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I Belong

Early Review: The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy

July 26th, 2016 Bridget Posted in Review No Comments »

The TellingTitle: The Telling

Author: Alexandra Sirowy

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Series: N/A

Publication Date: August 2, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages

ISBN-10: 1481418890 (Simon Pulse)

ISBN-13: 978-1481418898 (Simon Pulse)

Reviewed by: Bridget

Synopsis:

Lana used to know what was real.

That was before when her life was small and quiet.
Her golden step-brother, Ben, was alive, she could only dream about bonfiring with the populars, their wooded island home was idyllic, she could tell the truth from lies, and Ben’s childhood stories were firmly in her imagination.

Then came after.

After has Lana boldly kissing her crush, jumping into the water from too high up, and living with nerve and mischief. But after also has horrors, deaths that only make sense in fairy tales, and terrors from a past Lana thought long forgotten: Love, blood, and murder.

Quick & Dirty: Twisted mystery that will keep you intrigued the whole way through! I really enjoyed this one and would highly recommend it to thriller/mystery fans!

Opening Sentence: This is what after looks like: me picking my way up to the ridge in my swimsuit; the swollen water of Swisher Spring at the end of summer; girls baking under an orange sun on the boulders; boys cheering for me to jump, even though they’ve been vying for bragging rights all day.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Two months ago Lana’s world was torn apart when her stepbrother Ben was brutally murdered. Filled with grief, Lana shutdown until one day the boy she has been crushing on since preschool finally notices her. Suddenly she becomes a member of the core. The core is the group of popular kids who run the school. Until now, most of them would tease and make fun of Lana but now she finds herself one of them. She is more daring, more fearless and more free but then the unspeakable happens. A body is found in their tiny town and it looks like Ben’s killer may have struck again. Will they be able to catch the killer before they strike again?

Lana was such an interesting character. I loved that we got to see so many sides of her personality. She is a sweet girl dealing with the loss of her stepbrother who was such a huge part of her life. They were very close and his death was such a defining moment for her that she defines her life by before and after his death. The before, Lana was a shy straight A student that got bullied by her peers. The after, Lana is confident, daring and not afraid of what others think. But the reality is that she is really both Lana’s, she just doesn’t know how to balance the two. What I found most interesting was that she wasn’t afraid to think dark thoughts. Everyone, no matter how nice you are has had mean or evil thoughts go through their mind at one point or another. The majority of people never act on those thoughts but that doesn’t mean we don’t have them. I found Lana to be such a realistic character and I really enjoyed reading her story!

The Telling is a twisted and creepy mystery that really kept me interested. To be honest, this usually isn’t my favorite genre to read but I have been in a major reading slump for the last couple of months and this got me out of it. I’m not sure if it was a nice change from what I normally read or if it was just the story itself! I found the characters well rounded and each one played their part so well. There was some romance in the story but it was slightly dark and twisted, which fit the story perfectly. The pacing was a little slow at times and I figured out who the killer was pretty early on, but overall, I thought this was a great thriller. If you are looking for a story with a good mystery that will make you think, you should definitely pick this one up!

Notable Scene:

Becca crawls toward the edge for a better look. She snatches up Duncan’s skipper hat from where he tossed it and places it on her head. “Blood is soooo gross,” she complains.

Duncan has ahold of his nose and is egg beating in a furious circle. “I think there might be someone else down there,” he says.

My arms slash through the water as I whirl around trying to see under. Josh is asking what the eff over and over. Willa’s soprano tells me to get out of the water, this second. Carolynn’s shouting for Duncan and Josh to go down after Rusty.

Rusty hit’s the surface hacking up a lung, arms flailing, palms slapping hard to the rope ladder hanging from the rocky lip of the spring. The chorus drowned out by his huffing, “There’s a girl…. She’s…at the bottom.”

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FTC Advisory:  Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of  of The Telling.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: The Rule of Mirrors by Caragh M. O’Brien

July 25th, 2016 Kaitlin Posted in Review No Comments »

The Rule of MirrorsTitleThe Rule of Mirrors

AuthorCaragh M. O’Brien

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Series: The Vault of Dreamers (Book #2)

Publication Date: February 16, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages

ISBN-10: 1596439408 (Fierce Reads)

ISBN-13: 978-1596439405 (Fierce Reads)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin

Synopsis:

The entire country was watching when Rosie Sinclair was expelled from Forge, the prestigious arts school that doubles as a reality TV show. But few know how Dean Berg was mining students’ dreams in laboratories deep below the school. And no one, least of all the Dean himself, knows that when Rosie’s dreams were seeded into the mind of another patient, Rosie’s consciousness woke up in that body–a girl far from Forge, a girl with a completely different life from Rosie, a girl who is pregnant.

