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    Review: Sweet Evil

    Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins will be released in the U.S. on May 1, 2012 in paperback and eBook formats. It is currently available to pre-order online in both formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Published by HarperTeen, the print edition is 464 pages.

    Sweet Evil is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at TheStorySiren.com.

    ***

    Goodreads description:

    What if there were teens whose lives depended on being bad influences? This is life for sons and daughters of fallen angels in Sweet Evil.

    Tenderhearted Southern girl, Anna Whitt, was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage, and her will-power is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

    A cross-country trip to meet her father forces Anna to face the reality that hope and love are not options for her kind. When she confronts her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

    ***

    Anna Whitt always knew she was different. Being able to see and feel the moods and emotions of everyone around her made it pretty hard not to realize just how different she was.

    But until the day she met Kaidan Rowe she thought she’d kept her abilities a secret. And yet he knew. With just one look it was as if he was able to see everything she’d been hiding her entire life.

    And she wanted answers.

    Even if being around him was dangerous. Even if she felt inexplicably drawn to him in a way she had never felt drawn toward anyone else.

    And even if it meant losing her heart to someone who didn’t ask for it, didn’t want it and didn’t care if he broke it.

    Because finding answers to questions she’d had her entire life seemed worth the risk of a broken heart.

    But in her search for answers, the stakes will be raised and she’ll be forced to choose between good and evil. And this time it won’t be only her heart she could lose, but her life and the lives of those she loves.

    ***

    Perfectly titled, Sweet Evil is exactly that. A deliciously wicked, sinfully good and all-consuming story that readers will devour every morsel of and still be hungry for more.

    Author Wendy Higgins’ debut novel is absolutely riveting. The introduction is enticing. The story is intense and enthralling. And the characters are alluring, intriguing, lovable, despicable, maddening and totally unforgettable. They’re characters readers will want to know and want to know more of.

    With every page, the author draws readers deeper into the world of good and evil that she created. A world where demons roam the earth masked in human form, using their offspring to do their bidding – spreading chaos, fear, hatred, lust, envy, violence.

    And then there’s Anna. A girl who battles against the evil within. Choosing light over darkness. Good over evil. Right over wrong. Until the day she meets Kaidan Rowe and her entire world changes.

    Always knowing that she was different, but never really knowing why, Anna hid her abilities from her best friend Jay and from Patti, the only mother she’d ever known. Keeping them in the dark made her feel at least somewhat normal, even if she knew she wasn’t.

    Yet from the moment Kaidan set eyes on her, he somehow knew she was not like everyone else. He could see what others couldn’t. He could sense things about her that she didn’t even know about herself. And she was immediately drawn to him.

    But learning the true nature of who she is and who he is comes at a price. She will be forced to choose sides. And if she chooses not to embrace her darker nature, she will not only be putting her own life in danger, but the lives of everyone she cares about. Including Kaidan.

    Even at nearly five hundred pages, Sweet Evil is an easy one-sit-read. With a blistering pace, an intoxicating storyline, and a fascinating world the author built around her characters, this book will be impossible to put down. Even after the last word on the last page.

    It’s addictive. It’s delectable. It’s dangerous. It’s sexy. It’s dark. It’s gorgeous. It’s unpredictable. It’s torturous. It’s pure, sweet evil.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

    On a personal note:

    Sweet Evil was my most anticipated debut of 2012. From the moment I heard the title my expectations were high. When I read the description they were elevated to such a level that I started to get nervous that this book couldn’t possibly come close to what I hoped it would be. What I thought it should be. And what I needed it to be.

    I was so worried that I overhyped this book. But once again I worried for nothing. This book blew me out of the water. So much so that it totally destroyed my ability to read the next book on my pile. I just had to go back and re-read it. So I did.

    And it was every bit as good and torturous and twisty-turny and exciting as the first time.

    Flawed? No way. Hot? Yes. Definitely yes. Sexy? Oh you bet it is. This book totally lives up to its name. It is all sorts of wicked deliciousness.

    Before I even cracked the spine I knew I’d love Kaidan Rowe. He was everything I expected him to be – the dangerous, sexy, conflicted bad boy. But he was also way hotter than I’d imagined him to be. And he was a musician. And on occasion he was even reluctantly good.

    I had no idea who his father was or what would be required of him. And I was totally surprised that I still loved him even after I knew who he was and what he did. And I was even more shocked that in spite of it all I still thought he’d be perfect for Anna.

    I was also surprised at just how much I adored Anna. I actually loved how good she was. I didn’t expect to. But she wasn’t condescending or preachy. She was understanding and kind and patient. She wasn’t judgmental. At all. And she was just so perfect for Kaidan.

    I knew this story would be about good and evil. But I never thought I’d be as enchanted by the evil as I was in this book. The level of detail the author built into her demonic characters, even the ones who didn’t take center stage, made them completely captivating. I was transfixed. From their names, to their purpose, to their treatment of their progeny, to their total lack of humanity, I found them utterly fascinating and disturbing and strangely appealing.

    Just getting a glimpse at that world made me want to know more about them and the Nephilim who either embraced their jobs or despised what they did for their fathers.

    These demons were truly demonic. The things they did and made their children do were bad, bad things. There was no sugar-coating on it. The author didn’t “nice” this up to be less brutal. And it made me love this so much more because of that.

