Review: The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

Publication Date: October 25th, 2011
Ace
Format: Kindle Copy
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

SUMMARY
There can only be one allegiance.
It’s her time to choose.

Some humans can see the fae. McKenzie Lewis can track them, reading the shadows they leave behind. But some shadows lead to danger. Others lead to lies. 

A Houston college student trying to finish her degree, McKenzie has been working for the fae king for years, tracking vicious rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn’t her only secret. For just as long, she’s been in love with Kyol, the king’s sword-master—and relationships between humans and fae are forbidden. 

But any hope for a normal life is shattered when she’s captured by Aren, the fierce and uncompromising rebel leader. He teaches her the forbidden fae language and tells her dark truths about the Court, all to persuade her to turn against the king. Time is running out, and as the fight starts to claim human lives, McKenzie has no choice but to decide once and for all whom to trust and where she ultimately stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.

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It’s not very often that I indulge in Urban Fantasy and I tend to be a bit picky with this genre. I also have a tendency to abandon a series simply because I get bored with the same old plot lines. But once in a while, there’d come a book that completely catches me unawares. The Shadow Reader comes from a massive line of UF that’s out there. It’s got romance, action and all the paranormal elements that rightfully earned its UF tag. But let me tell you where I find this book unique. 

See that kick-ass looking, sword-weilding heroine on the cover? Yeah. Forget about her. Don’t shake in your boots yet, she’s not that tough. She doesn’t go around kicking ass and taking names down while she’s at it. Nope. All she is, is a glorified cartographer. She finds fissures, sort of doorways to the fairy world. Anywhere. Anytime. Give this girl a pen and paper and she can find your fairy butt. And that’s why the two opposing factions of the fairy world finds her useful, valuable – so much so that the rebels has been hot on her trail since she discovered she has the sight and the built-in fairy world GPS. This is where the story begins; McKenzie on the run from the rebels to no avail. She was kidnapped with the intent to sway her to join the rebellion. 

This book is action packed and while fairy books rarely get my mojos going anymore, The Shadow Hunter certainly did a good job of luring me into its fantastical world. I read this entire book at work. I should feel ashamed but I don’t 🙂 It was an afternoon well spent. 

I LOATHE love triangles. I really do. This has that dreaded, hated two words. But hold up. I have a theory. I am rooting for the guy that McKenzie didn’t end up with. I will not let this go. This is just the beginning of the series. I have complete faith in McKenzie that one day, she’ll wake up and realize her erroneous choice. And I think this is where this book failed to get it’s full five stars. You can’t just fill the pages with laments about how wonderful Kyol is and then show all the things that make the other guy appalling and McKenzie ended up choosing what’s-his-face anyway? No ma’am, sell me another one because I sure as heck am not buying. I’m firmly resolved that all the supposed-tingles McKenzie felt while she’s near that guy is but the same sensations she’d feel if say, another fairy creature would touch her. *crosses fingers* Okay, I admit, Kyol is annoyingly principled and loyal to a fault…and sometimes blindsided by his misplaced devotion to the court…and had always placed McKenzie second but she’s never really demanded she goes first. And I refused to believe that a person who’d been in love with a guy for ten whole years can just walk away from all the time and emotions and pieces of herself she’d invested. I just can’t accept that. Ten years and all they got was a tearful haphazard goodbye? Gah. 

While McKenzie’s choice gave me an agonizing headache, in circumspect, it’s also the very reason why I NEED to read the next book right now. I have this ache in my chest that refuse to go away until Kyol’s world righted on its axis again. It’s sad when I’m more interested about the supporting character rather than the MC. And though McKenzie is an admirable character, there is something fickle about her character that I can’t seem to shake. I have hope that this is just a phase she’s going through. And really? Stockholm Syndrome? Please. Weak, girl. Weak. 

