The Violet Hour by Whitney A. Miller Review

Friday, February 28, 2014

Title: The Violet Hour
Author: Whitney A. Miller (Twitter)
Publisher: Flux
Publish Date: March 8, 2014
Genre: YA, Horror, Sci-Fi
Page: 312
Source: Author
The voice inside me is breaking free. I can't stop it. Some call VisionCrest the pinnacle of religious enlightenment. Others call it a powerful cult. For seventeen years, Harlow Wintergreen has called it her life.

As the daughter of VisionCrest's patriarch, Harlow is expected to be perfect at all times. She must be considered a paragon of integrity by the other Ministry teens and a future leader in the eyes of the world.

Despite the constant scrutiny Harlow is keeping a dark and dangerous secret, even from her best friend and the boy she loves. She hears a voice in her head that seems to have a mind of its own, plaguing her with violent and bloody visions. It commands her to kill. And the urge to obey is getting harder and harder to control....
Horror is the type of genre that readers often either love, or they hate. There tends to be little to no middle ground on the matter, which can be frustrating for both readers and writers of the genre, if I'm correct. Yet, when an author embraces the genre and all its complexities with an open heart and an open mind, there is a strong possibility that the novel can transcend those stereotypes and give us something more than we might have anticipated. The Violet Hour by Whitney Miller presents this case in a nutshell. With a story that's vivid in its darkness, we're welcomed into a world that's deceiving, sinister and nearly impossible to escape. 

I have to admit that with little to no hype surrounding The Violet Hour at all, I was wary when I started this novel. Though the premise is entirely my cup of tea, with horror, we always run the risk of reading a novel that becomes a bit trite and cliche. I was, however, extremely pleased with the setup that Ms. Miller offered her readers. With themes and settings within a cult, we're automatically whisked into a world that's darker and more mysterious than our own. The mysteries, however, stem from the delusions created by the cult mentality which, in all their darkness, are rich and fascinating, even as we're certain of their darkness and hidden agendas.

The Violet Hour gives us a taste of many things without inundating us with just one. Instead of bottle-necking itself into the horror genre alone, we're given a mix of elements including science-fiction and light teen romance that add a depth to an already multifaceted story. Harlow was an intriguing character to follow. On the surface, she seemed a bit schizophrenic, plagued by bloody visions that nobody else could hear or see. The fact that these voices and visions are driving her to kill, too, make her a character that is both easy to love and terrifying to love. On the one hand, we pity her situation. On the other hand, however, we fear the moment her psyche folds under the pressure of holding up her public persona at all times.

The novel starts out slower than I might have hoped, as Ms. Miller offers us a full setup, which I'll admit I was thankful for in the end. However, rather than interspersing the details throughout the meat of the novel, we're given a full account and backstory that makes the beginning of the novel a bit of a slower pace. However, once The Violet Hour gets going, we're whisked into a world that's as haunting as it is tangible. The book doesn't shy away from violence and other horror elements. It embraces them and allows the blood to spill over onto the pages, terrifying and real. It's the type of book that you can't put down - both for fear of not knowing what's going to happen next...and knowing what might.

Overall, I was quite surprised by both the originality and complexity of The Violet Hour. The novel isn't without flaws, but it's entertaining in the most gruesome and powerful way, as well. Written with a great, fresh prose, it's a book that will grow on fans of the genre and, likely, beyond. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy horror, science-fiction and cult stories.

I received this book free of charge from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


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Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington Review

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Title: Liv, Forever
Author: Amy Talkington (Twitter)
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publish Date: March 11, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Mystery
Pages: 280
Source: Publisher

When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier. For the first time ever, she has her own studio, her own supply of paints. Everything she could want.

Then she meets Malcolm Astor, a legacy student, a fellow artist, and the one person who’s ever been able to melt her defenses. Liv’s only friend at Wickham, fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols, warns her not to get involved, but life is finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy the ride.

But Liv’s bliss is doomed. Weeks after arriving, she is viciously murdered and, in death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that has claimed many lives. Cursed with the ability to see the many ghosts on Wickham’s campus, Gabe is now Liv’s only link to the world of the living. To Malcolm.
Liv, Forever is the perfect example of a novel that should, but doesn't, have a lot of hype surrounding it. I first fell in love with the cover of the book months ago, but the cover pales in comparison to the meat of the story, which is thrilling, dramatic, heartbreaking and beautiful. There's a certain aura about murder mysteries that often seems so very cut and dried. This singular book, however, proves that there can be so much more to such a story. Quirky and endearing, we're offered a story that's equal parts mystery and romance, giving us characters to believe in, a murder plot to unravel and a story that will easily sweep us along in its haunting embrace.

