Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











White Hot KissFrom Goodreads: One kiss could be the last.

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she’s anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she’s crushed on since forever.

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she’s not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn’t an issue, considering Roth has no soul.

But when Layla discovers she’s the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

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This was an absolutely brilliant novel by the ever talented Jennifer Armentrout.  I was wrapped up tightly in the story from the very beginning, and I just love the world that Armentrout has created.  Imagine finding out that Wardens, gargoyle like creates, really walk the earth.  They say that they are here to protect mankind, but their aloofness, hard exterior (no pun intended), and their ability to take human form, make them an entity to be feared among the human race.  But what humans don’t know is that the Wardens are really here to fight the demons—and their secret weapon?  Layla, a half-demon, half gargoyle, whose touch creates a beacon on any demon she comes in contact with, allows the Wardens to easily remove the threat of demons without the humans evening knowing it exists…

Welcome to Layla’s life.  She’s a kick-butt heroine who lives with the Wardens, having embraced her Warden side and despising all things demon (including her own self)—partially because it’s been drilled into her for so long—ever since she was brought to the Warden complex as a child—and partially because she knows it means she’ll never know love.  Layla has a decent life, though she’s never been kissed, and the love of her life, Zayne, a full-blooded Warden, can never be hers—mainly because Layla’s kiss can suck the life right out of whoever, or whatever, it is she’s kissing.  Unless it’s a demon… but that would be going against every mantra engrained in her head since she can remember.  But is it truly wrong?  Are all demons evil, like Layla’s been led to believe?

Armentrout takes readers on a whirlwind, fast paced adventure in her latest novel, White Hot Kiss, and I loved every minute of it, from the heart pounding action and soft budding romance to the betrayals and final revelation, this novel is perfect in every sense of the word… and I can’t wait for more.  I loved Zayne, but Roth is my true love.  A demon, a bad boy, and ever so right for Layla, he proves himself time and time again, and thus readers can’t help but wonder, who is telling the truth?  The Wardens or the demons?  You’ll have to read this enticing story to find out.  Five amazing stars.

5 stars

 Harlequin Teen has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on February 25, 2014.

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You need to pre-order this one–Amazon has it for less than 6 bucks!!

AND–the PREQUEL, Bitter Sweet Love, is currently FREE on Amazon (at time of this post)!  SCOOP IT UP STAT!

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The Darkest JoyFrom Goodreads: A sexy and poignant new adult novel from New York Times bestseller Marata Eros, about two lost souls who find each other in the wake of tragedy, only to learn that love may not be enough to heal the wounds of a dark and tortured past…

Twenty year-old Brooke Starr has escaped the aftermath of a brutal tragedy by abandoning her music studies and moving north to take a summer position as a part-time deck hand on a deep-sea fishing boat. When her survivor’s guilt becomes unbearable, Brooke realizes there’s only one thing she can do to finally erase the pain.

Deep sea fisherman, Chance Taylor, has just wrapped his guitar set at the local saloon when he sees the silhouette of a young woman in repose, the full moon highlighting her shadow as she plummets from a pier too high for diving… into water too cold to survive. Without thinking, he plunges in after her, saving Brooke from drowning.

As Chance works to save her from her own emotional fragility, Brooke finally begins to learn how to save herself. But when their chemistry begins to consume them, Brooke withdraws. She’s determined to be the master of her own destiny… until the past catches up with her in a cataclysmic plan so dark, so final… it threatens their love and their very lives.

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This is another spectacular novel by the ever talented Marata Eros (aka. Tamara Rose Blodgett), and a must read for fans of the NA genre. Complete with a budding romance, murder, mystery, and mayhem, this novel will glue readers to the page from the very beginning, enticing them onward as the plot unfolds, secrets are divulged, and healing begins, only to be met with the sinister actions of an obsessive and erratic murderer…

I am in awe of the talent Eros possesses. Her previous novels, A Terrible Love and A Brutal Tenderness are already a testament to her amazing skill as an author, but The Darkest Joy may be perhaps my favorite of her novels to date. The perfect love story, surrounded by believable characters, freighting possibilities, and steamy romance, it’s a superb read.

Eros paints a vivid picture of life in Alaska as her story unfolds, setting her characters against a beautiful backdrop, one readers so rarely hear about. It presents a wonderful change, setting itself in the wild, and though not interested in fishing myself, I absolutely adored learning about Chance’s business and watching Brooke and Chance interact, both on and off the ship.

Of course, Eros utilizes my favorite point of view–first person–allowing me to connect with the characters on a deeper level than that of third person, and I love the alternating points of view offset by chapter headings. Many authors use this style, giving readers inside glimpses into their main characters, and when done correctly, as Eros does, it speaks volumes.

Intertwining a talented musician with tragedy and escape was also a beautiful touch, and I loved how music was presented as a healing entity on top of that of love–the age old remedy in helping one heal. It’s a beautiful story, one you must read; you just must. Five stars.

