Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to Books Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to the Back to Books Giveaway Hop!

This giveaway hop is hosted by Buried in Books and I Am a Reader, Not a Writer so check out either of their sites for details on the hop itself!

One winner will be selected and they will have their choice of one of the above titles. The books shown and listed are either some of my favorites or ones that I'm greatly looking forward to when they release. There are books from all my favorite genres: Paranormal Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance, so hopefully there's a little something for everyone!

Since this is a blog hop and you'll all likely be entering numerous giveaways, I'm going to keep things really simple. No complicated extra entries, just follow the blog and fill out the form with your name and email address so I can contact you if you win. If for some reason the form doesn't work, feel free to email me at with BACK TO BOOKS GIVEAWAY in the subject line and I'll make sure you're entered. This giveaway will end at 12:01am (EST) on Saturday, September 8th after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed.

This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY as long as The Book Depository delivers to your country. You can check the list of countries here.

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
Defiance by C.J. Redwine
The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Spark by Brigid Kemmerer
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
If I Lie by Corrine Jackson
Archangel's Storm by Nalini Singh
Widow's Web by Jennifer Estep
A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare
Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

There are over 200 blogs participating in this event, so be sure to check out the other giveaways! All participating blogs are listed below, good luck everyone!

Review: The Dark Light

Sara Walsh
Paranormal Young Adult
496 pages
Simon Pulse
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Mysterious lights have flickered above Crownsville for as long as Mia can remember. And as far as she’s concerned, that’s about the only interesting thing to happen in her small town.

That is, until Sol arrives. Mia’s not one to fall for just any guy, but she can’t get Sol—or the brilliant tattoo on his back—out of her mind.

Then Mia’s brother goes missing, and Mia’s convinced that Sol knows more than he’s sharing. But getting closer to Sol means reevaluating everything Mia once believed to be true. Because Sol’s not who Mia thought he was—and neither is she.

The Dark Light is a grand, sweeping story that not only shares with us the journey from normal to paranormal for one young woman, but also shows us just how rich an imagination Ms. Walsh possesses. Reading Mia’s tale is like opening a box of the finest chocolates only to find the printed guideline telling us what's beneath each light or dark coating is missing – we sink our teeth into the story after the first few chapters confident we have at least a general knowledge of what’s waiting for us in the coming pages, but we quickly discover our confidence misplaced and our expectations completely and delightfully derailed. We as readers are proverbial Dorothys wandering into Oz, common elements like a new boy at school with a mysterious past and a possible love triangle lulling us into a sense of enjoyable familiarity before Ms. Walsh literally and figuratively shows us the light and changes the game entirely.

Mia is a beautifully flawed heroine, possessing traits that both earn our admiration when her actions at times belie her young seventeen years, as well as our utter frustration when her behavior serves only to reinforce them. She’s fiercely protective of her younger brother Jay, so much so that she often wants to leap into the fray to come to his aid before taking just a few brief moments to evaluate her situation and come to the realization that her course of action will only result in failure. Despite her love for her brother overwhelming her common sense on occasion, she’s someone with an easy sense of humor and ability to adapt to strange situations and revelations without crumbling, earning our respect page by page as she does everything in her power to keep those around her safe. She’s often an impediment on her journey with Sol rather than an asset, but instead of that being a drawback to the story, it’s something we can’t help but appreciate as she becomes our anchor of normalcy in a fantastical setting.

As the story itself goes an unexpected route, so too does the romance. Initially, Ms. Walsh sets us up with a dynamic we’ve seen on numerous occasions before, with a young woman’s attention split between a longtime crush and the stunning new guy with a potentially dark past, but to our relief the triangle shape quickly topples, leaving behind the beautiful simplicity of a single line that has Mia on one end and Sol standing opposite her. Their chemistry isn’t necessarily blistering, but there’s plenty of tension thrumming between them to keep us intrigued, and we contentedly revel in the fact that our expectations of typical young adult clichés are slowly being ripped away as Ms. Walsh lovingly sets us on new and welcome ground.

There are a few mild complaints with the story overall, namely a fairly quick and seemingly easy showdown with the villain as well as a lack of background for Sol once we learn more about who he is, but we’re so caught up in characters and creativity these issues are but minor blips on our enjoyment radar. The ending is nicely resolved but the door is definitely left open a crack, and we read the last page with the sincere hope that Ms. Walsh is not going to let us walk out of this world and never return.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Iron Legends Blog Tour + Giveaway: Romance in the Winter Court

Today I'm thrilled to be a part of the amazing blog tour for Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series as it just happens to be one of my very favorites. Each participating blog has been assigned a court, and it's our job to support our court and tell all of you lovely people why it's the best of the best. What court has Supernatural Snark (as well as the awesome Missie of The Unread Reader and the girls over at Wastepaper Prose) backing it you ask? Well, I'll tell you:

I begged and pleaded with the lovely ladies of Kismet Book Touring to let me have the Winter Court as I'm a winter girl through and through, and I'm taking my duties to sing its praises very, very seriously. I'm not above all manner of underhanded techniques to win you over either, so be prepared for a little bribery of the visual variety. I bet you're wondering how I'm going to lure you to my side aren't you? The answer: Through romance. That's right. I'm going to woo you like you've never been wooed before by sharing just a few of the ways the Winter Court is far more conducive to a romantic rendezvous than either the Summer or Iron Courts. You're welcome in advance ;-)

SETTING - Think about this my friends. What could be more romantic than a roaring fire creating cozy warmth and mood lighting inside while snow falls lightly outside? Not much. What do you do in the summer? You go to the beach. What's at the beach? Sand. Sand is a torture device disguised as something people dream about when they long to go on vacation, but the reality of a day at the beach is far different than those dreamy musings I think. Sand finds crevices in your body that should never be found. It cruelly thrusts itself into those crevices and refuses to budge, leaving you sticky and gritty and finding particles in unmentionable areas for days afterward. Does having sand wedged in uncomfortable places inspire romance? I think not.

