Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cover Reveal: Entice

I'm super excited today to be a part of the cover reveal for the second book in Jessica Shirvington's paranormal young adult series, Entice.

What do we think? I really like the darker nature of it - it's a little grittier and a little more haunting than the cover for Embrace, but I love how the two are linked with the type treatment, the wings, and the use of purple.

Jessica and the fabulous people over at Sourcebooks Fire have provided a quick glimpse into what's in store for Violet:

“Two tutors and three students from the Grigori training center in New York were arriving in two days and I couldn’t be happier.  I was going to be able to learn from the experts and have people my own age to train with, something I really needed.  I was sure with their help I would be able to get over whatever it was that had been holding me back.

Griffin had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the two senior Grigori –the intelligence, resources and backup they could provide was much needed.  The Scripture that can decipher the identity of all Grigori, even those who have not yet embraced and are therefore defenseless, was at stake.

I would not stand by and watch it fall into the hands of exiles.  If they found they key to destroying all Grigori and gained the upper hand, the slaughter would not stop until all the humans knelt before them, worshipping them as gods.”

For those who can't wait until September 1st to read, fear not, you can check out the first two chapters of Entice HERE. Woot! Also, Jessica Shirvington will be coming to the US for a two week tour starting September 18th, and you can check for all the latest details regarding the tour on the Embrace website.

If all that goodness wasn't enough, Jessica has also posted a video blog wherein she discusses all sorts of fun things from the comfort of her very favorite chair. Enjoy!

All These Lives Blog Tour: Review

Sarah Wylie
Contemporary Young Adult
245 pages
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Available June 5th
Received from Books Complete Me for blog tour

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky.  She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal.  And Jena is wasting away.  To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives.  Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one.  Someone like Jena.  But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization.  Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all.  Maybe she really only ever had one.

All These Lives is one of those stories that presents us with a quick snapshot of a character’s life—no drawing us in with a beginning, complicating matters in the middle, and then dropping our jaws at the end, instead we arrive in the middle, spend some time, and leave still very much in the middle of the characters' timelines. Typically with this type of read emotional attachment is a bit shallower, our time with the protagonists so limited it's hard to feel as though we truly get to know them, finding ourselves at the very best able to sympathize with them before we reach the last page and are left to wonder what will come of them. Such is the case with All These Lives, our snippet of Dani’s life as she struggles to deal with her twin sister’s leukemia a quick and dark one, leaving us with heavy hearts as we watch one young woman self-destruct in an attempt to save another.

Dani is a tricky young heroine, springing from the story in the very first chapter with a rather blunt demeanor to slap us in the face and make us blink at our rather rocky introduction. While it’s clear she uses her attitude and her general disregard for the feelings of others as a coping mechanism for Jena's illness–feeling as though there’s no room in her for anything outside of the overwhelming guilt she feels for being the sister with lives to spare–her snide comments and standoffish personality prove to be armor we lack even the slightest ability to chink. Her misguided belief that she has nine lives (that if given up and released into the universe through death could find their way to someone like her sister who needs them) is challenging to read about, making us extremely uncomfortable and reinforcing Dani’s feelings of helplessness with regard to Jena by forcing us to acknowledge our own helplessness when it comes to saving Dani from herself.

All These Lives will likely appeal to those readers who enjoy realism without the pleasant safety of a sugar coating, where life is hard and at times brutal, and a miraculous happy ending, however desirable, isn’t necessarily a guarantee. Dani isn’t an easy protagonist on any level, and while we get tiny glimpses of vulnerability here and there, she fights us tooth and nail the entire way, making it crystal clear she would shove us from her life if she knew we were there just as roughly as she does those around her. As mentioned before, there’s no real beginning or end to this story, so we close the back cover without a definite future for Dani and Jena laid before us, but we do get some comfort in knowing Dani has learned from her nine-lives experiment and will perhaps start shedding some of that flawless armor moving forward.

Rating: 3.5/5


As part of the All These Lives blog tour, Sarah is generously offering up a fantastic prize pack including:

- 1 SIGNED copy of All These Lives
- 3 All These Lives bookmarks
- Your choice of ANY 3 Apocalypsies books!

To enter, hop over to Sarah's Blog and fill out the form. Giveaway will run through 11pm EST on June 8th after which a winner will be chosen. Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: Lies Beneath

LIES BENEATH (Lies Beneath #1)
Anne Greenwood Brown
Paranormal Young Adult
303 pages
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Available June 12th
Received through Teen Book Scene and NetGalley for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. 

But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother's death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family's homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. Easy enough—especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistible good looks and charm on unsuspecting girls. 

Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily—just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. And just as his sisters are losing patience with him.

With a dark premise–merfolk who feed on the positive emotions of others, pulling every ounce of happiness from them in brightly colored strands to leave nothing but lifeless bodies in their wake–and a rare male first-person point of view, Lies Beneath has the potential to be the type of read that lingers in our memories for an indeterminate amount of time after finishing. Unfortunately, events move forward at a pace that has us wondering when all the intriguing intricacies promised us in the synopsis are going to begin to unfold, and we’re given characters who lack some of the beautifully rich depths found in the very waters they inhabit. We are but spectators in this tale, passive observers who can see the waves of Lake Superior crash against the shore but not feel the spray on our faces, and who understand that a love is blossoming between predator and prey but don't fully experience the tension radiating from their unlikely pairing.

Ms. Greenwood’s mermaid (and merman) mythology is truly fascinating–emotional cannibals who thrive on the stolen feelings of human beings, thus causing a clench in our guts as we realize just how far we’ve come from the beloved fairytale versions of the same creatures. While we are equally horrified and fascinated by their nature, we never truly feel consumed by their desire to kill since Calder has denied his basest urge to take a life for six months when we’re introduced to him. Because he seems to find it relatively easy to overcome the murderous desires his three sisters continually struggle with, the sense of danger is only a light breeze on the back of our necks rather than a great gust that causes our bodies to erupt in chills.