Told from alternating points of view between Rosie as she makes sense of her new identity and the shattered subconscious that still exists in her old body, The Rule of Mirrors will keep readers on the edge of their seats and leave them hungry for more.

Quick & Dirty: A fast paced addition to the series that I enjoyed more than the previous one.

Opening Sentence: When I feel soft, breathy pressure on my lips, I open my eyes and grab the guy’s throat.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Spoilers for book one! Rosie is still trapped in the vault of dreamers, her own personal hell, having her creativity and parts of herself mined in order for The Forge School (reality TV series crossed with an arts academy) to have shady undertakings. And another part of Rosie is awakening in the body of a coma patient across the globe, a girl called Althea who has different circumstances and who is very pregnant. Rosie will attempt to escape and gain revenge. Althea-Rosie will attempt to make sense of her new surroundings and decide on her future. Pasts will be exposed. Secrets will come to light. Vengeance will be sought.

Last year I read The Vault of Dreamers. I thought it was a decent read, but nothing I was completely lost in or something I felt was exceptional. The reality show premise was a nice twist that added interest to the story and laid the groundwork for Rosie’s adventuring and discovery, so I enjoyed it. For this novel, I wasn’t quite sure what was going to be happening, now that Rosie’s consciousness had fled and Rosie herself was trapped in the vault. When I read the synopsis, I will admit, I was pleasantly surprised. Rosie’s consciousness lives on – in another body! And not just any body, but a pregnant one, a body with a loving and wealthy family, a girl in entirely different circumstances.

To my horror, the love triangle was not completely decimated yet, although I don’t know how it could have been left resolved in book one. I thought it was unfortunate how Rosie used both guys to her advantage and as an asset, but in Rosie’s defense, she was in a tricky situation. Rosie (nor Thea) didn’t really fully trust anyone in this novel, which is understandable. Dean Berg used relationships and twisted them to manipulate the characters in his sick little game, so it was difficult to really know whose presence was going to be your undoing, whether or not the boys realized it. The love triangle is still unresolved to my eyes, but I don’t fault O’Brien too much for that – the plotline, action, and suspense was still a formidable section of this novel and what I chose to focus on.

Speaking of Dean Berg, he definitely grew as a villain in this novel for me. Knowing some of his backstory helped to explain his motivation and the reasons he was doing what he did. It made sense that he would be driven to such actions by an unfortunate past, and a glance at his life gave a clue to his share of issues. Nevertheless, there was nothing about his past that made his present ethically justified, and his failure to realize that was probably what caused him to go so far and spiral away from his original goals. I still feel that book three will need to address more of Dean Berg and his family, and come full circle in order to explain his point of view. A villain without a backstory is not nearly as frightening as an antagonist with a purpose and a goal, in my opinion.

Altogether, this novel was a good one, and in my opinion better than the first. Again, I didn’t feel fully connected to the story, but that could be partly my fault – I’ve been in a reading block lately and not many of the books I’ve opened I’ve finished, so this novel gets props for my actually reading it. Rosie and Althea were a lot of fun and it was cool seeing how different parts of Rosie differed, and how they both grew as the story progressed. The ending had a couple pretty big twists and I’m unsure how the next novel will continue – there is a lot of the story left open ended, after all! If you enjoyed the first book, however, be sure to grab this one.

Notable Scene:

“I know what’s real,” I whisper.

“Do you? What about me?”

My heart leaps in terror.

Ian’s face shimmers for a second and comes back into focus, nearer and harshly clear. “Desperate people invest desperate solutions. It’s not my fault if they do,” he says, in the voice of Dean Berg.

The Vault of Dreamers Series:

1. The Vault of Dreamers

2. The Rule of Mirrors

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FTC Advisory: Fierce Reads/Roaring Book Press/Macmillan provided me with a copy of The Rule of Mirrors. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

July 24th, 2016 Steph Posted in Review 1 Comment »

Dark AlchemyTitle: Dark Alchemy

Author: Laura Bickle

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Dark Alchemy (Book #1)

Publication Date: April 28th, 2015

Format: Paperback, 384 Pages

ISBN-10: 006240492X (HarperCollins)

ISBN-13: 978-0062404923 (HarperCollins)

Reviewed by: Steph

Synopsis:

Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

Quick & Dirty: A woman comes to a small town looking for her father but ends up finding much more than she bargained for in this enthralling first book in Laura Bickle’s new series.