    I actually loved everything about this book. Especially the jealous and moody Kaidan parts. But I even loved the parts that made my heart ache and made my insides get all twisted up in knots.

    And if I were to actually list every single thing I loved about this book, I’d just be reprinting the entire book here in my review. I loved it that much. Every little bit of it. Every word. Every moment. Every. Single. Thing. Except…

    …The fact that it had to end. But you know what they say about all good things….

    So, yes, Sweet Evil totally blew my mind. Twice. Would I recommend it to anyone? I’d recommend it to everyone. Would I read it again? I’d read it again and again and again and again. It is totally sweet. It is absolutely evil. And it’s the perfect mix of both.

     ***

    There were way too many perfectly swoon-worthy passages to just choose one. So, I decided to share a favorite passage that made me grin evilly instead:

    “I assure you she’ll be in good hands.”

    “Mm-hm, that’s part of what I’m worried about.” She pointed at his hands. “Hands off, mister.”

    His eyes widened, and so did mine.

    Patti!” I said.

    She crossed her arms, fierce and serious. We both shrank back a fraction.

    “Bring her back to me safely, with her virtue intact.”

    I closed my eyes. Someone kill me now.

    This review is based on an ARC I received from the publisher, HarperTeen, in exchange for my honest review.

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    Review: Destiny’s Fire

    Destiny’s Fire by Trisha Wolfe was released in the U.S. on January 10, 2012 in paperback and eBook formats. It is currently available to order online in both formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Published by Omnific Publishing, the print edition is 240 pages.

    Destiny’s Fire is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at TheStorySiren.com.

    Goodreads description:

    It’s the year 2040, and sixteen-year-old Dez Harkly is one of the last of her kind—part of a nearly extinct race of shape-shifters descended from guardians to the Egyptian pharaohs. Her home and her secret are threatened when the Council lowers the barrier, allowing the enemy race to enter the Shythe haven.

    As the Narcolym airships approach, Dez and her friends rebel against their Council and secretly train for battle. Not only is Dez wary of war and her growing affection for her best friend Jace, but she fears the change her birthday will bring. When Dez’s newfound power rockets out of control, it’s a Narcolym who could change her fate… if she can trust him.

    Dez’s guarded world crumbles when she discovers why the Narcos have really come to Haven Falls, and she’s forced to choose between the race who raised her and the enemy she’s feared her whole life.

    ***

    Dez Harkly has a secret. One that she’s been forced to keep her entire life. One that if it were discovered would put her in danger. One that could get her banished from Haven Falls. Or worse…. One that could get her killed.

    As a Kythan, a descendant of the guardians of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, she is duty bound to be a Protector to humans. And at the age of seventeen she’ll come into her powers. But when that day comes, she will no longer be able to keep her secret. She’ll no longer be able to hide who she really is. She’ll no longer be safe.

    Unless she can somehow find a way to hide her powers, she and her mom will have to run. But with their enemies, the Narcolym, descending upon Haven Falls, leaving her home and her friends behind is the last thing that Dez wants to do.

    So, when an unexpected ally offers a solution to her problem, Dez must decide whether or not to put her trust in him. But if she’s wrong it will cost her everything. Because giving him her trust means not only putting her life in his hands, but giving him her heart.

    ***

    Destiny’s Fire is a fast-paced, exciting and deliciously different paranormal young adult novel by author Trisha Wolfe that takes readers to a future where the descendants of an ancient race of beings that guarded the Pharaohs of Egypt are fighting for their survival.

    This action-packed story is the first book in a new series by the author, set in the not-so-distant future in a place called Haven Falls, where the Shythe have been trying to maintain the peace with their enemies, the more aggressive Narcolym. Both have grown weaker as humans continue to grow less dependent upon them as Protectors and the demand for their powers diminishes.

    And as a race whose existence is bound to the humans’ need for them, the Kythan are in danger of facing extinction. With only the Shythe and the Narcolym remaining of their kind, the two must not only co-exist, but work together to come up with a way to ensure their survival. Even if it’s one that may incite a rebellion.

    As Dez, Jace, Lana and Nick try to discover just what the Shythe Council knows, they prepare themselves for war. Training in secret, even before they’ve come into their powers, they want to be ready to defend themselves and their kind against the enemy Narcos. But when the Narcos start appearing around Haven Falls, it becomes even more important to find out why they’re there and just what they they plan to do. Before it’s too late.

    From cover to cover, Destiny’s Fire is filled with action, suspense, mystery and an intense and heartbreaking love triangle that will keep readers captivated. The world is intriguing, the characters are incredibly likable and their abilities are simply fascinating.

    The main character Destiny “Dez” Harkly is brave and strong and courageous and yet delicate, fearful and indecisive when it comes to love. Her relationship with Jace is ever-changing and adds to the dramatic tension. And each of her encounters with Reese sends the tension through the roof. For her, for Jace and especially for the reader.

    With all the excitement of a paranormal adventure combined with all the heat and anguish of a gripping love story, this incredibly fast-paced story, that can easily be devoured in one sitting, will be unputdownable.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    On a personal note:

    What first drew me to Destiny’s Fire was the description. I loved that this story was set in the future but was about a race of beings who were descendants of the guardians of an ancient civilization. And I loved learning about them and their powers.

