Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Valley of Good and Evil by Dick Moomey

Adult Mystery 312 pages, 4 Stars
The small village of Valley, is entrapped by a horrible crime, placing all its Citizen’s on red alert. Their Police Chief has been murdered, his eviscerated body found propped up against a cemetery tombstone. Even more mysterious, is that on the back of the monument someone scribbled the three word sentence,Ken Black Knew. Ken has been dead ten years, the victim of a horrific, fiery accident on nearby Storm King Mountain.
Home town girl, attorney Amanda Black, is on her way back to her home town, determined to find some answers to the Chief’s murder, but even more, to investigate the reasons behind her father’s name being used in connection with the murder. Almost home, she stops at a mountain outlook to observe the town of Valley and the changes of ten years.
She notices a large hawk circling in the sky and without warning, the feral bird swoops down attacking Amanda with claws and wings.  Frightened, although a fiery attorney, she seeks cover near the observation wall. After some wait, she finds the bird has landed nearby with an apparent note attached to one leg. Carefully, the attorney removes the note and reads. 
You are not a wise woman, Amanda Black
Made a bad move coming back 
Never too late, my sweet little friend  
Get back in your car and begin to wend         
Your way back to Maine, and stay real clear 
Of all Valley rumors you happen to hear. 
I knew you’d stop here 
Guess who
Thus begins an incredible journey of attacks on Amanda and eventually all who are her friends. From her high school sweetheart, the female minister, old friends of her fathers, the new police chief and his troubled girlfriend. Before long, the horrible threats and eventual murders of two more citizens reveal a most unusual predator holding the small town hostage. A twisted tale leads all concerned  on a cat and mouse game in the pursuit and eventual capture of a madman, who is a victim himself.  
The Valley of Good and Evil is a story with very strong character personalities. It follows several different story lines with a focus on a Satanic group that is rumored to be in the area. 
Since the moment Amanda arrives she is threatened and continues getting more threats throughout the story. The longer she stays the more aggravated she gets with the local police force that the case is taking so long to solve. 
I felt the writing style was a bit stiff and could have used more casual language, especially during dialogue.  The descriptions and steps taken to move the story forward are very procedural and have a strict formality to the language used by all involved. As the characters are all professionals and dealing with a very serious subject matter it was understandable why the story was written in this way, but it left me wanting on a more emotional level. 
The novel was a gripping read, I really enjoyed how the story lines ended up coming together and the twist at the end that I never saw coming. The weaving of the stories was very well done with suspense and intrigue. 
                                            **** 4 Stars ****
Adult Mystery 312 pages World Castle Publishing (August 5, 2013)


Monday, August 26, 2013

Yorick by Vlad Vaslyn

Poor Roberta. She's aging, has lost everyone she's ever loved, and now she lives out her sad, lonely days feeding on bad convenience store food and faded memories of happier times. She wants nothing more than to join her loved ones in the afterlife, but then a gruesome discovery along the banks of the Merrimack River changes everything. Roberta knows she'll never be alone again
Paperback, 90 pages
Published October 28th 2012 by Lucid Dream Press
In a way this story reminded me of the 1997 movie Office Killer.

 A lonely older woman finds companionship in a dead skull. Carrying it around with her, talking to it and eventually committing acts to help it return to it's former self.

With her extreme feeling of loneliness Roberta is a woman that the reader will end up pitying and feeling sorry for. But with her unusual way of making a friend is somewhat humorous and more than once comment "what does she think she's doing?"

I had a blast reading this story. It was a really quick read, but I found it quirky, funny and different.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Richelle Mead: The Indigo Spell

The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines #3) by Richelle Mead
In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch–a former Alchemist who escaped against all odds, and is now on the run. Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the Alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood–or else she might be next.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, the Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive—this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone’s out for blood
SBN #9781921518911

