Monday, November 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo Time

Hey everyone.

Thanks so much for your patience during these past couple of months. I know real life hits us all sometimes, and it took a little while for me to get everything back together. I'm still around, and life finally gave me a little breathing room so hopefully I can get a few things done, and a few more items off my reading list.

In case you haven't noticed, it's November. Yay! Which means NaNoWriMo time. NaNoWriMo, for those of you who don't know, is National Novel Writing Month, and is my personal favorite month. Basically, you spend one month and abandon all direction and just write. The goal is to reach 50,000 words in a month. It sounds crazy, but I love the inspiration I gain from it, even when I sometimes fail in spectacular ways (at least that's what it sounds like).

For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I'd love to hear from you! What's your project, how can I keep you motivated? Even if I don't have a book review for you right away, I'd love to reignite this blog with some tidbits and updates to spur on the creativity. Even if we're all working hard, hopefully there is some networking to keep us together. And if you aren't doing WriMo this year, no worries! We can cheer you on with another project instead.

Ready, set, WRI-MO!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Update!

Hey everyone, in case you haven't noticed I am pretty quiet right now. Long story short life happened and I had to pick up a second job so I'm working a lot of double shifts right now. I'm still attempting to read but progress is really slow. I appreciate your patience during this hectic time!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Salem's Fury by Aaron Galvin

Salem's Fury
Author:   Aaron Galvin
Publisher:    Aames & Abernathy
Release Date: April 13th, 2015
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Sarah Kelly fears a father’s sins are revisited upon the children.
Her sister believes different. Adopted by the Miamiak and raised in the wilderness, Rebecca shares no such concerns. For her, memories of their early life and of Hecate’s attack remain dim.
But history condemns those who neglect the past.
When a war party brings news of a neighboring tribe attacked for harboring white folk, they demand the Miamiak aid in avenging their fallen brothers. With rumors the culprits were held in sway to a fearless witch on the rampage, Rebecca must decide whether to guard those she holds dear or seek vengeance upon a forgotten shade of Salem.

There was a lot I enjoyed with the first book in the Vengeance Trilogy,  but that feels overcast by how much I loved this wonderful follow up. Aaron Galvin takes us back into the world of the Salem Witch Trials, but this time, we see through the eyes of the Miamiak. 

Rebecca is a formidable spirit, with a wild nature that is easy to embrace and adore. While Sarah could sometimes be passive, Rebecca is anything but. I love when books have a strong female lead, but especially one that feels believable like this. Rebecca was skilled, but not unbeatable. She was brave, but not without fault. There is something very human and very complex about her personality that made her feel like a kindred soul.

I think Aaron did a good job of linking back to the first novel; it was done in a way readers who jump straight from book 1 to 2 don't get that "when we last left our heroes!" rush, but also left enough clues people who maybe took some space between the books (like me) could easily get back into it. While sometimes I dislike time jumps, this one felt satisfying. I liked seeing this startling growth in Rebecca, and liked seeing a new story taking place within an existing world. The old problems still exist, but it's someone else's turn to solve them. And not to knock Sarah, but I think Rebecca is much better equipped to handle it all. 

This book had plenty of twists and turns, and I won't lie, there were tears in my eyes at a few points. It had some of the dark spookiness from the previous books, but it felt very real. Personally, I like stories like this, where the dangers were things that honestly existed at the times. Yeah, there are terrible things happening here. But sometimes, life gets a little grim. 

Overall, this may be my favorite of Aaron Galvin's work. I just really relate to Rebecca, and like to think maybe there is a piece of her in me. That's the best sort of feeling you can come away from a story with, in my opinion. But how can you not like her? 

I guess my philosophy is something like this: some female characters are helpless, some are fighters, and some are phoenix; when you try to take down a phoenix, they just set the world ablaze. I'd put my bets on Rebecca. She's got her own spark, and I'm excited to see what it does next.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

NEW! Advertisement Opening

Hi authors, I just wanted to let you know I am opening up a little advertisement area over on my blogs sidebar. For $10 a month, or $3 a week, you can rent the ad space and promote your book! Rather than rent the space out to adsense, which could advertise anything from fashion to jail bonds, I figured this space could go back to authors and books, which is why we're all here. If interested in this space, please e-mail me at thecraftycoyote@gmail.com. I'll even help you format the ad so you make the best impression! Again, this is for book or author promotion only, and ads are subject to review.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

H.A.L.F. The Deep Beneath by Natalie Wright

H.A.L.F. The Deep Beneath
Author:   Natalie Wright
Publisher:   Valknut Press
Release Date: January 7th, 2015
Source: Recieved from the author in exchange for an honest review.
H.A.L.F. 9 has taken his first breath of desert air and his first steps in the human world. Created to be a weapon, he proved too powerful for his makers and has lived a sedated life hidden from humans. But H.A.L.F. 9 has escaped the underground lab he called home, and the sedation has worn off. He has never been more alive. More powerful. Or more deadly.

