Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Wrap-Up & Happy New Years!

Happy New Years, guys! 

I hope you're all going to have a safe, wonderful New Years Eve tonight! I'm going to be celebrating in San Diego with my cousins! I normally celebrate in Las Vegas for New Years Eve (honestly, one of the best places I can recommend going to on NYE) but our plans fell through for that so only our parents are going. I've never celebrated in San Diego, so I'm kind of nervous/excited. I like the whole big-group-celebration for NYE (though I suppose that would suck for a zombie breakout...) and San Diego sounds like it's going to be the opposite of that, more mellow and close-knit.

I'm rambling. (When don't I?) I'm seriously ready to say goodbye to 2010. It admittedly wasn't one of my best years, but it wasn't one of my worst, either. I went through a break up, I started losing weight, I got into books and blogging, I GOT AN A IN CHEMISTRY, I had a 4.0 for both Spring and Fall '10 semesters, I broke out of my socially awkward shell, and I made a ton of great friends. While I'm not one known to stick with New Years resolutions, I made one this year (after 3 ish years of not making one) and I'm ready to apply the chances that happened in 2010 and make them even better in 2011.

Random tidbit of the day: my favorite New Years song to listen to is The New Year by Death Cab for Cutie. ♥

My personal [boring] life aside, I figured I'd make some lists of my favorite reads this year and re-cap on a few challenges I took up and post a general wrap-up. My lists have no particular order. Its only order is "chaotic mess", which is fitting since I am a frazzled book nommer. ;) [Lame joke, lawl].

Total Books Read in 2010: 59
You can see all of the books I've read in 2010 here.

Technically, my total accounts for all books read since August 2010, since that's when I began recording the books I've read. I tried my hardest to end with an even 60 but I got too busy with the holidays. 58 books in four/five months isn't bad at all, considering that I had a super hectic class [chemistry] I was currently enrolled in!

First Review in 2010: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Last Review in 2010: Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

Please don't read my first review - it's slightly embarrassing. I was new to blogging and reviewing and had no idea what the heck I was doing. It's so amazing to see what a long way I've come from my first review of the year to the last. And I definitely ended my reviewing year with a bang: Demonglass was a-mazing!

My Top Ten Favorite Reads in 2010
I tried to place these into an order, but I kept rearranging the list, and then rearranging it after I rearranged it. So it's in no particular order - I loved them all.

Entangled by Cat Clarke (look for the review in 2011!)
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
The Duff by Kody Keplinger
The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
Matched by Ally Condie
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

Honorable Mentions:
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
                         Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? by Marie Simas
     No Greater Sacrifice by John C. Stipa

Favorite Review I've written in 2010:
Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw
I'm really, really proud of this review. I think the cover made my review one of my favorites. But I liked the way I reviewed it, the color scheme I used for it, and... I dunno, maybe it was just the overall book that made me feel so good, happy, and golden for this review.

Favorite Cover of 2010:
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

There are so many contenders for favorite cover, it was hard to choose. I was going to give it to Nightshade or Paranormalcy, but Brightly Woven takes the cake for me. The model and the profile pose are great, the color scheme is awesome, the font is simple and eye catching, and the brushes they used for the corners are so pretty. Everything about this cover screams stunning. :)

Favorite ARC Tour to have participated in for 2010:
Entangled by Cat Clarke

The tour was designed by Katelyn at Star Book Tours and Quercus publishing. It was called an Artwork My ARC Tour. The participants were allowed to write notes in the columns, highlight favorite passages, put post it notes inside, doodle, etc. It was really fun seeing what other reviewers before me wrote, and it felt really interactive.

Challenge Wrap-Ups
I participated in two challenges this year. One was a September Spectacular Reading Challenge and the other was the 2010 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren. I already did the SSRC wrap-up post, so I'll put my DAC wrap-ups here.

Debut Novels Read in 2010:
1. Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson
2. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
3. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
4. You by Charles Benoit
5. Firelight by Sophie Jordan
6. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
7. Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton
8. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
9. The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
10. Matched by Ally Condie
11. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
12. The Candidates by Inara Scott

Total: 12 - challenge completed!
I was ambitious and listed 50 books, but that was unrealistic (and I knew it) because I started the challenge in September. I at least made the challenge minimum - 12 books - and am aspiring for at least 30 for 2011! :)

Most Eagerly Anticipated Books of 2011:

Illusions by Aprilynne Pike
Blackveil by Kristen Britain
Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Clarity by Kim Harrington
Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer
Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
Possession by Elana Johnson

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Awakened by PC Cast & Kristin Cast
Timeless by Alexandra Monir
Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Die For Me by Amy Plum
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
Entwined by Heather Dixon
... and like, a gazabijillion others!