TEMPERATURE - Winter is cold. Obviously. But what makes being cold so perfect is the inherent desire to get warm. And think of all the romantic ways one could get warm. I don't even think I need to list any really, because I'm quite sure all of your minds just went in the gutter along with mine ;-) You know what happens in the summer? People sweat. Sweat is not sexy (okay, sometimes it is depending on who's doing the sweating, but that doesn't support my argument so we're ignoring it). Sweat makes you stick to other people in decidedly unattractive ways and leaves you craving a cold shower. Snow and blistering temperatures for the win.

Note: There was some concern about the appropriateness of the last section of my argument due to the use of covers from erotic romance novels, so while I feel they're perfectly appropriate for my blog as that's a genre I enjoy, they were perhaps not appropriate for this tour given it's young adult in nature. I apologize to Harlequin Teen and Kismet Book Touring for any offense caused, it was certainly not intended.


Meghan Chase is finally getting used to being the Iron Queen, ruler of the Iron Fey. Her life may be strange, but with former Winter prince Ash by her side at last, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

But when they travel to the Summer and Winter courts’ gathering for Elysium, the oracle from Meghan’s past returns with a dire prophecy: “What you carry will either unite the courts, or it will destroy them.” Now Meghan faces a devastating choice that may determine the future of all fey—and her and Ash’s unborn child…



Enter the world of the internationally bestselling Iron Fey series. Dangerous faeries. Heartbreaking romance. Thrilling action and limitless adventure. The world of the fey has never been so powerful. This collection includes three novellas set in the world of the Iron Fey plus the Guide to the Iron Fey with exclusive information about Julie Kagawa's unforgettable world of Faery.

Winter's Passage

Never make a promise to a faery. They always come to collect. Now Meghan Chase must fulfill her promise to Prince Ash of the Winter Court and embark upon a dangerous journey into the heart of enemy territory—while being pursued by a relentless new foe and guarding her own foolish heart.

Summer's Crossing

What can turn enemies into reluctant allies? A call from the Exile Queen, Leanansidhe, ties legendary prankster Puck to his archenemy, Prince Ash, on a journey that may end in betrayal and will set them both on an irreversible path.

Iron's Prophecy

Before she ever knew what she might become, Iron Queen Meghan Chase was warned by the oracle that her firstborn child would bring nothing but grief. And even as Meghan and Ash celebrate their long-awaited union, the prophecy stirs.…

Three Iron Fey novellas for the first time in print!

The Book Depository


Thanks to Kismet Book Touring I have a fantastic giveaway to share with you today. Up for grabs is not only a signed copy of Iron Legends, but also a grand prize of a stunning Winter Court bracelet. To enter, please just fill out the Rafflecopter form below, good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out the other stops on the Iron Legends tour for more chances to win! 

Monday, August 20th- Bewitched Bookworms - Intro Post
Tuesday, August 21th - Page Turners - Court: Summer 
Wednesday, August 22th - Harlequin Blog - Court: Iron
Thursday - August 23th - Alison Can Read - Court: Summer
Friday, August 24th - Wastepaperprose - Court: Winter

Monday, August 27th- Mundie Mom's - Court Summer
Tuesday, August 28th - - Court: Iron
Wednesday, August 29th - The Unread Reader - Court: Winter
Thursday - August 30th - Supernatural Snark - Court: Winter
Friday, August 31st - Bewitched Bookworms - Court: Iron

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: If I Lie

Corrine Jackson
Contemporary Young Adult
276 pages
Simon Pulse
Available Now
Received through Teen Book Scene for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

If I Lie is a stunning story, heating our blood and squeezing our hearts as we watch our young heroine bear the brunt of a community’s anger and disappointment while she remains bound and gagged by her unwavering loyalty to best friend and boyfriend Carey. Quinn’s isolation and status as a traitor affects us from page one, each confrontation with her family and former friends thinning our skin until we feel as fragile as the paper on which Quinn’s story is depicted; until every verbal jab and every look of loathing seems to tear a piece of us from the whole, letting it flutter to our feet where it’s joined shortly by the tattered remnants of our hearts. Ms. Jackson spares us nothing, brutally showing us how easily people don blinders when it suits them, and how quickly they allow themselves to look at a situation without ever really seeing it.

Quinn is a remarkable young woman, wearing a scarlet letter she doesn’t deserve with as much grace as she can muster, and while she strains against the invisible hand Carey has so cruelly placed over her mouth, she never once tries to remove it to spare herself anymore pain. While both Carey and his best friend Blake are revered and praised for their separate loyalties—Carey’s to God and country, and Blake's to Carey’s family in their time of need—it’s Quinn’s loyalty that outshines them all, and while she certainly isn’t free of blame for the situation all three find themselves in, she is the only one to own the fallout and condemnation, left on her own to cover and shield two people who prove repeatedly to be uninterested in returning the favor.

It would be easy to argue that Quinn had little choice in bearing the substantial weight of her traitor’s cross, physical evidence of her “betrayal” of Carey publicly flouted and completely indisputable to give her nothing to deny, however, she is presented with the opportunity again and again to share her burden by giving voice to Carey and Blake’s secrets yet she remains admirably silent. She recognizes her role in the events leading up to her current ostracization, never wallowing in self-pity because she knows that every finger she points at either Carey or Blake could be turned and pointed right back at her, and while her treatment at the hands of those who’ve known her her entire life is despicable, Quinn brings a wobbly smile to our faces as she stands strong against the onslaught.