Erika Holt longs to ride her motorcycle east until pavement meets shore. She bides her time until graduation when she’ll say adios to the trailer she shares with her alcoholic mother and memories of her dead father. But a typical night in the desert with friends thrusts Erika into a situation more dangerous than she ever imagined. 

Circumstances push the two together, and each must make a fateful choice. Will Erika help H.A.L.F. 9 despite her “don’t get involved” rule? And will H.A.L.F. 9 let Erika live even though he was trained to kill? 

The two may need to forget their rules and training and if either is to survive the dangers of the deep beneath them.

H.A.L.F. The Deep Beneath started out pretty promising. I was drawn in by the first few pages and had high hopes for the rest of the story. But somewhere within the first or second chapter it fizzled just a little bit, and I never did get back to that same excitement. While the writing wasn't bad, it never wowed me. I think the author has potential, but there was room for improvement.

One of the primary problems I think with that lack of "wow" factor was just the general plot. H.A.L.F. 9 is an alien who escaped from an underground lab, and runs into Erika. Then there is an attempt to get away without freaking out the rest of the world about the existence of extraterrestrials. Which in itself could be eventful, if it hadn't been a sort of overused theme. When you encounter something that feels common like that, you unfortunately land in the "been here, done this" category. 

There need to be something to set it apart. Maybe a character, maybe a twist. I'm not sure I found that in this book. 

Erika herself is pretty likable, as is our alien boy. But likable doesn't necessarily mean great. Erika is tough which is nice, but this instantaneous connection with H.A.L.F. 9 felt a little forced to me. H.A.L.F. 9 is well, an alien, so there is going to be a lack of connection there to begin with. 

Alien lands in foreign world, makes a ton of mistakes. Check. 

Actually a lot of things felt a little like a checklist. The plot felt predictable, despite some small moments when I thought it could be otherwise. Is it rude to say generic? Maybe? But really, I wanted something new here, like I hoped for in the beginning. I mean come on, girl offered tons of money to give birth to a baby which turns out to totally not be a normal baby! Where did that story go?

To sum it up, this was sort of your run of the mill, "conspiracy theories are totally the truth" alien story. I just feel like I've seen it handled in a much more creative manner to really applaud what I found in this book. I'm a Stargate fan, so I adore takes on aliens like The Asgards, where there is a little taste of existing conspiracies (Roswell Greys) while still having their own unique spin on it. I didn't get that same moment with H.A.L.F. We had the basic recipe: aliens caught, experiments, genetic research, whoops it's too powerful and escaped, enter love interest. By the hallway point, I really lost the motivation to pick up the book. It wasn't that it was terrible. I just didn't feel like I was really missing anything?

You know when you watch some T.V. shows, and you get distracted for a minute, come back, and you're okay with that. There's no desire to rewind to see what you missed. I never had that reaction to jump into this story and make sure I caught everything. If I have nothing else to read, yeah, it would take up the time. But would I run home to tell everyone to read it too? Sadly, I wouldn't. 

Natalie Wright has potential as a writer, but I'm not sure this story was the golden ticket to set her apart. 




Friday, July 31, 2015

Freak of Nature by Julia Crane

Freak of Nature
Author:   Julia Crane
Publisher:   Valknut Press
Release Date: February 2nd, 2013
Source: Free E-book off Amazon
Donate Body to Science. Check.
When seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn checked the box, she never suspected she’d have her life–and her body–stolen from her. She awakens one day in a secret laboratory to discover that her body is now half-robot and is forced to hide her own secret: that she still has human emotions and a human mind. If the scientists who made her find out, they’ll erase what remains of who she was.

Kaitlyn finds an unlikely ally in Lucas, a handsome, brilliant scientist who can’t get over the guilt he feels knowing she was once a vibrant, beautiful young woman. He never expected a science project to affect him the way she does. As he tries to help her rediscover her past, he finds himself falling for the brave girl struggling to find her place and acceptance between the human and computer worlds.

Freak of Nature is one of those books I liked in the beginning, then gradually lost interest in. A page turner until about the half-way point, I felt it was resolved a little early, then dragged into a stop. Most of the problems seemed to be due to plot choices, and while the writing wasn't bad, I felt like I could have just put it down halfway and felt satisfied. When the driving force, at least for me, was the romance, once that tension was released it just fell flat. The revelation of her past was sort of anti-climactic, and the conclusion felt a bit too easy. Overall, this was a book that needed a little re-arranging to maintain the easy nature it held in the opening. 


Kaitlyn and Lucas are likable enough, but the romance felt a little odd. Lucas seems to love her based on all the things he read about her, and how perfect she is now that's she's a robot. And I've never been a fan of the completely irresistibly beautiful girl. Of course she would be the one to turn into this robot, right? Now she's like, smart, beautiful, super-strong. And can put all men to shame. 

Not exactly relatable to the average person.

