Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Once Burned

(Night Prince #1)
Jeaniene Frost
Adult paranormal romance
346 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
She's a mortal with dark powers...

After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person's darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude...until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world's most infamous vampire...

He's the Prince of Night...

Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don't call him Dracula. Vlad's ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him—a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.

Vlad Tepesh has been a staple of the Night Huntress series for several books, often providing comic relief along with unrepentant womanizer Ian to keep us in stitches as he pushes all of Bones’s buttons and then smiles when he succeeds in eliciting the reaction he set out for. Now in the first of his own spinoff series we see a slightly different side of him, a darker, more violent side that forces us to remember just how brutal vampires of this world can be, and even more so, how the vampire with so legendary a reputation came by his infamy. Though the world of the Night Prince series is a familiar one, Ms. Frost delights us with an almost entirely new cast of characters, Vlad’s most trusted advisors and Leila’s closest vampire friend effectively branding themselves in our memories with their tangible presence while never detracting from the strength of Vlad and Leila as a couple, instead they act as additional unbreakable threads binding us emotionally to their story.

As mentioned above, Vlad has previously been a source of amusement as a secondary character to Cat and Bones, his typical dry humor never failing to bring a smile to our faces as he charms Cat and irritates Bones to no end. In this first book of his series though, that humor is largely absent, and though we can’t help but miss it, it’s also nice to see how the vampire with the terrifying history still inspires fear in those around him. We finally get a taste of the true extent of his control over fire, as well as a glimpse at the cruelty that exists side by side with his sense of loyalty and desire to protect his people, making it clear in no uncertain terms just how lethal he can be. While we knew some of his past based on his honesty with Cat in previous books, we get a few more details in Once Burned, snippets that paint a rather bleak picture and lend an unmistakable ring of truth to his words when he tells Leila he will never be able to love her, but his declaration only serves to strengthen our bond with our heroine, rooting for her to show him just how wrong he is.

Leila is a heroine almost as intriguing as Cat, a desirable combination of unusual strength and innocence instantly drawing us into her corner as she finds herself in the middle of both a sensual battle as well as a violent and bloody one. She possesses a fascinating psychometric ability—able to touch certain objects and glean past, present, and future information about those who touched it previously—and a bizarre electrical gift that causes her body to constantly thrum with energy and practically electrocute anyone with whom she comes in contact. Because her touch carries with it a possible death sentence, her sense of loneliness is one that tugs on our hearts, waiting with breath held for the moment when she discovers Vlad’s proclivities with fire also protect him from the pain that would typically accompany her embrace. While the force of Vlad’s dark personality in this story is intimidating, she is never cowed, standing her ground without ever coming across as a woman with something to prove, and instead radiating an endearing genuineness that just happens to accompany a backbone of steel.

Overall, Once Burned is a deliciously entertaining start to what will hopefully turn out to be more than a two book series, the ending leaving us vibrating with tension thanks to certain unresolved elements (though there’s thankfully no cliffhanger). Ms. Frost cannot write book two of the Night Prince books quickly enough.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: Throne of Glass

(Throne of Glass #1)
Sarah J. Maas
Young Adult/Fantasy-ish
416 pages
Bloomsbury Children's
Available August 7th
Received at BEA for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Throne of Glass is a story that seems to quietly smolder, intense moments of action igniting a spark that grabs our attention before things settle down again for our heroine, keeping us constantly on edge as we wait for a full flame to roar to life and warm our hearts with its mesmerizing dance. Unfortunately, in this first installment, that stunning flame is never quite given the air to breathe, our connection to the three main protagonists flickering in and out of existence as we struggle to get a handle on who each of them is beyond their classification or title. Ms. Maas is unquestionably a gifted storyteller, and by the end, the pages cannot be flipped fast enough in order to learn Celaena’s fate, but both world and characters feel a touch incomplete, existing as bright but flat stripes of color without the shadows, depth, and background to bring their canvas to life.

Celaena has the potential to be a spectacular heroine, her dark past barely hinted at in this first book and her skills as an assassin something we can’t wait to see put into action as she defends herself against the twenty-three other competitors vying for the position of the king’s champion, however, she spends almost the entire book merely boasting of her strength and her skill with weaponry without ever backing it up. From our initial meeting she’s referred to as “the world’s greatest assassin”, but those four words make up the entirety of what we know about her for majority of the story. She’s constantly aware of her surroundings, weighing and measuring those around her and plotting how easily she could take them down if she wanted, and while we clearly understand that she can’t go around slaughtering people given her precarious situation, we aren’t even really treated to a display of her skills when it comes to the Tests against the other competitors.

A couple of the Tests are described for us, and we can’t help but revel in those moments when we begin to see some of the much-exalted assassin come to the surface, but after those few brief moments, the Tests are glossed over for the remainder of the story until we get to the final duel. We barely scratch the surface of Celaena’s character, and because we know so little about her, her relationships with both Captain of the Guard Chaol and Crown Prince Dorian don’t elicit from us the reaction we long for when reading. There are several sweet moments between Celaena and both young men, but their connections to one another don’t leave impressions in our skin from where their fingers have grabbed us and held us tight, nor do our bodies feel wound tight in their presence, just waiting for the tension to snap and give us something emotionally charged. Instead, we spend our time longing for the moment when they’ll transform from black and white ink to flesh and blood people, dazzling us with facets of themselves we’re not seeing currently.

Throne of Glass does conclude in impressive fashion, the final battle between Celaena and the most dangerous of her competitors both gritty and violent, drawing us into Celaena’s world in the way we’d hoped to be from the beginning. Hopefully, as the series continues, we’ll learn more of Celaena other than she’s an assassin, and the richness of possibility surrounding all the characters as well as their world will be given room to stretch and come to fruition.

Rating: 3/5

*I think I'm in the extreme minority with my feelings on this book, so below are some reviews of those who absolutely loved it:

Bewitched Bookworms
The Readers Den
Realm of Fiction

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review + Giveaway: Pushing the Limits

Katie McGarry
Contemporary Young Adult
384 pages
Harlequin Teen
Releases July 31st
Gifted from Bailey at IB Book Blogging
Read as part of the All Male Review Challenge

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

From the outside, Pushing the Limits appears to be a story we’ve seen before. For all intents and purposes Echo is the good girl, excelling academically and thriving socially prior to the incident that scarred her arms, and Noah is the quintessential bad boy, getting high and sleeping around as he waits to graduate. Forced into regular meetings with one another through the school therapist, they both suddenly find themselves having feelings for someone who’d they never have imagined would fit with them so perfectly. It’s all very familiar, but starting with page one of Echo and Noah’s tale Ms. McGarry rips away every reservation we have concerning a less-than unique premise, gifting us with characters who have physical and emotional scars so painful we take note of nothing outside of our desire to see them navigate their way through their current darkness and find their way to happiness.

