Reviewed in July

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

Devil's Kiss 
Pages: 321
Publisher: Puffin Books
Genre: YA Paranormal
#1 in Series
Source: Purchased
As the youngest and only female member of the Knights Templar, Bilquis SanGreal grew up knowing she wasn't normal. Instead of hanging out at the mall or going on dates, she spends her time training as a soldier in her order's ancient battle against the Unholy.
One of the order's ancient enemies has resurfaced, searching for a treasure that the Templars have protected for hundreds of years -- a cursed mirror powerful enough to kill all of London's firstborn. To save her city from catastrophe, Billi will have to put her heart aside and make sacrifices greater than any of the Templars could have imagined.

The amount of times I've searched for a novel about a girl who can kick ass without falling into the stereotypes of what it means to be a "strong woman" must number in the hundreds. Too often these kick ass female characters are only that--kick ass, and they lack the substance that makes them well-rounded people and interesting to read about. (Okay, so reading about a woman kicking dudes in the face is awesome, but, y'know, if she had a real personality that'd be awesome-er.) And while I love romance as much as the next gal, I hate when it becomes the all consuming thought of these women

I was nicely surprised when I found that Devil's Kiss gave me a female lead who didn't drop her life for romance and actually felt like a human being. Like a real 15 year old girl. Bless you Sarwat Chadda.

Devil's Kiss was quite fast paced. There really never was a dull moment, even from the first page. These are the first words: "Killing him should be easy; he's only six." Oooooohkay how's that for an opener? (For the record, no they do not murder a child. Well, they sort of don't. Ah, you'll see what I mean if you read it.)

As I was saying earlier about Billi not losing her cool over romance, that doesn't mean there wasn't any romance in the book. But quite honestly it was not a very deep romance--at least I didn't feel it--and it didn't cloud Billi's vision the way love oft does to young YA heroines. Which I was so grateful for, because Billi as a protagonist was refreshing. She was strong, yes, in the literal sense of the word, but she was also a bit jaded from her splintered relationship with her father. And she didn't quite have everything together in her life, which is to be expected of her. Gosh, she's only 15. She's practically a fetus. Watching her learn and push through her failures was nice.

This novel does contain lots of religious content, although it's not specifically religious. I very much enjoyed how Sarwat Chadda used a wide range of religious canon and brought it together to create the... I don't think 'mythology' is the right word here, but I can't think of anything else to call it. In any case, I thought it served the story well.

I am definitely interested to read more about Billi and the Knights Templar. My only regret is that I didn't read Devil's Kiss sooner! It's been sitting on my shelves for several years now. Glad I did, finally! 4 out of 5 stars.

Amazon: Paperback | Kindle
Barnes and Noble: Nook

About the Author
Sarwat Chadda has lived and travelled throughout the world, from China to Guatemala. He’s been lost in Mongolia, abandoned at a volcano in Nicaragua and hidden up a tree from a rhino in Nepal. Not to mention being detained by Homeland Security in the US and chased around Tibet by the Chinese police. Maybe he just has that sort of face.

Anyway, now he’s trying to settle in one place and stay out of trouble. Hence his new career as a writer. It’s safe, indoors and avoids any form of physical danger.

Throughout his travels, Sarwat has soaked up the myths, legends and cultures of far away places. Now, with the Ash Mistry series, he aims to bring these unfamiliar tales of ten-headed demons and blue-skinned heroes back home and put them beside the exploits of Achilles and Thor. His heroes are Prince Rama and the demon-slaying Kali. Isn’t it about time you met them too?
Website | Twitter 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Discussion: Why don't you like spoilers?

Spoilers are a big no-no for pretty much anything--movies, tv shows, and certainly books. Writing reviews that contain spoilers with no spoiler warning is considered pretty much a blogging sin and just a not cool thing to do.

I'll be honest though: I don't really understand why.

Okay, I do understand why--because I'm sure it would suck to have all the suspense kicked out from under you by a comment online you wish you wouldn't have read--but spoilers just don't bother me. At all.

In fact, I often look for spoilers because I hate the uncertainty of not knowing. That's just how I am--if I know the information is readily available, I want it. I will go and take the time to find out the details later, but I want to know the big facts immediately. My reasoning is this: just because I know that something does in fact happen, that doesn't mean know how or even why it happens. The "who what when where how and why" are what make things interesting for me, not the facts. So you can tell me "[insert character name here] dies" and that tells me absolutely nothing other than said character is in fact dead. How did they die? Who killed them? Why were they killed? What were the events in their life leading up to their death? All these are questions that can only be fully and completely answered by reading the book. And then the book actually takes on a completely different element of suspense because now that I know this character doesn't make it out alive it becomes a guessing game of when they'll die. "This chapter? Oh crap this doesn't look good oh god it's going to happen OH IT'S GOING TO--whoops, nope, they're still alive. We'll get 'em next time boys."

