Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review: Becoming Marie Antoinette (Marie Antoinette #1), by Juliet Grey

Title: Becoming Marie Antoinette (Marie Antoinette #1)
Author: Juliet Grey
Format: eGalley
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy, follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.
Why must it be me? I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?

Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must changeeverything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.

Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike."

My Opinion: Everything I know about Marie Antoinette I learned in school during history class, which was more of an overview of her time as the last queen of France, mostly centering on the French Revolution, her execution, and of course, the famous phrase "let them eat cake." When I saw this book listed on NetGalley I was instantly curious to learn more about the girl Maria Antonia, in essence what events shaped her into the woman and queen she would one day become. I wasn't disappointed either! I found her story fascinating, starting out as a wide eyed innocent who was molded by a domineering mother into the most powerful  woman in France. She grew up relatively sheltered as the youngest daughter (her mother had 16 children!) of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and was thrust into the high drama that was the court at Versailles at the tender age of 14. There was so much intrigue and so many rules of conduct and etiquette that she had to learn, as any misstep could lead to crushing humiliation and loss of social standing, which would have been disastrous as she was under the command of her mother to get close to the King of France, her husband's grandfather, Louis, to strengthen the political ties between France and Austria. Add to this, her inability to get her husband, Louis Auguste, to consummate her marriage so they could produce an heir, which was vital to the succession of the monarchy, not to mention her own personal well-being since the Catholic church back then considered being a barren royal as worse than adultery!

I felt that this book did a great job at balancing historical fact with a compelling fictional story. The facts lent credence to the story, which in turn gave it an authenticity that wouldn't have been there had it just been a fictional novel about a historical figure. I look forward to reading the next installment of this compelling trilogy because even though I know how it will eventually turn out, I look forward to continuing the journey and finding out where the author is going to take me next :D

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Pandemonium (Delirium #2), by Lauren Oliver

Title: Pandemonium (Delirium #2)
Author: Lauren Oliver
Source: Borrowed from library
Format: ebook

From Goodreads: "So what was your name before?" I say, and she freezes, her back to me. "Before you came to the Wilds, I mean."

For a moment she stands there.

Then she turns around.

"You might as well get used to it now," she says with quite intensity.

"Everything you were, the life you had, the people you knew... dust."

She shakes her head and says, a little more firmly, "There is no before. There is only now, and what comes next."

After falling in love, Lena and Alex flee their oppressive society where love is outlawed and everyone must receive the "cure" - an operation that makes them immune to the delirium of love - but Lena alone manages to find her way to a community of resistance fighters. Although she is bereft without the boy she loves, her struggles seem to be leading her toward a new love."

My Opinion: I just finished this book and all I can think is: Holy freaking cliffhanger, Batman!!! I kid you not! I haven't been this excited to start the third book in a trilogy in a long time because I HAVE to find out what happens next! I'll try to calm down a little bit and give you my thoughts on this most awesome book. 

Lena has made it over the fence and into the Wilds, but unfortunately Alex didn't, and now Lena has to try to find her own way in an unknown and terrifying new world. Near death, she is found by a homesteader, Raven, one of a group of people who live and work together just to survive. There she begins to slowly rebuild her life and find a new purpose. 

The chapters switch off between "then" (when she first got to the Wilds and the months following) and "now" (approximately six months after that). Both time periods are interesting and the "then" chapters help us to understand how the "now" chapters came about.

When you're reading a really good book, a story that you enter completely while reading it, and things are going well for the characters, you just know something bad has to happen to them to shake things up. You feel the dread building up inside of you, knowing it will happen but hoping it doesn't, but at the same time anticipation is building because you know when it does it will catapult the story into whole new exciting places, so that when it does happens you just have to cry out loud "Oh my God!" THAT's the moment when you know if the author is a good one or a great one. If you can't turn the pages fast enough at that point to find out where the story is taking you now, then it's a great author, and I can unequivocally state that Lauren Oliver is definitely one of the best!! 

If you can't tell yet, I devoured this story in less than 24 hours because I didn't care what was going on around me (yeah, I have to apologize to my kids who kept annoyingly requesting things like food and drink, only to be told "Just 5 more minutes!" Of course, they are kind of used to that by now since this happens a lot with me when I find a really good book :D) and would give it 10 stars if I could! I highly recommend it to lovers of dystopian stories since this is one of the best I've read to date. Since I can't give it 10 stars, I give it a very, very enthusiastic 5 stars!! Now, I have to go bug everyone I know for a copy of Requiem so I can read it right away :D

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Quickie Review: Scarlet (Scarlet #1), by A.C. Gaughan

Title: Scarlet (Scarlet #1)
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Format: e-book

From Goodreads: "Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. 