Sydney takes a huge leap into the world of magic in this third instalment of the Bloodlines series. This is directly against everything she has been taught as an Alchemist.
In book 2, she was told a rumour about a rogue Alchemist, Marcus Finch. It’s absolutely unheard of in her world for anybody to leave the group and she finds herself wanting to find Marcus. He just may have some of the answers she has been looking for. But in the meantime, she has been pulled into the world of magic by one of her teachers, and this has put her in danger. There is somebody out there killing witches and growing stronger by taking their power.
One thing that has been a constant in the writing of this series is the pacing of the novels. They all have a gradual build up to a big event and a surprise ending to enter into the next story. The relationships between the characters is growing stronger with each book as well. Although now that Sydney is not Jill’s main protector, some of the school friends are not seen as much in this book as the first two. The focus of the story is on Marcus Finch and her growing relationship with the vampire Adrian – yet another thing that is frowned upon by the Alchemist group (fraternizing with vampires).
The growing relationship between Adrian and Sydney is just part of the character growth that we see within Sydney. In The Indigo Spell Sydney shows the most developed and biggest changes to her character. Not only questioning what she really believes in (as opposed to what she has been taught) and she learns to follow her heart over her mind. She has a huge tendency to over-think things because she is unsure and scared of the consequences. She really is at college age at this time and I was very happy to see her discover her truths.
Just as the Vampire Academy Series is highly addictive, this book as made this series addictive for me. In the first two books I was exploring the world and who the characters are, but now we see a huge leap of faith in our main character Sydney, and I’m rooting for her. I find her very strong and becoming more determined each book. They are fun, with great pacing and I love the suspenseful build up to see where each book will take us.

*this review was originally written for and posted on http://www.burnbright.com.au/krista-reviews-richelle-meads-the-indigo-spell/

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Anatomy of a Single Girl (Anatomy #2) by Daria Snadowsky

With Judy Blume-like honesty and insight, this sequel to Anatomy of a Boyfriend is about life after first love--romance, sex, friendship, family, and the ups and downs of life as a single girl.

After everything that happened—my first boyfriend, my first time, my first breakup—jumping back into the dating game seemed like the least healthy thing I could do. It’s not that I didn’t want to fall in love again, since that’s about the best feeling ever. But as a busy college premed still raw from heartbreak, which is the worst feeling ever, I figured I’d lie low for a while. Of course, as soon as I stopped looking for someone, an impossibly amazing—and devastatingly cute—guy came along, and I learned that having a new boyfriend is the quickest way to recover from losing your old one.

The moment we got together, all my preconceptions about romance and sex were turned upside down. I discovered physical and emotional firsts I never knew existed. I learned to let go of my past by living in the present. It was thrilling. It was hot. It was just what the doctor ordered.

But I couldn’t avoid my future forever.

In Daria Snadowsky’s daring follow-up to Anatomy of a Boyfriend, eighteen-year-old Dominique explores the relationship between love and lust, and the friendships that see us through.

Hardcover, 227 pages

Published January 8th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers 
As with the first book, Anatomy of a Boyfriend the author takes the reader to a whole new level of detail when it comes to serious sexual relationships. 

Dominique's exploration into a new relationship brings about questions of safety and tests. The author goes into detail about doctor's visits, types of protection as well as mental stability before jumping into the decisions of having a sexual relationship. As Dominique has explored a hard core relationship and what she considered love eventually ending in heartbreak. Her new relationships come with a lot more thought and decision making. Although acting in the heat of the moment is not completely off bounds. This time she is going in mentally and physically prepared. 
She is home for Summer vacation from college and doing an internship at the local hospital. But it just so happens that being home brings up a lot of old feelings, and a new relationship. But how serious is the relationship going to be when she knows she'll be going back to school soon?

This time around she's asking more questions, finding what it is that she wants from a relationship both physical and not and learning new things about her body. With a boyfriend that is not shy of giving her instructions on what a guy expects as well. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beyond: A Ghost Story by Graham McNamee

Jane is not your typical teen. She and her best friend Lexi call themselves the Creep Sisters. Only Lexi knows why Jane is different from anyone else: Her own shadow seems to pull her into near-fatal accidents. Jane is determined to find out why these terrifying things happen, and to overcome her shadow enemy. Her sleuthing with Lexi connects her own horrors to the secret history of a serial killer

The story opens up with Jane attending doctors meetings to discuss the removal of a nail that is lodged in her skull. Something that doesn't seem to surprise her as she has lived through several other near-death situations throughout her young life. Electrocution, poisoning and a near miss by a train.

Although Jane's parents have known her whole life she is prone to "accidents" Jane knows that it is something else, something that is a part of her that is causing her accidents. Her Shadow.  She has only been able to reveal the truth about what is happening to her best friend Lexi, who has an attraction to the dark, goth and creep herself. She is an artist with an open mind and helps Jane piece together what could possibly be happening to her.

A ghost story that involves a kind of possession that is beyond the here and now.  A very fast paced read that has great character dynamics. I loved the relationship that Lexi and Jane share. But also the caring, supportive and healthy relationship she has with her parents.

