Wednesday, March 30, 2011

DNF: Stay by Deb Caletti

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (April 5, 2011)
ISBN-10: 144240373X
ISBN-13: 978-1442403734

Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he’s willing to do to make her stay.

Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....

Review:

The alternating chapters from past to present were likely the only way to fully comprehend the battles that Clara faced and is facing. Her strong-willed character was obvious from the start, with a father that encouraged her creativity by being an aspiring, well-known author. When Christian entered the picture Clara had just ended an unsatisfying relationship and was looking to change the outcome of this new, blossoming love. They were going into their second round of the seasons, holidays, and growing also was Clara's awareness of Christian's sensitivity toward her faithfulness. Always having to be alert for his mood swings eventually led to the outcome of their undeniable separation. Soon, Christian's stalking methods escalated to a feat where Clara and her father had to leave town, and that is where the present begins in Stay. Anxiety swells as she asks herself, will he still be able to find me?

I honestly thought that beginning was so well-written, I had to praise Caletti on her epigrams and profound statements spoken through Clara's voice. From what I read it felt like Clara was in a constant state of self-realization because of the unique insightful explanations for practically every noticeable change in her relationship with Christian. It felt a bit overwhelming at first but soon became suitable to the pace of the novel. I enjoyed and delighted in reading her theories on everything that made her a stronger person in the end. 

However, as the novel progressed, it became obvious that the rigor-like tone it was permeating leaked through the whole thing, making it impossible to get excited for the excitable moments when real action occurred. I would have liked a faster pace toward those areas just because it would have had a better effect reading them as they played out and didn't have to be explained fully to understand. Some characters did seem two-dimensional and not as important as I believe they should have been since they were impacting Clara's after* life a great deal.

I did not want to make this a DNF (did-not-finish) but I find myself not able to care anymore what Christian does, or what secrets Clara's dad may be hiding about her mother's death. It does sound intriguing, doesn't it?
That is why, while I turned away from Stay, I am recommending to any reader who is interested in reading the final showdown** between stalker and stalk-ee.

It's a love-hate relationship with Deb Caletti's books, only in Stay did I actually find both mixed together.


*Meaning her present time-set, after the relationship was over and she was interacting with the locals in Deception Pass.

**It does feel like there will be some final event between to end Clara and Christian's relationship, either told in the past or present, it would be very significant.

(I can use footnotes too; thought they were a nice addition to make the book authentic.)

Grade: C

This ARC was provided by the publisher for my uninfluenced review.

LiLi

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cover Art: One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost (Night Huntress, Book 6)

This has to be my favorite cover from any of the books JF has ever written--even from the Night Huntress World series.










Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (August 30, 2011)

What do you think?

LiLi

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Raised by Wolves, Book 2)

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (June 14, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1606841688
ISBN-13: 978-1606841686

Bryn is now leader of the Cedar Ridge pack of werewolves and she's convinced that her pack is different - it's democratic and fair. Then Bryn finds a battered teenage Were, Connor, bleeding on her front porch. He begs Bryn to protect him from an abusive leader; Bryn takes him into her pack.

But Bryn's Were partner Chase doesn't trust the new boy, and the more time she spends helping Connor, the more aggressive Chase becomes. Bryn is not sure if it's jealousy, or Were possessiveness but for the first time she starts to feel suffocated by the bond she and Chase share.

Filled with action, unlikely allies, and deadly conspiracies, TRIAL BY FIRE will change Bryn forever. She is soon to realise that to lead a pack of werewolves, she must give in to her animal instincts and become a little less human. And as hard as it's going to be, Bryn is going to have to do it alone.

There can only be one alpha.

Review:

We return to the best YA werewolf series known to the genre, this is said by Melissa Marr, and me. 

Bryn knew all along that the other Alphas that make up the Senate--besides Callum--would come after her at some point in time for the female Weres in her pack. And when Shay comes to the forefront of a new feud between the Cedar Ridge Pack and the Snake Bend Pack, it comes as no surprise. Shay, being Bryn's best friend's older brother and Alpha of the Snake Bend Pack, has instigated the most unassuming and by-the-book tactics in order to acquire what he wants most. The rare gems in the werewolf community: female werewolves. 

