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    Review: Stir Me Up

    Stir Me Up

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    STIR ME UP by Sabrina Elkins released in the U.S. on October 1, 2013 in eBook format. It is currently available to order online at AMAZON and BARNES & NOBLE.

    Published by Harlequin Teen, the book is 268 pages.

    Note: This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.

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    Description:

    Cami Broussard has her future all figured out. She’ll finish her senior year of high school, then go to work full-time as an apprentice chef in her father’s French restaurant, alongside her boyfriend, Luke. But then twenty-year-old ex-Marine Julian Wyatt comes to live with Cami’s family while recovering from serious injuries. And suddenly Cami finds herself questioning everything she thought she wanted.

    Julian’s all attitude, challenges and intense green-brown eyes. But beneath that abrasive exterior is a man who just might be as lost as Cami’s starting to feel. And Cami can’t stop thinking about him. Talking to him. Wanting to kiss him. He’s got her seriously stirred up. Her senior year has just gotten a lot more complicated….

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    Review

    STIR ME UP is a sweet, fun, romantic and absolutely heartwarming story by author Sabrina Elkins. It’s a love story that brings together two unlikely characters – Cami Broussard, a high school student and chef-in training, and Julian Wyatt, an injured war veteran and former marine.

    When Cami first lays eyes on Julian, she is shocked by his injuries and her heart immediately goes out to him. But her sympathy is short-lived, as from the moment he opens his mouth he is rude and insulting. Having to adjust to his presence in her life and in her home is one thing, but she’s not about to put up with his attitude. No matter what he’s been through. And no matter how gorgeous he is.

    It’s not as if she doesn’t have her own problems. Her father is pushing her to go to college. Her boyfriend is pushing for more of a commitment than she’s ready to give him. And she hasn’t figured out what she wants to do when she graduates.

    But she certainly doesn’t want to have to give up her room to an irritable and ungrateful house guest. One who argues with her. One who drives her crazy. One who she can’t seem to stay away from. One who makes her feel things that her boyfriend doesn’t.

    Author Sabrina Elkins created an utterly captivating story that is both charming and sexy with characters that are lovable and sympathetic. She brought depth to her story through characters that have had to deal with loss, face hardships and overcome incredible obstacles. She brought excitement with a love story that is at first flirtatious and fragile but which grows in its strength and its intensity.

    She gave readers something unique through her character Cami’s passion for food. And she gave them something to smile about with a story that delivers on its promise to stir things up for Cami Broussard.

    STIR ME UP is a quick and incredibly entertaining one-sit read with a deliciously appealing dynamic between the two central characters. It is a must for fans of contemporary romance, love stories that promise the possibility of a happily ever after and stories that are well-written, engaging, thoughtful and romantic.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    5star

    On a personal note…

    When I picked up this story I could not put it down. STIR ME UP was a totally addictive and super-quick read.

    I was expecting a story that was light and fluffy – a cotton candy read – but was surprised by its layers. Happily surprised.

    I’d been an avid fan of chick lit before I started reading YA and it got to the point where each story felt formulaic – girl meets boy, girl gets boy, girl loses boy, angst, angst, angst, girl gets boy back on the last page. That was not at all the case here.

    STIR ME UP was clever, it had depth, it presented some real issues. It had a main character who was strong and passionate and determined and focused. I loved that she was able to see Julian for who he was, not the injuries he sustained. And I loved that the author presented this in a way that was believable and not over the top.

    The story spanned just about a year in the characters’ lives. It took the time to develop the characters. It didn’t rush the love story. It didn’t make light of the seriousness of Julian’s losses. It didn’t present an unrealistic relationship between the characters. It didn’t pile on the angst just for the heck of it.

    It was sweet, it was romantic, it was sexy as hell at times. It had its moments of heartbreak. It had just the right amount of tension and angst.

    The added bonus was how the author incorporated Cami’s passion for cooking and for creating recipes into the story. I am not a foodie, nor am I a cook, but I loved reading those passages where Cami was preparing a dish for the restaurant or her family. It made her more three-dimensional, it made her interesting. It made this story unique.

    And it made me love this story all the more.

    Of course I loved the swoon-worthy marine. I loved the back-and-forth between Cami and Julian, the electricity, the sexual tension. I loved the romance and found myself hoping for a HEA – a rarity for me.

    But it was everything all together that made this story as amazing as it was. It gave me all the smiles. It gave me the happy feels. And I don’t say this often about contemporary romance, but STIR ME UP is a total must read.

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    Favorite passage…

    I actually had two favorites. But as one of them was from right there at the very end, I thought it would be best not to reveal that here. So I chose the one from just a bit earlier in the story, the one that made me sigh.

    He kisses me long into the night, until my lips are swollen and my heart is full and my hands feel electric from running over his back and chest. And then, once the taste of him is locked inside me, once I’ve memorized the feel of him, I curl up against him and fall asleep.

    This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.

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    Review: The Eternity Cure

    The Eternity Cure

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    THE ETERNITY CURE by Julie Kagawa will be released in the U.S. on April 30, 2013 in hardcover and eBook formats. It is currently available to pre-order online in both formats at AMAZON and BARNES & NOBLE.

    Published by Harlequin TEEN, the print edition is 448 pages.

    THE ETERNITY CURE is the second book in author Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series. No information is yet available about the third book in the series.

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    Goodreads description…

    Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

    Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

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    THE ETERNITY CURE is the electrifying and wildly entertaining second book in author Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series. Darker, grittier and even more suspenseful than the first, this sequel amps up the action, danger and tension levels, making this an intense, edge-of-your-seat read.