Kaitlyn is robotic, but still has these human thoughts and feelings. She can't feel pain, but she can still feel love, and she still feels pleasure. And no one knows she has feelings because she's hiding them, to maintain an element of humanity. She has this crush on the guy who treats her like a lab rat, and he has a crush back. It's kinda cute, but a little weird when you step back and look at it. Their eventual relationship makes it even weirder. It wasn't enough that she was perfect as a robot, but she was also perfect as a human too. and her heroic death felt really rushed and flat, as a side note. 

Oh, and the flashbacks, where she could see herself interacting with people? Pretty sure flashbacks are memories, so first perspective, you know? Definitely room for improvement. 

Clearly there were things that bugged me with this book. One of those "I'd rather be your beta than your reviewer" situations, sadly. It was nice for a quick airplane read, but it wasn't one of those "you have to read this!" stories. I'll pass on the sequel. 




Thursday, July 23, 2015

Life Bank by Magus Tor

Life Bank
Author:   Magus Tor
Publisher:   Self-Published
Release Date: March 13th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Daniel has no money. Daniel needs some money. Daniel will sell his soul to get it. 

A modern day version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Life Bank is a stunning novella from author Magus Tor. A fatalistic sense of doom will pull you through this thrilling new morality tale about the evils that come with taking too much unearned pleasure from life.

I got this book in exchange for an honest review, so I'm going to be pretty honest: the plot didn't feel as original as a lot of people made it out to be. The general concept was pretty interesting, don't get me wrong. That's what made me pick it up in the first place. You write your name in a book, withdraw money. Give a little of your life and problems are solved! But the general pursuit of money, falling short, money is never the answer thing? That's a moral that unfortunately felt a little predictable to me. 


When you pick up a book like this, I think you can sense the downward spiral about to happen. You already know he's going to somehow take more out than he bargains for. And a lot of the "twists" didn't feel like twists to me, but maybe because it always seems to happen in stories like this. It's the allure of stardom. You chase a pot of gold a start leaving behind what mattered. So those aspects weren't like "oooo ahhhh". 

I did like the writing though. It was a short story but the flow was nice. It was a decent reflective reminder to pay attention to the important things. But it still had some room to grow. 



Bulk Review Requests: It's Not Cool

It's time for a blunt service announcement

Authors, I know it gets really time consuming to inquire to a bunch of different reviewers. But this is just a casual warning in case you aren't aware: bulk review requests aren't cool. I don't mind if you're copying and pasting the same e-mail to me and a few other reviews. I appreciate it if you browse my blog and show you know a little about me before asking for me to read, but I know sometimes that's just not reasonable. But please, don't send a mass e-mail to me and 40 other reviewers. 

When I see an e-mail that starts with "Hey, I wanted to know if one of you would like to read my book", I am about 90% likely to just close the e-mail and walk away. Maybe it sounds cruel, but from my standpoint, why should I read a 300 page novel of yours to give you feedback when you can't take the time to e-mail me personally? And agents, you should know better! If you're representing an author, don't throw them under the bus by sending out a random press release to all active bloggers!

I've mentioned it in my review request tips before, but a reviewer is doing a lot for you as an author. I know sometimes people think we're getting a free book, we're more than compensated, but the internet is honestly full of free books. And I still buy plenty of books on the side. My reading list isn't shrinking anytime soon. And while a book may take 3 hours to read, a review can take another hour to write. That's time I'm not getting paid for. But I feel feedback is useful, so I set out to give as much as I can. Most of us review because we care about authors and we want to help. But starting out the relationship with a casual mass e-mail is a big no no. 

Are you going to send an e-mail to 30 colleges and say "Hey, your schools look cool, message me back if you think I'd be a good candidate?" Chances are, no. I can get 10 review requests in a single day. I'm not going to take them all, and chances are, if you bulk e-mail me, it's going to make that elimination process just a little bit easier. 

Send one e-mail at a time people. That is all. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

For Darkness Shows the Stars
Author:   Diana Peterfreund
Publisher:   Balzer + Bray
Release Date: July 12th, 2012
Source: Kindle Purchase
It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

First and foremost: Slowest. Opening. Ever. 

Let me explain a little.

Despite my final rating and overall enjoyment of this piece, this was one of those stories that is so heavy in the beginning it was like a ball and chain around your ankle. No I haven't read Persuasion (maybe it could have helped?) But seriously, it was confusing and there were so many new elements and terms and it read like a crazy sad tragedy. And that tragedy element? Pretty sure it never went away. From an outsider perspective, never having read the inspiration, I just felt a bit caught up in the muck.

You know in love stories where your like, pretty sure it'll all work out? There was a point I just stopped rooting for it during this novel. It was like, depressing! There was so much woe I just wanted to read something happier...I felt like I should be coaching Elliott. "Hey, this guy is a jerk, move on! He came back and treated you like garbage and you never did anything to him!" I stayed in the story for the minor plot elements, but I honestly lost my love of Kai. I didn't feel like he ever made up for how he treated everyone. To be frank, he was an ass!

