Friday, September 28, 2012

Dreamless

Dreamless is a YA modern twist to Greek mythology by Josephine Angelini.

This novel is also the sequel to the utterly fantastic book Starcrossed, which I reviewed here last year, and which was so remarkable it made my Stand-Out Books of 2011. In other words, if you haven’t read Starcrossed yet, you really need to fix that!

Especially before you read this review!

Only the Starcrossed initiated need read further, as all others have my strict warning that despite my stringent lack of spoilers for Dreamless, there will be inevitable hints to plot reveals in Starcrossed that you should avoid!!!

Final chance to look away…

Oh my gosh. I was absolutely ecstatic to get a chance to read Dreamless after Starcrossed being one of my favorite books last year – and I am THRILLED to report that as far as I’m concerned, Dreamless actually EXCEEDED my expectations!!!

Here’s a little about it:

Helen Hamilton up until recently considered herself a secret freak. She knew that she could blow everybody away a little TOO much in track, if she let herself. She knew that she could tear the door off the hinges, if she let herself. That’s why she never let herself. Not to mention the horribly painful stomach cramps that would occur whenever she was noticed too much by anyone other than her best friend Claire, which was a deterrent to showing off her freak-ness.

But things drastically changed when the Delos family arrived in her small community of Nantucket. Her life turned upside down when she went from literally wanting to kill them to finding a secondary family in them, once the Furies were appeased by her and Lucas’ mutual sacrifice. You know what I’m talking about if you followed my instructions and are only reading this after reading Starcrossed.

Now, Helen knows she’s a Scion, a descendant of Greek gods and the people of ancient Troy. Among many other things. But she’s also the only Scion to be able to descend into the Underworld. This gives her the unique chance to stop the endless cycle of involuntary vengeance that afflicts Scions through the merciless Furies. Yet nightly “adventures” in what equates to Hell is wearing on Helen…

When Helen meets a new Scion in the Underworld, however, her fruitless trips become a bit lighter. Orion is cheerful, funny, and reminds her to smile sometimes. Even with his help, though, time is running out and if she ever wants to complete her task, progress is going to need to be made…

But through it all, the most impossible mission seems to be to forget Lucas…

Alright, I may have overdone it with the ellipses. Oh well. The excitement! The intrigue! Oh my!!!

Dreamless jumps right into the excellently fast-paced, engaging, engrossing tone that I adored in Starcrossed. Josephine Angelini continues to deepen my investment in the large cast of characters, the romance, the awesome plot, and the families, mythology, etc.

I was absolutely riveted! I love the serial, larger-than-life quality of this series, which is heavy with emotion, family dynamics, vibrant personalities, and a quest for the ages. This is a sweeping, suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat type of action, romance, and drama.

Believe it or not, it’s hard to explain how into this series I am! I seem to simply gel with this author I think. Both Starcrossed and Dreamless are examples of epic stories being both creative and well-written into pure entertainment!

Simply amazing!!! I cannot wait for book three!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Diva

Diva is the third and final book in Jillian Larkin’s YA 20s era Flappers series.

If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, well – you know that you’re going to want to avoid this review. Instead read my thoughts on Vixen (book one) here and Ingénue (book two) here. Deal?

Now, unless you’ve read Vixen and Ingénue I am hoping (for your unspoiled reading pleasure) that you are NOT reading any further into this review – otherwise I might have to slip you one of Fred and George’s Puking Pastilles.

Okay… Final chance to turn away…

Red-headed songbird Gloria Carmody finds herself potentially free from jail – if she can figure out the secret behind the wealthy but unsuccessful Forrest Hamilton’s seemingly unlimited funds. Can she uncover answers while pretending to pal around on his lush yacht and ritzy villa before it becomes more dangerous than she realizes? Her future with Jerome depends on it…

Reformed flapper Clara Knowles has jumped back into the swing of boozy speakeasies and dusk-till-dawn parties in the name of journalism – but she’s lost Marcus Eastman because of it. Now, the knowledge that he’s wedding another girl already tears her to the core – not only because she now realizes that Marcus was the love of her life, but also because she knows this must mean he never loved her as much as she thought he did...