This sometimes makes it hard when I write reviews. Since I'm so desensitized to spoilers sometimes I don't realize that a fact I share, while I think it seems innocent, can be a total spoiler for someone else. I usually correct this by doing what I call the "summary test" while I'm proofreading. If it's a fact that is in the summary or easily assumed from the summary, it can stay. But if it's something that's not in any way implied in the summary, it's gotta go. I'm sure things slip through the cracks sometimes, but please know I do try very hard to keep my reviews spoiler free and I always clearly mark them when I know the spoilers are unavoidable.

I can understand why spoilers are so hated though. Especially if it's for a series you love, you'd want to be able to experience it completely new as you were reading.

So my question to you is....
Why don't you like spoilers?

Monday, July 28, 2014

YA Book Trailers (2)

There are lots of ways to find out about new books, and publishers put lots of time and effort into getting word about their titles out into the world. One of my personal favorite ways to learn about books is through book trailers! I think a really well done book trailer can tell you everything that a written description can while adding the visual elements to give a unique look at a novel.

These are some of my favorite book trailers at the moment.

• Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige •

Doesn't this sound awesome? I love the idea that Dorothy became exactly like what she set out to destroy when she melted the witch, and now someone else has to stop her. Perhaps that's just a thing in Oz. Women get power hungry.

• Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly •
MERMAIDS. Mermaids. Honestly I don't think I need to talk about why I love this video, it seems pretty self explanatory.

What do you think of these videos?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: Into the Deep by Missy Fleming

Into the Deep 
Pages: 240
Publisher: Fire and Ice Books
Genre: YA Fantasy; Mermaids; Greek Mythology
#1 in Series
Source: Author
No one understands the fury of the ocean like Zoey.

Ten years ago, she lost her leg in a freak shark attack. The night after her sixteenth birthday, she has yet to accept her awkward prosthetic limb or the fact she will always be different. Wary of the sea, and its hidden threats, she ventures to a bonfire at the beach. She’s mesmerized by its awesome power, wondering what she ever had to fear, until a rogue wave sweeps her into the cool, salty water.

Zoey believed mermaids were creatures of legend, characters in silly children’s stories, but it’s hard to ignore the captivating tail that’s suddenly appeared, or the sense of finally being whole. She abandons her life on land in search of answers about who she really is and where she came from.

What she discovers is a kingdom full of intrigue and danger, as well as a royal father she never knew existed. Settling into her role as a mermaid princess, she learns her family is under attack, both on land and in the water. Raging storms swell up, threatening coastal cities, and sea levels rise practically overnight, endangering the lives of everyone she loves. Determined to stop the strange phenomena, Zoey becomes caught up in the race to track down what, or who, is responsible for the catastrophic events.

But, Zoey possesses another secret, one born of legend and more powerful than any mer or human can imagine.

Into the Deep is a welcome addition to the (sadly small) canon of YA mermaid novels out there in the world. Although is certainly has its faults, I quite enjoyed Into the Deep and reveled in the wonderful world and mythology Missy Fleming created. Being a mermaid lover (not a joke, I thought I was a literal mermaid for the first 7 years of my life---that's a story for another time, though) I am always eager to gobble up mermaid stories and this one left me satisfied and definitely interested in more.

The beginning is the problem.
I'll admit, getting into this novel didn't happen easily for me. The first few chapters were just build up, teasing us with information that we already know just from the description of the book. There was no suspense in Zoey finding out she was a mermaid or in her wondering what was happening to her because I already knew. So instead of sitting there are mirroring Zoey's curiosity, my thought process was more along the lines of "Yes you're a mermaid. Yep. Mermaid. No, that's not really that weird because oBVIOUSLY YOU'RE A MERMAID." The beginning just felt like it was happening because we needed the exposition of Zoey finding out this life changing information. Because of that, it felt flat and I couldn't get a feel for Zoey's personality, or really any of the other characters.

Things are looking up!
However, all of this pretty much disappeared once Zoey ventured to the undersea kingdom. From there Missy Fleming really flexed her muscles as an author and created a vibrant world of mermaids and customs that mirror our own, but are fundamentally different. I loved the fact that the mer people weren't what we typically imagine mermaids to be, physically at least. They painted their bodies and dyed their hair in bright shades. A little later on in the story when we find out the origins of the mer people  I was pleased to find that Greek mythology was woven into the plot. This is also when I felt Zoey was become more fleshed out as a character and her personality started shining through.

