Saturday, March 31, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers



Title:   Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 

Expected Publication: April 3, 2012

My Rating:

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From Goodreads:

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

My Review:
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While it’s wonderful for a book to captivate me from its first page, I revel in a book that works hard to win me over. This was the case with Grave Mercy, and win me over it did! I struggled a bit in the first couple of chapters, which is no reflection on the story, nor the author’s beautiful writing. This is my own personal struggle I have with the era in which it is written. I was burned out on historical fiction/romance many years ago and have been reluctant to revisit a book placed in this time period. However, many of my best bookish friends, whose opinions I hold in high regard, were giving this story such positive ratings that I had to see what all the fuss was about. I couldn’t be happier that I eventually gave it a chance. This book sunk its teeth into me and, even as I write this review, has yet to let go.

Let’s begin with the plot, which involves a young, Nikita-esque character, impossible not to admire. Throw in assassin nuns - uh huh... you read that correctly - poisons, weaponry, combat training, and then, a most swoon-worthy character (the kind that will no doubt appear in dreams from here on out), one Gavriel Duval, and I was putty in Robin LaFevers’ hands. This author knows how to tell a story and is an enchantress, as well as a master at keeping you on the edge of your seat. I feel as though I’ve been visited by the herbwitch herself, as I cannot stop thinking about this book and its characters - mind you, not just the lead characters, but the supporting characters, as well. I fancied ‘Beast’ from the first introduction of his character, and he quickly became one of my favorites. Then, there are De Lornay, Anne, Isabeau, Louyse, Annith, and Sybella, just to name a few, that were so much fun to read about.

I relish a strong female lead, and Ismae is one of the strongest. I love that she overcame so many tribulations in her young life, and I adore the fierce, determined person she grew to be. 


“He does not start guiltily, as he should, but frowns in annoyance. ‘Who are you?’
I slip my hand through the slit of my overskirt, and my fingers close around the hard wood of the crossbow tiller. ‘Vengeance,’ I say softly.”

It’s true that I am a romantic at heart, but I enjoyed that there were no immediate, amorous feelings or a lovestruck, spontaneous infatuation between the two lead characters. I confess, I have a soft spot for characters who abhor each other on sight, intent on being the other’s downfall, only to slowly fall for one another, deeply and madly. Sigh. The relationship between Ismae and Duval was so intense and so wonderfully written that I actually shouted, “Merde!!” at my poor husband when he unknowingly interrupted my reading of a particular scene between the two.

“When one consorts with assassins, one must expect to dance along the edge of a knife once or twice.”

Now, I want more. More of this story and (*gasp*) more of this era. What have you done to me, Ms. LaFevers? Fortunately, this is not the end, as there is a second book due out in 2013. It appears to be from one of the supporting characters’ POV, but I am hoping there will be plenty of Ismae and Duval within its pages.

“Whenever you are ready, or if you never are, my heart is yours....”

I feel inclined to mention that, while this book is marketed as YA, there is mature content that I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my young teen read yet. I think she needs a few more years before she can read about some of the situations Ismae finds herself in. Other than that, I would highly recommend it to anyone yearning for a unique, action-packed, romance-laden story. I know I want to read more by this talented author, and soon!

Now, if I could just go back to speaking like the 2012 southern belle that I am, and not a daughter of St. Mortain trying to survive the 1400's. Sweet Jesu!

Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for graciously providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Seeds of Wither by Lauren DeStefano Review and Giveaway of Fever or Wither


Title:    The Seeds of Wither
Series:  The Chemical Garden #1.5
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Format: Ebook
Publication date: November 15, 2011

My Rating:
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From Goodreads:


Step into the Chemical Garden with an all-new eBook sampler!


Discover the world author Lauren DeStefano created in Wither, a riveting dystopian thriller. In the not-so-distant future, fallout from genetic engineering causes all females to die at age twenty, and all males to die at twenty-five. Kidnapped from her home and torn from her twin brother Rowan, sixteen-year-old Rhine is forced into a polygamous marriage and taken to live in her husband’s mansion. She has everything she wants—except for freedom. But her plans to escape and return home are complicated by a devious father-in-law, as well as Rhine’s growing attraction to Gabriel, a servant who works on the estate. Read the first 100 pages of Wither and be captivated by Rhine’s journey.