Echo should be a troubling character for us in terms of forming a bond with her, being the type of young woman who, should we simply list out some of her most obvious character traits, would frustrate us to no end. She succumbs to any and all authority figures, caving to their needs and wants and placing them above her own, and she allows her friends to push her into a skin that no longer fits the girl she’s become since the night of her scarring without a single audible word of protest. Despite her shortcomings however, our hearts are with her from the beginning, and she’s like a present Ms. McGarry hands us personally to unwrap – our relationship with her poignant and deeply valued as we slowly peel back the trappings hiding her from us chapter by chapter until we finally find the beauty waiting beneath as a reward for our efforts.

Noah is atypically typical, appearing to have all the traits of contemporary high school bad boys in books past, but as with Echo, his entire character resonates with us from the moment we meet him, all the elements we thought we recognized fading away to become a personality that feels distinctly Noah, and one that could never be mistaken for anyone else. His love for his brothers is endearing and heart-wrenching as we watch him struggle to come to terms with what he thinks is best for them and what realistically is best, and we want nothing more than for this tale to take on a sudden paranormal twist wherein the pieces of Noah’s world are suddenly and magically fused back together to give him the life he had before the death of his parents. While our minds might wish for a supernatural intervention of the happily-ever-after variety, the true beauty of this tale lies in its normalcy, and the knowledge that nothing and no one is going to save either Echo or Noah but themselves.

Ms. McGarry truly stuns with Pushing the Limits, creating a pair of individuals who hold us captivated from beginning to end and have our hearts bleeding out onto the pages, combining with the black ink to fuse a piece of us to Echo and Noah forever. Alongside Echo and Noah’s rough journey to building new lives out of the tatters of their old ones is a brief glimpse of the intriguing relationship between Noah’s friends Isaiah and Beth, and Ms. McGarry brilliantly ensures that we’ve seen just enough to have us fixated on when we’ll get their likely equally painful story in all its glorious detail. With this tale, Ms. McGarry has secured herself a place on my list of favorites for the foreseeable future.

Rating: 4.5/5


Thanks to the wonderful people at Media Masters Publicity and Harlequin Teen, I have one copy of Pushing the Limits to give away on the blog today! To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and will run through midnight on Friday, August 3rd after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed. Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Interview: J. Gabriel Gates + The Tracks Series

Today I'm joined on the blog by author J. Gabriel Gates to talk a little bit about the first book in The Tracks series which he writes with Charlene Keel. Books one and two, Dark Territory and Ghost Crown, are available now from HCI books, and you can read my review of Dark Territory and enter a giveaway for both books here. This series features a wide variety of elements including paranormal entities, gang wars, martial arts, and forbidden romance, and Mr. Gates was nice enough to answer all my questions about the different pieces that make up The Tracks! 

Raphael and Aimee’s story is one of star-crossed lovers given they are quite literally from opposite sides of the tracks. What story of star-crossed love would you say is your favorite?

Aside from the classic Romeo and Juliet, I’d have to say it’s The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.  It loved that book as a kid.  It really captures that feeling of longing that can’t quite come to fruition, and I think that’s a very poignant and real experience for many of us, especially as teenagers, where we might be pining for someone who, for whatever reason, is unattainable.  

Both Raphael and Zhai have been studying Kung Fu with Master Chin for a long time. What is the very first thing he taught both of them?

Great question!  This isn’t in the book, of course, but from my training in Wing Chun Kung Fu and my knowledge of how Master Chin thinks, I’d say that since Raph and Zhai started very young (at seven years old) he would have started by teaching them discipline and patience.  He would have had them stand in horse stance without moving for five minutes at a time.  “Horse Stance” means knees bent, legs shoulder width apart, hips cocked forward, back straight, knees pulled in, elbows bent and hands in fists and pulled back until the knuckles are next to the pectorals.  Believe me, standing for five minutes like that is pretty tiring—it can seem like an eternity!

Those who want to join the Flatliners have to go through an initiation wherein they leave a mark in the railroad track tunnels. If you were to join, what mark would you leave?

Well, I’m a Christian, so I’d probably leave a cross, along with my initials. 

After Tyler’s death and her time away in Montana, Aimee has returned to town a very different person. How might Raphael describe the change in her from a year ago to now

I think Raphael would say that the biggest change is that she’s more independent.  Before, she was always hanging out with her click of popular, sometimes mean friends, and she seemed totally unattainable to him.  When she comes back after going through a really rough time at boarding school, she’s no longer the “golden child” she was before, and as a result, she’s less judgmental of people – even of Flatliners like Raphael and Dalton.  Now that she’s been gone for a while, she’s able to see her friends with fresh eyes, and she doesn’t like what she sees.  That leaves her open for new friends and, in Raphael’s case, a new love.

If students signed up to participate in school production of Grease in any way, they received a full grade increase. Which aspect of the production would you have signed up for if you signed up at all?

Ha ha! Well, confession: I’m pretty much a ham.  When I was in high school I was the lead in quite a few school plays, I majored in theater at Florida State, then I moved to LA and worked as a professional actor.  I did a bunch of TV commercials and stuff.  So, I probably would have been on stage in the spotlight!

Dark Territory has a large cast of characters, all of who have a unique role to play in the supernatural happenings of Middleburg. Was it ever challenging to keep each of their individual stories and how they linked to the overall story straight?

In the beginning was difficult at times, particularly when I’d be working on one character’s plotline for a while and then I’d have to go back and say: wait, what was this other person doing?  In that regard, it was great to have my co-author, Charlene on board.  We each had our favorite characters, so while I was concentrating on my favorites like Raphael and Zhai and Aimee, she’d be going “what about Maggie?” (her favorite) or “We need a Kate scene here,” or “It’s time for some Violet!”  I think that really helped to ensure that all our many characters got totally fleshed out and brought to life.

As the process has gone on, though, it’s gotten easier.  In Book 2, Ghost Crown – which just came out, it was much easier to take all those threads and weave them together.  Now, we’re working on Book 3, Shadow Train, and the whole massive story is coming together for this incredible climax, and the thing is almost writing itself!  It’s a great feeling.