There's a subtle beauty to this story that goes hand in hand with the gothic darkness that creeps up slowly, alluring and deceiving. The fact that Ms. Talkington was able to give us a tale that's romantic, as well as dark and mysterious, tells a lot about her ability as a writer, as neither element seemed to circumvent the other. Rather, the two seemed to go hand in hand. Just when something seemed too dark, or too messy to be appropriate, the romantic interludes would creep in, giving us a beautiful, albeit sad, shoulder to rest on. As such, I think that the romance between Liv and Malcom was really well done. In some ways, I could see it as an insta-love scenario, but the connection between two very well-developed characters made it much more appropriate and tangible. Their love is what makes Liv, Forever such a masterpiece, as it seems to be that overarching storyline that gives us hope and provides us with a touch of lightness when surrounded by such despair.

Liv was a tricky character. She kept to herself, and as such, I felt like a fellow wallflower reading the novel. She knew she didn't belong at Wickham, but at the same time, she is what made the school bearable. At times, I felt as though she was too accepting of her death in the immediate tense. I would have expected far more dismay and alarm, but she seemed to take her demise in stride. Malcolm, on the other hand, felt it very deeply and, as such, I felt more drawn to his character. Though a Wickham student through and through, he had a sensitive soul that made it easy to fall for him. Likewise, Gabe offered us touches of humour, as well as a snide, derisive persona that worked well to offset the personalities of various ghosts and their agendas.

The plot of Liv, Forever was fast-paced and thrilling. Ms. Talkington gave us a depth and complexity that I'll readily admit I did not expect from such a slim novel. I was surprised and pleased to see that this story is actually multi-layered, giving us a rich, formative history that unfurls as the plot progresses, numerous secondary characters, each of whom plays a significant role in the story and a mystery that I didn't actually manage to solve by myself. Cleverly crafted, it's a novel that exudes a sense of familiarity, as these are characters that we've all known at some point in our lives, but still an air of emotional, heart-stopping, draw-dropping drama. Plus, with a love story that's fully engaged and front and center, we can't help but be completely invested.

I was really, completely surprised and pleased with Liv, Forever. It's a beautiful story that transcends the genre norms and really asks us to think and feel as we follow along Liv, Gabe and Malcolm's journey. Needless to say, it's not a story I'll soon forget. I give it a very high 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy gothic mysteries and paranormal romances.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

The Life After Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Guys, I am absolutely thrilled today to welcome Katlyn Duncan to the blog, as part of her promotional tour for her fantastic series, The Life After. I love when an author gives an insider's perspective to the characters' minds through real-life events, circumstances and nuances. In this case, Ms. Duncan shows us who our characters are through their favourite films - clever and fun! Today, we're getting to know Jamie, one of the excellent supporting characters in this enticing series.


‘The Sixth Sense’ is at the top of her list, she feels a special connection with Cole Sear since they share similar abilities…

Jamie is a spunky girl who loves to laugh so it’s no surprise that she loves comedies. But ‘Mean Girls’ holds a special place in her heart since she is far from popular in high school.

‘Labyrinth’ is a special movie to Jamie. It was one of her mother’s favorites and she watched it all the time as a kid. Her mom always wanted her imagination to be open to all experiences that life presented to her.

Jamie is a closet romantic and since she spends a lot of time by herself when her dad is working, she loves to cheer herself up with a love that she hopes to one day experience on her own.


After-life just got a lot more complicated.

Maggie is a Soul Collector. It’s her job to transport souls from the Living Realm to the After – but during a mission to find a stolen soul, she ends up stuck in a teen mean girl’s body.

Trapped, Maggie’s soul is catapulted into Ally’s life – and the human world she hasn’t experienced for one hundred years. But, as a descendant of the most powerful beings in the After, Maggie must rescue Ally before the girl’s soul dies…

To survive, Maggie must uncover devastating secrets – because with one soul taken by a terrifying enemy, Maggie’s could be next!

Life after Life

Now Maggie has been given the chance of her after-life to become a Guard, nothing will stand in her way. Not even the undeniable attraction she feels for her trainer and past love—Jackson. But when the battle between Shadowed and Guard begins again which side will she choose?

When her boss, Felix, partners Jackson and Maggie up with Ally and Cooper to investigate terrifying Shadowed activity, she doesn’t think it could get any worse. Jackson and Cooper barely tolerate each other and this time, Maggie isn’t just proving her loyalty to the Guard during one mission...she has a side mission too. One so secret and so dangerous she can’t tell a soul…
Add Soul Betrayed to Goodreads

Get a copy: Amazon US, Amazon UK, iBooks US, iBooks UK

A Life for a Life

The battle between Shadowed and Guard has brought destruction and terror to Gate Seven and now Maggie wants revenge. As the only after-life being who can save the souls from ultimate death Maggie comes face to face with her own human body, preserved for a century, waiting for just this moment to arrive.

Yet, how far will Maggie go to exact her revenge on the Shadowed? And when she comes face to face with her past, how will she survive the onslaught of memories she thought long gone?

