Monday, February 28, 2011

Secrets of the Demon by Diana Rowland (Kara Gillian, Book 3)


Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: DAW; Original edition (January 4, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0756406528
ISBN-13: 978-0756406523

Homicide detective Kara Gillian has a special talent: she can sense the "arcane" in our world, and there's quite a bit of it, even in Beaulac, Louisiana. She's also a summoner of demons, and works on a task force that deals with supernatural crimes. Her partners are attractive and smart FBI agents, but they're not summoners, and they're not telling Kara why they are on this special force with her.

To make things worse, Kara has pledged herself to one of the most powerful of demons-a Demon Lord-who helped save her partner's life, but now expects things in return. Meanwhile, she's trying to solve a string of murders that are somehow tied together by money, sex, rock music and...mud. But how can she concentrate on the case when she's not even sure who-or what-her partners are?

Review:

Even though I can say that the Kara Gillian series is "wordy", like my English teacher would say, it lets you enjoy every stickin' detail that the author could possibly squeeze out of this murder-mystery supernatural-romance. Indeed, it does contain more expletives and explicit sex scenes than I've encountered at such an early point of a series, but it adds so much to the southern Louisiana charm. As precisely outlined in book 1 and 2 of the series, Kara is thrown into completely new territory with the arcane powers running a muck in her small town of Beaulac. It's thrilling to go through the procedures of detective work right along with her because you can practically feel how she's finally getting the hang of being a homicide detective. Exhilarating though it is to watch her jump through hoops to catch the killer, Rowland doesn't let it interfere with the true gut-twisting roller coaster romance that Kara has between Rhyzkahl, the demonic lord and Ryan, an arcane-tainted FBI Agent.

As I was saying about the wordy thing, it is something that a lot of authors--with their complex Urban Fantasy stories--fall into: repeating the previous books' details in a not-so-subtle way. Some do it magnificently, merely reminding you of details one might have missed in the book before, and others fall a little flat, as in "I knew that already, get on with the current happenings!" It drives me a bit batty sometimes because I feel like I have to skim most of the book in order to get to the real essence of it. However, with Secrets of the Demon--as well as Blood of the Demon--Rowland was able to keep me entertained immensely otherwise, with all the crime-solving and personal-life strife that Kara slugs through. This third installment really cleaned up a bit and was marginally shorter and more precise than the second. It definitely felt like Rowland answered some long overdue questions that were subtly present in both book 1 and 2, mostly speculations pertaining to the two FBI agents in Kara's life.

Rowland does seem to follow a pattern with each installment in the Kara Gillian series, one that's vaguely noticeable if you read the book consecutively. It's an addicting thrill to find out who the murder is at the end, but I always seem to be skimming the final action scene because I would be too lost with all the baggage that surrounds it. It would definitely draw back from the initial punch I imagine is intended every single time that the murderer is confronted. Then, of course, comes the minute epilogue that Rowland concludes with at the very ending that leaves you craving for the next book in the series, because she does answer the last conflicting nuggets that are left tickling the back of your head, but it really leaves you with only more questions that could only be answered through the gradually growing series.

I greatly anticipate the fourth book in the Kara Gillian series, if only to see where exactly the big unveiling at the end of Secrets of the Demons leads to.

Grade: B-

This quote begins with a very important question. The "unveiling."

I asked, pleased that the question came out calmly and smoothly, and that none of my inner turmoil had been revealed.
I felt his shudder. "Kara, I am oathbound," he replied, barely above a whisper. "I cannot answer that."
I pushed off the post, blood roaring in my ears as I walked back inside. "It's all right, Zack. You just did."

LiLi

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winner: Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin


Factoids: 14 entrants and entries.

Congrats to...

#6

Leslie G

Thanks to everyone for participating! I will be contacting the winner shortly and she will have a 72-hours window to reply with her addy, otherwise I will be picking a new winner. Check out my other giveaways below! :)

LiLi

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Giveaway: Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Rules:

1) You must be 13 years or older.
2) Giveaway is only open to residents in the USA.
3) Ends on March 5, 2011 at midnight EST.
4) The winner's prize is a finished, hardback copy of Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles.
5) Fill out the form below to enter!