Our relationship with Calder and his sisters is in direct opposition to their relationship with humans in the story: where the prey in this tale are vibrant and overflowing with life only to end up mere husks, we begin reading this tale empty but expectant, waiting to be filled with and enveloped by the emotions of the characters, but instead we’re left much the same at the end as we were when we started. Overall though, Lies Beneath is well-written and has all the makings of a truly enthralling and hypnotic anti-fairytale, we just can’t help but wish the characters would pull a strong emotional reaction from us they way they do their victims so that we would cease being decorative lures bouncing on the surface and would instead find ourselves yanked beneath the waves for a more terrifying and exciting experience.

Rating: 3/5

*Confession: I wrote this review months ago, and as I was editing it last night before it posted I noticed how heavy-handed I was with the water theme. I squeezed a ridiculous number of water references into a short 3 paragraphs. Well done Jenny, well done. O_o

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Interview + Giveaway: Jennifer Estep and Dark Frost

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Jennifer Estep back to the blog to answer a few questions about the newest release in her young adult Mythos Academy series, Dark Frost (releases today! YAY!). I'm an enormous fan of Jennifer's and pretty much devour everything she writes in a single sitting while ignoring work demands in favor reading, and I have to say her books are always worth it!

Let’s say Vic manages to make his way into the Elemental Assassin world and into Gin’s hands specifically. What do you think he would like most about fighting with her?

Oh, I think Vic would like a lot of things about Gin, and I think they would get along quite well together. But what he’d probably enjoy most is how many bad guys the two of them could take down together. It always seems like Gin is up to her neck in trouble, something Vic would be happy to help her with, since he’s always ready to do battle.

If you had the choice of any of the gifts/abilities the students at Mythos possess, which would you most like to try out for yourself? What’s the first thing you would do?

Any of the abilities would be interesting to have, but I think it would be really fun to be superquick like the Amazons are. I’d probably use my newfound speed to help in my writing and see how many words I could type a minute and how much work I could get done in a day. That would definitely be a useful power to have.

Gwen often seeks out her grandmother in times of need, comforted not only by her presence but by her baking as well. What’s your number one comfort food when you’re feeling down?

I love comfort food, although I don’t think I could pick just one. Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, fresh-baked bread, strawberry cheesecake ice cream, brownies fresh from the oven – I like just about anything that’s warm, hearty, filling, or sweet.

If Gwen could ask her mother a single question now that she knows all about being Nike’s Champion and the challenges she faces as such, what do you think she would most like to ask?

I think Gwen would ask her mom how she found to courage to be Nike’s Champion and keep on fighting, despite the fact that the Reapers just keep coming up with new ways to hurt Gwen and the people that she cares about. I think Gwen would want to know how her mom felt about being part of this epic struggle and how she managed to keep fighting the good fight.

You’re walking down the street and suddenly find yourself surrounded by Reapers. You know you have to stand and fight and you can choose either Logan or a Fenrir wolf to fight beside you. Which do you choose and why?

Hmm. That’s a tough one, but I think I’ll go with Logan, since the Spartan has the ability to pick up any thing and automatically know how to fight with it. That’s one skill that would definitely be handy in a battle against Reapers.

Some huge events take place in Dark Frost. If Gwen had to choose three words to describe her feelings when she thinks about everything that’s happened and everything still yet to come, what would those three words be?

Hurt. Heartbreaking. Hope.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Jennifer! You can read my review of Dark Frost here, and you can find more information on Jennifer and her books below.



Jennifer is generously offering up one copy of both Kiss of Frost and Dark Frost to one lucky winner today! To enter, please just leave a comment on this post and include a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US residents only and will run through midnight EST on Sunday, June 3rd after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog. Good luck everyone!

DARK FROST (from Goodreads)

I’ve seen so many freaky things since I started attending Mythos Academy last fall. I know I’m supposed to be a fearless warrior, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just waiting for the next Bad, Bad Thing to happen. Like someone trying to kill me—again.

Everyone at Mythos Academy knows me as Gwen Frost, the Gypsy girl who uses her psychometry magic to find lost objects—and who just may be dating Logan Quinn, the hottest guy in school. But I’m also the girl the Reapers of Chaos want dead in the worst way. The Reapers are the baddest of the bad, the people who murdered my mom. So why do they have it in for me?

It turns out my mom hid a powerful artifact called the Helheim Dagger before she died. Now, the Reapers will do anything to get it back. They think I know where the dagger is hidden, but this is one thing I can’t use my magic to find. All I do know is that the Reapers are coming for me—and I’m in for the fight of my life.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

Diana Peterfreund
Young Adult/Dystopian-ish
398 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available June 12th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY(from Goodreads)
Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Compelling and poignant, For Darkness Shows the Stars is an intimate portrayal of a relationship tested to its very extremes–a war between belief, knowledge, desire, prejudice and need waged as Elliot and Kai are brought face to face after a separation that changed them both irrevocably. Interspersed between present events are letters exchanged between Kai and Elliot’s younger selves; the tender moments shared with us they compare thoughts and question the belief system they’ve been taught providing us a beautiful familiarity with both protagonists before we’re returned to the time where they are practically strangers, the openness and honesty expressed in those brief missives gone in the blink of an eye. Elliot and Kai’s story is a painful one–quiet and at times cruel–the intensity of it stemming not from grand, sweeping conflict, but rather from fleeting moments filled with tension and overflowing with such possibility that our hearts swell to the point of aching as we wonder whether that stunning potential, hidden deeply behind caustic words and deliberate callousness, will ever be reached.

Elliot is a young woman of unmatched strength, making choices for the North Estate and its inhabitants no one her age should have to make, and sacrificing the only person she’s ever been able to be her true self with for the good of those under her care. When we meet her, we know she let Kai go to ensure those who work on the estate would have a buffer between them and her father’s fluctuating iron fist and cool selfish negligence, choosing to stay behind in body while her heart fled with Kai. She handles Kai’s repeated verbal jabs with a grace befitting someone far older and world-weary, taking his hurt and absorbing into herself as punishment for what he views as a betrayal all those years ago, and never once allowing him to see just how deep his words cut. While she never speaks outright in her defense, she also doesn’t cower from the force of his hatred, and we can’t help but read with our backs held ramrod straight, hoping to lend her some of our strength even though she doesn’t appear to need it.

