Thursday, August 11, 2016

H2O (The Rain #1) by Virginia Bergin - Ashley's Review

*I received a copy of this book as an eARC from Sourcebooks Fire on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


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Title: H2O (The Rain #1)
Author: Virginia Bergin
Publication Date: October 7th, 2014

Interview with Virginia Bergin

Synopsis: It's in the rain...and just one drop will kill you.

They don't believe it at first. Crowded in Zach's kitchen, Ruby and the rest of the partygoers laugh at Zach's parents' frenzied push to get them all inside as it starts to drizzle. But then the radio comes on with the warning, "It's in the rain! It's fatal, it's contagious, and there's no cure."

Two weeks later, Ruby is alone. Anyone who's been touched by rain or washed their hands with tap water is dead. The only drinkable water is quickly running out. Ruby's only chance for survival is a treacherous hike across the country to find her father-if he's even still alive.

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Review: As soon as I read the synopsis for this book, it had my attention. I love books where natural phenomena all of a sudden turn deadly. Eco-thrillers, I guess? Especially ones that don't seem like they're too far off from something that could actually happen. So when there's something in the rain, I knew I had to read this book to find out more! 

There was quite a bit I really liked about this book. I think Bergin's writing is really great, and there's enough information about things going on so that you can follow along without having to go into too much back story. You learn about the rain and what's happening with Ruby with a few flashbacks just for clarification. I think the plot moves along pretty well most of the time, although there are several parts where things seem to slow to a crawl and I found it difficult to continue reading. 

I liked that Ruby was forced to grow up pretty quickly because I really, really hated her in the beginning. It took me a long time to warm up to her enough so that I could actually finish this book, and I still think she has a lot of growing up to do. She's whiny, annoying, selfish, and just everything about her made me want to punch her in the throat to get her to shut up. When she's left alone, she has to figure out how to survive, and she stops whining about petty things (like losing her cell phone) as much and starts worrying about more important things... like not dying. I still kind of hated her at the end of the book, but definitely not as much as I did to begin with.

Before they die, Ruby's friends are awful too. They're superficial and pretty flat, and I really didn't care that almost all of them die right up front. Like maybe if you weren't such an idiot you could have lived a little bit longer. There are some characters, likes Ruby's stepdad, that I actually ended up actually being able to connect with, but they were really few and far between. I'm really hoping the next book has some better characters so I can spend more time enjoying the plot and less time wishing all of these people would just kick the bucket already.

Even though the premise sounded fantastic and thrilling, I think my enjoyment of this book was really hampered by how much I hated Ruby. I had to put the book down for a while because she made me so angry and then it took me a while to get back into it. It's hard for me to recommend this to anyone since it was difficult for me to connect with the characters. If characters aren't as important to you as the plot and you enjoy books where nature turns dangerous, you might enjoy H2O. I think I'll still read the next book, but it might be a while before I can get back into Ruby's head. 2.5/5. 


--Ashley

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Shutter by Courtney Alameda - Ashley's Review

*I received a copy of this book as an eARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group/Feiwel & Friends on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: Shutter
Author: Courtney Alameda
Publication Date: February 3rd, 2015

Synopsis: Horror has a new name: introducing Courtney Alameda.

Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

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Review: I am always on the hunt for a good horror book. Paranormal books are usually either hit or miss for me, but if it's a horror book and not a romance, I'll definitely give it a try. Courtney Alameda's Shutter is actually some of both, although definitely more horror than romance, and I loved pretty much every minute of it! 

One of my favorite things in any sort of book is when there's a little bit of history or mythology tucked in around the main story. In this case, we have the Van Helsing lineage. The Helsings have built an empire on hunting ghosts, ghouls, and other sorts of undead creatures, and are known far and wide. I loved that little bit of a connection to the real world, because it made everything that happens in Shutter seem like something that could possibly actually happen. I mean, I know there aren't ghosts and undead monsters roaming around (at least I hope not...), but Alameda did such a good job constructing a world where all of that felt so real that it seemed like they've always been real in our world too. 

And speaking of those monsters, Alameda's descriptions of them are just absolutely terrifying. I made the mistake of reading this book at night, and spent the next week wishing I had read it in the middle of the day. I could never go into something like Micheline and her crew, hunting the monsters they do. Corporeal or spiritual, those are things I would never want to run across. The deaths and corpses are all described in gruesome detail, and even though it was kind of gross, I think it added so much to my understanding of the world Micheline lives in and the monsters she deals with. 