Now that Lorraine Dyer is at Barnard she finds that she’s an excellent student – but maybe that’s because her social life is dead as a doornail. Her scandalous summer has leaked out, and instead of being perceived as the fabulous, beautiful girl who tried to save Gloria and Jerome’s life, she’s being thought of as the one that put them in danger in the first place! So, when she finds out that Marcus’ new bride-to-be may actually be a gold-digger she decides that HAS to save one of her ex-best friend’s chance at true love – and somehow win her friend back. But will her newfound decency be convincing to anyone other than herself?

This series has been a blast! Initially I wasn’t so head-over-heels over Vixen, but by the time I read Ingenue I got it. Jillian Larkin isn’t trying to write the most realistic, gritty, 1920s era novel (at least I’m not getting that impression), she’s trying to entertain us! And entertain she did!

Diva doesn’t give a whole lot of recap over what happened at the end of Ingénue so I was a bit confused at first because I don’t have much (make that any) time to reread the previous book first. But it didn’t take long for me to get back into the swing of things.

My investment in Jerome and Gloria’s romance was still strong – I love those two together. Really though, my absolute favorite character in Diva and the entire Flappers series now, is Lorraine! Her wild antics, awesome lines, and overall over-the-top character is frankly awesome and hilarious!! I need a T-shirt that says “Team Lorraine”!

Clara on the other hand had gotten a bit tiresome for me at the beginning with her flip-flopping personality. But I wasn’t bored with her or her story – just not as committed. Though by the end, I’ll admit, I was on pins and needles to see if she and Marcus would get back together again.

Diva is a ton of fun to read! It’s super-fast and bitingly funny when it’s not marvelously melodramatic. I read it in one sitting - easily. Jillian Larkin has penned a fantastically crazy end to a joyfully popcorn-worthy series!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Enchanted

Enchanted is a YA fairy-tale by Alethea Kontis.

Sunday Woodcutter, the youngest sibling of a group sisters named for the other six days of the week, doesn’t especially feel like she lives up to the saying, “But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day is blithe and bonny and goody and gay.”

In fact, most of the time she feels overlooked. That could have something to do with the fact that she has a tendency to wander off into the forest whenever she has a chance and do the one thing that brings her the most happiness – write stories. Though she has to be careful, as there is a history of them coming true…

It is during one of her forays into the woods that Sunday meets the frog. Not any frog, but an enchanted frog that was once a man. He asks her to tell him her stories. They talk. Sunday finds she feels more comfortable with him than she does anyone else. It seems… magical.

But one evening Sunday leaves him with a kiss – and when she gets a chance to return, he’s gone.

What Sunday doesn’t realize is that she had love inside of her when she kissed him goodbye – and she caused him to transform back into his true self. And his true self is Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland – part of the family the Woodcutter’s loathe.

Deeply in love with her, Rumbold is determined to make Sunday fall in love with him - again. Now that he is back to being a man, though, are there too many obstacles for them to regain the simplicity of their friendship in the woods?

And is there more at play in the magical kingdom than either of them realizes?

First off, I love the cover of Enchanted. I don’t usually mention my opinion of covers, though I do enjoy a good one, because I like to focus primarily on the story itself in my review. But this time I can’t help myself. :)

The wonderful thing is that the awesome cover is a gateway to an initial intro to this fairy-tale land where a frog, a cursed human, is no surprise to passersby. This is a fairy-tale world, through and through, with an authentic air of whimsy and fun.

I was kinda loving the weaving of multiple familiar tales into an entirely new story, mixed in with a smidgen of darkness and grief. It reminded me a little of the TV show I’m a fan of, Once Upon a Time, minus any of the time in the contemporary time period.

A few times, for some reason, I did get a bit confused on details. I felt like I missed some important passing information that might’ve explained some of it, so it’s probably my own fault. But even near the end I was perplexed on a few things – as if Enchanted got a little jumbled here and there.

But overall I found myself completely charmed and taken with Enchanted! I’ve always been a fan of fairy-tales, and to be honest I don’t think enough are written anymore. With a darker side to deepen the story but a continued eccentricity to keep lightness as well, I found it to be very, very gratifying!