For when the truth comes out all is not what it seems and Maggie has finally run out of time... She must choose her destiny or watch all she has perish in the fight for her life!


About Katlyn Duncan

Katlyn Duncan was born and raised in a small town in western Massachusetts. Her overactive imagination involved invisible friends, wanting to be a Disney Princess and making up her own stories. Her bibliophile mom always encouraged her love of reading and that stayed with her since. Even though she works full time in the medical field Katlyn has always made time for books, whether she is reading or writing them.

Katlyn now lives in southern Connecticut with her husband and adorable Wheaten Terrier and she is thrilled to finally share her stories with the world.


Follow Along on the Tour

Monday, February 24th – Soul Unsung 
Tuesday, February 25th – Star Shadow Blog 
Wednesday, February  26th – Polished Readers
Thursday, February 27th – Literary Nook 
Friday, February  28th – Lovely Reads
Monday, March 3rd - Lost in Ever After 
Tuesday, March 4th - Behind a Million Pages
Wednesday, March 5th - Nettes Bookshelf
Thursday, March 6th - Curling Up with a Good Book
Friday, March 7th - Book Bliss
Monday, March 10th - A Dream Within A Dream
Tuesday, March 11th - Books for Company 
Wednesday, March 12th - Supernatural Snark
Thursday, March 13th - Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, March 14th - Paranormal Book Fairy



To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter! This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Changed My Mind About a Genre

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. All you have to do is post according to the weekly topic, link up your blog, and add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists!

From the very start of my blog, I professed that contemporary fiction would never work for me. Like, ever. But I was wrong, and through the course of four years of blogging, I've realized that I've actually come to love the genre. There are a lot of books within that genre that still irk me, but that's because I've finally seen the potential that this genre has, which makes the entire contemporary realm worthwhile now. This isn't actually a topic that's been used before, but it's one that's important to, here goes.

Raw Blue epitomizes issue-based books. Powerful, gritty and real, its emotion and heart spills over onto the pages. Twenty Boy Summer might imply something sweet and frivolous, but dealing with loss, pain and grief, it teaches you about growing up and moving on. The Raft seems like a simple survival story, but is actually so much more - tackling inner demons, finding your strength and empowerment. 

Something Real has no hype, and it has a cover that doesn't do it any favours. This book, however, is a powerhouse of emotion, and I found it one of the most poignant reads in over a year. Leaving Paradise captures grief and anger in a nutshell, offering us the ability to heal through our characters. This Song Will Save Your Life gives us hope, shows us that it's okay to be different and transcends social norms.

Dark Song is dark, gritty and incredibly real, offering us a powerhouse novel about abusive relationships, growing into your own person and learning to overcome adversity. Catching Jordan represents the contemporary fiction I thought I'd hate - but done well. Giving us sweet romance, as well as well-defined characters that breathe and feel, this made me smile. Wintergirls is a hard-hitting take on life with eating disorders. Written halting and sparse, it transcends those stereotypes we all think. Some Girls Are is the first book I read on bullying, giving us characters that we don't really like, but we've all met at some time or another - teaching us to grow and move on.

Sekret by Lindsay Smith Review

Monday, February 24, 2014

Title: Sekret
Author: Lindsay Smith (Twitter)
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publish: April 1, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Thriller, Sci-Fi
Pages: 337
Source: Publisher

An empty mind is a safe mind. Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power.

Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.
Historical fiction is the type of genre that has the ability to morph into other genres, giving readers sweeping stories that are rich, imaginative, soulful and, at times, terrifying. Sekret is a perfect example of such a novel. Weaving Russian cultural history into a powerful thriller that's complete with science fiction elements, Lindsay Smith spins us a story that's original enough to keep us guessing, but still based in reality enough to ensure that we're invested in the tale from the start.

Sekret starts fast right out of the gate, thrusting us into a world of action and adventure that makes it difficult to keep up at times. However, the world created is so vivid and alive that we can't help but become utterly involved in this story of geneticists, government testing, psychic abilities, spies and drama. The beauty of the storyline is simple though. Ms. Smith takes those historical elements that we might recall from school - characters like Gagarin and Khrushchev - and breathes new life into them. Animated and alive, these characters interact with those in the book, seamlessly merging fact and fiction and, often times, making us question what's real and what really isn't. Perhaps even more challenging and well-executed, however, was the author's ability to pain America as the enemy, simply by convincing us so well of all the circumstances in Soviet Russia.

Yulia was a fantastic character to follow. In a novel that might have otherwise been tricky to relate to, we're presented with a strong, level-headed heroine that is more than capable of taking care of herself. It's rare to see a character fully capable of taking care of herself, but in Sekret, we watch as Yulia never strays from her convictions, always puts family first and relies heavily upon her common sense and wisdom gained through life. In many ways, she read like an old soul, and it was a pleasure to really get to know her through the novel.

