Blog Tour: “My Ex from Hell” by Tellulah Darling – Review + Giveaway!

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Welcome to the My Ex from Hell blog tour hosted by Xpresso Reads! I’m super excited to tell you guys about this book and the giveaway, so let’s get started by introducing the author!

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Blog Tour: “By Blood” by Tracy E. Banghart – Review + Giveaway!

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Welcome to the By Blood Blog Tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours! I know you’re excited to get to all the goodies I have in store for you, so let’s get started!

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ARC Review: “The Chaos of Stars” by Kiersten White

The Chaos of StarsThe Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Goodreads | Amazon

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for this eARC! This title will be released September 10th, 2013.

When I saw that Kiersten was writing a book with an Egyptian theme, I nearly died of happiness. I am a HUGE fan of her Paranormalcy series (see here), as well as her Mind Games series (see here), so this … this just hit the spot in every right way. Well, at least the news she was writing it did. After all that, it’s not surprising that the book itself couldn’t live up to my anticipation…

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ARC Review: “Taste Test” by Kelly Fiore

Taste TestTaste Test by Kelly Fiore

Goodreads | Amazon

If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. She’s been basting baby back ribs and pulling pork at her father’s barbeque joint since she was tall enough to reach the counter. When she’s accepted to Taste Test, a reality-television teen cooking competition, Nora can’t wait to leave her humble hometown behind, even if it means saying good-bye to her dad and her best friend, Billy. Once she’s on set, run-ins with her high-society roommate and the maddeningly handsome—not to mention talented—son of a famous chef, Christian Van Lorten, mean Nora must work even harder to prove herself. But as mysterious accidents plague the kitchen arena, protecting her heart from one annoyingly charming fellow contestant in particular becomes the least of her concerns. Someone is conducting real-life eliminations, and if Nora doesn’t figure out who, she could be next to get chopped for good. 

With romance and intrigue as delectable as the winning recipes included in the story, this debut novel will be devoured by all.

Three and a half stars

Thanks to Walker Childrens and NetGalley for this eARC! This title will be released August 27th.

When I picked up this book, I did it for the quirk factor. I automatically figured that this book would be cutesy and fairly predictable, but I also thought I could really enjoy it, considering my food service background. As it turns out, I was completely right on all counts.

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ARC Review: “The Morning Star” by Robin Bridges

The Morning StarThe Morning Star (The Katerina Trilogy Volume III) by Robin Bridges

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Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to be known as a doctor, not a necromancer. But Tsar Alexander III forbids women to attend medical school; his interest in Katerina extends only to her ability to raise the dead. Twice now, Katerina has helped him by using her power to thwart the forces of darkness—vampires bent on resurrecting the lich tsar Konstantin Pavlovich so that he can take what he sees as his rightful place on the throne. Katerina thought she had bound Konstantin to the Greylands, the realm of the dead, but he has found a way out. Now he is searching for the Morning Star, a sword that will allow him to command a legion of supernatural warriors.

Katerina must find the sword before Konstantin does—and she must travel to Egypt to do so. Along the way, she puts up with unwanted attention from her former fiancé, the nefarious Prince Danilo, and struggles with her feelings for her true love, George Alexandrovich. But with the looming threat from Konstantin, Katerina’s focus remains on the sword. Russia’s fate will be determined by whoever wields the Morning Star—and delivers the final blow.

Three and a half stars

Thanks to Random House and Delacorte Books for Young Readers for this ARC! This title will be released August 27th, 2013.

WARNING: This review WILL have spoilers for volumes 1 & 2. See my reviews of The Gathering Storm and The Unfailing Light for more! Don’t forget to also check out my interview with Robin!

Well, this is it. The end of Katerina’s journey through legions of the supernatural and an (intentionally) lopsided love triangle. She has raised an army of the dead and fallen in love and fought fiercely to be allowed to be a doctor. Will Katerina get everything she desires, or will she let go of her dreams and her love for the sake of the lives of friends and family? Well, I know how this all turns out, and I was fairly pleased with the result.

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Review: “The Distance Between Us” by Kasie West

The Distance Between UsThe Distance Between Us by Kasie West

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Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

Three and a half stars

I don’t buy books often anymore, but after a bunch of bloggers I follow fell head over heels for this one–and I decided I needed a cute little pick me up–this book seemed like a good one to buy. (Also, the paperback fact. That helped.) What I found wasn’t perfect, but it was most certainly cute.

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Bibliomancy for Beginners: Review and Hangout Video for “The Innocent Mage” by Karen Miller

In our second week, Bibliomancy for Beginners tackled Karen Miller’s high fantasy novel The Innocent Mage. This was Rachel’s choice, and it was a good one! If you missed out on this week’s hangout, you can check out the video below my review. Come hang out with us next week, when we do my choice of book: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster!