LiLi

Giveaway: Elixir by Hilary Duff (signed!)


Rules:

1) You must be 13 years or older.
2) Giveaway is only open to residents in the USA.
3) Ends on March 5, 2011 at midnight EST.
4) The winner's prize is a signed, finished hardback copy of Elixir by Hilary Duff.
5) Fill out the form below to enter!


LiLi

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Poppy; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0316084239
ISBN-13: 978-0316084239

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Review:

Don't let the cover fool you, folks. All the yellow and pink cannot disguise the intensity that comes with every page turned in this fantastic, stomach-churning debut. With an extremely outspoken personality, Bianca Piper has a I-can-take-on-the-world-and-you-can't-stop-me attitude. With this powerful protagonist, it was amazing to get to know her world and the recent struggles and challenges she's facing, or really running from. I wish I could have been in Bianca's world just to get to know the infamous womanizer that roams the Hamilton High halls, Wesley. The most common thing known everywhere is what links these two together the most: the world isn't perfect, and neither is its people. Everyday we're given obstacles to face, it is our choice to either face them head on or run away. This intricate storyline combines that main theme into practically every single troublesome dilemma Bianca must face, but with Keplinger as the author, it was incredibly gripping.

Fight or flight? Which would you choose? Divorce on a kid of any age is tragic and difficult, but not for "Duffy" when she's got the most excellent distraction to take all her thoughts away. Through the course of their relationship some dilemmas do get solved, but in the end, Bianca was left with the most heart-wrenching one of all. Can she really find "love" again?

The DUFF is a very invigorating novel; stimulating, too. The particularly steaming scenes between Bianca and Wesley were quite a bit of a shock at first. Who know YA could have something so spine-tingling? I'm not saying The DUFF is the only one out there, but I'm glad that Keplinger took the plunge in her first published novel. To be completely honest, I loved those scenes. They really just added to the overall effect that the novel has on you when you read through Bianca's eyes and the reasons she does what she does.

The supporting characters in this novel had extremely delicate backgrounds that were in-depth and touching to say the least. They all transformed in one way or another; some more severely than others. It just humanized them to the extent that was appropriate for the relatability of Bianca's life.

I recommend The DUFF to mature teen girls, and even some teen guys that will enjoy reading some parts more favorably. Older readers will appreciate the realism in the circumstances detailed that conflict internally and solved emotionally.

Grade: A-

This finished copy of The DUFF was provided by Hachette Book Group for my uninfluenced review.

LiLi

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (August 11, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0763639494
ISBN-13: 978-0763639495

Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their "one-time thing" is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl’s life — and the realities of leaving innocence behind.

Review:

I have to say up front that this is not a happily ever after book, and I'm slowly starting to realize that most books in general--excluding romance, of course--are not all going to end up that way. When it comes to facing the reality in life, and making hard decisions like choosing whether or not you want to keep your baby when you're so young, you must go through the grueling process of looking at what's led to you there and facing the truth about people you depend on. Jumping Off Swings tells a story about how one girl's decision affects the lives of the people around her. So many voices are to be heard in this book, you will not be able to ignore any. Speaking of ignorance, I noticed that it was a major theme, as well as emptiness. Ellie feels like she has no one except her best friend, Corrine to help her through this process of gradual-heartbreak and undeniable situations. Slowly, she figures out that Corrine's not the only one looking at for her, even when her family's not.

When the other characters are introduced into Ellie's story, they all have a role to play throughout her pregnancy. Once the cat comes out of the bag, no one's more shocked and affected than the father. It was healthy, I guess you could say, to read a guy's point of view when it comes to finding out that his "one-night-stand" where he lost his virginity ended up impregnating the girl with the sad, expectant eyes. Admittedly, I just wanted to punch the group of guys that all have a "set" opinion about Ellie because they've been with her. But then, I wanted to yell at Ellie for being so naive. And then...well, I blamed the parents. I don't know if it's because I'm a teenager myself but if the parents aren't there for you throughout your life and don't guide you in any way, odds are there is going to be one mistake in your life that's going to indirectly be their fault. Ever since I was little, in my head I've always built up this argument in my head that "kids take things literally when they're young, and parents have no clue." They either don't care, or can't see how their way of life is affecting their child every single day as the child is growing up. As Ellie's parents weren't there for her, but a friend's mother was.