5 stars

I received an ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.  This novel releases on February 18, 2014.

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Cold MourningFrom Goodreads: It’s a week before Christmas when wealthy businessman Tom Underwood disappears into thin air — with more than enough people wanting him dead.

New police recruit Kala Stonechild, who has left her northern Ontario detachment to join a specialized Ottawa crime unit, is tasked with returning Underwood home in time for the holidays. Stonechild, who is from a First Nations reserve, is a lone wolf who is used to surviving on her wits. Her new boss, Detective Jacques Rouleau, has his hands full controlling her, his team, and an investigation that keeps threatening to go off track.

Old betrayals and complicated family relationships brutally collide when love turns to hate and murder stalks a family.

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I was immediately pulled into this story by the prologue as it focuses on two young girls as they battle a man who lured them into his van–it piqued my interest and pulled me right into the story. Then the novel jumps ahead a decade or so, and we meet new characters. Although it is obvious that Kala Stonechild is one of the little girls from the prologue, using a different name, the text doesn’t come out and say it, and so it keeps readers guessing. In fact, the novel actually keeps readers guessing throughout much of it, especially with the revelations that keep popping up in regards to Tom’s Underwood’s murder, the main focus of the novel.

Kala Stonechild is a hard character to get to know. She keeps herself closed off from everyone, including the reader, but she’s a hard worker, quick on her feet, and she’s admirable. I really enjoyed her aloofness, even though that meant I didn’t really connect with her on the deeper level. Usually that is bothersome to me in a novel, but in this case, it worked perfectly because I don’t think readers were really supposed to bond with her, but rather watch her unfold and slowly solve a murder mystery.

A mystery that kept me guessing. I didn’t know who the murdered was until Stonechild figured it out. I had my guesses, but since the novel was pointing in those directions, I was sure I was wrong (and I was). The actual killer never crossed my mind as a suspect, and that’s what made it really intriguing, because once it came out, everything fit–I just didn’t see it in the beginning.

If you enjoy murder mysteries and piecing together the puzzle alongside characters in your novel, then this is definitely a novel for you.  Four stars.

4 stars

Dundurn has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this full novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on February 17, 2014, in exchange for an honest review.

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The LureFrom Goodreads: From the bestselling author of the Daughters of the Moon series comes a gritty, sexy novel about a teen who is forced to become a “lure”-a beautiful girl who is used to lure victims of gang violence.

Fifteen-year-old Blaise Montgomery lives in the gritty outskirts of Washington, DC, where a stray bullet can steal a life on the way to school. Drugs and violence are the only ways to survive, so Blaise and her friends turn to gangs for safety, money, and love. When Blaise is invited to join Core 9, one of the most infamous crews, she jumps at the chance. Though her best guy friends, Rico and Satch, warn her about the danger, she agrees to be beaten for a minute straight as part of the gang’s initiation ritual.

Now Blaise is finally part of a crew. A family.

But things get only more dangerous when she becomes a member of Core 9 and tensions with a rival gang heat up. Trek, the head of Core 9, asks Blaise to be his “lure,” the sexy bait he’ll use to track down enemy gang members and exact revenge. Rico and Satch tell her it’s a death sentence, but Blaise can’t resist the money and unparalleled power. As Trek puts Blaise in increasingly dangerous situations, she begins to see that there’s more to lose than she ever realized-including Satch, the one person who has the power to get under her skin. With death lurking around every corner, should Blaise continue to follow the only path she’s ever known, or cut and run?

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I have been extremely fortunate in life having grown up in a safe neighborhood with two loving parents that supported me in everything.  I never had to worry for my safety when walking out the door, didn’t need to look over my shoulder at school, never had to know alternate routes to get home, worry about gunshots at all hours of the day, or whether there would be enough money coming in for my parents to pay the bills.  I knew where my next meal was coming from, what colleges I wanted to go to, how I would pay for my education after high school, and that I could obtain my goals in life without much standing in my way.

Blaise Montgomery doesn’t live in a safe neighborhood.  Her mother is a drug addict, her father is dead, and her grandmother works late hours and brings home little money.  Leaving her house is a risky choice, day in and day out.  In order to stay alive, Blaise has to know multiple ways around her community in case the ever present dangers of gang violence close off a route, or two.  She has to know what hallways she can walk down and what stairwells to avoid in school if she wants to get home in one piece, with her virginity still intact.  She worries about her grandmother who works too hard and doesn’t have enough money to feed Blaise, let alone herself.  Blaise would love to go to college, but can barely scrape by in school because survival is on her mind 24/7.  The present is all that matters, and she knows, just like everyone else in her neighborhood, that life ends all too soon.  She’s seen people try to better themselves, try to get out, but most of them end up in body bags.  So what’s the point?