I will, however, say that I think the love triangle within Sekret actually hurt the novel. I understood the setup behind it, but I also thing that it was somewhat unnecessary. This is the type of story in which one love arc, if any, might be necessary, if only to add a little extra heart and compassion into a dramatic story. It felt a bit out of place and, if I'm entirely honest, it didn't feel nearly developed enough to be completely necessary. Furthermore, I do wish that, at times, action and espionage elements of the story were more fleshed out. We're given an incredibly imaginative and powerful backdrop, and I wanted a little extra oompf from the action, as well.

Overall though, I quite enjoyed Sekret, despite a few hiccups along the way. I appreciate the fact that Ms. Smith treats us as smart readers and doesn't dumb things down for us - a rarity in historical fiction. I give this book a high 3.5 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy historical fiction, science fiction and thrillers.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Author & Series Spotlight: Tim Mettey and The Hero Chronicles

Saturday, February 22, 2014

For those of you that follow my blog often, you'll know that I love books that have a purpose and a meaning behind them. Much the same, I greatly appreciate when authors and writers use their talents to further a deeper purpose or cause, which is why Secrets, by Tim Mettey, speaks to me. Tales of drama, redemption, heroism and the natural strength within us all, this is a must-read series that truly serves a greater cause. 


Tim Mettey serves as CEO and Disaster Relief Coordinator at Matthew 25: Ministries, an international humanitarian and disaster relief organization. Tim uses his many experiences and expertise in responding to disasters around the world to set the background for his The Hero Chronicle series. Tim struggles with and has overcome his learning disabilities with reading and writing to create this series, and hopes his journey can be an inspiration to others. He says, “Our disabilities do not define who we are, they make us stronger.”

Two books are currently available in The Hero Chronicles series, Secrets and Trust. Visit Amazon to download the books today!

The series starts out with Secrets in which the Midwest lies in complete ruins after a catastrophic disaster kills tens of thousands and leaves hundreds of thousands injured. Nicholas Keller emerges out of the devastation as a shining light of hope for all. But his newfound fame comes with a price that his aunt will not let him pay. They flee into the shadows in order to protect his secret. As Nicholas begins his sophomore year at his fifth school in five years, strange and unexpected things begin to happen. He soon tumbles into a web of doomed love, extraordinary talents and a secret past, which threatens the lives of everyone he cares about. It's up to Nicholas to confront the truth, even if it means his own death.

Continue the story of Nicholas Keller in Trust as he comes to terms with his Thusian heritage and has finally achieved some normalcy in his life. But when new neighbors move in next door at the beginning of his junior year, everything changes. He is launched into an impossible search, uncertain of who to trust, and this time it’s not just his own life that hangs in the balance—it’s the lives of countless others and everyone he loves.

Stay tuned for the release of book 3 in The Hero Chronicles on October 10, 2014!

All proceeds from the sale of The Hero Chronicles will go towards the ongoing work and programs of Matthew 25: Ministries, serving the poorest of the poor throughout the world. Please visit for more information on Matthew 25: Ministries' humanitarian aid and disaster relief work.

Mid-Series Cover Redesigns

Friday, February 21, 2014

I am a huge sucker for a stunning book cover. I've  never made any sort of claim otherwise. In fact, if we're being honest, I'm a cover slut - pure and simple. Capture me with a good cover on the shelves, and I'm almost guaranteed to read the book because, yes, I am that shallow. So, you can imagine my state of mind then when I see that some of the book covers I absolutely loved at first were receiving mid-series cover redesigns. 

Here's the thing...I get it.

I totally understand the need for redesigns. It refreshes things, breathes new life into something stale and pretty much always bumps the book back into the spotlight. These are all great things. However, for OCD fans like me, I generally like my books to match, which means I then need to purchase all the new covers, of course. Here are some of the most dramatic cover shifts I've seen in the past few years:

Shatter Me Series by Tahereh Mafi

This is actually an example of a mid-series redesign that actually worked for me. I remember discussing with Jenny when the book first came out that we were sick of pretty girls in dresses, especially when they really had no relevance to the story at all. Don't get me wrong...that original cover was stunning and sparkly, but I think the cohesiveness of the redesign really amped things up, and it really makes a statement.

The Cahill Witch Chronicles by Jessica Spotswood

This is an example of a mid-series redesign that left me feeling a little bit cheated. I remember when I first saw the cover for Born Wicked, and it took my breath away. It has such a beautiful, vintage, haunting feel, and it really leaves a lasting impression. So, you can imagine my surprise, when I saw that the redesign was a lot more generic, shall we say. That's not to say these new covers aren't pretty, but they definitely don't leave that wow factor in my mind.

The Ashes Trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick

Again, here's an example of a redesign that actually worked for me. Ms. Bick is an excellent, atmospheric, powerful writer that evokes fear and emotion with every single word of her books. That first iteration of Ashes, however, did not do her all. I love the look of the books now; the font, the darkness and all the colours mesh well, and I'm glad to see a more modern, exciting take on this series.