Happily, I visited Alethea Kontis’ website and I’m delighted to see that she is show two more books in what is called the Woodcutter series! I would love to follow more adventures of magic and “twoo wuv” in the world that she has created!

How about you?

Friday, September 21, 2012

With Every Letter

With Every Letter is a historical WWII era romantic fiction novel by Sarah Sundin.

Let me first off say – even if you’ve never read a book like this before, this is the time to start!

Lt. Philomela “Mellie” Blake is happy to start her new position as a flight nurse. But training with a bunch of other nurses that all have the ordinary social niceties and friend-making genes naturally inculcated is something she’s dreading. With her unorthodox childhood and plain, unusual appearance she always finds herself saying the wrong thing and ending up alone.

So when she’s volunteered to participate in an anonymous letter writing campaign to help build morale, Mellie is certain that she won’t receive a letter back. No one ever finds her particularly interesting and she has no interest in a The Shop Around the Corner like romance, like the other girls.

Yet when Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer stationed in North Africa, finds her letter he finds the anonymity invigorating – a chance to escape the stigma of his name and put aside the false façade he shows the world every day. Mellie’s letter is void of the messy love entanglements that he knows no woman would benefit from – as no female would want to take his name as their own. So, he writes back. Just looking for an ear, a place to be himself.

And it begins.

Amidst war, reticence, personal fears, and melancholy – will each, for the first time, find a true friend? Could more ever be possible between two fiercely private individuals haunted by their insecurities and pasts?

Wow – I loved With Every Letter!!!

This is the first historical romance I’ve ever read in the WWII time period – though I knew I was interested immediately. Sarah Sundin was a fantastic way to start!

The lovely cover and compelling premise give way to a soft-spoken, relatable tale of two lonely people yearning for a friend. Mix this with fantastic yet perfectly subtle period details that sweep you away to the 40s – I was utterly besotted.

There is something so outright romantic about the idea With Every Letter present – the idea of falling in love though letters, where only your words, thoughts, opinions, and true self are the components. It brings so many aspects I adore: a developing, credible friendship, personal growth, and patriotism.

With Every Letter is also heartbreaking as it gives an unfiltered look at our own flaws and hypocrisies, and facing the reality that we don’t always get what we want – no matter how much we want it.

I have to stop. I refuse to give anything away. All I’ll leave you with is this: goosebumps!

*Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*I received a copy of With Every Letter from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

The Whisper

The Whisper is the sci-fi middle-grade sequel to The Roar, by Emma Clayton.

You know the drill, bibliophiles. If you haven’t read The Roar, you don’t want to read a review on the sequel – it’ll just give stuff away. So, avert thine eyes.

All the rest of you who HAVE read The Roar, you’ll find a spoiler-free review below…

Mika and Ellie didn’t know if they’d ever see each other again – but the day has finally come. The circumstances, though, aren’t so good…

They’re mutants – a new kind of child that has special abilities, can do things ordinary children can’t do. And that has made them valuable to one devious man: Mal Gorman.

His plan is to take over the beauty of wilderness and riches on the other side of The Wall – where everyone behind The Wall has been told is scorched and impossible to live on.

It’s all been lies.

Mika and Ellie have to pretend to be submissive, to agree with his plan – it’s the only way they can figure out a plan on how to save the rest of the kids – Gorman’s brainwashed, micro chipped army.

But what Gorman doesn’t know is that Mika and Ellie can hear The Whisper – and they’re determined to keep any the war from starting…

I liked The Roar quite a bit. It flip-flopped about a bit, but it was consistently entertaining and held a different tone for a sci-fi novel. So, I was looking forward to where the story would go from here.

Yet right when The Whisper opens with an odd, standoffish third-person narration, providing background and recap in a way that made me think of a stiff voiceover, I was surprised to find a change. All the parts with the twins’ seemed normal, but everything else, especially involving Tom and the other kids, felt off.

