailer for Julie Kagawa's highly anticipated Iron Fey novel The Iron Knight. Who loves Ash and Puck? This girl. The full trailer will be available September 28th at 9am HERE, so be sure and check it out to see it in all its glorious completeness, but for now, I hope you enjoy the snippet:


video

Review: The Renfield Syndrome

THE RENFIELD SYNDROME (Rhiannon's Law #2)
J.A. Saare
Urban Fantasy
e-book
Available Now
Received from author for review

Warning: Contains spoilers from Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between.

THE STORY

Rhiannon should have known better than to enter into negotiations with a demon, even if she was trying to help vampire boyfriend Disco. Now she's one hundred and one years in the future with scarily few ideas on how to return to her own time. All she knows is she needs to get a message to Disco per the demon's request in order to settle the debt he owed, and given his immortality, she should be able to find him in this future world.

Before she can set out in search of Disco, Rhiannon finds herself intercepted by a team of black-clad men with sizable weaponry and is forcibly escorted to their compound. Here, she's informed majority of the human population has been wiped out by something called The Renfield Syndrome, and those who aren't dead are in servitude to the vampires who have taken over.

Rhiannon eventually convinces their leader, Carter, to aid her in her search for Disco while repeatedly spurning his advances, but what she finds in this new future threatens to destroy her. With the help of some old friends, Rhiannon struggles through the numbness of her new reality but vows to return to her time and prevent this future from ever coming to pass.

MY THOUGHTS
The Renfield Syndrome is a challenging read, not in the sense it’s difficult to understand or navigate, but in the way it affects us emotionally, forcing us to face events and situations along with Rhiannon that turn us inside out and lay us uncomfortably bare with our soft underbellies blatantly exposed. Ms. Saare, though it’s crystal clear how important her characters are to her, is not the type to write a story in which she’s content to hold our hand by following up tragic events with soothing words and meaningless murmurs that everything will work out as it’s supposed to. Instead, she allows things to unfold in ways that are painful and raw and have us walking away from Rhiannon’s tale just to seek brief sanctuary in our reality, but ultimately we are forced to return and put our hands back in the fire for the simple reason we cannot bear to allow Rhiannon to face it alone. Despite being the product of simple letters put together to form words and then sentences, the characters and world are undeniably tangible and our experiences with them far more real than vicarious in nature.

Rhiannon is the same smart-mouthed woman we met and fell in love with in Dead, Undead or Somewhere in Between, her no-nonsense attitude making the 101 year leap through time with no difficulty. What is so appealing about Rhiannon is the vulnerability thriving beneath the tough exterior, her skin able to be punctured as easily as anyone else’s if one knows just where to strike. Her body’s haunted topography of puckered scars serves as a reminder to us of both her unbelievable strength but also her weakness, and we watch in horror in this installment as the one person trusted with this physical map to her soul betrays her more intimately than the repeated violations responsible for the marks themselves. Our hearts belong entirely to Rhiannon in this tale, her pain ours as we suffer together.

Introduced to us in this alternative future Rhiannon finds herself in is another love interest, a man we’ve met before and adored but whom we never thought a romantic threat. Ms. Saare manages to beautifully avoid the petty drama that often surrounds a love triangle (though that hardly seems a fitting term for this particular situation), elevating it out of the superficial stages of a dual attraction to two men and plunging us head first into the depths of pain, love, and torment all heartbreakingly combined into something we never expected. While we might tell ourselves Rhiannon’s choices are wrong and her decision to act as she does misguided, the entire situation is written in a way that makes her relationship with this newest man feel so disconcertingly right that we find any anger we’ve mustered melt away in a haze of confusion. We are left with a churning mess of an emotional reservoir, one that begins to spill over the edges and drown us in torn allegiances as we struggle to separate the chaos into recognizable feelings.

The Renfield Syndrome will be a story that many will love but is also one that will most likely give many a reader pause, Rhiannon’s actions and the actions of those around her creating a visceral and gritty reading experience. This is not a story we walk away from feeling light and happy, rather we carry the emotional weight of it for weeks after reading. Ms. Saare isn’t afraid to leave a mark on her characters or her readers, and even as we wallow in pain wishing she would make it stop, we silently thank her for drawing us in so deeply.

Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waterfall Wednesdays: Chapters 18-23


Welcome to week four the Waterfall Read-Along! For those of you who don't know, the wonderful ladies behind Tina's Book Reviews, Edgy Inspirational Romance, Irresistible Reads, The Unread Reader and myself are hosting a read-along of Lisa T. Bergren's time-travel young adult novel Waterfall (LOVED!). Each week we'll pose and answer five questions about the book and then hop around to the other blogs who have signed up to check out everyone's answers! I'm the host this week, so please link up your answers at the bottom of this post.

Also, if you haven't had a chance to hop over to Small Review, be sure and stop by as she's having a River of Time Series extravaganza with all sorts of fun giveaways running through September 30th.

CHAPTERS 18-23

Gabi and Lia both face several life and death situations in these chapters, having to pick up weapons in defense of those they love and experiencing first hand the brutality of close combat. If you had the choice between picking up a weapon and standing on the front lines or staying behind to tend to the wounded as necessary, which would you choose?


I would be on the front lines I think. Blood and I do not get along, so having to tend to the wounded would be sort of a horrific form of entertainment for all those in the medical ward. I can't imagine I'd be of much help to anyone running to hork up everything in my stomach after every new injured patient comes in only to end up in a bed myself because I've passed out in a fit of extreme squeamishness and have broken something on my way to a nice meeting with the floor. Clearly the front lines would not be blood-free, but I think trying not to die would keep me focused enough that the blood wouldn't affect me quite as much.

Both girls get to wear extraordinary gowns to their victory celebration; what would your dream medieval gown look like?




That's me and the husband on our wedding day. I was madly in love with the back of my dress when it was bustled with its tiered effect, so I'm thinking something similar to it would be ideal for a medieval ball. Only not in white. White + Jenny = much Photoshop work needed. Maybe something in a rich green since that's always been a much more flattering color for me than white. Another small change in the above photo to make things medieval ball worthy would be a minor switch of leading men. I love my husband to pieces and consider myself pretty darn lucky, but for the sake of this discussion, let's just plug Lord Greco into that picture shall we? Excellent.

Gabi has crude stitches put in and must endure both their removal as well as the cauterization of the wound. How is your threshold for pain? Do you think you would have simply gritted your teeth as Gabi does?


In my head I have this pretty glorious opinion of myself as someone who is like Gabi and is able to endure pain with dignity, but alas, I think reality is far different. Anything medically related I handle pretty poorly, even when I give myself a pep talk about how this time is going to be different and I'm going to maintain my cool like a normal person and will treat myself to 15 books when I'm finished on a self-congratulatory shopping spree for behaving like a mature adult. I have never once bought myself those 15 books. Needles freak me out. Tourniquets nearly make me pass out. Blood pretty much guarantees I'm going to be on the floor within seconds. And pain is just something we don't need to talk about. I'm a wuss. Straight up.

Marcello wants to properly court Gabi after they express mutual feelings of affection, wanting to speak with her mother about his intentions. What do you think is the most romantic aspect of medieval courtship?


I think when a guy asks the family for permission to court/date/marry the object of his affection it's really sweet. Not so much in the context of the young woman being a piece of property switching hands from father to husband, but I guess in the more modern sense of the custom. I also like how everything was incredibly proper back then and even the smallest gesture such as holding hands held so much significance because touch of any kind before marriage was a rare thing. Just think how much tension there would be if the only exchanges you had with your intended were glances here and there or brief dances with minimal contact; it would be kind of an exquisite torture.

Gabi and Lia find themselves with conflicting desires toward the end with Lia wanting to return home and Gabi hoping to stay. Do you think that Gabi is being unfair to Lia for wanting to stay, or is Lia being unfair to Gabi for demanding they go? A little of both?


I think a little of both in this case. I can only imagine how I would feel in either of their shoes – it would be extremely difficult to choose between what you want for yourself so desperately and what you can so clearly see your sister wants with equal fervor. Acting on what I wanted most would make me feel incredibly selfish, but denying myself something like the love Gabi feels for Marcello or the home Lia wishes to return to would be almost unbearable.