Regardless, The Shadow Reader’s world was so easy to get lost into. I like that this was not set in a forest or in an enchanted kingdom. I love that there were no summer court and winter court and dark faes. There were just two factions. 

This book is a hit and miss and love and hate all at the same time. If you can get over the love triangle element, there is a distinct possibility that you’ll enjoy this as much as I did. 


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Review: Darker Still by Leanna Rennee Hieber

Publication Date: November 8th, 2011
Sourcebooks Fire
Format: Paperback, 317 pages
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Add Darker Still to your Goodreads.

SUMMARY

The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart’s latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing…
Jonathan Denbury’s soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.
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Initial Reaction After Reading:
At a time when YA is flooded by novels that are cut from the same cloth, Darker Still was a refreshingly, original read. It’s Victorian gothic at its best – dark, historical and mystical but simplistic in a way that the reader will not be too encumbered with the formal writings of the time. 
HIGHLIGHTS:
  • Traumatized by her mother’s violent death, Natalie Stewart hasn’t been able to speak since childhood. Left to flourish under the care of her father, she has learned to cope with the possibility that she wouldn’t be blessed with a life like girls her age – no marriage proposals and no family of her own. When a supposedly haunted portrait of Lord Denbury comes into the possession of a decidedly spiritualistic rich matron, Natalie’s days and nights become a succession of believing the impossible and dreaming of the handsome Lord imprisoned inside the mystical, gilded frame of his own portrait.
  • Strong Heroine. Despite being blighted with the inability to speak, Natalie stands out as one of those admirably strong female lead. She fought for herself in any way she knew how. I loved that nothing could deter this girl from anything she sets her mind to. Aside from one instance when she threw a hissy fit and walked away from three dubious, oblivious girls, there didn’t seem to be anything that could faze her – even an evil version of Lord Denbury. 
  • Old Days, Old Ways. I’ve always been fascinated with the Victorian era. The propriety and the customs, the formality of the language – the author did a phenomenal job of creating a world genuine to the period. 
  • Goosebumps. If Natalie’s nightmares doesn’t give you nightmares, well, hats off to you. Ms Hieber has a penchant for writing visceral scenes that added to the seemingly sinister Gothic theme of the book. 
LOWLIGHTS:
  • Foregone Conclusion. Because this book was written in a journal form, there was a definitive lack of suspense throughout the novel. I wasn’t worried that Natalie would come out of each conflict unharmed because, well, otherwise there wouldn’t have been an entry in her diary. 
  • Lack of dialogues, pardon the pun.  I didn’t mean that because Natalie was mute, there wasn’t much talking involved. Sheesh. I’m not a fan of narrative novels. And as previously mentioned, this book was a succession of diarized entries so it was mostly Natalie telling you the story. I tend to lose interest in novels if I don’t see much quotation marks. But this novel had some saving graces that I managed to get through it just fine. 
  • He is, indeed a dashing Lord, but… What is it about aristocratic, British men? *sigh* I for one, am a sucker for these proper gentlemen and no one can deny about Lord Denbury’s hotness. But there is something disturbing about how perfect this man is. Rich, smart, philanthropic and have I mentioned handsome? I know this is a work of fiction but come on, a flaw or two wouldn’t hurt. But hey, that’s just me. You’re probably wondering what in the heck I’m complaining about. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just tired of reading unrealistically perfect species of men. 
FINAL THOUGHTS:
There was a great balance to this novel. The romance was tasteful and the air of mystery was not overdone.  The thrill of learning about runes and curses and the events leading up to Lord Denbury’s imprisonment captivated me to the end. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and I’m positively hungry for the next one. 




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Review: On a Dark Wing by Jordan Dane

Publication Date: December 27th, 2011
HarlequinTEEN
Format: E-ARC from Net Galley

SUMMARY
“The choices I had made led to the moment when fate took over. I would learn a lesson I wasn’t prepared for.
And Death would be my willing teacher.”