What three words might Ignacio use to describe his time in Middleburg?

Crazy.  Scary.  Amazing.

Thanks so much for these wonderful, thoughtful questions!

Thanks for stopping by Mr. Gates! More information on J. Gabriel Gates and The Tracks series can be found here:

Buy Dark Territory on Amazon
Buy Ghost Crown on Amazon

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Introduction to Month9Books + Two and Twenty Dark Tales

Today I'm extremely excited to be a part of the blog tour that's introducing Month9Books to the world! I additionally have the pleasure of sharing with you a couple of excerpts from one of their upcoming releases, Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes. Ummmm. Dark retellings? YES PLEASE! I can't tell you how excited I am for this book, and just wait until you read below and see all the amazing authors contributing to this anthology, it will rocket to the top of your to-be-read list!

Before we get to the excerpts, here's a little information about Month9Books:

Month9Books is a speculative fiction young adult and middle grade imprint.

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term that encompasses the following genres:
•             Science Fiction
•             Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy
•             Horror
•             Supernatural
•             Paranormal
•             Super-Hero, Villain, and Anti-Hero
•             Utopian and Dystopian
•             Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic
•             Alternate History

Month9Books will also publish Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Techno-thriller, and Action-Adventure-Fantasy.

Formed in 2011 by speculative fiction writer Georgia McBride (also founder of YALITCHAT.ORG and #yalitchat on twitter), each year, a portion of the proceeds from our anthologies will be donated to a charity we admire. We are however, NOT a charity publisher.

Our first anthology is scheduled for publication in October 2012 and features: Michelle Zink, Lisa Mantchev, Sarwat Chadda, Nina Berry, Leigh Fallon, Suzanne Young, C. Lee McKenzie, Angie Frazier, Georgia McBride, Jessie Harrell, Francisco X. Stork, Gretchen McNeil, KM Walton, Heidi R. Kling, Nancy Holder, Sayantani DasGupta, Karen Mahoney, Leah Cypess, Suzanne Lazear, Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg and Shannon Delany with Max Scialdone.

In addition to our charity anthologies, we seek to publish 9-11 additional titles annually.

We are distributed by Small Press United, a division of IPG.


Releases October 16, 2012 from Month9books

In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. 

Authors include: Michelle Zink, Lisa Mantchev, Sarwat Chadda, Nina Berry, Leigh Fallon, Suzanne Young, C. Lee McKenzie, Angie Frazier, Jessie Harrell, Gretchen McNeil, KM Walton, Heidi R. Kling, Nancy Holder, Karen Mahoney, Suzanne Lazear, Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg, Shannon Delany with Max Scialdone, Leah Cypess, Sayantani DasGupta, Georgia McBride, and Francisco X. Stork.

PLEASE NOTE: The eBook and print galley versions of the anthology DO NOT CONTAIN extras like a Humpty Dumpty poem by Georgia McBride, The Lion and the Unicorn: Part the Second by Nancy Holder, or the extended version of Sea of Dew by C. Lee McKenzie! These will be available in the final print copy. 

by Nancy Holder based on the Mother Goose Rhyme: The Lion and The Unicorn

London, 1603

Susana trembled in the darkness, one hand gripping the flickering torch, the other balancing a goblet of wine and a single slice of plain brown bread on a silver tray.  She was to take it to the King, to break his fast.  He would partake only after his ghastly work was done.

Screams rose from below the winding staircase, echoing against the stone, and pummeled Susana’s heart, and her soul.  She would have given a year of her life for permission to refuse her task.

She was sixteen, nearly a woman grown, but she was dressed to pass as a page in trousers and fine hose, and a brown velvet doublet so rich that whenever her hand brushed against it, she caught her breath.  She wore a jeweled dagger on her belt, a warning that she would cut any man down who would dare to attack her master.

She jerked as another scream shot up from the hell beneath her feet, spilling wine on the stair.  In the firelight it looked like blood.

Above her, thunder rumbled.  The air was sodden. Like a wet woolen cloak draped about her shoulders, her duty weighed heavy and hard to bear.  Not for the world did she wish to go down to that hellish place.

Six months before, King James I, the Unicorn, had come to London town.  Susana had thought he would bring happy fortune to his united kingdoms.  But it seemed that in the never-ending battle against the Devil, war had been declared upon England.

Queen Elizabeth—Good Queen Bess, the cub of Henry VIII, the Lion of England—was dead but half a year.  She had reigned for forty-four years, good years.  But the last months of her reign had been troubled. Her Majesty’s ailing mind had not been clear—her orders bewildering, her commands impossible to fulfill.  Plots and schemes grew like fungus as rivals vied for her throne.  There was talk of civil war.

Then God had roused her from her confusion long enough to name her nephew, King James of Scotland—as her successor.  England was saved from violence and strife.

In haste, the royal coat of arms—two English lions—had been redesigned so that the English Lion and the Scottish Unicorn together reared proudly. King James’s new arms had been carried before him on a beautiful July day as he had entered London town for the first time.  Rising on tiptoe in a cacophony of drumbeats, trumpets, and cheers, Susana had hoped to glimpse his royal presence as he headed for the church to be crowned. Surrounded by a glittering retinue of courtiers and soldiers, the king himself had ridden a fantastic warhorse, and his armor had gleamed as if it were made of gold. Sunbeams had poured down on his head, making a circle that shimmered like a halo.  And so the people said, “God’s blessings are upon James.”

by Karen Mahoney based on the Mother Goose Rhyme: One for Sorrow

The first night the crow raps on my window with its hard beak, I have only just climbed into bed.


Three times and then it waits, politely, staring in at me with hooded eyes.

Blink. Tap-tap-tap.

I don’t open the window that first night, but it returns the next. And then again the next.

On the third night, I relent.

I slide open the window, just enough for the crow to slip beneath, and it hops inside. The cold air freezes my breath into ghosts as I struggle to close the window again, while my visitor watches from the cracked wooden sill beside me.

Claws click as it shuffles to the edge and scans my room with those beady eyes.

Shivering, I jump back into bed and pull the comforter right up to my chin. The crow spreads its inky wings and flutters onto one of the carved bedposts by my feet.

We regard each other, the crow and I.

What does it want? If this was a dream it would be able to speak, and I could find out why it was here. We could have a conversation, and maybe it would even teach me the language of crows.