The Delirium Series by Lauren Oliver

I wasn't particularly in love with the first cover for Delirium, but I did love the font, and I really loved the fact that it was different than most of the books I had on my shelf. When the series switched over to the faces on the cover, I have to admit that I thought the change was pretty lackluster at best. In the scheme of things, this change was not all that original, and I'm not sure it stands the test of time either.

There are tons of redesigns out there.

Heck, some of these redesigns are absolutely necessary. Some of them, however, leave me a little perplexed. Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, for example, turned into something I barely recognized. Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series is completely transformed, as well. Some them work, some of them don't. I'll never stop being entertained (and sometimes perplexed) by all these changes though. What do you guys think of mid-series cover redesigns?

The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michelle Madow Review

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Title: The Secret Diamond Sisters
Author: Michelle Madow (Twitter)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: February 25, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 382
Source: Publisher

Savannah. Courtney. Peyton. The three sisters grew up not knowing their father and not quite catching a break. But it looks like their luck is about to change when they find out the secret identity of their long-lost dad—a billionaire Las Vegas hotel owner who wants them to come live in a gorgeous penthouse hotel suite.

Suddenly the Strip's most exclusive clubs are all-access, and with an unlimited credit card each, it should be easier than ever to fit right in. But in a town full of secrets and illusion, fitting in is nothing compared to finding out the truth about their past.
The Secret Diamond Sisters is a novel packed to the brim with luxury, opulence and greed, all bound tightly together with a thin veil of discord that's both alluring and addictive to readers. It's an age-old story of the haves and the have-nots, offering readers the inside scoop on three sisters forced to learn to live in a life of luxury in a heartbeat, having always before lived modestly and without their father. With a very Gossip Girl-esque vibe, we're privy to the most exclusive clubs, restaurants and shops that Las Vegas has to offer - along with the unlimited drama that naturally goes hand-in-hand with it. 

Our three protagonists, Savannah, Courtney and Peyton couldn't be more different, and this offers a unique perspective into three different takes on their rags-to-riches story. Courtney was, largely, the most level-headed of the three sisters. Studious and smart, she offers readers a bit of a respite in the largely chaotic backdrop of the novel, which is much needed and much appreciated. Of the three, she felt the most normal and familiar to me, which made things a lot easier. Savannah was the most naive of the three, which was both a strength and hindrance to the novel. Her persona allowed us access and insight into how such a transformation might affect one who's personality is still developing. At the same time, however, it felt a bit cloying and suffocating at times, as well. Peyton was the resident badass of the three. Everything she did was meant to be rebellious and to anger her father, though I must say that her efforts felt weak and fell flat for much of the novel.

While much of The Secret Diamond Sisters provides a fun and brainless escape for readers everywhere, there is also a delicate undertone of issues such as alcoholism, excess and greed. I feel that, if explored more in upcoming installments, this could be a strong asset to the novel and the series as a whole. For the time being though, we're given a plot that is rife with drama, tension and intrigue, which seems to never stop - fitting in the city that never sleeps. On the flip side, however, there was an air of pettiness, which often overshadowed the story. I enjoy a good rags-to-riches tale as much as the next person, but I want to have a firm grasp on the characters and their motives all the while. At times, I felt as though the characters that drove the plot were mere stereotypes of themselves, and I longed for a bit more depth.

It must be said, too, that there were some unsettling elements of The Secret Diamond Sisters. For example, Savannah, in her naivety, almost convinced herself to go too far with a guy, simply because she saw  how upset he was when she stopped him. Bear in mind that this is a young, 15-year-old character. It's hardly a message or feeling that I want to see broadcast anywhere. Furthermore, there is excessive underage drinking throughout the novel that is actually condoned by their father, so long as they don't overdo it. This is not uncommon in glitzy stories like this, but it felt stifling at times.

Overall, if you're looking for an engaging and entertaining whirlwind, The Secret Diamond Sisters will probably be the perfect novel for you. It won't teach you deep life lessons, but you will be sucked into a world that, let's be honest, we've all wished for at one time or another. I give it a high 3.5 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: Lark Rising

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Title: Lark Rising
Author: Sandra Waugh (Twitter)
Publisher: Random House BYR
Publish Date: September 23, 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 400

Lark has foreseen two things—she will fall for a young man with sage green eyes,and he will kill her. Sixteen-year-old Lark Carew is happiest close to home, tending her garden and gathering herbs for medicines. But when her Sight warns her that monsters called Troths will soon invade her village, Lark is summoned on a journey to seek help from the legendary Riders of Tarnec.