Kai is an intriguingly complex character, someone it would be easy to dislike instantaneously when faced with his uncaring treatment of someone who loved him four years ago–and loves him still–were it not for the letters written to Elliot as they grew up together. Not fully understanding why being a Post made him less of a person, we can feel his confusion as he tried to sort out the ways of his world with Elliot when he was younger, and we long for a glimpse of that sweet boy in the dauntless Fleet Captain who takes advantage of every opportunity to hurt Elliot. Still, it’s clear to us his actions are those of a man in pain, lashing out when faced with the one person who threatens to render his impeccably-made armor useless, and the pounding of our hearts echoes loudly in our ears every time he finds himself alone with her as we wait for him to see past his anger and to the truth of his history with Elliot. The truth being he asked of her the only thing that was not hers to give: the lives of everyone on the North Estate who would have suffered or perished had she abandoned them to run with Kai.

Those readers who love their dystopian reads to have a thoroughly well-developed world haunting in its dark grittiness may find themselves a touch disappointed in this tale, the history of the Posts and the Reduced just brief enough for us to understand the terminology but lacking in copious amounts of detail. Instead, we’re given a thorough look at a tiny piece of this world, the development of the characters given extra attention and their personalities crafted so intricately that the world outside the two of them almost becomes irrelevant in the face of the stunningly tragic romance laid before us. Our hearts bleed, scream, and beg for mercy before we reach the final pages, and we can’t help but revel in a story so emotionally charged.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Giveaway + Sneak Peek: Snow White and the Huntsman

Is anyone else as excited for this as I am? While my primary motivation for wanting to see this film lies solely in the casting of one specific individual *cough* CHRIS HEMSWORTH *cough*, the entire movie looks unbelievably gorgeous (the above poster needs to go on my wall immediately) and I will have my rear end glued to a seat as soon as it releases.

Thanks to the generous people over at Universal Pictures, I not only have an amazing giveaway for you today, but I also have some stills from the film and the trailer to share with all of you as well. Best. Day. Ever.

(releases June 1st from Universal Pictures)

In the epic action-adventure Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart (Twilight) plays the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen (Oscar® winner Charlize Theron) who is out to destroy her. But what the wicked ruler never imagined is that the young woman threatening her reign has been training in the art of war with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) who was dispatched to kill her. Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) joins the cast as the prince long enchanted by Snow White’s beauty and power.

The breathtaking new vision of the legendary tale is from Joe Roth, the producer of Alice in Wonderland, producer Sam Mercer (The Sixth Sense) and acclaimed commercial director and state-of-the-art visualist Rupert Sanders.

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Toby Jones

(click to enlarge any of the stills)

(all images courtesy of Universal Pictures)


More information on Snow White and the Huntsman can be found here:

Twitter (#SWATH)


A huge thank you again to Universal Pictures for offering up such a fantastic giveaway. One lucky winner will receive a SWATH prize pack:

- A Snow White and the Huntsman book

- T-shirt 

- Necklace and ring set

- Cell phone mirror

To enter, please just leave a comment on this post and include a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US residents only and will run through midnight EST on Sunday, June 3rd after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog. Good luck everyone and I hope you go see Snow White and the Huntsman next weekend!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Guest Post: J.A. Redmerski + The Mayfair Moon

Today I'm super excited to welcome young adult author J.A. Redmerski to the blog! She's stopping by to share with us an exclusive interview with Isaac Mayfair, one of the main characters in The Mayfair Moon, a YA paranormal romance available now. Welcome J.A., "G" and Isaac!

*This interview was conducted by a Praverian, who, due to the clandestine nature of Praverians, cannot be named at this time. For now, we will refer to her simply as ‘G’.

G: Isaac Mayfair, son of the most feared and notorious leader in werewolf history is more than the love of Adria Dawson’s life and an up-and-coming Alpha. Apparently, there are things about Isaac that not even Adria knows yet. Of course, being who and what I am, there’s nothing that he can hide from me. So, let’s put him on the spot. *grins*


G: It’s good to see you again, Isaac. You were barely six when I saw you for the first time, fully wolfed-out and fighting your brother to the death.

Isaac Mayfair: You say that like I had a choice. It was kill or be killed. I was forced to hurt a lot of my kin during my training and it’s not something I like to talk about.

G: Understandable. So then let’s talk about…say…your job at Home Depot? Uh huh, don’t be shy. Spit it out. (I swear he’s blushing!)

Isaac Mayfair: Yes, I actually did work at Home Depot once. I only applied for the job to keep track of a new werewolf Turned by William Vargas in North Carolina. The guy worked at Home Depot; so naturally, I did what I had to do.

G: It’s just hard to picture you—big, scary, werewolf guy—wearing a bright orange apron and helping humans decide what kind of wood to use to build their add-on porches. That’s pack loyalty right there!

Isaac Mayfair: *just smiles and shakes his head*

G: Well, if you could take a customer service job in the line of duty, why didn’t you attend Hall-Dale like Zia, when you were tracking the movements of Adria?

Isaac Mayfair: Honestly, Alexandra was the one my brothers and I were tracking. She was the dangerous one. Zia agreed to take the school job and watch over Adria.

G: I bet you never thought you’d end up more involved with Adria than her sister, did you?

Isaac Mayfair: You got that right. I never ‘get involved’ with an Innocent. Never. I guess sometimes you just have to let fate work its magic. But then you already knew it would happen, didn’t you?

G: (I see why it’s hard for Adria to resist him – those frickin’ enchanting eyes!) Of course I knew. Now I have to ask some basics. You’ll probably find it kind of ‘girly’, but just bear with me.

Isaac Mayfair: Ummm, alright.

G: Don’t look so worried! Harmless questions, I promise!

G: Birthdate?

Isaac Mayfair: July 20, 1992

G: Birthplace?

Isaac Mayfair: Macedonia, particularly Mount Korab, but Sibyl left there with me shortly after I was born.

G: (FYI - Sibyl is his mother, but he refuses to acknowledge her as such.)

G: Favorite color?

Isaac Mayfair: I don’t really have a favorite color...

G: Favorite Movie?

Isaac Mayfair: The Matrix and Fight Club

G: Favorite T.V. Show?