Before I go into full-on rant mode, I want to say that Knowles did a fantastic job in gripping your attention with Jumping Off Swings. It showed that people are not perfect, and that they all have different ways of coping. This short, multi-p.o.v book was amazing empathetic, and broken up into every few months to get the true aspect of the progressing due date. There were just minor things I would have argued with that are most likely due to my biased opinions, but nothing major can turn you away from this book.

Grade: B

LiLi

This finished copy was sent to me from the publisher for my uninfluenced review.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Guest Post: Laura Kreitzer on Phantom Universe/Human Trafficking!

Hello Literary-Folk!

My name is Laura Kreitzer, and I’m the author of the Timeless Series and the Summer Chronicles. This week I would like to alert everyone on a colossal crisis that’s gone unnoticed in the world: human trafficking. That’s why I’ve asked hundreds of blogs to be involved with spreading the word on this issue that’s become close to my heart.

As an author, and someone whose life is put in the spotlight, I keep most people at a distance. Only a handful of my friends know the whole me and the events from my past. But this week I’d like to share with you a part of myself that the outside world doesn’t see (and a part of me I don’t like to share). I was emotionally abused for five years by someone I thought loved me, my mind beaten into submission. Though the turmoil I went through doesn’t penetrate as deep as someone forced into slavery on the worldwide market for human trafficking, I can sadly relate in some ways: imprisoned, my life dictated down to what I wore, ate, where I went, whom I spoke to, where I worked, when I slept, bending to his every whim. He did not sway, even when I cried through some of the more traumatic things he had me do. I was a slave in my own home. In my desperation for freedom, I held out a gun and asked him to just end my suffering. I was desperate.

I can’t even imagine how many women (and men) in the world are in a similar situation. What’s even worse, I had it mild compared to the children that are sold for labor or sex. Surprisingly, the good ol’ U.S.A. is reported to be the host to two million slaves. Did you know this? Because I certainly did not; not until I was preparing to write my newest novel: Phantom Universe. The main character, Summer Waverly, was stolen as a child and sold as a slave to the captain of a modern-day pirate ship. From a loved child who only knew “time-out” as punishment, to being whipped into silence was something I knew nothing about. So I researched deeply into human trafficking and the psychological effects of torture of various types that one would endure in these circumstances. I felt shaken at my findings and knew I had to tell Summer’s story. (Read a sneak peek here.)


A storm began to brew in my mind; transforming, morphing, twisting, and expanding into this massive, black cloud. I had to bring this tragic atrocity to the forefront. My own emotional experiences, mixed with the research I did on human trafficking, made me feel an intense connection with Summer, and to all women who’ve been through this kind of brutality. The cloud ruptured and rained all over my computer one day. It took one month to write Phantom Universe, the first in the Summer Chronicles. I was so consumed by the story that I wrote nearly nonstop, only breaking for necessary tasks like eating, showering, and occasionally—very occasionally—sleeping.

Though the book I’ve written would be classified as Science Fiction, or as I’d like to call it, Dystopian, the emotions and psychological aspects are not Science Fiction—they're real. Reviewers have said many amazing things about Summer, this character who is so real in my mind and who I cried along with as the words poured from my soul onto my screen.
“I admired Summer's strength and ability to adapt,” says CiCi’s Theories. “I felt tied to her emotions,” Jennifer Murgia, author or Angel Star admits. And Tahlia Newland, author of Lethal Inheritance, remarks, “Summer is strong and smart in mind [. . .]”
Through her overwhelmingly horrendous past, Summer goes on more than just a physical journey in Phantom Universe, she goes on a psychological one as well; growing beyond her mute state to persevere and survive in a new world beyond the whip she’s so frightened of.

Now that the release date is here, I’m excited and terrified to share this story with everyone. I’m emotionally tied in every way to the words I’ve written, because they’re more than words. More than just a story on a page. Beyond the fictional aspects, there’s a real issue that needs to be addressed: human trafficking must be stopped. We shouldn’t sit idly by while this continues to plague us. Our world’s children—our nation’s children—are being affected. It’s time we take action!