And you know, I can't make it without a spoiler, so here it is. Spoiler spoiler spoiler. When he flirts with Olivia, then is like "oh, I may have done that to make you jealous, and then she like, fell off a cliff and all and thankfully she fell for Donovan so i didn't have to deal with it."

Whhhaaaatttt?

Okay, not word for word but that's totally how it came across for me. Then it's like, "run away with me!"

No.

This story is just a little messed up. Just a little.

So calming down. Let's talk about the good. The sort of dystopia here was sort of fun once you get into it. Kinda interesting society kind of redeveloping after almost wiping humans off the planet. Making new inventions, trying not to, you know, mess everything up again. Elliott's struggles felt very human, and other than the Kai thing, I liked her.

But man. Someone needed to kick him. Hard.


That is all.



Sunday, June 7, 2015

Alienated by Melissa Landers

Alienated
Author:   Melissa Landers
Publisher:   Disney Hyperion
Release Date: February 4th, 2014
Source: Audible Audiobook
Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Sci-fi romance is one of those genres that can quickly go from cool to cheesy. Alienated managed to exceed my expectations though. By starting 2 years after the initial alien arrival, we get what could be be described as an intergalactic exchange program with some romance thrown in. An independent main character with a less than perfect love interest made this one of my favorite reads of the summer.

One of the best things about Alienated is the characters. Cara is a strong willed teenager, valedictorian, but she's worked hard to get where she is. When she's chosen for an exchange program, she jumps in with both feet and fights to make the most of it. I love Cara because she doesn't back down. She stands by Aelyx even before feelings develop, and everyone is against her. It's more than just a career opportunity, it's fighting for something she believes in. 

I also like Aelyx because he isn't perfect. While he's attractive, a large portion of the local population hates him. Cara is protecting him in many ways, trying to make him comfortable. Meanwhile, he only has the interests of his own planet in mind. I think this book did a great job of balancing Cara and Aelyx. Neither is completely put together or flawless. They both mess up, but they build a relationship together as time goes. It's a slow process, and much more satisfying than fast paced romance novels I've read before. 

The plot itself is also interesting. The humans really are screwing things up, and the dystopia twist is fun. But the L’eihrs are also hiding things. I like that the L’eihrs are human in many ways and relatable, but there planet is still unique in it's own ways. There's a sense of culture and identity developed by the author. 

It's hard to comment too much on the end of the story, because...spoilers. But I will say, I am looking forward to the sequel. As much as I hate when sequels separate the two primary love interests, I do want to see how it all works out in the end.



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl
Author:  Rainbow Rowell
Publisher:   St. Martin's Press
Release Date: September 10th, 2013
Source: Audible Audiobook
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Full disclosure: I listened to this book in audio book format, which may have had some impact on how much I enjoyed it. While I liked the story, the audio book makes it feel super melancholy the whole time. If you read this, I really don't recommend listening to it. 


Overall, I liked Fangirl. Cath is socially awkward, and a little relatable if you're a nerd. Her terror of getting to know people and new situations may be a bit extreme, but I like her family and the people around her. I usually don't enjoy stories that turn main characters into writers, so that was one thing, (I think it ends up being a little cliche. Thankfully, this one didn't do the whole "the story I was writing in that class was this one!" thing) Levi was really likable, and I was satisfied with the ending. 

And her dad. I loved her dad. Seriously, her dad is like one of the best people in the book. 

There were some things I didn't completely enjoy, however. 

First, I really didn't get the constant descriptions of eyebrows and hairlines. Seriously, I just don't stare at guys eyebrows and find them attractive. I guess that made Cath unique, but it made me feel really disconnected to her at points. And I know it's a romance, but it also gets repetitive when we hear descriptions of guys over and over again. I get he has hair that sticks up. That gets redundant, especially in the audio book. 

Second, I felt like the Simon Snow segments seemed a bit disjointed from the rest of the story. They didn't always feel like they were feeding into the rest of the book. It was like Simon Snow was spontaneously sprinkled along. I like when excerpts or quotes have something to do with the chapter. Maybe I was missing something, but it didn't always feel that way in this story. 

I also don't get why you would reference Harry Potter in a book that's supposed to be replacing Harry Potter with Simon Snow. Side point, but it was irritating. It took away from the story.

Last, the plot. I didn't really feel like there was one large driving force in this book. There was sister stuff, and mom stuff, and class stuff, and boy stuff, but I could never tell when it was all going to tie itself up. Was the main conflict the writing assignment? The boy? Her relationship with Wren? It didn't feel like it was about being a fangirl. More like just being socially awkward. The book sort of floated along at some points. I just wanted something more concrete to carry me to the end.

Good story, but still room for improvement for me.




Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Audiobook Adventures

Hey guys! I am on a road trip this weekend and that means lots of driving, so I'm plucking through some audiobooks on the road. A review of Alienated is coming up and Fangirl is right behind it. Excited to share my thoughts! I'm probably going to need one more book before the week is over though so share your audiobook recommendations! On my reading list and have an audio book? Let me know! Now is your chance to get in my crazy schedule!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Strike: The Hero From the Sky by Charlie Wood

Strike: The Hero From the Sky
Author:  Charlie Wood
Publisher:   Createspace
Release Date: March 28th, 2012
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Book One of the STRIKE Trilogy

Tobin Lloyd's life is perfect: he's a senior at Bridgton High, he's one of the funniest kids in school, and his only worry is whether or not his latest prank is going to result in yet another detention. 

But when he wakes up in the world of Capricious, a place where superheroes are real and attacks by super-villains are just another hassle of living in the city, all of that changes. Suddenly, Tobin's last year of high school is not going as he expected.

Far from home and pretty sure he's gone insane, Tobin must join a strange group of companions (including a beer-drinking dog and a genius, three-foot-tall robot) as he desperately tries to find a way back to Earth. However, that may be even harder than Tobin knows: a mysterious super-villain named Vincent Harris has big plans for the planet Earth...and Tobin is the only person standing in his way.

A carefree, C-student class clown is the world's last hope? Yikes. 


Full of action and humor, STRIKE: THE HERO FROM THE SKY is the perfect novel for anyone who loves a good adventure.

Strike: The Hero From the Sky was one of those books that felt like it would be amazing for a middle school boy. Not being in middle school, nor a boy, I probably didn't get as much out of this as I could have. Don't get me wrong, I think Charile Wood is a great writer. It was easy to get into the story in the beginning, and I liked the flow of the dialog and text. The mechanics of a good book were there. I probably just wasn't as drawn in by the actual plot. Which is funny, because I'm sort of a nerd and I love super heroes. I think in the end it just felt too young for me? Or too boyish? Too something...

Part of the problem was honestly just that it had a different humor than maybe I prefer in a book. I sort of felt like I was on the outside watching the characters laugh and not really finding it as amusing. Talking dog companion and robot and general slapstick conversations just didn't really "click". There were really no female characters to help get me through some of the important parts of the story, and no one I related to, so that eventually made things putter out for me. I started out really into it. Powers and lightning and suspense, yes! Then all the secondary characters and power discovery took that left turn where I felt like I walked into a boys locker room. Somehow, I just wasn't sure I belonged there. 

I'm not marking this book down because I don't think it's really the authors fault. There is an audience for this and if I had a younger brother I could pass it off to them. It just wasn't a "me" book.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Bonus Post: Why I Love Legend of Zelda, Majora's Mask

So I know this is a book review blog, but this post is just me sharing something that's sort of meaningful to me. In this case, it's a video game. You can read if you want to. 


If you know me at all personally, you know I'm a bit of a nerd and my favorite game is Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Few people actually know why this is my favorite game though. So here's a random post just to clear that up for everyone, because I felt like it. So there.

Why I Love Legend of Zelda, Majora's Mask

Reason 1: The Struggle Against Time
To start off with, Majora's Mask to me has always been a race against the clock. You have three days to stop the moon from crashing into Clock Town and virtually destroying everyone that lives there. There is no guarantee escaping the city will save you, and the world and you know it could be over if you fail the quest. All of this is pushed into action because Skull Kid stole a mask that turned an already impish character into a force of destruction.

After the first play through, it's clear there is no way to do everything possible in one day. That's where some magic and time traveling comes into play to save everyone. You travel back in time over and over, loosing everything but the masks you collect along the way. You can slow down time a little, but if you loose focus or mess up, you have to start over again. 

I really connect with this plot because life is always a race against the clock. You can't stop time, can't rewind, and honestly, you never know when that final day will come. There is no magic answer to go back and start again. We're just these citizens of Clock Town, trying to make the most of every moment, and we all deal with that struggle in different ways. 

Dealing with Death
With the moon doomed to crash into the earth thanks to Skull Kid's trickery, the characters in this video game are forced to face their demise. What's unique about this is everyone faces it differently. Some focus on love and enjoying their last moments together. Others continue to work, because a task needs to get done and they may as well be the one to do it. Some live in denial, and others seek closure to the past. The characters in this game all have a story, and it's your job to find it. 

Reason 3: Collections
As you listen and solve the problems character's face, you are rewarded with masks, which are the only things you can carry with you through time. Some transform you into other forms, others just give you special abilities. Some of the fun of the game is just in building your collection. There is something exciting about having a full inventory. However, that leads us to...

Reason 4: You Can't Take it With You
In Majora's Mask, you spend the entire game collecting masks, and frankly, if you're like me you get quite attached to them. I love running around with the bunny mask, and swimming in the Great Bay area as a Zora consumed endless hours of my childhood. But there is a point in the game where you have to give up all your masks in order to finish the game. To me, this really speaks metaphorically about what we face just living and dying every day.

