Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: Rush by Eve Silver

So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?

When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game—her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos. In the game, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures. There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.
My Rating
My Review
Rush combines everything I love about contemporary with everything I love about science fiction. It is fast-paced, action-packed, and has believable conflicts that range from best friend and boy problems to needing to survive against a deadly alien race. If that doesn't make readers want to snatch up the novel alone, I don't know what will.
The concept of Rush is a rush in itself. There aren't many slow moments at all, as the pages just keep turning and before you know it, it's 3am, you're on the final page, and you have school the next day. Although the idea in itself doesn't seem too revolutionary (I know, I've read Ender's Game), Silver crafted a story that still felt thoroughly unique. Maybe it's the addictive writing, maybe it's the fact that it has a normal life aspect while the characters are not in the game...whatever it is, I wasn't able to get enough of it. There are enough twists in the plot to keep readers guessing, and they aren't obvious. Even when I was so smugly sure I knew what was going on...I didn't. And it was so fabulous to be wrong.

I love the characters of Rush. Miki is strong, funny and has a very authentic teenage voice. It's incredibly easy to root for her character in the story. The relationship between her and Jackson felt very natural. The bickering and biting style of flirting isn't exactly unheard of, but it's something I will never tire of. Ever. The aggravation the two caused each other was so much more delicious than a strictly romantic scenario would have been. Not to mention, Jackson as a character was highly intriguing. He isn't the one-dimensional pretty-boy love interest that can occasional plague works. He has a lot going for him, and his flaws only made me love him more. Plus, is it just me, or could we use some more long-haired dreamboats in YA?

What I really loved about Rush was how believable it felt, despite the fact that it's science fiction. With the way that the game was set up, intertwined with reality, it felt like something entirely real. At least for the time reading. Not to mention, the game itself was highly interesting. The action and intense imagery might it so I was almost there. (Maybe it's the actor in me speaking, but this would make a fantastic film, even just for cinematic reasons.) All in all, the novel is exciting and addictive, and I can't wait to get my hands on the second book.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review & Author Interview: Venice in the Moonlight by Elizabeth McKenna (Tour Stop)

A Story of Vengeance, Forgiveness, and Love 

After her husband's untimely demise, Marietta Gatti is banished from the family's villa by her spiteful mother-in-law. She returns to her hometown of Venice and her only kin-a father she hasn't spoken to since her forced marriage. Her hope of making amends is crushed when she learns she is too late, for he recently has died under suspicious circumstances. Grief-stricken, Marietta retraces her father's last night only to discover someone may have wanted him dead-and she may be next. When the prime suspect turns out to be the father of the man she is falling in love with, Marietta risks her future happiness and her life to avenge the death of a man she once hated.

My Rating


My Review

Although Venice in the Moonlight is a short read, it is also a beautiful one. The language is polished and stunning, and the pacing will keep readers turning pages until the reach the satisfying end. However, what I loved most about the novel was the world it was able to transport me into.

The only thing better than a fiction novel set in Venice is a historical fiction novel set in Venice. The very mention of the city brings to mind an air of mystery and intrigue, both of which set the tone of the novel. Taking place at the beginning of Carnevale with an alleged murder and possible cult? If that does not capture the beautifully mysterious feeling of a Venetian night, I don't know what does. Venice in the Moonlight will transport readers back in time to this wonderful city, and doesn't let you go.

The characters of Venice in the Moonlight are brilliantly developed. Marietta easily grabbed my admiration. She was a strong female protagonist who made decisions of her own, which isn't always found in historical novels. Although she had to deal with a lot, she kept pressing forward, keeping her best interests in mind. Nico was a brilliant counterpart for her. Although he had a disability, it wasn't the focus of him as a character, and he never let it stop him. That being said, his blindness wasn't made light of either. Not to mention, he's a very swoon-worthy character, which is always a bonus.

Speaking of which, what would the setting of Venice be without at least a little romance? And I loved the romance in the novel. Despite the quick pacing of the novel, it didn't develop too quickly, but felt natural and absolutely delicious. But as much as I loved the romance, it made it all the better that the relationship was not the sole focus of the plot.

The mystery of Marietta's father's death is not only intriguing, but offers suspense into the novel. Marietta actively tried to gain the truth of what happened, which added to both the movement of the novel and her character. Although the conclusion seemed to come a bit abruptly, the arc of the story worked well overall.