Link your discussion Q&A below for your chance to win The River of Time series, signed by the author. Winner will be chosen tomorrow morning. Leaving your link below enters you into the drawing. Also, commenting on any Waterfall Wednesdays post automatically enters you into the Tuscan Earrings Giveaway from Lisa T. Bergren! Good Luck!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Giveaway: Eyes in the Mirror


Thanks to the wonderful people at Sourcebooks, I have a copy of Julia Mayer's young adult novel Eyes in the Mirror to give away on the blog today! Eyes in the Mirror released in August and was chosen by Teen Vogue as one of 25 "must read summer books". To enter, please just leave a comment with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US addresses only and will run through midnight EST on Friday, September 23rd after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog.

EYES IN THE MIRROR (from Goodreads)

Every teen girl fantasizes about having a double and best friend rolled into one-an alter ego with whom she can trade places, allowing her to disappear. Samara is a troubled and lonely adolescent, prone to cutting, who desperately craves both intimacy and escape from her unfulfilled life...until she meets her reflection, Dee, the seeming answer to all her problems.

With dual and dueling points of view, Eyes in the Mirror provides a perspective on one girl's life never before seen in YA fiction: her own and from her freer, wilder reflection.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Spider's Revenge

SPIDER'S REVENGE
(Elemental Assassin #5)
Jennifer Estep
Urban Fantasy
400 pages
Pocket
Available September 27th
Received from author for review

Warning: Review contains mild spoilers

THE STORY
Gin has been plotting her revenge on fire elemental Mab Monroe for years. She's been sharpening her skills as an assassin and continuing the training her mentor and the closest thing she had to a father, Fletcher Lane, taught her in preparation for the moment when vengeance for the death of her mother and older sister would be hers.

Mab only knows a woman by the name of The Spider is decimating the men loyal to her and destroying them one by one, but soon Mab will know that The Spider, Gin Blanco, and Genevieve Snow are all one and the same, and it will be the last thing she knows before she dies.

Because Gin suffers no delusions she'll make it out of her confrontation with Mab alive, she attempts to let Owen Grayson know just how important he is to her, slowly prying open the doors of her heart that so brutally slammed shut as a result of Detective Donovan Caine's rejection. But all too soon her patience with Mab pays off, and it's time for The Spider to surprise her prey.

MY THOUGHTS
Through four books we've slowly watched as the tension between Gin and nemesis Mab Monroe has escalated slowly but inexorably, a bloody and painful journey that could only ever have a bloody and painful end. Finally we are given the book where the entirety of Gin's focus is on Mab herself and not a minion or hired villain, and we find ourselves darkly entranced as all of Gin's grief and anger find and target their source, honing in with fine precision and denying us the possibility of reading only a few chapters before returning to the realities of our world. Instead, time has no meaning to us as we read, any plans we might have had for our day or evening abandoned as the glorious fury of Gin's wrath is unleashed on the monster who murders and maims any who oppose her.

Gin is a remarkably constructed character, her skill at dealing death and the ease with which she rends flesh with a unwavering swipe of her silverstone knives things that should make us instinctively uneasy, but Ms. Estep masterfully manages to write inherently human weaknesses and vulnerabilities into the body of the assassin so that connecting with her is ultimately a non-issue. We've read as she's been emotionally eviscerated by a man whose eyes saw only what the word "assassin" made his mind see as opposed to what was actually there, and finally in this story those wounds have almost been entirely healed by the love of a man who sees all the pieces of her–the innocence of Genevieve Snow, the stalwart survivor that is Gin Blanco, and the deadliness of a trained killer known as The Spider–and accepts each of them as necessary to making her who she is. She's been teetering on the edge of taking a leap of faith in her relationship with Owen, and it's incredibly satisfying to see her jump in this story and witness those who have been patiently waiting to catch her get their chance.

The build up and final battle with Mab is spectacularly executed, things for Gin going wrong more often than they go right, ensuring we are beside ourselves with worry and stress the entire time we're reading. Though Gin is a professional killer with undeniable skill, she doesn't simply waltz in and take Mab down in twenty short pages after hundreds of pages of planning, instead she engages Mab in a deadly dance, forced to retreat as often as she advances while making mistakes that just have us rooting for her all the more. Gin's elemental powers have been steadily growing with each book, but Ms. Estep maintains Gin's authenticity in this showdown beautifully, staying true to her and her mental and physical strengths without altering her so that she suddenly knows how to wield her ice and stone magic with the utmost competence. She's the Gin we've grown to love, as much a fighter with fists and smarts as she is with her elements, and we fight beside her every minute of this tale.