Opening Sentence: The raven saw it first.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

After experiencing a trauma on her last job, geologist Petra has come to the town of Temperance to search for her missing father. Little does she know this trip will open her eyes to the supernatural. Shortly after arriving in town, Petra saves a man, Gabe, from a vicious beating, only to discover the next day that he looks as if nothing had happened. She’s also come under the scrutiny of the local drug lord, known as the Alchemist. He believes she has something that belongs to him, and he won’t rest until it’s in his possession. Has Petra escaped one trauma only to become the victim of another? Will she find her father? Only time will tell . . .

I had read a book by Laura Bickle a long time ago and remember enjoying it, but for one reason or another, I never picked up the second book. So I was hesitantly positive about the prospect of reading this book. Can I just tell you, from the moment the book started, I was completely hooked! It starts off with some very creepy goings-on, and that just immediately caught my attention, and I wanted to know more about what was going on in this town. The pace of the book was really good, and my interest never really waned.

While I wouldn’t necessarily classify this book as horror, the creep factor is certainly high, as is the gore factor at times. If you’re a little faint of heart, this might not be the right book for you. As someone who loves Stephen King though, this was right up my alley! Laura Bickle definitely knows how to ratchet tension up and leave you on the edge of your seat.

As for our main character, I absolutely loved Petra. She’s strong, smart, and doesn’t need a man to get her out of tough situations. She doesn’t do stupid things, which is one of my biggest pet peeves about some heroines. In a word, Petra’s awesome. Plus she has a coyote sidekick named Sig. What’s not to love?

The one problem with the book though hinges on the romance. It kind of feels shoehorned in and isn’t necessary to the plot at all. Part of the problem is while we get to see some events from Gabe’s point of view, we don’t see enough to really give a good feel for his character, which makes it hard to connect to him. I liked the guy fine, but I really wasn’t invested in him as a character. Plus, the romance seemed to just pop up out of nowhere, and it left  me feeling like I’d missed an important chapter where more development was given to their feelings for each other.

All in all though, I think this was a great first book in a series, full of creepiness, tension, and well-paced action. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be checking out the next book!

Notable Scene:

She paused in climbing to her feet, squinting at something pale and splintered below the pines. Her GPR cart had rolled away into the soft bed of pine needles. The shape beyond it looked like a piece of the petrified forest. Had the ridge eroded on this slope enough to reveal another, older incarnation of the forest?

Her curiosity piqued, Petra crawled forward on her hands and knees. Pinesap stuck dried needles to her palms.

Sig growled. Petra looked back at him. His fur bristled, and he crouched close to the ground.

“You need to get over the squirrels. Really.”

But Sig wasn’t looking up. He was looking past her, at the petrified specimens. His nose flared and shivered.

Petra reached into her pack for a pick. Was Sig sensing a snake . . . or . . . God forbid, a larger predator? A bear?

A thin, reedy moan echoed from the foot of the pine.

Petra scrambled back, heart hammering. She dropped the pick and reached for the bear spray.

The moan sounded again. It didn’t sound like a bear. It sounded . . . human.

Petra crept toward the sound, expecting to find an injured hiker. The pine needles were soft underfoot, muffling her steps. Sig slunk before her. But he didn’t go beyond the tree. He stopped at the jagged piece of petrified wood, whimpered, circled it.

Petra peered at what she’d assumed to be a centuries-old tree. Something dead and silent. She pressed her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my God . . .”

It wasn’t a tree. This thing was horribly, horribly alive. Bones were warped and twisted, calcified around what was unmistakably a human face. She saw no evidence of eyes in the sockets, but she did see teeth in a jagged, frozen jaw. A thin, wordless keening flexed the ribs.

Her hands scrabbled in the pine needles for her pick. “Hang on. I’ll get you out of there.” She swung awkwardly with the pick, splintering away pieces of petrified material and summoning blood in the jagged surface. The thing shrieked.

Petra recoiled. This wasn’t someone encased in a prison of petrified wood – the prison was the person.

A prison of bone.

Dark Alchemy Series:

1. Dark Alchemy

2. Mercury Retrograde

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FTC Advisory: Harper Voyager Impulse/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of Dark Alchemy. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Rock Wedding by Nalini Singh

July 23rd, 2016 Kristie Posted in Review No Comments »

rock wedding by nalini singhTitle: Rock Wedding

Author: Nalini Singh

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: Rock Kiss (Book #4)

Publication Date: July 22, 2016

Format: Paperback, 382 Pages

ISBN-10: 1942326382 (TKA Distribution)

ISBN-13: 978-1942356387 (TKA Distribution)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh continues her Rock Kiss series with a hot, sweet, emotional contemporary romance about love and forgiveness…

After a lifetime of longing for a real family, Sarah Smith thought she’d finally found her home with rock star Abe Bellamy, even if she knew Abe didn’t love her the way she loved him. But their brief relationship, filled with tragedy and heartache, nearly destroyed her. Alone, emotions in turmoil, and already shaky self-esteem shattered, Sarah struggles to pick up the pieces in the wake of their divorce.