Characters don't always have character.
I really came to like Zoey and was able to connect with her, and I was also incredibly fond of her father Stavros, who is the king. The building of their relationship gave the book some of its sweetest moments. And while I felt that the immediately important characters like Nerio and Xander were also well written, the rest seemed to fall into archetypes and didn't manage to come to life outside of that. Zoey's grandmother felt like she was just there to be the "wise maternal figure," Magdalena and Eustice filled the "evil stepmother/daughter" roles and didn't feel like they had any motivations for the way they acted other than because they needed to be that way to fill a character stereotype. Not all of the characters were like this, in fact there were quite a few smaller characters that I felt had dimension even though they were only in the story for a short amount of time, such as Nerio's family.

Into the Deep was well-written with a clear and concise writing style that allowed me to read quickly without getting bogged down in any wordiness.  Despite the few drawbacks I noted, I enjoyed reading it and will certainly be looking forward to future novels to see where Zoey's journey ends up. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Amazon: Paperback | Kindle
Barnes and Noble: Paperback | Nook

About the Author
My name is Missy Fleming and I live in Bozeman, Montana. I love living in Montana, it's so beautiful and full of rich history. Being outdoors often conflicts with my writing, but I guess that's what winter is for!

This review copy was provided for free in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed above are solely my own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Discussion: Loving A Series So Much You Can't Finish It

There's this strange phenomenon that happens to me when I really like a series...

I can't finish reading it.

How does that even make sense? I don't know, but it's true. When I really love a series, I get horribly anxious about how the story will turn out. Because I'm usually so emotionally invested in the story and the characters, I have a specific way I want things to end up and usually the author doesn't quite agree. So actually reading the series and finishing it causes me more anxiety than just being able to exist with my own headcanons, which you can imagine puts me in a really strange position as a reader.

Don't get me wrong, I want to finish these series, to give myself some closure. I've done it before--Harry Potter, the Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy, heck even Twilight when that was a thing. But I have to have an immense amount of will power and plenty of free time to sit down and plough through the books in one sitting. (If I have to stop-and-go read on these books, I'll just end up talking myself out of finishing them and they go halfway read.)

The funniest thing is that this isn't even necessarily about finishing the last books in the series. For example, I'm stuck pretty much in the middle of two major series that I love but can't bring myself to read anymore of (for the time being.) The first is the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, and the second is the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. For the Soul Screamers series, I read all the way up to the 5th book, and now I've been wiffle-waffling over starting the 6th (pictured right). I've heard that this is the book where, excuse my language, shit goes down. On the one hand, I adore this series and I absolutely want to know what happens to Kaylee. But what if I don't like what happens? Ahhhhhhhhhh. The only way I'd be able to force myself to read it is if I purchased the 6th and 7th book (the next two after If I Die) and could devote a weekend to just finishing the entire series, one book after the other so I wouldn't have to have time to dwell on it until it was done.

As for the Mortal Instruments series, I have read all the books up to City of Lost Souls. This series is one that just has so much going on and there are so many ways it could go. The good thing about Cassandra Clare is that she's one of those authors that found what worked for her and just went with it, so pretty much all her published works are set in the same world. Even if I finished this series I wouldn't have to say goodbye to Shadowhunters and such forever because there is the prequel trilogy and the Bane Chronicles, etc. I don't feel as anxious finishing this series, but I'm sure once I picked up City of Lost Souls eventually I might.

Anyway, these are just some personal examples to show you what I'm talking about. I don't know why this happens to me, and I'm wondering if it happens to any of you guys? Do you find yourself experiencing this reluctance to continue a series even though you really love it--because you really love it? It's like you don't want it to end so as long as you haven't read all the books, it won't. But by doing so, we're depriving ourselves of the enjoyment these books can bring up.

So my question to you... Have you ever dealt with this before? How did you get over it? Are you still dealing with it? Also, what do you think causes this reluctance to read something you love? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review + {GIVEAWAY}: Underworld's Daughter by Molly Ringle

This review is for the 2nd book in The Chrysomelia Stories series by Molly Ringle. While I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible there is sometimes no way around it. If you have an interest in this series, please take a look at my review for the first book in the series, Persephone's Orchard.
Underworld's Daughter 
Pages: 410
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Genre: New Adult; Paranormal; Greek Mythology
#2 in Series
New immortals are being created for the first time in thousands of years thanks to the tree of immortality discovered by Persephone and Hades. But Sophie Darrow is not one of them. Nikolaos, the trickster, has given the last ripe immortality fruit to two others, the reincarnations of the gods Dionysos and Hekate: Tabitha and Zoe, currently Sophie's and Adrian's best friends.

While the disappointed Sophie struggles to remember Hekate and Dionysos from ancient Greece, she must still face her daily life as a mortal university freshman. Tabitha and Zoe have their own struggles as they come to terms with being newly immortal and their own haunting dreams of past lives and loves. The evil committed by Thanatos invades all of them in heartbreaking memories, and worse still, Sophie and her friends know their enemies are determined to kill again. And even the gods can't save everyone.

I finished this book feeling nothing but soul crushing sorrow. Which is a good thing. A brilliant thing, actually, because it means that Molly Ringle accomplished her job in getting me emotionally invested in the story and the characters enough to feel their pain.