But the crow is just a bird and it doesn’t speak. It doesn’t even squawk. It only perches at the end of my bed, blinking occasionally, watching me until I fall asleep.

Who's excited? *raises hand* Be sure and check out the rest of the tour to see what other great books Month9Books has in store for us!

More information on Month9Books can be found here:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blog Tour: Mothership

Welcome to the 6th stop on the Mothership blog tour! Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you some movies authors Martin Leicht and Isla Neal think would be fun to put in a time capsule to share with people in the future. Love it. Also, be sure and check out the next stop on the tour Thursday, July 26th at Novel Novice!

Life will undoubtedly be very different for Elvie Nara in the year 2074. It’s fun to imagine all of the crazy technology and food and entertainment people will be exposed to sixty years from now. But sometimes it’s just as hilarious to look to the past and mock their conventions. So, in that vein, we were asked to think of some contemporary objects that we would put in a time capsule for Elvie to discover. She’d probably make fun of a lot of it—after all, these are things that would have been “cool” for her grandparents! Still, we think she’ll get a kick out of seeing what we were watching, wearing, eating, and more.

Movies. By the year 2074, with the domination of 3D virtual cinemas, the majority of the films we love today will be known as “flat pics.” But, quaint as they may seem to her contemporaries, Elvie loves her some 2D drama, so we wanted to give her some interesting choices. This was hard, because for every movie we desperately wanted to include (Serenity) there were three others that had just as valid a reason for appearing on an objective list of noteworthy contemporary films. So our undying love for personal favorites (like, um, Serenity) aside, we settled on a slate of major motion pictures that have come out recently and have something interesting to say about our culture at the beginning of the 21st century.



The Dark Knight is not a perfect movie. Personally we wouldn’t even say it’s the best Christopher Nolan Batman movie (that would be Batman Begins, in Martin’s humble opinion, though he knows many will disagree. Isla says forget the movies altogether and go for some Adam West—SMASH! BANG!—TV silliness.). Still, The Dark Knight is the most ambitious “comic book” movie ever made, both in its tone and execution, and as such it managed to eclipse many more “grown-up” movies at the time of its release and even after. Heath Ledger’s performance and Chris Nolan’s steady direction are equally hypnotic. Also that chase through the streets of Gotham (hello, Batpug!) is just awesome. All in all, The Dark Knight captured the zeitgeist of its time, both in and out of the cinema, in a manner that few other films even dared attempt.



Based on a series of very funny graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, this irreverent film follows slacker Scott as he attempts to defeat the seven evil ex-es of the (possible) love of his life in order to win her heart. It’s silly, off-beat, and a video-game nerd’s dream—but it also tells the story of how a self-centered, media-crazed kid slowly realizes that the choices he makes for himself affect those around him. It also does a whiz-bang job of poking fun at the attention-deficit-addled 20-somethings at the turn of the millennium, and their (often conflicting) views about identity, self-respect, and love. The film was criminally under seen in theaters, but hopefully everyone will take the opportunity to watch it in some form at home, so that they’ll experience what we’ve known for a few years now: Scott Pilgrim kicks serious . . . behind.



Facebook is still remarkably new, and while it has made a major impact on both youth culture and society at large, it could just as easily disappear or be replaced within the next few years by something entirely different. If this happens, The Social Network could end up being as relevant as a movie about the creation of the 8-track (ask your parents).

We think this movie will still stand on its own for other reasons, though. The movie is about something more timeless than the dawn of online social networking—it’s about ruthlessness, ingenuity, and the loneliness that comes from being so intrinsically linked to millions of other people across the globe—and few movies have yet to capture the early 21st century so well.

Upon pulling these BluRay/DVD discs out of the time capsule, Elvie would most likely declare, “I thought you said there were movies in here.” And then, assuming that the discs were drink coasters or perhaps primitive Magno-Frisbees, she would chuck them at the wall.

Other movies Elvie would get a kick out of:

Serenity (2005); Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004); Serenity (2005); all of the Lord of the Rings movies (2001 – 2003); and Serenity (2005).

I'm going to go out on a limb and say they both may be fans of Serenity ;-) More information on Martin, Isla, and Mothership can be found here:

Amazon Buy Link

MOTHERSHIP (from Simon & Schuster)

Pregnant. In space. Yeah, things are really looking up.

It’s 2074 and Elvie’s unplanned pregnancy (with Cole Archer, who bolted out of town half a millisecond after hearing the news, not that Elvie’s bitter about it or anything) forces her to leave her best bud back on Earth and spend her junior year aboard a corny old space cruiser with forty-five other hormonal teen girls (one of whom just happens to be her arch-nemesis).  Getting shipped off to the Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers was not how Elvie imagined spending her junior year, but she can go with the flow. That is, until a team of hot commandos hijacks the ship—and one of them turns out to be Cole.

Mothership is the first installment in a new trilogy from Martin Leicht and Isla Neal that has been described as Juno meets Pretty In Pink…but in space.

Don't forget to check out stop #7 Thursday, the 26th at NOVEL NOVICE!

Monday, July 23, 2012

All Male Review Challenge: Interview with Veronica Rossi + Giveaway


Today, as part of the All Male Review Challenge, I'm absolutely thrilled to welcome young adult author Veronica Rossi to the blog to answer a few questions about Under the Never Sky. Because this entire challenge is obviously and deliciously boy-centric, I've focused all my questions on Perry specifically, and have even directed a few to Perry himself. I have to say, I'm enjoying this all male theme, I think we should do it more often ;-) If you haven't read Under the Never Sky yet, I can't recommend it enough, it's one of my very favorite reads of the year so far. Everyone needs to meet Perry!

Perry is an undeniably attractive young man, earning every dreamy sigh that escapes our lips when we’re reading. Which other young adult character do you think would have a chance (however small) to rival Aria for Perry's affections?

Oh, wow. I’m going to answer this question with the huge caveat that Aria would obviously be totally out of the picture. So, in an Aria-less world, maybe Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone? Or maybe that’s just my personal love for her shining through. She’s an extraordinary character and totally relatable at the same time.

Perry has always lived outside Reverie, never experiencing the digital world of the Realms as Aria did. What aspect of the Realms do you think he would find most fascinating/disturbing/exciting?

He’d testing the limits of what’s possible physically. Flying. Swimming underwater without having to breathe. Zero gravity games.

As much as the Realms are dimensional and real, they’re a very “in your head” kind of place, full of imagination and whimsy. I think Perry would ultimately get bored very quickly. He’s a very physical and grounded character. At the end of the day, he’d choose the quiet of the woods over any simulated reality.