Micheline is a really fantastic heroine. She is strong-willed and independant, a natural leader, but she still relies heavily on her friends. She makes some poor choices, but Jude, Ryder, and Oliver all have her back and help to protect her. Even dealing with the soulchain, they never really give up on finding a way out of it or on each other. Jude was probably my favorite - he's hilarious and you could pretty much always count on him to break up a serious moment with some ridiculous or sarcastic comment. But I also really loved Ryder and his relationship with Micheline. There's definitely a romance brewing there, but it's not overwhelming and doesn't take over the main story. It's just nice to see things play out the way they do. 

There's also quite a bit of science in this book - ghosts and the tech Micheline uses are explained using energies and the like, and how the quartz-lens even works, and so many other things that add a whole extra dimension to the whole paranormal aspect. Overall, this was just a really fantastic, well-written book that has likeable characters, terrifying monsters, and some of the best world-building I've ever seen in a horror book. I would definitely recommend this one to fans of the Anna Dressed in Blood series. 5/5!


--Ashley

The Beauty, Volume 1 [Graphic Novel] by Jeremy Haun & Jason A. Hurley - Ashley's Review

*I received an eARC of this book from Diamond Book Distributors/Image Comics on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: The Beauty, Volume 1
Contributors: Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley, and John Rauch
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2016

Synopsis: Modern society is obsessed with outward beauty. What if there was a way to guarantee you could become more and more beautiful every day? What if it was a sexually transmitted disease?

In the world of The Beauty, physical perfection is only one sexual encounter away. The vast majority of the population has taken advantage of it, but Detectives Vaughn and Foster will soon discover it comes at a terrible cost. Now, they'll have to find their way past corrupt poiticians, vengeful federal agents, and a terrifying mercenary out to collect the price on their heads.

Collects the first six issues of the critically acclaimed, Pilot Season winning series by writer/artist JEREMY HAUN (Constantine, Batwoman) and co-writer JASON A. HURLEY.

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Review: I love the idea behind this series - everybody wants to be beautiful, so now there's a way to guarantee your beauty. You just have to contract an STD, and you're good to go! Things can't be that easy though, and maybe being beautiful just isn't worth the cost. People are dying to be beautiful, and now the dying part has become literal. 

I enjoyed the beginning of this volume much more than I did the end. The set up and introduction to a world where beauty is easy to come by is really interesting and something I could see actually happening in the future. Throw in some corrupt politicians, some federal agents with a grudge, and a mercenary and you've got all the makings of a great sci-fi story! There are also parts that are hilarious, and I was definitely laughing out loud more than I expected to. By the end though, things are less unique and left me kind of bored, so much so that I'm not really sure I care to continue reading when the next volume comes out.

The art was probably my favorite part of this graphic novel. It's very easy to tell who the beautiful people are and who the normal people are, even without over-exaggerating too much. But even though this is a comic about a disease called The Beauty, the artwork is very dark and gritty. There are definitely some bright colors and pretty frames, but a lot of it is harsh and dark. I mean, The Beauty does kill the people it infects, so it seems very fitting that the artwork isn't all soft edges and pretty colors.

I wish the last third of this volume had kept up the momentum of the first part because I think I would have enjoyed it much more. I was pretty invested in the story and in Vaughn and Foster, but then I just lost interest as the story become dull and bland. I finished reading because I was still kind of curious as to what was going to happen, but it didn't keep me on the edge of my seat like I had hoped. Overall, I think this is still a decent sci-fi graphic novel, and maybe it will make a comeback in future volumes, but I'm not sure that I'll continue to read. 3/5.


--Ashley

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1) by Kiersten White - Ashley's Review

*I received a copy of this book as an eARC from Random House Children's/Delacorte Press on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016

Synopsis: No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

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Review: When I first heard about the premise behind And I Darken - Vlad the Impaler, but a female - I knew I had to read this book. I've enjoyed the other books by Kiersten White that I've read, so I had pretty high expectations going into this one. Kiersten delivered a thrilling story, filled with fantastic world-building, excellent character development, and relationships of every type. It was so hard for me to put this book down, and it left me with a ridiculous book hangover when it was over! 