    When Allison Sekemoto set off in search of Kanin, his rescue was her only goal. Still struggling with her humanity in this violent and ruthless world where lawlessness abounds, Allie fights to hang on to who she was before she became a predator. But when survival is dependent upon the need to feed, killing is sometimes her only option.

    And as her journey leads her farther and farther away from the one thing that keeps her human, the price for Kanin’s safety may be steeper than she ever imagined.

    Julie Kagawa has delivered yet another gripping and highly addictive installment in this series. She puts her heroine, Allie, in even greater danger as she attempts to save Kanin from his vicious and bloodthirsty captor, Sarren. She adds a new threat to this already perilous world that is struggling to survive. And she sets it all against a ticking clock, making this read a nail-biter.

    The author does a brilliant job of mixing the elements of an epic saga, gritty dystopian and dark paranormal/urban fantasy with a touch of horror in THE ETERNITY CURE. Her characters are interesting and engaging, whether likable or unlikable, and her story captivating from beginning to end.

    This second book in the series doesn’t suffer from sophomore slump – it is even more thrilling and action-packed than the first. It doesn’t serve as a bridge – the story could stand on its own. The author didn’t let the world-building suffer – if anything, she expanded upon it.

    And while the young adult genre may be flooded with stories of vampires and zombie-like creatures set in a post-plague world, Julie Kagawa’s story and series sets itself apart with its diverse and appealing characters, its exhilarating adventure and the imaginative spin this author brings to each of her stories.

    With surprising twists and an even more surprising ally, dangerous new enemies and even deadlier threats, and a betrayal that could cost her everything, Allie’s quest to save her creator in THE ETERNITY CURE is an incredibly exciting adventure with a shocking cliffhanger ending that will keep readers riveted.

    Reviewer gives this book…

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

    On a personal note…

    Oh my gosh this book was so wicked awesome. I LOVED every second of it. It was that good. Scratch that. Great. Scratch that. Amazing.

    I did not think Julie Kagawa could top what she wrote in THE IMMORTAL RULES. I loved that book and I was so sure that the follow-up couldn’t get any better. But oh my gosh it did. By a lot.

    THE ETERNITY CURE was so off-the-charts good that there are no words to adequately describe just how exciting it was to read. How riveted I was to the page as Allison set off on a quest to find Kanin. How unputdownable it was as the story unfolded. And how absolutely torturous that killer cliffhanger ending was.

    Nope. No words…. Exciting. Riveting. Unputdownable. Torturous. I’m not counting those as words. Because they don’t even begin to paint a picture of just how awesome this sequel was. Or how desperate I am to get my hands on the next book in this series.

    The description is pretty vague about Allison’s journey to find Kanin. It doesn’t reveal whether or not she makes the journey alone or whether she has a traveling companion or two. So I’m going to try to be just as vague when talking about this book so as not to reveal spoilers.

    But what I can talk about – one of the elements in this story that I love, love, loved – is that this already dark world got even darker. A world of humans and vampires that was barely hanging on is now potentially on the verge of extinction due to a new outbreak and contagion.

    I’d called the world in THE IMMORTAL RULES grisly, but the grisly in that book doesn’t hold a candle to just how grisly things got in this one. Dark. Grisly. Chilling. Violent. Heartbreaking.

    Yes, somewhere amidst the chaos, between the action-packed battles and chases, the race against the clock to find Kanin, the encounters with the Bleeders and Molemen, there were moments that were so unbelievably heartbreaking.

    Of course I won’t reveal whether it was just my heart that was broken or whether it was one or more of the author’s characters who suffered a broken heart, too. That little tidbit of information shall be my secret for now.

    But there’s so much more to this novel than just darkness and bloodshed. There is plenty of that, but that’s not all that THE ETERNITY CURE delivers. There’s suspense. Tension of the nail-biting variety. A journey that is once again epic. Characters that are interesting and challenging and likable and detestable.

    And if I’ve somehow given you the impression that this book is all doom and gloom, let me just add that there are also moments that are incredibly sweet and tender. Moments that will make your heart skip a beat or two.

    So, yeah, this book has a little bit of everything and a whole lot of the stuff of awesome. Though that ending did kill me. Not only because of what happened but because it made me so desperate to find out just what comes next and gave me no way to do so.

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    Favorite passage…

    There are three amazing passages I want to include here. And much to my surprise, they’re all Allie and Zeke passages. Given just how much I adore both Kanin and Jackal, it was a complete and total surprise when I narrowed down my very most favorite passages to those three.

    Of course choosing one is nearly impossible. Though I suppose I should choose the shortest one as opposed to those longish ones that reveal perhaps a bit too much.

    I felt him shift in my arms, holding me tighter, tucking my head under his chin. “Only death will take me away from you, vampire girl,” he whispered. “And even then, I’ll watch over you from wherever I end up.”

    The Trailer…

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

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    Review: Dance of Shadows

    Dance of Shadows cover

    DANCE OF SHADOWS by Yelena Black will be released in the U.S. on February 12, 2013 in hardcover and eBook formats. It is currently available to pre-order online in both formats at AMAZON and BARNES & NOBLE.

    Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, the print edition is 384 pages.

    DANCE OF SHADOWS is the first book in author Yelena Black’s Dance of Shadows trilogy.

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    Goodreads description…

    Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you’re close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner’s heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly – and she must be very careful who she trusts . . .

    Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school – the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister’s shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances – she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames . . .

    Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead – and the burning forces about to be unleashed . . .

    ***

    DANCE OF SHADOWS is a fast-paced, exciting and addictive read. With an easy flow, an intriguing mystery and a dark undertone, this story will be tough to put down before its climactic conclusion.

    When Vanessa Adler enrolls in the New York Ballet Academy she knows that finding answers to her sister’s disappearance will be a long shot. But she has to try. Because she knows Margaret wouldn’t just disappear without a word. And when another girl goes missing without a trace, Vanessa is certain it can’t be a coincidence.

    But solving the mystery won’t be easy with nothing but a hunch to go on. And with days and nights spent trying to master a complex dance, one that challenges her both physically and mentally, and one that when she gets it right seems to alter her surroundings and blur reality, finding the time and energy to search for the truth isn’t easy. Especially with the elusive and mysterious Zeppelin Black occupying so many of her thoughts.

    And when a piece to the puzzle is finally revealed, it will lead Vanessa down a path to the truth that is even darker and more sinister than she could have imagined and to secrets that could prove lethal. To the dancers. To her friends. To her.

    Author Yelena Black has penned an incredibly engaging story of dark powers, dark motives and deadly consequences in this first book in her series. Blending together a contemporary story with that of a paranormal mystery, DANCE OF SHADOWS brings something a little bit different to its audience. And with a plot and setting that revolve around dance and a main character whose skill lies in the movement of her body, this story sets itself apart.

    While there were a few scenes that felt a bit unnecessary to the plot and the story could have benefited from more character development for some of the secondary characters,  they didn’t detract significantly from the overall enjoyment of the story. The pacing was fairly consistent throughout, building as the story neared its conclusion, which made for a very quick and easy one-sit read.

    And while the main character, Vanessa Adler, wasn’t a particularly strong heroine, her character felt very realistic. She was a ballerina. She was a student. She was sometimes fragile. Sometimes silly. Sometimes brave. And she was a girl who put her feelings for her sister above all else.

    As this is the first book in a series, more of the backstory is likely to be included in the subsequent books in the series along with further development of those characters that remain. And while the story doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, there are a number of questions left unanswered and loose ends to be tied up in future books.

    DANCE OF SHADOWS offers readers a wonderful distraction from reality as the story brings them into this dark and deadly world of dance and its malevolent power.

    Reviewer gives this book…

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    On a personal note…

    I was initially drawn to DANCE OF SHADOWS because of its stunning cover. But from the moment I started reading it I was drawn in by the story and the author’s writing. Both the writing and the story had an easy flow that made getting caught up in it effortless.

    And because I was very familiar with the setting I was able to insert myself into the world with ease. I was able to visualize Vanessa walking down Broadway. I was able to picture her as she ran past the fountain in Lincoln Center. I was able to connect with the story in a way that was more real because the world wasn’t built solely from my imagination.

    I loved the premise of this story. I loved the mystery. I loved not knowing until the very end which boy was trustworthy and which boy wasn’t.

    And I loved the way the author described the dancers movements. She managed to capture both the beauty and the enormous effort that go into their performances. And she did it in a way that was exciting to read about.

    But it was the darkness in this story that I found most captivating. From the outset I just knew something bad had happened… was still happening. I knew that all wasn’t as it seemed. And while the main character was often clueless about just what was going on around her, I liked being in the know.

    I would have loved there to be a bit more backstory as regards certain of the characters, as the part they played would have been that much more interesting had I known a bit more about them, about their past. And I thought that other parts to the story, especially toward the end, could have been tightened up a bit. A few scenes felt a bit repetitive and I thought Vanessa was a little too slow to reach the “aha” moment.

    I would also have loved there to be a few more sweet kisses and a few less salty ones. While a sweaty embrace can be sexy, having a majority of those moments be of the sweat-covered variety seemed a bit too much.

    I was definitely not Vanessa’s biggest fan. She was at times arrogant, at times purposefully obtuse, at times foolish and at times incredibly frustrating. But I did love that she was so dedicated to finding out what happened to her sister and that she was such a powerful dancer. My favorite scenes in the book were the ones in which she was dancing.

    Throughout the read I couldn’t decide who I liked more – Zep or Justin. I couldn’t figure out which one of them was the “bad boy.” And I wasn’t able to trust either of them. Until the end, that is. They were both swoon-worthy and equally frustrating. They both were keeping secrets. But they both made the story that much more thrilling to read.

    I loved the build up to the end. It had me racing through the pages to find out exactly how things would end. To find out who were the “bad guys” and who weren’t. And to see just what role Vanessa would play in the outcome.

    DANCE OF SHADOWS is the first in a series. I thought it would have made a strong standalone. But there were a few questions left unanswered at the story’s end. And while I’m not entirely convinced of just how believable the reasoning is for certain characters to get involved in just what comes next, I am definitely eager to continue this series.

    Favorite passage…

    There were a few passages I counted among my favorites. But the one I chose is one that totally captures my feelings about reading, even though for the character it’s about dance.

    When Vanessa was dancing, she wasn’t thinking about her missing sister or her overbearing mother. Do the steps. Dance the dance. There was something comforting in that simplicity. She could dance things she couldn’t find words to say. Feel emotion she didn’t know how to show in everyday life. She could defeat the villain, seduce the prince, enchant the nymphs of the forest, find her true love, and live happily forever after, just like that.

    This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley and contains my honest thoughts about the book.