While I have never experienced any of what Blaise experiences, the cold hard truth is that many, many children grow up in this exact environment, and as a high school teacher working on the cusp of the city, I’ve taught many of students in a similar situation.  I didn’t used to know these places really existed, not until I became a teacher.  If you don’t experience it, or you don’t know someone who has, it’s very easy to live in a bubble that just understand that there are many struggling to survive. And it’s a heartbreaking experience to realize that yes, this is real.  Just because I haven’t lived it doesn’t mean it’s not.  And while it’s easy to look down on people in these situations, saying they need to get an education, that they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, that’s not a reality.  What’s more important?  Education or food? Education or life? Education or belonging?

If you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you’ll note that physiological needs come first, and then that of safety.  People need to have their basic needs met—food, water, excretion, sleep— before they can move up the scale.  If these needs are met, then safety takes over. Those who don’t feel safe on a regular basis are, therefore, unable to move up the scale.  They’re unable to have true friendships, or focus on family, because the very real fear for their safety controls everything they do and think.  This explains exactly what Blaise is dealing with on a very real level.  She barely has any food—she’s hungry a lot of the time, and she’s scared for her safety.  Her need level has plateaued between Physiological and Safety.  But once she’s part of a gang, once she’s found her “family,” she’s able to move up to the Love and Belonging stage—a stage she’s been yearning to grasp for some time.  So it’s no surprise that she joins a gang in her neighborhood—a gang that literally beats her into it as their hazing ritual to see if she’s tough enough to stand within their ranks.  And it makes me sick, but I’ve found that this hazing experience is another truth in terms of gang life—one I first heard about when discussing life with my students over the past few years.

Within Core 9, Blaise fits in, and now she can begin to work towards self-esteem, confidence, achievement… except being in the gang doesn’t guarantee extreme safety, and as Blaise realizes fairly quickly, there is just as much to fear inside a gang than there is outside of it.  So, she finds herself hovering between the Safety and Love/Belonging stage in the Hierarchy of Needs.  Is it any wonder, then, that Blaise can’t focus on school?  That she can’t foresee herself ever getting out of her ghetto alive, let alone bettering herself and going to college?  While we may want to judge her, especially as the media likes to focus on the few amazing stories of those who “got out,” who “pulled themselves up by their boot straps,” this isn’t that story.  This is the story of the many who are left behind.  This is the story of those who can’t get out.

Of course, Blaise makes decisions that I hat—and so do her friends.  Of course, I wanted to knock “some sense” into them as I read, to scream at them to call the cops, to run away, to do something… but in all truth, why call the cops when you know they can’t help you?  Why run when it will only show your weakness and land you a bullet in your back?  Blaise has more sense than I ever would have in her shoes, and though the going is tough and she’s finds herself in a very precarious situation, she continues on as best as she can.  And that is pure courage.

Originally I didn’t want to pick up this novel.  I was afraid it would focus on servitude sex and the downtrodden woman.  But it doesn’t—Blaise isn’t raped and any mention of sex is more so glossed over.  Instead, what this novel does do is show the very real truth about gang violence and the people who grow up surrounded by it.  It shows the many dangers in life that a lot of us don’t even realize exist.  And it breaks my heart, but this is one intense, powerful read if you really understand the truths behind it.  Five amazing stars.

5 starsHarperCollins Publishers and Balzer + Bray have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this powerful novel, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review prior to its release on February 11, 2014.

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BubbleFrom Goodreads: The stunning conclusion to the groundbreaking Scandinavian crime trilogy featuring a deadly game that blurs reality and fiction in a world obsessed with social media. It’s the middle of summer and Stockholm is preparing for the wedding of a beloved Swedish princess. Trying to move on with his life after the end of The Game, HP is still struggling to find his way when he receives an anonymous text message asking if he’d like back in. HP knows his participation has already put himself and his sister in danger and he’d like to ignore the text, but he also realizes he doesn’t know who to trust. HP tried to stay hidden and on the run, but he can’t escape the Game Master. Hoping to uncover the truth behind The Game and free himself from the Game Master’s control forever, HP decides to accept one more assignment.

Rebecca’s life has changed dramatically as a result of her brother’s involvement in The Game and she, too, is trying to move on and find the truth. And now she’s determined to uncover the connection between her late father’s past and her brother’s current predicament. But will Rebecca’s investigation into the past cost her the future? Taking action, HP hunts down a man he believes might be the Game Master himself. With a band of fellow former Game players, they infiltrate the Fortress in order to collect information that could be the Game’s undoing. But is he strong enough to take down The Game? And can he trust his fellow gamers?

A fast-paced, technological thriller that concludes the story that began in Game and Buzz, Bubble will have readers gasping for breath during the final showdown between HP and the Game Master.

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In this final installment in The Game Trilogy, many questions are answered as HP embarks on his final task while trying to find the Game Master in order to put an end to it once and for all.  But, nothing is as it seems, and no one is who they say they are… making this another intense read as both HP and his sister and thrown for a loop as events materialize that shake them to their core.  Who is the Game Master?  I was shocked by the revelation within the text—it bowled me over and left me piecing together all the evidence.  Luckily, Anders presents the truth in vivid detail, making it the perfect fit, and bringing a smile to my face—especially because it isn’t necessarily over, even though this is the last novel in the series.

