Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Novella Review of Cursed Beauty by Dorian Tsukioka

Title: Cursed Beauty
Author: Dorian Tsukioka
Pages: 97
Publication Date: 2013
Source: eBook from the author

Quick Summary
A pair of glass slippers that can change her life? When something is too good to be true, it usually is... Adelaide has lived her entire life cursed with a birthmark that makes people shy away. When an invitation to the Elder Prince’s ball falls in her lap, she knows attending would only cause people to shun her more. A fairy godmother feels her pain and offers her a pair of glass slippers that not only transform her ragged dress to an elegant gown, but also removes the mark that covers her face. However, Adelaide soon learns that the beautiful slippers can steal away more than just her birthmark, leaving her cursed in a far worse way. This retelling of the classic Cinderella story will resound with readers of young adult fiction who love paranormal fantasy, fairy tales, and a splash of romance.
Opening Lines
“Though she was now miles away from the prince’s twenty-first birthday ball, the girl could still hear the music ringing within the castle walls.”

My Thoughts
Well, normally I'm not much for short stories and novellas because I like the magic of a story to last a bit longer. Give me a 600 pager any day of the week. But this particular novella captured my attention. I am a sucker for fractured fairytales! I love taking old stories that everyone knows and turning them inside out and upside down. Needless to say, I've read quite a few Cinderella stories in my day, and I think Dorian Tsukioka did a good job of keeping the classic story while changing enough to make it interesting and new. 

It's going to be very hard not to give too much away here, but I'm going to try my best! Adelaide, the main character, is not the beauty we normally think of as Cinderella (at least not without her magic shoes!). An ugly birthmark mars her face and neck, making her an outcast and a laughingstock in the village. Her father was the court physician and she actually has back story with the princes (yes, there is more than one), which I really liked. It helped to make the very quick romance much more believable, a feat that is difficult to accomplish in 97 pages. I also appreciated that there was more than one prince, giving our "Cinderella" some options. But the best element of this retelling was definitely the villain. While I have seen this character vilified in other retellings, I liked the motivations that drove this particular person and how they eventually linked back to past events. There is also some redemption for a few characters I've hated in the past, which is refreshing. I don't want to give too much away, so I will have to leave you with those vague sentences about my thoughts. But definitely check out Tsukioka's novella if you're curious! I read the whole thing in one evening. 

My only complaints were that I would have loved to have seen this as a novel instead of a novella (which is really more of a personal taste thing). And there were some spelling and grammatical errors. As a former English teacher, I do find that hard to forgive in a published work. But as far as the important things go (storyline, characters, writing style), I thought this novella hit it out of the park!

My Rating
Overall, I give it a 3 out of 5 hearts. 
About the Author
Dorian Tsukioka was born in Iowa, but lived most of her childhood in the heart of America, in Kansas City, Missouri. After college, she lived in Japan, in Nagasaki Prefecture. There, she met her her husband and got her crazy last name. She and her husband lived in Las Vegas, Nevada; Durango, Colorado; and Colorado Springs, Colorado until her first born child came along. Then, the lure of free babysitting brought her family back to Kansas City, where you can go to the opera, see a major-league ball game, and go cow tipping all in one night. Dorian is a full-time elementary school teacher and late-night writer. She loves writing young adult fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction stories. 

Follow Dorian Tsukioka and her fractured fairytales at the links below:
Website: http://dorianwrites.blogspot.com 
Twitter: @DorianTsukioka
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/doriantsukioka/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6922601.Dorian_Tsukioka
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DorianTsukiokaWrites/posts

Purchase a copy of Cursed Beauty on Amazon here!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Title Announcement!

Hey friends! So I've been chatting with author, Jesse Cope IV, via email for the last few weeks, and I have the pleasure of posting a review of his whimsical YA fantasy adventure, The Book of the Wise, the first book in the Countryside series. The Book of the Wise looks like this: 

And though I haven't had a chance to begin reading it yet, I am ecstatic about Cope's summary. He compared it to The Chronicles of Narnia and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Quite possibly two of my all-time favorite YA series. So it's got some hype to live up to! Pick up a copy on Amazon and read along with me as I delve into a land of fantasy. And keep your eyes peeled for my review come January. 

But today, I get to post about the title reveal of the second novel in the series! I'm super stoked to get to be a part of this excitement! Woot Woot! 