Isaac Mayfair:  Well, it was ‘Stargate Universe’ until it ended. I like ‘NCIS’ and ‘Supernatural’, I

G: What turns you on?

Isaac Mayfair: What? (Clearly he knows what I mean.)

G: Seriously, what do you like in a girl? And don’t just say ‘Adria Dawson’, because that would be so cliché and I don’t take you for the cliché type.

Isaac Mayfair: *sighs heavily* I like girls with a mind of their own. Strong-willed. Intelligent. And it doesn’t hurt if she has nice skin and pretty teeth. Oh, and delicate wrists.

G: *coughwristfetishcough* What turns you off?

Isaac Mayfair: I can’t stand rude girls. Obnoxious girls. Superficial, materialistic girls. Honestly, when it comes to things that turn me off, it hardly ever has much to do with appearance and more-so attitude.

G: Favorite type of music?

Isaac Mayfair: Hard Rock mostly, but I like a lot of Instrumental music like Wojciech Kilar and underground stuff like Arcana.

G: Favorite food?

Isaac Mayfair: Praverians that ask too many questions

G: *grins* Alright, alright. I’ll move this along. Last question: Do you think Adria will forgive you for what you did to her?

Isaac Mayfair: (He looks away from me. I can hear his thoughts. He hates me right about now for asking this question, but at the same time he knows I’m only here to help Adria through this…) I hope so. More than anything, I hope so….

That is an intense last question. *Jenny dies of curiosity* Thanks so much for sharing this with us J.A.! More information on J.A. and her books can be found here:

Amazon (only $.99!)


After a nightmarish encounter with a werewolf, seventeen-year-old Adria Dawson loses her sister, but gains the love of a mysterious young man and his legendary family.

Strange and tragic things begin to happen in the small town of Hallowell, Maine: residents come down with an unexplainable ‘illness’ and some disappear. In the midst of everything, Isaac Mayfair is adamant about keeping Adria safe, even from her sister whom he has warned her to stay away from.

As unspeakable secrets unfold all around Adria, impossible choices become hers to bear. Ultimately, no matter what path she takes, her life and the lives of those she loves will be in peril. As she learns about the werewolf world she also learns why her place in it will change the destinies of many.

The All Male Review Challenge Giveaway Hop Sign Up!

I just want to begin this post by saying I stole all of the below information directly from Missie at The Unread Reader as she is the genius mastermind behind this entire event. We'll posting information about the event itself, including a full schedule, at the end of June.

With the start of The All Male Review Challenge just around the corner, we thought we'd kick things off with a GIVEAWAY HOP because boys in books are better, especially when they're free! As some of you may remember, the goal of The All Male Review Challenge is to read as many Young Adult books written by male authors or featuring male protagonists. Challenge participants will have a month to read as many books meeting the criteria as possible. This year, the challenge will be held during the month of July. To get the party started, we will be hosting a The All Male Review Challenge GIVEAWAY HOP, which will run from July 1st through 7th, and we'd love for you would join us!!!

Hop Rules
  • The book(s) you choose to giveaway must be YOUNG ADULT and either be written by a male author or feature a male protagonist as the main character.
  • Stories with alternating POVs are acceptable as long as one of the main characters is male.
  • You will be responsible for obtaining the prize you are offering for the giveaway and for the shipping charges.
  • You may provide a list of books for the winner to choose from, but no gift cards.
  • Your giveaway post must include the hop image & linky widget code or links to the hosts' sites.
  • Please keep the mandatory entries simple and to a minimum (no more than 4). The purpose of a giveaway hop is to let contestants enter the giveaway then move on to the next site.
  • Your giveaway post must be live by 12:01am EST on JULY 1st.
  • You will not have to be a participant of The All Male Review Challenge to host a giveaway for the hop or to enter a giveaway offered in the hop.
  • The hop will run from July 1st-7th. At the close of the hop, you will have a week to contact the winner and make arrangements to distribute the prize.

To host a giveaway for The All Male Review Challenge GIVEAWAY HOP add your blog URL to the linky with your shipping preference in parenthesis following your blog's name (US) (US/Can) (Int) Please note: The same linky widget is being posted on all the co-hosts blogs, so if you sign up for the Giveaway Hop through one of the co-host's blog, you won't have to sign up again.

Example: The Unread Reader (INT)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Dark Frost

(Mythos Academy #3)
Jennifer Estep
Paranormal Young Adult
336 pages
Available May 29th
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
I’ve seen so many freaky things since I started attending Mythos Academy last fall. I know I’m supposed to be a fearless warrior, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just waiting for the next Bad, Bad Thing to happen. Like someone trying to kill me—again.

Everyone at Mythos Academy knows me as Gwen Frost, the Gypsy girl who uses her psychometry magic to find lost objects—and who just may be dating Logan Quinn, the hottest guy in school. But I’m also the girl the Reapers of Chaos want dead in the worst way. The Reapers are the baddest of the bad, the people who murdered my mom. So why do they have it in for me?

It turns out my mom hid a powerful artifact called the Helheim Dagger before she died. Now, the Reapers will do anything to get it back. They think I know where the dagger is hidden, but this is one thing I can’t use my magic to find. All I do know is that the Reapers are coming for me—and I’m in for the fight of my life.

The Mythos Academy series is one where the road traveled by its characters gets progressively rougher with each installment, the tests Gwen faces increasing in emotional and physical intensity to ensure that what started out as a lighter connection to characters and story darkens and solidifies into something we feel with every beat of our hearts. One of Ms. Estep’s strengths lies in her ability to pair humor with pain, life with loss, and romance with heartbreak, always adding a little grit to an otherwise smooth story, our skin abrading when we come in contact with it to act as a sharp reminder that in Gwen’s world, as in reality, suffering is a part of life. Though the burden Gwen carries as Nike’s Champion weighs more heavily from one book to the next, Ms. Estep never allows the darkness hovering on the fringes of her tale to fully infect and consume the story itself, crafting characters who repeatedly rise battle-ready with weapons drawn, prepared to be the first line of defense against any evil threatening their lives, their loved ones, and their world.