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    Review: Indigo Awakening

    Indigo Awakening

    INDIGO AWAKENING by Jordan Dane was released in the U.S. on December 18, 2012, in paperback, audio and eBook formats. It is currently available to order in all formats online at AMAZON and in paperback and eBook formats at BARNES & NOBLE.

    Published by Harlequin Teen, the print edition is 304 pages.

    INDIGO AWAKENING is the first book in author Jordan Dane’s The Hunted series. The second book, CRYSTAL FIRE, is also slated for release this year.

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    Goodreads description…

    Because of what you are, the Believers will hunt you down.

    Voices told Lucas Darby to run. Voices no one else can hear. He’s warned his sister not to look for him, but Rayne refuses to let her troubled brother vanish on the streets of LA. In her desperate search, she meets Gabriel Stewart, a runaway with mysterious powers and far too many secrets. Rayne can’t explain her crazy need to trust the strange yet compelling boy—to touch him—to protect him even though he scares her.

    A fanatical church secretly hunts psychic kids—gifted “Indigo” teens feared to be the next evolution of mankind—for reasons only “the Believers” know. Now Rayne’s only hope is Gabe, who is haunted by an awakening power—a force darker than either of them imagine—that could doom them all.

    ***

    INDIGO AWAKENING is the incredibly imaginative and immensely entertaining first book in author Jordan Dane’s new The Hunted series. A fascinating and somewhat chilling story with a unique premise in young adult fiction, this book will bring readers into a deadly world filled with action, suspense and a touch of mystery.

    Set in what could be a modern-day Los Angeles, the story follows Rayne Darby as she searches for her missing brother Lucas. When Rayne reaches a dead end, she finds help from an unlikely source – a mysterious stranger, a boy, who both terrifies her and intrigues her. A boy with abilities that make her believe that her brother may not be crazy after all.

    As the story develops, readers will discover a world where children like Lucas are hunted for their abilities and for their differences. Where no price is too great for their capture and containment. And where their lives are meaningless to those who wish to retain the evolutionary status quo.

    Once again Author Jordan Dane has brought a refreshingly different subject matter to the genre – that of the Indigo children. With these psychically gifted “children” the author has crafted a story that provokes thought but is still an absolutely captivating and utterly engaging read.

    Told from multiple points of view, readers get to see this story from many angles, allowing for not only greater insight into what is happening at each moment, but for tension to mount as events come to a climactic head at the story’s end. While at the outset, readers may find that their connection with the story breaks as it jumps from one perspective to another and moves to different moments in the timeline, once they find the rhythm and the change in viewpoint becomes anticipated, the story begins to flow.

    And while readers may not get to make as strong a connection with all the characters in this story, there is more than enough development of Rayne and Gabriel’s characters to keep them the focal point, to make them the most likable and easiest to connect to, and to make their storyline gripping.

    INDIGO AWAKENING offers up to the imagination the next evolution of mankind. The Indigo children’s psychic abilities are introduced in this first book in the series, giving readers a taste of what they are capable of, and will likely be delved into a bit deeper as the series progresses and as the characters discover for themselves just what they can do.

    With its quick pace, its dark and alluring premise, its edgy and sarcastic heroine, its charming and mysterious hero, INDIGO AWAKENING is an exciting and compelling read that will keep readers on the edge of their seat throughout and as they await just what comes next in the sequel.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    Rate04

    On a personal note…

    I am always excited to read one of Jordan Dane’s stories. I’ve come to anticipate that the story will be thought-provoking, the characters will be my kind of characters – edgy, sarcastic, clever, witty – and that the author will not be afraid to tackle the tough stuff. Her stories are different – in the best possible ways – always memorable and ones that are weightier than they seem upon first glance.

    INDIGO AWAKENING is not just some super cool story about kids with wicked awesome powers. It’s not just a series about these special kids being hunted down like animals. It’s a story that has concepts and ideas about human behaviors, their fears and their actions and reactions. It’s a story that definitely provides food for thought.

    Of course it’s also that totally entertaining story about kids with crazy awesome abilities that I mentioned. There’s also a swoon-worthy boy with gorgeous eyes and a sexy accent, who is completely shrouded in mystery. There’s a heroine who is absolutely lovable. And there are some really nasty bad guys and girls to detest.

    Oh and with the way things end… no, I probably shouldn’t reveal that. Though I had a feeling….

    But yeah, I’m definitely dying to find out what happens in the next book in the series.

    When I first learned of the idea behind INDIGO AWAKENING I was intrigued. While from just reading the description I didn’t think it sounded too different from the typical story of kids with abilities who were being hunted down, I knew because the author was Jordan Dane that it would be.

    And it totally was. Because while these kids have some seriously amazing powers and while the bad guys are horrible for what they’re doing, and have done, to them, I kind of agree with Rayne in that what they can do – what Gabe can do – is definitely scary. And, as the author touched upon in the book, if some of these kids are not so nice, just imagining what they’d be capable of doing with the abilities they have is chilling.

    So on some level I understand their enemies fears. Even if I don’t agree with anything they’ve done or might do in the sequel. Which I really can’t wait for, in case I haven’t mentioned it already.

    I’m dying to find out what happens next. To see just where this story leads. To see whether justice gets served. To find out what happens with all those threads that were left hanging at the end of the first book… ones I can’t mention here without spoilers.

    I loved getting to meet Rayne and Gabe – my two favorite characters. Though Hellboy was a close third. And no, my favorite was most definitely not Dr. Fiona Haugstad. When that one thing happened… let’s just say I couldn’t stop grinning.