So without further ado: the title of the second book in the Countryside series is... 
(drumroll please!) 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

BOOK TOUR!! Review of The Knife's Edge by Matthew Wolf

Title: The Knife's Edge
Authors: Matthew Wolf
Pages: 511
Publication Date: April 8, 2013
Source: eBook from Kismet Book Touring

Quick Summary
When legends come to life the world trembles from a single name. Ronin. Once-heroes from a different age, they wield elemental powers… wind, water, fire, stone, forest, sun, moon, flesh, and metal. At the same time, a young man discovers his best friend with a sword in her stomach, and dark wings sprouting from her back. Guards rush onto the scene, accuse him of the act, and he is forced to flee. In a new world without his memories, Gray must find his way amid legends and darkness, as he wrestles with an elemental power inside himself. A power all too similar to the infamous Ronin…

Opening Lines 
"Kirin ran. Using the tooth of the battlement as a stepping-stone, he launched himself at Ren."

My Thoughts 
First of all, I must say that I am extremely excited about this series and book tour! High fantasy holds a very special place in my heart for two reasons. It is definitely the genre I would choose to write should I ever publish a novel, and I was named after a character in the high fantasy series The Sword of Shanara by Terry Brooks. It has always been one of my favorite genres, so when I saw that Matthew Wolf's book was touring I had to be a part of it! 

And let me tell you, Wolf did not disappoint. The Knife's Edge is his breakout novel and quite the series starter. There were a few technical elements (spelling, grammar, punctuation) that could have used some editing, but overall I was very pleased. Wolf was able to create very compelling characters, which (in my opinion) is the most important part of a good book. Gray is mysterious and powerful yet compassionate and kind. He takes up the role he was destined for, but learns that many of the stories he grew up hearing are actually true, though they have been bastardized and changed over the years. The Ronin are also very intriguing. They are extremely powerful and have elemental powers, but are they as evil and dangerous as they are made out to be? That remains to be seen. The one part of the characterization that was a bit confusing at times was the split between Kirin and Gray. While I found the idea of the same character becoming almost two character to be fascinating, it does become difficult to figure out who is who sometimes. The book begins from Kirin's point of view, which was initially a bit confusing as I was also growing accustomed to the jargon of this fictional world. Once I caught on to the language, that was no longer a problem; however, when he made the switch to Gray both time and events are lost leaving the reader with a gap that is not resolved for quite some time... I like the element of mystery that this provides, but unfortunately it also comes with some confusion and a lot of questions. 

Setting, plot, and dialogue are the other big three that make up a good novel, and this is another place Wolf excelled. The world he created was breathtaking. It is obvious that the author has spent a lot of time outdoors in some very beautiful parts of the world, and he weaves his experiences into the elaborate tapestry of Daerval. He completely embraces the use of sensory detail, which truly helps his world come to life. The one thing here that was a bit confusing until I was about halfway through the book was the difference between Farhaven and Daerval. At first, I didn't really understand that there were two worlds. I just thought that maybe I had gotten the name of it wrong. This difference is eventually explained, but until then I had a hard time understanding that Farhaven was the land of magic and Daerval was simply human, ordinary, and nonmagical. I was also unclear whether the legends of the Ronin and the war were from Farhaven or Daerval. The gap between the two was just a bit further than I would've liked it to be. 

The dialogue was well written and feels like real people actually conversing, while still holding that style of high fantasy. This is a very difficult balance to hit, but Wolf did it quite well. The other thing I loved about this book was that the plot is very mysterious and fast paced. It kept my attention and made me want to continue reading. I don't want to give too much away here, but it is definitely worth the read! Mystery and fantasy combined? Yes please!

I think Matt Wolf is definitely a wonderful up-and-coming author. I can't wait for the second book in this series! The Ronin Saga is definitely going places. 

My Rating 
Overall I give this book a 3 out of 5 hearts.
About the Author
At a young age, Matt had an unusual mix of passions; archery, herbalism, tracking, and everything to do with Japanese history and language, but he was always first and foremost a story teller and a writer. Early on, he wrote epic tales of mice inspired by Brian Jacque’s Redwall. Then at sixteen years of age he was roped into the world of young adult fantasy and from then on was utterly captivated; spending all-nighters finishing series like Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth. Matt was also stirred by sights of the world. The rolling grass hills of Switzerland and the highlands of Scotland inspired much of the setting for the saga he would later write. After graduating from high school, Matt moved to Oregon to attend Oregon State University. With the combination of too much solitude, breathtaking landscapes, and a heap of books, Matt began writing again and The Ronin Saga took form. In fall 2007 Matt transferred to UCSB as an Astrophysics Major, a far cry from the English degree he later ended up earning. After four years of Japanese, and a heavy emphasis on Old English, Matthew graduated with a passion for language as well. The languages of the book (Yorin and Elvish) along with the wide range of cultures in the story are heavily influenced by these traditions. As for Matthew’s hobbies, they are far ranging as well, but dwell mostly in the realm of the “old soul.” He is also a Kung Fu instructor. Matthew is currently touring—visiting schools, libraries, and bookstores to spread the word of the Ronin. For a list of his upcoming speaking engagements visit www.roninsaga.com/pressroom.

