Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











The Forever SongFrom Goodreads: VENGEANCE WILL BE HERS.

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster?

With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

MONSTER

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions—her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost—the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

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While I have thoroughly enjoyed this vampire series by Julie Kagawa, I have to admit that this final installment didn’t stand up to my expectations. Sequels and final installments are always extremely difficult to craft, and while Kagawa’s novels are always very well written, this one was just a tad too predictable and repetitive for my liking. Though action packed, I felt that every fight scene was the same as the many that came before it, with Allie slicing through rabids, getting knocked down, nearly succumbing to her enemies, and finally triumphing. After a while, these scenes became longer, more drawn out, and overly predictable.

Likewise, the truth of Zeke’s death is also predictable, and while I was glad to find I was right in my speculations, I wanted the truth to be a little more spicy—to throw me for a loop, blindside me, make me gasp. But it didn’t. Instead, the novel carries extremely depressing undertones, and with two of the main characters constantly contemplating death and wishing to no longer exist, fighting themselves and everyone else around them, I found myself feeling depressed as well. While the tasks and overall plotline of this final installment is certainly not supposed to be one of cheer, the mopiness of the characters and situations became a bit overbearing and draining as I read. It is definitely a darker tale, and the characters have much to prove and learn about themselves as they attempt to save humanity and stop a sociopathic vampire.

And yet, this novel really encompasses the idea of coming of age, facing our fears, and doing what is right, even when we know it’ll be near impossible to achieve. Though the repetitious fight scenes and predictability bogged me down a bit, I found the character’s struggles with themselves to be completely believable. Allie has grown a lot in the year since she’s become a vampire, and she’s struggled much. With the possibility of a new, even more deadly virus on the horizon, and a psychotic vampire always one step ahead of the gang, the events unfold quickly and do keep reader attention for much of the novel. Though it’s not the final installment I was expecting, I still liked it overall. Three stars.

3 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Harlequin publishers have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel prior to its release on April 15, 2014.

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17638282From Goodreads: One pint-sized girl. Ten supersized crises. And it’s high noon.

They call her “Twigs,” because she’ll never hit five feet tall. Although she was born early, and a stiff breeze could knock her over, Twigs has a mighty spirit. She needs it, as life throws a whole bucket of rotten luck at her: Dad’s an absentee drunk; Mom’s obsessed with her new deaf boyfriend (and Twigs can’t tell what they’re saying to each other). Little sister Marlee is trying to date her way through the entire high school; Twigs’ true love may be a long-distance loser after a single week away at college, and suddenly, older brother Matt is missing in Iraq. It all comes together when a couple of thugs in a drugstore aisle lash out, and Twigs must fight to save the life of the father who denied her.

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This is certainly not an uplifting book.  Going in I knew that Twigs was going to be dealing with some difficult situations, but her life keeps going from bad to worse, and I came out of the novel a bit depressed.

Personally, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, let alone like many of them. Twigs is a tiny girl, size 4’9.  I’m 5’1, so we’re close in height and I understood a lot of the angst that she felt about her size and how people referred to her size all the time.  The fact that she also has a baby face and is mistaken to be a child on multiple occasions is also something I experienced a lot at her age, though I never lashed out as Twigs does because it didn’t bother me as much as it bothers her, so I didn’t understand that part, I guess.  I feel like, in retrospect, that was her way of coping with everything else that was going on in her life, fighting back about her size since she couldn’t fight back against anything else, but even so, it’s not something I could personally connect with. I’ve also never lived through the hellish nightmare she does, so I think that may be why I don’t connect on the same level about the height issue, etc.

I have no respect for anyone in Twigs’ family, least of all her mother who sleeps around all the time, neglects Twigs (but not the other children), and keeps secrets.  Every time she came into a scene, my stomach recoiled because she’s an all around terrible person, and I don’t care if she tells Twigs how much she loves her in the end, or not.  Words can’t undo all the damage she’s done to Twigs’ psyche, and I have no love for her.

Twigs’ father is another lowlife.  Drunk or not, you don’t run out on your kid because of something that isn’t her fault, that she never had any control over.  It takes a while, but once readers get to the point where Twigs’ mother finally reveals the reason dad left in the first place, well, it’s stupid, especially as he blames Twigs and it’s not her fault in the least.  I’m sure, as you read, you realize that the dad Twigs has been idolizing has been extremely two-faced, and there is no excuse for his reactions towards Twigs, although everyone seems to think there is, which really irked me as I read.

Marlee wasn’t my favorite for sisters, either, but on the plus side, I didn’t note her trying to date the entire high school.  There seems to be only one man in her life, and the relationship seems quite strong, so I was confused as to what the synopsis was originally talking about here.  Maybe I missed something early on in the novel.  Perhaps?

Basically, Twigs has to deal with some terrible things in her life, and nothing has been easy for her.  Watching her go through crisis after crisis was difficult, and I’m glad she’s strong, but she also needs a break.  Thankfully, that seems to come in the form of crazy Helen and Coop, a boy from college, but not enough time was spent on either of those characters for my liking.  I don’t mind a true to life story, but I also need some more uplifting pieces along the way to keep my sanity.

While some of the events in the novel didn’t seem real to me, I’ve never been in any of the situations that Twigs finds herself in, so I’m not able to make a judgment call on them. This novel doesn’t have much in it in terms of happiness, though, and it created a gloomy mood for me as I read.  I have to pick up something a little lighter with a happy ending, I think, to counteract it.  Two stars.

2 starsF+W/Adams Media has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its official release on September 18, 2013.



17182421From Goodreads: Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time … Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

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I really wanted to like this novel, but it’s rather depressing and, truth be told, I never really made a connection with the characters.  This is a very finely written piece, don’t get me wrong, but my questions were never answered. Why the returned come, what their purpose is, where they go when they disappear… I just don’t know, and that was the main reason I picked up this novel; I wanted to know.

Instead, this novel focuses on the appearance of the dead (not zombies, mind you), and how the world decides to react to such an anomaly.  However, no one has answers, so it’s more or less the blind leading the blind, with some embracing the dead, some detesting it, and others ready to lock them up forever.  Like I said, it’s a very depressing tale. We learn how the government decides to handle it, which isn’t very well, more like the Japanese Internment Camps than anything else, and we get to know characters… only to watch them traverse terrible atrocities and, ultimately, die.  But why they emerged from the earth again, and what their purpose was aside from driving the story, well, I don’t know.

What I did enjoy about the novel, though, was that the chapters break up to follow certain characters, even though it’s told in third person, and we meet new returned and hear their brief stories.  But again, it is all very tragic, and truthfully, I felt somewhat awful upon finishing it; angry with humanity.  But maybe that was the purpose?  People can turn evil, which is shown in this novel in very real sense, and while there are some good people interspersed, I really came out of this with a depressed soul and a feeling of disillusionment with humankind.

Overall, it’s very well written, but such a depressing tale isn’t really my speed. I guess I was hoping for mystery and danger, a sense of horror or something, but that’s not what this novel is about, and it just wasn’t for me. Two stars.

2 stars

Harlequin has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on August 27, 2013.



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