    But back to my favorite characters….

    Rayne is funny and sarcastic, but also determined and devoted and someone who doesn’t let her fears stop her. And although she’s had to develop a certain strength to survive, she does have a vulnerability about her, too. Which makes her very relatable.

    Gabriel… well, Gabe is just awesome. What he can do is amazing. The fact that he helps out Rayne when it puts him at risk made him a total hero. And what he did later in the story… yeah, well I can’t reveal that. But the word “awesome” just keeps coming to mind.

    I just had this feeling the author would drop a huge bombshell at the end. And while I suspected, I thought my suspicions would be confirmed or denied much earlier. Not right there at the end with no more story left to tell… for now.

    And I also knew the author would do something that would just break my heart. While I didn’t know what that would be, I just knew it would happen. And it did. And my heart broke. Even if it wasn’t for the reason I thought it would.

    So, yes there was heartbreak. Yes there was a bit of a love story. Yes there was nail-biting suspense. Yes there were some supremely bad dudes. Yes there was an ending that made me want to scream.

    And yes there was this story that has totally gotten me to think about things from both sides points of view.

    And I love when reading a story makes that happen.

    Favorite passage…

    I had a few few favorites. I actually noted twelve passages I adored. There was this certain one about crystal fragments that made me sigh a little… but I decided to go with snark. Because… well, just because.

    To make her point, the iguana lashed out its tongue and lunged toward Mia, making her jump. Rayne snorted a laugh.

    “That thing probably carries diseases,” her sister said.

    “So do you, but hey, for what it’s worth—” Rayne forced a grin and lied “—I think he likes you.”

    Mia narrowed her eyes and didn’t say anything more about Floyd….

    This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher, Harlequin Teen, through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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    Review: Splintered

    Splintered

    SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard was released in the U.S. on January 1, 2013 in hardcover, paperback and audio editions. The eBook, originally slated for release on January 15, will be available on January 22.

    SPLINTERED is currently available to order – or pre-order – online at AMAZON and BARNES & NOBLE.

    Published by Amulet Books, the print edition is 384 pages.

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    Goodreads description…

    This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

    When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

    ***

    SPLINTERED is a dark, magical and wondrous tale that will take readers on an adventure that feels both familiar and yet new and exciting. To a world that is reminiscent of one they’ve been to before and yet is even more enchanting, quite a bit more disturbing and far more dangerous than they may have remembered it to be.

    The landscape is richly detailed, incredibly vivid and imaginative, at times hostile and uninviting, at other times enticing, but always intriguing and utterly captivating. The story is filled with characters readers have met before, who are achingly familiar, though slightly, morbidly askew from how they may have originally presented themselves. And new characters who really bring this story to life with their heroism, their dark side, their goodness, their secrets, their sacrifices, their beauty, their pain and their madness.

    The journey into Wonderland is every bit the extraordinary adventure it once was. But this time around, with Alyssa Gardner as their guide, readers will get to experience the adventure with someone not quite as naive as Alice, not quite as new to the world, and not quite as alone on her quest.

    With Jeb Holt, her friend, her crush, her knight in shining armor, by her side, Alyssa must navigate the twists and turns, and challenges and riddles, of Wonderland. And with the dark and mysterious Morpheus, waiting in the wings, ready to step in to keep her focused on her quest, Alyssa is most definitely not alone as she attempts to right the wrongs of the past so she can return home.

    Author A.G. Howard has delivered a gorgeous, lush, disturbing, gruesome, heartbreaking, heartwarming and so completely bewitching tale that will allow readers to fall down the rabbit hole and escape into the slightly sinister reality that is her version of Wonderland. And with a rather bizarre and somewhat grotesque dinner party, an even more horrifying tea party, and a number of equally unique stops along the way, Alyssa’s journey will be far more riveting to follow than Alice’s.

    SPLINTERED is not simply a modern retelling of a classic tale. It expands on it. It casts a new – and harsher – lens on it. It revisits the world with new and different and wildly appealing characters. It presents new challenges that put new and deadly obstacles in the heroine’s way. And it adds layers that give this new tale depth and richness and complexity.

    It is an epic, enchanting and magical adventure. It is a love story. It is deliciously dark and disturbing. It is bizarre and wonderful and extraordinary. It is an absolute must read. It is unforgettable.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    06menu

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

    On a personal note…

    Even after time and distance from this story, I am still crazy madly in love with it. It was so unique and different that I don’t think I’ve forgotten one second of it. And I don’t believe I ever will.

    I’ve called SPLINTERED a “sticky” story and it is most definitely that. Because it stuck with me long after I’d read it. It’s still sticking to me months later. And it’s one that I imagine will become even more “sticky” when I get the chance to re-read this amazing book.

    Which I plan to do. Often.

    I loved SPLINTERED far more than I loved Lewis Carroll’s original tale. And that was one story I love, love, loved. So that says a lot about this incredibly awesome book by this equally amazing author. Because I got so completely swept up in her story that the real world just disappeared around me.

    And when it came back into focus, I wanted it to disappear again so that I could fall back into the author’s world. So I could take that journey back to Wonderland. So I wouldn’t have to say goodbye to Alyssa, Jeb, Morpheus, Chessie and even the White Rabid.

    I loved that feeling of familiarity that got all tangled up in the feelings of excitement and nerves and angst and heartbreak and anguish I felt. I loved getting to not only discover Alyssa’s story but to get just another glimpse at Alice’s.