Follow Matthew Wolf online here:

Purchase a copy of The Knife's Edge here

Monday, December 8, 2014

Review of Legacy by Ellery Kane

Title: Legacy
Authors: Ellery Kane
Pages: 242
Publication Date: Sept. 5, 2014
Source: Copy from the author

Quick Summary
How do you want to feel today? In 2041, the choice is yours.
San Francisco is deserted, the Bay Bridge bombed, and the BART subway trains grounded. The
Guardians, members of an elite and mysterious government-appointed military police force, are maintaining order at all costs—thanks to emotion-altering drugs like Emovere that suppress fear and anxiety. Lex Knightley, daughter of a prominent forensic psychiatrist, risks entering the devastated city to partner with the Resistance, a group of rebels intent upon exposing the dangers of Emovere. Lex discovers an ally in Quin McAllister, a magnetic Guardian Force recruit with a haunting past that binds them together. As she uncovers the secrets of the Guardian Force and confronts the truth about her family, Lex begins to realize that even those closest to her are not quite who they seem.

Opening Lines
"The first time I kissed someone, it wasn't at all like I had imagined - and trust me when I say that I had spent hours imagining it."

My Thoughts
First of all, I must say that I am very honored to be chosen to review this book. I think it has very interesting social commentaries, and it takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area, a place that I have family and am very familiar with. This is Ellery Kane's break out novel, and for a first publication, it's really not bad. It has enjoyable characters and takes place in an intriguing world. However, I must continue my rant on the cliche dystopian teen novel. While there were some interesting concepts explored in this book, there were definitely cliche elements that made some plot points very predictable. 

But let's start with the positives. The idea of emotion controlling drugs that are as strong as this novel makes them out to be is a unique point. While we currently have emotion controlling drugs in our society in the form of antidepressants or "happy pills," these drugs don't completely change your entire reality and personality. I have first hand experience with antidepressants, and they are a God-send when it comes to dealing with depression or trauma and getting yourself into a healthy frame of mind. However, these drugs don't alter who I am, my personality, or my moral decisions. Emovere, Agitor, and Crim-X (fictional drugs from the novel) on the other hand, can completely change your personality by making you 
hyper-angry, immune to fear, or entirely without compassion. Do I believe our scientists would have the ability to make drugs such as these? Yes. Are they currently in production? No. But we have other drugs and hallucinogens that have invaded our society and change the way people are and the decisions they make. I find this to be one of Kane's best social commentaries. Whether this was an intentional pass at the illicit drug use in our country or simply a byproduct of the story that I happened to pick up on, I think it is a problem in our society that could lead to some serious destruction and definitely an increase in crime. 

Of course, there was a commentary on the government and military making decisions for us without our knowledge or consent. This is kind of a staple in dystopian fiction, and it was a point that I expected to see. In this novel, as well as many other recent dystopian novels, where there is authority there is subterfuge, lies, and propaganda to help cover up whatever agenda the leaders are pushing. One thing I did appreciate about the government cover up in this novel was the level of propaganda usage and the censorship of media that Kane highlighted. Again, this idea in dystopian fiction is a bit tired and cliche. But if we were being lied to and used by the powers that be, the media is the first place it would start. So even though it's a bit of a "done" concept, it keeps the society of the book more grounded and realistic. 

Now on to the relationships in the book... and where I found some issues. I did like the main characters (Quin and Lex) and their supporting characters (Max and Elana) a lot. Lex and Quin are very likable and sympathetic characters, and they share some pretty hot scenes (which are always a bonus!), but a lot of their relationship felt very childish and even makes the characters come off as forced at times. Don't get me wrong, I like them together! But some of the writing during their fights, make ups, and even their dialogue could have been cleaned up. With a little tuning it would have felt more like a real relationship. Then there is the problem of Quin finding Lex's mom as a confidante. I found that to be a really weird dynamic. I would have understood it more if he would have turned to Max or Elana (two of the supporting characters that are his age and have known him for awhile) for help instead of a forensic scientist and the mother of the girl he likes. I don't know about you, but if I got into a fight with my husband, his dad is not the first person I'd talk to about it. Mostly, because his dad has to love him, but his dad doesn't have to love me (even though I know he does). In a real life scenario, Quin would have been a bit terrified of talking to his girl's only present parental figure. And Lex's mom would have most likely taken Lex's side. She loves her daughter, and while she may have given Lex advice on her relationship, she would still support her decisions. 