HP has grown a lot over the course of the series. While he’s still not my favorite person in the world, he has put his vindictive, childish ways of the first novel behind him, focusing more on stopping the Game and keeping his sister safe than on being let into the Game one last time.

Likewise, HP’s sister’s involvement and the back and forth nature of the novel, focusing first on HP, and then on Rebecca, flows much better in this third installment.  Whereas I wasn’t a fan of this writing style at all in book one, I now really enjoy it, especially as the events all intertwine and have much more meaning to me than they did when I first picked up this series.

Overall, this is a great read, a great series, that ultimately swept me up in its intrigue and betrayal. And, while I wish that HP and his sister could have seen eye to eye and had a more open relationship, which would in turn have prevented much of the disasters within the novel, the story just wouldn’t have been as intense had they been on the same page throughout.  This is definitely a series worth reading if you enjoy mysteries and cat and mouse scenarios.  Four stars.

4 stars

Atria and Emily Bestler Books have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release tomorrow, February 4, 2014.

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BubbleGameBuzz



Doing HarmFrom Goodreads: “It’s amazing that there are so many different ways to die in a hospital that have nothing to do with being sick…”

Steve Mitchell, happily married with a wife and two kids, is in line for a coveted position at Boston’s University Hospital when his world goes awry. His over-reaching ambition causes him to botch a major surgery, and another of his patients mysteriously dies. Steve’s nightmare goes from bad to worse when he learns that the mysterious death was no accident but the act of a sociopath.  A sociopath he knows and who has information that could destroy Steve’s career and marriage.  A sociopath for whom killing is more than a means to an end: it’s a game.  Because he is under a cloud of suspicion and has no evidence, he knows that any accusations he makes won’t be believed. So he must struggle to turn the tables, even as the killer skillfully blocks his every move. Detailing the politics of hospitals, the hierarchy among doctors and the life and death decisions that are made by flawed human beings, Doing Harm marks the debut of a major fiction career.

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This was a good mystery novel, but it takes a while for it to really get going.  From the get go we are immersed in Steve Mitchell’s life, learning about his daily routine, his hopes and fears, and his extreme talent for surgery.  He has a great life, though perhaps he’s a little too cocky about his abilities, which in turn causes him to begin making mistakes–mistakes that cost lives and put him under intense scrutiny and his job on the line.  It’s very interesting tale of espionage and betrayal, but the reader really has to wait for it to begin.

The first 30% or so of the novel focuses on Steve and his surgeries, and there are many gritty detailed descriptions as he cuts into people and feels around in their abdomens… cutting through fat, slicing apart muscle, and really digging his fingers in there.  If that makes your squeamish, then you may want to skim those parts, because there are quite a few in the beginning, and they’re somewhat long.  I also recommend reading this the old fashion way and not listening to it on tape. I was listening to the novel on my Kindle using the text-to-speech feather when I was blindsided by these gory descriptions and had to nix that straight away.  Perhaps it’s just me, but there was something exceptionally creepy and nerve-wracking about a mechanical voice reading off the details… so this would be a book that I definitely recommend you read as opposed to listen to…

Detailed descriptions and long introduction aside, though, this novel really begins to take off as the Steve begins making bad decisions in terms of his family due to the pressures at work.  Thus, he and soon finds himself in a race against time to save people’s lives within the hospital, especially once the truth comes out about who has been sabotaging him and the rules are set on the table.  As the novel progresses, it becomes apparent that Parsons really knows his way around the medical field and, apparently, around special opts as well. He did a great job fleshing out the scenes, explaining procedures, and putting into play some key special opts scenes that really made the novel an intriguing read, and I highly suggest it if you like murder mystery novels.  It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before.  Four stars.

4 stars

St. Martin’s Press has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on February 4, 2014.

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The Drowned ForestFrom Goodreads: Losing Holly is the hardest thing Jane has ever had to endure … until Holly comes back.

Best friends Jane and Holly have jumped off the bluff over their Alabama reservoir hundreds of times. But one day, Holly’s jump goes wrong. Her body never comes up, yet something else does—a sad creature of mud, full of confusion and sorrow. It’s Holly, somehow, trapped and mixed up with the river. And if Jane can’t do something to help, Holly will take everybody down with her—even the people they love the most.

Blending Looking for Alaska’s theme of lost friendship with Stephen King’s sense of small-town horror, The Drowned Forest is a Southern gothic tale of grief, redemption, and the mournful yearning of an anguished soul.