    I adored Alyssa and the fact that she wasn’t so perfect, that there was a dark, wild and free-spirited side to her. It’s what made for a much more compelling story, a far more relatable heroine and one incredibly exciting love story.

    This book… Ah this book… brought out all the emotions. Its magic made me feel like I did when I first experienced Lewis Carroll’s story – filled with a childish wonderment. It’s characters made me grin, made me worry, worry, worry for them and broke my heart into sixty million pieces….

    My heart still breaks when I think of what happened with… or how that one scene ended with….

    I am desperately hoping for a sequel so that I can head back to Alyssa’s world and to Wonderland and get the opportunity to experience it an entirely new way. But until then I’ll just have to dive into the book I do have, fall in love again with the characters I already know and love, and re-discover all the little details I might have missed on first glance as I raced through the story.

    I think I’ve already used all of the best adjectives to describe this book in the “review” part of this post. I’ve also had a major gush fest over this book on The Annex when I posted my thoughts back in November. And so I think I may have already revealed every emotion I’ve experienced when encountering SPLINTERED for the first time.

    But I still say this book is so freaking amazing. I’m talking off-the-charts, forever kind of amazing. The characters are among my most favorite in YA fiction… how could they not be? I still have the hardest time deciding between “Team Morpheus” and “Team Jeb,” though I’m not entirely sure why I’m forcing myself to choose. And I just know I will bawl when I read that one scene.

    That… is inevitable.

    Because I’m so totally connected with this story. I am so enchanted by it. I love imagining all the possibilities for where the story might go if there was a sequel in the works. And I absolutely love thinking back on a scene that was so disturbingly chilly it still creeps me out to this day.

    I have become such a huge fan of both the author and her out-of-this-world book SPLINTERED. I cannot imagine an existence where I haven’t read this brilliant book or “met” this amazing author.

    This is one of my most favorite reads of all time and will most definitely be on the list of my “forever” books. And I know that however long I ramble, gush or sing its praises I will not come anywhere near to adequately describing its awesomeness.

    Favorite passage…

    It was insanely impossible to choose a favorite passage. I had so very many, you see. So I decided that two would work much better than one – though I chose two very short ones – and they are…

    I’m waiting inside the rabbit hole, luv. Find me. His gaze burns the challenge into my soul like a brand.

    And…

    Jeb releases my fingers and cups my face in his hands, barely touching me, like I’m breakable. “It’s me I’m losing control of. Hundreds of sketches, and I still can’t get enough of your face.”

    This review is based on a mix of an eARC received by the publisher and NetGalley for review and a printed ARC received as a gift from another blogger. The review is my honest opinion about the book.

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    Review: Summerset Abbey

    Summerset Abbey Cover

    SUMMERSET ABBEY by T.J. Brown will be released in the U.S. on January 15, 2013 in paperback, audio and eBook formats. It is currently available to pre-order online in all formats at AMAZON and BARNES & NOBLE.

    Published by Gallery Books, the print edition is 320 pages.

    SUMMERSET ABBEY is the first book in a new series of the same name by author T.J. Brown. The second book in the series, A BLOOM IN WINTER, is slated for release on March 5, 2013.

    ***

    Goodreads description…

    1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of society and the distant rumblings of war. . . . 

    Rowena Buxton 

    Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey. Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the “underclass” in this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive social circle of aristocratic “rebels,” Rowena must decide where her true passions—and loyalties—lie.

    Victoria Buxton 

    Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most unladylike wish is not her only secret—Victoria has stumbled upon a family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever. . . .

    Prudence Tate 

    Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess’s daughter, and to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her true place in society—as lady’s maid to her beloved “sisters.” But Pru doesn’t belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls. And when a young lord catches her eye, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever truly carve out a place for herself at Summerset Abbey.

    ***

    Diving into SUMMERSET ABBEY feels decadent. Much like the elegant, opulent and scandalous world in which the story takes place. A world that’s caught between the past and the present, one that’s on the verge of modernism but still clings to traditionalism.

    A world where entitlement and leisure, lavish parties and arranged marriages contrast with motorcars, aeroplanes, suffragettes and the working class. And where the lords and ladies of the manor continue to embrace their way of life even as the world moves forward without them.

    SUMMERSET ABBEY is a story that is rich with beauty, includes a bevy of interesting characters, has a wonderful flow to the writing and feels fresh and modern yet captures the essence of the time period around which the story revolves.

    Told from multiple perspectives, the author, T.J. Brown, gives readers the opportunity to meet three young women – Rowena, Prudence and Victoria – who grew up in the same household but who find themselves in very different circumstances following the death of the man who raised them.

    Rowena discovers herself to be newly burdened with responsibilities she didn’t ask for and ones she wasn’t in the least bit ready for. Victoria’s dreams of making her own way in the world are put on hold when it becomes necessary to relocate to Summerset Abbey. And Prudence is forced to face the harsh reality that while she always believed herself to be equal to her “sisters,” outside of the place she used to call home she is anything but.

    As the first book in this new series, SUMMERSET ABBEY sets up the series brilliantly. It builds the world, develops the characters, and moves the plot forward enough for readers to feel satisfied with what they’ve been given but still eager for more.

    And while the pace is unhurried, the story has an easy flow that will keep readers connected throughout – even as it switches between each of the different character’s storylines. It has characters that readers will want to spend time getting to know. It has writing that gives this tale a more contemporary feel, allowing for a broader appeal. And it has three different story arcs that readers will want to follow to their conclusion.