Five years ago Abbey Chandler cheated Death. She survived a horrific car accident, but her lucky break came at the expense of her mother’s life and changed everything. After she crossed paths with Death—by taking the hand of an ethereal boy made of clouds and sky—she would never be normal again.

Now she’s the target of Death’s Ravens and an innocent boy’s life is on the line. When Nate Holden—Abbey’s secret crush—starts to climb Alaska’s Denali, the Angel of Death is with him because of her.

Abbey finds out the hard way that Death never forgets.

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MY TAKE: 4/5 STARS

On a Dark Wing is a story about Abby Chandler’s encounter with Death and Death’s obsession with her soul. On the day that Abby was supposed to die, her mother made a deal to take her place instead. That set up her life-long connection with the Grim Reaper (Death), which incidentally, she was unaware of.

Death seems inescapable in Abby’s life – mostly because she lives in a funeral home. A bit of an overkill, I know, given the theme of this book. But I could honestly say it added to the spooky ambience and main character’s obscure personality.

Abby has a whole slew of insecurity issues. To some, she may even come off as a petulant, whiny teenager. But this didn’t deter me from her liking her. The root of all her self-deprecation goes as deep as bearing the guilt over her mother’s death. In some ways, I found it redeeming that she drew strength from her weaknesses; using them as an armor to pad her none-existent self confidence. Abby’s voice come off even more authentic as I got to know her. The workings of her mind read like that of a confused, constantly tortured teen. She has a difficult life at school and even more difficult life at home. Her relationship with her father is, on a good day, strained and contemptuous on a worst day. But what I like was that they never stopped trying no matter how tensed their relationship were.

She got constantly bullied for reasons other than being weird. But she stood up for herself with her sharp mind and equally sharp tongue. She cared so little about being an outcast. Her one and only friend was a boy in a wheelchair who was a constant crusader in her defense. To top it all off, she’s perpetually disgusted with her body. For some readers, she could be considered as the quintessential anti-heroine…but not for me. Her flaws were endless which made her more real and so easy to identify with.

I could never understand how an author manages to convince the reader to root for a romance that in reality, would be next to impossible to come into fruition. Take Nate and Abby. They’re poles apart. The unobtainable and the loser. I wish Nate’s character wasn’t so one dimensional – because perhaps, I could’ve developed a fondness for this pairing. Abby was entirely obsessed with Nate; so much so that she has created a Nateworld in her head. I’m trying to remember how I was at Abby’s age and yeah. I get it. To love someone so out of your reach to the point of spending every waking and sleeping moments thinking about that person isn’t really healthy but I understood where she was coming from. I’ve been there. But like I said, I just wish I knew WHY. What is it about Nate? In the end, I never really got to know Nate. Cryptic, much? My main issue with this is that there was such a huge build up over this one-sided romance. In the end…well…I was a deflated balloon. BUT! But. I liked the EVENTUAL ROMANCE in this book.

I’m also a bit put off with the multi-person POV. Call me simple, but when I read, I like focusing on one person’s take on the story. I like having that nagging feeling of not knowing what the other character was going through. (I could never begin to explain why I loved Melina Marchetta’s multi-person POV…and I’m not even going to try). I am also not a fan of switching from first person to third. It tells me that the author is unable to give each person their unique voices, hence the switch…but what do I really know?

For the better part of Nate’s POV, I learned that Abby was right. He doesn’t know she exists. He’s only focused on climbing Denali. If you’re not into mountain climbing, being inside his head was, for the most part, boring. You learn so little about him.

Death seems so harmless from someone who brings an end to everything. He sounded more evil in the synopsis than his actual portrayal in the book.
If you ask me, the creepy facets of this book came primarily from the author’s writing. It was in the way she described how it was like to have dead people in the basement waiting for spring thaw so they can be buried. It was in the way a murder of crows seems to appear whenever Abby was alone. It was in the way that Abby’s dreams easily overturn to nightmares. Oh! And the bone-chilling way Abbey found out which Nate has been meeting her every night by the fire pit. *cue scary music*

Now, I know I’m going on and on about the ways this book didn’t suit me but trust me, there were a lot of good in this book.