Though Spider's Revenge sees the epic conclusion of the Mab Monroe story arc, Ms. Estep leaves plenty of possibilities open for the next two installments (and hopefully beyond) so that there's no shortage trouble for Gin to find moving forward. Gin is one character whom it's a pleasure to watch grow and change, and her band of ridiculously lovable misfits keep some of the darkness at bay with their humor and loyal support of a woman who would sacrifice everything she has and everything she is to spare them the slightest pain. Gritty and violent but also poignant and powerful, Spider's Revenge is one that will not soon be forgotten.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Half-Blood Trailer + Contest




Hey Everyone! Jennifer Armentrout has released the third and final trailer for her upcoming young adult release Half-Blood and it makes me want to read this book all over again. Half-Blood will be releasing on October 18th, and this is not one you want to miss, so be sure and mark your calendars!

In conjunction with the release of the latest trailer, Jennifer is holding a contest on her blog to win 2 signed ARCs of Half-Blood, so be sure and pop over to her blog HERE to enter!



HALF BLOOD (from Goodreads)

The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi-pure-bloods-have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals-well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures.

Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:

Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden.

Unfortunately, she's crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn't her biggest problem--staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: River of Time Series


RIVER OF TIME SERIES (Waterfall, Cascade, Torrent)
Lisa T. Bergren
Paranormal Young Adult
David C. Cook (publisher)
Available Now
Bought and received for review from author

Warning: review contains minor spoilers

THE STORY
Gabriella Betarrini and her sister Lia are used to following their mother around on archaeological digs, spending their summers in beautiful Italy but ultimately stuck at the dig site unable to explore much themselves. When they stumble into their mother's latest find, an ancient tomb, and place their hands on painted hand prints on the wall that seem identical to their own, they find themselves sucked back in time.

Yanking her hand from the wall a few moments before her sister, Gabi finds herself still in the tomb, yet everything has changed. When she emerges, she sees the ruins she expects restored to all their medieval glory and watches as the battle taking place in front of her proves itself to be no mere reenactment.

This series follows Gabi, Lia and eventually their mother as they navigate their way through medieval Italy and all the beauty and horror of the time, picking up weapons in defense of those who have been wronged and finding unexpected love amidst the chaos of war.

MY THOUGHTS
The River of Time books transport us to an utterly enthralling medieval world, enchanting us with knights in shining armor and their chivalry, but also never letting us forget the difficulties of the time period. With the extravagant gowns and the propriety we also experience lives governed by the point of a sword–often lived fast and lost quickly–as accompanying the gallantry we find greed and a desire for power; just as with loyalty we also discover the brutal sting of betrayal. Ms. Bergren paints her world in hypnotic color, gloriously illustrating the joys and pains of the medieval era, dazzling us with rich historical details and intricacies, and thoroughly entertaining us with characters who win us over with their vibrant personalities. Gabi and Lia drag us through the tomb's portal with them, companions on a an epic adventure that has us keeping track of the page numbers with increasing dismay and grieving the speed with which they're flying by as we catapult toward an end we're simply not prepared to accept just yet.

Gabriella is a heroine virtually impossible to dislike, her quick mind coming to her aid again and again as she moves through a world she's only read about previously, never despairing of her circumstances but rather embracing the soft romanticism of a medieval lady's life with the hard-edged brutality of civilization at the time. While it would be shockingly easy for her to lose herself in the grandeur of living in a castle with the attentions of its handsome lord, she never forgets herself entirely or allows her mind to fall prey to the beautiful illusion, instead remaining cognizant of what's waiting for her in her life back home and the effect her decisions will have on her family. She swoons over Marcello and then mentally chastises herself for doing so, approaching her relationship with remarkable maturity and level-headedness–perhaps more so than we do as readers given that we find ourselves weak-kneed and foggy-minded when faced with Marcello, Luca, and Lord Greco.

In addition to an extraordinary leading lady, Ms. Bergren also increases our love for this series by steadily integrating the presence of Gabi's family, drawing us blissfully further into the story as the dynamic of a modern family traipsing through and forever altering an ancient world fully captivates us. We start with the brief presence of Lia in Waterfall, then progress to the addition of the girls' equally strong-willed and physically fearsome mother in Cascade, and finally see the completion of the Betarrini family in Torrent with their father. Each Betarrini member supports the others fully but also questions them, ensuring no decision is made lightly or without forethought, and we can't help but admire each of them for their individual strengths as we watch a jump in time save a family in so many different ways.

