Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop!

It's rare we are able to give away a hardback of anything, but add to that a signed book and it's a major score!

The Demon's Covenant (The Demon's Lexicon, #2)Mae Crawford's always thought of herself as in control, but in the last few weeks her life has changed. Her younger brother, Jamie, suddenly has magical powers, and she's even more unsettled when she realizes that Gerald, the new leader of the Obsidian Circle, is trying to persuade Jamie to join the magicians. Even worse? Jamie hasn't told Mae a thing about any of it. Mae turns to brothers Nick and Alan to help her rescue Jamie, but they are in danger from Gerald themselves because he wants to steal Nick's powers. Will Mae be able to find a way to save everyone she cares about from the power-hungry magician's carefully laid trap? [From]

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Check out the other blogs on this hop!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: Sea Change by

Sixteen-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science. . .and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate.
There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship. . .and reality.

Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?

Sea Change. Where to begin? Gorgeous cover, right? Honestly, I'd never even heard of the book when I picked it up, but the cover caught my eye, followed by the intriguing jacket flap description.

The Good: Friedman has a way with words! Wow! She paints a beautiful world, drawing your imagination in. You can see things so clearly, like you're physically on Selkie Island. I adored the fact that Miranda is not only smart, but quasi-geeky in her own way. She's always spouting scientific facts at the most embarrassing times possible, but it's absolutely endearing and relatable. How many times do you catch yourself saying something goofy that you immediately wish you could retract?

I love that Friedman writes for a YA audience but uses more advanced verbiage. It felt great to read something that had more than "so totally" in every other sentence, but only from Miranda's POV. The secondary characters, while a bit cliche, fit their roles (and their verbiage) well.

The Mediocre: Sadly, more disappointed me about this book than I was actually pleased with. There was little to no mystery surrounding the story. You go into it expecting to know "what" certain people are. Aside from the let-down of an ending, there were no surprises. I'd hoped Friedman would explain some things, but SO much went unanswered or even unaddressed. For instance: If Miranda felt a "more than human" connection with Leo, why wasn't she more than human? Having webbed toes meant nothing. What's that about? And if Leo is not quite normal, why isn't it ever spelled out? I feel like a certain character was meant to be a red-herring, but it ended up being epically disappointing. And what about her mom and her "old flame" that she didn't love yet now fawns all over? Make him/her someone worth knowing if you're going to mention it at all!

The secondary characters were irritating and more of a distraction. I hate that such a beautiful story had such shallow plots. Miranda, while smart and capable of standing on her own two feet, oftentimes slipped out of character and fell prey to WTH? moments. I felt a majority of her time with the secondary characters, she found herself waffling over what to do, think, or feel. Too many times, she fell out of character. For instance, one particular argument she had with Leo...that was SO over the top and not at all believable. It was like she had all these suspicions then decided to get mad about it all. Nonsense.

Leo, our main guy: he was cute and sweet, but it pretty much ended there, which is such a bummer considering he could've been phenomenal! That's honestly all I have to say about him.

Now to the ending. I despise books that keep you hanging on till the end, only to be monumentally disappointing. Little is worse than investing 5 hours of your life only to think, "That's it?!" Friedman sparingly builds up to a climax that never happens! Miranda never solves the mystery behind her weird feet, her grandmother's oddness, that moment in the library where the book flies off the shelf, why her mom gets all anal and changes after complaining about how much she dislikes the people on the island, if there are actually sea monsters, mermaids, or selkies...or WHAT, definitively, Leo is! Really?! The whole point of the story, and you aren't even going to mention it? What's the thinking there?

Lastly, the writing. As I've already said, Friedman has a beautiful way with words. I would've loved it if her way with words would've actually been showing versus telling. If we're inside Miranda's head, it needs to feel that way! Don't tell me the air looked hazy. Let me see it through Miranda's eyes. How does it feel, taste, smell? This is the one thing that bugs me about 1st person writing. It has to be sensory driven. Fortunately for Friedman, her gorgeous verbiage made up the gap between frustration and finishing.

In Conclusion: I really did enjoy the actual writing in this book, but the rest was mediocre at best. It's hard to peg a recommend/not recommend on this one, just know that most of your expectations on who/what/how things go, will be left unsatisfied.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)His eyes, Katsa had never seen such eyes. One was silver, and the other, gold. They glowed in his sun-darkened face, uneven, and strange. She was surprised that they hadn't shone in the darkness of their first meeting. They didn't seem human....