In Under the Never Sky, chapters alternate between Aria and Perry. Did you actually write them in alternating order, or did you focus entirely on one character first before switching?

Usually, I write alternating but sometimes I’ll stay with a character for a few chapters, or even draft a chapter from both POVs to see which one I prefer for that point in the story.

Though getting a male point of view in young adult literature is slowly becoming more common, the ratio between male and female is still drastically skewed in favor of female POVs. Name one male character whose POV you’d love a chance to read if it were possible.

I love reading male POV when it’s done well. Finnick’s perspective of The Hunger Games would be interesting to read. He had a lot of depth and charisma, and it would be fun to see the world through his eyes.

If Perry could ask you one question about how you wrote him as a character, or how you depicted his world, what do you think he would most like to know?

This is a great question. I think he’d probably want to know why I gave him the hair he has, which I call the post-apocalyptic surf shag. The answer is that my son has hair like that—streaky blond and always a mess of waves that twist in all directions--and I adore it. I’m probably the only mom who doesn’t make her kid brush his hair. It looks better wild. And it suits him.

What do you think Aria would say is the main difference between her view of Perry in the beginning of Under the Never Sky, and her understanding of him at the end?

In the beginning, she sees him as vicious, uncivilized and cold-hearted. In the end, she realizes that he is vicious, but only mildly uncivilized and actually very warm-hearted.

Let’s say you’re sitting across from Perry in a speed-dating situation. What’s the first thing you would say to him to ensure you stood out in his memory?

I can field dress a deer in twenty minutes flat.


Give us one word you hope Aria would use when describing you.

(Note from Veronica: SS, I’m not sure if he means that he’s good by nature or good at something. If it’s the latter of the two, I wonder what, specifically, he’s referring to. That he’s good at hunting? Maybe something else?)

Fondest memory?

It’s hard to pick just one. The day my nephew Talon was born. The first time I kissed Aria. Any day I ever beat at Roar at something. (grins) I’m especially fond of those memories.

First thing you learned about hunting/tracking?

Patience is your ally. It’s something I’m still trying to learn.

Biggest weakness?

Easy one. Aria.

Favorite moment with Aria?

(smiles) All of them.

Thank you so much for being a part of the All Male Review Challenge Veronica and Perry! More information on Veronica and her books can be found here:

Amazon Buy Link


Today I'm offering up a copy of Under the Never Sky to one lucky winner! Also, because the blog was out of commission during the giveaway hop earlier in the month and I couldn't participate, I'm adding an additional book of your choice to the prize as well. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL as long as the Book Depository delivers to your country. To enter, please just follow the blog via GFC (on the right sidebar) and leave a comment with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway will run through midnight on Friday the 27th after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed. Good luck everyone!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jenny Pox Birthday Celebration + Giveaway

Today I'm thrilled to be a part of the birthday celebration for JL Bryan's paranormal novel Jenny Pox. Jenny Pox is a disturbing and beautifully challenging read, but also one that slipped beneath my skin before I was really aware of it, ensuring her story has been one to stick with me for a very long time. JL is joining me on the blog today to share with us a little bit about the girl with whom I share a name, and to give us all some very exciting news!

Today is the second anniversary of the publication of Jenny Pox!  And that makes it a great day to announce that there will be a fourth Jenny Pox book, something I wasn’t expecting.  Jenny Plague-Bringer, the grand finale for the series, will be out this fall...details to follow in the near future!  You heard it here first!

For the hop, I’m doing a short guest post about each of the six paranormal characters from the series.  Appropriately enough, we’ll begin here on Jenny’s blog with a short sketch of Jenny Morton...


Jenny, the lead character of the series, was born with an unfortunate paranormal condition: her touch infects and kills other living things with a deadly supernatural plague. 

We see glimpses of her childhood and how this has affected her life, making contact with others impossible.  She avoids any contact with others, and so has an intensely lonely life. She lives with her father in a ramshackle house in the woods outside town, because her mother died in childbirth.  Being dirt poor, and having the eccentric habit of wearing gloves at all times, even in summer (to avoid touching anyone) only make her more isolated from everyone around her.  For most of the first book, she’s eighteen and a senior in high school.

Jenny’s life changes when she meets Seth, a boy with an opposite power, a touch that heals.  He is the first boy she can touch (without killing him...).  Unfortunately, Seth’s pretty, popular girlfriend Ashleigh has a secret, devilish power of her own, and she is quite an evil manipulator with a lifelong hatred of Jenny.  Ashleigh uses her own paranormal touch to turn the world against Jenny...who only has one way to strike back.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the Jenny Pox trailer!

The Jenny Pox ebook is currently free on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, and Sony, and cheap on Nook!


To celebrate Jenny’s birthday, and this exciting new announcement, we’re offering a giveaway of a full set of Jenny Pox, Tommy Nightmare, and Alexander Death, autographed and inscribed to the winner!

How to enter: A comment on each blog on the hop counts as an entry, so you can enter up to six times!  Here are all the blog hosts and the paranormal character they’re featuring:

Supernatural Snark (Jenny)
Xpresso Reads (Ashleigh)
Between the Pages (Seth)
Bewitched Bookworms (Tommy)
J.L. Bryan’s Books (Esmeralda)
Bookish Brunette (Alexander)

Random.org will pick a winning blog & then a winning comment!  Must be 13 to enter, U.S. only.  Please include email or Twitter contact information with your comment in case you win!

Links for stalking J.L. Bryan:
Amazon US Author Profile
Amazon UK Author Profile 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Interview and Giveaway: Kristin Miller + Forbidden by Fate

Kristin Miller
Adult Paranormal Romance
Available Now
Received through Lit Connect for review

THE STORY (from Lit Connect)
A forbidden love……

A second chance……

A night of passion neither will forget.

Sasha, a love-thirsty werewolf and rightful heir to the Were throne, is ready to take control over her pack. But when her first love, dragon shifter Damon Frost, lands on her doorstep, demanding their races negotiate ownership over Feralon’’s hot springs, he makes her question more than the fight for the enchanted neutral ground. No matter the emotions bubbling inside her, Sasha can’’t become involved with Damon. Not now. Not ever again.

Forbidden to step foot onto Were land after a romp with the Alpha’’s daughter as a teenager, Damon has bided his time, waiting for the day when he’’d be accepted back onto Were land. Using the hot spring negotiation as a way to get closer to Sasha, Damon plans to use every minute alone to remind her of the passion they shared–—a passion they could ignite again.