The tangible unspoken grief between Abby and her father was ubiquitous in every scene they have together. It was painful to watch.

The timeline header for every POV switch added a sense of foreboding menace. It almost felt like watching a movie with the ominous music playing in the background.

I applaud the author for the picturesque depiction of the scenery and of the chilly Alaskan climate. This is a great book to curl up to beside a fireplace on a blustery day or night. Although night would be most ideal for the creep factor.

The plot took forever to get going but when it finally happened, the story moved in an unrelenting heart-thumping sequence.

All in all, On a Dark Wing was a spooky but enjoyable read for me. Despite my complaints, I found the story line to be a novel idea amongst all the other death harbinger books out there.

Thanks to Net Galley and HarlequinTEEN for the ARC.

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Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Publication Date: December 20th, 2011
Harlequin
Format: E-ARC from Net Galley
Add it to your Goodreads!

SUMMARY

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life…

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MY TAKE: 4/5 STARS

I wasn’t too keen on picking up another fantasy book after reading Froi of the Exiles. But I thought I’d give this book a try anyway because I’ve been a fan of the author ever since I read her Poison Study.


Touch of Power is set in the same world – realms, mages and regency dominated the pages. This book didn’t disappoint. In fact, I can readily admit that I liked this more than Poison Study….gasps! I know. The thing is, I’m a romance reader before anything else. I loved the relationships formed in this book better than Poison Study. While both book has no insta-love, I found myself more receptive to Avry and Keering’s relationship. Nothing really happened between them until the last pages, but throughout the book, the tension between them was explosive.

This is the story of Avry, a healer hunted by pretty much every kingdom jockeying for position to rule all of The Fifteen Realms. On the day of her execution, a group of rogue bandits abducted her for the purpose of healing a prince in stasis – a prince who had crusaded against her people. In the mercy of an unforgiving captor, Avry learns that now more than ever, the choices she must make as a healer determines the fate of those who are left of all the kingdoms ravaged by a plague.

This book has most of the makings of an incredible fantasy novel. Devoid of all the clichéd subjects we’d normally see in YA, this book captured my attention right from the start. The plot is well conceptualized and the characters were all written well. It’s the first of the series so the ending, though resolved, made me regret ever reading this book ahead of its release date; because now, I have an even longer wait for the next one to come out.

One complaint:  The language used in this book doesn’t seem to match the era from when the book was set. Judging by the wardrobe and the description of the environment, I know that this book is supposed to be historical/fantasy. But it seems the author opted to use simple and modern language to write this novel. I didn’t mind it at all because it made for an easier time in understanding the dialogues and events but I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t point it out.

Otherwise, I’m buying myself a copy of this book on its release date! This book had me reading at the office practicing the art of minimizing my screen fast so no one would catch me, well, not working. 🙂


PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY HERE:  AMAZON | !ndigo
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Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Publication Date: September 27th, 2011
Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 452 pages
Goodreads Summary

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.
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MY TAKE 4/5 STARS
I’ve been an avid reader for years but had only been active in book reviewing for the last two years. And over that span of time, I’ve learned that sometimes, the most anticipated books does not necessarily equate to the most enjoyable reads.

I know a lot of people were itching to read this book and I was probably one of the few who stood in the sidelines and waited patiently for Mara Dyer’s release. I’ve learned to curb my enthusiasm ever since my fervor eagerness for Starcrossed and Die for Me fell to a crushing disappointment, so there wasn’t much excitement on my end when this book came out.

Slap a hat on me and call me Susie.

I absolutely enjoyed this creep fest of a book and for once, I wasn’t riding on everybody else’s enthusiasm but mine.