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for."

My Opinion: What an interesting twist to the standard Robin Hood story!! I loved this version of Scarlet and can't wait to find out what happens to her in the next installment of this series! Scarlet was very tough on the outside but also very vulnerable on the inside, which made her a character that I could really relate to. No matter what obstacle was put in her path, she didn't give up until she found a way around it, which made you really pull for her to come out on top. The other characters (Much, Robin and Little John) were well fleshed out, even Guy Gisbourne, who was reprehensible as befits his character. I highly recommend that anyone who loves the tale of Robin Hood read this book, and I hope you love it as much as I did :D

I also have to mention how much I love the cover!! It's definitely eye catching and fits the character of Scarlet very well!

Review: Everbound (Everneath #2), by Brodi Ashton

Title: Everbound (Everneath #2)
Author: Brodi Ashton
Source: Won in a giveaway
Format: Hard cover

From Goodreads: "Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.

Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.

Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love."

My Opinion: This was an awesome follow up to Everneath! Since we already know the characters from the first book, most of Everbound was action packed, which kept the story moving along nicely and made it a quick and easy read. Everbound focuses on the search for and rescue of Jack, which works nicely with the search for a loop hole for Nikki in Everneath. Cole is much more fleshed out in this book, which makes you really identify with and feel compassion for what he is going through. I'm really looking forward to reading the novella Neverfall, which I hear is told from Cole's POV and gives you a lot more insight into what makes him tick. 

I give this book a very enthusiastic 5 stars and would recommend it to all lovers of mythology, fantasy and/or supernatural YA books :D

Review: Persephone (Daughters of Zeus), by Kaitlin Bevis

Title: Persephone (Daughters of Zeus)
Author: Kaitlin Bevis
Source: Borrowed from the library
Format: e-book

From Goodreads: "There are worse things than death, worse people too

The “talk” was bad enough, but how many teens get told that they’re a goddess? When her mom tells her, Persephone is sure her mother has lost her mind. It isn’t until Boreas, the god of winter, tries to abduct her that she realizes her mother was telling the truth. Hades rescues her, and in order to safely bring Persephone to the Underworld he marks her as his bride. But Boreas will stop at nothing to get Persephone. Despite her growing feelings for Hades, Persephone wants to return to the living realm. Persephone must find a way to defeat Boreas and reclaim her life."

My Opinion: I love the story of Persephone and Hades and I thought this was a great retelling of it! I loved the way Persephone had no idea of who, or what, she was, and she reacted just how I would expect one to act when finding out that basically their whole life had been a lie: She totally panicked! I really hate it when characters find out mind blowing news and just take it in stride. This book deals with all of Persephone's doubts and fears, and she grows so much from beginning to end, both in power and in maturity. I started this book about 6 hours ago and just finished it, so it definitely moves along at a quick pace and is a very easy read.

I definitely recommend this book to all fans of Greek mythology, the Persephone and Hades story, and just about anyone who loves a good paranormal romance! I give it a very enthusiastic 5 stars :D

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Everneath (Everneath #1), by Brodi Ashton

Title: Everneath (Everneath #1)
Author: Brodi Ashton
Format: Hard cover
Source: I own it

From Goodreads: "Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she's returned--to her old life, her family, her boyfriend--before she's banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance--and the one person she loves more than anything. But there's just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's queen."

My Opinion: When Nikki Bennetth wakes up after a hundred years "in the tunnels" with immortal Cole, who has been feeding off of her emotions during those hundred years, she is given a reprieve of six months to say her good byes before she returns to the tunnels forever. She left home after seeing her boyfriend in a compromising situation and feels a great deal of guilt at the way she left things with her family and friends and she really wants to make things right before she disappears again. When she returns she finds out that she has been missing for only six months, but even so, she has a lot of work ahead of her to fix the damage that she has done, starting with her father and brother. When her mother was killed by a drunk driver she had a really hard time dealing with that, and her relationship with her father never quite recovered. She also has to try to distance herself from her boyfriend, Jack, when she realizes that he was actually the person most affected by her disappearance since she knows that she is going to have to go away again and she wants to make it as easy on him as possible. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done when all of her old feelings for him resurface and she just can't imagine never seeing him again. The biggest problem she has, though, is Cole, who wants her to return to the Everneath with him as the queen of the underworld, and she is definitely not on board with that! 