The Innocent MageThe Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker #1) by Karen Miller

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Enter the kingdom of Lur, where to use magic unlawfully means death.The Doranen have ruled Lur with magic since arriving as refugees centuries ago. Theirs was a desperate flight to escape the wrath of a powerful mage who started a bitter war in their homeland. To keep Lur safe, the native Olken inhabitants agreed to abandon their own magic. Magic is now forbidden them, and any who break this law are executed.Asher left his coastal village to make his fortune. Employed in the royal stables, he soon finds himself befriended by Prince Gar and given more money and power than he’d ever dreamed possible. But the Olken have a secret; a prophecy. The Innocent Mage will save Lur from destruction and members of The Circle have dedicated themselves to preserving Olken magic until this day arrives. Unbeknownst to Asher, he has been watched closely. As the Final Days approach, his life takes a new and unexpected turn …

3 1/2 stars

Let me be straight about one thing first: I usually do not like high fantasy. I just get really, really bored with the extensive world building and background and everything that’s dropped into this book. So I’m going so say straightaway that I thought a lot of the world building and back story was really unnecessary, but I tried not to let that influence my rating of the book because I know that’s a lot of what high fantasy is about.

The book opens up with the strong personality of Asher, who leaves his small fishing village to go make money in the capital. He is an Olken, a race considered subservient to the ruling Doranen, who have magic. Within hours of entering the city, Asher rescues the Crown Prince from his bucking horse. As recompense, he is offered a job at the Crown Prince’s stables. But the Crown Prince has bigger plans for Asher, and a secret society of Olken mages called the Circle has even GREATER plans.

When this book opened up, I knew within seconds that Asher and I were going to be great friends. His sarcastic personality made the book for me, through and through. He always had the best comebacks for everything. I was a little annoyed with the heavy dialect that ran rampant throughout his dialogue, but once I muddled through that I was laughing out loud. Sadly, he was one of the only characters that I really connected with. Too many of the other characters seemed to have bipolar disorder throughout the parts of the story, or seemed flat next to Asher’s personality. I was further frustrated when Asher seemed to take a back seat as the book went on, mostly to Prince Gar. Because here’s the thing:

We were promised that Asher would become the Innocent Mage. It’s the TITLE of the book. But the only thing that is established as far as Asher and magic are concerned is that Asher HATES it. Prince Gar deals with more magic than Asher does, and Prince Gar is called a cripple because he was born without it.

As I expected it would, this book dragged on with me. It just wasn’t for the reasons I expected. I knew there would be parts that were slow for me, but there were entire characters whose entire purpose was to say “We must wait for the Prophecy to make itself known,” “We must wait,” “We must wait.” This book is 1 in a 2 part series. That means that there is now only 1 book for Asher to become the Innocent Mage, learn magic, get over his hatred of magic and save the world. Let it be known that I am asking for this to have been extended, so you know that there is more time that should have been given to this. It was also a complete let down after reading, considering the title of the book is the Innocent Mage.

In terms of plot, I found several key events to be rather thrown in there for the sake of moving the action along, especially in the beginning and the end. The middle, though, flowed quite nicely–especially since, again, Asher tended to carry this bit. Anything with Asher made my day, and continued to give me faith despite being jerked around in other corners and not liking characters in others.

All in all, this book is somewhere in between a like and a love for me. This is a really high rating on a high fantasy, coming from me. I want to lend this book to my brother and several friends because I enjoyed it so much, and I’m glad I owned it. Also, I didn’t realize had as many feels for this book until the ending happened and then I was screeching IT CAN’T END THERE IT CAN’T OHMYGOOOOOOD. I was ready to dislike this one a lot more than I did, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

Want to know more about what I and my book club think about it? Watch the video below! (This was the most impassioned discussion EVER.)

ARC Review: “The Ward” by Jordana Frankel

The WardThe Ward (The Ward #1) by Jordana Frankel

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Sixteen-year-old Ren is a daredevil mobile racer who will risk everything to survive in the Ward, what remains of a water-logged Manhattan. To save her sister, who is suffering from a deadly illness thought to be caused by years of pollution, Ren accepts a secret mission from the government: to search for a freshwater source in the Ward, with the hope of it leading to a cure.

However, she never expects that her search will lead to dangerous encounters with a passionate young scientist; a web of deceit and lies; and an earth-shattering mystery that’s lurking deep beneath the water’s rippling surface.