Unfortunately, I couldn't get past this little hiccup. In a book like this, there needs to be some reality to ground it and make it believable. In some places (like the social commentaries and the setting) it had that grounded feeling, but above all, the characters needed to be believable. If characters aren't realistic, the readers aren't going to buy their decisions and actions. If you have extremely solid characters, you can have them be superhuman and do unthinkable things, and the reader will buy into the story. If characters are a little shaky, it breaks the readers' suspension of disbelief. And sadly, this is why I had to knock this book down to a two. 

My Rating
Overall, I give it 2 out of 5 hearts.

About the Author
Ellery Kane is a forensic psychologist residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. She spends her days evaluating violent criminals and trauma victims. A voracious reader herself, some of her favorite books include Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye; Slyvia Path’s The Bell Jar; and Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. Legacy is her first novel.

Follow Ellery Kane Here: 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NEW YA BOOK RELEASE!!! Review of Dust by Sarah Daltry

This book is a NEW RELEASE and just came out last week!
I'm so very honored and excited to be posting for this book's release. 
Here's my review!

AuthorSarah Daltry
Pages: 317
Publication Date: Nov. 7, 2014
Source: ARC copy from the author

Quick Summary
In a world ravaged by war and oppressive forces of evil, a princess must fight to claim her bloodright and save her people. When the princess, Alondra, falls for the beautiful, blue eyes of a hooded stranger, it awakens in her a taste for freedom and an escape from her duty. But her parents have other plans; they have a kingdom to protect and Alondra must marry to ensure the peace between nations. Only what happens when your parents choose a cold-hearted assassin as your betrothed? As lies, illusions, and long hidden vendettas surface, the princess has to confront a very secret history. One that makes her realize that she not only risks losing her liberty, but also everything she has known and loved.

Opening Lines
"Overhead, the sky is sparkling. The hills crest right below the moon and the tableau, in other circumstances, would be breathtaking. However, as I wade through corpses, I'm not focused on scenery."

My Thoughts
I was really, really excited to get to read an ARC copy of a book for the very first time before the book was even released! Unfortunately, I couldn't give this book as much praise as I had hoped. While I was intrigued by the concepts in the book and enjoyed the characters immensely, the plot had a lot of holes that left me wanting. Had this book been a bit more linear and easier to follow, I think it could have been a bestseller in the YA circles. That being said, this book had good bones, it just needed some cleaning up. A revised edition could do really well. 

Alondra is the main character, and she is a princess who is feisty and rebellious. She is in a station trapped by duty but wants nothing more than to make her own choices and to discover her own deepest desires. This duty versus desire theme is prevalent throughout the novel and is made very relatable to its audience. It goes into detail about not understanding parents' decisions, yearning for a forbidden love, and not wanting the future to be chosen for you. These are all big themes for teens. 

My favorite character in the book was Seamus. He is the prince chosen for Alondra's arranged marriage. Even though Alondra is judgmental of his lifestyle and refuses to like him on principle, he is nothing but patient, protective, and loving in return. That being said, he is also an assassin and is ruthlessly good at his job. One thing that I find slightly comical about his arranged marriage is that he gets paired with a princess who is a vegetarian but still likes to hunt. Don't worry, he teases her about it too! What I like most about Seamus is that he has layers. There is so much more revealed about his character than a first impression can give us. I love how Daltry develops his character and reveals those layers to the reader over the course of the entire book. It helps us to stay sympathetic to Seamus as a character while still being able to side with Alondra and her opinions. 

My least favorite thing about this book was the "then" and "now" structure of the first few chapters. While I frequently enjoy stories that begin in medias res (in the middle) and have flashbacks, that style was not well executed here. I spent the first 70-ish pages very confused about details and characters and what was going on. If I, as a college educated book blogger, can't make sense of the beginning of this book, there is no way that the intended audience (teens) are going to stick with it long enough to figure out what's going on! And the history of the world, with windows into Alondra's parents' lives, doesn't help. It simply adds to the confusion with questions and gaps that are created and never resolved. 

The ideas and concepts present in this book are great! However, if Daltry would have taken the time to make the book at bit longer with more background and cultural details present, it would have been an amazing read. I love her creativity and the way she approaches magic in her world. I think there are themes, characters, and lessons in this book that are very relatable to the intended audience, but it definitely needs a tune up. 

My Rating
Overall, I give it a 2 out of 5 hearts. 

