Friday, July 26, 2013

I've added my blog to Bloglovin!!

I've been a member of Bloglovin for a while now under my name, Julie Witt, but I've decided to add my blog to it so people can find me by searching for "In Julie's Opinion" as well. Apparently I have to add this text to my post in order to do this (<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>), so here goes nothing! Hopefully this will work (unfortunately, I'm rather computer illiterate), so wish me luck! :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Crimson Rising (Skyship Academy #2), by Nick James

Title: Crimson Rising (Skyship Academy #2)
Author: Nick James
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "Our best-selling sci-fi series continues

Following their dramatic showdown in Seattle, Jesse Fisher and Cassius Stevenson find their world’s been turned inside out. The faculty at Skyship Academy is keeping Jesse a prisoner in his own home, fearful of his influence over Pearls. And Cassius, once a loyal Pearlhound for the Unified Party, has been pushed into hiding, fearful of his government's retaliation.

When Jesse smuggles a mysterious red Pearl onboard the Academy, he sets loose a destructive chain of events, which lead him to a reunion with Cassius and a confrontation with Theo -- a bloodthirsty Pearlhound with a dangerous secret. 
But a larger threat looms in the stars. An enemy is gathering, with plans to exterminate the entire human race. And Jesse and Cassius might just be the lynch pins that trigger mankind's destruction."

My Opinion: My opinion is very simple: I loved it!! What an awesome installment in what is becoming one of my favorite series! This book blends action, suspense, and science fiction perfectly!

In the Pearl Wars, we're introduced to a post-apocalyptic/dystopian society where sources of energy, or Pearls, are desperately needed, so when one comes down from space, the race is on to see who will find it first. Enter Jesse and Cassius, one working for the Skyship Academy and the other working for the Unified Party, who find out that they are brothers. We also find out that they are aliens, which really intrigued me. Now they are both trying to learn how to use their powers (Cassius burns from the inside and has a bad habit of catching rooms on fire without meaning to, and Jesse can open Pearls, which comes in handy in this destitute world where they are in such demand). They are both also on the run and separated from each other, so they each have their own exciting adventures in the book before they come together for what turns out to be a big showdown. 

I often find that sequels to books that I absolutely fall in love with aren't as good as the first, but that's not the case here. The writing was just as exciting, and the twists and turns that the story takes kept me on the edge of my seat! The characters, good and bad, are all well written, and the pacing is perfect. I honestly can't say who I like better, Jesse or Cassius, since I go back and forth all through the book, but I think that makes it all the more exciting! 

In summary, I absolutely loved this installment in the Skyship Academy series and recommend it to fans of action packed YA sci-fi stories. I'm giving it a very enthusiastic 5 stars :D

I received a copy of this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Girl with the Iron Touch (Steampunk Chronicles #3), by Kady Cross

Title: The Girl with the Iron Touch (Steampunk Chronicles #3)
Author: Kady Cross
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "In 1897 London, something not quite human is about to awaken 

When mechanical genius Emily is kidnapped by rogue automatons, Finley Jayne and her fellow misfits fear the worst. What's left of their archenemy, The Machinist, hungers to be resurrected, and Emily must transplant his consciousness into one of his automatons—or forfeit her friends' lives. 

With Griffin being mysteriously tormented by the Aether, the young duke's sanity is close to the breaking point. Seeking help, Finley turns to Jack Dandy, but trusting the master criminal is as dangerous as controlling her dark side. When Jack kisses her, Finley must finally confront her true feelings for him...and for Griffin. 

Meanwhile, Sam is searching everywhere for Emily, from Whitechapel's desolate alleyways to Mayfair's elegant mansions. He would walk into hell for her, but the choice she must make will test them more than they could imagine. 

To save those she cares about, Emily must confront The Machinist's ultimate creation—an automaton more human than machine. And if she's to have any chance at triumphing, she must summon a strength even she doesn't know she has...."

My Opinion: I was so excited when I got to read this book because Steampunk Chronicles is one of my favorite series, and I love Kady Cross's writing. I thought it tied things up nicely in most cases, but I felt bad for poor Jasper, one of my fave characters, who really didn't have much to do in this book and was just kind of hanging around. Fortunately, I got to see lots of Finley and Griffin, and Emily and Sam, with some awesome Jack Dandy thrown in for good measure, so I was a happy camper!