I loved the mystery that surrounds the entire story. The guessing game never ends. One hundred percent of the time, I was completely vested in it. So much so that I had to re-think and second-guess myself. Was Mara having delusions? Or was it actually happening? Was it just a product of her antipsychotic pills or was the ghosts of her friends really haunting her? Was it all real? The questions were endless.

Mara is such a beautiful, broken character. The demons that she constantly fought with showed how admirably strong she is. But the ultimate chink in her armor was discerning what was reality and what had become her reality. Little by little, she also learned what she was capable of. Let’s just say that you better not make her angry or she could kill you with a thought.

The romance in this book is a tad over the top. Actually, I should just say that NOAH SHAW is a little over the top. Don’t get me wrong, this snarky, Brit boy is the ultimate hottie in my book. But seriously? Who are we kidding here? I know this is fiction and it is a paranormal book, but try not to kill us with this handsome, smart, multi-lingual, literature-quoting yumminess, who by the way, is richer than Bill Gates. Not only that, he’s freaking BRITISH (yes, I know, I mentioned this already…but come on! British!) – a gentleman when he wants to be and an absolute jerk when he chose to be. I do love him but I think Michelle Hodkin reached her maximum limit for perfecting the ultimate book boyfriend. No joke.

As expected, the initial offering of this series left a lot of loose threads. Don’t expect a tidy ending because you’re not going to get one. There’s not even a resolution, all you’d be left with are a bunch of questions.

Lately, I’ve become a fan of enumerating my grievances…er questions so I’ve got some here.

(a) How did Mara’s ability come to be? Did she inherit some mystical powers from her deceased grandmother? Does her grandmother even play a role in this series? Or was she just a passing thought? Did her ability come from the same souls that haunted her every waking and sleeping moments?

(b) I sometimes found the writing style jumpy. Or perhaps it’s the pacing. Sometimes there’s no smooth transition. An example is when she’d end her chapters in an ominous way and then I’d read the next chapter only to find that nothing really happens to explain why the previous chapter was ended in such a manner. What can I say? I’m a very impatient reader. I’ve never been a fan of foreshadowing that takes place a long ways a way before the conflict and eventual resolution. But hey, that’s just me…and I’m rambling.

(c) I felt like what happened in the asylum was revealed with very little fan fare. Considering it was the catalyst for the story, I had hope for more details. The little trickles of memory or nightmares weren’t enough for me. I was really looking forward to the high priest’s aid in getting Mara’s memory of that night but I was disappointed when the next scene was in Noah’s room. Though, if I may be honest, I was elated as well…*winks*

(d) And lastly, there were too many things going on. The book lack a certain unity that would’ve made this an incredible read. Subplots like: The murdered girl and Leon Lassiter; Noah’s powers/ability; I wish they were all gift wrapped and tied in a nice bow. But sadly, they weren’t.

You know what though? This book is, in a word, amazing. The writing was so natural and pretty, especially the dark, creepy scenes. I was completely into it as soon as I flip to page one. Perhaps it was the intention of the author to leave me in such a daze – thoughts and questions swirling in my head hours after I finished reading – enough to drive me insane. All I can say is, well played, Ms. Hodkin. Well, played. 

BUY YOUR COPY HERE: Amazon | The Book Depository | !ndigo
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Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

Publication Date: January 4th, 2011
St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: E-ARC from Net Galley
Goodreads Summary

The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.

That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.

But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him.
Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

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MY TAKE: 4/5 STARS
Firstly, the cover instantly reminded me of an angel story so I wasn’t really gung-ho on reading this book. There’s just something about the boy and a girl falling from the sky that immediately scream angels to me. But when I read the synopsis, the time traveling element piqued my enthusiasm. Once I was in the thick of things, I was unable to look away from the pages and was quickly drawn into Jackson’s world.