Though The Whisper still has a compelling, intriguing story it felt clunkier and more uneven. Despite there being more disturbing moments that heighten the stakes, I had too many “but’s”. For example, one second The Whisper was more political than I prefer since it seemed like the author might be pushing her views in a non-subtle way when I just want to be told a good story and the next second the book was merging on cartoonish with the villain Mal Gorman. So, each time it seemed like it was improving, it changed course again.

Plus, some of the mechanics of The Whisper were bugging me. Like, I don’t understand how they kept birds and bugs from flying over The Wall – is this a gigantic plot hole, or did I miss something?

Sadly, I was disappointed in The Whisper. It’s really too bad because it clearly has good intentions, but it went beyond where I expected the story to go in a strangely pessimistic way, in my opinion.

But don’t listen to me! If you were a fan of The Roar too, read The Whisper! We are all different, and you may find that The Whisper meets all your expectations and more!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Roar

The Roar is a middle-grade sci-fi novel by Emma Clayton.

It’s been a year since twelve-year-old Mika’s twin sister Ellie vanished. He and his parents were told she drowned in the flooded depths of the lower cities, but Mika refuses to believe it – he knows she’s still alive. He feels it.

This is what has led Mika to start to wonder if anything they’ve been told is true.

He lives in London, in the future. Since before he was born, people have been told of The Plague – the horrifying event that caused all the animals to become vicious, bloodthirsty attackers and made all the remaining humans seek shelter behind The Wall.

The Wall is a fifty-foot tall, solid concrete wall topped with high-voltage razor wire and guarded by a battalion of borgs. It’s kept the animals out, and the people safe.

Yet being crammed into a small area, the population has become unhealthy – except for the few who have profited and moved into the Golden Turrets, fancy apartments built on top of the older, downtrodden ones.

Everything is now in question. Why would they lie to Mika about his sister? Where is she?

In his determination to find her, Mika enters himself into a massive virtual reality game that they’re encouraged the twelve to thirteen year olds to participate in. He’s sure that there are answers out there… he wants the truth.

The Roar has an action-oriented opening that quickly introduces us to the likable, talented, smart Ellie – and confirms she is indeed alive. I immediately liked her with her animal-friendly personality and daring escape attempt. I was surprised how kick-arse it was from the get-go – it was cool!

Then it rarely returns to Ellie and we focus primarily on Mika. Emma Clayton has created a world that is detailed and dour. It’s full of characters that jump off the page, an original sci-fi tale with a new futuristic image. The Roar was quite gripping – it was hard to stop reading!

And as the interesting, involving, suspicious, high-stakes game is set in motion, the suspense level definitely increases. There are mysterious intentions and revelations to keep me involved galore! I really liked how the final twist was not wholly expected.

The Roar
is a different kind of sci-fi – it’s a bit long-winded sometimes, but effective and always interesting. I was constantly intrigued.

I will definitely look forward to finding out what will happen in The Whisper, which is the sequel!

And you can find out my thoughts on Friday when that review posts – along with a historical fiction TGIF double review! Make sure to come back! :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Master of Misrule

The Master of Misrule is the sequel to the YA supernatural novel The Game of Triumphs by Laura Powell.

Oh, wow. This is what I look for in a book!

Before I get ahead of myself, if you haven’t read The Game of Triumphs yet, not only are you possibly crazy (CRAZY!), but you should most definitely NOT read this review. It’ll contain inevitable spoilers of what is one of my favorite books of the year so far…

Instead, read my review of The Game of Triumphs here and then go grab yourself a copy. THEN, you can come back. :)

I’m expecting all of you who haven’t read The Game of Triumphs to not be reading this sentence… Last warning…

For all y’all who follow my blog (you rock!), you know that I really don’t like giving away the plot of sequels. I myself don’t even read the inside jacket of sequels. If I loved the first book, what else do I need to know? So, instead I’ll give a brief recap of how The Game of Triumphs ended and a brief, light idea of where it’s going. Deal? Okay.

Cat, Flora, Toby, and Blaine all had their individual reasons for becoming involved in the Arcanum after accidentally influencing the Game in some way.

Cat is determined to find justice and answers for her parents’ murder.