The gang has returned to England from their trip to and adventures in America, and everybody's trying to recuperate from that. Unfortunately, Griffin isn't doing too well, but he won't share what's going on with any of them, which really irks Finley. Emily and Sam are getting closer and are finally going to admit how they feel to one another when Emily is kidnapped, and the rest of them have to find her and bring her back, while keeping Sam under some control because he's totally losing it. 

Since I already told you how much I love this series, it's not surprising that I loved all of the characters, and enjoyed going back and visiting them again. The writing was, as usual, exciting and the pacing was perfect. I have to say that I am going to miss these guys a lot! 

I thought this was a good conclusion to the Steampunk Chronicles series and I give it an enthusiastic 5 stars. I  highly recommend it to fans of YA steampunk :D

I received a copy of this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Transcendence (Transcendence #1), by C.J. Omololu

Title: Transcendence (Transcendence #1)
Author: C.J. Omololu
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "When a visit to the Tower of London triggers an overwhelmingly real vision of a beheading that occurred centuries before, Cole Ryan fears she is losing her mind. A mysterious boy, Griffon Hall, comes to her aid, but the intensity of their immediate connection seems to open the floodgate of memories even wider.

As their feelings grow, Griffon reveals their common bond as members of the Akhet—an elite group of people who can remember past lives and use their collected wisdom for the good of the world. But not all Akhet are altruistic, and a rogue is after Cole to avenge their shared past. Now in extreme danger, Cole must piece together clues from many lifetimes. What she finds could ruin her chance at a future with Griffon, but risking his love may be the only way to save them both.

Full of danger, romance, and intrigue, Transcendence breathes new life into a perpetually fascinating question: What would you do with another life to live?"

My Opinion: Cole (Nicole) Ryan goes on a business trip with her father and sister, Kat, to London, and while visiting the Tower of London, she has a vision of herself at the Tower (technically, at her own execution at the Tower of London back in the 1500s) and understandably thinks she's losing her mind. As fate would have it, she also meets a hunky American her own age there, who helps her after she faints, and who she later finds out lives very near her in San Francisco. Little does she know that Griffon knows a lot more about her than she thinks, including why she starts having these strange glimpses into previous lives. It turns out that she and Griffon are Akhet, people who can remember their past lives and connections. I have to say that I found this idea really appealing when I read the synopsis, and after reading this amazing book, I'm even more intrigued! 

I loved the characters in this book and really enjoyed watching Cole learn about her past lives in flashbacks, trying to put them together like the pieces of a puzzle. She was a child prodigy on the cello with her future pretty well mapped out and this threw her into a tailspin as she realized that she had probably played the cello in a previous life, which is why has been able to play it so well pretty much without thinking about it, even as a young child, and this brought up the question: Is it cheating to use what you've learned in previous lives to become a world renowned child prodigy, or is it only cheating if you know you're cheating? It sounds confusing when I say it, but trust me, C.J. does a much better job of explaining it in the book! 

Cole and Griffon's relationship starts to grow into love, but then something big happens that totally derails this, and I loved the twist, let me tell you! 

I thought C.J.'s writing was phenomenal and I pretty much flew through the book. The pacing is well done, with lots of romance and intrigue to keep you turning the page as quickly as you can. 

In essence, I thought this was a well written book with great characters and an awesome reincarnation storyline, that I highly recommend to fans of history, romance, and fantasy/supernatural storylines, and I give it 5 shining stars :D

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: Consume (The Clann #3), by Melissa Darnell

Title: Consume (The Clann #3)
Author: Melissa Darnell
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "These violent delights have violent ends And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,

Which, as they kiss, consume.

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Tristan Coleman has survived the change from Clann magic user to vampire, much to Savannah Colbert's joy-and despair. By changing the Clann's golden boy and newly elected leader, even to save him from death, she has unleashed a fury of hatred and fear that they cannot escape. As the Clann and the vampire council go to war, a new threat stirs: an ancient being more powerful than anything the Clann or the vampires have faced in centuries.

To fight for peace, Tristan and Sav must win the trust of someone who has caused them nothing but pain and heartbreak. Soon they will learn that some bonds are stronger than love-and some battles cannot be won without sacrifice."

My Opinion: Wow!! Just wow!! Since this is one of my favorite series, I was really nervous about reading the final installment: Would it live up to my expectations or would I be left wanting? Alas, I shouldn't have worried - I should have realized that the most awesome Ms. Melissa Darnell would make sure that I was not disappointed since she had not disappointed me yet! Consume was such a satisfying conclusion to The Clann series, answering all of my questions and giving Sav and Tristan the perfect send off.