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While this novel tells readers that Holly is indeed trapped and needs help from her best friend, Jane, it’s main focus seemed to be on religion and obsession.  And, with the extremely zealous religious outpour within the novel, it was hard for me to focus on much else.  Jane and her family—her entire town really—seem to be a bit over the top in their views.  I don’t think this was meant to be intentional, but how the pastor and the people within the town react to not only Holly’s death, but also Jane’s unhinging, put a very bad taste in my mouth—almost as if the story itself was taking a jab at religion, at people who turn to God when they have lost all else, and I didn’t like the vibe I was getting as I read.

The overabundant religious factor aside, though, I also found Jane’s character to be lacking.  Her obsessive compulsion to talk non-stop to her dead friend, Holly, and Jane’s fixation on this death made me question her sanity, just like her family, on many an occasion, and while I know that Holly really is in the bundle of mud that’s on a murderous rampage within the town, I had a hard time seeing Jane as sane.  Granted, I have never physically watched a friend die, though I’ve been to more funerals than I’d like to admit, and I know all people grieve differently, but Jane’s behavior struck me as extremely odd.  Yes, it’s hard battling against virtually everyone in town, family included, but Jane’s decisions and obsessive qualities got tiresome rather early on, and while I really wanted to like this novel, I found that I personally couldn’t get past the religious and obsessive qualities of the novel. One star.

1-star1

Flux has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review prior to its release on February 1, 2014.

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Blood WoundsFrom Goodreads: Blood can both wound and heal…

Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother. Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? But as Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she also keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear apart all she holds dear.

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One of my students recommended this book to me, so I picked it up to read one evening without having read the book jacket.  Sometimes I do this—go blindly into a book because I want to be surprised by everything.  Well, imagine my surprise when Willa’s family suddenly goes on alert because her father is a murdering butcher intent on finding her!  That was perhaps the last thing on my mind when I opened the book.  I was thinking that perhaps it was about vampires, based on the title and the cover, but I was mistaken.  This novel has nothing to do with vampires… it deals with psychopaths instead.

I wasn’t immediately wrapped up in the story, but when the frantic phone call came for Willa about her estranged father, I found myself extremely alert, especially as the reports of his heinous crimes came in.  Knowing that he was headed for Willa and her family, my heart began to beat extremely quickly, and I became wrapped up tight within the story.  Unfortunately, the novel soon began to lose steam, in my opinion, as Willa and her sisters begin their tantrums.  I must say that I was never a real fan of Willa or her step-sisters.  There was a lot of animosity there, and they behaved quite horribly on many an occasion.  And, while I do respect Willa’s curiosity about her father’s side of the family, I do not condone the way she went about it, accusing her mother (when her father JUST killed a woman and little children, for heavens sake!) and becoming mouthy.  I get that we all become unhinged at times, but I can’t imagine wanting to go to his house, to see the crime scene, to attend the funeral… ick.

Overall the story had a great premise, though I wouldn’t say that it kept my full attention.  Parts of it were spectacular, but the characters and their selfish attitudes really put a damper on my response to this one.  Three stars.

3 stars

I borrowed this book from the library.



17887925From Goodreads: Perfect people aren’t just born. They’re made.

The first time she is blindfolded and kidnapped, star-athlete and posh boarding school newbie Sadie is terrified. She wakes up in a dark room surrounded by hushed whispers, hooded strangers, and a mysterious voice whispering not-so-sweet nothings in her ear.

But once the robes come off, she realizes it’s just an elaborate prank designed to induct her into the group that’s been pulling the strings at Keating Hall for generations. The circle has it all–incredible connections; fabulous parties; and, of course, an in with the brother society’s gorgeous pledges.

The instant popularity is enough to make Sadie forget about the unexplained marks on her body, the creepy ceremonial rituals, and the incident that befell one of her teammates the year before. So the next time Sadie is kidnapped, she isn’t scared, but she should be. The worst of Keating Hall is yet to come.

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Sadie has just received a scholarship to the prestigious Keating Hall, the boarding school of the elite.  It sounds innocent enough, but the real reason behind the scholarship has yet to be revealed, and Sadie has no idea what she’s about to get herself into as she accepts the lavish gifts bestowed upon her, or how it all relates back to her dead mother…

I went in to this novel thinking that it would be similar to other novels I’ve read that have to do with secret societies, and while it is, in a way, it’s also vastly different.  I can’t say much more than that without giving away pieces of the plotline, but know that this society delves deep in its sinister plans, especially when it comes to the lives of its members.

I really like Sadie, though she drove me a bit nuts at times.  I do understand being sworn to secrecy, but I also understand gut feelings, and if something just doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  In other words, it’s better to tell someone than to try and go it alone.  Sadie struggles with this throughout the entire novel, which actually makes her extremely real.  Working with high school students, I see this often—many teens would rather go it alone or tell someone their age than deal with an adult, which fits Sadie’s M.O. exactly.  I loved that she was snarky and real, but as the story went on, some of it did seem a bit far-fetched to me.  Now, I’m also not rolling in money and I’m not famous, so it is quite possible that the people Sadie runs with do have the means to do much of what they do in the novel, but as a regular everyday person, I still feel like some of it is just beyond real.  I mean, if I was Sadie, I wouldn’t have been able to do some of those things… but that’s okay, because regardless, the story itself was extremely interesting and I enjoyed it overall.  And if you’re even the tiniest bit interested in secret societies, mystery, and suspense, then this is a novel that I highly suggest you read. Four stars.