This eBook sampler includes an EXCLUSIVE, never-before-published short story by Lauren DeStefano! “The First Bride” reveals the events leading up to Wither, from the point of view of the bride that came before Rhine.


Delve even deeper into Wither with a map of the wives’ floor, the Wither book trailer, and a video that takes you behind the scenes of the Fever cover shoot.


You'll also get a sneak peak of Fever, the second book in the Chemical Garden trilogy.

My Review:
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If you loved Wither as much as I did, (see my review here) then you will definitely enjoy Seeds of Wither.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the new content in Seeds of Wither is minimal, but good things come in small packages. While Rose’s story is a short story, indeed, I love the insight it gave into Rose’s and Linden’s history - so lovely! The excerpt from Wither was an excellent reminder of how much I enjoyed that story, and the sneak peak of Fever was just the push I needed to bump the second installment in The Chemical Garden Trilogy to the top of my TBR list. Lauren DeStefano’s writing is addictive, and she remains one of my favorite authors.

Giveaway:
As I began to make my purchase of Fever, I thought it would be even more fun to share the love! So, fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter for the second installment of The Chemical Garden Trilogy. If by chance you’ve yet to read Wither, book 1 in this incredible series, then you have the choice of winning either Wither or Fever. Open to US and International - provided you are able to receive books from The Book Depository.


Thanks for entering, and good luck!



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Between by Cambria Hebert



Title:   Between

Author:   Cambria Hebert

Format:   Ebook

Expected Publication:   April 20, 2012

My Rating:

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  From Goodreads:

  I grew up in a comfortable house with two parents and a white-picket fence. My brother, Sam, and I used to play with sticks in the backyard and pretend they were swords. There were always cookies on the table and milk in the fridge. Then, one day, things changed.

Sam changed.

  Life was never the same again. Sam left. My parents abandoned him when he needed them most, and I was left to survive in a house that was merely a shell of what it used to be. Mom cried all the time and Dad expected me to fill the void my brother left behind. But mostly, all we did was pretend. We pretended that things weren’t messed up. We pretended that Sam never existed.

Until I changed, too.

Now, everything’s a mess and I’m so confused. It’s like there are two different people trapped inside one body—my body—and one of them wants out. I do things. Bad things and I don’t know how to stop. I’m not sure I want to. The only way I can be normal again is if I find Sam. He’ll know what to do.

He has too.

My Review:

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I very much enjoyed this short story from Logan’s point of view. I know I’ve said it several times, but I feel it bears repeating: It is so satisfying to read a novella! To be able to finish a story in a short sitting is one of my most favorite things in the world. This is the second novella of Cambria’s that I have had the pleasure of reading. I think of them as delicious little appetizers - they temporarily tide you over, but leave you longing for the main course.

I love the cover of Between, especially since I’ve been on a “no-more-girls-in-flowing-dresses” campaign. I enjoyed the introduction of Logan in Masquerade, but I confess, I was a bit skeptical of him. Between answered several questions I had about Sam’s younger brother, and I liked getting a peek into Sam and Logan’s background and family life. As with any great story, Between answered some questions, but left me with more than I started out with, which has me eagerly anticipating Charade! I’m going to leave it at that and not provide any more details, as to avoid spoilers.

Between is available in ebook format on April 20, 2012, and it’s just what you need to whet your appetite for Charade, expected publication date May 18, 2012.

A huge thank you to the author for providing an ARC of Between in exchange for my honest review.


The Hunger Games Movie and Tribute Guide Reviews



Movie review:

The Hunger Games
March 23, 2012
Lionsgate
Director: Gary Ross
Starring:  Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth

My rating: 
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

The tag line is "The world will be watching"... and that most definitely included me.  I had an amazing time at the midnight premiere, as did the three lovely people who joined me.  We had so much fun seeing all the "Effie's" and all the different Hunger Games shirts and accessories.  Fortunately, we had a great crowd in our theater.  Very well-behaved and die-hard fans, which usually don't go hand in hand, but, lucky for us, this time, it did. 