As usual, the pacing of the story was spot on, and the characters, especially Tristan, grew in leaps and bounds. Seriously, Tristan had to deal with so many major issues in Consume that I'm surprised he didn't go completely bat shit crazy by the end of it! Savannah continues to be one of my favorite characters, and I loved how she never lost faith in Tristan or their love, even when they were on opposite sides of an issue. There were a lot of crazy twists and turns to the story, and all of the major players were back, including Sav's friends and family. 

There's so much I want to say about Consume but I would be giving too much away if I did, so I'm just going to say that I absolutely loved it and will definitely miss these characters whom I have grown to love and look forward to reading about. I'm giving Consume a glowing 5 stars and highly recommend this series to lovers of YA fantasy everywhere :D

I received a copy of this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: If We Survive, by Andrew Klavan

Title: If We Survive
Author: Andrew Klavan
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "They came on a mission of mercy, but now they re in a fight for their lives.

High schooler Will Peterson and three friends journeyed to Central America to help rebuild a school. In a poor, secluded mountain village, they won the hearts of the local people with their energy and kindness.

But in one sudden moment, everything went horribly wrong. A revolution swept the country. Now, guns and terror are everywhere and Americans are being targeted as the first to die.

Will and his friends have got to get out fast. But streets full of killers . . . hills patrolled by armies . . . and a jungle rife with danger stand between them and the border. Their one hope of escape lies with a veteran warrior who has lost his faith and may betray them at any moment. Their one dream is to reach freedom and safety and home.

If they can just survive."

My Opinion: In this YA book we find Will Peterson and three other young volunteers who go to Central America with their church group to help rebuild the wall of a one room schoolhouse for the members of a small,very poor village. Their group includes the four kids and their pastor. Everything goes fine until the day they are supposed to leave, when rebels take over the village and hold the group captive. Their only hope lies with the pilot who was supposed to fly them out, an ex-Marine by the name of Palmer Dunn, but will he help them or opt to save himself instead? 

I will say upfront that I knew this was a Christian book when I requested it so I was expecting, and looking forward to, the religious aspect of it. I thought the author did very well at portraying the Christian teens realistically: i.e. they were as scared as anyone would be in their position, and although they did pray, they didn't count on just that to get them out of their predicament. The book was more about how they had to rely on each other and on their own inner strength to find a way to get out of Central America alive. 

I liked Will a lot, and I found myself admiring Meredith's faith and strength and wishing I could be a little bit more like her myself. Nikki got on my last nerve, but I enjoyed watching her grow and come into her own over the course of the book. Jim annoyed the heck out of me, too, but that was because of his naive political views and his inability to see what was right in front of his face. He also grew quite a bit as he was forced to face the truth and realize that one of his idols wasn't who he thought he was at all. I would have to say that Palmer was my favorite character because he had the most going on under the surface which made him a lot of fun to read about and explore.

This book was definitely action packed; things moved very quickly throughout the whole story, which made it a very quick and easy read. I had a hard time putting it down at all because something was always going on! The characters grew immensely from start to finish, which is always something that I look for when reading a book that I know I'm going to review. 

In essence, I loved this book because of both the never ending action and the ever evolving and growing characters, and I highly recommend it to fans of Christian YA fiction. I am giving it 5 glowing stars :D

I received a copy of this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Branded (Sinners #1), by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki

Title: Branded (Sinners #1)
Authors: Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best. 
Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home. 

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain. 

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.

The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me. 
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. 
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story."

My Opinion: This was a very powerful book! I just have to say that right off because you need to be prepared for violence and the worst that people can do when you read it. In the society of Branded, anyone can be accused of one of the seven deadly sins, and if they are accused then they are sent to The Hole and branded without ever having a trial or being able to speak in their own defense. The Hole is a prison that is nothing better than a slum that the prisoners are forced to live and work in, with guards everywhere who would just as easily shoot you as look at you. The guards are sadistic animals for the most part, although there are a few good ones, one of which is Cole, the guard assigned to Lexi when she is falsely accused of the sin of Lust and is branded with a blue ring around her neck (the color that lets everyone know what her sin was) and thrown in the Hole. 

This book moved very fast at times, and then at other times I felt the narrative bogged it down. I felt that the threat of death over both Lexi and Cole if they ever got close would have caused them to fight their feelings a bit more, but once you get past the slower parts, the book picks up again at an almost break neck pace, hurtling the reader to the conclusion.

Overall I enjoyed Branded and was able to deal with the violence because it wasn't gratuitous - it simply let the reader in on what it was like in The Hole, the "realness" of it is what kept me reading even when I was uncomfortable with it. 