One night of ecstasy stands between them and the fight for the springs. One night of revealing glances, skin searing chemistry, and erotic desires they’’d long buried.

Will one taste of forbidden love be enough to satiate their desires? Or will the need to explore the depths of their love unleash a Were-Draco war?

A quick and sexy paranormal romance, Forbidden by Fate thrusts us right into the middle of tensions between not only species, but former lovers as well, wasting little time ratcheting up our anticipation of both an intimate battle and an all-out Draco and Were war. As with most novellas, we are denied the gritty details of Damon and Sasha’s past as well as the specifics of the world in which they live, but we’re given just enough information to draw the necessary conclusions, and Ms. Miller does a very nice job of ensuring we feel both the physical and emotional draw between our hero and heroine despite our limited time with them. Both the romance and the battle between dragon and shifter wrap up quickly and easily (as to be expected at just 83 pages), leaving us wishing for an added explanation here and there but ultimately satisfied with the characters and their brief story as a whole.

Rating: 3.5/5


Can you describe what you personally would look like in dragon form?

Ooh, love this question. Since my favorite color is purple (and dragon scales have nothing to do with eye or hair color), I’d be shimmering violet. Although I’d like to think I’d be sleek and quick, able to shoot through the sky like a bolt of lightning, I’d more likely be caught sunbathing on a rock near a stream, stretching out my wings.

When Damon and Sasha come face to face after years apart, Sasha, speaking sarcastically, asks Damon to lie to her and he does, thereby revealing the truth of his feelings to her in a roundabout way. Let’s say Damon was to request the same of Sasha, what lie might she give him the moment she sees him alone?

She’d say that she never dreamed of this moment—the one when he was standing before her, confessing his love. She’d say that she never wanted Damon to return and sweep her away from her family, so they could be together, just the two of them. She never dreamed of that at all…

Dragon shifters are relatively uncommon in paranormal romance (much to my dismay as I’m ridiculously fond of them); is there another dragon shifter besides Damon you find oh-so attractive?

I’ve got a thing for dragons, too and couldn’t wait to write them. Rafe, the emerald-scaled dragon from Claimed by Desire, Isle of Feralon #1, was the first dragon I ever wrote, so he’s got a special place in my heart. He’s just as powerful and radiant as Damon, but he’s led a tortured existence since he banished his lover from the isle. (I love a tortured hero!) I also love Dragos from Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound.

You’re Alpha of a pack of Weres standing on a battlefield facing an enormous number of Dracos. Using your ability to mind-speak with your brethren, what do you tell them to prepare them for war?

I’d tell them to buck up! Ha! Although my Weres and Dracos have a semi-reasonable alliance, if they did line up for all-out war, I’d tell them to watch each other’s back. When they have one eye on the enemy in front of them, the other should be on the sky, waiting on the ambush from above.

If you could live in one of the fictional worlds that either you’ve created or someone else has created, which one would it be?

I would *love* to live on the Isle of Feralon. Not only would I love the mist and rain, caves and hot springs, I would absolutely love to live in a place where dragons soar the skies.

Is there any other character from Sasha and Damon’s world whose story you’d really like to write?

I think Queen Elixa has a story somewhere, though I’m not sure what that is yet. I’m waiting for her to speak to me. The next two Isle of Feralon novellas (I’m writing the proposals for them now), will be about two other heroes and heroines from the same world though they couldn’t be found in Sasha and Damon’s story. Each novella is stand alone.

What challenges does writing a novella present that you don’t find when writing a full-length novel?

I find that there’s *so much* to include in such a short amount of time, it’s difficult to know what to cut and what to leave. It really makes me look at a scene and determine if what happens in that scene is absolutely essential to the plot or development of the characters. If you’ve ever read a novella and thought “I would’ve liked to see more about xyz”, you can safely assume the writer wanted to include more too! There simply isn’t room to cover everything and still have the novella under the necessary word count.
A huge thank you to Kristin for taking the time to answer my questions! More information on Kristin and her books can be found here:

Amazon Buy Link
Barnes & Noble Buy Link


As part of the promotional tour for Forbidden By Fate, there are copies of either Forbidden by Fate or Claimed by Desire up for grabs! 2 lucky commenters from the entire tour will win an ebook copy of one of the above. Woot! To enter, please leave a comment on this blog about the review or interview and be sure and leave a valid email address (broken up please - jenny(at)gmail(dot)com) so you can be contacted if you win. You can increase your chances of winning by commenting on previous tour posts, so be sure and check out all the participating blogs HERE. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL given both novellas are ebooks, and please note when entering that this is an adult paranormal romance, not YA. The giveaway is only open through midnight tonight (July 20th) so good luck everyone!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review + Giveaway: Dark Territory

J. Gabriel Gates & Charlene Keel
Paranormal Young Adult
504 pages
HCI Teens
Available Now
Received from TLC Book Tours for review

THE STORY (From Goodreads)
When Ignacio Torrez moved from the rough streets of Los Angeles to a small town dead smack in the middle of nowhere, he never expected to find himself in the midst of a gang war. But, he soon learns, these are no ordinary gangs. The wealthy, preppie Toppers on one side of the tracks and the working-class Flatliners on the other adhere to a strict code of honor and use their deadly martial arts skills, taught to them by the wise Master Chin, to battle one another for pride, territory, and survival. 

When Raphael, leader of the Flatliners, falls forAimee, a Topper girl, the rival gangs prepare for a bloody, all-out war. The only hope for peace between them lies within the dark territory of the abandoned train tunnels where the tracks cross. Under the direction of the mysterious and frightening Magician, the awesome power within the crossing sends the rivals on a terrifying mystical quest to fight the malevolent force that threatens the existence of Middleburg-and quite possibly, the world.

Dark Territory is an interesting jumble of elements, forbidden romance existing alongside a paranormal mystery existing alongside a small town gang war, and while each individual element is something that easily piques our curiosity, the combination of all of them together has us struggling for sure footing in this 500-page tale. This first installment starts out strong, newcomer Ignacio running afoul of rival gangs on his very first day of school, and continues to draw us in as the daughter of the richest man in town returns after a violent incident caused her father to send her to boarding school in Montana. There are just enough secrets in the opening chapters to have us itching to learn more, but as we continue on, we find Dark Territory to be an extravagant and almost unnavigable maze, tempting us in one direction only to lead us to what seems to be a dead end (possibly only a temporary one as there are more books) before taking us down another path that results in the same fate.