    But of course I wanted to know more. About them. About their history. And about the different races of Kythans. As this is the first book in the series, I am anxiously awaiting the next book to see what else will be revealed about these guardians of the Pharaohs.

    I loved the different powers the Narcolym and the Shythe had. It was fascinating to see just how their powers could be wielded and how they could be used in the modern day. Though I am not exactly sure how they are used in 2040 by the Kythans in their role as Protectors, seeing their powers in action at the bar Cogs and used with those crystals was pretty awesome.

    And I am so curious how they would have been used in ancient Egypt, or if the powers of the guardians at that time were different. It would be seriously amazing to learn more about their history and their evolution in a future book in the series.

    I loved what the main character Dez Harkly was capable of – though I won’t reveal just what she could do here, because that would be spoiler-y. Her history and her abilities were totally bad-a**. As a fighter she was an incredibly strong heroine…. though in matters of the heart she was the complete opposite.

    In training she could take down Nick and Lana easily. And with some effort she could take down Jace. She was incredibly courageous and she didn’t run away from danger. And that was before she came into her powers.

    But when it came to the boys in her life and the love triangle she got herself into for being too indecisive and slightly clueless, she was a complete scaredy cat. So I loved Dez, because I loved flawed characters, but she drove me a little crazy for not standing up for what she wanted or making the hard choices when she needed to.

    And she was too quick to forgive. Way too quick. Going from wanting to kill someone to wanting to kiss them in a heartbeat made me want to go at her with Charge or Flame to knock some sense into her. But because she was so kick-a** with everything else, I still found her likable.

    Surprisingly, to me anyway, Jace was my favorite of the two boys. Actually, I am totally shocked by that one. Reese was all sorts of strong and mysterious and dangerous, which is usually my favorite, but I just didn’t connect with him like I did Jace. Jace may have been the good boy, but he was still pretty broody and fiery tempered and way more trustworthy and deserving of Dez.

    And Lana was a great character – she was actually my favorite. She was fun and super nice and forgiving and open-minded and incredibly understanding. She may not have been the best fighter, but she was the perfect balance to Dez.

    I thought the pace worked well overall. It was a super quick read and kept me engaged from start to finish. There were a few scenes toward the end that I thought were a bit rushed, though, and could have allowed for more time for Dez to accept some of the surprises that were thrown her way.

    And as I said before, I would have loved to know more about the Kythans, but I guess that’s what sequels are for. So, I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series. Besides, while it wasn’t a tormenting cliffhanger ending, there is a lot left up in the air for book two, and I really want to find out just what happens next.

    ***

    Favorite Passage:

    …His eyes traced my face, taking me in. My breath caught as they settled on my mouth.

    His hands hesitated and, before I could question his response, he pressed his lips to mine, hard. His kiss was demanding and hungry. I released a small moan and wrapped my arms around his back, pulling him closer.

    ***

    Places to Stalk:

    The author on TWITTER

    The author’s WEBSITE

    The author’s BLOG

    The author on FACEBOOK

    Book trailer for Destiny’s Fire:

    ***
    This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher, Omnific Publishing, in exchange for my honest review.

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    Review: Everneath

    Everneath by Brodi Ashton will be released in the U.S. on January 24, 2012 in hardcover and eBook formats. It is currently available to pre-order in both formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Published Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, the print edition is 384 pages.

    Everneath is the first book in a new series of the same name by author Brodi Ashton.

    Everneath is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at TheStorySiren.com.

    ***

    Goodreads description:

    Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she’s returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld… this time forever.

    She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

    Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

    As Nikki’s time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she’s forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s…

    ***

    The Everneath kept Nikki away from her family, her friends and the love of her life for one hundred years.

    She chose to go. She chose leave them all behind. To escape to a world that was free from the pain she felt on the Surface. To be cocooned in a century-long embrace with an immortal boy who could take away all her suffering. All her emotions. All her memories. And leave her empty.

    But when that time had ended she chose to Return. Even if it meant that it wouldn’t be forever. That after just six months the Everneath would come to claim her. Even if it meant that this time she would have to say goodbye.

    And even if it meant the possibility that this time she wouldn’t want to leave.

    ***

    Everneath is the hauntingly beautiful, deliciously dark and incredibly captivating first book in this new series by author Brodi Ashton. It blends together the modern day with mythology, creating a story that is as seductive as it is heartbreaking.

    The main character, Nikki Beckett, has escaped to the Everneath and given herself to these immortal beings called the Everliving. As a Forfeit she has chosen to give them her life’s essence in exchange for the numbness of having them strip away her layers of pain, her emotions and her memories.

    But when a century in the Everneath had passed, equal to just six Surface months, and the Feed had ended, instead of heading off quietly into the Tunnels or choosing another fate with Cole, she decided to Return. But her days are numbered. She has only six months to say her goodbyes, to right any wrongs, to make amends and to explain just where she disappeared to when she left so unexpectedly and without a word to anyone.

    And while half of a year may seem like enough time to repair any damage she’s caused, it’s also just enough time for her to realize that while the Everneath may have been the escape she once sought and being there with Cole had felt like home, being back with her family and friends was where she wanted to be right now. Where she wanted to remain. And saying goodbye to Jack, the boy she loved, was something she never wanted to have to face.