Little does she suspect that one of the Riders, Gharain, is the very man who has haunted her visions. Or that the people of Tarnec have called her there for another reason: Lark is the Guardian of Life, the first of four Guardians who must awaken their powers to recover four stolen amulets. Together, the amulets—Life, Death, Dark, and Light—keep the world in Balance. To take back the Life amulet, Lark will have to discover her true inner strength and give in to a love that she swears will be her downfall.
It's been a good long while since I read a legitimate high fantasy novel, and I must say that Lark Rising sounds exactly like the perfect book to get me back in the saddle. I love learning about new worlds, new cultures, new places and characters that are so vastly different from the people we see every day, and this seems like it will offer all that and more. With an element of drama and seemingly insatiable plot, you'd better believe I'm sold! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

The Truth About Giving Negative Reviews

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I received an email the other day asking me how I handle bad reviews, and it's not the first email I've received that question. I actually like hearing it because I think that it shows readers aren't simply giving trigger-pull responses to the books they read, but rather taking the time to accurately assess what is and isn't working for them in the novels they read. 

I absolutely never take pleasure in giving bad reviews. As an aspiring author, it pulls at my heartstrings to tell a writer that their book simply didn't work for me, but it happens. For example, back in 2010, I was on tour for Bumped by Megan McCafferty - a favourite author of mine. This book was so hyped in the world of dystopians that I was certain I'd love it, but I ended up barely making it through. Since I was going to feature an author interview, I spoke with Ms. McCafferty ahead of time, and we ended up focusing the interview around those issues I had with the book. It was probably the most insightful interview I've ever featured, and it convinced me that someday I should read the book the book again.

^^^ Just a few of the books I've given negative reviews in the past 4 years.

Some of the most major drama and conflict in the book blogosphere the past couple years has revolved around reviews, Goodreads and how we, as bloggers, actually impact the sale of books - if at all. Here's the thing though, I think that we do, and we need to take the time to truly watch our words and post reviews that are thoughtful, insightful and honest - even if that means a negative review. Here are the five things I focus on when writing a negative review.

1. Why didn't the book work for you?  By sitting back and taking the time to identify the exact elements of the story that didn't work for me, I'm able to give a comprehensive and thorough overview of what didn't work for me in the novel. In doing so, I'm able to show other readers what might and might not work for them.

2. Do I have any sort of bias that is affecting my review? Let's be honest here. This does happen, whether we want to admit it or not. Writing a clear, honest and insightful negative review means putting aside all biases and taking the high road.

3. What is your ratio of opinion to fact in your review? I've found over time that it needs to be a delicate balance of the two, or your negative review is skewed in the general direction of pettiness. When writing a negative review, only after assessing the elements that were flawed to I feel the right to insert my opinion.

4. Are your assertions backed by elements of the story? If I were to write a negative review but provide no context for it, it would seem like an awfully one-sided review. To make sure that my negative review makes sense and offers truth, I make certain to provide examples and reasoning for each assertion that I make.

5. Are you being fair with your review? I truly believe there is merit to a good negative review. It provides balance and insight, and it also helps readers differentiate between what does and doesn't work for them. Writing a negative review, however, requires a delicate touch of honesty and fairness. Never do I want to cross a line of sarcasm and pettiness in a negative review, or I only serve to compromise my own reviewing integrity.

I am absolutely no expert on book reviewing, but I do believe there is something to be said for writing the negative reviews and calling out the difference between the good, bad and great novels out there. At the end of the day, it's our opinion, but I'd rather my opinion be taken serious than as something petty and malicious.

Do you write negative reviews? What is your take on writing them, or how do you go about writing a good negative review?

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski Review

Monday, February 17, 2014

Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkowski (Twitter)
Publisher: FSG BYR
Publish Date: March 4, 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
The Winner's Curse is, perhaps, one of the most highly anticipated and touted books of the spring season around the blogosphere. And, with a stunning cover and an addictingly promising premise, how could it not be? Time and again though, we've sen this recipe for success fail, and I've kept my guard up and my extreme reservations close to the vest until I finally reached to pick up this novel. I am so excited to say that this novel defied even my reservations and is sure to be on the list of many a blogger's favorite books of this season. Rich, imaginative, colourful and wholly inviting, this novel is not only gorgeous to look at - but also gorgeous to read. 

The world within the pages of The Winner's Curse is utterly unique and original. Readers are offered a story that evokes images of a sort of historical fantasy novel, complete with generals, war heroes and slaves. However, the novel isn't exactly inspired by a specific historical time period, which makes it even more so unique. The pages spin a world that is expertly realized and comes to fruition, giving us a sort of remained sort of history that is both accessible and haunting, if only because it offers us tidbits of the familiar, as well. From the start, we're drawn into a world that is so hauntingly realistic and mesmerizing, that it's easy to forget reality and simply accept the world within the pages as our own.

The characters of The Winner's Curse well deserve the spotlight, and it's easy to access and empathize with our heroine, Kestrel. There is an innocence about Kestrel that makes her endearing, if only because it reminds us of our own humanity, as well. A general's daughter, she has two choices: join the army, or marry. Neither appeals to her, and when she finds a slave up for auction with whom she feels an innate bond, she buys him. I was wary of her though, because too often we receive self-entitled characters who are headstrong without a semblance of common sense. Kestrel, however, is observant, thoughtful and painstakingly honest, which makes it easy to relate to and bond with her. It must be said, too, that the supporting characters each play a strong and vivid role in the novel, and none seemed remotely superfluous.