We all collect masks. We collect possessions or we have careers and other things we acquire in this life. But we all will face a day when we have to give that up and just move on. As fun as it is to run around with the bunny mask, there's a point where you just have to continue with the rest of the game, and that means letting go of those things you collected as you went along. You help people, impact their lives and try to make the world a better place if you can. In the end though, the story will have to come to a close. 

Majora's Mask can be frustrating, because you deal with a sense of helplessness. You can't do things quick enough, there are endless puzzles, and a sense of repetition as you live the same day over and over to beat the game. There is a lot of fun in collecting though, and checking off each task in your trusty notebook to help people out. In the end, you must sacrifice what you've collected though to advance to the final round. 

The characters, the struggles, and just the overall story have always connected to me. So even years later, it continues to be one of my favorite games. 

What about you? What is your favorite game and why?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Whole in the Clouds by Kristine Kibbee

Whole in the Clouds
Author:  Kristine Kibbee
Publisher:   illusio & baqer
Release Date: November 6th, 2014
Source: Netgalley
Cora Catlin is a misfit at best, and an outcast at worst. She feels out of place, as if everything is backward and something is missing from her life.

And then, on her first day of middle school, everything changes.

When Cora encounters an elfin stranger who speaks of the magical world Clouden, an entire kingdom hidden up in the sky, she can’t wait to leave her boring, humdrum life behind. As Cora travels to her new home, where children sprout from the ground and rivers flow with chocolate, she finds herself transformed—and if that weren’t enough, she has to adjust to royal parents, talking Pegasuses, a raging war, and an alluring love interest as well.

Exploring this new land, Cora unearths wonders and secrets beyond her wildest imaginings, discovering the meaning of true friendship, love, and what it means to feel whole. 

There is a line between Middle School Fiction and YA, and Whole in the Clouds falls pretty firmly into the former category. The writing is pretty light, the plot probably fell more in the whole unicorns and rainbows and sparkly magic category that I usually like, and I got bored pretty quickly with the plot. That's not to say I may not have enjoyed it more had I been younger. But as it stands, this wasn't quite mature enough for my taste.

One of the biggest problems I had with this story though was the treatment of beauty and weight. Cora is, to be blunt, fat, and the people surrounding her are pretty terrible to her about it. While that happens, and people are mean, I didn't like how the book handled the issue of her weight. She goes to this magical place, and then suddenly, tada, she's going to be skinny and beautiful? It just irritates me a little when that much emphasis is put on looks only to give a magical answer. She's made skinny because she's a good person on the inside, and when she gets to this land, the inside matches the outside.

I just feel like the morals were coming across all wrong. I don't think I'd want to share this with a middle schooler because I'm really not sure that's the message I want to be sharing. If anything, the story would make me feel even more depressed as a kid. If I'm fat but I'm a nice person, I'm just backwards? If I was in this magical place it'll all get straightened out? Why should my weight have anything to do with who I am on the inside? Red flags, red flags all over the place.

The world is creative, and the cover was beautiful, but some things just seemed shallow to me. This book had a lot of potential to encourage younger readers, but somewhere in the execution it came out garbled.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Author News: Where Are They Now?!

Hey guys! Welcome to a special blog post which I'll just call, Where Are They Now? After reviewing books, I have had the opportunity to follow some of the author's events and happenings. This month I happened to get two cool updates, so I thought I'd share them with you readers while I continue to pluck my way through my reading list : ).

First up is Shannon A. Thompson. I had the chance to review Shannon's book Minutes Before Sunset last June (you can read that post here) Shannon just held a cover release for the second edition of her novel, and I'm pretty jazzed about the new look. If you know me, I'm pretty big on covers, and this one seems a lot more mystical, which is fitting:


Second on the update list is one of my favorite authors, Aaron Galvin. Aaron is about to release the sequel to his book Salem's Vengeance, which I reviewed last July (you can read that one here). The sequel is called Salem's Fury, which is now available to preorder. (liiiink) I got my paws on an early copy, and my review should be up here soon so I can get you all hyped for it ; ) .



Aaron will be attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books April 18th-19th to help with the promotion as well. He'll be there both days in Argue Plaza, booth #735, near the YA stage, so this is a fun chance to meet him and interrogate him about both of the Salem books as well as his other books, including Salted which I've been a fan of.

It's always great to see authors keep moving forward with their writing journeys, and I'm always happy to hear what they're up to next!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant
Author:  Joanna Wiebe
Publisher:  BenBella Books
Pages: 320
Release Date: January 20th, 2015
Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review
Life and death, light and dark, spirit and flesh-on Wormwood Island, the lines are always blurred. For Anne Merchant, who has been thrust back into this eerily secretive world, crossing the line seems inevitable, inescapable, destined.