I look forward to reading the next installment and recommend it to readers who don't shy away from violence in a messy dystopian world. I give this book 4 stars :D

I received a copy of this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Clockwise (Clockwise #1), by Elle Strauss

Title: Clockwise (Clockwise #1)
Author: Elle Strauss
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "Casey Donovan has issues: hair, height and uncontrollable trips to the 19th century! And now this --she's accidentally taken Nate Mackenzie, the cutest boy in the school, back in time. Awkward. Protocol pressures her to tell their 1860 hosts that he is her brother and when Casey finds she has a handsome, wealthy (and unwanted) suitor, something changes in Nate. Are those romantic sparks or is it just "brotherly" protectiveness? When they return to the present, things go back to the way they were before: Casey parked on the bottom of the rung of the social ladder and Nate perched high on the very the top. Except this time her heart is broken. Plus, her best friend is mad, her parents are split up, and her younger brother gets escorted home by the police. The only thing that could make life worse is if, by some strange twist of fate, she took Nate back to the past again. Which of course, she does."

My Opinion: Poor Casey Donovan has been accidentally traveling back to the 1860s since she was just 9 years old. She never knows when it is going to happen (although she has figured out that stress could be a trigger), but over the years she has learned to accept it and deal with it. Unfortunately, she can't have skin on skin contact with anyone because that could cause her to take that person back in time with her, which she found out accidentally when she took her best friend on a "trip" back. She's now 16 and dealing with bad hair, and a major crush on Nate Mackenzie, who doesn't even notice her. As fate would have it, when she accidentally touches Nate, whoosh! Back they go! It's now up to Casey to let Nate in on her secret and keep him safe until they can get back to the present. 

I've been really lucky lately in reading books that deal with a popular topic (magic, time traveling, etc.) with a new take on it that makes them very enjoyable to read. Clockwise was one of these. I loved that Casey's time traveling was unpredictable and that she had no control over it, but she dealt with it the only way she could, head on. I also liked how mature she was in realizing that there were going to be things she would not be able to do in life, such as drive a car or fly a plane, because of never knowing when she would trip out. She was very level headed and instead of moaning and groaning over what she couldn't do, she accepted her limitations and made the best of things.

I really liked Casey because of her maturity and the way that she still acted like a teenager when it came to her family splitting up and her raging hormones when it came to Nate. I liked Nate too because he didn't just fall madly in love with Casey (I have a real pet peeve when it comes to insta-love) but let his feelings grow and become what they would without forcing it. 

In all, I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the second book in the series, Clockwiser. I give it a very enthusiastic 5 stars and recommend it to lovers of time-traveling YA stories :D

I received a copy of this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before."

My Opinion: This book took me totally by surprise since I wasn't expecting as much depth and layering as I got. Let me explain: In most YA books you've got your main characters that start out sort of one dimensional and as the book goes along, they change into a little bit more complex characters with some growth (if you get a good book, that is). But in this book, your main characters (the four Raven boys and Blue) start out multilayered and just get more complex as you go, which was so exciting to read! 

I also loved Blue's extended family, the psychics who all live and work together. What fun they were! I found myself wishing that my family was like them! 

I'd say of the four Raven boys, Adam was my favorite, but Ronan was the one I was the most drawn to and the most curious about. He was so angry but also so willing to stick up for his friends when they needed it because of how angry he was, so it was a double edged sword in a way. Gansey was great, but I just didn't feel as drawn to him as I did to Adam and Ronan. And Noah was a big surprise, which I won't give away here :)

This was a long book but well worth the time it took to read it. This isn't a book you want to fly through - you want to pay attention and savor the whole thing. I've read in previous reviews that the best thing about this book was the characterization, and I have to agree with that, but I also loved the magic in it. It was a different take on it but one that I totally enjoyed, and I can't wait to read the second book in the series when I can get my hands on it!

I give this book a very enthusiastic 5 stars and recommend it to fans of fantasy/paranormal YA with a sprinkling of magic in it :D

End Dayz (The Hitchhiker Strain 0.5), by Kellie Sheridan

Title: End Dayz (The Hitchhiker Strain 0.5)
Author: Kellie Sheridan
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "It's month after the dead first began to walk. The miracle vaccine that was supposed to save us all has failed.

Now, four teens fight to stay alive as a stronger, smarter breed of zombie begins to appear, threatening to end humanity for good.

Four short stories, 11,000 words total.

Prequel to Mortality (March, 2013)."