    Everneath will keep readers immersed in a story that is part myth, part love story and part mystery. As the story progresses and as time winds down for Nikki, the sense of urgency begins to build, making this a story that is not only intoxicatingly beautiful but utterly riveting.

    The world that author Brodi Ashton has begun to develop in this first novel in the series, while based on myth, is absolutely fascinating and surprisingly unique. And the taste that the author gives of the mythology and the peek she offers into the Everneath will leave readers excited for more.

    With a pace that escalates as time begins to run out, with characters that are irresistible, with a story that is all-consuming and with an ending that will leave readers desperate to find out just what comes next, Everneath is without a doubt a must read.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

    On a personal note:

    With each of the two reads of Everneath, I was totally spellbound, completely heartbroken and left with a pit in my stomach that lasted for days. Both times. And I imagine that when I read this book again, I will feel exactly the same way.

    And I will read this book again. And again. I can’t wait for its release so that I can add the finished copy to my collection and devour this book once more. This is one of the few books that I have on my list of absolute must re-reads.

    What an amazing book this was. I was so completely drawn into this world and I never wanted to leave. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. And I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where I was equally torn between the two male characters.

    Jack may have been the good boy, but he was not the typical nice, comfortable or safe choice. He was strong and sexy and protective, but he had a little bit of the bad boy in him.

    And then there was Cole. The perfect bad boy – a musician and an immortal with an agenda and a need for power. He was possessive and dangerous and incredibly sexy. But while it may have been buried beneath his disarming smirk, he did have a heart.

    It was just so easy to fall in love with this book. It happened for me on page three the first time I read it and happened all over again on page one the second time.

    I could not put this down. With either read. I was instantly hooked. I could not even think of breaking away from this story. I was transfixed. By the gorgeous writing. By the love story. By the mythology. By Nikki, Cole and Jack.

    I love the way the author described Nikki and Cole’s time together in the Everneath. Just thinking of how they were wrapped up in one another’s embrace for a century, with their limbs entangled, so closely joined together in the cocoon made by the Shade makes me sigh. She described it so beautifully, it left me a little breathless every single time. Even just thinking about it now takes my breath away.

    And I love the way she kept shortening the time gaps for each chapter as time began to run out for Nikki, both in the present and in the past. It created an unbelievable amount of tension and made me want to race through those pages to find out how the story ended. Even when I read it the second time and I already knew just how things would end.

    There is so much I want to talk about from this book, but it’s all spoiler-y. About Nikki and the choices she made and didn’t make. About Jack. About that tattoo of his, and about…. Nope, can’t talk about that. About Cole and just what he really thinks about Nikki. About being heroic. About the Everliving. About the Everneath. About how this story ends. And about what comes next.

    I have been desperate for months, since I first read this book, to find out just what happens in the sequel. I can’t believe I have to wait over a year for book two’s release. After that ending, I was just dying to know what happens. I’m still dying. Still. Nearly two months later. Talk about a torturous wait.

    Everneath definitely has and ending that will leave you tied up in knots, begging to know what comes after. It certainly left me feeling that way… like a complete pretzel.

    ***

    There were a lot of favorite passages and quotes that I flagged in Everneath. Passages that every time I read them, yank me right back into this story. While most of them are too spoiler-y or should be read in context, there is one that just makes me grin. And sigh. And grin some more.

    He put his lips against my head. “Heroes don’t exist. And if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them.”

    ***

    To read an excerpt courtesy of the publisher, CLICK HERE.

    Book trailer for Everneath:

    This review is based on a printed ARC I received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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    Review: Cinder

    Cinder by Marissa Meyer was released in the U.S. on January 3, 2012 in hardcover, audio and eBook formats. It is currently available to order in all formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Published by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, the print edition is 400 pages.

    Cinder is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles by author Marissa Meyer. The second book in the series, Scarlett, is due out in 2013, Cress will be out in 2014 and Winter will be available in 2015.

    Cinder is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at TheStorySiren.com.

    Goodreads description:

    Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

    Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

    In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.

    ***

    Fairytales are supposed to have happy endings. And a Cinderella story is no exception.

    But when the heroine is a cyborg who would prefer to save herself rather than be rescued by a Prince, things get complicated.

    And when the Prince has more important things to worry about, like saving his country from a deadly plague and trying to forge an alliance with the leader of a cruel race of Lunar people, finding his Princess and falling in love seem trivial.

    With time quickly running out, finding a cure and deterring a powerful and evil Queen who has her sights set on the Prince seem much more important than happiness.

    So, unless there really is some kind of magic wand that can make all of it disappear, survival must win out over love.

    So much for happily ever after. But then again this is not your average Cinderella story.

    ***

    Cinder is the instantly captivating, wonderfully imaginative and immensely entertaining first book in the Lunar Chronicles. This clever retelling of the classic Cinderella story is even more enchanting than the original, offering more twists and turns, thrills and excitement.

    It may start with a “once upon a time,” but this first book in the series won’t stop at “happily ever after.”

    The fairytale will immediately draw readers in, but it is the charming, adorable and frightening new characters, the futuristic setting of New Beijing, the deadly threats in this new world, and all the fascinating changes and additions to this story that will keep readers utterly spellbound.

