Review: “Of Poseidon” by Anna Banks

Of Poseidon (Of Poseidon #1) by Anna Banks

Goodreads | Amazon

Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen’s not fully convinced that Emma’s the one he’s been looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves  that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help–no matter what the risk.

4 1/2 stars

You know, there was a day when I swore I would never hop onto the mermaid trend. I mean, I’m a Disney girl through and through but I never even really liked The Little Mermaid. But I kept seeing my blogger friends everywhere loving it, so some force unknown it to me caused me to buy it.

And boy am I so glad that I did.

You know how I knew Emma and I were going to be best friends? On page one, she describes herself as being as clumsy as an “intoxicated walrus.” Those of you who are unfortunate enough to know me in person know that SO AM I. Add clumsiness, coupled great personality and snark, and I was hooked on Emma before the story even really started.

And then the story STARTED. With a shark attack.

To be fair, the rest of the novel didn’t really have that level of action at all, but it certainly had enough to invest me into the story. I did feel like the ramifications of the shark attack were dealt with too quickly, but I can at least understand the reasoning.

Despite a promising beginning and an instant connection with Emma, I wasn’t as quick to catch onto Galen, his sister and his sister’s husband. His sister came off as too bratty for too long before getting some depth, and her husband just wasn’t given a chance to shine despite definite star quality. I honestly can’t tell if I didn’t like Galen for characterization reasons or the POV drama that was going on.

See, for starts, the book itself is written entirely in present tense. That’s a difference in and of itself. But then the chapters, which switched back and forth between Galen and Emma’s POV, switched back and forth between first person present (Emma) and third person present (Galen). For the first couple of chapters especially, that was ridiculously jarring.

Yeah, yeah, I know, this is a four and a half star review and I’m sounding overly critical, right? What made me rate it so highly then?

For starters, Emma. Emma is hysterical and I love her and I want her as my best friend. She’s pig-headed, temperamental and has a fantastic narrator’s voice. Sure, she falls for the whole insta-love thing with Galen, but she sure is vicious when she doesn’t get her way. Despite being head over heels for Galen, she sure as heck isn’t going to let him run her life. Now that’s refreshing.

The mythology of the story is also really interesting. We got to learn so much about Banks’ merpeople without it ever feeling like an infodump, and I still wanted more. Everything from the Gifts, to the reimagining of Atlantis, Poseidon and Triton was absolutely fascinating.

Plus, there was that ending. There are endings that leave you excited for the next book and then there are ENDINGS LIKE THAT. I’m pretty sure I could sue Banks for torture and the judge would agree with me. 😉

The bottom line? This is the best book I’ve yet to read of the new mermaid trend, hands down.

The second book of this series has a title–Of Triton–but no release date as of yet.

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ARC Review: “Insignia” by SJ Kincaid

Insignia (Insignia #1) by SJ Kincaid

Goodreads | Amazon

More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.
Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test, and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War Three. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?
Gripping and provocative, S. J. Kincaid’s futuristic thrill ride of a debut crackles with memorable characters, tremendous wit, and a vision of the future that asks startling, timely questions about the melding of humanity and technology.

4 1/2 stars

This ARC was received via a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Thank you Goodreads and Katherine Tegen Books! You can get a copy of your own on July 10, 2012.

You know those books that you never want to end because you’re having so much fun?

This is one of those books.

In all honesty, when I won this off Goodreads I wasn’t sure what to think. I certainly wasn’t dying to read this book by any means, but I figured it would be a neat present to give my brother. However, because I’m a good girl and I totally enjoy the opportunity First Reads gives people, I knew that I HAD to at least try to read and review it.

I am SO GLAD I did.

I don’t usually read books with 14-year-old male main characters. Usually I find them annoying as the species themselves. 😉 However, Kincaid brings Tom to life with fantastic ability. I feel his adolescent pain and really get to know how he ticks. Whereas sometimes I feel YA/middle grade books can present caricatures of adolescent life, Kincaid brought forward a REAL fourteen year old boy.