Heartbreaking and beautiful, If I Lie creates in us a tangled mess of conflicting emotions as we attempt to sort through the splintered remains of what seemed months ago to be the perfect life. Though Quinn is the one issued the gag order disguised as a plea from a desperate and hurting friend, we feel its effects just as strongly, longing to open our mouths and spill the truth of Carey, Blake, and Quinn to anyone and everyone who will listen as though speaking it aloud in our reality will somehow provide her relief in hers. While we desperately want to hate Carey for what he’s inadvertently forced Quinn to endure, Ms. Jackson crafts all her characters in such away that our anger fades in the face of the individual pain each of them faces, and we read eyes wet with tears as we wonder if, after everything that’s happened, the truth is even capable of releasing any of them their secret-lined bindings.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review + Giveaway: Angelfall

(Penryn & the End of Days #1)
Susan Ee
Paranormal Young Adult/Dystopian
255 Pages
Amazon Children's Publishing
Available Now
Received from Authors on the Web for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

Angelfall is a striking debut, easily capturing our attention from the opening pages with Ms. Ee's version of a California newly decimated at the hands of entities we may have previously described as comforting, heavenly, and protective, but we must quickly revise our preconceived notions to include words like dark, brutal, and most disturbingly, evil. Though the concept of vengeful angels is certainly nothing new, Ms. Ee’s world still manages to feel unique, possessing a grittiness that has us instantly on the defensive as Penryn is met with violence in the very first chapter, her loyalty to her family something we can easily grab onto and hold tight as we’re pulled unceremoniously into the deep waters of an existence we’d much prefer stay relegated to the pages of fiction.

Penryn is a glorious young heroine, pushed into an unwanted leadership role with a wheelchair-bound younger sister and a severely paranoid schizophrenic mother, but she accepts her responsibilities with grim determination, even when faced with the horrors of her sister’s kidnapping and the rapid deterioration of her mother’s sanity. She’s not only quick of mind but also extremely strong of body, able to fight off angelic and human foes alike, yet she does so in a remarkably ordinary way to make us feel as though we might be able to achieve the same results were we in her shoes. When she's navigating this new and desolate world we are right there with her, easily projecting ourselves onto her as she continuously stumbles but always manages to right herself again, putting one foot in front of the other until she achieves her goal, large or small.

Raffe is different than we anticipate after reading the synopsis and learning of the destruction his kind have caused the human race, expecting a cold and hard warrior but instead finding a man with a wry sense of humor and youthful personality. He banters with Penryn from the moment she drags him bleeding from the street, often teasing and mocking her for the assumptions she makes about him as well as her remarkably ineffective attempts to restrain him. As Penryn often muses, he comes across amazingly human, the indifference and cruelty shown by others of his kind finding no home in his countenance as he continually protects Penryn from harm. Their relationship is one comprised of tension and hesitant partnership with an underlying romantic tinge, and their dealings with one another slowly and deliciously evolve from antagonistic to something thick with possibility. Perfect happiness is not to be found however, and our hearts suffer a stunning blow once we learn just how impossible this new and as-of-yet-undefined thing between them truly is.

Angelfall is not without it’s minor flaws, those readers who find themselves asking “why” a great deal while reading may balk at the lack of reasoning behind the angel attacks and their purpose in playing with humans the way they do, but it’s incredibly easy to tuck those few questions into the recesses of our minds as we travel with Penryn and Raffe, so caught up in their journey that the whys of their circumstances become inconsequential. Inevitably future books will expand what was only touched upon briefly in this first installment, with angel politics sure to become a much larger focus moving forward. The ending is a touch abrupt as well, though our main criticism upon reaching the last page is not that it leaves us hanging a bit, but more than it ends at all, our desire for more time with Raffe and Penryn a throbbing need we desperately want sated as soon as possible.

Rating: 4.5/5

I was recently given the opportunity to ask Susan about Angelfall, and I enthusiastically jumped at the chance to talk to her about Raffe, requesting any tidbits of information about him she might be willing to share. She oh-so nicely sent me 5 important things we should all know about him, and if you're not in love with him after my review and this list, perfect, because that means I'll have a better chance with him ;-)

1. He's loyal to his angels
2. He's a legendary warrior
3. Everyone wants him on their team
4. He's led the campaign against angels fraternizing with Daughters of Men
5. He's been alone for a long, long time


How many of you volunteer to help Raffe out with number 5? *raises both hands*
Thanks to Authors on the Web and Susan I have one copy of Angelfall 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 if you if you win. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and will run through midnight EST on Friday, September 7th after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed. Good luck everyone!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Monstrous Beauty

Elizabeth Fama
Paranormal Young Adult
304 pages
Farrar, Strous and Giroux
Available September 4th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

As the title suggests, Monstrous Beauty is a story that skates a razor’s edge between horror and hope as well as pain and promise, making our shoulders tense as the weight of a tragic history that repeats itself again and again settles on them. Ms. Fama does an outstanding job of depicting the past and present as they unfold in alternating chapters, mistakes made during Syrenka's long life running parallel to the mistakes Hester is currently headed toward to keep us wondering how these two parallel lines are going to eventually curve to bring us full circle. Thanks to our glimpses of the past, we remain one step of Hester in the present, our knowledge of a link she’s missing heightening the tension as we wait with all our senses on alert for her to right the wrongs a hundred and forty years in the making.

While the mystery surrounding Hester’s connection to mermaid Syrenka and her ill-fated relationship with a young man named Ezra is stunningly complex and layered with years of sorrow and suffering, Hester herself is someone we never really get to know. Far more plot-driven than character-driven, this tale wraps us up in a century and a half of murder and sacrifice, spinning an epically woeful story that dances around the edges of our hearts without ever wading into the messy center. We feel for Hester and the plight of everyone involved in Syrenka’s catastrophic cycle of misfortune, but we view her with a sense of detachment, essentially seeing her as a stranger throughout instead of someone we grow to know on a variety of levels by the time we reach the last page.

The connection between the events of 1873 and those happening in the present is beautifully drawn, the intricacies of the lives of the women in Hester’s family detailed in all their grim glory to paint a mournful picture of love and loss, however, we never quite fully understand why Hester is the chosen generation to break the cycle. There’s a 140 year gap between Syrenka and Hester, and we can’t help but question why not one of the women who came before Hester was able to connect the jagged pieces of their broken family history. Our curiosity, while brilliantly satisfied in some areas, is left unattended with regard to our heroine, reinforcing our feelings of character disconnect as we wonder what makes Hester so very special.