For all of the reasons above, as well as others, Venice in the Moonlight is a lovely read. A great escape for an afternoon or evening, it's hard to put down and highly enjoyable.

Q&A With Elizabeth McKenna

How did you do research for your book?EM: Years ago, I had traveled to Italy and fell in love with it. When I decided to use Venice as a setting, I hauled out my photo album to refresh my memory. I also read the book, A Venetian Affair by Andrea di Robilant, which is a true love story set in the 18th century. It helped me with historical details. I also, of course, relied on the internet. I found a copy of Casanova's memoirs online, which was extremely interesting.

Do you write every day?
EM: I write every day, but I don't write fiction every day. I am a technical writer for a software company, so my fun writing has to wait until I have my "real" work done.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
EM: I wouldn't go back too far. I like the Hollywood glamor of the late 1940s/50s. I love to watch the black and white movies where the woman has semi-curled hair and a beautiful evening gown.

Favorite dessert?
It used to be anything with chocolate, but my doctor took that away from me. I love my grandmother's recipe for apple crisp.

What is your next project?
I am working on a contemporary romance titled, First Crush. Here is the description I have been using:

Remember your first crush? How your heart raced and your cheeks flushed whenever you saw him? Jessie Baxter does, and it's happening all over again at her high school reunion. Lee Archer is The One Who Got Away. Despite Jessie's best efforts, he only wanted to be friends. Fifteen years later, things are different. Lee wants more, but first Jessie has to unload some baggage—the biggest one being a psycho ex-husband. Will Jessie learn to trust again and make her first crush into her last love?

Elizabeth McKenna's latest novel will have you remembering the angst of high school, the grief of a failed relationship, and the happiness of true love.

Elizabeth McKenna works as a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. Though her love of books reaches back to her childhood, she had never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene). She had always wanted to write fiction, so she combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her debut novel Cera's Place. Her short story, The Gypsy Casts a Spell, is available for free on her website. She hopes you will enjoy her latest novel, Venice in the Moonlight, as much as others have enjoyed her previous works.

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn't writing, working, or being a mom, she's sleeping.
Connect with her: Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

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Cover Reveal: City of Shame (Fields of Elysium #3) by A.B Whelan

Since discovering the wormhole that connects Earth to Arkana, Molly Bennett faced joy and pain, love and death, excitement and danger unlike anybody else she knew. But her biggest challenge is about to begin. She is inside the force field, lost in Terraka City with people she doesn’t know. Life is more dangerous under Taronno’s tyranny than she and her Arkanian friends anticipated. Time is running out and she must figure out whom to trust, how to stay safe, and how to get back to her beloved Victor.

Victor Sorren’s life changed the moment Molly showed up on Arkana. His love for her came easy, but admitting it to her took every bit of courage he had. Obstacles always threatened to tear them apart, but together they overcame all of them. Now, Molly is gone and Victor doesn’t know how to deal with his worry and loneliness. Going after her would mean certain death, but this is the price he is willing to pay to see her again. The race against time has begun. Will Molly be able to find her way back to Victor before it’s too late?   
A.B. Whelan's third book of the romantic fantasy Fields of Elysium series is an other highly imaginative tale, a fast paced story about the power of love and human nature. 
City of Shame Part 1 eBook Release 
December 6, 2014

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City of Shame (Fields of Elysium, #3)
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: Those Who Remain by Priscila Santa Rosa

Hide your children, lock your doors, and load your guns because zombies are real and they are coming. Danny Terrence knows this better than anyone. He spent months preparing for the inevitable moment the disease would reach his small town. What he didn’t prepare for is the fact that nobody really believes him.

Luckily for him, an old classmate and bully just happens to be the first one bitten. The bad news is that the family with the biggest arsenal of guns just packed up and left town, leaving them defenseless from an oncoming zombie horde. Being a leader isn’t turning out the way Danny imagined.

Yet four other survivors easily have it worse than him. Between a thirteen-year-old girl on a road trip from hell, a family of paranoid hunters having to deal with their feelings for the first time ever, a stubborn doctor butting-heads with a cold-hearted sergeant and an amoral British professor carrying the fate of humanity in his hands, Danny has it easy. Unless, of course, they all end up in his town, messing with his already messed up life.