Jordana Frankel’s ambitious debut novel and the first in a two-book series, The Ward is arresting, cinematic, and thrilling—perfect for fans of Scott Westerfeld or Ann Aguirre.

3 1/2 stars

Thank you to Edelweiss and Katherine Tegen Books for this eARC! This book is now available.

Can you suspend your disbelief well? If so, then read on. If not … this book may not be for you.

The story starts out with a three years earlier prologue, where a 13 year old Ren is sneaking out of her orphanage to go race in her first mobile race. In this we learn that she is immune to the deadly illness that is ravaging the Ward for one reason or another, and that the Ward is actually what’s left of Manhattan  though most of it is underwater. The important points are that she shouldn’t be able to race at 13 (but she’s going to), she is “un-adoptable” because she … doesn’t like people? (I didn’t really understand that; after all she’s IMMUNE, someone’s going to notice she doesn’t get sick and she’d be the prized stallion by that alone.), she hates this girl called Aven who’s always hanging around her and she will never work for the government as a mole, informing on who’s sick in the Ward so the peacekeepers (or Blues) can come and arrest them, since being a contagious carrier of the illness is now a crime.

Cut to three years later, when Ren is now an undefeated mobile racer who was never adopted despite all her fame and fortune who loves Aven, her “sister,” more than anything else in the world, so much so that she became a mole for the Blues to keep her safe and fed.  Do you see how some disbelief could be cutting in? Ren is at once everything she said she would be and everything she said she wouldn’t be. She also looses the first and only race we see her in, because the Blues tell her to go searching for freshwater. She ends up almost dying in the attempt, but lo and behold–she finds it. Freshwater. Freshwater with powerful, secret properties.

The world-building throughout this story was rather iffy, but it never really bothered me that much. I tend to be really easy on world building as long as I can’t poke huge holes in it, and I got enough as the story went on to breeze through it really quickly. It’s just better if you don’t think about it too hard. I thought it was a really cool idea, and I just ran with it.

The plot itself was okay as well; not great, but not desperately horrible. The focus is really on Ren and her personal struggles, while connecting to the larger problem of the disease filled Ward. Though it would have been easy to find this annoying, I found that Ren’s debate over saving just Aven or the whole Ward refreshing. I think protagonists too easily accept sometimes that it is their destiny to save the entire world. Ren’s only goal was to save Aven from the sickness, and her zeal to heal the Ward stemmed from that. Her constant flip-flopping about whether it would be safer to just save Aven is also realistic and unique, and I enjoyed the fact that her character explored the possibility of saying to Hell with the rest of the world and just saving what mattered to her.

Besides Aven and Ren, however, the other characters in this story were pretty weak and verged on the stereotype. Very few had their motives explored, and their use and actions were fairly shallow. This was particularly annoying in the love interest, Derek. I much rather enjoyed Ren’s friendship with the scientist Callum, which was more real and at least made sense. Ren even liking Derek at all didn’t seem to have much of a basis. I certainly didn’t.

All in all, I’d recommend this to people looking for an unique dystopian to breeze through. Don’t come to it looking for rock solid writing, but rather for a fast-paced adventure in a unique location that asks real questions in the actions of its characters. This might not be one to buy, but if you see it at your library I strongly suggest that you give it a go.

Review: “Sweet Peril” by Wendy Higgins

Sweet PerilSweet Peril (The Sweet Trilogy #2) by Wendy Higgins

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Anna Whitt, the daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a vow. She’d been naive about a lot of things. 

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?

3 1/2 stars

WARNING: This review WILL have spoilers for the first book. Read my review of Sweet Evil if you’re interested!

Full disclosure: I was up until 2 AM reading this book because I have finally accepted that this is a guilty pleasure I’m just going to have to live with. I have also realized that the only reason I’m still reading this book is because of Kaidan.

Sweet Peril starts off at a party. Anna is working like a boss. She hasn’t talked to any of her friends since the summit, because she’s kinda still in trouble. She’s moody because Kaidan has moved to L. A. and basically fallen off the face of the planet. She gets the chance to see him at a record store signing, but he blows her off hardcore and goes off with a much older woman. When Anna shows up at home all depressed, Patti tries to have a movie night until the spirit of Sister Ruth, who died in the first book, comes to visit Anna and tell her of a prophecy of a Neph who could set everything right with the fallen angels and the Neph. That’s Anna, and that’s what the sword is for.

The whole premise of this book is iffy to begin with. Anna’s dad seems to think that Anna needs an army, and the best way to get one is to … travel around the world once every season to get one person at a time? This book covers a HUGE span of time, given that. Her first stops aren’t even to her friends either, but rather to some alcoholic daughter of Hate in Israel. Despite the huge span of time taken in the book, besides Kai, Blake, Marna, Ginger and Kope, Anna makes only two other friends. Um. That’s not an army.