Now, as Ben finds himself battling for the Big V and Teddy reveals the celestial plan in which Anne is entwined, Anne must choose: embrace her darkly powerful connection to a woman known as Lilith and, in doing so, save the boy she loves...or follow a safer path that is sure to lead to Ben's destruction at the hands of dark leaders. Hoping the ends will justify the means, Anne starts down the slippery slope into the underworld, intent on exploring the dark to find the light. But as the lure of Lilith proves powerfully strong, will Anne save others-only to lose herself?

DISCLAIMER: The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant is Book 2 in The V Trilogy. If you haven't read Book 1, I do caution you that this review could (and probably will) contain spoilers, at least where the main plot is concerned.

In The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant, we revisit Cania Christy, a twisted school where students fight in a life or death competition called the Big V. After a dramatic showdown in Book 1, Anne must face the consequences for her actions, and struggles with the reality she may never truly escape this island. With peers who hate her (which seems like an accomplishment when some of their PTs are to lie or seduce people), Anne has some new information that could change everything. Just winning the competition for herself isn't the goal: now she needs to protect those she cares about from more permanent plans.

On the back cover of this book, there is the line that says "behind every secret lurks one much darker". I felt like this was a good description for the progression in this series, and the turn the book tends to take. While there is plenty of page turning and mysteries, the spiral is towards a darker plot. Even Anne herself takes on a roll that makes it hard to like her until she gets a reality check.

The torture in the story, and the somewhat gruesome power struggle made this feel like a separate story at times. While there was romance and sacrifice, and a soft of helpless battle against death in book one, book two seems to be mostly driven by a sense to do whatever is necessary to survive. Anne has become just like any other student, driven by the island's dark energy to manipulate and claw her way out of trouble. The revelations about Anne herself seem to somewhat explain this, but it does make some of the messages a little hard to decipher.

I feel like the elements reserved for the last book leave a lot of I guess moral questions about book two. Anne treats her best friend like crap. She gets people expelled from the school (which has devastating consequences), and she twists the staff of the island to follow her, all to save Ben. There's something romantic, and perhaps a little creepy about all of it. We see some larger goals at play, but since most of them don't really come to pass, there isn't that feeling of redemption at the end. You know when the main character does something terrible, realizes how horrible they were and tries to redeem themselves? I guess I didn't get the feeling Anne ever goes through that. Perhaps it's just the island. But it does kind of leave a slight melancholy emotion behind as the book comes to a close.

Like book one, MOST of the main questions are answered, but there is still a lot left to wonder about. I still think it's a really good book, but you have to proceed much like the first. This is a darker turn in the tale of Anne Merchant, but I'm withholding final judgement until I see the conclusion. Until then, we have to wonder though. Is there redemption for everything that's really occurred in book two? Is Ben worth all this trouble? Is anyone ever really dead in this story?

I guess the best word to describe this series at this point is delightfully frustrating. One last book, and then perhaps, there can be a final verdict on the overall tale.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Update

Hi guys!

Sorry things got so quiet this last month. My plans for conquering the review request mountain have been a bit delayed by, well, life. Had some personal stuff really distract me, but I'm doing my best to get back into the swing of things. I appreciate everyone's understanding. I have one or two books I'm in the middle of, so with luck, there will be some new updates this week!

In the meantime, I'd love to hear what everyone else is reading. Or for you writers out there, what ever one is writing!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hatshepsut's Collar by A.W. Exley

Hatshepsut's Collar
Author:  A.W. Exley
Publisher:  Curiosity Quills Press
Pages: 312
Release Date: November 13th, 2013
Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review
"Loving you is easy, it's living with you that's killing me."

An ancient Egyptian artifact is driving Queen Victoria insane, and that's not top of Cara Devon's growing list of problems.

Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is a man of numerous secrets, but there is one in particular that threatens his fledgling relationship with Cara. Stunned by Nate's revelation, and before she can absorb the ramifications of his actions, he is arrested, charged with treason and imprisoned in the grim Tower of London. He stole something the mad queen wants, and only has days to deliver, before his date with the executioner.

Although sorely tempted, Cara can't let him die on Tower Green, not when their connection means she would share his fate.

Only together can Cara and Nate figure out how to wrestle Hatshepsut's Collar from around the queen's neck, before she plunges Britain into a world war. The search for answers sends Cara to the opulent Winter Palace of St Petersburg and the frozen depths of Siberia, with every step shadowed by an enemy with his own dark plans.

After reading Nefertiti's Heart, I had some mixed feelings about picking up the sequel. While there were a lot of elements I loved about the first Artifact Hunters book, the relationship between Cara and Nate left a funny taste in my mouth. Unfortunately, I feel a lot of those feelings continue in the sequel, and that made it hard to enjoy a portion of the story. It evens out a little as things progress, but not enough for me to like it completely. 

Don't get me wrong, I still love Cara. I think she's is a strong female lead, and I enjoy seeing her take charge attitude. But Nate's continuous manipulation of her just feels unromantic to me. His secret feels a bit twisted, and I felt like Cara had a right to be mad. I think the whole seduction and physical attraction tends to overshadow that Nate really pulls strings to make Cara do things. Plus, when Cara risks her life for him, I felt like he was almost smug about it, verses being grateful. Like his attitude is more "yeah, I made you love me" at times than just really loving her.