About the Author
Sarah Daltry is a varied author, known best for the contemporary New Adult series, Flowering, a six-title series that explores the complexities of relationships, including how we survive the damage from our pasts with the support of those who love us. Although the books are no longer in print, they are being rewritten and redeveloped for future publication. As a former English teacher and YA library coordinator, Sarah has always loved Young Adult literature and Dust, an epic fantasy novel where romance blends with the blood and grit of war, is her second official foray into YA, following the gamer geek romantic comedy, Backward Compatible. Most of Sarah's work is about teens and college students, as it's what she knows well. Sarah's passion in life is writing - weaving tales of magic and beauty. The modern and vast social networking world is an alternative universe that she makes infrequent trips to, but when she does, readers will find her attentive, friendly and happy to discuss the magic of stories and reading. Sarah has moved back and forth between independent and traditional publishing. Her first novel, Bitter Fruits, is with Escape, an imprint of Harlequin Australia, and she signed with Little Bird Publishing in the spring of 2014. Sarah has also written The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a reimagining of one of her favorite poems in a contemporary setting. She is an obsessive Anglophile who spends more time watching BBC TV than any human being should, as well as a hardcore gamer and sarcastic nerd.

Please stop by and say hello anywhere Sarah is online! 
You can find these places at http://sarahdaltry.com

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review of The Virals Series, Book Three: Code by Kathy Reichs

I know I've been reading and posting a lot of Kathy Reichs' books recently, but I was so excited that she was coming to Ann Arbor for a book signing that I just couldn't help it! While she was here, she gave a short presentation about some of her books and the real life cases they were based on as well as what the actual tasks of a forensic anthropologist are. After her talk, there was a big table of her books for sale and a book signing! So I waited in line for quite some time and got a copy of Virals and a season of Bones signed. It was so exciting! 
Here are a few of my pictures: 

I had gone through about two thirds of the line at this point waiting to get things signed. 

And this is me meeting Kathy Reichs!

Here are my signed copies of Virals and Bones!

So in the spirit of Kathy Reichs coming to town, I decided that it was appropriate to review another one of her books. 

Title: Code
Authors: Kathy Reichs
Pages: 408
Publication Date: March 7, 2013
Source: Ann Arbor District Library

Quick Summary
The Virals are at it again when they discover a geocache buried on Loggerhead that contains an intricate puzzle box. They decode the message left inside and find tantalizingly cryptic clues left by someone called The Gamemaster. Unfortunately, the game turns dark when they find the next cache and a bomb waiting for them! With more clues, an iPad that plays creepy clown music, and the knowledge that their every move is being watched, the group gets sucked into The Gamemaster's real plot. More bombs are out there, and the pack must find them by solving the puzzles and clues before time runs out... Or The Gamemaster will wreak havoc on their beloved Charleston.

Opening Line
"The reel screeched, nearly jerked the pole from my fingers."

My Thoughts
This book was highly entertaining and definitely amped up the suspense factor. The main characters only had a certain amount of time to solve each clue, or they would be putting innocent people's lives at risk. That made this book even more suspenseful than searching for pirate treasure! Crazy, huh? It was a great mystery, and I really didn't see the end coming (which, as you know, is what makes a mystery good in my book!). 

The characters really began to take on more dimensions as well. The romantic interest that I predicted between Ben and Tory comes to light in this novel and messes with the group dynamics. Fights between Ben and Jason, Tory's other romantic interest, break out and Tory seems clueless as to why Ben is so protective even though it's pretty obvious to everyone else, including the reader. She does finally confront Ben about his actions, and he admits that he wants more than friendship... but that's where the book leaves off. Will Tory take the bait and date Ben? Or will there be an awkwardness that influences the closeness of their pack? I guess we will have to wait and see! One thing that I did appreciate about Reichs' approach to this budding romance was that it wasn't just an afterthought. It really does lead to some pretty big plot twists and has a big effect on the pack's investigation. I love that she ties it in and makes it mesh with the rest of the story. It's not just made up of little love scenes that don't belong in the wider plot, which made the romance seem more legitimate to me and less like high school drama. 

I liked the villain in this book as well. We don't know much about him, but we get glimpses here and there throughout. He remains one step ahead of the pack for the vast majority of the book, which helps make the pack (and especially Tory) feel a bit more like human high schoolers. However, one thing that I wish would have been explained was the clown motif. In the book, the caches and clues that they find usually are covered in creepy clown stickers or faces. This never really ties back to the villain. It seems like if Reichs' was going to add that detail, which admittedly makes the villain seem super creepy, she needed to make it tie back in somehow and it doesn't. But other than that, I had few complaints. 

The last thing that I really liked was that Chance, a super rich and popular boy that helps the pack out with previous cases, begins to get suspicious of the Virals and their powers. Up until this point, no one has questioned them about their powers except Karston, the man running the original experiment on the wolf dog, and he is dead. Chance has seen the Virals' powers in every book. After the first book, where the pack saved his life, he was committed to a mental facility. In the second book, the pack breaks him out of that facility because they need his help finding the pirate treasure. Tory manages to convince him that what he saw of the Virals' powers was just part of his mental breakdown. But in this book, he teams up with Madison, a popular girl that Tory scared with her glowing wolf eyes to get her to stop her bullying. Now that he has another witness, Chance gets even more suspicious and actively starts trying to discover what makes the Virals tick. This is a plot point that I think will definitely be prevalent in the next book. 