Then he raised his eyebrows a hair, and his mouth shifted into the hint of a smirk. He nodded at her, just barely, and it released her from her spell.

Cocky, she thought. Cocky and arrogant, this one, and that was all there was to make of him. Whatever game he was playing, if he expected her to join him he would be disappointed.

What I loved

Graceling is a wonderfully original and is well done. I simply love this story line.  Cashore creates a world that reminds a bit of the Eragon series, but is still fresh and original. Often fantasy worlds are difficult to see in the reader's mind, but the seven kingdoms with seven unpredictable kings sets up clear boundaries that keeps the reader grounded.  

Katsa is a strong protag, and her struggles are believable. One of the things I love most about YA fantasy is that the female roles tend to be strong and independent, and this one does not disappoint. Too, the supporting characters are well written and unique. I love when characters are well rounded. It makes for a better read. 

My Pinch Points

 I have a no spoilers policy, but I will say I did find the ending a bit disappointing. Too, there were several times I wanted Cashore to really slow down, dig deep, and allow the reader to experience what the characters were going through. One of my biggest pet peeves is to get to a pivotal point in a story and have the writing skim the surface, not submerse the reader in the experience. While I understand YA often does this because it may be inappropriate to delve into certain subjects, I still walk away from the scene dissatisfied.  

I do love a good fantasy that is chalked full of action and adventure. While Cashore could have sunk into the storyline and explored a few places, overall it was a great read. If you like fantasy with action, adventure, and a bit of romance, Graceling is the book for you.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines

Being the good girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Ashton Gray has grown weary of playing the part to please her parents, and to be worthy of the town’s prince charming, Sawyer Vincent. Maybe That’s why she’s found herself spending time with Sawyer’s cousin, Beau, while he’s away for the summer camping with his family.

Beau is nothing like her perfect boyfriend. He’s the sexiest guy she’s ever seen, dangerous in ways she’s only day dreamed about, and the one guy she should stay away from.

Beau never envied Sawyer his loving parents, his big nice home, or his position as quarterback. He loves him like a brother. Which is why he's tried everything in his power to keep his distance from Sawyer’s girlfriend. Even if he has loved her since the age of five, Ashton is Sawyer’s girl, so therefore she’s off limits. But when Sawyer leaves for the summer, Ashton, the one girl Beau would move Heaven and Earth for, decides she wants to get into trouble. Stabbing the one person who’s always accepted him and stood by him in the back, is the cost of finally holding Ashton Gray in his arms. Is she worth losing his cousin over?.... Hell Yeah.

I've been mulling over this review for about a week now. I don't read a lot of contemporary YA, so this is relatively new ground for me, and I want to portray The Vincent Boys in the right light. Here goes!

The Good: Abbi has an absolutely incredible grasp of humanness. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. Her insight into teens' emotions and thought processes, their reasoning and reactions, it's just awesome! Her characters, 98% of the time, are entirely relatable and believable. You understand their angst and why they make the choices they do. You really feel for Ashton as she struggles to make the right decisions regarding her feelings and actions. Abbi paints a beautiful character in Beau as well. Not only is he dreamy, he feels someone you could see yourself loving, too. You get an intimate look at his life, leaving you hopeless not to cheer for him!

The story has a laid-back pace, and is a great "fun" read! I really enjoyed the dual character POV. I thought we got nice insight into the characters' personalities, being in both Ashton and Beau's heads. Abbi did a nice job of hopping back and forth without losing perspective or voice.

I also adored the way she wrote the fun, Southern colloquialisms. It reminds me of talking to my own family. Abbi did a beautiful job of including that distinct touch without it being confusing or pulling you out of the story.

The Mediocre: Story wise, I enjoyed 90% of it. At the point Ashton decides to tell Sawyer what happened, I feel like the characters went a little soft. By that, I mean this: Ashton refused to stand up for herself when everyone turned on her, which really bugged me. If she'd had a legit reason for letting everyone run over her, I could've gone with it. But she disappointed me as a character when she just rolled over. It didn't seem consistent with this spit-fire of a girl I'd grown to love.

The other guy, Sawyer. The "good" one. With Sawyer, I didn't feel as connected. In all reality, I didn't real care for him that much. He has a brief, shining moment near the end of the story where he finally mans up, but give me Beau all day long! He fights for what he wants! I understand who he is as a character, but still, Sawyer's kind of a douche-canoe.