Jack and Cole are very well defined as the bad boy and the knight in shining armor respectively, but as you read further into the book, the lines between good and evil are not so clear. Ms. Ashton does an awesome job of pulling Cole back from the brink of being purely evil whenever he gets so close that you think he can't be redeemed, which I loved! Nikki finds herself drawn to him against her will due to the 100 years he spent siphoning off of her emotions, as well as the physical closeness between the two of them in the tunnels - they were literally wrapped around each other as close as two people could be, and her body betrays her time and time again by yearning for that closeness again. While Cole may be insufferable, arrogant and selfish, his Achilles' heel is his very real love for Nikki, which plays out well here. Jack also has a very deep connection to Nikki since it was his love and constant thoughts and dreams of Nikki while she was gone that allowed her to return six months later with her memories intact, which is  a rare thing for someone who has been fed on for 100 years. This is what makes Cole realize that there is something special about her, and this in turn makes him realize that she could be that one in a million person who could actually become queen of the underworld, and he in turn could be the king. Unfortunately, Nikki doesn't share this dream with him, and when she decides that she would rather go back to the tunnels than be his queen, he becomes desperate to change her mind.

I really enjoyed this book because the characters were very well written and grew so much from start to finish that you felt drawn to them and really wanted everything to work out in the end, which was of course not to be since this is the first book of a trilogy and ended with one whopper of a cliff hanger!!  I can't wait to read the next book in the series, Everbound, and already have my copy ready to go! 

I also have to mention the absolutely beautiful cover art on this book, as well as Everbound! I know we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I totally did that with this book! Lucky for me, the inside of the book lived up to the awesomeness of the cover :)

I give this book an enthusiastic 5 stars and recommend it to lovers of YA, paranormal romance, and Greek mythology :D

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review: The Dead and Buried, by Kim Harrington

Title: The Dead and Buried
Author: Kim Harrington
Format eGalley
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "A haunted house, a buried mystery, and a very angry ghost make this one unforgettable thriller.

Jade loves the house she's just moved into with her family. She doesn't even mind being the new girl at the high school: It's a fresh start, and there's that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes. . . . But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. Jade's little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade's jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn't.

Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who's seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade's school — until her untimely death last year. It's up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. But is one of them a murderer?"

My Opinion: Jade has always wanted to move to a bigger town and a bigger house, and she's finally gotten her wish. Unfortunately, when school starts and she realizes that everyone is whispering about her behind her back and she is the last one to find out why, she goes from excited to peeved quickly. When she confronts her father and stepmother, she finds out that the only way they could afford the bigger and much newer house was because a girl had died there, Kayla Sloan; a girl who would have been in her class that year and who was one of the most popular, charismatic, and yes, vicious students in the school.  All of the kids, even her friends, were afraid to cross her because if she was mad at you, or even just bored that day, she could make your life a living hell. The biggest problem, though, is that her death was a mystery in that she either tripped and accidentally fell down the stairs in the house, or was pushed. When Jade has a party and some of the kids decide to try to contact Kayla's spirit via a Ouija board, they are a little bit too successful, and that's when the trouble really begins.

I read Kim Harrington's books Clarity and Perception a while back and really liked them, so I was excited when NetGalley approved my request for The Dead and Buried. I loved the premise and when I got into it, I liked the characters for the most part. Jade was enough of a rebel that she befriended who she wanted to regardless of popularity, which I really enjoyed. I really wanted to love Donovan because he was the moody artsy boy who I usually go for in books, but he always seemed to be hiding something, and that made got a bit wearing. Kane was okay, but I was usually pulling for Donovan anyway, so that didn't really bother me. I guess my biggest problem was one that has already been noted in previous reviews: There just seemed to be something missing from this book that would have taken me from liking it to loving it. And I'm not going to mention what happens at the end (obviously!) but I felt kind of let down and wanting more when I finished the book. 

I'm still a big fan of Kim's and will definitely read any future books she writes, but I have to say that this one just wasn't as great as I was hoping it would be. I would give it 3 1/2 stars :)

Quickie review: Delirium (Delirium #1), by Lauren Oliver

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Format: ebook
Source: Borrowed from library

From Goodreads: "Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe.
I wonder whether the procedure will hurt.
I want to get it over with.
It’s hard to be patient.
It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet.
Still, I worry.
They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness.
The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t."

My Opinion: I just finished this book and now I finally know what all of the hoopla surrounding this series was all about!! It was So. Bloody. Good!! Lena was fascinating to watch as she grew into herself and learned to really think for herself, and Alex was every girl's dream boyfriend! Awesome!! Now I have to beg, borrow and/or steal to get my hands on a copy of the next book ASAP! 

I give Delirium a very enthusiastic 5 stars :D