All in all, I liked this novel a lot. I thought it was entertaining, fun, and suspenseful. I think the Virals series is only getting better as it goes along! 
My Rating
Overall, I give it a 4 out of 5 hearts. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

BOOK TOUR AND RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!!!!! Review of Twinkle by S.J. Parkinson

Title: Twinkle
Author: S.J. Parkinson
Pages: 549
Publication Date: July 14, 2014
Source: Virtual Author Book Tours

Quick Summary
The richest man in the world wants to celebrate the July 4th holiday as never before. In a bid to get into the record books, a global fireworks show is staged from orbit. Satellites drop pyrotechnics into the atmosphere, thrilling everyone from the Arctic to the Antarctic with their rich colors and massive explosions in every time zone. The next day, people around the globe begin to lose their sight. Governments crumble, society degenerates, and infrastructure falls into chaos. Humanity finds itself stumbling in the dark and losing all hope. A few fortunate individuals retain their vision. Attempting to deal with the growing despair around them, they come together to discover the true purpose and origin of the affliction. They race to find a cure before the world is subjugated under an invading power.

Opening Lines
"Sir Marcus Brandon, Knight Commander of the Victorian Order, sat in a fabric director's chair before a compact makeup table in a small windowless room. Normally used for storage, the space had been converted into an ad hoc dressing and makeup area for that night." 

My Thoughts
Before I begin, I should note that I've been reading a LOT of YA lit recently. I taught 8th grade for the last few years, and it's a level of literature that I find to be fun, easy to connect with, and beautifully idealistic. S.J. Parkinson's book is the first adult fiction novel I've read in quite awhile. Not because I dislike adult fiction, but mostly because I've had so many other exciting YA lit options on my list! Not through any fault of the author, it took me a little while to make the cross over. 

The most immediate difference that stood out was the sex. In YA lit, the sexiest we really get is some passionate kissing and maybe a touch here or there. The more "scandalous" YA novels will even throw in some implied sex "off screen" so to speak. But adult books talk about it pretty blatantly, and this is something I had forgotten. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against sex. I'm married and quite enjoy it actuallybut I don't really feel the need to read about other people doing it. I know that the wider American adult audience would probably disagree with me here, but I kind of like my innocent YA world where sex is barely implied. It makes for idealistic romantic gestures, like late night cuddling and forbidden passionate kisses that we adults often forget about from our youth. Maybe I'm just a sap. That being said, I do appreciate that sex was the one place that Parkinson didn't go into explicit detail. It is there. It's talked about and it is even a very logical place for a few of his characters to end up, but he keeps it pretty PG-13 material for the most part. 

Another difference is that YA lit is very plot and character driven and often doesn't stop to give a lot of detail about the setting, background information, mundane or routine actions of the characters, or any other information that is not directly related to pushing the story along. That's because the general YA audience has a much shorter attention span and can't process that much detail or simply chooses not to. Adult readers can handle a lot of information and not lose the wider story in the mix. Because of this disparity, it took me a bit to get into a story with Parkinson's level of detail, but once I did, I really liked it. Going back to YA lit after this book, I actually found myself missing the kind of detail that you find in a realistic adult interpretation of a book's world. The realism Parkinson is able to bring out in his world is amazing. He has an attention to detail that is phenominal, and it's obvious that he has done his homework. Asterisks and footnotes even give extra information about military, scientific, and medical jargon as well as strategic locations and actual American history. While this book is classified as "science fiction" because of it's somewhat futuristic and apocalyptic feel and its yet to be discovered weaponry, such as "blindness warheads," it is very much based in the realism of our world. This is something that we often don't see in this genre, but I found it somewhat refreshing and new. It gave some boundaries to the otherwise limitless world of sci-fi. 

My only complaint is that the cure for the blindness was found super quickly. Being married to a scientist has given me a glimpse into how long it truly takes to get experiments to do what you want them to, let alone fix a pandemic with no known cure on the first try! Parkinson was pretty good at keeping his story fairly realistic, especially from a military standpoint, but this science failed to convince me. However, in the Author's Afterword, Parkinson explains this as both a fictional cure for a fictional pandemic and a way to move the story along without it being ridiculously long. From this stand point, I totally get it. And I appreciate that Parkinson took the time to explain this to his readers. His research and the personal experiences that fueled the inspiration for this story are pretty amazing. I definitely think this book is a winner. 