    Brimming with secrets, lies, scandal and betrayal, SUMMERSET ABBEY is an immensely entertaining, thoroughly engaging and utterly enchanting tale that will keep readers in its thrall.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    5On a personal note…

    I fell madly in love with SUMMERSET ABBEY pretty much from the moment I started reading it. I was instantly drawn into the world which had the feel of a bygone era but also felt as if it was on the cusp of a modern one.

    I loved meeting Victoria, Prudence and Rowena, though I felt much more of a connection with Prudence than either of her two “sisters.” She was the most relatable, the strongest, the most sympathetic. And she had the most swoon-worthy man interested in her company – Lord Billingsly.

    Her situation was also the most heartbreaking. While all three were uprooted from their home when Rowena and Victoria’s father died, only Prudence had to suffer the radical change in her circumstances. And only she had to face the cruelty that Summerset Abbey dished out. Not only from the wealthy and privileged, but from the servants. Prudence did not fit in anywhere at Summerset Abbey and my heart broke for her.

    Victoria was charming, strong-willed and an absolutely delightful character. She had very strong opinions for someone whose health issues left her body weakened. I loved seeing just what she got herself up to when she wasn’t being watched by Rowena or Prudence. For someone who could easily have allowed herself to be doted on or coddled, she opted instead to create her own adventures and do as much as she was capable of for herself.

    I”m so glad we got to experience this story from all three sisters’ points of view, as well as the occasional peek at the world from Lady Summerset’s perspective. Because if I didn’t get to see things through Rowena Buxton’s eyes, I might only have thought of her as dreadful. Instead I saw her as flawed and frustrating but not horrible.

    Her story was absolutely riveting but she herself was a cross between maddening and mildly sympathetic. Mostly maddening, though. Not my favorite traits for a character. And while she had kindness in her, she was weak and indecisive and sometimes just as rude and entitled as Lady Summerset herself.

    I couldn’t decide if she’d have been better off growing up in a household that was much more traditional, where all her choices were taken away from her, or if it would have been better for her to have grown up in an environment that was far more modern than the one she was brought up in. A world where she was completely free to do as she pleased.

    I wanted to throttle her because of the way she handled, or rather didn’t handle, the situation with Prudence. She moped. She became sad. She got depressed. She did nothing.

    But she wasn’t totally unlikable. She was rather charming and adventurous when she stepped away from Summerset Abbey and spent time with Jonathan Wells. Without the heavy burdens of responsibility she would have been very likable. Sadly those weren’t her circumstances. And as frustrating as she was, as much as I wanted to scream at her, I loved getting to experience the story from her point of view.

    I loved getting swept away by this story. It felt somehow luxurious to be letting my imagination linger in the past, in a world where time moved just a little bit slower, people dressed for every occasion – even when it wasn’t practical – and etiquette was still very much a part of everyday life.

    And I loved trying to uncover the secrets of Summerset Abbey and attempting to figure out just what the scandal was. This was an utterly engaging and absolutely delightful read and a world I can’t wait to learn more about when I revisit it in A BLOOM IN WINTER.

    I did read the short snippet from the second book in the series that was included at the end of SUMMERSET ABBEY, and I cannot wait to find out exactly how a certain girl got into that particular circumstance. Fortunately book two comes out in March so the wait won’t be too torturous.

    Favorite passage…

    I actually had ten favorite passages. One most definitely involved Prudence and Lord Billingsley… actually a couple of them involved the pair… but as my favorite one was rather lengthy and my second favorite was a bit too short, I thought I’d tease this passage about Rowena. Which I also loved as it showed a side of her that was very likable indeed.

    “… Please don’t leave me, all right?”

    Rowena’s breath caught as his hand searched for hers. She slipped her hand into his and he gripped it as if he would never let it go. Their palms melded and their fingers curled together so naturally, as if this was the hand hers had been waiting for.

    He broke eye contact with her and she felt a sudden emptiness in her chest, as if she had just lost something of great value.

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

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    Review: Throne of Glass

    Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas was released in the U.S. on August 7, 2012 in hardcover and eBook formats. It is currently available to order online in both formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA, the print edition is 416 pages.

    Throne of Glass is the first full-length book in a series by the same name.

    ***

    Goodreads description:

    After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

    Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life.

    Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

    ***

    Celaena Sardothien had a choice to make. Become Prince Dorian Havilliard’s champion in a competition to be the next King’s Assassin or remain in the salt mines of Endovier for the rest of her days.

    The choice should have been an easy one – eventual freedom over certain death. But serving the King, even for a short period of time, was a price Celaena wasn’t sure she was willing to pay. Then again, the price for choosing to remain in Endovier was one she knew she wasn’t ready to pay.

    Trained by Arobynn Hamel, the King of the Assassins, winning the competition was practically a foregone conclusion. But all the training in the world would not be enough to ensure a victory if she wasn’t around to compete. And with someone, or something, killing off the competitors one by one, there was no guarantee she would be.

    With time running out and the competition quickly drawing to a close, Celaena must figure out who’s behind her opponents’ grisly and violent deaths or she could be next.

    And not only could her one chance at freedom be taken away, so could her life.

    ***

    Throne of Glass is an exciting, enchanting and epic tale that delivers page after page of riveting action, nail-biting suspense and an intriguing mystery. It invites readers to a faraway land ruled by a power-hungry King, where just the mere mention of magic could mean instant death, where assassins do the bidding of those willing to pay and where imprisonment means hard labor with almost no chance for survival.