Due to a few scenes of rather brutal violence and a brief but disturbing instance of rape – the price for life in Syrenka’s world one that must be paid in flesh and blood – Monstrous Beauty is recommended for older YA audiences. Overall, this tale is a dark one, intriguing us with a century-spanning mystery even though a deep and memorable connection to young Hester never fully forms.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sweet Hope Cover Design Contest: Vote Now!


Hey Everyone!

Some of you may have seen my post last week regarding the cover design contest for Sweet Hope, the sequel to one of my favorite reads this year, Sweet Evil. In that post, I might have mentioned my undying, slightly obsessive love for one Kaidan Rowe. He's delicious. And if one of my covers is chosen, I'll be immortalized in ink alongside him as the girl who tempts him away from Anna with her wit and charm but, being the extraordinarily selfless person I am, nobly turns down his aggressive advances and convinces him to return to Anna to spare her a broken heart. Okay. Maybe that last part takes place all in my head, but the first part about my name in ink is true enough.

Voting for the cover design contest is now open, and you can see all the gorgeous entries over at Bewitched Bookworms. You can vote for multiple covers, and once the voting is tallied, the top 6 covers will be announced and will advance to the final round before a winner is chosen. I'd love it if you guys would pop over there and cast a vote for the covers you love because this is a truly unbelievable prize! If my entries below happen to be among your favorites, that would be amazing, but there are some truly stunning designs and I can't wait to see the top picks! Vote HERE.


Now I would like to take a few moments to get a little personal. I have something to share with all of you, and I think it's best to prepare yourselves. You see, in June I attended Book Expo America with my good friend Melissa from I Swim For Oceans and we had quite the experience. One that involved the L. Ron Hubbard booth and an overly friendly, dare I say handsy, tiny pirate. I give you this memento of our time with said pirate:

I think we should all take a moment to let the gloriousness of this picture sink in before I call attention to a few disturbing things.


Ready? First, let's all take a closer look at his face. I have no explanation for his expression. He looks dazed, whereas Melissa and I look terrified and uncomfortable (mostly because we were both of those things). He did seem rather fixated on Melissa's hair, telling her that it was the color of the sun (he did not offer any sort of poetic comparison for my hair - WTH pirate?), so perhaps the slack-jawed look is a result of a blond hair fetish. Yikes.

Speaking of a possible fetish, I 'd like draw attention to his, um, sword as I feel it supports my pirate-is-creepily-in-love-with-Melissa theory. Anyone else notice how his sword is quite forcefully jutting out from his groin and pointing directly at her crotch? I think it's trying to tell us something. His junk sword is making an enthusiastic beeline for Melissa, and the smile plastered on her face makes me think she has no idea what his masculine weapon is up to. RUN MELISSA! RUN AWAY FROM THE HORNY PIRATE'S SWORD BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

I feel like it's inappropriate for me to be in this picture at all. I'm just there on the left like a third wheel of douchey-ness in this strange, suddenly frighteningly sexual tableau. And who gave me that book? I don't remember picking that book up at all, but there it is in my hand in all its L. Ron Hubbard glory.

I think I should crop myself out of this picture, blow it up, frame it, and then send it on to Melissa so she can treasure it forever and ever. Get it? Treasure? Because he's a pirate? Yes? No? Fail.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Archangel's Storm

(Guild Hunter #5)
Nalini Singh
Adult Paranormal Romance
336 Pages
Berkley Sensation
Available September 4th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
With wings of midnight and an affinity for shadows, Jason courts darkness. But now, with the Archangel Neha’s consort lying murdered in the jewel-studded palace that was his prison and her rage threatening cataclysmic devastation, Jason steps into the light, knowing he must unearth the murderer before it is too late.

Earning Neha’s trust comes at a price—Jason must tie himself to her bloodline through the Princess Mahiya, a woman with secrets so dangerous, she trusts no one. Least of all an enemy spymaster.

With only their relentless hunt for a violent, intelligent killer to unite them, Jason and Mahiya embark on a quest that leads to a centuries-old nightmare… and to the dark storm of an unexpected passion that threatens to drench them both in blood.

As with all of Ms. Singh’s books, Archangel’s Storm gives us a pair of beautifully rich characters perfect in their flaws and imperfect in their strengths who lead us through a dark dance of pleasure, pain, and heady hope. Ms. Singh has an uncanny ability to craft characters and relationships that have us feeling as though we’re a vital part of the events as they unfold, her hand a feather light touch at our backs to guide us as she carefully draws the often violent topography of her protagonists' pasts. Never once does she sit us down and detail the darkness of either Jason or Mihaya’s lives before they meet, instead she provides us fleeting glimpses and telling flashes, thus allowing us to fill in the blanks and ensuring our relationship with each of them is completely unique. Reading their story is profoundly intimate, the conclusions we’re able to draw based on the snippets we’re given throughout binding us to them irrevocably as we revel in the quiet intensity of their romance.

Mahiya is a fascinating deviation from previous Guild Hunter heroines Elena and Honor, her physical strength and fighting ability far below that of either woman given the sheltered nature of her upbringing as a princess in archangel Neha’s court, but it’s these differences that make her so interesting. Ms. Singh’s heroines are always strong women–women able to go toe to toe with extraordinarily alpha men–but she manages to stunningly portray varying degrees of strength to keep and hold our attention. Mahiya appears meek on the outside, quietly taking Neha’s verbal abuse and offering no defense, but we quickly learn Mahiya has painstakingly built over time a near flawless façade of subservience, playing to her status as a “trinket” with consummate skill. While she will not be the first to pull a blade or jump into the fray as Elena or Honor might, her appeal lies in her ability to believe in something better despite the horrors she’s seen, and the radiance emanating from her untapped capacity to love makes her stand out among her battle-ready peers.