My Opinion: This prequel novella introduces us to four characters that are going to be in the first book of The Hitchhiker Strain series, called Mortality, which I also got approved for through NetGalley. I thought this introduction was a really great way to meet the characters and get a little bit of a feel for them before starting the series. 

The novella was separated into four chapters, one for each of the teens Pierre, Belle, Alex and Zack. It was a very quick read, but I definitely recommend reading it before starting Mortality. It gives you just a taste of what you're going to be getting with the series and in my case, gets you all excited to start it! I give it 5 stars :D

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: The Way We Fall (Fallen World #1), by Megan Crewe

Title: The Way We Fall (Fallen World #1)
Author: Megan Crewe
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in. 

And then you're dead.

When sixteen-year-old Kaelyn lets her best friend leave for school without saying goodbye, she never dreams that she might not see him again. But then a strange virus begins to sweep through her small island community, infecting young and old alike. As the dead pile up, the government quarantines the island: no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for the island’s dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.

Because how will she go on if there isn't?
Poignant and dizzying, The Way We Fall is the heart-wrenching story of one girl's bravery and unbeatable spirit as she challenges not just her fears, but her sense of what makes life worth living."

My Opinion:  I wasn't sure I was going to like this book when I found out it was told in the form of journal entries, but I was very pleasantly surprised! The girl telling the story is a 16 year old named Kaelyn who is writing to her estranged best friend, Leo, telling him all about the troubles on their island.  People are getting sick and acting crazy as an unidentified virus spreads from person to person, eventually killing most of the townspeople. The islanders turn to the Canadian government for help but instead of salvation they find themselves quarantined. As supplies start to run out, Kaelyn and some of the other young adults who have survived thus far team together to help out in whatever way they can.

When the story starts, Kaelyn is a very shy girl who is more comfortable burying her head in the sand than confronting problems head on, but she decides that she doesn't want to be this way anymore, and in order to change she needs to put herself out there and risk getting hurt. Talk about character growth! We see Kaelyn evolve from a scared little girl to a more confident young woman over the course of her story.  She even manages to find romance during this awful time, with the scrumptious Gav, and enters into a tenuous friendship with Tessa, who she considers a rival for Leo's affection. 

I am so in awe of Megan Crewe's writing! Like I mentioned above, I wasn't sure how the story being told just from Kaelyn's POV in letters to Leo would come across, but in Ms. Crewe's capable hands I loved it, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series, The Lives We Lost. I'm giving this book a very enthusiastic 5 stars and recommend it to fans of post-apoc/dystopian, YA, survival stories :D

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2), by Katie McGarry

Title: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2)
Author: Katie McGarry
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."

"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....

"I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all...."

My Opinion: If I was worried when I began reading the second installment of Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits series that it wouldn't be able to measure up to the first book, which I absolutely adored and couldn't rave about enough, then my mind was set at ease very quickly because yes, I loved this book as well!! Dare You To tells the story of Beth Risk, who was introduced to us in Pushing the Limits as one of Noah's friends, and if Noah's story tore at your heart, then get ready to be emotionally pummeled again by Beth's. Beth had a really horrific home life with an absentee father and a mother who might as well have been gone for all the good she did Beth. Instead of her mother taking care of her, it was Beth who made sure the bills were paid and there was food on the table, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't keep her mom off the booze and pills and away from Trent, her abusive boyfriend. One night she makes the decision to cover for her mother yet again and is sent to jail for her troubles. Her uncle Scott, her father's younger brother, bails her out and tells her that either she goes to live with him and his wife, or he will make sure her mother goes to jail for good this time. This may sound harsh, but Scott's really a good guy who regrets not being there for Beth growing up and who only wants Beth to have a life of her own as a teenager should without constantly worrying about her mother. Unfortunately, Beth can't just walk away, which causes lots of trouble in her home life. 

Beth has spent so much of her life putting up walls to protect herself emotionally that when she meets a good guy who wants to get to know her (albeit on a dare!) she won't let herself get involved with him. But Ryan is nothing if not determined, and as he repeatedly puts it, he doesn't give up until he's won whatever challenge is in front of him, and Beth proves to be his biggest challenge yet!

As with Katie's first book, I am totally in awe of her writing ability! She seamlessly weaves stories full of dark and light, push and pull, and tragedy and triumph. She completely draws you into her character's lives until you feel like you are living right alongside them!

As with Pushing the Limits, Dare You To is told in two POVs: Beth's and Ryan's. The characters have very distinctive voices so it is easy to switch between them, and this way of writing gives you much more insight into the characters than you would have gotten otherwise.