Earlier this month Phantom Universe hit Barnes and Noble’s top 100 Best Selling list. I’ve decided to donate 10% of my sales from Phantom Universe, until the end of February, to the DNA Foundation.
“DNA hopes to help abolish modern day slavery, deter perpetrators, and free the many innocent and exploited victims. We are committed to forcing sex slavery out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Freedom is a basic human right and slavery is one of the greatest threats to that freedom. No one has the right to enslave another person.”

—From DNA Foundation’s Website
I ask that you spread the word to everyone you know. Look around on the DNA Foundation website and find a way to get involved in ending human trafficking. Take action today. Everyone has a voice—you have a voice. Will you have the courage to use it?


I will. A lot of you may not know this but I love shows like Law & Order: SVU, and they have so episodes that they exploit human trafficking for the horror that it is. I hope to learn more about human trafficking, and the extreme effects it's having on our economy and our world in general! Thank you, Laura for taking the time to spread the word on this multi-billion dollar distribution nightmare.

LiLi

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Giveaway: Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin

In order to give this book another chance, I'll be giving it away to someone who really wants to read it despite my discouraging. 

GIVEAWAY IS OVER!


How to Enter:
Participant must be 13 years or older.
Open to US residents only.
Ends February 19, 2011 @ midnight EST.
Just fill out this FORM and thank you for entering this giveaway.

LiLi

Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers (February 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0802721621
ISBN-13: 978-0802721624

Fans of romance don't need to look any further than the fauxmance brewing between teen idols Charlie Tracker and Fielding Withers—known on their hit TV show as Jenna and Jonah, next-door neighbors flush with the excitement of first love. But it's their off-screen relationship that has helped cement their fame, as passionate fans follow their every PDA. They grace the covers of magazines week after week. Their fan club has chapters all over the country. The only problem is their off-screen romance is one big publicity stunt, and Charlie and Fielding can't stand to be in the same room. Still, it's a great gig, so even when the cameras stop rolling, the show must go on, and on, and on. . . . Until the pesky paparazzi blow their cover, and Charlie and Fielding must disappear to weather the media storm. It's not until they're far off the grid of the Hollywood circuit that they realize that there's more to each of them than shiny hair and a winning smile.

Review:

This might as well have been a DNF for me but I managed to get through the majority of this book without developing a headache from the non-sense of acting. If anything in this corny book was true, it was that actors--or people in general, really--are made up of many people and that sums up who they are. As actors they not only have to characterize themselves with a new persona but let a piece of themselves be that person in order to portray any sort of bond between the fictional and the visual. This nugget is not presented till the end of the book, where Charlie and Fielding/Aaron find out who they really are. I have few points I want to outline in the flaws I found in this book.

Warning: Spoilers, read with reservations.

  • First, it's the Fielding-slash-Aaron issue: what were they thinking? Isn't it confusing enough that everybody calls him Jonah anyway? Why add the issue of faking a stage name as his real one? And that's not the only thing the authors toss in there to create some drama, there's also a gay factor. Let's just say that it's not true now and save the trouble later, shall we?
  • Second, Charlie's temperament: what is that chick's damage? You know how I mentioned that actors are made up of multiple people? Well, I said that the book doesn't exactly state it till the very end but, this clue was obvious from the start. She has the potential to be a three-dimensional character--the cooking she loves to do but never does (expected), the fondness of singing that she also doesn't do because of the nauseating songs on Jenna & Jonah's How to Be a Rock Star show (again, expected). What doesn't add up is that, this "potential" is not clearly shown in the fake Charlie-acting-is-my-life-Tracker persona. Why even put that in the book if it really doesn't provide anything other than filler? The only time Charlie even does some of her cooking/singing is when her and Aaron are stuck in the abandoned beach house that supposed to miraculously solve their problems. (I'm going to say right now that they only spent a week there, and it took up about a quarter of the book versus the second-half I thought it was implied to be.)
  • Third, what a coincidence that after their reputation as a couple is trashed and as the Jenna & Jonah show goes along with it, their next gig together is being a part of Charlie's favorite play Much Ado About Nothing. Now, the part that I expected would be the plot-building and climaxing point of the book turned out to be nothing more than problem-solving with a hint of "fauxmance". First of all, they don't feature the main characters as much as the co-characters in the second portion of the book. The authors use them to fix Charlie and Aaron's problems without actually any interaction between the main characters; because all they do throughout the WHOLE book is non-stop bickering. It really gets on your nerves after page 132.
  • And finally, what really did me in, they never said 'I love you'. This is where I might give away some spoilers, so be prepared. You know how everything was mostly communicated through the co-characters--in this case the other actress in Much Ado About Nothing and Charlie's mentor. The mentor mentions at a ball game to Aaron that Charlie is affectionate toward him and that he should stop being such a distraction. Okay...Now, there's the other actress, that if anything, says the same to Charlie about Aaron's feelings for her. You're kidding me, right?
So there you have it, readers. My justified rant against Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance. (Well, I like to think it's justified, anyway, for my sanity.)
I cannot recommend this book in any way, shape or form. Skip it when you go to the bookstore, you'll thank me later.