Tempest is told through Jackson’s point of view, which makes this book doubly awesome. There’s just something about his voice that makes even the most touching scenes seem lighter. He’s awfully confident without being cocky, sweet and real. I’ve always found that there are story themes that call for a boy’s POV, which eventually helped to tell the story in a more realistic manner no matter how far-fetched the story may be. The romance is toe-curlingly swoon worthy. I just loved the way Jackson chased the girl without being incredibly obvious about it all. 

I’ve had a hard time following the dynamics of time traveling, and in this case, even more so because genetics was involved. My mind have not always been receptive to scientific explanations, so I found myself re-reading some parts in an attempt to fully understand it. And although I failed to comprehend this subject miserably, I’d like to say that the author did a good job of avoiding the use of any scientific jargon that could’ve made it worse for me. Everything was explained in simple words but like I mentioned before, all those were simply lost on me.

This book blew me away. The non-stop action kept me constantly hungry to read more and to read faster. It is definitely the most complex and yet the simplest time traveling book I’d ever read. If the action doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat, the secrets and the eventual revelations surrounding Jackson’s and his twin sister’s birth will definitely keep you in suspense. And even with the constant “jumping”, the cohesiveness that tied all the scenes never slacken. It was truly amazing to see how incidents in the past flowed smoothly into the present.

As much as I’d love to give this book a full 5, my heart just couldn’t stop aching from the way this book ended. One thing’s for sure; I will sell my soul to the devil to get a copy of the next installment!

BUY YOUR COPY HERE:  Amazon | The Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | !ndigo

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Review: Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Publication Date: September 12, 2011
Harcourt Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
Goodreads Summary

Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.
Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart.
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MY TAKE: 4/5 STARS
This book was such a disturbing read. It starts off with a picture of seemingly perfect nuclear family – each one supportive of each other. At one point, you couldn’t really foresee anything will go wrong to destroy Willa’s somewhat unusual family set up. She lives with her mother, her stepfather Jack, and his two daughters from another marriage. Everyone gets along – but like all other families, resentments and bitterness bubble close to the surface.


One blow was all it took for this house of cards to come tumbling down.

Right off the bat, we learned about Willa’s secret. What she does to escape the pressure of always wanting and never having. That secret alone was disturbing. I try to stay away from stories involving cutting but I was glad that in this book, it wasn’t really the main focus. It was about Willa’s biological father’s murdering spree. He killed his entire family – his wife and his three children. The murders were gory, violent and hard to comprehend. This was the catalyst for Willa’s awakening, to find out who she was and to stop ignoring the potent blood that gurgles through her veins.

I have read Life As We Know It by this author and I’ve enjoyed it as much as a book about an Armageddon scenario could be enjoyed. So I wasn’t really surprised when I felt the same way about this after reading. Ms. Pfeffer has a way with words – dark and gloom seem to be her area of expertise.

Honestly, it took a lot to convince myself that Willa will not end up like her father. The author did a good job of planting that seed in my head. That because Willa likes to cut herself, she’ll somehow ended up like her father, one who has a penchant for blood and knives. I kept waiting for her to finally snap, and really who could blame her? I would’ve if I’d been in her shoes. Living with her stepsisters alone should’ve been cause enough to kill them in their sleeps, but hey, that’s just me. They’re really not that bad, if a little spoiled and privileged. They have their moments of decency. I can’t really fault them for having lived their advantageous lives.

I love Willa’s relationship with her stepbrother, Trace – brief, sad but tender just the same.

My heart was beating out of my chest when Willa was imagining how her father’s family met their demise. All the blood, all the violence and the disturbing way he cradled the youngest’ severed head in his arms. It was truly a scene out of a psycho thriller flick.

Blood Wounds had me from page one. Its disturbing and visceral writing make for a terrifying and realistic read. If a change of pace is what you want, I suggest trying this one on for size. Definitely not to be missed. 