Whew, that was a long post. 2010 was a great reading year for me. I came across some great books I probably never would have read. I'm glad I took a chance with all of the books I did read. 2011 looks like it's going to be a great year for books - debuts and oldies alike! :)

Blog-wise, I'm pretty happy with how I've progressed in the last four/five months. I think October was the best month for me - social network and reviewing wise - because I had a ton of free time, and I actually knew what I was doing. I'm looking forward to 2011 to step up my blogging game and have an even better year than 2010! :)

Happy New Years again, guys! Be safe! I'll see you next year ♥

Bring on 2011!!! 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Follow Friday Dec. 31

Follow Friday is a weekly meme posted on Friday's that is hosted by Parajunkee @ Parajunkee's View. To join, all you have to do is follow the host and the week's featured blogger. Then put your name on the linky, grab the button, and follow, follow, follow as many people as you can! If someone comments and says they're following you, be a dear and follow back -- it's all about spreading the love during Follow Friday! :)

This week's question is:


I actually have a lot of them, but I'm going to [try to] keep my list simple.

  1. Comment more on blogs I stalk. I usually only comment the people who comment me, or when I REALLY have something I need to say. But mostly I just read and lurk. I get lazy with all the clicking and typing that is involved in commenting. xD I stalk some really awesome people and I don't let them know how much I love their blogs enough!
  2. Read and review in a more timely manner. I used to read a book and pop out a review within hours of finishing the book. But now it takes me a couple of days. While that's not a bad thing (it lets me settle my emotions a bit), I tend to get lazier when I sit on reviews for more than a day.
  3. Stop being lazy. Jeebus, I'm only in my 5th month and I think I can take the award for laziest blogger ever. xD 
  4. Socially network... better. :P I suck at Twitter and having conversations via twitter. :/ I suck at advertising. So I'm gonna try and step it up!
  5. More interviews. I love the interviews I've done, but I would like to get some more up. 
  6. Limit review requests. I have such a huge TBR and I hate not reviewing in a timely manner. :/ 
  7. Ties in with six - Learn to pace myself better (reading pile/blog-wise) during hectic weeks, like midterms and finals. That way when I have to take my "blogging exiles", I'll still have things up on the blog. 

Okay yeah I said I'd keep it short. << Guess I failed, haha.

Review: Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

This is my very last review of 2010 - I decided to end up my year (review-wise) with a bang. And Demonglass definitely delivers a bang. I have a wrap-up post set for the 31st, but for those of you who are going out of town or whatnot, thank you so much for the past four/five months. It's been such a pleasure befriending you guys. I definitely can't wait to kick-start 2011 with you all! :)

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: Hyperion
Series: Hex Hall #2
Pages: 368
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: February 15, 2011

SummarySophie Mercer thought she was a witch.

That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and faeries). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world—the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will destroy her powers.

But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new friends? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising them in secret with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Archer to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?

My Thoughts:
Oh, my, god! That ending! I thought I was upset about Hex Hall’s ending (because I NEEDED to know what happened), but that is nothing compared to Demonglass’ ending. I’m pretty much rendered speechless when I think about it and will stare at Rachel with big puppy dog eyes until the third book releases. I loved Hex Hall, but Demonglass was even better.

Demonglass transitions so well from its predecessor – I was impressed. I have to admit that I do not remember all of the little details of Hex Hall – I read it last Oct – and I was really thankful to Rachel for providing us with a sort of recap of what happened.

The plot finally got a lot scarier. Not by much, sure, but it’s hard not to be scared about losing your soul and dead things that slither and being on a “most wanted list” (figuratively). Unstable demons and the Eye are thrown into the mix, which definitely spiced things up a lot. There are tons of plot twists. There were a couple I didn’t even see coming, but most of it was predictable. The action totally kicked up a notch... and then another notch. Where Hex Hall was shrouded in mystery, Demonglass was enveloped with a fast moving plot with tons of action.

Sophie, as always, was snarky and absolutely hilarious. I had so much fun reading about her this time around because she continuously matured from the Sophie at Hex Hall. She’s always so wild and out of line, so seeing her having patience and willpower was very cool. Throwing Sophie’s dad into the mix was so awesome – I loved seeing the two interact with each other and while Sophie despised her father, I absolutely adored him.