Follow these five people as their paths cross and their lives and hopes are challenged in this thrilling novel with brain-mushing humor and heart-breaking action. Those Who Remain: Book One is part of a trilogy.
My Rating
 My Review
I'm starting to think that the day in which I stop loving zombie novels will never actually come. Especially if zombie novels continue to be as wonderful of a read as Those Who Remain. There are so many things I loved about this novel, and highly recommend it, especially for those looking for a creepy read.
When multiple POVs work in a novel, it creates something really incredible. We are able to gain so much insight into the story, from different perspectives. Some novels can't even make two perspectives work, yet Priscila Santa Rosa was able to master five. The characters are all unique enough, with voices true to their personality, that it makes for brilliant transitions. I was never confused as to who was talking or what scene I was reading. All of the characters in the novel have equal weight in the story. It's not often that books have an all-star cast. Through these character's narratives, we are able to get different realistic reactions to something as insane as a zombie outbreak. Some of them are prepared to handle it, while some have to make a very quick transition.
The character work really is spectacular. Not only is there a strong female lead. There's three of them. Plus, they are strong in a way that's realistic and true to their characters. I absolutely loved how realistic the actions and dialogue were. It makes these personalities seem like real people, instead of words on a page. I really enjoyed how intertwined all of the stories were, in some cases, even from the very beginning. To me, that's some of the most realistic writing, as it's very true to life. There are so many different paths we cross, not even realizing how important it will become. The characters really make the novel.
However, that doesn't stop it from having all the action and gore necessary for a zombie novel to really be enjoyable. There's plenty of it. And it's wonderful. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the ending, but it is enough of a cliffhanger to get me excited for the second book. Fans of zombie apocalypses should not be disappointed.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: The Girl Who Came Back to Life by Craig Staufenberg (Tour Stop)

A book about love and loss, and how to live in a world filled with both...

When you die, your spirit wakes in the north, in the City of the Dead. There, you wander the cold until one of your living loved ones finds you, says "Goodbye," and Sends you to the next world.

After her parents die, 12-year-old Sophie refuses to release their spirits. Instead, she resolves to travel to the City of the Dead to bring her mother and father's spirits back home with her.

Taking the long pilgrimage north with her gruff & distant grandmother-by train, by foot, by boat; over ruined mountains and plains and oceans-Sophie struggles to return what death stole from her. Yet the journey offers her many hard, unexpected lessons-what to hold on to, when to let go, and who she must truly bring back to life.
My Rating
My Review

I don't always get drawn to Middle Grade titles, but I couldn't help myself with The Girl Who Came Back to Life. Not only do I love the cover (I know, I know, but it really does fit the way I feel about the book as well) but the concept grasped my attention as well. I was even more pleasantly surprised than expected when it came to this novel. It transported me into a new world that felt magical and truly in the spirit of the Fairytales I read in my younger years. It keeps that tradition and style while still maintaining a story that is refreshingly new.

Staufenberg crafts a world that pulled me in from the very beginning and didn't let me go until the end. It has that perfect amount of darkness in the tone that still allows the book to have a considerably light feeling. I was sucked into the life, and the death, of the story. Reading the novel is an adventure in itself, one that I took along with Sophie to the North. The setting felt very cinematic to me, and I enjoyed being able to visualize the concept.

I loved the concept of Sending the loved ones off, just as I loved Sophie's determination to avoid doing so with her one parents. Her unwillingness to let go was admirable and realistic, as most of us who have suffered a painful loss have felt the same way at some point. She was very mature for her age, although that worked well with her characterization. The relationship between Sophie and her grandmother was also intriguing to read about, given it isn't what all readers may expect.

All in all, I found The Girl Who Came Back to Life to be a very enjoyable read. The narrator allows us a good inside into this new world, which an authentic feel of a Fairytale. I recommend the work, and would definitely read more from this author in the future.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review: Byronic by Sandi Beth Jones

When the creatures in her dark drawings come to life, Chelsea finds that the mysterious Geoff is the only person she can confide in. But she can't help wondering who she’s kissing: her tender confidant or the dangerous Byronic rebel bent on shocking his detached father.

Starting over in the South Carolina Lowcountry is just what sixteen-year-old Chelsea needs. Unfortunately, moving also means living with her mom's snobbish British novelist employer and his moody son Geoffrey. Knowing that her new home likely used to be a slave holding plantation doesn't make her feel any more at home.