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Review: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

Publication Date: November 15th, 2011
Margaret K. McElderry / Simon & Schuster
Format: ARC Galley

Goodreads Summary
In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines what class you are, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place—looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she’s been hiding her whole life. Her only place of release is the drug-filled underground club scene, where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she’s never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. Through a series of violent upheavals, it becomes clear that Charlie herself is the key to forcing out the oppressive power structure of her kingdom…

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MY TAKE: 4/5 STARS

The latest offering from Kimberly Derting is definitely a take off from her prior books. At first, it was difficult to decipher which genre this book was about. I kept picturing a fantastical Regency England; with a queen on her death bed who has the ability to take over another body to host her soul. As well, the world outside the kingdom had the air of those times when wealth was a great divide between societies. But as I continue to read along, clues started to pop up that this world was indeed set in the future. This book however, deviates from dystopian in such a way that the world did not end in a calamity of epic proportions. It was almost like the world regressed to the old times where kings and queens ruled countries, beheadings were rampant and people lived with constant fear in their eyes. Come to think of it, I can’t remember if it was ever mentioned how this world adapted the ways of matrilineal regent ruling.


I loved the concept of an evil queen who can’t be killed. Well, she can die of old age but her soul passes on to the next woman of lineage; therefore passing her dictatorship and witchcraft powers to whoever sits in the throne. I also loved the idea of a lost heir who has abilities that were both magical and simple (Charlie’s skills lie in her ability to understand a multitude of language, while her sister Angeline has healing powers).

I loved that Charlie wasn’t so quick to exchange flirtatious exploits with Max. The attraction was there and given the length of the book, I thought the romance was paced quite well. I’m glad there were no instantaneous combustion between these two when they first met. I was a bit worried there when Xander came into the picture. I would’ve been thoroughly disappointed if there was a love triangle. Mind you, there was a bit of competition between Max and Aron (Charlie’s best friend) but it was not explored.

The Pledge is a chockfull of surprises – in such a way that Kimberly Derting flexed her writing muscle. There wasn’t a shortage of action and lulls that will render you in a bored stupor. The world building was quite unique in such a way that Ms. Derting combined primitiveness and modern antiquity. I’m a fan of fantasy and most of the books I’ve read in that genre were usually hefty. I wish this book had a couple of hundred more pages. I know I could probably gobble them up easy.

I enjoyed this book and applaud Ms. Derting for showing that she’s not a one-dimensional writer. 
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Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Publication Date: October 18th, 2011
Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages

Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen’s whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn’t just hot…what if Jeremy is better?

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can’t end well, but she just can’t stay away. Nobody else understands her–and riles her up–like he does. Still, she can’t trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what’s expected.
Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall….
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MY TAKE 4/5 STARS

At the youthful age of seventeen, Carmen has not really lived a life of a normal teenager. Having spent most of her young life rehearsing, touring, and competing, you could say that her life experience is pretty much limited to music. She’s a violin virtuoso; amassing awards, recognition and accolades is more of her forte than worrying about crushes and what to wear for the dance. She’s homeschooled and the only exposure she has with boys is through competition. She’s focused on winning the most prestigious award for a violinist like her – the Guarneri. Only one person stands in her way and the only person even her could admit is a worthy adversary – British fellow virtuoso, Jeremy King.

I love, love, love music themed books. It doesn’t matter what genre of music is being used, for some reason, it just makes the story infinitely better for me.

Sometimes, when I read a book about something specific and exclusive, I could tell whether the knowledge was research-based or the author was speaking from first hand knowledge. Well, this author is a wealth of classical and musical information. It’s so easy to sound pretentious when you write about classical music but Ms. Martinez was definitely the opposite of that. The illustrative writing was so visceral that I could almost hear the melancholy notes of Carmen’s playing.