The River of Time series is an absolute pleasure to read, keeping our emotions constantly in flux as we discover both how wonderful and terrifying medieval Italy can be. All three books are incredibly action-packed with family feuds and political battles taking center stage while sweet romance is expertly interwoven to keep our hearts beating double time for hundreds of pages. These novels will appeal to a wide variety of readers as no single element overpowers the others, and we are left with a solid conclusion but also the potential for so much more. The possibility that this world is just waiting for us to return is a heady one, bringing a smile to our faces every time we think of it.

Overall series rating: 4.5/5

Friday, September 16, 2011

Character Interview: Cas from Anna Dressed In Blood


I'm a little giddy today over the fact that I have Cas from Kendare Blake's amazing young adult novel Anna Dressed in Blood joining me on the blog to answer a few questions. I absolutely adored this book (you can read my review HERE) and cannot recommend it highly enough. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, run to the bookstore immediately! Thanks to the fabulous ladies over at Kismet Book Touring, I also have some fun details about an unbelievable giveaway opportunity, so be sure and check out the bottom of the post for those!

Let’s flash back to the first moment you saw Anna descending the stairs of her home – what popped into your mind the moment you set eyes on her?

There was a vague sense that I was going to die. Badly. I was going to die a whole lot. But I think there was also a sense that I was seeing something…important.

If you had the opportunity to briefly speak to your father as a ghost, what would you most like to say?

If my father is anywhere, I hope he’s not a ghost. He’d find that way too ironic. But if I could speak to him? I don’t know. Whatever time there was would be too short or too long.

Do you have one ghost hunt in particular that stands out in your mind as the most intense/scariest?

Aside from Anna it would probably be Peter Carver. He was the first. In life he’d been a murderer himself. In death he partnered with his victim to kill others. He almost threw me out a window. My mom was pissed.

Anna’s been confined to her house for years; where in the world would you take her if you could?

Anywhere she wanted to go. Probably lots of places. She told me once she wanted to see Paris. Or just other parts of Canada.

What is your favorite ghost-themed movie or TV show?

I love the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Going up against Freddy Krueger has always been sort of a daydream of mine.

If you could tell the masses one single truth about ghosts, what would you want to get across most?

They don’t know they’re dead. At least, not usually.

What are the best and worst parts of being named Theseus Cassio?

There’s a best part? I know the worst part is explaining that I have Shakespeare and mythology-loving parents. I guess the best part would be not being called Theseus.

After your experience with Anna, is there anything you’re going to change about how you approach ghosts moving forward?

No. Anna was special, but I still have a job to do. Hesitating, over-thinking; things like that can get you killed in this business.


Thanks for stopping by Cas! Kismet Book Touring has put together a spectacularly cool tour for this book, so be sure and follow it (all the dates are listed below) to read fun guest posts, interviews, and reviews as well as collect all the information to enter to win a Kindle 3 with Anna Dressed in Blood skin (pictured above)! Here's how the contest itself is going to work:

Who is about to take on Anna next? Each day during the first week, a new ghost fighter will be introduced and invited, by Anna herself, to come to Thunder Bay and try to defeat Anna. Follow the tour for the next three weeks to find out who the other ghost hunters are, which of them accept Anna's challenge and who among the five is the one who will enter Anna's house on the last day of the tour!

On the last day of the tour, a link will be provided where you can enter the ghost hunters name for 15 entries into the contest to win a Anna Dressed In Blood skinned and loaded Kindle 3! Open US/Canada.