When a foreign wolf enters Bryn's territory badly broken in all meaning of the word, and invades her pack's lives, Bryn feels it is her duty as Alpha to protect this wolf from his previous Alpha and the others willing to fight to get him back. Only those others are nothing like anything Bryn and her Pack has ever encountered before. We're talking a whole new ballpark here.

Barnes strikes another wonder with this new installment on the insight of Bryn's new life as an Alpha. Not only does it feel like Bryn is maturing as a character but she faces some astronomically tough decisions when it comes to the safety of all those dependent on her. She always feels like she should be on the front line, fighting against future threats head-on but soon comes to realize, that though she has a responsibility toward her pack, she is not the least bit alone. Barnes is able to construct scenarios where the Alpha gets the final say, and where she also has to consider all the options and determine that the safest choice may not be the best. Being Alpha is impossible, and Bronwyn Alessia St. Vincent Clare is an impossible girl. 

What was a major theme throughout the whole duration of Trial by Fire was the constant participation of other characters in almost every scene. I do love when the main character--heroine, in this case--is in a solitude state to recover from the latest fiasco, but in this book you get a dose of any and all other characters. At times, I did not appreciate the constant intrusion but, otherwise, it really helped unravel Ali's--Bryn's foster mother's--past, more information on the inner workings of Chase, and the villainous temperament of all that is Shay; among other new characters that are introduced will a deadly mindset and their histories were interesting to flip through too. Minor twists in the plot really kept the ball rolling, and closer to the second half of the book, things got really interesting. Barnes orchestrated the events in Trial by Fire like a music director, always in sync to the outcomes and surprising the heck out of me when I read Bryn's logical solutions.

I'm sure that I'll continue to enjoy the future installment as this series progresses. The next book is due out next summer and I  hope that the series continues with its troubling complications because what I enjoy the most is the depth that Barnes presents to the choices that Bryn makes, and that constant possibility that she may not outlive them. (Being the only human Alpha in existence in their werewolf world.)

I would not recommend reading this book as a stand-alone, just because I thought the first book, Raised by Wolves, really holds some valuable informative issues that provides the starting point of everything Bryn.

Grade: B+

This ARC was provided by the publisher for my uninfluenced review.


Fun Author Fact--

While reading the back of the ARC copy I learned that Jennifer is currently working on her PhD in developmental psychology at Yale University. I just thought that was pretty amazing!

LiLi

Saturday, March 19, 2011

ARC Preview vlog: Flying Blind by Deborah Cooke

Hosted by Lauren at 365 Days of Reading to enlighten readers about new releases coming soon.

Since I just reviewed Flying Blind by Deborah Cooke recently I decided to base my ARC Preview from there as well and share a little of Zoe Sorensson's Pyr-dragon world.




This ARC was provided by its publisher and is due out in June 7th from NAL Trade (Penguin). I hope that you guys enjoyed the preview, and hope you check out Flying Blind for the full effect of Jared, in all his leather-motorcycle glory.

LiLi

Sequel Saturday (1)

Hosted by Elie at Ellz Readz to spread the word on upcoming sequels and make sure they're not hidden behind new, shiny debuts!

My poison pick this Saturday is a sequel most dear to me that is releasing in just a few months.


Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (June 14, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1606841688
ISBN-13: 978-1606841686

Bryn is now leader of the Cedar Ridge pack of werewolves and she's convinced that her pack is different - it's democratic and fair. Then Bryn finds a battered teenage Were, Connor, bleeding on her front porch. He begs Bryn to protect him from an abusive leader; Bryn takes him into her pack.

But Bryn's Were partner Chase doesn't trust the new boy, and the more time she spends helping Connor, the more aggressive Chase becomes. Bryn is not sure if it's jealousy, or Were possessiveness but for the first time she starts to feel suffocated by the bond she and Chase share.

Filled with action, unlikely allies, and deadly conspiracies, TRIAL BY FIRE will change Bryn forever. She is soon to realise that to lead a pack of werewolves, she must give in to her animal instincts and become a little less human. And as hard as it's going to be, Bryn is going to have to do it alone.

There can only be one alpha.


Trial by Fire is available for pre-order below and check out more info about this amazing author, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, on her website. You can read my review on the first book in the series, Raised by Wolves, here



LiLi

Friday, March 18, 2011

Flying Blind by Deborah Cooke (The Dragon Diaries, Book 1)

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade (June 7, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0451233883
ISBN-13: 978-0451233882

The next generation of shape-shifting dragons from the popular author of the Dragonfire novels.