Grade: D+

LiLi

Friday, February 4, 2011

Heist Society by Ally Carter


Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (February 9, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1423116399
ISBN-13: 9781423116394

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre...to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria...to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s (very crooked) history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Review:

Traveling across Europe and New York, USA, Katarina and her unexpected crew work under a literal deadline in order to clear her father's name and keep everybody from the watchful eye of powerful mobster Arturo Taccone. The subtle strength in independent Kat is highly radiated throughout the pages of Heist Society. With help of her abandoned best friend W. W. Hale the Fifth, she has all she needs to pull off the ultimate heist against the best museum in the world. Known for her sensational heroines, Ally Carter out does herself with this intricately woven "state-of-the-art" series.

Unlike any other writing style I've encountered, Carter has a way of making the mysterious addictive and the unknown torturous. How can anyone do that, you ask? Well, if you stick a come-back thief, a benevolently betrayed family with its own set of rules and a billionaire all in the same toss-up, you get Heist Society. In order to keep up with the schemes and different points-of-view in this book, one would have to do some of work to fully understand why a specific character chose this path to take, or withhold that information to get the answers they needed. Some serious thinking had to be done at various points of this book, and I loved it all the more for it because it held my attention and would not let go. At the same time, it got creative in a unique way and showed you that not all life-stressing situations have to suck the fun out of everything; there can be a few laughs from time to disastrous time. While trying to save her father, Katarina had a way of being aloof but simultaneously hands-on--she's not one to be trifled with--when it came to accomplishing the most difficult operation she had ever encountered.

"We're in," Angus said into Kat's ear a second later. The kids kept walking, moving through the Henley's halls like a tide, but when Kat turned to leave, she turned in the opposite direction. She wasn't an ordinary kid, after all.
Katarina Bishop followed no one.

I loved reading about each individual character mostly because of their in-depth personalities--each has a background to base their disposition on. Even the ones not in Kat's crew were alluring and some quite amusing when it came to the final scenes of the heist and the game's end. I hope to find many more installment in this series to delve into.

I recommend Heist Society for all who wish to read a modern take on a fresh view of the retrieval of historical art by a motley crew with a common mindset and goal.

Grade: A

LiLi

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Uncommon Criminal Cover Reveled!

Since I'm reading Heist Society, I loved finding out that Ally Carter just released the cover to the sequel Uncommon Criminals.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (June 21, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1423147952
ISBN-13: 978-1423147954

From Goodreads:

Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.


LiLi

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

100 Books In A Year Reading Challenge

If you also wish to sign up for this challenge, just click the image above.

Since I decided to join this challenge, I will be updating the list of books as I finish them on my sidebar. So far this is the books I've read in 2011.



1) My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent
2) Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane
3) Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
4) Adversay by Kate Kaynak
5) Legacy by Kate Kaynak
6) Blood Red Road by Moira Young
7) Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh
8) Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
9) Deadly Desire by Keri Arthur

LiLi