Jason is as dark and dangerous as either Raphael or Dmitri, but like Mahiya, his true nature lies in stealth and shadow; in making others see what is not truly there while expertly hiding what is. He’s not one for bravado, arrogance or loud intimidation, instead allowing his more muted menace to do all the work for him by forcing those around him to question what he’s capable of as well as what he knows while he near-invisibly learns all their secrets. His attraction to Mahiya is not quite as explosive as Raphael and Elena’s chemistry or as combustible as Dmitri and Honor’s connection, but we feel the force of it no less than we did the others, knowing each small gesture is worth more than pretty words could ever be, and we breathe shallowly while we read, waiting for the most undemonstrative of angels to gift us with a peek at his true feelings.

Archangel’s Storm is a strong addition to the Guild Hunter series, providing us with a relationship intriguingly different from what we’ve seen before, while also giving us a much-desired taste of the other characters in this world we love so much. Venom, Illium and the remaining members of Raphael’s Seven are of particular interest, and here’s hoping books for each of them are on the horizon along with the continuation of Raphael and Elena’s story.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Character Interview: George From If I Lie

I'm beyond thrilled today to be a part of the promotional tour for Corrine Jackson's contemporary young adult novel If I Lie. This book absolutely blew me away, the emotional turmoil so intense I often had to set it aside and take a break to gather my courage before I could pick it up again. Each chapter was like a punch to the gut, every nasty word thrown Quinn's way and every heated glare seeming to manifest on my skin as phantom bruises I feel like I still carry today. Lovers of contemporary young adult fiction should not miss this book, and I'll have my full review posted next week to hopefully help convince you further!

George is a veteran Quinn meets at the VA hospital when she's forced to volunteer by her father, and I'm super excited to introduce all of you to him as he was my favorite character aside from Quinn. So as to avoid confusion in the interview, you should know that George refers to Quinn as Sophie, something you'll come to appreciate fully when you read the book:)

*some people have been wondering as to George's age in the comments - he's a hilarious old man:) Not sure of his exact age, but think senior citizen for sure.

A love of photography is something both you and Quinn share. Can you describe a favorite photograph of those you’ve taken as well as a favorite of those Quinn’s taken?

You mean Sophie? Mmm. I hate having my photo taken, but Sophie has a knack for making old, ugly guys like me look good. I’d say I like one she took of me when I was flirting with Nurse Espinoza. Though, Sophie’s also done some lovely nature studies. She sees things in a way others don’t, and I like that. As for me, I don’t have a favorite picture that I’ve taken. Most of my pictures are of war. Necessary, but not easy to look at.

If a loved one of yours was away fighting and they could either send you a single letter or a single photograph to comfort you in their absence, which would you choose?

That depends. Is she my sweetheart, and if so, will she be wearing clothes? Ouch. Damn kid just threw a shoe at me. (points at Sophie) 

*Jenny falls a little more in love with George here*

You and Quinn sized one another up pretty quickly when you first met, and she threw the attitude you sent her way right back at you. What was the first thing that went through your mind when she didn’t back down from you?

She reminded me of me. Only younger, two-legged, more girly, and with a lot less chest hair.

You are one of the few people, maybe the only person, who sees more in Quinn than the cheating scandal that’s rocked her small town. What would you say is the quality you admire most in her?

She’s the most honorable person I know. And that’s all I have to say on that. I don’t want her getting a big head.

You’ve been conducting interviews at the VA hospital for quite some time. Has there been one soldier’s story in particular that's affected you more than the others?

I’ve interviewed hundreds of soldiers, and they all have a unique story to tell. Stories about heroism and cowardice and fear and sacrifice and patriotism. Every story is different. Some give me nightmares and others make me laugh, but the unalterable fact is that I am changed by all. But to answer your question more directly, no, I’m not affected by one telling over another. Rather, I’m affected by all those soldiers who haven’t had a chance to talk about what they went through, to have an ear honoring their service. Every untold story breaks my fucking heart.

What’s one thing, outside of photography, that you’re proud to have taught Quinn?

Not a damn thing. That kid gave me more than I ever gave her. She taught me about friendship and honor and love. I’m proud to call her my friend. (pauses) Wait. I take that back. I taught her how to cheat at cards.

How amazing is George? I hope everyone takes the time to pick this book up, it's truly brilliant. More information on Corrine and If I Lie can be found here:

Amazon Buy Link


Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Entice

Jessica Shirvington
Paranormal Young Adult
464 pages
Sourcebooks Fire
Available September 4th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Violet Eden is Grigori - part angel, part human. Her destiny is to protect humans from the vengence of exiled angels.

Knowing who to trust is key but, when Grigori reinforcements arrive, it becomes clear everyone is hiding something. Even Lincoln. The only thing Violet does know: Phoenix's hold over her is more dangerous than ever.

The race to find the one thing that could tilt the balance of power brings them all to the sacred mountains of Jordan, where Violet's power will be pushed to the extreme. And the ultimate betrayal exposed. 

Completely captivating, Entice begins right on the heels of where Embrace left off, thrusting us back into the tension-filled world of Violet and the recent discovery of her Grigori heritage. While hitting the ground running is usually something that ensures the story has our unwavering attention and focus, a few reminders here and there of important events that took place in the book prior would have been appreciated, our slight confusion over more minor character names and associations keeping us from fully engaging initially. Our confusion is quickly overshadowed however by both the beautiful intricacies of the battle between the Grigori and the Exiles as well as the painful complexities of a relationship perhaps damaged beyond repair by Violet’s actions in Embrace, a combination that causes our eyes to dart frantically back and forth across the pages as we attempt to absorb everything that happens at record speed.

Violet was a bit of a tricky character to decipher in the first book, her exaggerated reactions to Lincoln and her new life as a Grigori forcing our arms to remain stiffly at our sides while reading instead of opening wide to wrap around her. So much time was spent blinking in bafflement as her anger toward Lincoln steadily increased in intensity, and though the ending did provide an explanation for her behavior, it also came so late that this second book basically has to introduce us to Violet all over again. This Violet is a far more likable young woman, struggling with the repercussions of actions for which she can’t claim sole blame, and trying desperately to mend a relationship she and Phoenix riddled with more holes than we fear she'll be able to patch.