I will admit, I do feel like we see that Nate genuinely cares for Cara. I just think he kind of expresses it poorly for most of the book. There are some really tender interactions. Maybe I want more consequences for his lying and control of her? It wasn't until the last portion until anyone really calls him out on it, and I just wanted someone to smack him...Yeah, sometimes people are bad about showing they care and stuff, but that usually pushes people away. Sometimes he just seems like a jerk. But maybe that's realistic. I still don't suppose I have to like it. 

I don't know, I just am not a fan of that sort of dynamic in a couple. As much as I love the steampunk elements and the mysteries, I'd rather have some healthier growth in the relationships. There are sparks and gems of what they could be together. I just want it to continue throughout. 

As for the story line (now that I got off on that tangent)... I liked some of the new elements, especially the mysterious stolen objects (which is probably as much as I can say without spoilers). I think if I didn't want to strangle Nate most of the time, I would have enjoyed the plot much more. 

As it is, I am hopeful for the third installment of this series. Mostly because by then, I'm hoping some of the relationship annoyances will wear off. 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lyche by E.A. Rappaport

Lyche
Author:  E.A. Rappaport
Publisher:  Owl King Publishing
Pages: 312
Release Date: February 13th, 2014
Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review
An evil spirit, trapped within a volcano for ages, escapes its fiery prison with a vow to destroy all life. Only a young Arboreal wizard and his companions dare to oppose the powerful creature. After a massive earthquake shakes the land, Jarlen, an inexperienced Arboreal wizard, and Tyraz, a Ferfolk warrior, travel from a cursed island in the north to the barren wastelands of the west, tracking an ancient spirit that is capable of combining living creatures with the dead. With little help from their respective communities, the two must discover the lyche's foul plans before there is nothing left to save.

Lyche is in the middle of a unique series, a set of 3 trilogies that interlock, while still leaving the story solid enough to standalone. While I always hesitate to pick up a book without reading previous novels, I did find the story line easy enough to settle into. The characters are fairly likable, and the species in the story have their own original feel to them. I felt like this series had a lot of potential, especially for readers that like fantasy.

That being said, I'm not sure it was personally my cup of tea. While E.A. Rappaport does have some solid writing ability, I found a lot of the scenes jump forward far too quickly for me to ever fully engage with the story. I didn't feel like events transitioned well from one place to another, so it made it difficult to ever read more than one chapter at a time. But that is more of a stylistic preference I think than a full mark against the author's work. 

I did like the species the story had. The tree like Arboreals were a nice change in a genre dominated by the typical dwarves and elves. Jarlen and Tyraz were likeable enough, and I felt other characters felt dynamic. I just wish it had been a bit easier for me to really immerse myself in the author's world. It really felt like it could have been an enjoyable book in the right hands. Bummed it wasn't the book for me though. 


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress
Author:  Marissa Meyer
Publisher:  Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 550
Release Date: February 4th, 2014
Source: Audio book from Audible, Purchased
In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

While I've really enjoyed the other two books in this series so far, Cress was the first ofThe Lunar Chronicles I picked up as an audio book. There may be a few points my opinions about it were a little influenced by the voices in the audio track, so that's just a little side disclaimer to anyone reading this. Like the rest of the series, Cress brings another familiar fairy tale to life, this time focusing on Cress, or the story of Rapunzel. Girl with long hair trapped in a tower (or I guess in this case, a satellite) by an evil woman.

Overall, I've enjoyed where the story has gone. I especially liked the lead in at the end towards the last book in this series, and the addition of the Snow White character. There were a few points in this book, however, where I had that unfortunate "heard it before" sensation I sometimes get with twisted fairy tales. Which was really a bummer, because Marissa Meyer is usually really good at avoiding that. Something about Cress herself just went a bit too mainstream (and by mainstream, I'm eluding to a certain Tangled version of this character...). Like I noted before, this could have just been the audio book interpreting it that way, but Cress was just the wide eyed, naive, sort of ditsy damsel in distress I've seen in other renditions. I guess it makes sense, you know, girl locked in a tower, no social interaction, big imagination. I guess I just wanted a little more from her as a person. The sort of super smart nerd element really felt like it had a lot more potential that wasn't really embraced. That's just me though.

I did like that the Rapunzel parts actually took a lot of elements from the original story. And the relationship between her and Thorne was actually pretty fun. I like that Thorne doesn't entirely play into the roll of being a hero or being a prince charming, and he can be sort of a jerk a lot of the time. I don't know, he just feels realistic to me. The audio was pretty well done in the audio book I listened to too. Made my long road trip go by super quick having such a fun book to listen to. Overall, good book, with plenty to lead into the next edition. Is it out yet? Waiting sucks...