I’m pleased I stuck to my guns and didn’t re-read the book until after I had seen the movie. I believe if the book had been fresh in my mind, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the movie as much as I did. I stand by my earlier statement that, as far as book-to-movie adaptations go, I am pleased with the HG movie. I cried a bucket-full at a certain place in the film.  Now that I've read the book again, I know the movie definitely wasn’t perfect, but show me a book-to-movie that is. I don’t believe the intensity of the book could ever truly be captured on film. Apparently, neither can the boy with the bread. I enjoyed Peeta in the movie, but reading about Peeta again has reminded me of many things the movie failed to.  Final thoughts: The book is always better, but the HG movie is definitely not to be missed.
 

 
The Hunger Games Tribute Guide
Emily Seife
Scholastic Press

My rating: 
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Loved this book when I received it in the mail and now, even more so after seeing the movie. What an excellent movie companion guide and insight to the tributes. I may have had a bit of uncertainty with some of the casting (sorry Peeta - I still love you), but I felt most, if not all, of the tributes and supporting cast (Cinna and Caesar = ahhhmazing!) were spot on. I mean, little Rue? What an adorable little girl, and I admit to unabashedly crying and fumbling for napkins at a particular scene involving her in the movie.



The Tribute Guide is 128 pages of beautiful illustrations that include the cast, a guide to all of the districts, the training center, tribute parade, tribute center, interviews, and the journey to the arena.  It also includes a weapons page and descriptions, amazing photos from the movie, and several quotes, including my personal favorite (as non-spoilery as I can  make it):

Peeta: "Winning won’t matter in my case."

Caeser: "Why not?"

Peeta: "Because - she came here with me.”  

Not quite as dramatic as it was written in the book, but the effect was the same:  Cue the swoon.

Final thoughts:
A fun and very beautiful book for any die-hard Hunger Games fan.

 So....








And


This book was generously gifted to me by dear, sweet Nyssa and Sandy. Thank you guys so much for sending it to us. Love it, and love you!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fracture by Megan Miranda



Title: Fracture

Author: Megan Miranda

Publisher: Walker & Company

Publication Date: January 17, 2012

My Rating:
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From Goodreads:

Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then, her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet, she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first, she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature - or something much more frightening?

My Review:
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“If you had one day left to live, what would you do?”




With this book came some pretty high expectations. Many of my friends had read and generously rated this book, so  I am very happy to report that Fracture more than lived up to those expectations, and, at times, exceeded them.


Delaney died. She was dead for eleven minutes. People don’t come back after that much time has passed... but Delaney did. The question is, did she come back different?


This is such a dark subject matter, so I really admired that the author was able to infuse the story with the humor she did. She had me laughing at several points during the book:


“I wasn't athletic and had no desire to work out, so I watched what I ate. Correction: I ate what I wanted and felt guilty about it later.”

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“I’d heard girls in the locker room not so discreetly whisper that I had gotten fat, but I had also heard guys not so discreetly whisper that I had gotten hot. It’s a fine line.”

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“‘Don’t look at me like that. I tried nice. Nice made me puke.’”




This book contains a lot of my guilty pleasures: There's the friendship between characters that hints at something more.  The character I struggled with, constantly changing my mind whether he was a good guy or not, and trying to decide whether I loved or hated him.  And of course, every high school has a mean girl.  Fracture has a great one - one that I had no trouble deciding whether I loved or hated. Hint:  It wasn't love.


Megan Miranda has such a way with words and uses them to paint the most incredible pictures in my imagination. Here's one of my favorite quotes:


“I hadn't known that a light could be a feeling and a sound could be a color and a kiss could be both a question and an answer. And that heaven could be the ocean or a person or this moment or something else entirely.”

I love that this story is so unique. Now, I know several blogger friends who disagree with me on that point, and have recommended a particular book to me due to a similar story line. Having never read that specific book or anything remotely close to it, I stand by my statement that Fracture is unique to me. I found it to be refreshing, and, honestly, I couldn’t put it down, so, I was thrilled to find out I only had to pay with a tweet or Facebook post to receive “Eleven Minutes,” a short story from Decker’s POV. You can do the same here: Eleven Minutes


Another favorite thing about Fracture? It’s a stand-alone book. I love several book series and trilogies, but I have grown so tired of cliffhangers and waiting a year to find out what happens to my favorite characters. It is so fulfilling and rewarding to have a complete and final story in one book. I really wish there were more stand-alone books being written.