Flora is steadfast in her goal of finding and rescuing her sister Grace

Blaine is looking for his cruel stepfather, determined that he will face what he’s done.

Toby savors the Game like none of the others and craves the heroism and adventure.

Each of them is tied to the Game – but none of them were actually playing. They were chancers, fools. But meeting the Hanged Man changed all that. Following his instructions, they put into motion change – change for the better, they thought.

Yet as each of them goes to collect on their prize and leave the Game behind them, they find that the Master of Misrule is also a master of betrayal – and instead of setting everyone free of the Game, they might have created a monster far worse…

And, oh, there’s so much more!!!

But I am hopeful that if you have read this far, you loved The Game of Triumphs like I did and are ready to jump in without too much info!

The Master of Misrule is an amazing, trippy Alice in Wonderland for a new generation, riddled with riddles and mind games.

Laura Powell has created an equally fast-paced, truly suspenseful sequel – penning the original tale with an alluring, captivating quality that smoothly morphs from creepy to dreamlike. It’s packed with twists and characters that have legitimate desires and involving personalities.

The Master of Misrule did a great job at quickly refreshing my memory of The Game of Triumphs, which I read back in February. I was glad because as much as I wanted to reread the first book, I just didn't have time.

This is truly brain candy – a puzzle, a Game, filled with cleverness, intelligence, and creativity that take this psychologically thrilling story to a disturbing, all-together stunning place!

I really can’t go on long enough! I LOVED The Master of Misrule. The heart-stopping revelations were just excellent – the action superb – the character development relatable – the supernatural elements happily DIFFERENT from anything else out there!!!

As you can tell, I wholly, absolutely recommend The Master of Misrule!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Magician

The Magician is the second book in the YA fantasy series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott.

You know the drill. If you haven’t yet read the first book, The Alchemyst, you shouldn’t read the review of book two because the synopsis will give stuff away without even trying. But, if you are one of the many who has read the ENTIRE series and is just waiting for little ol’ me to catch up, feel free to read on and see what I thought!

Final warning…

Sophie and Josh have only two days ago entered a whirlwind struggle of power and magic – and now are firmly integrated in it. They now know they are the twins of legend, or at least Nicholas Flamel thinks so. Josh has a pure gold aura and Sophie a pure silver one – just as the prophecy foretells.

And now Sophie has been Awakened. It’s overwhelming, the strengthening of her senses – the sudden onslaught of abilities and memories not quite her own. But as she fights to regain normality, Josh can’t help but envy her powers as his own Awakening was delayed when they were interrupted by an attack from Dr. John Dee.

Now in Paris, after barely escaping Dee in Ojai, the gang, including ultimate warrior Scatty, find that it’s not long before immortal author Niccolo Machiavelli pursues them.

With Nicholas and his kidnapped wife Perenelle both weakening, time is running out. The fact that Sophie is untrained in her new, amazing powers in unacceptable. It’s time for her to learn Fire Magic.

And to do so, Nicholas brings them to one of his old students – Comte de Saint-Germain, an immortal alchemist, magician, and currently… rock star?

The Magician is again lightning fast and packed full of twists and adventure.

I found that I am beginning to love some of these secondary characters, such as Scatty and Francis, as the creative, entertaining escapism never takes a breather. I still wished for more connection with the twins’ early on, but was appreciating The Magician for what it is: a thrill-ride fantasy blockbuster.

When a time of rest and learning does finally take place I was very glad because not only did it give ME a chance to reboot before the action takes off again, but it gives us a chance to get to know Josh, Sophie, Nicholas, Scatty, Francis, and Joan better.

This short pause really helped me get more into the series! It became far more exciting and exhilarating, while still being exhausting. I became more and more convinced that book two has some huge improvements over book one. The Magician ratchets up the psychological drama as well as the epic battles. It really started to grow on me.

I needed that moment to connect with the numerous characters and relate more to them. Once that happened, I found I was looking forward to the next four books with more enthusiasm – and seeing The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel as an extraordinary fantasy adventure that was coming into its own!

Here I come book three! Next month, that is…

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dark Companion

Dark Companion is a YA mystery thriller with a hint of the supernatural and was written by Marta Acosta.