Virtuosity gave me a chance to understand the pressure facing talented musicians and what usually lead them astray. In Carmen’s case, it was sad to see that the most burdening pressure came from her mom. It was comprehensible to a degree why her mother was the way she was but it was still disconcerting to read about a mother forcing her daughter to take addictive anxiety pills for the sake of winning. That’s not the only thing she did…you’d have to read the book to find out. It’s deplorable and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I love the banter between characters. Jeremy is one of those arrogant boys that we readers can’t help but love. I had fun reading their arguments, no matter how trivial they may have been sometimes.
This is a beautiful story with equally beautiful writing. But sadly, the ending left me a bit unfulfilled. It makes me wonder if there will be a sequel. So many possibilities…I read this through S & S galley grab and it’s one of those books that I’m going to need a copy for future re-read. 

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Review: This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

Publication Date: August 2nd, 2010
Text Publication
Format: Paperback, 272 pages

Goodreads Summary

A guy who howls. A girl on a mission to forget. 

In the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn’t rise and the border crackles with a strange energy, Wolfboy meets a stranger at the Diabetic Hotel. She tells him her name is Wildgirl, and she dares him to be her guide through the endless night. 

But then they are mugged by the sugar-crazed Kidds. And what plays out is moving, reckless…dangerous. There are things that can only be said in the dark. And one long night is time enough to change your life.

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MY TAKE: 4/5 Stars

I’ve been sitting here staring at my blinking cursor. You know it’s bad when you’re suffering from a mild case of ‘reviewer’s block’ (get it? heh). Maybe I shouldn’t blame myself per se, perhaps I should hold this book responsible for rendering me speechless, grasping for words to describe the mentally stimulating experience I just had.

The entire book happened in one night…or one day, depending on how you look at it. Shyness is a city in perpetual darkness and in most instances, lawless and timeless. It’s quite difficult to explain all the things that make this book unique. I can’t decide which I love more, the world of Shyness in itself or the characters. At first glance, this book can be classified as dystopian; set in the future where a city lay in all its derelict goodness. Normally, I’m big on asking the whys, when and what of a certain outcome in a book but I found myself accepting all the reasons why it was always nighttime in Shyness.

There were theories thrown in the book – most of them out of this world. And this was what made Shyness unique. From its peculiar and unforgettable characters, to a world lacking in daylight and adult supervision, Shyness had the ability to silence all the questions I’d normally ask.

Questions like:

Why the heck is the city over run by sugar-crazed kids and monkeys?

What the heck is Wolfboy? (A much hotter image of a changed Teen Wolf came to mind.)

How is it possible that the gargantuan sun chose not to rise in Shyness and yet a stone’s throw away, along the border, it chose to perch on the horizon like an egotistical fireball taunting the citizens of Shyness?

The characters of Wildgirl and Wolfboy were equally charming. They had me laughing and wishing for those nights when nothing else matters but to live for the moment. On the surface, these two were just two kids who have that instant attraction – out to see where the night was going to take them. But each one had agendas why they stayed together. These two played with me and teased me until they almost drove me insane. It took them forever to kiss even though they were fighting the urge to do so the entire night. And when the sublime moment finally happened, it left me wanting to write a note to the author demanding for a sequel. Honestly, it wasn’t enough. Well, this book isn’t enough. There has to be more.

First of all, I felt that Wildgirl was still a closed book. She never did tell Wolfboy the real reason why she wanted to forget or to run away. I learned more about Wolfboy than I did Wildgirl. Perhaps the author intended it – to make Wildgirl’s character hard to read.

Second of all, I wanted to know who Diana’s real father was. Although it was hinted that she had the most incredible blue eyes like Gram’s, perhaps, it didn’t make it conclusive that Diana was indeed, Wolfboy’s niece.

I thought the ending was rushed that didn’t give me reconciliation. I was sighing and smiling for the most part of the book, but the ending left me scowling and a bit dissatisfied.

In spite of that, I still think this was an amazing head-trip; totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s a well-written book that will make you fall in love with the world and its characters. Definitely, recommendable!


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