I think Megan Miranda’s debut book was a home-run, and I look forward to reading her future work.

 









Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown



Title: Lies Beneath
Author: Anne Greenwood Brown
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Expected Publication: June 12, 2012

Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository | Goodreads

  My Rating:
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From Goodreads:  

Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother's death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family's homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. Easy enough—especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistible good looks and charm on unsuspecting girls. Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily—just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. And just as his sisters are losing patience with him.

Guys, I’ve been trying to hold onto this review until closer to the publication date, but I can no longer contain my excitement over this story and its amazing author. Please forgive the prematurity...I am weak:

  My Review:
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“Mother, may I go out to swim?
Yes, my darling daughter.
Fold your clothes up neat and trim,
But don’t go near the water.” - Anonymous



Lately, I’ve found myself holding back from reading the synopsis of a book.   I don’t want any spoilers, so all I knew about Lies Beneath was that it involved merpeople, which I gathered from that gorgeous cover. I admit that my experience with mermaids didn’t reach beyond Ariel and Prince Eric, so I thought Lies Beneath would be a light, funny, albeit, slightly more mature, version of the above mentioned movie. That sound you hear is my silly misconceptions coming to a screeching halt. Mermaids are hawt... and... naughty! I was spellbound from the first page! These are not your Disney mermaids, and the ancient fairytales and legends had it ALL wrong:

“Forget everything you think you know about merpeople. Forget that freaking Ariel,  think Silence of the Lambs, think Friday the Thirteenth.  Haven’t you heard anything I said to you today? 
They. Will. Kill. You.”

Is that a convincing quote, or what? How about the very first line of the story?:

“I haven’t killed anyone all winter, and I have to say I felt pretty good about that.”

I adore a male POV, and the author handled this one flawlessly. I wish there were more books from the male’s perspective, but I believe Calder as the male lead is one of my favorites. I love that I just couldn’t quite decide if he was a good guy or a not-so-good guy. I found myself cheering for him... even at times when, perhaps, I shouldn’t have. The character development throughout the story was incredible. Sure, he’s gorgeous, and it’s not like he can help being arrogant (it’s practically part of his DNA), but he also has depth and a purpose. Two purposes to be exact. One is revenge, and the other... freedom. Unfortunately for Calder, they come in that order.

Calder never could have imagined himself falling for a human. Especially not a human who was the descendant of the man responsible for his mother’s death. An old grudge that is finally going to be settled. All he has to do is get close to Lily, lure her in so he and his sisters can use her as bait, and finally get vengeance on her father and closure for their mother’s death. Easy. Or, at least, it would have been until Calder did the unthinkable: He fell for her.

Lily is a great heroine. She’s smart, non-whiny, and completely unaware of her looks. She doesn’t fawn over every guy she meets, and in no way, is she the type to have ‘insta-love’ with any boy, despite his mysterious good looks. She has just the right amount of toughness, sarcasm, and wit - enough to entertain the reader and, most importantly... Calder. Definitely an admirable female lead.

Calder’s sisters were so much fun to read about! While they were beyond scary to me, I found myself being mesmerized by them much in the same way their unwilling victims probably were.

Anne Greenwood Brown’s markedly descriptive imagery of Lake Superior, and especially the underwater details, are breathtaking! Her beautiful writing and vivid descriptions of Lake Superior's surrounding areas make me want to visit the town of Bayfield. Although, if I ever do, you can rest assured I won’t put so much as a pinkie toe in the water. I was so consumed by this story, that in a particular scene describing an underwater swim, I realized I was actually holding my breath!

I loved this book and all of its characters!  I’m extremely excited for Deep Betrayal (book 2), out 2013, so I will be able to immerse myself (no pun intended) in more of this story. I highly recommend this book and this fabulous author!

An ARC of this book was provided by Netgalley for review.