The lingering hurt on both sides is a palpable thing, a character almost unto itself as it hovers between Violet and Lincoln, forcing them to tread softly in the presence of the other so as to not disturb a sleeping beast that will easily shred their hearts with claws tipped in Phoenix-laced poison should it awaken. At times Violet wavers in her resolve to fix things, keeping information to herself we know will only make her situation worse for not sharing it, but before we can work up sufficient ire she takes the high road and adopts honesty as her new policy, allowing us to release an audible sigh of relief. Her flaws are still on prominent display in this second book, but where previously she was almost completely unbelievable in her fury, in this installment her imperfections only mark her as a human with a vulnerable heart despite her angelic link.

is a solid middle book, giving us the opportunity to see Violet clearly for the first time while ratcheting up the conflict on both personal and physical levels. The only real complaint with this story is the aforementioned lack of recap of book one, characters popping up throughout with no brief introduction as to who they are and what role they played previously, leaving us flipping to the back in the hope we’ll find a glossary to help us place them. It’s recommended readers refresh their memories by at least skimming Embrace before tackling Entice, but slight befuddlement aside, readers will no doubt be glued to the pages as Violet’s world comes to life.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: Defiance

C.J. Redwine
Paranormal Young Adult/Dystopian
416 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available August 28th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

Emotionally gripping, Defiance wastes little time drawing readers into Rachel’s rather brutal world, teasing us with a tension stemming from unrequited love while slowly carving out pieces of our hearts as a daughter clutches to the hope that her father is alive and well. The city in which Rachel lives is not a pleasant one for women, their education limited to things deemed appropriate for their gender, such as how to be a proper wife and hostess, and their mobility is inexorably linked to that of their father, husband, or appointed Protector. Women are not permitted to travel the city alone, but whereas such an action in historical times might bring forth a small scandal in the eyes of society, in Rachel’s world it’s deserving of a public flogging, one so severe it often ends in death. As a result of the claustrophobic restrictions placed on Rachel, it’s extraordinarily easy to root for her as she eschews what is deemed “proper”, learning instead a much more violent set of survival skills that causes the corners of our mouth to kick up in a cruel smile as we wait to see what she will unleash on the monster who calls himself her leader.

Rachel is an incredibly strong young woman, able to be an individual despite the oppressive weight of her society’s expectations of her as a female, and continuing to hold her head up high despite the incessant whispers that her father isn’t coming home. Initially we do harbor a small worry that the rejection she suffered when she admitted her love for her father’s apprentice Logan will be a continuing problem–one wherein she seeks to retaliate by inflicting the same pain on him through verbal jabs or weighted silence–but to our great relief she opts for honesty with Logan throughout the story, shutting down only temporarily before recognizing the wisdom of open lines of communication. Her journey is a dark one, at times painful to experience with her as we watch someone warm and hopeful become hard and vengeful as a result of
one grievous emotional injury after another, but she never closes herself off completely to us or Logan, allowing us a fragile link to her even when she hits rock bottom.

Sharing page time with Rachel is Logan, a young man branded an outcast because his mother dared to leave her home unaccompanied and paid the highest possible price for her perceived audacity. We get as much from his point of view as we do Rachel’s, adding an extra layer to their complicated relationship as we get to see and feel their reactions to one another from both sides. He’s a gifted inventor and a brilliant strategist, his way of thinking pairing beautifully with Rachel’s sometimes rash but well-intentioned actions, and it’s downright stressful to read as they dance around one another first out of sheer stubbornness and then due to circumstances forced on them, and all the while our gut-wrenching desire to see them together propels us through their story at unprecedented speed.

Ms. Redwine delights with this first installment, proving to us again and again that she has no fear of challenging her characters or her readers, forcing us all to face things we might wish could otherwise be magically altered to come out in our favor. There are certainly a large number of questions left at the end, but thankfully no actual cliffhanger, just the palpable need to know what’s to come of both Logan and Rachel as we look forward with a great deal of anticipation and also a touch of dread, wondering how Ms. Redwine is going test our hearts and minds to see what they can endure moving forward.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sweet Evil Sequel: Cover Design Contest


Happy Friday Everyone!

Today I'm excited to share with you some details about an EPIC contest going on at the moment. Wait till you hear. Before I give you all the juicy details though, I want to confess to you my love for a little book called Sweet Evil. I first stumbled across this book on Goodreads and thought it sounded like something I might find enjoyable. Wrong. This book was not one I simply found enjoyable, but rather one that absolutely blew me away with its beautifully painful romantic tension and emotional turmoil, and I fell completely in love with Kaidan Rowe, son of the demon of lust. THE DEMON OF LUST! I feel the need for a cold shower coming on just thinking about him.

Since I'm so madly in love with Kaidan and Sweet Evil, imagine my excitement upon discovering a contest over at Bewitched Bookworms to design a cover for the sequel. Your imaginings of my excitement cannot possibly live up to the real thing, as I may have spastically danced around my living room before leaping into my desk chair to sketch out possible designs. And what does the winner get you ask? Nothing big really, just a character named after them in book two.

*Jenny falls down dead*

Let's just take a moment to think this through. If I win, my name (in all its hugely imaginative glory O_o) will appear next to Kaidan's in the sequel. Clearly, the proximity of our names in ink will lead to a whirlwind romance wherein he abandons Anna and professes his undying love for me, the new girl he just can't keep his hands lips body eyes off of. Obviously. I think Wendy will thoroughly appreciate my suggestions for the new direction of the second installment's romance ;-)

I hope any of you who want to try your hand at designing a cover for the sequel, titled Sweet Hope, will enter! And for those of you who are perhaps not so artistically inclined, fear not, you can still enter to win copies of Sweet Evil, all the specifics are available at Bewitched Bookworms.

Each person can enter up to three cover designs, so below are my three submissions. The contest runs through August 22nd with voting taking place August 24th. Be sure and check out the Bookworms' post to see all the current entries, I've got some seriously stiff competition!