Jane Williams is determined to make something of her life.

Orphaned at age six, passed through foster homes, she has learned to survive in different situations. But it was when her foster brother Hosea died that the anger inside of her fully formed – and she became focused on getting out of Helmsdale.

It was harder for her than others. Jane wasn’t naturally smart; she has to work for it. Ask questions that made her look dumb, steel herself against the snickers. But with time Jane had succeeded to become one of the best students at her local high school – and when she was offered a chance to have a full scholarship at the exclusive Birch Grove Academy she jumps at it.

She can finally get out.

At first, Birch Grove Academy is everything she could hope for and more. She’s astounded to find she’s starting to make friends with girls she never would have imagined she’s get along with. She’s even tutoring the headmistress’s phenomenally good-looking son Lucian.

She’s out of Helmsdale.

Soon, though, questions begin to arise.

Like, what happened to the last scholarship girl? And why does a teacher’s wife’s suicide, which took place before she arrived, seem suspicious to Jane? Or why does Jack, Lucian’s darker, wilder brother, seem to dislike Jane so much?

Something doesn’t feel right at Birch Grove Academy.

Jane decides to figure out what’s going on… but when she finds out, would she ever risk leaving Birch Grove to go back to her life before?

Dark Companion is a very different novel. I had some mixed feelings about it – and was initially concerned because I saw some not so favorable ratings of it (which I try to avoid before reading a book but this time it kind of popped out at me without me looking).

The prologue gives way to a certainly dramatic, gritty beginning as Jane says goodbye to the place she’s grown up in – without any nostalgia. Once we get to Birch Grove Academy there is a mysterious, eerie fog that hangs over everything. There’s a recurring theme of casually mentioned raw, bloody, or undercooked meat that was kinda freaking me out. Done pretty effectively.

When we meet Jacob, or Jake, I liked how quick-witted he is – his clever teasing make him appealing. In fact, many of the characters are amazingly gifted in the art of conversation. The dialogue, while unrealistic in the modern age, couldn’t help but pull me in – recalling to mind gothic novels of another era. I couldn’t help but like it. I wish we did talk like this!

As Dark Companion gets darker and more frustrating, Jane’s insecurities and inner desperation for love get her into a dangerous, menacing situation. I had to remind myself to give her the benefit of the doubt because of her terrible upbringing – but at times I just wanted to shake some sense into her.

With time and patience, though, I did feel Dark Companion had some very creepy revelations that made for a compelling, unique novel. There was something I really did like about it – very atmospheric and melancholy.

The novel’s biggest weakness is Jane’s weakness – so if you, like me, can try to give her the leeway of the damage done to her by a childhood without love or attention, I think you can find a very page-turning read in Dark Companion.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Dirt

The Dirt is a YA contemporary fiction novel by Lori Culwell.

All Lucy Whitley wants is to go to a Connecticut boarding school that focuses on science.

And to get away from her scandalous family.

For as long as she remembers, her wealthy family has been the target of gossip and rumors, especially regarding the fact that her mom took off when she was little – and took one of her sisters with her. They haven’t been seen or heard of since.

Not only that, but her fashion-model beautiful, popular sister Sloane heads up a powerful, mean-girl clique that has made Lucy’s life a nightmare for years.

If Lucy can just make sure that her dad’s wedding goes smooth she can finally get away from it all – and have permission to go to her nerd haven in Connecticut.

Only problem?

Trying to get anything to go perfectly in the Whitley family is near impossible.

Lucy might as well kiss her dream goodbye…

The Dirt is a frothy, short novel that many readers will like.

I personally felt that while The Dirt makes an admirable effort to be a madcap look at a quirky, crazy family through the eyes of the grounded protagonist, it never really felt truly as fun as it was trying to convince me it was.

Not that it won’t be fun for you, of course!

On my end, I was distracted by a lot of repetitive word choices and more telling than showing, causing The Dirt to drag for me a bit. The narration is also a bit juvenile, which put me off a tad, but The Dirt is still somewhat entertaining.