Now then, the part I don't like to analyze: the writing. Abbi has a phenomenal talent for storytelling. The story is delightful and has a voice of its own, but an editor could spiff it up SO much more! There were numerous times I didn't know what was meant or who was talking because there weren't commas or the dialog ended where someone else's actions picked up. Commas, commas, commas. I missed them so much I nearly quit reading. There were other problems such as formatting or dialog tags. Once during the read, an entire paragraph slipped from past tense to present. It made it choppy and very frustrating. Thankfully, Abbi's mad skills in character development and voicing made up for it!

In conclusion: Abbi is a great storyteller! I would never not recommend her, but I would very much suggest a rockin' awesome line editor. I would've rated this even higher had it been a little neater. I'd hate for anyone not to enjoy her delicious stories over something like commas. Write on, Abbi. Write on!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Young Adult Giveaway Hop!

Obviously, one of our favorite giveaways is all-things-YA! We wanted to give you the book you've always wanted to read, and what better way than to give a ten dollar gift card to Amazon? :-)

Be sure to stop by the rest of the hop by clicking on the picture above! And, as always, thanks for stopping by the blog!

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Fallenmore Excerpt and Giveaway!

We are so excited today to participate in Lucy Swing's blog tour of her newest book, Fallenmore. Here's a little peak of her latest work. Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of both books in the series! 

Total Darkness - An excerpt from Fallenmore
By Lucy Swing

“I shook my head at him, dismissing his concern. No one had ever spoken to me like that, and today was not going to be the day when it all begun. I plastered one of my wicked grins on my face and walked toward them, moving my hips graciously from side to side. Their eyes went empty as they stared. I reached them and Kyle gave me his usual, casual nod and wink mix. The same one that got all the girls instantly giggling when they walked by him.

It won't work this time, buddy.

“No one,” I looked him straight in the eye, feeling the fury burn there, “And I mean, no one, talks to me that way.” My mouth had long lost the grin and now probably contorted into a snarl.

He pulled himself from the locker and straightened, towering over my tiny little frame. He crossed his arms over his chest and muscles bulged from under his shirt. “Oh, is that so? What are you going to do about it, hot stuff?”

“Jade.” Blake warned from behind me, stretching the a sound. 

The shadow stirred around me, and then, with a long breath, I welcomed it in. “Or this.” My face fell, all emotion gone and I just stared at him, making all of his fears come alive.

I may have not been successful in getting inside Blake’s head, but everyone else’s, was fair game.
He had been in a serious accident when he was about eight years old. His father had been driving. Torrential rain down pouring, making it impossible to see a foot ahead. I could see the memory play out from his point of view. The fear was palpable and his little hands were tightly wrapped around a small matchbox car. His eyes darted from his father, who was now cursing at the rain, to his mother, who’s posture had gone stiff and held on to the door handle. She twisted on her seat and smiled at him. At least, that was what he had thought- just a reassuring smile. But I saw it differently. She was assessing him, making sure his seatbelt was buckled and around his torso the correct way. 
His father had been too busy in his cursing that he hadn’t noticed the stop sign, until his wife screamed. An eighteen-wheeler hit them on the passenger side. The windows shattered and shards of glass hit his small face. The screeching of tires and the sound of metal on metal was deafening. Above all, was the piercing scream of his mother that still haunted him to this day.

He took in a deep breath, as I pulled out of his head. His eyes were open in bewilderment, red with the tears he fought to hold back. Sweat was forming at the edge of his hairline and his chest rose and lowered heavily.
“Are we clear?” I asked, keeping my voice even. I didn’t wait for him to answer, I turned and walked to my locker, slamming the metal door shut and ran to class.”

Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? :-)
You can purchase Fallenmore at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

And now for the Giveaway!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Shadow and Bone Review

After Julie Kagawa mentioned at an author signing that she loved Shadow and Bone, I knew I had to get a copy ASAP. Leigh Bardugo's first novel does not disappoint.

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’re sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her . . . and only she can save the future.

What I loved:

First and foremost, this is a true YA fantasy with just a hint of romance kicked in. I loved that the author didn't "go there" when there were plenty of opportunities to do so. She kept the reader focused on the action and adventure and didn't get side tracked with adult type scenes that would have muddled down the story.  