SWEET HOPE (from Goodreads)

Anna Whitt promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a claim. She’d been naive about a lot of things.

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win, will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues that have formed between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: Hemlock

HEMLOCK (Hemlock #1)
Kathleen Peacock
Paranormal Young Adult
416 pages
Katherine Tegen Books
Available Now
Gifted from Bailey at IB Book Blogging

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Mackenzie and Amy were best friends.

Since then, Mac's life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac's hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy's killer:

A white werewolf.

Lupine syndrome--also known as the werewolf virus--is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control.

Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy's murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy's boy-friend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.

Kathleen Peacock's thrilling novel is the first in the Hemlock trilogy, a spell-binding urban fantasy series filled with provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love.

Hemlock is a story that despite being paranormal in nature doesn’t in fact feel all that paranormal at all, giving us a world fairly similar to our own filled with characters so gloriously easy to both love and hate that we quickly find ourselves riveted, our need to know every minute detail of the werewolf mythology fading into the recesses of our minds as we simply sink into the story and enjoy every moment. Many times with the first book in a supernatural series, the desire to have the world and what makes it different from the reality in which we live fully explained to us is a substantial one, and we often feel a disconnect when our questions go unanswered to leave our minds floundering as we ineffectively try to fill in the blanks that have been left for us. With Hemlock, even though the history of the Lupine syndrome is only touched upon briefly, we never feel as though key details are missing, and the characters’ easy acceptance of werewolf existence facilitates our ability to simply believe without constantly questioning every supernatural aspect.

Those infected with Lupine syndrome in Ms. Peacock’s world are incredibly intriguing, the fact that they are both predator as well as prey toying with our emotions as we marvel at their strength, speed, and ability to kill while at the same time despair of the fact that they’re being singled out and persecuted for being different. All of the characters are stunningly dichotomous, those with only a single physical human form possessing a second skin they pull on to aid them in their duplicity, their lies and secrets turning them into two distinct individuals just as the wolves they so despise exist in two separate forms. With the exception of Mac, every character has something small or large they keep locked away from us as readers–some part of themselves they wish to keep hidden– and we have the pleasure of trying to wade through all the different disguises each wears, whether human or animal, to try and find the true face underneath.

Early on in the story it seems as though we’re going to find Mac as the tip and focal point of a love triangle that includes best friends Kyle and Jason, and though that does happen to some degree, Mac makes a clear decision in this first installment and doesn’t waver once she understands the depth of the feelings she’s been denying for years, and for that alone we want to reach in and hug her. The fact that she’s embroiled in a teenage love triangle, however briefly, is acknowledged and even mocked a bit by Mac and the others, and we can’t help but smile ruefully at Mac’s ability to be self-deprecating despite the gravity of her circumstances. While the triangle may become more pronounced in future installments, Ms. Peacock handles it beautifully in this first book, creating a great deal of tension between all three even though Mac really only has true romantic feelings for one in particular.

The only minor drawback to Hemlock is Mac, Jason, and Kyle’s ability to let their guilt over Amy’s death get the better of them repeatedly, often weighing themselves down with questions as the words “if only” run through their minds on continuous loops. In addition to continually painting themselves with guilty conscious-laden brushes, they also frequently fling blame at one another, deliberately making snide and hurtful comments in a fit of pique and self-loathing they know will leave a scar no matter how much they don't actually mean what is said, and while we can understand their need to express their hurt verbally, it does get a bit tedious after a while. That small flaw aside however, Hemlock is an action-packed story from beginning to end, layers of complex darkness revealed bit by bit as we get to know our friends, enemies, and everything in between better.

Rating:  4/5

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Emerald Isle Blog Tour: Guest Post with Kate Hinderer

Today as part the promotional tour for Kate Hinderer's newest release, The Emerald Isle, I'm turning the blog over to her to tell us a little bit about how the book came to be. Welcome to Supernatural Snark Kate!

Hi. I’m author Kate Hinderer and I’m pleased to be guest posting here as part of the book blog tour for The Emerald Isle. This book is part paranormal and part contemporary fiction.

To be honest, The Emerald Isle came about in a slightly different way than my usual stories. Nine times out of ten I’ll be walking down the street or listening to a story and suddenly I am making up an entire book based around a character or scenario. For instance I once heard a story about a firefighter getting someone into their locked apartment with a credit card. My mind took that real life event and turned it into a 25-page short story.

But The Emerald Isle didn’t start from a story or character. It started with an idea – a theme. I was just wrapping up my first book, Aurora Undefined, and trying to look at the market to determine what was selling. It wasn’t hard to pinpoint paranormal as a huge market. But at the same time, I hated the idea of writing a vampire story. I felt, even three years ago, that this topic had been done to death and there were too many copy-cat style books coming out. They lacked creativity and originality. I spent days wracking my brain to come up with a paranormal element that hadn’t been extensively covered. Harry Potter had the monopoly on witches and wizards. Twilight owned the vampire and werewolf market. That’s when I hit on the idea that suddenly became a character, Tristan, and then a book, The Emerald Isle, and finally a series, The Fascination Island series.

Still I didn’t jump in head first and just go with where ever my imagination took me. I did research on the folklore about my paranormal character. I took notes on the books, movies and TV shows that had this paranormal element as it’s major theme. And then I created my own idea of these beings.

One of the things I like about the Twilight series is how the books take the idea of vampires and really fleshes out what they are all about. Stephenie Meyer explains away some common misconceptions and gives them a spin of her own. I tried to do the same – starting with the grains of truth that every accepted about these beings and then gave them my own creative spin.

Hopefully, it paid off… You be the judge!