With a soapy, twisty plot that many are sure to like, The Dirt will definitely find fans – so check it out! Unfortunately, for me, I never seemed to fully buy it – it felt too familiar and too all over the place.

Let me know what you think!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Love's Reckoning

Love’s Reckoning is Christian historical romance author Laura Frantz’s newest novel and the first in the Ballantyne Legacy.

A legacy starts in a small way. It’s on one cold December day in 1784 that Silas Ballantyne arrives to finish his apprenticeship with the blacksmith Liege Lee in York County, Pennsylvania. His mind is set on keeping his head down, doing the work, and going west as soon as he’s completed his contract.

But Liege Lee has other plans. He has need for a strong, capable blacksmith to stay in York County with him, so he’s depending on an old tradition to keep the young man around – marriage to one of his beautiful daughters.

Elspeth, as the elder, is the favored choice. She’s bold, calculating, and finds a lifetime with the handsome Silas not unappealing. Her younger sister Eden is unobtrusive, temperate, and uncomfortable with being used as a pawn for her father’s business needs.

In a house full of secrets, half-truths, and manipulations, is it possible for Silas to find actual love – and if so, with who? And what consequences will his choices have on his legacy?

After loving Laura Frantz’s Courting Morrow Little (review here) and The Colonel’s Lady (review here), I knew there was a high likelihood of me being swept away by Love’s Reckoning. And I was right.

Eden’s quiet, gentle demeanor has been bullied and torn down by a family dominated by strong, hard personalities. She’s different as a character, and I rooted for her freedom immediately. There’s a subtle strength to her hopes, an unspoken desire for kindness among cruelty that creates a wrenching tone. Silas is also immediately human. Handsome and masculine, yes – but also humble and steady.

With these evocative characters, the lovely, atmospheric, richly period-detailed environment has a natural, unforced quality. Love’s Reckoning is quite simply heavenly romantic, taking it’s time to build something that feels real and genuine at a slow but entrancing pace.

As I read Love’s Reckoning, I found it to be deeply resonant, staying on my mind after I set it down. This was especially true when multiple tragedies suddenly occur, saddening Eden and Silas’ tentative happiness.

This is truly a jarring, heart wrenching epic full of life’s ups and downs and delays – full of yearning and emotion.

Love’s Reckoning is a memorable novel that is only the beginning of a legacy I desperately want to follow. I recommend this book to all historical fiction/romance lovers and those who love a sweeping drama, for sure.

* Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*I received a copy of Love's Reckoning from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Blackwood

Blackwood is a YA supernatural novel by Gwenda Bond.

All the residents of Roanoke Island know their famous legend: Back in 1587, 114 people mysteriously vanished without a trace, besides a cryptic message marked in rock, from the Lost Colony.

Now, it’s just a story for tourists and a relatively successful play that Miranda likes to work on and watch night after night. It’s one of the only places the seventeen-year-old outcast feels sort-of welcome.

But she can never escape the fact that she’s from the island’s most infamous family and the daughter of the town drunk.

As much as she may want to.

When an event that eerily mirrors the situation in 1587 occurs, Miranda is suddenly dodging more than the ordinary insults.

Now she’s inexplicably being sought-after by federal agents and long-dead alchemists as she and an old familiar face named Philips, a teen criminal that hears the voices of the dead, begin to uncover centuries-old secrets…

Blackwood has a moody air around Miranda and there is an alluring quality to the creepy story of the Lost Colony, almost instantly. I say “almost” instantly because at first I didn’t feel the spookiness was wholly effective, but it didn’t take too many pages to convince me otherwise.

As Philips and his ability arrive back in Roanoke Island, following an extremely eerie mass disappearance, the atmospheric feeling skyrockets – as does the mystery!

Blackwood is a tense, suspenseful, tremendously unnerving novel that is lightened occasionally by an awesomely large wealth of modern TV references. But it is entirely touching and emotional as the climatic conclusion thunders to an end!

Here, Gwenda Bond provides us with a new story and likable leads that aren’t whimpering romantics or unrealistically stoic. Blackwood is an impressive, dark, yet undeniably fun, debut!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dreamsleeves

Dreamsleeves is a middlegrade fiction novel by Coleen Murtagh Paratore.