    This enchanting story is at once familiar and strange. Cinder is a mechanic. Forced to work to support her stepmother and stepsisters, only the youngest who is kindhearted, she is hoping one day to gain her freedom.

    Though freedom is not something so easily given to someone like her. Someone not entirely human. Cinder is a cyborg. Part human, part machine. Looked upon with disgust, she is not seen as an equal.

    But when she meets the Prince, he only sees the girl, not the machine. And for a brief moment, Cinder can dream of a better life.

    However, there are bigger problems in New Beijing. A plague that has been ravaging the planet has reached the city, attacking people close to Cinder and the Prince. And with the unsettling arrival of the Lunar Queen, there are far more important things to deal with than falling in love. Even if her not-entirely-human heart says otherwise.

    Author Marissa Meyer has completely transformed this classic story. While still recognizable, giving readers that feeling of familiarity, the author altered the characters, the setting and the world to make it feel new and different and a lot more danger-filled and suspenseful.

    By adding in the unexpected, giving the story a depth it didn’t before have, and creating such memorable characters, the author has breathed new life into this fairytale story with a book that will leave readers anxiously awaiting the next installment.

    Cinder is a fast-paced, incredibly addictive start to this new series that is a must read for fans of strong heroines, handsome princes, evil stepmothers, wicked queens and for those who enjoy their fairytales with a twist.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    On a personal note:

    I listened to it. I read it. I loved it. It’s a must read. And an absolute must read again.

    Cinder is yet another book that I went into with mild trepidation. I heard great things about it, but I was uncertain if it would be a book I’d enjoy. I’m not a fan of reading science fiction and the idea of a series called the Lunar Chronicles set off all sorts of warning bells in my head.

    And while the cover is intriguing – both beautiful and creepy – it, too, made me wonder if I would be able to read this book in its entirety. Even without having read the description, the mechanical leg and the title gave me some inkling of what this story would be about. And I just wasn’t sure.

    My fears were completely unfounded. I absolutely loved this story. I could not get enough of it. And when it ended, I just wanted more. I still do.

    It was warm and engaging, the characters were easy to connect with, the world was totally fascinating and having the fairytale as the foundation for this story kept me riveted.

    I wanted to pinpoint where the similarities were. I wanted to see where the differences would lead. I wanted to find out if there would be a “happily ever after” ending for Cinder and Prince Kai.

    I had both the audiobook and a printed ARC for review and I decided to listen to the audiobook version first and then read it. And I’m so glad I did.

    I was instantly pulled into the story by the narrator. She brought life to the characters and made me want to know them better. She infused these characters with such personality that they were immediately lovable.

    But even without the narration, this book was just so easy to love and was totally captivating. I couldn’t wait to find out if the story followed the same path as original fairytale. Would Cinder leave behind a glass slipper? Would she have a magical transformation that would allow her to dance with the Prince at the ball?

    I love, love, love what the author did with this part of the story. But because talking about it would be way too spoiler-y, I just can’t.

    I never thought I could enjoy a book where the main character was a cyborg. But Cinder is lovable and real and not at all the unthinking, unfeeling machine I thought she’d be.

    Although the most adorable character was Iko, the android. She always made me smile, especially when she swooned over Price Kai. Who was definitely swoonworthy.

    He was handsome and brave and strong and not in the least bit arrogant. Though he totally could have been.

    And what an amazing job the author did with the Lunar Queen and her entourage. While I won’t say too much about them, I will just say that I love how the author connected them with the fairytale. And as far as personality goes – talk about seriously creepy.

    I can’t believe that the wait for book two is a year. I have a million-and-a-half questions about what will happen next. And even though I don’t feel like I’ve been left dangling off a cliff, I do feel like I’m suspended in mid-air, holding my breath until I can dive into the next book in the series.

    About the audiobook:

    Audiobook: Unabridged Compact Discs

    Length: 8 Discs/Approximately 9 hours

    Read by: Rebecca Soler

    Rebecca Soler is a fantastic narrator and simply perfect for Cinder. She brings a vibrancy and warmth to the story and characters that might not be expected at the outset.

    She gave each character their own personality, making it readily apparent who was speaking. She did such a tremendous job distinguishing Queen Levana by slowing down and drawing out each word, giving her a regal air, as befitting an arrogant queen. And the accent she gave Dr. Erland was especially wonderful and so well-suited to his character.

    Ms. Soler’s voice is easy to understand and follow and she keeps the pace of the story, allowing listeners to effortlessly engage with it. Each word is clear and concise, leaving no room for confusion, even in a noisy environment. And her tone is inviting, making it that much easier to remain focused on and connected to the story.

    ***

    Extras

    To listen to an audio excerpt, visit the publisher’s website, HERE.

    To download the first five chapters of Cinder from Amazon (free at the time of this post), CLICK HERE.

    To access all sorts of exclusive content, including a printed excerpt, or an audio excerpt of the entire first chapter, CLICK HERE and “Like” The Lunar Chronicles on Facebook.

    To find out more about the Cinder blog tour in January, check out the schedule on the author’s BLOG.

    ***

    Book trailer

    ***

    This review is based on a digital audio file I received from Macmillan Audio and a printed ARC received from Feiwel & Friends, in exchange for my honest review.