Zoë Sorensson is perfectly normal, except she's been told she's destined for great things. Zoë's the one female dragon shapeshifter of her kind. But Zoë is at the bottom of the class when it comes to being Pyr and her powers are AWOL, so she's sent to a Pyr boot camp.

Zoë quickly realizes that she has to master her powers yesterday, because the Pyr are in danger and boot camp is a trap. The Mages want to eliminate all shifters and the Pyr are next in line-unless Zoë and her friends can work together and save their own kind.

Review:

As it turns out, this first book in a spin-off series of the Dragonfire Novels exceeded my expectations and went beyond.

Zoe knows that she’s a failure when it comes to conjuring the makeshift powers of the Almighty Wyvern. Being the only female dragon shape shifter is suffocating, especially when she does not meet expectations. Finally, in a scene at her high school, Zoe discovers this new rage that triggers parts of her Wyvern powers. Along with this new discovery comes a field trip to spend a week with her Pyr friends at boot camp. Despite the obligatory feelings that come when hearing the words “boot camp”, Zoe is thrilled to go because she will finally have a chance to prove herself to her destined mate, Nick.
However, when it’s time to leave for this adventurous competition, an obstacle enters Zoe’s path in the form of all the bad-boy traits any rock-star fan girl can imagine. Jared has the attitude and persona of all things masculine.
When they all arrive at the boot camp site and find no sign of Donovan, Nick’s father, they know something must be amiss but figure it is just another test in the line of competition. Soon, they find out how deeply wrong they assumed.

While I haven’t read many fantasy books that involve fire-breathing dragons, I imagine that Cooke really nailed it on the head with Flying Blind. She creates the heroine to be this lost skinny girl who doesn’t know white from black when it comes to differing what it is a Wyvern’s responsibilities. Hence the titles meaning, Zoe is flying blind in a world where the men around her find it effortless to conjure and control their dragons. This is the part where Jared is introduced, and I have to say that the chemistry between him and Zoe was practically steaming off the pages. There is a lot of male eye candy in this book, and that had to be one of its lovely attributes. The writing style really flavored each character’s individual personality in a sense that it complimented their contribution to the novel.

With a more than fascinating background, the Pyr initially had a long history before it’s introduced to us in Flying Blind. In its self, that is what makes up the stepping stones that Zoe must follow in order to fulfill her great destiny. A lot of what’s holding her back is what makes up a big message in her story, be bold and believe in yourself, and you shall succeed. The plot truly ascends to the climax where secrets are unfurled and the truth and deception of others comes to light. Alongside the creation an admirable heroine, Cooke is able to surmise that confidence needed in the most trifling of battles to save the fellow Pyr. With such vivid and beautifully written settings, the mental movie that plays in one’s head as they read Flying Blind is clear and conspicuous.

Unlike Cooke’s Dragonfire Novels, I hope that she keeps The Dragon Diaries centered around Zoe’s struggles and triumphs in the Pyr world. (If only to see more of the infamous Jared.)

Grade: B+

This ARC was provided by the publisher for my uninfluenced review.

LiLi

Thursday, March 17, 2011

White Cat: Lila Zacharov in 13 pieces!

Check out this exclusive link made by Simon & Schuster to tempt you guys into the Curse Workers!

The separate vignettes can be read in any order!
*It does not matter if you've read White Cat yet, but it is recommended. :)

I will be posting a giveaway for your own copy of White Cat (paperback or hardback, your choice) soon, and if you spread the word about this post, you will get an extra +5 entries on the giveaway. Leave the link of where you posted in the comments below.



Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.

(Read with reservation.)


After rescuing his brothers from Zacharov's retribution and finding out that Lila, the girl he has loved his whole life, will never, ever be his now that his mother has worked her, Cassel is trying to reestablish some kind of normalcy in his life. That was never going to be easy for someone from a worker family tied to one of the big crime families and a mother whose cons get more reckless by the day. But Cassel is also coming to terms with what it means to be a transformation worker and figuring out how to have friends.

But normal doesn't last very long--soon Cassel is being courted by both sides of the law and is forced to confront his past. A past he remembers only in scattered fragments and one that could destroy his family and his future. Cassel will have to decide whose side he wants to be on because neutrality is not an option. And then he will have to pull off his biggest con ever to survive.