One of the things about The Winner's Curse that I was most appreciative was the fact that the romance blooms slowly and carefully, unfurling like the petals of a rose. We learn about our characters before we learn about the bond between them, and we understand their motives and vulnerabilities before we see them find a common ground. Arin was a powerful character, but he was created with a careful, steady hand. There is a deep, aching pain that emanates from his being, as well as a subtle air of anger and resentment from his situation, but it's all very real, which makes the relationship between Kestrel and Arin that much stronger. 

Though I felt that the setup of The Winner's Curse took time at the start, the novel picks up speed toward the latter half, and we're offered a painstakingly beautiful novel that will inevitably have your heart in the end, as well. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy historical fantasy and well-crafted world building.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Books I'd LOVE to Have Sequels

Friday, February 14, 2014

In honour of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd do just a little bitty feature, sharing those books I've read recently (or ever) that I'd absolutely love to have sequels. You know those books that just speak to your soul from the start, then crush it with abandon, only to end after a mere 350 pages? Yes, those books. There is something to absolutely love within all these books, and I'll hold out hope until the end of time.

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Coincidentally enough, I discovered that it's getting a companion novel in September 2014…I, quite literally, accosted Ms. McGinnis on Twitter about my oblivion and my excitement. 

The following three novels all had a significant impact on me. One was read in my youth, but I've longed to know more since then. Another was read only a few years ago, but I'd give my left foot to see the story continued and given true, final closure. The third simply remains on my shelf through thick and thin. I can't tell you the number of times I've imagined another installment and another ending to the story. I know that ship has sailed, but I can't help but want more to this day.

The Last Silk Dress by Ann Rinaldi
This book has a clear and definitive ending, but it's also open-ended in terms of Susan's story. I'd love to have a chance to see whether this Southern girl truly braved the North.

Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
Carly is broken when we first meet her, and we slowly but surely watch as she begins to heal. We don't see her fully healed though, and selfish me wants more.

Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle
I'm crazy because this is a Biblical retelling, and we all know how Noah's Ark ended. But seriously? Who wouldn't want to know whether Sandy and Dennis got over Yalith, or if Adnarel really saved Yalith in the end?

Reading, for me, is all about love. I fall in love with the characters, with the story, with the author's writing style; I have a love affair with books every single day. And no, I'm not ashamed of it. What books would you love to see have a sequel?

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher Review

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Title: The Killing Woods
Author: Lucy Christopher (Twitter)
Publisher: Chicken House
Publish Date: October 3, 2013
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 369
Source: Publisher

Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary, the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark.

A new psychological thriller from the award-winning and bestselling author of STOLEN and FLYAWAY.
There will never be enough mysteries and thrillers written to completely satiate my appetite. I know this, yet when a book like The Killing Woods comes along, I hesitate for a moment and wonder if all others should simply take note of the way the mystery is set up and plays out within the pages of the novel. This book is atmospheric, tangible and inescapable in the best possible way, and I'm thrilled that this is my first introduction to Lucy Christopher's writing. She's crafted a story that's mesmerizing and haunting, but also so incredibly captivating that you simple don't want to put it down for fear of missing a piece of the puzzle that is so expertly crafted. 

Usually, I shy away from novels with two narrators, but I enjoy how Ms. Christopher did it within the pages of The Killing Woods. Both narrators, Emily and Damon Hillary, had such vastly different viewpoints that it made easy to both distinguish the two and side with one of them. And yet, while making Damon's viewpoint angry, confused, lost and vengeful, we find a sort of catharsis in him. He's so broken, and his heartless ways, at times, simply exude the depth of loss that he feels, which makes us almost relate to him more. Emily, too, felt a sort of confusion and anger over the circumstances, as well as an intense desire to discover what really happened that night and whether she'll ever be able to return to normalcy again. I must say that, of the two narrators, I much preferred Emily - perhaps because I could understand her emotions more, while Damon's felt a bit jaded and angry.

It must also be said that The Killing Woods is written so eloquently that some of the settings, including Darkwood, the location of Ashlee's murder, come alive. The words leap from the page with a biting sort of reality, dark and brooding. Rather than simply telling us about this world of darkness, we're invited in to explore it, sense it and understand it better ourselves, and there is such an innate power in Ms. Christopher's descriptions that we can't help desire to unravel this expertly crafted mystery ourselves - if it means we can stay in the world a little longer. 

If I had one qualm with the novel, it was that I felt there was a bit too much convenience thrown about the novel here and there. For the most part, the mystery and its devices were set up well, and immersed carefully throughout the story. However, at times, I felt that this beautifully-crafted mystery story was overshadowed by the convenience of a clue or two, which made me feel a bit slighted, and would remove me a bit from the story. 