One of my favorite parts of the book tells you so much about Beth in just a few paragraphs:

Ryan's name is read and he answers with a deep, soothing, "Here."  Taking a chance, I peek in his direction and find him staring at me again. No smile. No anger. No cockiness. Just a thoughtful expression mixed with confusion. He scratches the back of his head and I'm drawn to his biceps. My traitorous stomach flutters. God, the boy may be an ass, but he sure is built.

And guys like him don't go for girls like me. They only use me.

I force my eyes to the front of class, pull my knees to my chest, and wrap my arms around them. Lacy invades my space and whispers to me, "I'm glad you're back, Beth." A sliver of hope sneaks past my walls and I slam every opening shut. Emotion is evil. People who make me feel are worse. 

I take comfort in the stone inside of me. If I don't feel, I don't hurt.

Damn!! I get chills just typing it! What an awesome writer Katie is! You can feel Beth's pain plain as day, in just a few paragraphs, which is why it's so sweet to watch Ryan move slowly to gain Beth's trust and not scare her away. It's not easy for him, but it's awesome for us readers! I'm really psyched to read about Isaiah's story in the third book of this series, Crash Into You, and I am giving Dare You To 5 very enthusiastic stars :D

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1), by Katie McGarry

Title: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1)
Author: Katie McGarry
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: ""I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again."

My Opinion: Wow!! What an amazing debut from Katie McGarry! I had heard so many good things about this book and was really looking forward to reading it, and I have to say, the things I heard didn't do this story justice! I was drawn first to the mystery of how Echo got the "freaky" scars on her arms, since she had blocked it out I figured it must be something pretty bad, and it was, but what had me reading obsessively and flipping pages as fast as I could was the love story between Echo and Noah! These were two extremely emotionally damaged teens who you would never think would be able to begin to heal each other, but they end up working so well together that by the end of the book you can't imagine them NOT being there for each other.

The story is told from two POVs: Echo's and Noah's. I love it when alternating POVs work this well because you really get to know the characters on an intimate basis since you are in essence in their minds and thinking their thoughts along with them (I don't know if this makes much sense, but if you've read a book where it works, then you'll know exactly what I mean!).  Both Noah and Echo come from dysfunctional families and at the beginning of the book they are both distrustful and almost selfish in their desire to keep their problems to themselves, but as the story unfolds, they both grow and change so much, and it was such a joy to watch! 

Katie McGarry is exceptional at keeping the big reveal a secret until she hits you with it at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pushing the Limits and really look forward to reading Beth's story in Pushing the Limits #2, Dare You To. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good, emotional contemporary YA romance :D

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: Enchanted Ever After (Mystic Circle #3), by Robin D. Owens

Title: Enchanted Ever After (Mystic Circle #3)
Author: Robin D. Owens
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "Kiri Palger knew the difference between reality—new house, hard work and not too many friends—and fantasy—the fun she had playing online games. So when the chance to work for the best gaming company in the world came up, giving her a chance to merge business with pleasure, how could she not apply?

Suddenly she has more friends, interesting neighbors and an intriguing love interest. But when the game begins to awaken something inside her, Kiri is shocked by the talents she never knew she had…and an evil she'd never imagined.

Her nice, safe life is imploding around her—and if she takes up the mantle of her powers, it will never be the same again…"

My Opinion: When I requested this book from NetGalley, I wasn't aware that it was the third book in a series, but lucky for me, it was quite easy to follow and worked well as a standalone. What I read definitely intrigued me enough to want to read the first two books, though, since they deal with how two of the couples in Enchanted got together. I'm also interested in finding out more about the back story of the Mystic Circle and all of the magic that it contains. 

Enchanted Ever After starts with Kiri Palger, who has just bought a house on Mystic Circle and is hoping to get her dream job in the online gaming industry. Little does she know that the line between the real world and the world in the game are about to become very blurred ... The phrase "be careful what you wish for" comes to mind!

I loved the characters in this book because they had very separate but distinct personalities that all meshed well together. The balance between romance, magic and intrigue worked well also, with one flowing effortlessly into the other.  This book was an easy read, and I enjoyed watching Kiri grow and blossom as she came into her own and discovered who she really was and what she could accomplish if she had the courage to just go for it.  I liked the Lathyr/Kiri romance since they both came from a place of not belonging and not being appreciated. I enjoyed watching them help each other overcome the feelings of inadequacy they both carried around with them.