The whole love triangle thing with Kope also turned me sour on Anna and Kope’s characters. It is so freaking clear that Anna is still in love with Kaidan, and she knows it. But I guess Kope’s just … there? I mean, I get that she’s hurting and everything but Anna KNOWS she loves Kaidan and Kope KNOWS Kaidan loves her and Anna does pretty much guesses that Kaidan isn’t over her. Nothing that happens between Anna and Kope makes any sense at all.

But Kaidan. Oh God Kaidan. When he was first introduced in Sweet Evil, I thought he was the epitome of the bad boy stereotype/cliche. But by this book, I’m completely buying him as a person. He’s scared and he’s trying and he’s sweet and under all that cliche there is an actual person. Though he is absent for much of the first part of the book, when he is there he redeems every part of the book for me. I don’t completely buy Anna as a character, but Kaidan? I admit it, I’m in love.

All in all, I’d say that this book is once again a victim of “middle book syndrome.” A lot of it felt like filler and character development. I zoomed through it simply to find Kai. I will say, however, that the ending certainly raised the stakes quadruple the amount they ever were in this book. Because of Kai, I put this at about par with the first one. I’m really excited for the second one for sure, though. That’s more than I ever thought this series would hook me after Sweet Evil.

ARC Review: “The Eternity Cure” by Julie Kagawa

The Enternity CureThe Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2) by Julie Kagawa

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Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and HarlequinTeen for this eARC! This title is now available.

WARNING: There WILL be spoilers for the first book! Check out my review of The Immortal Rules if you’re interested!

I went into this book knowing that nothing could be as good as the first book in this series. This is because, a, I went into a complete flail attack over The Immortal Rules and, b, second book syndrome is so rampant lately that I just couldn’t get my hopes up. So I guess,  in that way, I got exactly what I expected.

The book picks up with Allie having just been kicked out of Eden, on her way to finding Kanin. It takes a little while for it to get started, what with her just roaming the countryside and all that. Her nighttime visions of Kanin are seriously creepy, and keep the stakes up while Allie attacks dingy bars and skulks around “Old D.C.” Instead of finding Kanin, however, she first finds her old nemesis, Jackal. He has a proposition of friendship for her–and if she doesn’t accept, he’ll kill her.

Again, this book takes a little while to get started, but once the character of Jackal is introduced all is forgiven. I don’t understand how I can love him so much after what he did in the first book, but his comic relief and sarcastic personality is just the greatest thing ever. At the same time, though, he acts as a great foil for Allie’s continuing struggle with what it means to be a monster. I thought Jackal was the funniest thing ever and loved him, but I never totally trusted him not to go killing everything, and I was very impressed on how Kagawa wrote that balance.

I think my real problem with this book is that it seemed to be going backwards, both in terms of location and characters. At the end of The Immortal Rules, Allie had made it from New Covington to Eden, and the book ended with a fight with Jackal. This book starts with her leaving Eden, meeting Jackal, and then travelling with him to New Covington. The final showdown even takes place in the lab where Allie learned how to be a vampire in the first book.

Closer to the end, the characterization starts to get a little weird as well. Kanin, Allie and Jackal are extremely well done, but some other characters that crop back up seem to come back as weirdly different people. One of these people is Zeke, of course, though he is absent for the first part of the book as per the “middle book syndrome” formula. He’s similar to the Zeke from the first book, but also different, in ways that are weird since he spent time being primped and pampered in Eden. Also, some of the plot twists later made with  his character pop up as “haha gotcha” half jokes clearly just shoehorned in for the sake of the plot. The character of Stick also pops back up, and his transformation is even more severe. Half of it I get, half of it I don’t, but either way his character leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I guess I’m just frustrated with how much of this seemed like filler. In the end, I’m not sure how much was accomplished besides making Sarren even angrier and establishing Jackal as a character. Granted, I enjoy Jackal very much, but still. And then there is the matter of the ending, which…grr. I don’t understand the point of making us think someone is dead if you’re going to reverse that in the next chapter, and make THAT the last chapter of the book. Where’s the cliffhanger there? It makes the next book a little more predictable, and I’m not entirely a fan of where I think it’s going.

All in all, I demoted this one a full star from what I rated it’s predecessor, but I still really think these books are worth a read. Despite my plot problems, Jackal made this book for me, and it was still an enjoyable read. I also have complete faith that Kagawa is going to get back to her blowing-me-away style in the next and last book. I know vampires are getting a bit passe, but these are still definitely on my recommendation list.