Thank you, C at S&S, for passing this along!

LiLi

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blog Tour: Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599904985
ISBN-13: 978-1599904986

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object—an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas—it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking—er, focusing on—Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.

Review:

Fifteen-year-old, freshman Payton Gristas is an amazingly dynamic character. Soon after discovering a bizarre view at home that coincides with an even more shocking truth, she does what most everyone does in a state of acute denial--finds a displacement object and focuses the hell out of it. Her father's disease is slowly taking him more and more away from his love in life: basketball, and the fact that he used to practice with Payton made it all the more disparaging. When the school counselor suggests Payton use a Focus Object to help her work through her onslaught of emotions, she resorts to something that can change periodically but has gone unknowingly unnoticed: Sean Griswold's head. This soon leads to the brilliant deduction that in the seven years they've known each other, they don't really know each other.

"You go through enough with a person over a long enough period of time and they just become a part of who you are." (15)

The setting in which Sean and Payton finally meet is in their Biology class which soon has a significance later on in the book that has to do more with not knowing much about their teacher. It is pretty amazing how many aspects of this book go into greater detail as all the events play out. The one thing that Sean and Payton eventually have in common is the love for bicycling, and I have to say that that was my favorite part in and out of their relationship. It is the one solid point that carries the reader through the ups and downs and is monumentally there at the very end when it plays the biggest role in connecting all the pieces of Payton's life together.

Only two things I disagree with in the entire drama that is Payton's life, just two. One: the most obvious would have to be how long she holds the grudge against her parents for keeping her father's disease quiet for six months. One thing I'm secure of myself about is that when I hold a grudge, 1) the grudge-ee is aware of my feelings, 2) I will most likely not be the first to realize the situation could have been handled better, and 3) forget about apologizing. (You'd best be on your knees by then.) That is why, when Payton Gritas finds out that her parents lied to her, I was like "Yeah! Right there with you, sister." However, that factor seemed to automatically matter so much more than her father's initial diagnosis. Now, Payton does care--don't think she doesn't just because she's giving her parents the silent treatment for a while. What I have a problem dealing with is how LONG she maintains that "while" and inevitably--going psychological here--displaces that anger-with-underlying-fear to her friends. Besides the fact that she confronts herself in the end and gives herself a HUGE mental slap, I have to say that she's on an emotional roller coaster. I accepted this, especially when I read the conflicting hurdles that stand in her way on her path to, shall we say, self-discovery.

Now that I've ranted about her inability to deal, my second tickle I have is minor but felt worthy of being mentioned. I did not like the very last page, the very last scene written about Sean and Payton. This may just be a fan-girl thing, but it is noteworthy indeed; it just did not satisfy my additive need of reading about complex but horny teenagers. Some juice would have been nice!

Exceptionally, to the more exciting and hilarious quotes in this book. I had the best time reading Payton's entries in her "Payton's Focusing Exercise" journal , and the fact that she referred to Sean's head as a dome just about killed me. Some great traits of Payton are the activities she gave up on when the Truth came out. I found that totally understandable, and ended up really loving the way Leavitt wrote Payton as an avoids-hard-topics/her-feelings kind of girl because in the end it just made her all the more of a stronger character for it. As for her best friend Jac, who plays an important role in the book in general, needs to encode privacy into her vocabulary. Some may find her outgoing attitude just this side of sane, but I found it down right irritating; her never-ending variety of nicknames for Payton drove me just a tad over the edge. However, I do believe this was mostly because we only got brief glimpses of how Jac's background taints her forthright temperament. In fact, I would have liked to have read more about Sean home life as well. I have to admit that Leavitt did a phenomenal in describing him as person, likes/dislikes, accomplishments, his view of the world, etc. As for his parents, or previous years of schooling--that were mostly spent with Payton, by the way--would have been enjoyable to read as well.

Overall, I must conclude that Leavitt has an admirable style of writing and I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy of her debut, Princess for Hire, soon. (Especially since the sequel, The Royal Treatment, is due out early May.)