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to reading the first two books in the series. I would give this book 4 stars :D

Review: Dearly, Beloved (Gone With the Respiration #2), by Lia Habel

Title: Dearly, Beloved (Gone With the Respiration #2)
Author: Lia Habel
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "Can the living coexist with the living dead? 

That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.

Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.

Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.

As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the virus—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.

Lia Habel’s spellbinding, suspenseful sequel to Dearly, Departed takes her imaginative mash-up of period romance, futuristic thriller, and zombie drama to a whole new level of innovative and irresistible storytelling."

My Opinion: Dearly, Departed was one of my favorite books from last year so I was really psyched to get approved by NetGalley for Dearly, Beloved, and I wasn't disappointed. D,B picks up a few months after where we left off at the end of D,D, with the zombies now out in the open and everyone trying to find a way to live together. Well, not quite everyone - there's still a lot of anti-zombie prejudice going on, even though the zombies who are trying to find a way to live in the real world are for the most part high functioning and have retained most of their intelligence from before they were turned. In other words, they're not the ones who will chase you down and eat your brains for fun! Unfortunately, these same high functioning zombies are being kidnapped off the streets by a mysterious group of bird mask wearing humans for God only knows what reason. There is also a new strain of the Laz that the vaccine doesn't protect against, so all told, there's a lot going on in New Victoria! 

This book, like the last, is told through multiple POVs, with some new ones mixed in with the old. There are six POVs altogether, belonging to Nora, Bram, Pamela, Michael, Vespertine, and Laura - perhaps my favorite new character! Laura is a zombie who tries to deal with the fact that her body is dead and decaying by planting flowers directly into her skin, so that they grow and blossom all over her body! The way that she manages to find something beautiful in the midst of all of the violence and death that surrounds her is very endearing.

Although I enjoyed this installment in the Gone with the Respiration series, I didn't feel that it was as good as Dearly, Departed was, and I think that's because there was just too much going on, which is strange because I also felt that the book started off rather slow and took a while to gain momentum. That being said, I thought the story flowed rather well once it took off. I really enjoyed the continuation of the love story between Nora and Bram, and I thought having Pam deal with PTSD following everything that happened to her in the first book was a great addition to the story. It showed a strength in her that I hope will continue to grow in the next book. 

All told, I'm giving Dearly, Beloved 4 stars and I'm really looking forward to reading book 3 when it comes out to see what fresh hell the amazing Ms. Habel has in store for one of my favorite couples :D

Review: The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2), by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "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."

My Opinion: This book has reinforced what I thought after reading The Immortal Rules, and that is that Julie Kagawa is a Goddess!! I didn't think she could impress me any more than she already has, but she did! In The Eternity Cure we get to know Allie a lot better than we did before, especially since she's traveling by herself at the start of it, trying to find and rescue her maker, Kanin. We get to delve into her psyche, which is such an interesting place to go! Allie is not a black and white character but that's what makes reading about her so awesome. And speaking of awesome - Eternity has something no other book has, and that's Allie's blood brother, Jackal! I swear, I could read about Jackal from now til the end of time and never get bored with him! Yes, he's evil and selfish and just plain incorrigible, but in The Eternity Cure, we get to see a side to him that we haven't before - his loyalty to the maker that he hates with a passion, and his sister, Allie. I think Allie is the only one who could bring this out in him. They have such a complicated and emotional relationship, and it's a joy to read. Besides that, Jackal is just plain hilarious! I found myself laughing out loud at some of his comments and antics, which was a nice break from the desolation and violence of the world in which the Blood of Eden series is set. This second book is even more bleak with the introduction of the new strain of the Red Lung virus which is killing off humans and vampires alike. The personal relationships and the search for the cause of this new strain and a possible cure are woven together flawlessly so you don't feel like one aspect supersedes the other in importance. 

Speaking of personal relationships, I enjoyed Zeke so much more in this book because he has really grown up and come into his own since his father's death. He has had to toughen up and become harder to protect the people he loves, and this makes it much easier to relate to him. He is still fighting his attraction to Allie but the magnetic draw between the two of them is hard for him to ignore.

I felt like we got to know all of the major players so much better in this installment of the series, and that's what makes Julie Kagawa's books so great to read - you find yourself drawn into this absolutely foreign world and you don't want to leave when you've finished the book! Because the books are so well written, you fly through them, and The Eternity Cure is no exception. 