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    Review: Divergent

    Divergent by Veronica Roth was released in the U.S. on May 3, 2011 in hardcover, audio and eBook formats. It is currently available to order online in all formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, the print edition is 496 pages.

    Divergent is the first book in a new planned trilogy by author Veronica Roth. Insurgent, the second book in the series is slated for release on May 1, 2012 and is available to pre-order in hardcover or eBook formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Divergent is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at TheStorySiren.com.

    Goodreads description:

    In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

    During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

    Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

    ***

    Beatrice Prior was born into a faction that required selflessness. One that required putting the needs of others in front of her own. One that demanded silence when she would have rather spoken and inaction when she would rather have taken it.

    But being part of one faction didn’t mean staying a part of it. And at sixteen, the choice would be hers. Remain with her family and the faction she was born into, or leave them all behind and embrace something new.

    And while Beatrice wasn’t selfish, she’d never really fit into her family’s faction, and she knew she’d never be able to always put others first.

    So she chose.

    To leave her home. To say goodbye to her family. To take the risk that her new faction might not be the right one. And to face the very real possibility that she could become factionless if she failed the initiation. Or that she just might not even survive.

    ***

    Divergent is the incredibly imaginative, beautifully written and completely captivating first book in author Veronica Roth’s new series set in a dystopian Chicago. Filled with heart-stopping action, danger and suspense from cover to cover, it is unputdownable.

    This story immediately grabs, introducing readers to this society which separates itself from the outside world and further divides itself up into five very different factions of like-minded people – Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite. The hope is to create balance, equality and keep the peace. The reality is something much different.

    As the main character, Beatrice Prior, reinvents herself as Tris and tries to fit into her new world, she quickly learns that just because she wants a new start doesn’t mean that she’s ready to let go of everything from her past. And that being a part of it doesn’t mean she has to.

    But if she thought that choosing her new faction and leaving her family behind would be her toughest challenge, she’d have been wrong. Because choosing a faction offered no guarantee she’d become a part of it. And with a limited number of initiates who pass, the competition is fierce. Deadly even.

    Even more so for her. Because Tris has a secret. A secret she must keep hidden as she faces each round of the initiation. A secret she can’t reveal, not even to the boy who seems familiar to her, who seems to know her better than anyone and who seems to be on her side.

    Because the secret she’s keeping is dangerous. And the price she’d pay for its discovery could be her life.

    Author Veronica Roth has created an utterly riveting start to this series in Divergent. For a book that is nearly five hundred pages, the pace is lightning fast. The action is non-stop, the characters are easy to connect with, the society is as intriguing as it is disturbing, and the plot propels readers further and further into its depths.

    For fans of books with a strong, likable and relatable heroine, an exciting, danger-filled and action-packed plot, a society on the verge of upheaval and a hero with secrets of his own who is fascinating and mysterious, then Divergent is an absolute must read.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    On a personal note:

    What an unbelievably amazing book this was. I expected something so totally different than what it actually was. I imagined it would be this cold, clinical dystopian society. Something that felt very alien and difficult for me to connect with. It’s why it took so long for me to start reading it, even though it caught my eye over a year ago.

    I thought the idea was absolutely intriguing, but thought that I couldn’t fall in love with a story that hinted of societal unrest and talked of warring factions and initiations. And I never imagined I could ever like, let alone love, a boy named after a number. Oh how wrong I was.

    This story was so enchanting and it was just so easy to get caught up in this world. From the second I read the first paragraph I was hooked. I could not stop reading it, until I was forced to. And the second I could return to the story I did.

    I couldn’t wait to get back into this world, to see just what Tris would be faced with next. And to learn all I could about this mysterious boy, Four.

    I fell in love with the characters almost instantly after meeting them. Well, the lovable ones anyway. Tris especially. Four, definitely. But it was Tris I connected with the most. As much as I loved Four, it was nice to see a heroine be the strong one, to be the amazing one.

    I found myself sighing, a lot, when reading the scenes with Tris and Four. I found myself tearing up when certain heartbreaking events came to pass. I did not expect to be so emotionally connected to this story. But I was.

    This story felt so incredibly real. Which is not typical of a dystopian, for me. The characters, too, felt very real. The sacrifices made, the loses endured and the issues they faced were believable and scary and chilling, but true to life and refreshingly realistic.

    I loved the fact that Tris’s friends weren’t insta-friends. That they did turn against her and weren’t always in her corner. That they felt jealous and selfish and petty and envious.

    And I loved that the relationship between Tris and Four was also not an immediate one…. I won’t talk any more about what I love about the two of them, because that paragraph would be a complete spoiler.

    While there were a few guesses that I made correctly, there were a few unexpected surprises. The biggest of course being how much I loved this book. And now, along with the rest of the universe, I am dying to read the next one.

    I cannot wait to find out where this series is headed. Though the title of the next book gives me some idea. I am almost glad I waited until now to read this first book, because the wait until Insurgent is so much shorter. I feel kind of lucky, actually.

    One thing is certain, though. I will not be waiting seven months to read Insurgent. I read Divergent ten days ago and I already miss Tris and Four. That sequel will be read on release date. No question.

    ***

    I have a favorite passage. It’s actually an amazing quote by Four. But because I think it’s best discovered in context, I will not reveal it here. There are so many beautiful passages that made me sigh, but as I can only reveal one here, I choose…

    I have only one memory of getting here, and even that is just a single image: black ink curling around the side of a neck, the corner of a tattoo, and the gentle sway that could only mean he was carrying me.