4 stars

F+W/Adams Media and Merit Press have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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136251From Goodreads: Harry Potter is preparing to leave the Dursleys and Privet Drive for the last time. But the future that awaits him is full of danger, not only for him, but for anyone close to him — and Harry has already lost so much. Only by destroying Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes can Harry free himself and overcome the Dark Lord’s forces of evil.

In this dramatic conclusion to the Harry Potter series, Harry must leave his most loyal friends behind, and in a final perilous journey find the strength and the will to face his terrifying destiny: a deadly confrontation that is his alone to fight.

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The end. Finito. Terminé.  It is done, and I’m having a hard time accepting it.  The wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter has so enraptured me that I have been able to think of little else while reading this amazing series.  While many of the novels themselves are on the long side, I still feel as if more could be said.  Spanning from around 300 pages at its shortest to over 850 pages at its longest, the series itself encompasses over 4000 pages that grip readers and bring them into this world through amazing themes, events, characters, and connections to the real world.  Likewise, it presents a fantasy world that allows our imaginations to run rampant, especially in regards to the question of “what if.”  What if it really did exist…

This seventh and final novel in the Harry Potter series is just as amazing and gripping as the first (and all those that come in-between).  Of course, it follows in its predecessors footsteps with its dark undertones as Harry, Hermoine, and Ron attempt to find the final horcruxs before their battle with Voldemort.  The wizarding world is in chaos, and people, both magical and muggle, are dying left and right…

From the very beginning, the novel strums our emotional cords as the magic surrounding Privet Drive is about to expire, sending the awful and repulsive Dursley family away once and for all as their safety is now in question.  Although these muggles are ones we love to hate, Rowling finally adds a piece of sentimentality in the form of Dudley, and readers just know that this is going to be an emotional read from beginning to end.  How can it not, as it dives deeper into the recess of good versus evil.

While absolutely amazing, the death toll in this novel will leave readers in a somber mood for days, because even though they are fictional characters, they have become a part of our lives just the same.  And while I wish Rowling didn’t do it—I’d love for this to have been all roses and butterflies—it just wouldn’t carry any validity or as much steam has Rowling not made these difficult decisions to kill off some of our most beloved characters.

And Snape?  While I still find his actions appalling, in this novel I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness for him, and rejoice in his ultimate decisions because we finally know the absolute truth behind the man we’ve hated for so long.  Just writing this review of such a riveting novel brings all the emotions to the forefront again, and I cannot say it enough: this series, this book, this world, is amazing.  Five stars.

5 stars

I own all these books and movies.



1From Goodreads: The war against Voldemort is not going well; even the Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet, as with all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate—and lose a few eyebrows in the process. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it’s the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort—and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is another amazing installment in the Harry Potter Series.  On the plus side, the wizarding world is once again standing behind Harry and Dumbledore, aware that they were telling the truth about the return of Voldemort.  On the negative side, however, many have met a premature death in the fight against pure evil.  These are dark times, and though it seems impossible, the events that unfold in this novel are even more ominous than those that came before it.

This is the first time readers are given a glimpse of the life that Tom Riddle led before becoming Lord Voldemort, beginning with his ill-conceived birth, and taking us through his time and actions in an orphanage, and his acceptance and studies at Hogwarts.  Finally, we are able to begin to put together the pieces that made Voldemort who he is today—a killer intent on ruling forever and riding the world of mudbloods—anyone who isn’t a pureblood witch or wizard.  I really enjoyed this backwards glance into the life of our foe, Voldemort, as the puzzle-pieces began to come together and it is impossible not to be curious about the life and times of someone so inherently evil.  Readers learn much about Voldemort’s heritage, and perhaps the most important detail comes to light in this novel in terms of his life: the horcruxes.  As the truth becomes clear concerning how Voldermort survived his backfiring curse the night he attempted to kill Harry, and with this knowledge, the race against time begins.

This is an extremely engaging novel and, though sinister in tone and ominous in nature, it is an amazing tale that will leave you glued to the pages; it will haunt you long after it’s over, especially as the unthinkable happens in this novel, an event that had me so aghast that the tissues by my side were not enough to do it justice.  It is the beginning of the end, and while I do not want this amazing world that Rowling has created to end, I am more than ready to see justice served.  Five stars.

5 starsI own all these novels and movies.



2From Goodreads: Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

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If there was only one thing I was allowed to say about this novel, it would be this: “I hate Umbridge!!!”

