And the Winners Are…

Hey all! The following lucky people are the winners of my recently held Smart Chicks Kick It Tour giveaway. Thanks to those who entered and I hope you will all stick around because this is certainly not the last major contest that I will host. Winners and prizes were drawn in order of the prizes listed on the giveaway. So without further ado…

The Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
(Winner is Lori M. Lee)

Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos by K Garcia & M Stohl
(Winner is Sarabara081)

Enthralled
(Winner is Carissa St. Armand)

Signed Copy of Across the Universe by Beth Revis
(Winner is TheJay2xA)

Raised by Wolves (Books 1 & 2) by J Lynn Barnes
(Winner is Spav)

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
(Winner is Kristina Shields)

Winners have been notified and will have 24 hours to respond back or another will be drawn. Once again, thanks so much for all the support!


UPCOMING GIVEAWAY:

ONE winner will win the following books:  VARIANT, THE DEATH CURE, REMEMBRANCE, ASHFALL, FALLEN ANGEL & THE HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY.

This contest will start sometime in November, so stay tuned!

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IMM #11

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. This is the eleventh episode of HOARDERS, Books Edition.
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Triangles by Ellen Hopkins
Beautiful Chaos x2 by K Garcia & M Stohl
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Girls Don’t Fly by Kristen Chandler
Swear by Nina Malkin
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Frost by Wendy Delsol
Something About You by Julie James
Payback Time by Carl Deuker
Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday
The Edge of Darkness by Lissa Bilyk 
Yes, I do realize there are two Beautiful Chaos in there. But that’s just because there’s a GIVEAWAY going on right now where you can win all three of the Caster Chronicles series in one shot. So if you haven’t entered this giveaway yet, well, what are you waiting for? This is perhaps, the smallest IMM haul as of yet. I’m slippin’…

Review: Exiled by M.R. Merrick

Publication Date: June 28th, 2011
Indie by Author
Format: Paperback, 278 pages
Add it to Your Goodreads!

SUMMARY
Chase Williams is a demon hunter in the Circle, or at least he was supposed to be. On his fifteenth birthday, Chase stepped up to the altar to claim his elemental power, but it never came. Elemental magic is passed down to a hunter through the bloodline, but on Chase’s birthday, the bloodline stopped. Exiled without the Circle’s protection, Chase has spent two years trying to survive a world riddled with half-demons and magic. When he has a run in with a frightened and seemingly innocent demon, he learns the Circle’s agenda has changed: the Circle plans to unlock a portal and unleash pure-blood demons into the world. Vowing to stop them, and knowing he can’t do it alone, Chase forms a reluctant alliance with Rayna – a sexy witch with an attitude and a secret. In their attempt to stop them, Chase and Rayna find themselves in the middle of the Circle’s plan, leaving one of them to decide what their friendship is worth, and the other’s life depending on it.
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MY TAKE: 3/5 STARS
This is not first time that I’ve read something that I didn’t feel as enthused as everyone did. I’ve just gone through the reviews for this on Goodreads and everyone seems to be in complete agreement. Heck, it averages 4.74 stars, a quick indication that it truly is an awesome read.


Once again, I’m on the outside looking in.

This book is short, and such, should’ve taken me a day or two – tops to read. But I’ve had this fermenting on my currently reading shelf since last Saturday and it just wasn’t holding my attention. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why that is. Surely, I can’t complain about the writing. It was done perfectly well. There is something about the author’s style that I found refreshing, direct to the point and most certainly non-convoluted. It’s not even the world building because MR Merrick created one that parallels an exceptional paranormal world where vampires, shifters, witches and warlocks were the norm.

I have a feeling that my reading taste is evolving. Vampires no longer excite me – heck, other mythical creatures no longer excite me. Should I really feel bad that I’m feeling a bit excluded from everyone’s enthusiasm over this book? A little bit. I found myself asking, “What the heck am I missing?”

This book is written from a male’s POV, a rare find amongst the hundreds of books in my reading pile. I usually enjoy those – but I couldn’t with this book. There is a certain detachment to Chase that I regretfully, unable to empathize. I also couldn’t summon enough interest to find out what Rayna was. I feel so bad because I think I’m not giving this book a fighting chance and doubly awful because this is from my Indie shelf.

Perhaps I should’ve just stopped halfway through the book and re-shelved it for future reading but I pushed on because I kept hoping that the book would incite some excitement in me. The funny thing is, this book was paced well. There was no lull as soon as you get to page one. The action was non-stop, enough to give you a pulse pounding high. But I was at an automaton mode, reading for the sake of that feeling I get after i finished a book – accomplished and somehow sated by the fact that I gave the book a chance.

I think this is the most contradicting review I’ve written as of yet. I can’t fault the book or the author but I can honestly say, that this time, it’s all on me, folks.

It just wasn’t my book. 


BUY YOUR COPY HERE:  AMAZON

Review: The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

Publication Date:  November 29th, 2011
Zondervan
Format: E-ARC from Net Galley
Add it to Your Goodreads!

SUMMARY
An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf’s bailiff—a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past.Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff’s vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf’s future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.
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MY TAKE: 3/5 STARS

This book is surprisingly good. Not that I’ve expected it to be bad but the historical genre is usually a hit and miss with me. Sometimes, it bores me to sleep and sometimes I’d start one and before I know it, I’d be at the last page. The Merchant’s Daughter fell under the latter.