    To get a nice long look inside Divergent courtesy of the publisher, CLICK HERE.

    Book trailer for Divergent:

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    Review: Hushed

    Hushed by Kelley York will be released in the U.S. on December 6, 2011 in paperback and eBook formats.

    It is currently available to pre-order online in both formats at Amazon and in paperback format at Barnes & Noble.

    Published by Entangled Publishing, the print edition is 242 pages.

    Goodreads description:

    He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her.

    Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed.

    Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.

    But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

    ***

    Archer Pond is a killer.

    He is seeking vengeance for the brutal crime that took his best friend Vivian from him years ago and turned her into someone he doesn’t even know. Someone he isn’t even sure he likes.

    He’s made a list. He’s studied his victims. And one by one he plans on making each of them pay for what they’ve done.

    Archer Pond is a monster… but he doesn’t want to be.

    He wants to be free. Free from the guilt he feels over what happened to Vivian. Free from Vivian, who keeps pulling him back into the drama her life has become and whose very existence is suffocating him.

    But the only way he truly believes he can be free is if no one on his list remains alive.

    That is until he meets Evan.

    Evan makes him want to be better. Evan makes him feel like he’s not alone. Evan makes him believe that there is more. And Evan makes him feel human.

    With Evan he doesn’t need revenge to make him feel free. And when he’s with Evan he doesn’t need Vivian.

    And Vivian is not happy….

    ***

    Hushed is a raw, powerful, deliciously dark, edgy and gritty story. It is a story that combines lightness and beauty with ugliness and violence. And it is one that is filled with sadness, desperation and hope for redemption.

    From the opening pages it holds absolutely nothing back. Bringing the reader into this chilling and violent story with a main character who at first glance seems nothing more than a cold-blooded and calculating killer. Someone seeking vengeance, but with little remorse for his actions.

    Archer Pond is way more than a flawed character. He’s dark, he’s disturbed, but he is not without hope. He may not fully grasp the wrongness of his actions, but when he meets Evan Bishop he begins to see things differently and is able to recognize that there is more to life than just the cold, empty world he’s created for himself, and an existence that revolves entirely around Vivian Hilton.

    Author Kelley York takes readers on a journey to the darkest of places with her character, Archer, as he works his way through his list of those he feels are deserving of his vengeance, tries to find salvation for his friend Vivian and hopes to find freedom for himself.

    Hushed is not a light story or one that ends happily. Archer’s actions are shocking and chilling and not easily forgivable. He is not instantly likable, nor could he be called lovable, but he is a sympathetic character whose actions, while not excusable, are understandable and are not done out of evil but out of a misguided sense of righting a few wrongs.

    As the story progresses, the author begins to fill in the missing pieces from Archer and Vivian’s past, allowing readers to see the complete picture only after they’ve already formed their opinions. And forcing them to adjust their perceptions with each new revelation.

    This is a story that is as haunting and sorrowful as it is horrifying and brutal. And it is one that will stick with readers well beyond the final page.

    Hushed is a story for an older young adult audience and one for readers who aren’t sensitive to, or uncomfortable with, a fair amount of violence. While the violence is prevalent, it isn’t excessive to the story and it is incredibly important for the characters’ development.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    On a personal note:

    Wow, what an expected an amazing surprise this book was for me. I knew this would be a dark book. I glanced at the description and took one look at the cover and it was pretty obvious that this would be dark.

    What I didn’t realize is just how powerful it would be for me or how connected I would become to the story. And I never imagined just how long it would affect me after I was finished. How completely hollowed out and empty I’ve been feeling for the past few days.

    I was completely knocked over by the opening pages. The author did not ease me into her story, she shoved me in. Hard. Talk about not pulling any punches at the start. What a way to open a book. It was incredibly bold. It’s one of those openings that will either draw people in or instantly repel them. And it doesn’t let up.

    Of course I’m the perfect audience for this book. I like things dark. I like a no-holds-barred approach. I like shocking and disturbing openings that tell you exactly what to expect from the get-go.

    I did not like Archer at the beginning. There wasn’t much that was likable about him initially. He was cold. He was calculating. He seemed very OCD. And he was so intensely focused on what he set his mind on doing – killing those who had hurt his friend.

    But he was so incredibly sympathetic. And so completely messed up. He had no real sense of right and wrong. I felt for him, even if somewhere I felt that it wasn’t just the hardships in his life that made him the way he was.

    And I did find myself rooting for Archer. Hoping there would be some redemption for him. Hoping things would end up okay, even when I also hoped they wouldn’t.

    But I loved Evan. And I feared for him. Every moment I spent terrified that just being part of these two characters lives would dull his brightness, extinguish his light. He was goodness where they were darkness. He was the only bright spot in this dark story. Without him I’m a little afraid at what the outcome might have been.

    He was warm and beautiful and affectionate and his presence added a bit of a love story to this tragic tale.

    And then there was Vivian. Who was awesome and awful. And totally manipulative and immensely cruel and incredibly selfish. I hated her, but I loved to hate her. And I was afraid of what she’d do. But even with everything she did, I still pitied her.