Unlike the first four novels in this series, I was less familiar with the many events that take place in this fifth installment as it’s the longest book and also the worst movie, in my opinion. The movie itself was excessively choppy and off kilter, as far as I’m concerned, so I didn’t watch it as much as the first four movies.  But, where the movie is stifling and inconsistent, the novel contains in-depth detail and really brings home the many atrocities and difficulties that Harry and his true friends face during their fifth year at Hogwarts, and re-reading this novel has given me a new appreciation for the storyline that the movie so vastly failed to portray.

As much as I hated everything that was happening to Hogwarts and Harry, especially as the entire wizarding world, it seems, stands against Harry, this novel has some great themes, especially for young adults struggling through their own identity crisis as they battle their way through high school.  And it really shows just how much people would rather look the other way than see the truth, or deal with anything unpleasant, which can again be equated to the real world as the entire bullying epidemic has come to the forefront.

What I found to be the most interesting aspect of this novel, however, was the way the Ministry of Magic attempted to control Hogwarts and its teachers, subjecting them to multiple unfair observations and write-ups, firing at will. This is not so different from the reforms happening in the real world, with states and the government attempting to flay teachers based on poor student performance without taking anything else into consideration. And though I really doubt tgat Rowling was thinking about education reform when she wrote this novel, I found that it still had a very heavy social commentary on education and the powers that be attempting to control it with little to no knowledge of teaching or how the system really works.  With the Ministry’s long reaching hands now up to its elbows in the running of Hogwarts, the system begins to crumble. A very interesting concept indeed.  Five stars.

5 starsI own all these novels and movies.



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.



18043896From Goodreads: Nidad Reik, the last mundane king of Verneece has fallen to the treachery of the sorcerers who once served him. Now the usurpers have gathered from the four corners of the kingdom to divide the spoils of victory. Among those in attendance are the Puppeteer and his ward, the Fortune Teller; the Sword Prince and his latest trollop; the Lady of Perfumes and her guards and lovers; finally, there is the fearsome Stonegrinder, master of earth and stone. The night is filled with feasting, entertainment .and gaming. In the wee hours of a long, winter night there is also murder.

The survivors look upon each other with suspicion of treachery. Who committed the murders and why? Or is there an outside agency moving against them to lay claim to their victory?

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“Set in the Blackstone universe, the history of Verneece before the coming of Queen Spiral is revealed” in this novella by Jason Beineke, a prequel to the Blackstone series.  This imaginative fantasy series expounds on sorcery and world dominance, but for those of you who haven’t yet read the masterful Blackstone novels, then I highly suggest you begin with this novella, especially if you’re intrigued by world building, sorcery, and fantasy—this series is not one to be missed!

Complete with engaging characters able to bend the elements and wills of others, readers are introduced to a band of strong and able sorcerers come to divide the spoils of the conquered Verneece.  Although a tad vulgar and disturbing in places—drinking wine from a skull makes me shudder—this novella truly sets the scene for the murders and betrayal that takes place between the pages, and continues throughout the series, as the gifted magicians begin to suspect and fight amongst themselves.  Showing the vast corruption that pervaded the land prior to the seizing of power by Queen Spiral, a vicious queen readers will get to know in more depth in Drawing the Circle, this novella gives readers a taste of what is to come with its imaginative world, deceptive characters, and jarring situations.  It’s a great read that I enjoyed very much, though I do wish it was longer.  However, a longer read would defeat the purpose, as this novella is meant to whet the appetite for more, and that is exactly what it does.  Had the characters been a little more pleasant, I do believe their plight and overall fate would have left me feeling bereft.  As it is, however, these vile characters gain no sympathy from me.  Three stars.

3 stars



13576713From Goodreads: “Be careful what you wish for.” That’s a warning Dylan Johnson should have listened to. When his mobile tech company is bought out by Mantric Technology, a red-hot firm about to go public, it seems like a dream come true for the young entrepreneur and his partners. But the closer they get to payout, the more uncertain Dylan becomes. Something doesn’t feel right. When his colleague is found dead on what should have been their night of triumph, Dylan is determined to find out what happened. But asking questions plunges him into a digital web of deceit and betrayal that will shake everything he thought he knew…

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If you’re into corporate espionage, murder mysteries, and mayhem, then this novel is for you. What was supposed to be the merger of a lifetime for Dylan Johnson, complete with a huge payout, ends in murder, deceit, and lie after lie, leaving Mantric Technology in the hot-seat and losing money faster than it ever gained.  Filled with many intricate characters, Waite rolls out his story focusing on the upside of mergers and buyouts, eventually turning the coin and showing the downside, as we’ve all seen in recent years as large robust companies crumble from the inside out.  Though I’m not really a technology guru, I was able to mostly follow the high tech world in which our characters reside, and I enjoyed much of the story, however, certain points were a bit unbelievable for me, such as the lack of police presence and investigation into the murder of Dylan’s friend and colleague.  I also have to wonder exactly how much one duo would be able to uncover on their own in a huge company like Mantric, but then again, I’m not in a huge corporate business and, having never worked with a corporation like Mantric, I’m also not worthy of making a call concerning validity.  In my personal world, it seemed a bit strange, but certainly not too farfetched, and I enjoyed the story overall, but think those with more knowledge of the inner workings of corporations, buyouts, and technology would enjoy this more than I.  Three stars.