Abe knows he’s to blame for the end of his marriage. Caught in a web of painful memories, he pushed away the best thing in his life – the sexy, smart woman he adores – breaking them both in the process. Then fate throws him a second chance to get things right, to prove to Sarah that she means everything to him. Abe desperately wants that second chance at love…even if he knows he doesn’t deserve it.

But can he convince Sarah – now strong and independent without him – to risk her wounded heart one more time?

Quick & Dirty: Heartbreaking, yet heartwarming story of two ex-lovers who must fight their inner demons in order to love again.

Opening Sentence: Sarah knew today was a bad day for Abe.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series concludes with Abe Bellamy and Sarah Smith’s heartbreakingly sad story in Rock Wedding. Although, I do think the title should have been Rock Weddings with almost all weddings for the previous Rock Kiss stories taking place within the time span of this book. Be prepared for your heart to be ripped out. Nalini writes with such emotional depth plus it doesn’t help that the characters have had to deal with the losses that they have.

If you’ve read the previous title, Rock Hard, then you know that Abe and Sarah have a history together and it must not have been pretty. Rock Wedding begins with the event that ripped them apart for years before time jumping to the present time of the novel. Abe and Sarah both have tragedies in their past that make them compatible souls. The only unfortunate was how they each dealt with their past. Abe delved into drugs while Sarah latched onto Abe and his family to fill a void she was missing. Sarah was right in separating from Abe, they were both too young and too immature to be in a relationship.

Several years pass and Sarah is still reeling from yet another tragedy when Abe reappears back into her life. She does not want to get into a relationship with Abe again, not after the pain he caused her. She cannot go through that again. She knows they have undeniable chemistry, something that she has never been able to find again. The years haven’t been entirely unkind to Sarah. She has been able to grow as a person and been able to learn to rely on herself.

Abe has never gotten over Sarah. He knows he was a complete jackass to her, now he must prove to Sarah that he is no longer the man that she first married.  He knows he must stay away from the drugs. Now he only has a few months to gain Sarah’s love and trust that he utterly destroyed years earlier. Abe is no longer the man he used to be, but I did feel he needed to redeem himself in the eyes of the reader also, even though we didn’t know the full extent of some of the things he did to Sarah.

The Sarah at the beginning of the novel is not the same Sarah at the ending of the novel. She is a loner and very insecure about herself. As time passes, she learns that she can only rely on herself and she can only get better if she makes herself become a better person. She goes back to school and opens her own business. She makes friends. She’s more outgoing. Yes, she is still a bit insecure especially when it comes to her body but when you hang out with other rock star girlfriends and a movie star it is a little hard not to be insecure.

Abe has also gone through a drastic personality makeover. He has gone through rehab and stayed clean with the help of his bandmates. Abe has opened up with Sarah. He tells her his vulnerabilities and why he acted the way he did. He excuses can’t make up for the hurt but they definitely make situations more bearable.

This novel could be a huge lesson in open communication and trust in relationships. I love the way that Nalini writes, although I do prefer the more intricate worlds of the Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunters but this world of rock stars seems equally as real. The major conflict is one’s own inner demons and how to fight them. This series wrapped up wonderfully. I could feel the love with all the major characters which always makes me shed a tear so if you like emotionally rich stories then pick this one up!

Notable Scene:

Sarah dipped her spoon into the mousse, took a taste.

There was no way she could hold back her moan this time.

“Jesus, Sarah.” Abe’s words were rough, ragged. “I won’t be able to fucking walk if you keep that up.”

She stared at him, swallowed the mousse… and realized she’d dropped a curl of chocolate right in the V of her red top. It was sitting on the plump curve of her breast. She didn’t even have the chance to attempt to pick it up before Abe leaned over and wiped it off with soft white of his cloth napkin.

“Behave,” he ordered in a tone as stern as that of her junior high school principal. “I mean it.”

Sarah took another bite of the mousse, slid the spoon out oh-so-slow from between her lips. She didn’t know what had gotten into her except that Abe was looking at her like he wanted to eat her alive, and no one had looked at her with that much raw want for a long, long time—not even the man who’d once been her husband. He had back before everything went wrong, before the grief and the drugs and the anger turned him into someone she didn’t know.

It was a heady feeling to see that look in his eyes again.

Rock Kiss Series:

1. Rock Addiction

1.5 Rock Courtship

2. Rock Hard

3. Rock Redemption

4. Rock Wedding

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FTC Advisory: TKA Distribution provided me with a copy of Rock Wedding. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Contest Winner: Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

July 22nd, 2016 Kristie Posted in Review 1 Comment »

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