I absolutely love the story! Reminiscent of  Paolini's Eragon series, Bardugo does a great job of world building and letting the story flow at a steady pace. We become attached to Alina and Mal right off the bat; theirs is a true friendship. I'll try not to spoil anything, but I appreciate the clarity this author brings to understanding the characters' emotions. Everything Alina feels is believable and genuine. And did I mention the storyline is rocking fantastic? 

The most complex character in the book by far is the Darkness. I wonder where she's going to take this in the next book, though. Bardugo does a great job of creating characters that are well rounded and unique. 

Even though the first few chapters were a bit confusing at times, the author did a wonderful job of clarifying at the exact moment I was getting ready to go back a few pages and re-read to see if I'd missed something. Clarity is one of the strongest attributes of this book. Man, is this thing honed like a sharp knife pointed toward the climax. While the book is 356 pages, the font is a true double space, and so it seems long but its not. I read it in one sitting. 

My Pinch Points: 

The book is so well written there are only a few pinch points for me. One is the slovic language, which could have been thinned a bit. There are readers that just gloss over foreign phrases and difficult names ... unfortunately I'm not one of them. I actually googled a few phrases in the book, which, of course, yanked me right out of the story line  Again, not a huge deal as the pages aren't littered with them, but a little frustrating none the less. 

My only other pinch point is more of a personal preference. It seems lately that a lot of YA is written in first person with little to no sensory. When we read first person, we are looking through the eyes of the protag. The reader wants to see, smell, hear, taste, touch, and sense what the protag senses. The internal dialogue is well written, as is the dialogue between characters, but I would have loved to seen more attention to sensory detail. I longed to be pulled into the world instead of told about it. 


All in all, the book is a great read. I'm definitely planning on re-reading this one in the not too distant future. While there is a bit of romance and violence throughout, it isn't graphic enough to merit concern for the younger side of YA. I highly recommend it to everyone! 

Posted by: Chi

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wordsmith Wednesday #7

The objective:
Show us a scene from your current project. It can be creepy, adventurous, romantic, etc. Just a snippet to let readers see what they're in for!

The guidelines:
 * Must be from a current work-in-progress (WIP). Nothing already published.
 * You may choose from any section of the manuscript, but be mindful not to include spoilers.
 * Keep it clean and YA audience friendly, please. No erotica.
 * Stay under 300 words or about one page. It can be as little as a few lines if you prefer. We just want to give readers a chance to see everyone's selection.
 * Link back to Chirenjenzie to enjoy others' work as well!

Rainshadow Road Review

By now you all know that I'm a Lisa Kleypas nut. When it comes to complex characters, I've yet to find a historical romance author that compares.

And so after mowing through her entire body of historical romance work, I turned to her contemporary.  After reading Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (the novella that intro's this series) I decided to pick up Rainshadow Road. 

Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her fiancé Kevin has left her. His new lover is Lucy’s own sister. Lucy's bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life. Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy's parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to "romance" Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger. Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life—even after being broken—can be made into something new and beautiful.

What I loved: 
The characters. Kleypas has a knack for unique characters with good voicing, and this doesn't disappoint.
I also loved the overall feel of the book. As with all her work, the pace is deliciously slow, allowing the reader to sink into the story. Too, the protag, Lucy, is strong, independent, and wonderful. And, of course, our main guy is definitely swoon worthy.

One of my biggest pinch points with contemporary romance is the "no big deal" aspect of the physical relationship itself. I hate that most authors portray intimacy with the same importance as going to the gym or a really good cardio class. Kleypas is different. Even though all parties involved have had previous experiences and multiple partners, she still is able to convey an emotional attachment reminiscent of her historical writing.

What I didn't love:
I hate spoilers, and so I won't give anything away, but I was excited early on in the book to find a paranormal twist. What was disappointing is that it never was explored or explained. It was just like ... oh, there it is ... now let's just accept it and move on, shall we? Either commit to it or don't put it in at all.

If  St. Martin's Griffin would have cut it out completely it wouldn't have made a difference between the characters. This led me to wonder if that part of the story was possibly put in as an afterthought. Paranormals are selling like hot cakes. Why not try and branch out into a new genre?

Also, while the male lead is definitely swoon worthy, this book in not nearly has steamy as her romance books. I know, I know, after writing well over thirty books, Kleypas may be growing tired of the physical action/reaction descriptors that goes along with relationship writing. I understand that ... I just wish it would have been as well done  as the Wallflower series, which has ruined me for any other historical book ... ever!

Overall, I loved the writing but the story could you a little tweaking.