3 stars

Marlborough Press has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.



From Goodreads: In search of Kayla and on the run, Kiera and her friends make a race against time across the Cumbria Mountains. With the vampires predicting their every move, the trust amongst Kiera and her friends starts to fade.

From the desolate monastery set high between the mountains to the mysterious lake and the caves beneath the fountain, Kiera must discover the connection between the vampires and her mother, Isidor and Kayla, and resolve her inner feelings for Potter and Luke.

Kiera herself has started to change and this frightens her. So turning to her friends for help, she realises that it is only her mother who can provide the truth. But Kiera has other questions that she needs to have answered. Why did Isidor murder an innocent girl? Who is the person that Murphy has been meeting in secret? But above all, why have they put their lives and trust in the hands of a serial killer?

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I don’t know how it is possible to write a series and have each new book always be better than the last, but that is exactly what O’Rourke is doing with his Kiera Hudson novels.  These novels, Vampire Shift, Vampire Wake, and now Vampire Hunt, have been an extremely riveting rollercoaster ride, each novel taking the reader further into the story and creating more action and suspense.  It seems so unfeasible to be able to create such mind-blowing texts, yet O’Rourke obviously possesses the gift of storytelling, and this dark vampire novel cranks up the action tenfold as Kiera and her friends run for their lives.  Vampire Hunt picks up right where the second novel, Vampire Wake, left off, jumping directly into the action, with cars and helicopters blowing up, vampires taking on vampyrus and, overall, trust being shaken among Kiera and her friends.

This novel deals more intently with a love triangle than the previous novels did, and something that I absolutely love about O’Rourke is that he keeps his novels clean.  While Kiera harbors feelings for both Luke and Potter, none of the scenes are racy or inappropriate, which is rare to find in both YA and adult novels in this day and age.  I really enjoyed O’Rourke’s portrayal of this love triangle and, though I do hate to say it, I am starting to lean a little more towards Potter, whereas in the previous novels, I haven’t even given him a second thought!  The fact that O’Rourke has been able to cause me to swing sides is a testament to his sheer writing abilities, and I am stunned.

I especially enjoyed watching Kiera begin her shift and, though we don’t have all the answers yet, O’Rourke has set the scene for a pretty intense plotline in the near future.  The ending of this novel left me breathless, and I am extremely excited to read the next installment–I’ve now read the first three books in the series for a second time, and my thoughts remain the same: 5 amazing stars!!  So if you haven’t yet begun this series, I highly suggest you do.  It’s an amazing tale and you really won’t be disappointed.  Five stars!!

5 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review and have read it twice.

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Vampire Shift, book one in the series, is FREE on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo at the time of this post, so do make sure you scoop it up and join the world of Kiera Hudson.

Check out O’Rourke’s other novels (they are indeed all amazing):

Kiera Hudson Series 1

Vampire Shift (#1)

Vampire Wake (#2)

Vampire Hunt (#3)

Vampire Breed (#4)

Wolf House (#4.5)

Vampire Hollows (#5)

Kiera Hudson Series 2

Dead Flesh (#1)

Dead Night: Potter’s Secrets (#1.5)

Dead Angels (#2)

Dead Statues (#3)

Dead Seth (#4)

Dead Wolf (#5)

Dead Water (#6)

Dead Push  (#7)

Dead Lost (#8)

Dead End (#9)–Coming Soon

Kiera Hudson Series 3

Lethal Infected (1)–Coming Soon

Jack Seth Novellas

Hollow Pit (#1)

Vampire Shift Graphic Novels

Vampire Shift Volume 1

Black Hill Farm Series

Black Hill Farm (#1)

Black Hill Farm Andy’s Diary (#2)

Return to Black Hill Farm (#3)–Coming Soon

Doorways Series

Doorways (#1)

The League of Doorways (#2)

The Queen of the Doorways (#3)–Coming Soon

Samantha Carter Series

Vampire Seeker (#1)

(Formerly known as Cowgirls and Vampires)

The Moon Trilogy

Moonlight (#1)

Moonbeam (#2)

Moonshine (3)–Coming Soon

Sidney Hart Series

Witch (#1)

Yellow (#2)

Raven (#3)–Coming Soon

Unscathed Series(?)

Unscathed

Stilts Series

Stilts (#1)

Eat Me Series

Eat Me (#1)–Coming Soon

Pick Series

Pick (#1)–Coming Soon

Flashes Series

Flashes (#1)–Coming 2013

Tim O'Rourke Covers



et cetera
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