But let me not get ahead of myself.

Underworld's Daughter is the sequel to Persephone's Orchard, which if you read my review you know I loved. And I loved this one as well, but in a different way. As the author herself says in the afterword of the novel, while Persephone's Orchard (it will henceforth be referenced as P.O.) can be considered a retelling, Underworld's Daughter veers pretty directly into the Greek mythology fan fiction realm. Which I was totally okay with because I thought Molly Ringle handled it masterfully. Because she so vividly fleshed out the world of the Greek immortals in the first novel, Ringle went into this one with more freedom to expand on her world and characters in a way that allowed her to break free of the myths and instead use them for her own purposes. This may bother some die-hard Greek mythology fans, but I for one welcome ingenuity into the genre. If I wanted to read about completely accurate Greek myths I'd pick up Edith Hamilton's Mythology, not a paranormal romance novel.

The one change that did take some getting used to was the shifted focus of the narrative. Whereas P.O. focused almost solely on Sophie and Adrian and their past-selves Hades and Persephone, in Underworld's Daughter they took a backseat to Dionysus and Hekate, something that I wasn't so happy about when I realized they were going to be the predominant focus. What enchanted me most about P.O. was that I was watching two lives unfold at the same time and was totally invested in both with equal fervor and desire to see them snog each other senseless. Sophie and Adrian's story and relationship was just as capturing as Hades and Persephone's was.

However, this was not the case with Tabitha/Zoe and Dionysus/Hekate. I was thoroughly intrigued with Hekate and Dionysus and I did very much enjoy their story and the bit of debauchery our boy Dio brought to the table. But, Tabitha and Zoe's "sort of but not really romance" wasn't something I was particularly worried over. Mostly because of Tabitha being a bit of a jerk in the situation and I think Zoe deserved better than her. If Tab cleaned up her act and figured out what--and who--she wants instead of straddling the fence, I could totally get behind their relationship.

I did miss the focus on Sophie and Adrian, but I also truly commend the author for her ability to create a story that benefits from several different perspectives and expanding the world through the eyes of more people than just our protagonists. Creating such distinct voices is an amazing feat, especially when the same person is technically speaking from two different lifetimes (for example, I can always tell the difference between Hades and Adrian speaking.) While I do hope that the focus does go back to Sophie and Adrian next book, now that their Hades and Persephone story has fully been revealed, I do enjoy the looks into other character's heads. Actually, I'd love to know what's going on in Niko's mind. (Niko is the modern day incarnation of Hermes and one of my favorite characters, the sly devil.)

This is series is quickly gaining traction as one of my favorites. I'll reserve myself from proclaiming it's definitely my favorite until the series is completed and I can enjoy it as a whole, but if the next book continues to impress me like this I'm sure it will be. I did love Persephone's Orchard just slightly more, so while I gave P.O. 5 stars, I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 stars. I loved Underworld's Daughter and am so excited to continue this amazing series.

Buy The Book

Amazon: Paperback | Kindle
Barnes and Noble: Paperback | Nook
Book Depository: Paperback 

About the Author
Molly Ringle has been writing fiction for over twenty years. With her intense devotion to silly humor, she was especially proud to win the grand prize in the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with one (intentionally) terrible sentence. Molly grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and lives in Seattle with her husband and children. Her studies include a bachelor of arts in anthropology and a master of arts in linguistics. She was a Tri-Delta in college, in an old sorority house that was supposedly haunted, which inspired some of the central ideas for 'The Ghost Downstairs.' She also loves folklore and mythology, and is working on new novels about the Greek myths. 'Persephone's Orchard' is the first in the series. When not writing, she can often be found experimenting with fragrances, chocolate, and gardening

Thanks to Michelle from Central Avenue Publishing, I have ebook copies of Persephone's Orchard and Underworld's Daughter to give away to a lucky winner! Oooh yeah. Free books are always fun.

Just enter below, and on Friday I'll be sending an email to a very lucky duck. Whichever file type you need will be figured out after you win and sent accordingly.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mini Read-a-Thon Check In #2

The read-a-thon continues, although it's not going as strong as I had hoped. I read nothing yesterday, instead opting to rewatch Howl's Moving Castle (I don't regret it.) But I'm hoping to make up for lost time by finishing a book tonight and then 2 tomorrow, and then hopefully one more on Sunday. If I can pull that off I'll put myself plenty far ahead to be able to read in leisure and not feel the pressure to finish something immediately.

I'm in the middle of reading two books, Reaper by K.D. McEntire and Into the Deep by Missy Fleming. However, I think I'm going to shelve Reaper for the moment and return to it in a week or so. I do plan on finishing Into the Deep tonight, so hopefully I'll be able to pull through.

Off to reading again! Wish me luck!


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