    When Adarlan’s Assasin, Celaena Sardothien, is given the opportunity to leave behind the confines of Endovier’s salt mines to serve as Prince Dorian Havilliard’s champion in a competition to become the new royal assassin, she knows it’s her only chance at freedom. And her only hope of leaving the prison alive.

    But unless she can regain her former strength and dexterity, that the year of harsh conditions and punishment she endured in prison had taken from her, she will end up back in Endovier’s mines with little chance of lasting another year. So losing is not an option. And Celaena will do whatever it takes to win.

    Even if it means training with the Captain of the Royal Guard. Even if it means keeping her identity secret. And even if it means letting everyone believe that there’s something going on between her and Prince Dorian.

    Author Sarah J. Maas has penned an incredibly captivating and beautifully written story filled with dangerous enemies, dark magic, fierce battles, deadly secrets, twists and turns, deception and betrayal. With a strong, clever and resourceful heroine who gains strength and courage as the story progresses, a Prince who is faced with a choice between standing up for what he believes in or continuing to side with a King he fears, and a loyal Captain who must decide if he is willing to let down his guard and put his trust in the assassin in his charge, Throne of Glass will keep readers glued to the page and thirsting for more.

    With an expansive setting just waiting to be explored, a large cast of characters to love and adore, despise or distrust, and both a past and present that are shrouded in mystery, this first book in the series sets the stage for even more exciting and magical adventures to come.

    Throne of Glass is a must for fans of high fantasy and readers who are looking to get lost in a story set in another time and place, where kings have dominion over the land, where battles are fought with swords, where magic lingers and where treachery abounds.

    Reviewer gives this book…

    On a personal note:

    Throne of Glass put the “epic” in epic fantasy. This book was the stuff of awesome. I fell easily and immediately into this world of treachery, assassins, thieves, princes, kings, magic and betrayal.

    And I instantly connected with the story, with Celaena, Dorian and Chaol and with the author’s gorgeous writing.

    I knew from the moment I saw the book trailer and read the book’s description that I would love this story. A competition that pitted criminals against each other to win the coveted title of royal assassin and a chance to earn their freedom was one I couldn’t wait to read. And the fact that the main character, Celaena, was an assassin made me even more excited to check it out.

    Well, it was everything I imagined it to be and more. The world was enchanting, rich with history and full of secrets. Secrets I just know the author only touched upon in this book.  I am so very curious to find out more about the places the King had conquered, the mystery behind Oakwald Forest and just what the world was like before it was stripped of magic.

    Though I’m even more curious to find out about certain characters’ motivations and to learn just who is really pulling the strings. Yes, I really want to know who that is.

    While I loved the fighting, the mystery, the danger, the deception and the action and suspense, I really love, love, loved the love story – and the almost love story – in this book. So much so that I can’t even choose sides.

    I don’t know who I love more for Celaena, as they both are perfect for her in so very many ways and both can break her heart. Chaol is so serious and Dorian is so much fun. Chaol is strong, loyal, a fighter. Dorian is powerful, rebellious, a Prince. Both men are honorable. Both men are flawed. And I can totally see Celaena with either of them. For the moment, anyway….

    There was so much to love about Throne of Glass, but what I loved most of all was meeting Celaena. While I still have so very many questions about her past, about her time training as an assassin and certain other details I can’t even whisper about without potentially revealing too much, I really feel I’ve gotten to know her.

    She’s strong. She’s intelligent. She’s a survivor. She’s a fighter – and not just in battle – though she is scary good with knives. And she’s charming and kind and still has hope, even with everything that has happened to her in her life.

    And while she may be a hired killer with some serious skills, she has not lost her humanity. Not even her imprisonment could take that away. Which makes me love her even more. Though I’m not the only one. It seems she may have managed to capture the heart of a Prince and chip away some of the ice from the frosty exterior of the Captain of the Guard. Neither of which are easy feats.

    I am so excited to read all the author’s short stories of Celaena’s adventures as an assassin. But I’m absolutely dying to read the next book in the series. I can’t wait to see what happens with Captain Westfall and the Crown Prince of Adarlan. I can’t wait for secrets to be revealed. I can’t wait to discover even more about this world the author created. And I can’t wait to be amazed once more.

    Throne of Glass was magical, exciting, full of twists and turns, surprises and betrayals. It was a book I wasn’t able to put down. It was a story I never wanted to end. It had characters I didn’t want to say goodbye to. Even temporarily. This book was a total must read for me, and one I definitely must read again.

    ***

    Favorite quote:

    I had just over twenty favorite passages in Throne of Glass. Some perfectly captured the author’s beautiful writing. Some painted an incredible picture of the world. Some made me smile. And some made me melt. I decided to share a part of one of those.

    His breath was warm on her neck as he bent his head, resting his cheek against her hair. Her heart beat so quickly, and yet she felt utterly calm–as if she could have stayed there forever and not minded, stayed there forever and let the world fall apart around them. She pictured his fingers, pushing against the line of chalk, reaching for her despite the barrier between them.

     

    About the Author

    Sarah J. Maas lives in Southern California, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much coffee, and watches absolutely rubbish TV shows. When she’s not busy writing YA fantasy novels, she can be found exploring the California coastline.

    Her debut YA epic fantasy novel, THRONE OF GLASS, was published by Bloomsbury on August 7th, 2012.

    Find her: TWITTER, FACEBOOK, GOODREADS, WEBSITE, BLOG

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    The Tour

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    The AWESOME Book Trailer

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    This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher Bloomsbury Children’s via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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