Gwen is a young woman whose growth continues to impress us the more time she spends at Mythos, starting out a true outcast who often lamented her status but did relatively little to ingratiate herself fully with the other students, to someone with a drive and determination to strengthen herself physically while striving to more thoroughly understand the scope of her pyschometry. She handles the constant emotional turmoil with Logan (and at times with best friend Daphne) remarkably well, never allowing her backbone to bend under the onslaught and instead keeping her head held high as she continues to wish for an outcome she’s not sure will ever truly be possible. While she does crumble a bit under the guilt stemming from certain events that take place in the last several chapters, her feelings of failure and inadequacy are more than understandable, and she only wallows in them briefly before drawing her spine straight once more and soldiering on.

Dark Frost is a pivotal book in the series in terms of the main story arc with Loki and the Reapers of Chaos, the minor developments of the previous two installments culminating in a conclusion that has us quivering in anticipation of the next book. There’s no jaw-dropping cliffhanger thankfully, but our need for more time in this world as the characters struggle to deal with the aftermath of all that’s happened is at an all time high as we close the back cover. While the identities of the Reapers are fairly easy to deduce, that knowledge doesn’t detract from our overall enjoyment as we’re easily wrapped up in Gwen, Logan and an epic battle of good versus evil, knowing all the while Ms. Estep will never make things easy for our heroes and heroines and loving her all the more for it.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dreamless Blog Tour: Character Interview with Orion

I'm thrilled today to be a part of the blog tour for the second installment of Josephine Angelini's fantastic young adult Starcrossed series, Dreamless (releases from HarperTeen on May 29th). I have the added honor of welcoming the uber-attractive Orion to Supernatural Snark to answer a few questions, and I hope all of you end up loving him just as much as I do! This tour is chock-full of fun reviews, interviews, excerpts and more, so be sure to check the bottom of the post for all the details about following along.

Your first meeting with Helen is, quite literally, a hellish experience. Can you describe for us how your initial encounter would have gone and where it would have taken place if you could have chosen?

I’d love to have met her at the News Store. I think I’d just really like to have met her in a place she feels relaxed and happy—anyplace she can be herself, really. Plus, I bet she wears a cute little apron at work. That’d be adorable. 

So many people look at Helen and see simply the Face (as in the face that launched a thousand ships), but you’ve spent a great deal of time with her in less-than ideal situations. What would you say those people are most missing out on when they take note of merely her beauty?

Her stunning taste in pajamas. No, seriously, I would say it’s her resourcefulness. Helen may not be too good with her fists, but she’s still a real scrapper. I’ve seen her go through a lot, but I’ve never seen her quit. There’s no one I’d rather be backed into a corner with.

You have some rather remarkable abilities, so remarkable in fact that their scope terrifies you. Do you think there will ever come a time when you conquer that fear and come to terms with the power you wield?

I’m not so sure that all powers are supposed to be wielded. Let me put it this way…. Have you ever known someone that’s really perceptive and funny, but also a little too good at picking up on other people’s flaws? Have you ever just wanted to pull that person aside and tell him that just because he has the smarts to come up all those clever one liners doesn’t mean that he should? I think if you have a talent that hurts people you should just keep it to yourself.

It’s extremely likely that you know Helen’s mom better than she does given they’ve spent so little time together. If you could share one detail, personality trait, or anecdote about Daphne with Helen to help her understand her mother a bit more, what would you tell her?

Daphne is intense. I’m not going to pretend that she and I ever sat around joking with each other or going to zoo or whatever it is normal adults do with kids. She’s not easy to get along with, but she is reliable. I know Helen would disagree with that, considering her history with her mother, but the truth is Daphne is a pretty extraordinary person. She’s risked her life to help other people because they need it, not just because they’re related to her. If you think about it, not many people are like that.  Not many people really put themselves on the line for someone outside of their family.

If you could describe what you felt by the River of Joy in only one word, what would that word be?


Of the twelve imprisoned Olympians, who do you fear most? Who do you think humanity should fear most?

Ares. The god of war is not someone I want running amok in the world again.

What’s one habit or quirk you would be embarrassed of if Helen found out about it?

I write love poetry. Blame it on the fact that I’m descended from Aphrodite, but I can’t help it. I write love poetry all the time, and it’s not very good. Oh, and I listen to a lot of sappy, old music. I love Barry Manilow. Don’t tell Helen.   

If you had to compare the influence or feel of the Furies when you’re in the presence of a rival House member with an experience we mere mortals might understand, what would it be?

Bloodlust isn’t easy to compare to anything. It’s like you’re half hypnotized or half out of your mind, but not completely. You know what you’re doing, and that makes it worse because you don’t want to stop. When you snap out of it that’s the part that hurts the most—knowing that you liked it. The worst thing about being literally “infuriated” is remembering how ugly it made you on the inside.

Thanks so much for stopping by Orion! I absolutely adore this series and can't recommend it enough (you can read my review of Dreamless HERE).

The Dreamless Blog Tour kicked off yesterday and will continue through June 5th. You can find all sorts of fun additional information here:

Browse inside DREAMLESS from HarperTeen

Dreamless Playlist

Buy an ebook:
Barnes & Noble
Google Ebooks
(at participating ebooks store links, you can purchase Dreamless for $0.99!)

Follow the Dreamless Blog Tour and follow on Twitter under #DreamlessDays and @josieangelini

WEDNESDAY 5/30 - HarperTeen is hosting a LIVE chat with Josie on Facebook

And last, but certainly not least - GIVEAWAY

Josephine is giving away a Kindle with either a Starcrossed or Dreamless skin on it. In order to enter, please comment on each blog tour post (only once) and follow Josie on Twitter (see Rafflecopter form below). Open to US residents only, good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: Purity

Jackson Pearce
Contemporary Young Adult
218 pages
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.

Purity is a beautiful tapestry of words; colorful emotional threads woven together to create a unique story rich with humor that still touches on more serious issues like God, sex, and growing up. For those (like me) who tend to steer clear of books that have prominent religious overtones, fear not, Ms. Pearce approaches the topic with an intriguing and appealing combination of gravity and levity, making Shelby’s story not so much one specifically about her faith, but rather about her confusion as to her beliefs in the years following the loss of her mother. Shelby’s struggle to make sense of the tragedy is something far more universal in nature than an exploration of the tenets of any particular religion, and is therefore something that instantly connects us to her regardless of our personal views.