I'm giving this book a very enthusiastic 5 stars and recommend it to all lovers of young adult post-apoc/dystopian stories, vampire tales, and Julie Kagawa!! I can't wait to read the next book and will be first in line when it comes out :D

Review: Broken (Broken #1), by A.E. Rought

Title: Broken (Broken #1)
Author: A.E. Rought
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.

A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry's boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.

When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she's intrigued despite herself. He's an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely... familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel's.

The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there's something very wrong with Alex Franks. And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks' estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows."

My Opinion: Emma Gentry is living in a hazy world of pain since losing her boyfriend Daniel in an accidental fall when she meets the new boy at school, Alex Franks, and feels an undeniable pull and connection that she can't fight, and doesn't understand. Unfortunately, since we already know this is a very loosely based retelling of Frankenstein, it's way too easy to figure out why Alex and Emma are drawn to each other. Let me preface this by saying that I love retellings, which is why I was looking forward to reading Broken, but I wish there had been more surprises and twists than there were. 

I also had a problem with the length of the book, since it seems like it could have been pared down by at least half without losing any of the important parts. The writing was very descriptive, which isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but when it seems like the same descriptions are used over and over and over, it becomes very monotonous and I, for one, found myself skimming the paragraphs while reading because I was losing patience, which rarely happens to me. I didn't want to give up on the book, but I felt like if I had to read one more time about Emma standing in line for coffee, or arguing with her mother, I was going to scream! Descriptive writing isn't a bad thing, but only when the descriptions vary throughout the course of the book. In this case it seemed like the same phrases were used repeatedly and that got tiring very fast. 

I don't want to sound like I didn't like the writing because I did - at first - I just think a lot of it could have been cut out without affecting the story, and maybe even improving the story by making it easier to read.  

The ending didn't come as a surprise (again, this is a retelling so we kind of know where it's heading from the get go) but my problem is that this was basically the only action packed part of the story since the first 85% of the book was about the romance developing between Emma and Alex and Emma's confusion regarding this.

I have to give this book 3 stars because I think it could have done with major editing and slashing of repetitive descriptions, but the basic story was good and I think if it had been shorter I would have flown through it and really enjoyed it. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: The Lady of the Rivers (The Cousins' War #3), by Philippa Gregory

Title: The Lady of the Rivers (The Cousins' War #3)
Author: Philippa Gregory
Format: eGalley
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "#1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory weaves witchcraft, passion, and adventure into the story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, a woman who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the War of the Roses.
Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta has always had the gift of second sight. As a child visiting her uncle, she meets his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and recognizes her own power in the young woman accused of witchcraft. They share the mystery of the tarot card of the “wheel of fortune” before Joan is taken to a horrific death at the hands of the English rulers of France. Jacquetta understands the danger for a woman who dares to dream.
Married to the Duke of Bedford, English Regent of France, Jacquetta is introduced by him to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the Duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the Duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.
Drawing on years of research, Philippa Gregory tells the story of the Woodvilles who achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the threat from the people of England and the danger of royal rivals. Not even their courage and loyalty can keep the House of Lancaster on the throne. Henry the king slides into a mysterious sleep; Margaret the queen turns to untrustworthy favorites for help; and Richard, Duke of York threatens to overturn the whole kingdom for his rival dynasty of the House of York.
Jacquetta fights for her King, her Queen, and for her daughter Elizabeth Woodville, a young woman married to a neighbor for whom Jacquetta can sense an extraordinary and unexpected future: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.
A sweeping, powerful story based on history and rich in passion and legend, The Lady of the Rivers tells the story of the real-life mother to the White Queen. Philippa Gregory is writing at the height of her talent."
My Opinion: When I requested this book from NetGalley I wasn't aware that it was the third in a series, but I was happy to find out that each book tells about a different woman from the time of the War of the Roses. Therefore, this installment was able to stand on its own very well. 
The Lady of the Rivers tells the story of Jacquetta, who as a child meets Joan of Arc and who as a young woman and adult becomes a friend and confidante to young Margaret, the queen of England. She is married to an older Englishman,  John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI, when she is still very young, and is widowed when she is not much older. She defies the rules of the time and  becomes the lover, and later wife of the Duke's squire, Richard Woodville. While that could have been the end of her life at court, she is not allowed to leave for long because the queen, Margaret, insists she needs her close. She spends her life trying not to get caught between all of the rivalries at court, and the constantly changing social strata of the many players. 
Philippa Gregory is a masterful storyteller and I enjoyed this book very, very much. Saying that it is a sweeping, powerful story is an understatement! Now, I have to go back and read the first two books in this amazing series, The Red Queen and The White Queen :D