I am not a huge history buff. I usually know enough to get by, but I still enjoy a good story set in a real time and place. Although the Ottoman Empire and Wallachia are pretty well established settings, Kiersten puts her own touch on things and makes it feel like these places were created just for Lada, Radu, and Mehmed. I loved seeing the world through their eyes, and getting to know them through how they interacted and felt about the people and cultures of these vastly different places. There were many times when I felt like I was actually there, lying under the stars with Lada and Radu, or riding through the countryside with them. I experienced the Ottoman courts with them and it was really interesting to see it from two differing opinions (Lada despises the Ottomans, but Radu considers it more like home than Wallachia).

Lada and Radu are such very different characters, and I couldn't help but love them both. Lada is harsh and ruthless, and will do whatever it takes to protect her family and her country. She is not a heroine, but neither is she a villain. She's just doing what she feels is necessary to survive. When she cares about someone or something, she loves passionately. Things are very black and white for her, and there is no gray zone. Radu, on the other hand, is more lover than fighter. He's soft-spoken and would rather use his intelligence to win a war than to go in and fight his way to the top with a sword. He is also very passionate, but tends to have a better handle on his feelings than Lada. Their relationship is very volatile and I really enjoyed watching it develop over the course of the book. They both sacrifice so much for each other, and I hope we get to see more of their relationship in the next book.

Then there's Mehmed. Both Lada and Radu care deeply for Mehmed, but neither of them really have a very healthy relationship with him. He's a wonderful friend to them in their biggest time of need, and he helps Radu to become more comfortable with himself and his new home, and breaks through Lada's tough shell and gives her something to direct her incredible passion towards. As the son of the sultan though, his life is complicated and he inevitably ends up hurting both Lada and Radu without ever meaning to. The complex triangle between them is always shifting and changing, and left me wondering how things were going to work out (if they ever would).

There are several jumps in time, but they're not really sudden and make sense when they occur. It also helps the plot move along at a good pace, since we skip over the years/months/days when nothing of significance occurs.I thought that the pacing of the book was pretty decent most of the way through, although there were a few parts in the middle that felt like they dragged a little bit. Although most of the plot points wrap up by the end of this book, I could definitely see how there could be room for a sequel, and I hope we get to see much more of Lada, Radu, and Mehmed! 

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a dark, genderbent, historical fiction with fantastic characters and even better world-building. There are also some fantasy elements to the book, which is part of what drew me to it and kept me hooked. This is definitely my favorite Kiersten White book that I've read so far, and I will definitely be looking forward to the next one! 4/5.


--Ashley

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Winter's Heir (Fairy Queens #7) by Amber Argyle - Ashley's Review

*I received an advanced copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: Winter's Heir (Fairy Queens #7)
Author: Amber Argyle
Publication Date: July 20th, 2016

Synopsis: A price must be paid.
 
Elice has left behind the ice and isolation of winter. Before her is the warmth and wonder of summer with all its color and life. Adar, the young man she saved from the sea, is by her side, and his touch sends tendrils of heat where before there was only cold.
 
But all is not as it seems. There are secrets hidden in the heart of summer. Secrets that could burn Elice to the ground and take the whole world with her. The decades-long war between the fairies of winter and summer has thrown off the balance of nature, leaving the world in its death throes.
 
Adar believes Elice can stop the destruction—if only she will listen to him. But like the fairies’ bargains, that trust comes with a cost. And the price Elice will pay will tear asunder the boundaries between dreams and family, loyalty and betrayal.

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Review: Amber Argyle's Fairy Queens series is one of my favorite fantasy series of all time. I've loved getting to know Elice, Adar, Ilyenna, and Nelay and their incredible world. Winter's Heir picks up pretty soon after Daughter of Winter ends, and ties up all of the loose ends left over from the other books in the series. We still see things from Adar and Elice, and I actually enjoyed putting together all of the pieces to the puzzle as they did. I'm just so sad that this series is over now! 

I was definitely suspicious of Adar's intentions in Daughter of Winter, and it turns out he was a little bit sketchy. But for all of the right reasons, I think, so I ended up really loving him by the end. Maybe as much as I loved Rycus (who also shows up!). He might actually be my favorite character in this book, even if his means to an end aren't always things I agree with. He really does care for Elice and just wants what is best for their world. Elice, on the other hand, might be my least favorite of the fairy Queens. She still starts out this book kind of whiny, and refuses to listen to Adar for most of it. Don't get me wrong - she matures and grows into an incredible woman who no doubt rules her kingdom fairly and kindly, and she's quick-witted and intelligent and manages to find a solution to the problems the kingdoms are facing. I just didn't connect with her the way I did with Ilyenna in Winter Queen and Nelay in Summer Queen.