At first glance, Annabel’s story reminded me of Cinderella or any other fairy tale which involved cruel family members who treated her like a servant. Her father, who was a broke merchant by the time he passed away, was the only person she had a kinship with. Left with a family who was too prideful to do any work, the whole town turned on them and decided they must pay for years of not helping with the farming. The amount of fine the family must pay was something they could not afford. Annabel soon found herself escaping an arranged marriage to a widowed town bailiff to work for the ‘beastly’ Lord Ranulf.

I loved Ms. Dickerson’s take on Beauty and the Beast. What surprised me the most about this book was that I found myself unable to skip the Bible reading parts – and there were lots. This book was heavy in religious tones. But in spite of all that, it was written in a way that it doesn’t come across as preachy so it didn’t hinder me from enjoying this book.

There are things that I must point out, however.

Gilbert was thrown in to the mix as a love triangle. What was the point? Annabel was sickened at the thought of being near the man and obviously it wasn’t going anywhere. And maybe it was just the way things went during the 1500s but Gilbert met her once and decided that he must make Annabel his wife and a mother for his son.

The relationship between Annabel and Ranulf felt a bit forced and lacking in the spark department. Perhaps it was due to the genre this book was written under (Christian) that I often found myself looking for more. There’s always certain ‘safeness’ to Christian books and unfortunately, the attraction between characters felt cold and ‘safe’.

Otherwise, I still enjoyed this book. If fairy tale retellings are your cup of tea, The Merchant’s Daughter, though a bit unusual, will not disappoint.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY HERE: AMAZON

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

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (2)

It’s Monday, What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books to list the books completed last week, the books currently being read and the books to be finished this week. 
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READ & REVIEWED LAST WEEK:
THIS WEEK’S READING QUEUE:
So far, I’m enoying Mara & Dearly, Departed. I have yet to crack Exiled open but I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while and I’m anxious to start.

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

Review: Remembrance by Michelle Madow

Publication Date: July 27th, 2011
Dreamscape Publishing
Format: Paperback, 314 pages
Goodreads Summary

New Hampshire high school junior Lizzie Davenport has been reincarnated from Regency Era, England … but she doesn’t know it yet. 

Then Drew Carmichael transfers into Lizzie’s school at the beginning of the year, and she feels a connection to him, almost like she knows him. She can’t stop thinking about him, but whenever she tries talking with him about the mysteries behind her feelings, he makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with her. Reaching him is even more difficult because she has a boyfriend, Jeremy, who has started to become full of himself after being elected co-captain of the varsity soccer team, and her flirtatious best friend Chelsea starts dating Drew soon after his arrival. So why can’t she seem to get him out of her mind?

Even though Lizzie knows she should let go of her fascination with Drew, the pair of them soon find that fighting fate isn’t going to be easy.

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MY TAKE: 3/5 STARS

I’m not going to lie. I had to listen to Taylor Swift’s Love Story for me to understand how this book was related to the song from which the author took her inspiration.  I had to You Tube that baby and soon realized that the entire book was NOT based from the song but parts of the lyrics inspired some scenes in Remembrance. 

This book is pure romance. The subject of reincarnation was glanced over but never really explained. Basically, it’s about Lizzie and Drew who had shared a past – maybe even another lifetime, and met in the present where Lizzie was already involved with somebody else. They recognized each other immediately and have made a connection in an instant. In an attempt to avoid a repeat of their history, Drew treated Lizzie like a pariah while Lizzie vacillated between love and hate for this mysterious newcomer. In the end, their pull was too much to ignore. 

I have some problems. 

First: Drew cheated on Lizzie in the past life. Was this just an exchange of kisses or did it go deeper?Because of this, Drew was adamant to keep Lizzie away from him. I’m not sold. It’s definitely not cause for Drew to treat Lizzie like dirt, especially if he was the one who did the cheating. If Drew was trying to prevent her from getting hurt again, how was being a jerk so much better than trying to make amends? I mean, reincarnation is a chance to make another path for their lives but I don’t see how jerking Lizzie around could’ve avoided Drew from repeating history.

Second: I honestly couldn’t empathize with the characters. Lizzie never showed a single backbone when it comes to Drew and to her best friend, Chelsea. How could I swoon over a jerk like Drew? By the time he switched personalities, it just felt forced to me. I had hopes that he would eventually redeem himself, but in the end, he failed miserably. I can’t even talk about Jeremy (the ex), and Chelsea (the ex best friend) without hurting the neighbor’s cat. Lizzie has an annoying habit of hiding behind her hair (sorry, it’s a pet peeve).

Third: The ending. Okay, picture this. You see your boyfriend standing not too far but not too close to your best friend and they were talking. All of a sudden, a memory comes over you, a memory of your past life where you saw the exact same thing, only your boyfriend was kissing your best friend. So what do you do? 

Do you: (A) Stick around and interrogate the jerk about the memory that he didn’t want you to remember? Or (B) Run away with your ex in hysterics? 

Which scenario do you think Lizzie picked? 

Once again, I’m a minority in this one. I have asked myself if I were reading the same book as everyone else because everybody else seemed to be in the same page. But try as I might,  I really couldn’t love this book. 

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


IMM #10

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. This is the tenth episode of HOARDERS, Books Edition.
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Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe
The Death Cure by James Dasher (Geebus. 2nd copy)
A Web of Air by Philip Reve
The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas
Dark Passage by MJ Putney
Angel Arias by Marianne de Pierres
Awake at Dawn by CC Huntley
Crash Into Me by Albert Borris
Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver
Without Tess by Marcella Pixley
The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith
Unforsaken by Sophie Littlefield
Out in Blue by Sarah Gilman
Bridger by Megan Curd
I Toss Till Dawn by Ben Hewitt
Without Alice by DJ Kirby
FOR REVIEW

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