And it wasn’t just Tom, either. All his friends, from his best friend Vik to loner girl genius Wyatt were just fantastic. All the dialogue, the reactions and the jokes were spot on for the age range and wonderfully written. Plus, the humor wasn’t tired or cliché. I literally doubled over laughing in places, remembering the ridiculous jokes that I had as a kid. I want to throw around more adjectives, but I’ll bottom line with: characters in Insignia = perfect.

I was also impressed with Kincaid’s world building. There was a LOT going on, and you can tell that every facet is thought out. I could almost picture the new world map. The new governmental structure, the whole fight–it’s a wild concept, but it all had concrete “facts” to make sense of it. Yes, in places it felt a little bit like an info dump, but Kincaid usually managed to dole out the finite details in manageable doses. I could not find one hole in the extensive explanation.

I also really loved how the plot kept moving. There was plenty of action and suspense, all written excellently. This was also one of the few books were I looked forward to the slow downs, too, because Tom and his friends were just so fantastic when they were simply hanging out. I mean, a whole chapter where they run around trying to put virus in each other’s heads and Wyatt ends up making them all impersonate sheep? Pretty irrelevant to the larger plot, but MAN that was FANTASTIC.

To be sure, there were a few things that I found a little farfetched, such as Tom’s friendship/courtship of a certain enemy who shall remain nameless to avert spoilers. It just didn’t make sense as a thing that would legitimately happen. Also, while I enjoyed the range of bad guys and the fact that there was really no black and white where they were concerned, I felt that we weren’t given enough time with the “bad guy” at the end, or even proof of something that would make him act the way he did. I also had to wonder why a few characters, such as Heather, were even there.

All in all, I really enjoyed Insignia the whole way through. It was one of those books where I just sat back and allowed myself to enjoy the ride. I am still certainly going to let my brother read it, but now he HAS to give it back. This is one that I’ll enjoy rereading when I need a laugh and some excitement.

ARC Review: “Pushing the Limits” by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Goodreads | Amazon

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

4.5 stars

This review is of an ARC received from NetGalley and HarlequinTeen. You can get a copy for yourself July 24, 2012.

I should probably mention that I don’t usually read contemps. I mean, with how I feel about romance and insta-love and yadda yadda, I’d at least like to have some fantastical elements to keep the action going so *I* can keep going. However, Pushing the Limits?

This I finished in one night. And then promptly added to my Goodreads favorites shelf. And it was my brother’s 16 birthday to boot.

The thing about this book is that it’s not JUST about romance. The issues that Echo is dealing with (those scares came from something her mother was involved in, she’s worried she’s bipolar AND her father is expecting a baby with the twenty-something woman he replaced her mother with. Who was once Echo’s babysitter, no less.) and the issues that Noah are dealing with (he’s in the foster system, separated from his two younger brothers, trying to reunite his family) are REAL. They are important. They are powerful. And, hey, if they happen to fall in love on the way, that’s cool too.

Originally, I wasn’t very happy with Echo. She was letting her father and everyone else really control her life and molding her into something she really didn’t want to be. The important thing, though, is that this is just another part of the story. McGarry recognizes the problem and then makes sure Echo DEALS with it instead of being a simpering, inactive female lead the whole time.

Noah, too, started out as your typical, cliché, slacker-pot smoker. Then you add the layer of his parents death and his brothers and suddenly he, too, becomes a three-dimensional character. I’ve enjoyed contemps with male leads who were just the typical, but Noah brought this book to a whole other level.

Sure, to like this book, you’ve got to like drama. You have to be cool with a lot of crying, teenage freaking out and–yes–some teenage school drama. But what I loved is that, for once, even the school drama really got me. After all, I can only imagine how much courage it took for Echo to walk into the cafeteria of her school with her scars bared.

In points, it does get a bit preachy, but I let it slide. I was actually shocked at how it was NOAH’s ending scene with his brothers that made me tear up a little bit. Usually I empathize with the girl because the guy doesn’t really have much going for him. I loved the switch.

Pushing the Limits was almost like a YA Nicholas Sparks book. Only better, because it had a happy ending. It was a book with a message that KNEW it had a message, but I also could still feel the power coming off the pages. I am way too much excited for the companion novel McGarry is writing, and this one isn’t even out yet.

The bottom line: If you are a contemporary YA lover, you NEED to read this. Even if you aren’t, like me, I absolutely recommend that you give this a try.