Like always, even the supporting characters are incredibly complex and important. Nelay, Rycus, Ilyenna, Otec, and all of their friends make appearances again (which was a great way to tie all of the books together!), and we even get to meet some new characters. I loved Adar's sister and Cinder, and I am so glad that Amber has more planned for Cinder! I hope that comes to fruition, because I'd love to learn more about her. 

After 7 books, you'd think that the world would be pretty fleshed out, but Amber keeps throwing more surprises in that help the world continually expand. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about the Summer and Winter kingdoms, but I was obviously wrong! After this book, I feel like there's still so much more that I could learn, even though it seems like I've been there myself. There's so much history that I'd love to learn about that I don't think I would ever get enough. 

While I'm still so sad this series is over, I will definitely be revisiting this world often! If you're a fan of fantasy books, you'll definitely want to read the Fairy Queens series. All of the books are filled with magic, romance, adventure, fantastic world-building, and a plot that will grip you tight from the very beginning. Winter's Heir in particular is an epic conclusion that will wrap everything up nicely, connect all of the books in a way I didn't think was possible, and leave you completely satisfied with how things turn out. That's not to say I won't always want more, but I am definitely content with how this series ended! Definitely a 5/5 and a series you don't want to miss! 


--Ashley

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

COVER REVEAL: Blood of the Prophet (The Fourth Element #2) by Kat Ross + GIVEAWAY!


Blood of the Prophet
Kat Ross
(The Fourth Element, #2)
Publication date: September 12th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Visionary. Alchemist. Savior. Saint.

The Prophet Zarathustra has been called many things. Now he spends his time drawing pictures of weird-looking goats. That’s what happens when you’ve been stuck in a prison cell for two hundred years. But the man who might be mad, and is definitely supposed to be dead, has suddenly become very valuable again…

It’s only been a few weeks since Nazafareen escaped the King’s dungeons with her da─ôva, Darius. She hoped never to set foot in the empire again, but the search for the Prophet has led them to the ancient city of Karnopolis. They have to find him before Alexander of Macydon burns Persepolae, and Darius’s mother with it. But they’re not the only ones looking.

The necromancer Balthazar has his own plans for the Prophet, and so does the sinister spymaster of the Numerators. As Nazafareen is drawn in to a dangerous game of cat and mouse, her newfound powers take a decidedly dark turn. Only the Prophet understands the secret of her gift, but the price of that knowledge may turn out to be more than Nazafareen is willing to pay...
Sequel to:

29670787







Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.




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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows - Paul's REVIEW

*I received this book as an eARC in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: My Lady Jane

Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Release Date: June 7, 2016

Synopsis: The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.



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Review: I am a big fan of Jodi Meadows's books. The Newsoul series and the Orphan Queen duology are two of my favorite YA fantasy series. She is just one of the three great authors that brought this book together. I've only read one of Brodi Ashton's books and have yet to read one of Cynthia Hand's.


This book is a comedy. I think it may be one of the only funny YA fantasies I have read. Usually YA fantasies are quite dark. This book has all the elements of a normal YA fantasy, but with added humor and a lighter voice. The style reminds me of that of The Princess Bride, which I have not read but I have seen multiple times. It is written with modern awareness. I liked seeing feminist ideals in a historical context. 

The way this book is written feels like a few friends telling each other a story. It has a casual vibe to it. The authors pop in to clarify or add remarks throughout the book. 

This book not only has magic. But animal magic! As in, some people can turn into animals. I definitely got Animorphs flashbacks during a few scenes. I like how the different animal forms are utilized. Definitely a cool magic system. 

I was not that familiar with the actual historical event this book is based on, but I'm sure those knowledgeable in the matter will enjoy this book even more. The authors take history and add magic. And they might just change the ending. 

There is romance in this book and it is done well. I found it interesting. The relationships change throughout the book. 

There were parts of this book that just could not hold my attention. But, a few slow bits did not ruin the book. I give this book a 4/5. I recommend it to fans of stories based on history with an added magical twist.  


--PAUL