Shelby is hilarious, at times utterly ridiculous (in an amusing way), and a complete jumble of flaws and strengths endearingly combined to create a very human, very down-to-earth young woman. Her devotion to her mother’s memory and the last promises she made to her is something we can’t help but respect despite our ability to recognize that her singular and strict interpretation of those promises is not what her mother intended for her only daughter, and it’s both painful and poignant to watch as she stumbles trying to follow her mother’s words to the very letter. She questions life, death, and God, she makes mistakes, and she seeks out a sexual relationship for all the wrong reasons, but through all of that she’s someone who has our support, and often our laughter, because we know for her to discover the intent behind her mother’s promises rather than the literal interpretation she has to walk a road of her own making.

A true highlight of Shelby’s entirely-too-short tale of self-discovery is Ms. Pearce’s extraordinary sense of humor. We spend much of the story in tears laughing at Shelby’s antics as she pursues a loophole in the principles that guide her life, with one scene in particular involving a locked glass case containing condoms at the pharmacy causing our stomachs to cramp with the force of our mirth, and our faces to turn an entertaining shade of red on her behalf. Overall, Purity is a quick and hugely entertaining read, its appeal bound to be wide in scope regardless of the religious and sexual threads that run through it as a result of a truly charming protagonist, a little romance, and a whole lot of less-than romantic escapades.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: Dreamless

DREAMLESS (Starcrossed #2)
Josephine Angelini
Paranormal Young Adult
487 pages
Available May 29th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Amazon)
Can true love be forgotten?

As the only scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.

Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out—a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies' cry for blood is growing louder.

As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen's sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos

Dreamless is a story where each page carries a tangible weight, both words and deeds seeming to powerfully resonate however softly spoken or subtly executed as each individual finds themselves powerless to escape the tragic cyclical nature of their lives. This is not a read where attention can waver, instead the extraordinary intricacies of the Truce, the four Houses, and the possible war with twelve imprisoned Olympian gods require our full focus as Ms. Angelini delicately spins her tale with consummate skill. Her ability to manage and guide all the individual threads of the Starcrossed world creates in her a fourth Fate with more power than the other three combined – she the puppet master of those three who are the puppet masters of all our characters – and we hold our breath while reading waiting to see what outcome the loom of the Fates will weave.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of this series is the fact that although many situations first appear to be familiar and overused plot devices, Ms. Angelini often surprises us with the direction events take after the initial clichéd snapshot, leading us into new territory that forces us to divide our hearts into sections as we struggle with which of all the possible end results we most want for Helen and the Delos family. Helen and Lucas experience a predictable separation in this second installment to make room for a new romantic interest, but luckily for us, after the first dramatic explosion from Lucas to push Helen away, we don’t get hundreds of pages of push-pull from them–the break painful and seemingly permanent–and we can’t help but be grateful for the absence of tedious “I love you” and “I hate you” declarations every other chapter.

While many readers may scoff at the introduction of Orion as a new romantic foil for Helen, his presence in the story ends up being a more than welcome one. Lucas is noticeably absent for much of this nearly five-hundred page tale, and Orion seamlessly enters the picture as the one person left in Helen’s life who is constant, filling her emptiness with his steadfast presence. Lucas’s rejection is merely the beginning of Helen’s isolation, each page further removing those who have become her support system from her life, leaving her adrift and alone in a literal hell, her journey glaringly marked by a single set of footprints when she so desperately needs sets on either side of hers. Orion asks for nothing and clearly expects nothing from Helen in terms of affection, thus winning us over with his unassuming nature and his resolute determination to be whatever she needs him to be for as long as she needs him to be it.

Though there is much to love about this second installment, the Greek mythology element taking prominence with Helen’s repeated visits to the Underworld in search of the Furies, the story itself is quite long for a young adult novel and the plot is a complicated tangle of ancient history, love, loss, war, allegiance, and most notably, fate. New elements are added to an already extremely complex storyline, often making us wonder what role this latest addition is going to play, but Ms. Angelini does an admirable job of exerting control over all her seemingly loose and unconnected threads, bringing them together in the end to grant us crystal clear understanding. Things are certainly left unresolved, but the main issue involving the Furies is nicely tied up, giving us a satisfying conclusion on one front even though so many avenues are left as yet unexplored.

Rating 4/5

Be sure to check back on Wednesday as I have Orion stopping by the blog as part of the Dreamless Blog Tour :-)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mini Reviews: The Isis Collar + Royal Street

(Blood Singer #4)
Cat Adams
Adult Urban Fantasy
381 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Celia Graves was once an ordinary human, but those days are long gone. Now she strives to maintain her sanity and her soul while juggling both vampire abilities and the powers of a Siren.

Warned of a magical “bomb” at a local elementary school, Celia forces an evacuation. Oddly, the explosion seems to have no effect, puzzling both Celia and the FBI. Two weeks later, a strangely persistent bruise on Celia’s leg turns out to be the first sign of a magical zombie plague.

Finding the source of the plague isn’t Celia’s only concern. Her alcoholic mother has broken out of prison on the Sirens’ island; her little sister’s ghost has possessed a young girl; and one of Celia’s boyfriends, a powerful mage, has disappeared.

The Isis Collar packs a punch from the very first page, Celia’s attempt to evacuate a school she believes to be in danger thanks to a tip from a clairvoyant setting the tone for what proves to be a thrilling, non-stop ride. Those readers (like me) who haven’t read the prior books will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to feel comfortable with Celia and her world, Ms. Adams providing just enough context at the mention of a character or event to help us newcomers to the series find our footing and engage in the story without the weight of a giant question mark holding us back. While we’re certainly missing a bit of the back story with regard to Celia’s vampire and siren abilities as well as her history with the two men in her life, it’s blissfully easy to form a connection with her even in the absence of such knowledge, and we’re given a complete story that barely gives us time to breathe before Celia finds herself in even deeper trouble than she was the page before.