I also found the title to be interesting. At first, I was a little taken aback by it: Twinkle. It sounds more like a fairytale picture book than a gripping adult science fiction novel. However, once I got into the story, I realized that "twinkle" actually plays a significant role in the story. It is used as a Twitter hashtag by one of the first characters to see the orbital light show and goes global. #Twinkle not only crashes Twitter's servers, it ensures that a vast majority of the world turns out to see a light show celebrating a distinctly American holiday. It is actually a catalyst for the disaster to follow because it exposes so many people throughout the world to the very thing that takes their sight away. Looking at it from this perspective, the word "twinkle" seems a lot more menacing. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to checking out some of Parkinson's  other novels. 

My Rating
I give it a 4 out of 5 hearts. 
About the Author
Mr. Parkinson was an Air Force avionics technician, a decorated veteran of the Persian Gulf War, and several United Nations peacekeeping missions. He has lived overseas in numerous countries and travels extensively. His novels have been praised for their realism and sold in fourteen countries, winning multiple international awards (Three “Outstanding in Genre” Gold Seal awards from Red Adept Publishing and Kindle Book of the Month award Oct 2013 by the People’s Choice Book Awards).

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Review of The Virals Series, Book Two: Seizure by Kathy Reichs

Just a reminder, friends: I'm getting to meet Kathy Reichs in a few weeks!! Yay! 
She is coming to the Ann Arbor District Library in mid-October for a book signing. I'm SOOOOOOOOO excited! I will definitely be there, a copy of Virals in one hand and a season of Bones in the other, to hopeful meet her, get things signed, and maybe snap a picture with her! I'll definitely keep you updated, and I'm sure I'll post about it after the fact. 
But, in lieu of her coming to the area, I figured it was appropriate to review another one of her books. So, here's my review of Seizure. 

Title: Seizure
Author: Kathy Reichs
Pages: 492
Publication Date: 2011

Quick Summary
Tory Brennan and her friends stumble upon a legend of an ancient pirate treasure. When the Loggerhead Institute becomes in danger of closing due to a lack of funding, the friends set out to find the treasure and keep their pack together. This book is full of maps, dead ends, pirate history, booby trapped lairs, and phantom gun-toting aggressors following on the pack's heels as they search for Anne Bonny's lost pirate loot. 

Opening Lines
"SNAP. The rush was electric, like grabbing the third rail in a subway tunnel. My blood races, molten lead careening through scorched veins. Pain. Disorientation. Then power. Limitless power. Visceral power." 

My Thoughts
Well, I am pleased to report that I enjoyed this book much more than the first in the series. Kathy Reichs seems to be a little more comfortable with her teenage characters in this novel and has finally figured out how they converse and interact with one another. While some of the scenarios are a little improbable and the high school and debutante events are still a bit cliché, this book definitely had a suspense and mystery appeal that captured my attention - something the first book failed to do. Why the change? 

Two words: pirate treasure. 

Let's be real, who doesn't like a good pirate legend, especially when there is a lost treasure tacked on to the end? Reichs weaves a dramatic legend of pirate love and danger that ensnares both the characters and the reader. Now, the quest they go on is a bit Indiana Jones-like, slinking through tunnels and booby trapped caves all over multiple islands in the Charleston area to follow the clues. But even though it is far fetched and fantastical, it grabs your attention and you can't help but read on! 

In this book, there is also a bit of a romantic tension developing between Tory and Ben, one of the pack members. It's nothing definitive, mostly that Ben is protective of Tory and jealous of the other boys in her life, but I'm pretty sure there will be more to come in the books that follow. 

My Rating
Overall, I have to give it a 4 of 5 hearts. 
It really was a step up from the last book and was quite entertaining. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review of The Legend Series, Book Two: Prodigy by Marie Lu

Author: Marie Lu
Publication Date: Jan. 29, 2013

Quick Summary
June and Day escape from LA only to arrive in Vegas and discover that the Elector Primo has died. His son, Anden, has taken his place and the Republic has begun sliding into chaos. June and Day join up with the Patriots, a group who may have the resources to find Day's brother; however, with the Patriots, nothing is free. Day's brother comes with a price: Day and June must assassinate the new Elector Primo, an act that will change the entire society in which they live. Will their plans work? Will they finally be able to give a voice to an oppressed people and bring freedom to their nation? And, is it worth the price of a human life?

Opening Lines
"Day jolts awake beside me. His brow is covered with sweat, and his cheeks are wet with tears. He's breathing heavily."

My Thoughts
I loved, loved, loved this book!! If you look back at my assessment of Legend, the first book in the series, I mentioned that it was not very unique and was pretty much like every other YA dystopian novel that has come out recently... Well, I am pleased to inform you that once you get to the second book, all of that has changed! It makes the first book SO MUCH BETTER!!! Seriously, check it out. It's definitely worth reading to get to the second one. 