For an extra points in the meantime, you can gain +1 point a day by tweeting the following:

Who will make it to Thunder Bay? Join the contest to best Anna and win an Anna Dressed In Blood Kindle! Follow #ADIBtour @KendareBlake


MY GHOST HUNTER (click picture to enlarge):




Monday, September 12th - Rachel, Parajunkee
Tuesday, September 13th - Stacey, A Reader's Record
Wednesday, September 14th - Alyssa, Teens Read and Write
Thursday, September 15th - Heather, Buried In Books
Friday, September 16th - Jenny, Supernatural Snark


Monday, September 19th - Melissa, I Swim For Oceans
Tuesday, September 20th - Tawni, The Book Worms
Wednesday, September 21st - Alice, Alice Marvels
Thursday, September 22nd - Julie, That's Swell
Friday, September 23rd - Angela, The Reading Angel


Monday, September 26th - Julia, Rex Robot Reviews
Tuesday, September 27th - Ashley, Smash Attack Reads!
Wednesday, September 28th - Britta, I Like These Books
Thursday, September 29th - We Fancy Books
Friday, September 30th (Anna's 1 month birthday!) - Kristi, The Story Siren


Tuesday, October 4th: Announcement of the big prize winner on Kendare's Site!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: The Mephisto Covenant

THE MEPHISTO COVENANT
(Mephisto Covenant #1)
Trinity Faegen
Paranormal Young Adult
448 pages
Egmont USA
Available September 27th
Received via NetGalley for review

THE STORY
Sasha is determined to know who killed her father, and when an acquaintance from school tells her to come to a meeting of a cult-like group known as the Ravens because the leader can help her figure out what she most wants to know, she decides it's worth a try. What she finds however, is a group of her peers who have no interest in helping her, only in causing her pain.

Saved by a young man about her age dressed all in black, she's quickly informed that she is Anabo, a descendant of the daughter of Eve with the ability to redeem the seven sons of hell, known as Mephisto, with the purity of their love. Jax and his Mephisto brothers have been told all their long lives that their only chance at heaven lies in an Anabo, and in thousands of years of life they've only found one other than Sasha.

Jax knows Sasha is in danger should Eryx, the evil behind the Ravens bent on stealing the souls of easily tempted humans in order to build an army with whom he hopes to overthrow Lucifer and gain control of hell itself, find out about her. Despite knowing he needs to approach her slowly, allowing her to choose to be with him or not, he finds it difficult to leave her be. As the followers of Eryx grow in numbers greater than the Mephisto can keep track of, Sasha realizes she has to make a decision to either be a part of the world for which she was intended or to return to the life of normalcy she wants so badly.

MY THOUGHTS
A story of damnation and redemption, The Mephisto Covenant illustrates the susceptibility of humanity as a whole to temptation, and explores the murky depths of free will in terms of how it affects the soul when it allows for some to secure their place in heaven while other use that same freedom to fall prey to darkness. The world Ms. Faegen creates is inherently fascinating, the line her characters walk not so clearly delineated as paths of righteousness or sin, but rather one where there are degrees to the labels "good" and "evil" and we can decide for ourselves whether certain individuals are deserving of our understanding or our condemnation. There is a bit of complexity to the different groupings in this tale though, causing some confusion here and there as to what the purpose of each group is and how their choices relate to God, Lucifer, Eryx or the Mephisto. Eventually, the defining characteristics of each faction become a little clearer and the battle to prevent the coup on Lucifer captures our attention.

Though the plot is enjoyable and raises some questions that would make for an interesting debate, the characterization makes fully connecting to this story a bit difficult at times. We find ourselves trying to get involved–fully seeing, hearing, and experiencing this tale until we run into a solid set of bars in the form of Sasha and Jax. We are given enough details about them to grant us the ability to reach through the openings between steel rods and brush our fingers against the connection we long to grab a sure hold of, but we soon find we can extend no further than arms length, our bodies and hearts remaining firmly on the wrong side of the barrier. Sasha is a supposed paragon of virtue, light, and purity of soul, and while she accepts the changes in her life as real–not boring us with her denial–her continual rejection of Jax becomes a tad bothersome. She spurns him, swearing to herself that she'll stay detached only to wind up in his arms a few pages later, giving Jax a sense of hope for his redemption before she again snatches it away. She is also bluntly honest with Jax's brother Phoenix, calling his martyr-like behavior and brooding as she sees it, yet she refuses to turn that critical eye inward and evaluate her own actions.

Jax has the potential to be a strong leading hero, a desirable combination of both light and dark making him dangerously appealing, however we have to question the sincerity of his affection for Sasha. Given that she and she alone is the key to his chance at heaven after centuries of hopelessness, his desire to have her causes us to wonder, as Sasha herself does, if she's simply a means to an end. Her attitude toward him also makes it challenging to comprehend his interest in her outside of his spiritual need for what she represents, and he tolerates more from her than we wish him to as he endures her struggle between what her body and heart want and what her mind is trying to convince her is best.