    I loved that Archer and Vivian were total opposites in many ways and so much the same in others. He was quiet and calm and detailed and organized and she was fiery and frantic and chaotic. But they were both starved for affection. And they were both incredibly broken.

    I was captivated by this story from the moment I started reading it. It was the harshness and the cold realities of their situations that kept me reading page after page. But it was Evan who brought the sunshine and the hope that made this a read that wasn’t so emotionally tough.

    I absolutely loved this book. I’m glad that it was brought to my attention and I will definitely be buying the finished eBook when it is released. Hushed was a story that hit me hard when I read it and even harder after I was done. It was such a perfect read for me and I can’t wait to see what other dark stories the author writes as I will definitely be checking them out.

    ***

    I had so many favorite passages, some incredibly dark. But just to show that this story is more than darkness, here’s the shorter of two passages I loved that were so hard to choose between:

    He shook his head, smiling, “I think I need to do less of needing people, honestly.” As he turned to unlock the door, Evan grabbed his arm and pulled him back around. Barely a breath separated their mouths.

    “Want me, then,” Evan murmured against his lips. “If you don’t need me, at least want me.”

    ***
    To read an excerpt of Hushed on the publisher’s website, CLICK HERE.

    This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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    2012 Debut Author Challenge

    I have decided to participate in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge which is being hosted by Kristi at TheStorySiren.com. Thank you Kristi for hosting it again this year!

    I was on the fence for a while about whether or not to join again this year. While I loved participating in 2011, for a brief time I thought about taking a step back from commitments in 2012.

    But the reality is, some of the most exciting books I’ve read this past year have been by 2011 Debut Authors like Leah Clifford, Scott Tracey, Mary Lindsey, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Karsten Knight, Tahereh Mafi, Julia Karr, Courtney Allison Moulton, Cynthia Hand and well…. all of them.

    I had only committed to twelve books last year, but ended up (as of today) reading thirty-two, and that’s not including self-published authors who had their 2011 debuts this year or the 2011 debut authors I read in 2010. I still have one of my original twelve remaining, which I’ll read in December, and a few others that I hope to get to before the end of this year, so that count will definitely increase.

    About the 2012 DAC

    It is a year-long challenge that begins on January 1, 2012 and ends on January 31, 2013. (It has been extended a month so December 2012 debuts can count toward this year’s challenge.)

    The goal is to read twelve novels (at least) from debut Young Adult or Middle Grade authors. (Click the button, above, for more info on The Story Siren’s website.)

    The deadline to join is May 31, 2012 and in order to sign up you must have a blog to post reviews or you must be a member of Goodreads. And all reviews must be written in English.

    My goal for 2012

    This year I’ve decided to up the original count to twenty debut books, but I hope to read at least thirty. Although, if I do end up reading a few 2012 Debut Authors in December 2011 they won’t get counted toward the challenge and I’ll have to revise my list.

    My 20 DAC 2012 Books

    (Click on book titles for their description on Goodreads)

    1. Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
    2. Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
    3. Everneath by Brodi Ashton
    4. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
    5. Fracture by Megan Miranda
    6. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
    7. Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
    8. Katana by Cole Gibson
    9. Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
    10. Immortal City by Scott Speer
    11. Tempest by Julie Cross
    12. Slide by Jill Hathaway
    13. Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
    14. The Selection by Kiera Cass
    15. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
    16. Destiny’s Fire by Tricia Wolfe
    17. Velveteen by Daniel Marks
    18. Something Deadly and Strange by Susan Dennard
    19. Above by Leah Bobet
    20. The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

    Half the list I’ve had on my Goodreads TBR for awhile, the remaining half are newer finds. I’m generally slow in stalking the publisher’s catalogs so I tend to discover new authors late, but I somehow manage not to miss a fantastic debut even if I don’t always get to read it right away.

    It was such a challenge to narrow down the list, especially when you get to that one last slot and several books are fighting to be added. But I decided to try and make my picks as varied as possible, so that I didn’t have too many of one sub-genre. Of course I’ll be reading those others, they’re just not named in the twenty for this DAC.

    ***

    Looking back at 2011, although it’s not over yet, and I will probably create a post as the year closes, I have to say that taking part in the 2011 DAC was one of the best things I did as a blogger. If I hadn’t had all these debut authors on my radar, I might have missed some of the most amazing reads. Before I started blogging I never discovered new authors unless Amazon recommended them to me. And so, it’s very likely I might not have discovered any of the thirty plus debut authors I’ve read this past year.

    While I still love my non-debut authors like Cassandra Clare, Rachel Vincent, Melissa Marr, Lesley Livingston, Rachel Caine, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Richelle Mead, Jeri Smith-Ready, Jenna Black, Lauren Kate, Becca Fitzpatrick, and so many more, I can’t imagine a world where I didn’t read books like Wildefire, Shattered Souls, Dead Rules, Shatter Me, A Touch Mortal, Starcrossed, Half-Blood, Witch Eyes, Die for Me or Blood Magic.

    And just because all my 2011 authors will be moving on to their sophomore novels in 2012, it doesn’t mean that I won’t be stalking them regularly. I am a loyal reader and once I find an author I love, I become a fan for life and buy every single book they write.

    I can’t wait to dive into these wonderful sounding books for 2012 and see what new worlds, characters and adventures I’ll discover.

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