The synopsis leads us to believe that south central L.A. transplant Ignacio is going to be our protagonist, a witness to the Romeo and Juliet-esque love between leader of the Flatliner gang Raphael and Topper Aimee, however, this story surprises us a bit by bouncing around to a variety of other characters, each of whom raises more questions in our minds as we follow them for brief periods of time. The romance between Raphael and Aimee, perhaps the element that has us most intrigued, doesn’t really begin until almost halfway through, the flashes of them together captivating but fleeting as we’re quickly whisked to another part of the maze and given another road to travel.

As the final showdown between the gangs approaches toward the end, the story starts to unravel a bit, the strands of rope linking all the different elements and characters together fraying as the paranormal element kicks into high gear. What began as a tale of starcrossed lovers with a supernatural twist suddenly becomes something we can’t even begin to classify, worlds colliding and paranormal entities overflowing with nary an explanation in sight. It’s easy to grant this story a certain degree of suspension of disbelief as it progresses, hoping the concluding pages will hold some answers to the labyrinth created by all the characters and their various stories, however, no answers to any of our questions are provided. Instead we’re left a touch befuddled by the sheer number of events taking place simultaneously in the final chapters, longing for a return to the delightful simplicity of Raphael and Aimee’s relationship.

Despite some of the confusion Dark Territory leaves us with, the story itself is well written and often times extremely engaging, it just suffers from trying to do a bit too much in a single story to the detriment of characters who could have easily held our attention if their individual story was allowed to be more of a sole focus.

Rating: 3/5


Thanks to J. Gabriel Gates, Charlene Keel, and TLC Book Tours, I have one copy of both Dark Territory and it's sequel Ghost Crown to give away on the blog today. To enter, please just leave a comment on this post with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and will run through midnight on Friday, the 27th after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed. Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Valkyrie Rising

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!

Ingrid Paulson
Releases October 9th, 2012

From Goodreads:

Nothing ever happens in Norway. But at least Ellie knows what to expect when she visits her grandmother: a tranquil fishing village and long, slow summer days. And maybe she’ll finally get out from under the shadow of her way-too-perfect big brother, Graham, while she’s there.

What Ellie doesn’t anticipate is Graham’s infuriating best friend, Tuck, tagging along for the trip. Nor did she imagine boys going missing amid rumors of impossible kidnappings. Least of all does she expect something powerful and ancient to awaken in her and that strange whispers would urge Ellie to claim her place among mythological warriors. Instead of peace and quiet, there’s suddenly a lot for a girl from L.A. to handle on a summer sojourn in Norway! And when Graham vanishes, it’s up to Ellie—and the ever-sarcastic, if undeniably alluring Tuck—to uncover the truth about all the disappearances and thwart the nefarious plan behind them.

Deadly legends, hidden identities, and tentative romance swirl together in one girl’s unexpectedly-epic coming of age.

Mythological warriors? Yes, please! I believe there is mention of a sarcastic, alluring boy as well, thereby assuring this one a place on my must read list.  Sarcasm and I are good, good friends. Sarcasm AND hot boys? *Jenny dies of happiness*

Plus, as an added bonus, we only have to wait until October. That's do-able. Come October 9th though? TUCK IS  MINE!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Something Strange and Deadly

(Something Strange and Deadly #1)
Susan Dennard
Paranormal Young Adult
400 pages
Available July 24th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Something Strange and Deadly is a grimly beautiful story, a myriad of different elements making for colorful cogs in a fascinating machine, but as we read we see that the gears driving this steampunk zombie tale are not shiny and new, but rather are twisted and rusted, covered in a grime that adds a delicious edge to this debut. Ms. Dennard ensures that all the pieces of her puzzle are visible from three hundred and sixty degrees, each page we flip like the revolution of a gear that propels us forward so that we can see a new side of the characters or events, and we remain on our toes throughout wondering if what will be revealed will be dark or light in nature, or perhaps more interestingly, something in between.

Eleanor is a strong and willful heroine, stuck in a time of chaperones and marriages of financial necessity when she clearly has the mind and sensibilities of a much more modern time period. She is extraordinarily loyal, loving her brother more than life itself as she throws herself into increasingly dangerous situations in order to uncover what’s happened to him and save him from a gruesome fate at the hands of the dead. For all that she wades into the middle of deadly encounters with spirits and zombies alike, she never truly comes across as irritatingly reckless, rather her desire to be of assistance when everyone around her seeks to shield her is something we can’t help but admire. She learns quickly and applies that knowledge as she goes along, proving herself to be an asset to the Spirit Hunters rather than a hindrance, and it’s easy to smile even as untold horrors are taking place because Eleanor proves again and again that her value is not defined strictly by high society’s standards.

Ms. Dennard does a brilliant job of creating a cast of secondary characters who straddle the line between good and bad, covering each of them in a fine layer of dirt—the smudges thick in some places while other areas remain pristine to give us individuals with flaws of varying severity who keep us guessing throughout. Even the villainous necromancer, for all the devastation he/she unleashes, earns our momentary flashes of sympathy, and each chapter either adds a new layer of grit to the characters or washes a layer away, ensuring that we are never bored while in their presence. The romance with Daniel is an atypical one in young adult fiction, the only familiar element being Daniel’s sometimes brooding nature, but there’s nary an instant electric connection or all consuming love in sight, and in fact we are left with nothing more than a promise – a whisper of a relationship still so fragile merely thinking of their potential together could shatter it.