Marie Lu's characters are dynamic and emotional. They act like real human beings under extreme circumstances. Lu does an excellent job of getting at human emotions and motivations in this book. We, as readers, really get to delve into the love, anger, jealousy, patriotism, and fear of these characters as they go through this part of their story. And the ending made me cry. Seriously, I don't tear up over books super often, but this one got me. It's heartrending, yet beautiful. And it's really hard to put into words without giving too much away, so I'll stop there. But trust me! It's awesome. 

The romance between Day and June heats up and develops some complications along the way. Lu added some pretty sexy scenes (especially for a YA novel) that definitely got my blood pumping. One thing that I appreciate about this particular romance is that it is complicated. Both June and Day question its legitimacy throughout this second book. Both characters look to others and wonder if their futures would be better off without each other. It's not easy; it's not simple. It's dynamic. And it adds a depth to both of the main characters without distracting from the main storyline. 

Another thing I really liked about Prodigy was that some of the secondary characters from the first story really grew as well. Tess and Kaede return, and both change and evolve throughout the tale. Thomas and the murder of Metias both take a twist that really makes June (and the reader) think and question what she perceived as black and white. Nothing is as it seems in this book, and the ending truly surprised me, which is actually quite a feat and something I've railed on other books for lately. 

We continue to see the motif of betrayal, but a new motif also emerges: one of lines blurring. Black and white aren't a reality. The world actually works in shades of grey. This is something that many of the characters come to realize over the course of the novel. This book also continues to pay homage to Les Miserables. We see multifaceted rebellion, death of government leaders, a rising of the people, and a realization that the grass isn't always greener on the other side (pardon my use of an extreme cliche, but it fit!). 

Definitely check this book out. It will rock your world. 
What books have made you emotional recently? 
I'm looking for recommendations. 

My Rating
Overall, 5 out of 5 hearts.
Absolutely loved it! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review of The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

So my parents have been in Ann Arbor visiting Chris and I, which has been really fun! But unfortunately hasn't left me much time for blogging. So, while they are on a short trip to Holland, MI, I decided to write y'all a post. Hope you enjoy! 

TitleThe Clockwork Three
AuthorMatthew J. Kirby
Publication Date: Oct. 1, 2010
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
This book is written from three characters' points of view that all converge as the characters meet and discover they can help each other. Giuseppe is a street musician with no way to escape his merciless owner, until he finds a very special green violin. Frederick is an apprentice clockmaker with a repressed past that haunts him as he struggles to build a clockwork man and earn his place in the world. Hannah is a maid in a ritzy hotel working to keep her family alive and well, until she is assigned to a very mysterious and wealthy new guest at the hotel and learns about a hidden treasure. All three of these characters' lives change dramatically as fate brings them together, and the danger and stakes rise. 

Opening Line
"When Giuseppe found the green violin, he did not think it would help him escape." 

My Thoughts
I actually really, really liked this book! It is the author's breakout novel, and for his first work it's pretty darn good. I am a fan of the steampunk style, and this novel definitely has some steampunk roots. Clockwork, a fancy opera, a medium, a lost treasure, a magic violin... it's all there! This novel definitely made me want to keep reading, and I zipped through it really fast (even for me!). I absolutely loved watching the three points of view slowly converge as the characters' worlds began to collide. It was a very unique writing style that really brought out the best in the characters and the mystery they were investigating. 

The other thing I really liked about the novel is that Kirby based it off of a true story about a young musician in New York City, which Kirby heard about while studying history in college. The young boy was taken from his home in Italy to be a slave playing music on the streets of New York City. He eventually escaped his master and fled to Central Park. The young man even went on to testify in court against his master, freeing and protecting other boys like himself. The story became well known, and Kirby admired the boy's courage and strength and wanted to write about it. 

My only complaint, and the reason I gave this book a four instead of a five, is that the conversations between the characters were a bit stilted and often felt forced. Taking into account that this is Kirby's first novel, I can understand that. Writing dialogue and making it sound genuine and not too scripted is a big challenge that authors face. And I think that as Kirby continues to write novels, his skills with dialogue will improve. I haven't checked to see if he's published since this book, but I sincerely hope he has because I think the guy's got talent! This was a unique and engaging story: something that is easier said than done these days.

My Rating
Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 hearts. 
Really good! 

On a completely different note: 
Kathy Reichs (the author of the Virals series and the producer of the TV show Bones) is coming to the Ann Arbor District Library in mid-October for a book signing!!!!!! I'm SOOOOOOOOO excited! I will definitely be there, a copy of Virals in one hand and a season of Bones in the other, to hopeful meet her, get things signed, and maybe snap a picture with her! I'll definitely keep you updated, and I'm sure I'll post about it after the fact. 
Woot woot! Get excited! 
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