Celia is a brilliant heroine; a woman who gets beat down and bloodied repeatedly on her job and who often doesn’t fair too much better emotionally with an alcoholic mother and two very complicated men who refuse to hide their interest in her, but yet her resolve and determination never falter. She’s a fighter through and through, never complaining or despairing of her lot in life, instead striving to help those who need her regardless of whether or not she’ll receive even so much as a thank you in return. The love triangle is an interesting but subtle one, giving us just a taste of romance to get our hearts fluttering before our adrenaline spikes again and we’re off with Celia battling the paranormal. This is definitely a series I will be continuing, and I greatly look forward to going back and reading the first three to see if my opinions of certain characters remain the same once I know their full history.

Rating: 4/5

Sentinels of New Orleans #1

Suzanne Johnson
Adult Urban Fantasy
336 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

Royal Street is an exciting beginning to a new urban fantasy series that features a feisty junior wizard sentinel with a penchant for disobeying almost every order she’s given by the men in her life. While it sounds as though that might be a particularly irritating quality in a heroine, DJ disregards the rules with flair, often finding herself in over her head while humorously acknowledging her predicament in a way that has our lips twitching in amusement. She doesn’t simply disregard directions from her mentor, the Elders or her sexy new partner out of spite or the mistaken idea that’s she’s more capable than they are, instead she’s the type of person who cannot sit idly by while those she loves are in danger, and while we may groan at her actions at times, we also find ourselves grudgingly supporting her.

Into this supernatural mystery a little romance is worked in, first a relationship of the ridiculous variety with an undead pirate whose lusty thoughts at times overwhelm DJ’s empathic senses, and then of the more serious variety with her FBI partner Alex and his ex-Marine cousin Jake. The romance takes a backseat to the search for DJ’s missing mentor, but the antagonistic relationship she shares with Alex and his subsequent rivalry with Jake keeps us laughing as things get more serious for all the characters, and we can’t help but appreciate that little touch of levity and sexual tension as it provides us with a solid connection to our protagonists. Overall, Royal Street is a fun read full of wit, charm, and all things preternatural, and I’m greatly looking forward to the trouble DJ is going to find herself in down the road.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: The Summer My Life Began

Shannon Greenland
Contemporary Young Adult
250 pages
Available Now
Received through Teen Book Scene for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Elizabeth Margaret—better known as Em—has always known what life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is that it’s not what she wants. When she gets the opportunity to get away from it all and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em pursues her secret dream of being a chef, and she also learns that her family has kept some significant secrets from her, too. And then there’s Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can’t resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels she is living on her own terms for the first time.

Lighthearted and cute, The Summer My Life Began is a quick read relatively free of drama, one of those stories easily read in a couple hours that leaves us satisfied without necessarily being overly enthused. Em and company are all nicely executed though not exactly multifaceted, and the plot moves forward with little tension, leaving us feeling safe in the knowledge that things will work themselves out without a great deal of fuss. We are able to enjoy our time with Em as she embarks on trip that scratches out so many items on her much-adhered-to life-detailing lists, replacing them with new new desires and goals far more suited to the girl she wants to be rather than the girl her family thinks she should be.

Em is a sweet young woman, intent on making her parents proud by following their paint-by-numbers life plan one step at a time, seemingly unwilling to voice a protest for fear of the disappointed looks she’ll face when their snobbery proves to be more important than her dreams of being of a chef. We spend a lot of time wishing she would take a stand and refuse to be cowed by the force of their entitlement, but we know she has to work up to that place, and the plot’s predictability keeps our patience firmly in place as it’s clear that revelation will be forthcoming.

Em’s summer romance with Cade is endearing, causing just a few butterflies to flit back and forth in our stomachs, but like the situation with her family, we ultimately know how everything will work out with them. There’s a brief attempt at a love triangle, but it lacks tension and is easily resolved, leaving us wishing the romantic aspect focused solely on Cade throughout without the unnecessary deviation of a possible relationship with Jeremy. Overall however, The Summer My Life Began is a perfectly enjoyable story, well-suited for a vacation when we just want to sit outside, read, relax and sink into someone else's life without being overwhelmed or stressed by the events taking place in that life.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review: Tangle of Need

(Psy-Changeling #11)
Nalini Singh
Adult Paranormal Romance
432 pages
Available May 29th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past--one as unpredictable in love as it was in war. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to a desperate woman who belongs to another.

For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.

Their coming together is an inferno...and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.

Tangle of Need is a bit of a transition book in the Psy-Changeling series, destined to have to work harder to captivate readers for the single reason it’s the one to follow the raw beauty of Kiss of Snow and the culmination of a combustible courtship so many books in the making. Adria and Riaz share their book with the entirety of the SnowDancer den, their romance existing alongside snippets of past pairings moving forward with their lives as well as little glimpses of an impending brutal war that will be the catalyst for a paradigm shift for the Psy, Human, and Changeling races. That being said, Ms. Singh’s characters are as dynamic as ever despite this story being a kaleidoscope of small elements casting multiple shadows we know will soon reach us in future books, but for now, in this book, we’re able to revel in the display of light and dark, vibrancy and color, that comprises the SnowDancer pack and its allies.

While Adria and Riaz are the sole focus of the romantic element of the book, a little of their light is dimmed by the radiant presence of a deliciously blissful Hawke and Sienna as they try and settle in to the newness of their mating bond. The fact that Hawke and Sienna are a prominent part of this book is in no way a complaint, instead reading the quiet moments between them feels like something special Ms. Singh added just for her readers, granting us added time with one of our favorite couples free of some of the tension and responsibility that weighed so heavily on them as we read their story. In Tangle of Need we see the seemingly innocent and ordinary moments between them, simple day to day things that strengthen our already unbreakable bond with them and further solidify our love for them as a couple.

Adria and Riaz are not fully eclipsed by the not-insignificant shadow cast by Hawke, Sienna, and the Psy civil war though, still magnetic enough to draw us to them as strongly as they are drawn to one another. Both are emotionally damaged in the beginning, hearts in multiple pieces with ragged edges that take every single one of the four-hundred plus pages to begin to piece back together, open wounds healed but souls still decorated with extensive scarring. Their romance is perhaps not the most compelling of the series, but not much can hinder our enjoyment of Ms. Singh’s writing, her world vast and complex and inhabited by men and women, human and otherwise, who bring a smile to our faces every time we peel back a Psy-Changeling cover.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: Darkness Before Dawn

J.A. London
Paranormal Young Adult
342 pages
Available May 29th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
This electrifying new trilogy blends the best of paranormal and dystopian storytelling in a world where the war is over. And the vampires won.