Grade: B-



Quotes:

"I bet if you corralled all the renegade socks and stitched them into a blanket, it'd cover more of the earth than the waning ozone layer." (21)

"I would be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of the assignment. Here I am, a "troubled youth," and my self-chosen treatment is to become a stalker. Okay, not a stalker. Research Analyst." (27)

"Trent raises a waxed eyebrow. Yes, I'm related to a male eyebrow waxer who, surprisingly, Very Much Straight. He started waxing his eyebrows after he shaved his legs, which was after the Nair-on-the-chest debacle. He's a swimmer, that's his excuse--but come on, is extra eyebrow hair really going to slow you down in the water?" (36)

Regarding Payton's dad's MS disease:

"And nothing is scarier than a life filled with what ifs--living day by day without predictability and control. Some people end up losing feeling. Some have uncontrollable spasms. Some can't function. Some end up blind or in a wheelchair. Some end up bedridden and paralyzed.
It's hard to know who 'some people' will be." (38)

Regarding the Hall of Terror:

"I had a locker in this hallway at the beginning of the year. It was close to most of my classes, so I declined the two offers to switch. One day, while I was getting my books out of my locker, the looks-like-he's-twenty-and-probably-is junior with the locker above me leaned down and said, 'Those among the living should not walk among the dead.' Then, he BIT me." (60)

And finally my favorite entry in Payton's "PFEs" journal has to be the Five Senses of Sean. Especially the Taste category...

"3. Taste: Gross! What am I supposed to do, lick him?" (74)

These quotes are not nearly all the ones I noted in Sean Griswold's Head, but they are some of the best.

This ARC was provided by the publisher for my honest, uninfluenced review.

LiLi

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Winner: Elixir by Hilary Duff (signed!)

Factoids: 85 entries, 30 entrants!

Congrats...

Kirthi!

I'll be emailing you soon, be ready to reply with your address to claim your prize in 72 hours. Thanks to everybody who participated in this great sponsored giveaway!

LiLi

Winner: Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Factoids: 26 entries, 16 entrants!

Congrats...

Jessy!

I'll be emailing you soon, so be ready to reply with your address, and you will have 72 hours to do so. Thank you for everybody's participation in this giveaway!

LiLi

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 15, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0062002325
ISBN-13: 978-0062002327

First there are nightmares.
Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.


Then come the memories.
When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.


Now she must hunt.
Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Review:

With varying levels of reapers attacking, ice-cream-eating, loves-shopping Ellie is unprepared when her nightmares become, not only reality but years of memory. With the help of her mysterious Guardian, Will, she must find a way to enable her powers accessibility for the hunt of these terrible reapers. Along the way, Ellie confronts copious obstacles that prevent her from gaining the strength she's going to need for the ensuing battle to establish Lucifer's return in the Second War, the Apocalypse. Fighting with her swords, her Guardian by her side, Ellie believes that in order to keep her normal, stable life, she must to everything she can to keep a balance between both worlds. However, as she drifts away further and further from her friends, she knows that the inevitable is bound to happen when she gets all her memories back, the bad and the dreadful. But will there be time to gain enough knowledge of this new world she's always known with demonic reapers and archangels, in order to save all of humanity?

In Angelfire, Ellie is portrayed as this ancient bad ass that seems to be humanizing more and more every time she's reincarnated. I'm all for the kick-butt heroine persona, but Ellie she actually trying to avoid becoming someone she knows she can be, but will destroy her inside if she allows it. With chilling arch foes coming out of the Grim--a parallel dimension where reapers can be clearly seen--she fights to survive and control what little she can of her life. A motif in the book that I really enjoyed reading were the flashbacks into "The Preliator's" memory bank. It was thrilling to go through all the action that she got in her previous years as a warrior.

As an overall character, I understood what Ellie was going the through throughout the duration of the novel. She's constantly looking for any guidance provided that will lead her to a saner road in the pandemonium that outlines her existence. Will really seems like the complex, moody macho-man when he's introduced in the book, however, his underlying layers soon became clear as his bond with Ellie becomes ostensibly evident. And really, his depiction just adds to his brooding persona and the visual of a nice hot-bod; it never hurts to create a character like him, even though it has been done before. While Ellie is older than him originally, he acts as a mentor when trying to influence her memories, even if he keeps his secrets. Just one of those characters that love to drive you crazy; when Ellie wanted to slap him, so did I.

I think that Moulton did a wonderful job in creating the overall background to set Angelfire in. Everything truly was connected in a sense that it was titillating to follow along through the building of the angels history and Will's theory of why Lucifer really fell from Heaven. I would be excited to read future works by Moulton, and hopefully with less trashy best friends and more fight scenes.

Grade: B

LiLi