Overall though, I quite enjoyed The Killing Woods, and I must say that Ms. Christopher's writing style is enough to keep me invested in her writing for years to come. I give this one a 4 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy a good mystery and suspense story with strong characterization and plot devices. 

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: Far From You

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Title: Far From You
Author: Tess Sharpe (Twitter)
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publish Date: April 8, 2014
Genre: YA, Mystery
Pages: 384

Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice. The first time, she's fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that'll take years to kick.

The second time, she's seventeen, and it's no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina's murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina's brother won't speak to her, her parents fear she'll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina's murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared
I've been on a mystery kick this year. I knew I wanted to challenge myself with contemporary novels, but I didn't know that the mystery genre would captivate me so much this year. There's something about these twists and turns that keep me up at night and keep me guessing though, and I'm excited to see the genre more prevalent than ever in YA. This sounds just dark and twisty enough to captivate me completely. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Will Make You Swoon

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. All you have to do is post according to the weekly topic, link up your blog, and add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists!

1. Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle - Love in the time of Noah's Ark? Yes, please. What's more is that this is a beautiful, pure and innocent love in which twins love the same girl but are willing to put that aside to save her from the flood.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - I swore I wouldn't be one of those girls that couldn't shut up about this book, but Hazel and Gus are the epitome of a beautiful romance. The love story between these two is epic…plain and simple.

3. Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles - Maggie and Caleb were tortured souls with stories that intertwined in the worst possible way. And yet, the connection between the two of them was enough to melt my heart completely.

4. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead - I'm not sure how to appropriately state this in words that will actually do Rose and Dimitri justice. Because let's be honest here…those two are just smoldering.

5. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar - Anyone who's read this book will understand this completely. Carly and Ryan? Perfection. Carly is broken and damaged. Ryan is patient and kind. The two of them are just beautiful and mesmerizing.

6. The Last Silk Dress by Ann Rinaldi - Susan Chilmark was a true daughter of the South. Her dashing brother taught her that there might be more to the Northern cause than she thought. And Thomas? Well, Thomas loved her, despite her Southern roots and his Yankee twang.

7. Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis - Yes, this is actually on my list. I think it's because the short but sweet romance between Eli and Lynn was just so pure and truthful that it made me swoon. Against that bleak backdrop, it soared.

8. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - Ummm if you haven't read it, you probably won't understand. Noah and Mara are so twisted and wrong and broken together, but they work. And when they work, we all swoon.

9. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - I wanted so badly to hate this book, but I just couldn't. Anna and Etienne is just magic. Plain and simple.

10. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - This is the best possible kind of romance. You know that if they reach that level, it will mean passion and drama and love. Echo and Noah don't disappoint, and this story makes me swoon every time.

Mini Review: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston

Monday, February 10, 2014

Title: Frozen
Authors: Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publish Date: September 17, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Fantasy
Pages: 336
Source: Personal Copy

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.
I spent a long time contemplating whether I should actually review Frozen because, while it is the type of book that should work for me, I really actually struggled with it from the start. I'm a big fan of post-apocalyptic dystopians that take the time to set up proper world-building and give us a an actual baseline for the story to follow. However, this book throws us into a world of melee and dysfunction without a true glimpse as to why the world is so broken, as well as why society is so plagued by the demons it faces today. Without any exaggeration, Frozen gives readers nymphs, darkens, polar bears, zombies and more - all in a barren icy wasteland in which, somehow, some of our characters seem to bear enough wealth to drive luxury vehicles and own boats. 

My issue with these contradictions, as well as the overabundance of fantasy elements in what could have been a plausible dystopian definitely weighed heavily on me from the start. While I was already struggling with the plot elements, we're thrust further into a novel that is plagued with excessive run-on sentences that made it really hard for me to actually get invested in the story. I understand stylistic writing, however, this actually made the novel quite difficult to read. It actually managed to throw off the pacing of the novel, which might have otherwise worked well for me. 

While I can certainly appreciate the lengths to which the authors went to make an original dystopian novel and cross it with fantasy, I really struggled to feel any sort of emotion or connection with the characters, and I honestly felt as though there was just too much happening to ever garner an inkling of a connection with Nat and, by association, Nat and Wes's romance. I think that, had we been given a few less fantasy elements and a few more moments of sincere character-building, I might have ended up liking this one, but I honestly felt too overwhelmed by the haphazard nature of the world of Frozen to feel any real emotion towards it in the end.

Overall, Frozen was, unfortunately, just not the book for me. Now, I've seen the reviews, and I see that a lot of readers actually enjoyed the book, so maybe I'm missing something here. I'd love to hear what others read in it that I missed because I really did want to enjoy it. I give it a 2 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy dystopian and post-apocalyptic fantasy.


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