There is no swearing in the book, but it does contain some scenes and references to violence and abuse.

5 Stars

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rory (The Ghosts of Palladino #1) by Ciye Cho

Far beyond heaven, earth and hell is a city known as Palladino, a place ruled by ghosts and filled with demons, magic, and all sorts of darkly beautiful things. A city where no one can ever escape.

Eighteen-year-old Rory is a cake decorator who makes stunning confections. But no amount of frosting or miracles can save her when a demon kidnaps her—and carries her to Palladino. Here, Rory ends up in a deadly charm school where young women are forced to become companions for the Ghost Lords. And for her to survive, Rory must become everything that she isn’t: graceful, elegant... and perfect.

But nothing is what it seems in Palladino. Not the magic. Not the ghosts. And definitely not Martin Marius, the bizarre Ghost Lord-slash-inventor who is drawn to Rory. For amid a thousand machines and a hundred cats, Martin holds a secret that could change everything. A secret that could either free Rory... or destroy her.

I have to say that this was one of the most unique and quirky books I have read in a long time.  Rory is taken by a demon to an alien world in which the girls are forced to attend a charm school. Yes, forced into taking classes on good behavior, ballet, grooming and tea to just name a few.

Rory is not as beautiful, and statuesque as the rest of the "students" but was brought there because of a unique quality that she does have. She clashes with all of the instructors and has to try harder than most of the other girls just to make it through each day.

With absolutely nowhere to go and no way back home, these girls quickly adjust to the very strict new ways of their lives. Even though most of the girls are somewhat helpful when she has difficulties with the teachers, she is far from making any real and true new friends. Although of course some connections are made.

Not only is she stuck in a strange new place, forced to take lessons on how to be more lady-like to suite the Lords. There is also a large amount of other events that take place including magic, ghosts, cats (that can communicate with her) and a focus on her love of baking, cakes especially. There was one moment when she squirts icing in the face of an animal to set off a distraction where I literally laughed out loud thinking that had to have been one of the most bizarre things I have ever read.

Although the story is really more of a serious series of events, there are moments that took me off guard and having to re-read the paragraph to make sure I caught it all right. Making me smile with the imaginative storyline that surprised me at very unexpected times throughout the story.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Awaken (Empyreal #1) by Christal M. Mosley

Secrets. Lies. Hidden Truths. 

What if there was a vast hole where your memories should be? When you closed your eyes, all you saw was darkness? Then, what if one day, light began to shine through, illuminating intricate keys to your past? Would you try to unveil the truth? Even if, in the end, it’s not what you wanted?

When enigmatic dreams and arcane encounters begin to unravel the world around her, Coralie Collier begins to question the elements that surround her. As images of her past begin to rise to the surface, missing pieces to her future begin to fall into place. Will Coralie be able to uncover the hidden secrets that lie within the darkness? Those who surround her, good and evil, are waiting to find out...

As this is the first book in the series it's common to find a lot of world-building and "info dumps" this was full of them. 
The reader does get moments of action in between the large sections of dialogue and explanations of the characters, plot and world-building.  Perhaps what held me back a bit from completely loving this story was the repetition of words and names to each page. Easily could have been broken up with the usage of them, him, they, her, etc. (which are used often, but perhaps not often enough as the repetition was distracting) The only other thing that stood out was how close in similarity and sounding of the names of the characters in the story. 

I really did enjoy the novel and wanted more focus on the action of the story. A little bit more "show" and less "tell".  My favorite parts of the story were Coralie's adventures into the beyond, mostly happening in her sleep in dream-like scenes. Her adventures outside of the real world were the most entertaining and eventful and really gave some in depth look at Coralie's character. 

As Coralie begins to get hints of memories, things she just cannot quite remember fully, also coincides with the appearance of a new guy to her life.  There are a lot of discussions with her parents where you think they are about to help her out, but instead turn out to be just misses on releasing the information we are all waiting to hear. Why can she not remember her past?

I am looking forward to picking up the next book in the series. The hope for more action and anticipating what will become of Coralie and the demons she must face. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Innocent Darkness (The Aether Chronicles #1) by Suzanne Lazear

Wish. Love. Desire. Live.

Sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock's hoyden ways land her in an abusive reform school far from home. On mid-summer's eve she wishes to be anyplace but that dreadful school. A mysterious man from the Realm of Faerie rescues her and brings her to the Otherworld, only to reveal that she must be sacrificed, otherwise, the entire Otherworld civilization will perish

Although Innocent Darkness looks like it's a Steampunk novel, it actually has very little steampunk in it. The beginning chapters explaining a world of Aether and flying crafts, but as soon as Noli is whisked off to the Faerie Realm of the Otherworld. The land of Aether disappears, and occurs very early on in the book. As the series is called The Aether Chronicles, I am almost positive that she will return to her homeland. 
Noli is enrolled in a school far away from home, not wanting to leave her mother. The school for troubled girls and is ran by very strict people and she is miserable. When she is kidnapped and taken to the Otherworld as a human sacrifice. I was expecting this to be the most exciting part of the story, but I felt that once she enters this other realm the pacing and story began to fall. 
Noli's character didn't really stick with me, as soon as she started begging her mommy not to make her go to the school I found her childish and very naive which didn't grow any stronger throughout the story.  Normally at this point I would recommend the book to younger readers, except the author throws in some heavy subjects that are not suitable for younger readers (in my opinion) 
Unfortunately this book just wasn't for me, I saw some good things in it and was hoping some of the ideas would have been broadened. I would have liked to see more character growth in Noli, but expect they have extended that to grow through out the series as a whole ( I would hope anyway) 
There are some deeper subject brought up like drug use (opium) and sexual abuse. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kiersten White- Mind Games

Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.
Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways…or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.
Hardcover, 237 pages  Published February 19th 2013 by HarperTeen  ISBN 0062135317 (ISBN13: 9780062135315)
Twins, Annie and Fia’s, story is told from alternating perspectives. The majority of the story unfolds in flashback sequences to give the reader the facts and help build the plot of the current day situation.
Annie is blind but has visions of events. Not exactly events that predict the future, but things that could possibly happen if certain situations play out. Fia on the other hand has the power of intuition.
The story focuses on Fia saving Annie. They are very close and their first and foremost thoughts are always about each other’s welfare. Several times throughout the story Annie warns Fia of visions she has, but even though Fia has the power of instinct, she doesn’t observe Annie’s warnings.
The girls are highly flawed characters. They both seem lost and depressed, as if they are searching for something to replace the loss of their parents. Throughout the story, Fia is taught the skills of an assassin at the school they attend, but it’s against her will, as the school master keeps Annie to make Fia do their bidding.
I found this book very unusual and unique. The “abilities/powers” these girls have are not exactly laid in concrete. This does lead to some confusion in the storyline. Fia acts on initial feelings, but she herself is all over the place emotionally and at any time, may have the instinct to fight or flight. Being highly strung, she tends to act out her emotions by partying and trying to mentally escape her situation.
Many of you may recognize the author from her Paranormalcy series which has a lot of humour, fun antics, great characters and a kick ass heroine. While this story does have a bad ass girl at the fore-front, all the characters in this book are highly flawed, and there is very little humour. Definitely something different than other paranormal books that take place in a private-school setting. It’s dark and and full of emotionally driven characters.

*This review was originally written for and posted on http://www.burnbright.com.au/category/kristas-reviews/

Monday, August 5, 2013

Blog Tour! Penumbras by Braden Bell

Penumbras (Middle School Magic #2)

Conner, Lexa, and Melanie are back! Just when they think life is normal again, a dangerous shadow creature begins to hunt them. The trio must develop their powers in order to conquer this new peril and protect their school. Filled with action and even more magic, this book continues the exciting adventure in the Middle School Magic series.

Paperback, 304 pages  Published July 9th 2013 by Sweetwater Books

In the second book of the Middle School Magic series it jumps right into the story with Conner experiencing the Shadows trying to get at him while on a school field trip. We soon find out that his room mate, Pilaf also has some of the Magi abilities, but his vary more so than the other three. For example he can hear the other Magi talk to each other in their heads, but he cannot speak back to them telepathically. An interesting twist, he can hear the Stalker! Pilaf announces to Conner that the Stalker is outside their window, right after Conner escapes from the Shadows. 

As the story continues we see that it focuses more on Conner than Alexa or Melanie, as the first book did. Conner experiences more and becomes a major plot for the Stalker's and attacks by the Phantumbra. As Conner and Melanie begin to show signs that they like each other as more than friends, this upsets Alexa (Conner's sister) and slowly the tension grows between Alexa and the others. 