Thanks so much for being here Kate! More information on Kate and her books can be found here:

Amazon Buy Link

THE EMERALD ISLE (from Goodreads)

To escape a bad break-up and fighting parents Audyn takes a job as a lifeguard at Fascination Island. The posh five-star resort lives up to its name in every way, including the strange rules the owner has about entering the water at night. Despite declaring it a boy-free summer, it isn’t long before the shy, endearing Levi and the mysterious, tattooed Tristan begin vying for her attention. When Levi tries to push his advantage and Tristan comes to the rescue, Audyn realizes there is more to both these boys and the island they inhabit. Suddenly, she’s forced to acknowledge a reality she’d never considered and to pick a side in the conflict that has been waging for decades.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Widow's Web

(Elemental Assassin #7)
Jennifer Estep
Adult Urban Fantasy
400 pages
Available August 21st
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
I used to murder people for money, but lately it’s become more of a survival technique. 

Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town anyway. Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back, she thinks he’s hers for the taking. Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

Widow’s Web is the seventh installment of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, continuing to impress with a heroine who, book by book, allows readers under her substantial emotional defenses to show us yet another layer of the already multi-layered assassin known as The Spider. One of the most intriguing aspects of these books–outside a highly entertaining core cast of characters–is Ms. Estep’s ability to craft new and unique villains to take Gin on in each tale. After seven books, one might expect Gin’s nemeses to have core similarities or common traits, and the battles to feel as though we’ve been through them with her before, but to our utter delight, Ms. Estep flexes her villainous creativity and brings another memorable foe to the table in this newest book. Where some past villains have been loud in their evil, throwing the weight of their physical strength, magic, wealth and power around and attacking Gin head-on, the evil in Widow’s Web is far quieter, and while she does pose a physical threat to Gin, the emotional threat she represents is far more terrifying for us as readers.

Gin is a paradoxical heroine—exhibiting the utmost physical prowess and consummate skill when it comes to her assassin’s trade, but yet as each book continues she seems to become more and more fragile (relatively), our knowledge and understanding of who she is stripping away some of cool detachment and the harshness of the assassin and replacing it with the insecurities and vulnerabilities of a very human woman. She’s not the type to show any outward display of emotion or give voice to her feelings, instead she deflects anything that causes her pain with The Spider’s tough-as-nails demeanor, hiding the wounds the words or actions of those around her have caused until she can acknowledge them in private with only our eyes as witnesses. It’s these private intimacies that are becoming more numerous as the series continues, and with the return of a woman from Owen’s past in Widow’s Web, our connection with Gin is at its strongest and most poignant as we watch her suffer blow after blow to both the body and the heart.

Ms. Estep pulls no punches in this tale, pushing Gin and us to our limits emotionally when history seems to repeat itself in terms of love and loss, only the pain we feel is all the more acute given how our relationship with Gin has grown from earlier books. While Gin at times can be frustrating in her stoicism, refusing to defend herself and her actions when we so desperately want her to lay herself bare and let the ones hurting her see how their words and deeds so easily make her bleed, she also continues to earn our respect as she bears the burdens of everyone around her without a single word of protest. Widow’s Web leaves us with an ache in our chests, bodies limp and exhausted after the physical and emotional battle waged in its pages, but Ms. Estep does not simply abandon us to wallow in our despair, instead she gives us the barest glimpses of hope that Gin’s future will be a happy one.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: The Raft

S.A. Bodeen
Contemporary Young Adult
231 pages
Feiwel & Friends
Available August 21st
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Robie is an experienced traveler. She’s taken the flight from Honolulu to the Midway Atoll, a group of Pacific islands where her parents live, many times. When she has to get to Midway in a hurry after a visit with her aunt in Hawaii, she gets on the next cargo flight at the last minute. She knows the pilot, but on this flight, there’s a new co-pilot named Max. All systems are go until a storm hits during the flight. The only passenger, Robie doesn’t panic until the engine suddenly cuts out and Max shouts at her to put on a life jacket. They are over miles of Pacific Ocean. She sees Max struggle with a raft.

And then . . . she’s in the water. Fighting for her life. Max pulls her onto the raft, and that’s when the real terror begins. They have no water. Their only food is a bag of Skittles. There are sharks. There is an island. But there’s no sign of help on the way.

The Raft is a lightning-quick read, one of those stories that thrusts us into a character’s world for a few short moments before releasing us, and while a deep involvement with characters or story remains elusive, our attention is held throughout nonetheless. Extremely short chapters help give the story a more desperate feel, a quick two and three pages holding us riveted before we reach a stopping point, our fingers twitching with anticipation to see what lies beyond the next sheet of paper. Even when there are lulls in Robie’s day–times when she’s doing nothing but floating in a wide expanse of water in a tiny raft–there’s an addictive tension, the possibility of something big happening just around the bend teasing us as we will Robie to hold on a little bit longer.

One of the more interesting aspects of this story is Robie’s lack of survival skills. Many times with survival stories, the protagonist, upon finding themselves in a precarious situation, magically knows how to hunt or forage for non-poisonous edible foliage, thereby ensuring their survival. Robie is as clueless as most of us would be, a short guide saved from the wreckage of her plane giving her common sense tips such as “don’t drink saltwater” all she has to guide her as she faces miles of endless ocean. She does have solid avian knowledge from time spent with her parents and other researchers, but otherwise she’s completely vulnerable, setting our nerves all the more on edge as we can so easily see ourselves struggling just as she does.

While Robie is someone whose shoes we can seamlessly slide into, we never really get to know her as a person before we shut the back cover on our brief stint as her invisible companions. This is simply a story of her ordeal, and we never get the opportunity to dive deeper or claw our way through the layers that would make her a standout character in our minds. Her treatment of Max during their time in the raft is often frustrating, as she succeeds in catching food and collecting rainwater to drink yet never wakes him from his near-constant unconscious state to share her spoils. She appears callous and selfish, more interested in her own survival than in making sure they are both taken care of, and though we are provided an explanation for her seeming indifference by the end, her behavior while reading is a bit off-putting.

Overall, The Raft is fast-paced and easily read in a single sitting, our time with Robie not overly emotional or soul-scarring, allowing us to easily move on to the next story without much reflection on what we’ve read, but it is certainly successful in entertaining us for a short 230 pages.

Rating: 3.5/5