Troubled and reckless after his brother's mysterious death, Geoff often mimics his father’s literary favorite, Lord Byron, acting "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." She's determined to keep her distance and buries herself in her art, though the darkness of her drawings troubles her and others who see them. When people in the Gullah and Geechee community point out that she has been drawing Boo Hags and haints -powerful and terrifying creatures of local legend and superstition- she starts to wonder about her own heritage and her connection to the Sea Islands. She begins to question her own grasp on reality when it seems those creatures start making their way out of her drawings and into real life.

It's clear that Geoff has some secrets of his own, but he might be the only person she can confide in. Chelsea must decide who she can trust, when nothing in the Lowcountry is what it seems.
My Rating
 My Review
Byronic is dark, addictive, and not easily put down. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience and could not turn the pages fast enough. The novel combines a contemporary world with myth and lore and I couldn't get enough of it.
The characters of Byronic are unique and well-developed. Chelsea is a great protagonist and an interesting voice. She's strong, but not stereotypical, and has a great personality. She always stayed true to her character, although I did feel that she reacted a bit simply to drawing disturbing images that might just be something more than a figment of her imagination. In addition, I loved the parallels between Geoff and Lord Byron. It allowed for a dark and brooding exterior personality that can be seen in a variety of stories to be unique and unforgettable. Of course, in my humble opinion, the real shining stars of the novel were the creatures of legend.
Yep. I'm on Team Boo Hags and haints on this one. Okay, so maybe I shouldn't quite word it as such, but I did love the concept of the creatures. If you're anything like me as a reader, you fall head over heels for a good example of lore and legend. Well, you won't be disappointed in this novel, which not only has supernatural creatures, but slowly introduces them through a different medium: art. (Yes, it's as awesome as it sounds.)
Byronic really did not have many slow points at all. I was able to devour the novel in about one sitting. If anything, I would have liked to see a bit more of the past. Not all the questions were answered, sure, but that just allows room for more. (No complaints there.) I really enjoyed the read, and recommend the novel to anyone interested.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: Monarch by Belle Whittington (Tour Stop)

Blair Reynolds was born to rule. Worlds, that is. Destined to reign over an ancient intergalactic race, it may seem her fate is written in the stars. But she’s willing to risk it all for another chance to spend forever with her true love – even if it means traveling through time and space to the other side of the universe.

As far as Ash is concerned, Blair's happily-ever-after involves him, not the mere mortal with whom she seems so infatuated. She was bequeathed to him by her fatherand Ash will go to any lengths to keep Blair and her true love apart.

And Ash isn’t the only one.

Deep in the jungles of Brazil, where tribal drums call to Blair and her true love, other forces carry out dangerous secret plans.

However, Blair has secrets of her own … secrets so lethal she dares not even remember them.
Secrets so painful they could ruin everything.

Because some secrets kill.

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Belle was raised in deep East Texas.  She now resides somewhere north of Houston, Texas in a small inconsequential town with the smallest, most inconsequential name.  There, in the shady reaches of the pines, elms, and oaks, she daydreams adventures and secrets she weaves throughout her stories.  She’s the author of CICADA, FIREFLY, and MONARCH, a Young Adult/New Adult cross-over trilogy with excellent reviews.  She studied literature and history at University of Houston where Beowulf, Shakespeare’s works, and the history of the Vikings were her favorite topics.  Belle is positive her readers and fans are the best in the universe.

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 My Rating


My  Review

Not only is Monarch an excellent conclusion to Whittington's addictive trilogy, but it is an altogether wonder novel. I couldn't get enough of the story, and found myself tearing through the pages, overly eager to discover what would happen next. It's a stunning novel. Achingly beautiful. I enjoyed every minute of reading.

It's not often that a concept manages to combine an absolutely lovely romance with a brilliant science fiction, but Monarch does that. I loved the alien history that was incorporated into the novel. It built up a race that felt truly authentic and almost believable! In addition, the romance is on point. If you are a bit of a hopeless romantic when it comes to your fiction (it's okay, I'm right there with you), fear not. You will not be disappointed!

I adored the plot of Monarch, as it kept me guessing the entire time (and, to be honest, I was quite often wrong). There are more that enough twists, turns and reveals to keep readers invested in the novel. On top of that, the characters are all intriguing. Blair is a great protagonist and it's very exciting to see her inner conflict. Not to it just be or does Ash have some awesome quotes?

I loved Monarch and Whittington's entire trilogy. Without a doubt, I recommend.