We see a lot of things take place in this second book. Conner and Alexa both struggling with their inner selves (trying to find the good in all the bad/looking for their "light") as well as physical attacks by the Stalker and Dark Hands. The teachers still play a huge roll in their lives, guiding them both in and outside of school on choosing the right decisions and the building of their Magi powers. With the addition of Pilaf there are new questions brought out of how he was not discovered to have Kindled before now by the Magi Magisterium.  
Although the pacing of the story and the plot arch could have been ordered differently to make the story a little smoother to read. The writing was a lot smoother, the battles were larger and the inner battles were more thought-provoking.  
There is humor, healthy child/adult relationships that show guidance and learning. Magic and adventure to remote islands, underwater, kidnappings and most of all lessons to be learned.

Favorite Quotes:
"What would Dr Timberi Do?"
"stranger than a tap dancing coyote"
"scratched at the doggy door of Lexa's mind"

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Kindling (Middle School Magic #1) by Braden Bell

 All thirteen-year-old Connor Dell wants to do is pass pre-algebra, play lacrosse, and possibly kiss Melanie Stephens, but when a run-in with the school bully ignites strange powers inside him, Connor's normal teenage life goes up in flames. Now he'll need his new powers to defeat the Darkness that's coming for him. Fast-paced and original, this book's guaranteed to keep you guessing!
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by CedarFort Inc 
The Kindling is a story that I would recommend for family reading time. It is clean, has humor and also topics that are good for parents to discuss with young readers. The family unit is strong, and the teachers guide the characters to help them find their own powers and battle the dark.

The story is a fast paced read, the children gaining their powers and learning how to use them all at the same time. Eventually go on a vacation with their families that lead to an adventure and battle in Disney World.

There were times that I felt the writing was a bit choppy and could have been written in a smoother way to help the pacing. But nothing that would be noticeable to the younger readers this story is aimed for. The family unit and friendship is at the core of the characters story. The children have always been friends, having grown up together. There is some banter and joking among them and they are comfortable with each other, as well as fully trust each other. Each of them get the opportunity to stand out as an equal and help battle against the Dark. They go to their parents when they need help and openly question their teachers when they do not feel right about what is happening.
The story does focus on the idea of Light vs Dark and has religious undertones and very subtle. Also the main idea that the children must learn for themselves with only guidance from the adults to help find the light within themselves to battle the dark. Their teachers have them focus on how to create light to fight the dark, and they witness a battle scene between the teachers and the Stalker very early in the story. This helps them understand that there is an urgency for them to learn how to harness their own powers. 
 The reoccurring theme of light and goodness pushes the Magi powers to come through. As the patronus represents in the Harry Potter series, so does sigil's the Magi use. By taking on the shape of light streaks and animals that fight against the dark. The more unique aspect to this story was the inclusion of music into the battle scenes. The teachers use humming and singing to help them battle the Stalker and the Dark Hands and focus their powers to become stronger. 


Friday, August 2, 2013

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

Josie is the daughter of a prostitute in 1950 New Orleans. At a young age she began sleeping in a small apartment above a local bookstore to get away from the abusive ways of her mother. The bookstore owner Charles and his son Patrick have been the closest thing she's had to a family. Madam Willie has taken on the roll of mother and always kept an eye out for Josie and her troubles. But now even those have started stacking up higher than she can manage. After Josie's mother leaves for Hollywood, Josie finds the watch of a dead man in her mother's room. But she puts those thoughts on the back burner for now her main focus is getting into college across America and will do anything for a recommendation. Even threats to a local businessman in hopes to leaving New Orleans forever.

Out of the Easy
contains several layers of storylines that weave into a suspenseful thriller. Josie's troubles begin piling up and she makes some bad decisions in hopes for a better future. Catching herself in more than one predicament that she finds difficult to get herself out of alone. She is surrounded by her makeshift family and friends. When Charles falls ill she has the added stress of running the bookstore. With a handful of characters and Josie's life varying from life threatening to a peek into the possibility of  romance. This book contains a little bit of everything.

The writing had impressive pacing for a story that contained so many elements. As historical novels often contain a lot of information about the time and setting. This story made it seamlessly easy to fall into the story without any
extraneous usage of the language and fashion of the time period. Which I often find overwhelming and off topic to the story.

This is a character driven story. Josie is at a peak time in her life where she is choosing her future. In the mean time, getting herself into more trouble than she can handle, with no thanks to her mother. Josie is a smart girl, but this is one of those stories when there is so much focus on getting the desired affect that you will do anything to get there.