Overall, The Mephisto Covenant is a grittier young adult story, some more detailed descriptions of both violence and sex making this one much more suited to older readers, but through it all is the promise of hope and true happiness. More plot-driven than character-driven due to the need on our part to gloss over some of their individual actions in order to try and wiggle our way beneath the surface of this tale, The Mephisto Covenant will work for those who can be more forgiving of character flaws and read simply to be entertained. A critical reader will most likely have trouble navigating this story, but those who seek a more superficial but interesting reading experience will probably find themselves intrigued.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tens List: Shut Out


Today as part of the promotional tour through Teen Book Scene I have Kody Keplinger joining me on the blog to give us the top ten roles she'd love to have in a film. Thanks so much for stopping by Kody!

TOP TEN FILM CHARACTERS I'D LOVE TO PLAY

As a kid, my mom was super supportive of my writing. However, she was also realistic. She warned me that writing was a tough career to get into and that I needed a backup plan. Sound advice, right?

Not so sound was my choice in backup. My plan B? Acting! Yeah, I was a smart kid, obviously.

But I really do love to act. Whether I’m any good or not is another issue. Anyway, as someone who both loves to act and loves great characters, I figured a top ten list of film character’s I’d love to play would be fun!

10. Elizabeth Bennett, Pride & Prejudice - There are a million film adaptations of this book, and I just wish I were in one of them! Lizzie is strong, flawed, and from a time period of pretty dresses. Also, she snogs Darcy eventually. Win.

9. Kathryn, Cruel Intentions - CI is my favorite movie of all time. Kathryn is one of the most devious, wicked characters and she’s also stylish. It would be fun to be a villain like her!

8. Padme, Star Wars: Episodes 1-3 – I know people slam the prequels, but Padme was awesome. I’d love to make her even more badass.

7. Beatrix Kiddo, Kill Bill 1&2 – She’s a former assassin. She’s totally kickass. What more can I say? I want to rock the katana!

6. Kat, 10 Things I Hate About You – Kat is the most sassy, snarky, cool girl character in a teen comedy. Of COURSE I want to play her! I idolized her so much growing up. Go young feminists!

5. Michelle, American Pie – “And one time, at band camp . . . “ Yeah, I just think doing this would have been fun. Michelle cracks me up.

4. Ariandne, Incepetion – This is really just about kissing Joseph Gordon Levit. We’ll leave it at that.

3. Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (film-) – I know, I know. The movie wasn’t great. But the list was film, not TV, and I really just want to be Buffy.

2. Scarlet O’Hara, Gone with the Wind – Hey, I do have the southern accent! And Scarlet is such a wonderfully complex character. I would be a challenge, but so fun.

1. Juno, Juno – Snarky. Adorable. Pregnant . . . Okay, well, the first two are appealing at least. The last not so much. But hey, if I’m just PLAYING the role, then its only a fake belly! Who wouldn’t want to be Juno, though? She’s one of the most loveable characters of the past few years. I would love to work with some of that dialogue!

SHUT OUT (from Goodreads)

Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.

Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: she and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.



Waterfall Wednesdays: Chapters 12-17


Welcome to week three the Waterfall Read-Along! For those of you who don't know, the wonderful ladies behind Tina's Book Reviews, Edgy Inspirational Romance, Irresistible Reads, The Unread Reader and myself are hosting a read-along of Lisa T. Bergren's time-travel young adult novel Waterfall (LOVED!). Each week we'll pose and answer five questions about the book and then hop around to the other blogs who have signed up to check out everyone's answers!

Serena and Joy are the hosts this week, so be sure and pop over to Edgy Inspirational Romance to link up your posts and, in doing so, get entered in a giveaway to win signed copies of the entire series. I have the pleasure of hosting next week, so you'll find the next 5 discussion questions at the bottom of this post.

Also, before you go, if you haven't had a chance to hop over to Small Review, be sure and stop by as she's having a River of Time Series extravaganza with all sorts of fun giveaways running through September 30th.

CHAPTERS 12-17

In Siena, on her way to the ball at Palazzo Publico, Gabi likened her experience to being on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, the goal being "to see and be seen." If you were a peasant, watching from the crowd, what would you be thinking as this procession passed by?

