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.