Humans huddle in their walled cities, supplying blood in exchange for safety. But not even that is guaranteed. Dawn has lost her entire family and now reluctantly serves as the delegate to Lord Valentine, the most powerful vampire for miles. It isn’t until she meets Victor, Valentine’s son, that she realizes not all vampires are monsters....

Darkness Before Dawn is a fresh new story with captivating characters, unexpected plot twists, a fascinating setting, and a compelling voice. Written under the name J. A. London by a talented mother-son team, the trilogy is perfect for fans of True Blood and the House of Night and Morganville Vampires series.

Darkness Before Dawn starts out with a dark promise, the implied brutal violence and the last words of a faceless couple suggesting our heroine is unsuspectingly unusual setting a tone that sends whispers traveling down our spines as we prepare ourselves to unravel the mysteries of this vampire world. That dark promise doesn’t entirely come to fruition over the course of the story however, and we’re left at the end fully dressed in the super-sleuth gear we draped ourselves in at the story’s onset with little to show for all our eager anticipation. The secret surrounding Valentine’s interest in Dawn is mentioned occasionally in passing but never discussed in any detail, and thus we can’t help but feel as though we were sent a save the date to ratchet up our enthusiasm for the coming pages, but the formal invitation explaining the who, when, where and how got lost in the mail.

Dawn is a young woman the first several pages predispose us to liking, our interest in what makes her special causing us to be particularly attuned to her, eyes scanning the pages for clues we can collect and store for closer examination later. Our scrutiny eventually decreases in intensity as Dawn doesn’t seem to exhibit any traits that cause our hypersensitive radars to ping, seeming to be a fairly straightforward girl placed in an extraordinarily difficult situation. She’s perfectly likable and admirably stands her ground in the face of an almost one-thousand year-old ruling vampire, but she often doesn’t stand that same ground with regard to her friends, allowing them to push her into doing things she knows are dangerous with only the smallest of protests to show her objection.

In addition, the romance is something a little different than the synopsis suggests, as Dawn already has a boyfriend when we meet her; someone she stays with throughout the book even when Victor comes into play. Thus we have a bit of a love triangle situation with Dawn waffling between the safety of a human boyfriend and the danger of a vampire one, but luckily for us the triangle is not overly dramatic, and while she makes some poor decisions in her emotional struggle, it’s certainly not the teenage soap opera it so easily could have been. Victor, by nature of his grittier and more violent history as a born vampire and son of an Old Family patriarch, is the more intriguing of the two, the closet door to all his skeletons only cracked open the barest inch in this first installment, and we can’t help but look forward to the time when it’s open far enough that we’re able to see the outlines of each individual bone he’s got locked up tight.

For those readers who love paranormal young adult fiction and vampires in particular, Darkness Before Dawn will most likely be an easily devoured read that doesn’t necessarily cause jaws to drop with its fresh take, but that has strong entertainment value nonetheless. For those for whom the vampire genre may be wearing a little thin, this tale will likely be a touch disappointing as nothing new is brought to the table, and the vampire mythology itself is not fully developed enough to set it apart from many of its contemporaries. On a whole though, this first installment does show potential, and it certainly ends in a way that will inspire readers to pick up the next book.

Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Of Poseidon

OF POSEIDON (Of Poseidon #1)
Anna Banks
Paranormal Young Adult
324 pages
Feiwel & Friends
Available May 22nd
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen—literally, ouch!—both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma’s gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom . . .

Filled with humor and dreamy sigh-inducing romance, Of Poseidon gives us two strong protagonists between whom tension crackles like we’ve wrapped our hands around a live wire, the incendiary potential of them together causing our entire bodies to hum as we wait for that potential to erupt into emotional and physical action. Emma’s first person point of view alternates with the third person present-tense of Galen, a combination that’s a touch off-putting at first until we really settle into the back and forth rhythm, and while every now and then the present tense in Galen’s case causes us to stumble, the story progresses at a quick pace and keeps us in stitches as Emma repeatedly finds herself in situations that have us blushing on her behalf.

Emma captivates us from the opening pages, her inner monologue as she debates the best course of action to salvage her dignity after smacking into a shirtless Galen on the street giving us sore cheeks as a result of a broad grin held entirely too long. She’s charmingly clumsy and self-deprecating, and when she’s introduced to the world of the Syrena (don’t call them mermaids/mermen!) she handles it with a respectable maturity. That maturity does slip now and again in her dealings with Galen though, as she often ignores his instructions to stay on land simply to be contrary and punishes him with the silent treatment when he hurts her, but for the most part we’re able to cut her some slack knowing our own behavior isn't always exemplary when our hearts suffer what feels like a fatal blow from someone we’re attracted to.

Galen for his part is as endearing as Emma, his unfamiliarity with human interaction causing him to make many a mistake where Emma is concerned, and we can’t help but want to pull him aside and give him a rundown of what not to do when dealing with a young woman. He can be both refreshingly honest–blurting sometimes inappropriate things out when he gets uncomfortable–and also alarmingly misleading (though not in a malicious way) as he struggles between what he wants most for himself and what he wants most for the Syrena. While there is plenty of heat between Galen and Emma throughout the story, there’s thankfully no instant love, instead we have a relationship deliciously full of opposites: hurt and happiness, secrets and openness, and normal and paranormal.

Overall, Of Poseidon is a thoroughly entertaining debut by Ms. Banks, her sense of humor a true highlight in this tale as we laugh so loudly and unexpectedly we startle those around us with the force of our outbursts. We’re given a solid introduction to the world of the Syrena but are left with enough mysteries to have us itching for more, and while we easily catch on to certain things long before the characters, our early knowledge does not detract from our enjoyment. The conclusion is a bit abrupt, but it’s not a significant enough drawback to hinder our amusement with the story as a whole, and we set the book aside with a smile on our faces while our fingers fly over our keyboards as we attempt to glean any information we can from the internet about the next book and its possible release date.

Rating: 4/5