I think if I saw the likes of Marcello and Luca walk by I’d probably curse my birth status repeatedly and long to dive through the throngs of people in order to dramatically throw myself on one of them only to have them realize as soon as they saw me that they were, in fact, madly in love with me and couldn’t bear to spend another minute out of my presence. Upon further reflection, it's entirely possible I misinterpreted this question to be “what is your Marcello and Luca medieval fantasy from the viewpoint of you as a peasant?” Now you are all in the know. About my YA Marcello/Luca fantasy anyway, the adult romance version I’ll keep to myself other than to say that it also involves Lord Greco. Wait. I seem to have veered drastically off course here…

Though quite nervous about dancing at the ball, Gabi discovers a strange feeling of connection to the time, the people, and the society through the unified beauty of the dance. Have you ever been in a position where you felt out of your element, but, in one, pinpointed moment, became a part of or connected to something bigger than your fear?

Wow. This is a very thoughtful and deep question and my typical flippant response doesn’t seem fitting, so I honestly don’t have a good answer to the above. Deep is sometimes lost on me and I fail completely at this question.

The kiss. Oh, the kiss. When Marcello finally kisses Gabi, he believes the experience to be proof that they are meant to be together. What did you think about his assumption? Were you surprised at Gabi's reaction to it? Have you ever experienced a kiss that seemed to be prophetic in a similar (or opposite!) way?

*dreamy sigh* Oh Marcello, you big romantic you! I think his reaction is sweet and adorable and the drama of it seems to suit the time period in which he lives. Life is hard and short, so I think making a prophetic statement about being “meant” for each other after only a brief kiss is fitting for them. I remember getting butterflies (for lack of a better term) when I first kissed my husband, but I wouldn’t say I knew at that very moment that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, that came from all the times he made me laugh and all the small gestures over the years we were dating.

Many go through their teen years with a subdued sense of immortality. Do you think Gabi has a sense of this teen feeling? And did you think Gabi's converse observation, "Sometimes death came hunting and there was no way to cut it off at the pass." was informed more by the experience of losing her father, her self-admitted closet hypochondria, or the forced maturation of being transported to a different time? How does this observation show Gabi's growth as a character?

Jeez. These are some intense questions this week! I believe Gabi’s sense of her own mortality is probably a combination of all the factors listed above, though especially the death of her father. Given that his death was so sudden and unexpected, I think it inevitably brought the brevity of life in general into sharp focus for her, and that personal knowledge is only compounded when she gets to a time where medicine is scarce, war is not, and justice is often delivered in the form of public torture.

In the span of a few moments, Gabi goes from sword-wielding teen beauty to man-killing warrior. Did you think her realization of the finality of death -- and her justification for its necessity -- was realistic? And, in her slippers, could you have done the same?

I honestly don’t know that I could come to terms with the brutality of the time as quickly as Gabi does. Her adjustment period is impressive and admirable, but I think for her it’s a case of necessity in addition to her inherent strength that allows her to transition as well as she does. She either makes the adjustment and accepts death as a means of survival or she succumbs and wallows in the cruelty of that which she cannot change, and I think Gabi, being Gabi, quickly chooses to control the things she can as best she can.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR CHAPTERS 18-23

1. Gabi and Lia both face several life and death situations in these chapters, having to pick up weapons in defense of those they love and experiencing first hand the brutality of close combat. If you had the choice between picking up a weapon and standing on the front lines or staying behind to tend to the wounded as necessary, which would you choose?

2. Both girls get to wear extraordinary gowns to their victory celebration; what would your dream medieval gown look like?


3. Gabi has crude stitches put in and must endure both their removal as well as the cauterization of the wound. How is your threshold for pain? Do you think you would have simply gritted your teeth as Gabi does?


4. Marcello wants to properly court Gabi after they express mutual feelings of affection, wanting to speak with her mother about his intentions. What do you think is the most romantic aspect of medieval courtship?


5. Gabi and Lia find themselves with conflicting desires toward the end with Lia wanting to return home and Gabi hoping to stay. Do you think that Gabi is being unfair to Lia for wanting to stay, or is Lia being unfair to Gabi for demanding they go? A little of both?


I look forward to having everyone here next week!