It’s the summer before eighth grade and Aislinn “A” O’Neill is busier than ever.

Between watching over her younger siblings, B, C, D, and baby E, she’s watching her parent’s fall apart. Her Mom is more tired than ever and her Dad’s drinking is getting worse.

So, the fact that she’s rarely allowed to leave the house and is certainly forbidden from dating the cute boy that’s been smiling at her, A doesn’t get much of a chance to escape from it all. No pool parties or time with her friends for A.

But she has dreams. Many, many dreams that can fill an entire notebook. Amidst the despondent, stark reality though, A begins to wonder if she is just a silly, childlike girl to hope any of them could come true.

Or do her dreams have more power than she can even imagine?

Dreamsleeves was an unexpectedly lovely book.

There’s a deep melancholy and sadness as Aislinn worries about her Mom’s dangerous pregnancy and her Dad’s destructive drinking. The internal, genuine ache hurts to read in its simple words and believable thoughts and feelings.

Though it’s never mentioned in the jacket sleeve, it seems that Dreamsleeves takes place in the 60s or 70s. The pop culture it describes, and utter lack of computers and cell phones, definitely support this. So, there’s an added tone of a bygone era, but a wholly identifiable issue.

Dreamsleeves is full of frustration and betrayal, but also hope and tenderness. There’s an innocence, yet a maturity to it. Obviously, there are many affective parallels in this book!

I loved A’s loyalty, responsibility, and love toward her siblings and family. She’s a good girl, doing her best, which can sometimes make her circumstances so piercingly, progressively sad!

Dreamsleeves was a touching, inspiring, memorable book that really encapsulated the idea of not giving up hope among heartbreak.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Exciting YA News!!

Happy Labor Day, fellow bibliophiles!

What better way to celebrate a national holiday than to talk about something awesome?

Some of you may remember how much I absolutely ADORE Kersten Hamilton's Goblin Wars books. If you don't you can refresh your memory by reading my review of Tyger Tyger here and my review of In the Forests of the Night here. Also, Tyger Tyger made my Stand-Out Books of 2010 and In the Forests of the Night made my Stand-Out Books of 2011.

If you haven't read them yet, you definitely need to fix that!

Anyway, it has been revealed that the third book in the Goblin Wars trilogy will be called When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears - and it will be released in February! Or at least that's the plan so far, though Amazon.com is reporting something different, so keep your pitchforks handy! ;)

Here's the cover:


Shiver me timbers, am I excited!!! How about you?

Shift

Shift is a YA urban sci-fi/fantasy by Kim Curran.

Scott Tyler has never done anything extraordinary and doubts he ever will. His younger sister Katie calls him a loser, and he knows it’s true so he doesn’t even complain about it.

But when he goes to a get-together with his sort-of friend and makes a fool out of himself – something happens. One second he’s up in the air, climbing a Pylon like he’s some kind of monkey to show off in one of his stupider moments – and the next second he’s on the ground like he was never up there.

That’s when Scott meets Aubrey. She’s beautiful, tough and mysterious – and she tells him he’s a “Shifter”, which means he has the ability to change any decision he’s ever made.

That’s a doozy. And welcome news to someone who never thought he’d do anything cool.

Yet Scott quickly learns that by messing around with his past choices the world around him is unraveling with horrifying, unanticipated consequences…

Shift was a ton of fun!

First off, it has an excellent concept and a prologue that hooks you. Second, Kim Curran keeps the novel consistently interesting and fast-paced.

Shift made me laugh before the first chapter was over and already gave me a quick, dynamic look at Scott and his fractured family life. It doesn’t take long for everything to connect, from the get-go it was zooming along!

This is an unpredictable, unexpected, suspenseful page-turner! Shift is pure entertainment without one dull moment – going from freaky and scary to hilarious and clever in seconds.

As you can see, I really, really liked Shift. There was no effort required to read it – it was almost cinematic.

Definitely recommend you pick up a copy of Shift tomorrow when it comes out!!!