While the identity of the necromancer is fairly easy to guess early on, it doesn’t detract from the other pieces of the Something Strange and Deadly mystery, things coming together in the end to paint a full picture we only could make out a single corner of previously. Ms. Dennard impresses with her characters and world in this first installment, and the days until the release of the second book cannot pass by quickly enough.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, July 16, 2012

Double Review: Soul Thief + Forgiven

Jana Oliver
Paranormal Young Adult
St. Martin's Press
Available Now
Bought/Received from publisher for review

SOUL THIEF (the story from Goodreads)
*the synopsis for Forgiven contains spoilers from Soul Thief, so I'm leaving that out*

Riley Blackthorne is beginning to learn that there are worse things than death by demon. And love is just one of them…

Seventeen-year-old Riley has about had it up to here. After the devastating battle at the Tabernacle, trappers are dead and injured, her boyfriend Simon is gravely injured, and now her beloved late father’s been illegally poached from his grave by a very powerful necromancer. As if that’s not enough, there's Ori, one sizzling hot freelance demon hunter who’s made himself Riley’s unofficial body guard, and Beck, a super over-protective “friend” who acts more like a grouchy granddad.With all the hassles, Riley’s almost ready to leave Atlanta altogether.
But as Atlanta’s demon count increases, the Vatican finally sends its own Demon Hunters to take care of the city’s “little” problem, and pandemonium breaks loose. Only Riley knows that she might be the center of Hell’s attention: an extremely powerful Grade 5 demon is stalking her, and her luck can't last forever… 

Soul Thief and Forgiven are books that build beautifully upon their predecessor, giving us much-desired character growth while intensifying the demonic presence in Atlanta until we’re on the edge of our seats wondering what’s in store for young Riley both physically and emotionally. The world of the demon trappers is a dark one, the number of those fighting evil greatly overwhelmed by the number of demons intent on destroying them, but through it all we have characters who acknowledge they’re outnumbered and yet refuse to accept it, standing strong against an onslaught from Heaven, Hell, and humanity itself. Ms. Oliver does a magnificent job creating her world – one that’s close enough to our own as to be familiar and recognizable, and one that’s richly enhanced by each and every individual that occupies it.

The first book in the series introduced us to Riley Blackthorne, a strong and captivating young woman who challenged us at every turn. Our relationship with her was often troubled due to her relationship with fellow trapper Beck, her lack of maturity in dealing with him hindering our ability to fully support her, but in both Soul Thief and Forgiven we see her put in a great deal of effort to salvage a relationship with the man she’s wanted forever and who rejected her a few years prior. She’s infinitely more patient with him, accepting his verbal jabs without always returning one of her own, and all the while trying–though admittedly sometimes in vain–to open channels of communication with him instead of bottling up her hurt and anger until she can only release it by hurling an insult in his direction.

Riley and Beck are truly the highlights of this series, their relationship a painful dance of want and need accompanied by a healthy dose of fear that they are unworthy of the other person’s love. While both sides make huge steps forward in dealing with one another, things are in no way easy for them, and they often revert back to what they know best – defending themselves and their hearts through offense. Riley and Beck are both a colorful array of emotional bruises, making it extraordinarily difficult to watch as they poke the other person's tender flesh with a practiced finger, knowing just where to touch to inflict the most damage before retreating behind the armor both have painstakingly donned to protect themselves. Where the Riley and Beck of The Demon Trapper’s Daughter repeatedly cut one another with their verbal blades before retreating to separately lick their wounds, the Riley and Beck of Soul Thief and Forgiven don’t always run after leaving the other bleeding, instead they attempt to acknowledge the wound and the reasons for causing it so they can avoid the same injury moving forward.

Forgiven concludes with Riley and Beck both in difficult situations, but the final lines leave us with a great deal of hope for the future, everything we’ve learned about Riley thus far telling us she’s a fighter who won’t back down from a challenge. Foretold promises to be the most intense of the series, things between our two protagonists finally reaching the point where they’re going to have to decide if simply wanting to be together will be enough to make it happen, and I for one can't wait to get my hands on it.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Night Beach

Kirsty Eagar
Paranormal Young Adult
324 pages
Penguin Books Australia
Available Now (limited release)
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Imagine there is someone you like so much that just thinking about them leaves you desperate and reckless. You crave them in a way that's not rational, not right, and you're becoming somebody you don't recognise, and certainly don't respect, but you don't even care.

And this person you like is unattainable. Except for one thing...

He lives downstairs.

Abbie has three obsessions. Art. The ocean. And Kane.

But since Kane's been back, he's changed. There's a darkness shadowing him that only Abbie can see. And it wants her in its world.

Night Beach is a story of infinite complexity – easily inviting readers into a life riddled with emotional holes in the shape of a mother and a longtime crush, and enveloping us in a world we can practically touch while captivating us with a heroine whose every emotion reverberates through us. One of the joys of reading Ms. Eagar’s work is meeting her characters, young women and men who are so gloriously real the paper pages fall away and we find ourselves watching the lives of friends unfold before us, their problems often heartbreaking in a way that doesn’t necessarily inspire tears, but rather creates a soul-deep ache we feel more completely than we do salty drops on our cheeks. Night Beach is not quite as emotional as Raw Blue, but it has the same quiet intensity to it, tendrils of supernatural activity winding their way through an otherwise contemporary tale to create a lingering sense of unease, our minds forever questioning whether or not we believe what Abbie is seeing.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Ms. Eagar’s characters is the way they’re put together – small tidbits of who they are fed to us slowly, but so often vital slivers of information are merely hinted at, allowing us the opportunity to infer certain things about them so that we feel as though we’ve earned a piece of them for ourselves to hold close and treasure. The defining attributes of Abbie as a person are never simply told to us, instead we learn about her as we see her react to specific situations and people, her thoughts and actions beginning to paint a picture while still letting us fill in some of Abbie’s blanks with colors of our own. Abbie, like the rest of us, is a myriad of strengths and flaws melded together, her obsession with Kane something she recognizes as ultimately unhealthy, but yet something she craves nonetheless. Normally, as an outside observer, it would be easy for us to want to throttle Abbie for not seeing the situation clearly, but because we feel so connected to her, the tangled emotional mess Kane creates in her echoes through us, and we struggle as she does to separate what’s real, what’s wishful thinking, and what’s outside the realm of possibility.

Kane is highly enigmatic, someone who we desperately want to be the young man Abbie sees when she looks at him, but throughout the story she and we as readers are forced to open our eyes and really look at him, watching as the shape he holds in our minds alters and shifts for reasons both normal and paranormal. It’s the combination of normal and paranormal with regard to Kane that makes this story so eerily fascinating, forcing us to wonder which parts of him are the true Kane and which parts a result of something sinister and otherworldly, and Ms. Eagar dazzles us with her ability to beautifully blur everything about him to the point we’re not sure we’ll ever be able to solve the mystery of who he is. He’s fantasy and nightmare in one, seducing and haunting us at the same time with his tortured state until we’re convinced he’s nothing more than smoke and mirrors, disappearing through our fingers the minute we reach out to grab him.

Overall, Night Beach is another strong addition to Ms. Eagar’s already impressive resume, a slow story that bends reality’s parameters and tests our ability to believe in the rational explanation.

Rating: 4/5