Cal... Oh, my, god can I just say that I totally called it in the first book (and in my review)?! I had predicted what would happen with Cal while I was reading Hex Hall, and to see my prediction come true in Demonglass made me... well, excited, actually! I love Cal – I absolutely adore the strong and silent types. And he seemed to care a lot about Sophie and always went out of his way to help her. I’m so Team Cal, it’s kind of sad (in the I-don’t-think-Sophie-will-end-up-with-Cal kind of way). Archer... Oh, Archer. There are so many things I want to say about Archer, but it’ll spoil something. So I’ll just leave it as: *wistful sigh*. Because although I DO love Cal, Archer seems to fit Sophie more... snugly.

Lastly, back to that ending! I want to know what happened to Jenna, and Sophie’s father! I really didn’t think they would actually go through with what they did to him. And why do I get the distinct feeling that Cal will not be seen again? He didn’t say, “See ya, Sophie,”, he said “Goodbye, Sophie”. And Sophie’s mother being at Aislinn Brannick? Let me tell you this: the ending leaves more questions than it does answers, and I really want the third book already to see what happens!

Cover Musings: Okay while I do love the cover, I need to go on a mini-rant, like I did with Hex Hall. WHY IS THAT CAT ON THE COVER?! It’s driving me nuts! Is it symbolic or does it allude to something? Will there be some big revelation in the future book about it? I mean, Sophie is allergic to cats and she doesn’t even own one. Heck, a cat isn’t even talked about in the books. Am I looking too much into the placement of the cat on the cover? Is it really just there to draw in consumers who associate black cats with witches and magic and is therefore a marketing tactic utilized to get this book into some poor, unsuspecting teenager’s hands?!

Memorable Quotes:
I apologize for how excessive my quotes are - Sophie is just too funny for her own good! :P
Cal had been waiting for us at the pond. When he’d seen me, he’d given me a barely perceptible nod, which was the Cal version of waving his hands over his head and yelling, “Hey, Sophie!” (pg. 1)
Cal stepped forward, hopefully to come to my rescue.
“I could toss her off the pier, Ms. Vanderlyden.”
Or not. (pg. 3)
A sudden, horrifying thought came to me: holy hell weasel, were these kids my half-siblings? Had Dad dragged me all the way to England to play out some twisted version of the Brady Bunch? (pg. 39)
"I’ve heard so much about you, both from your father and from Anastasia.”
“Mrs. Casnoff?” Oh, God, if that’s where this woman had gotten her Sophie Mercer gossip, I was surprised she’d greeted me with a handshake instead of an exorcism. (pg. 40)
They were all wearing black uniforms, and had nearly identical smiles plastered on their faces.
“What are those people doing?” Jenna whispered to me.
“I don’t know,” I replied through a frozen grin, “but I’m afraid a musical number might be involved.” (pg. 43)
I held up my hand and did what I thought was the Girl Scout salute. Or it could have been that Star Trek thing. “I solemnly swear to tell Mrs. Casnoff that Elodie’s ghost looked at me. And if I do not tell her, I swear to buy Jenna a pony. A vampire pony.”
Jenna tried not to crack a smile, but no one can resist a vampire pony. (pg. 54-55)
“And of course, your dad was always talking about you, so between him and Jenna, I feel like I already know you.”
Man, first Cal, then Lara and the other Council members, now Vix. Did Dad have a blog about me or something? “My Daughter Sophie and Why You Should All Follow Her and/or Marry Her.” (pg. 171)
But all that time staring at the wall gave me lots of time to think, mostly about Archer. I’d seen the look on his face right after the explosion had gone off. He’d been scared. Shocked, even, and not in the “whoops, my assassination didn’t go off as planned” way. (pg. 240)
This may sound weird, but the first thing I thought as I watched that ten-foot-tall bronze lady plummet toward my face was, “Well, at least that can’t kill me.” (pg. 298)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Demonglass was better than Hex Hall. I can’t say that for many second books in a series, but I can definitely say that for this one. I was so absorbed into the story—my goodness, it was addicting! The action was kicked up a couple of notches and it was definitely a bit scarier than Hex Hall. It made me laugh, it made me hopeful, it was filled with surprises and tons of suspense, and it made me angry at the ending. I seriously want book 3 right now! :( *stares at Rachel with puppy dog eyes*

Rating: 5/5

Want to see what I thought of Hex Hall (Book One)? Find out HERE.
**I received this ARC from Different Area Codes Book Tours

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: The Candidates by Inara Scott

The Candidates
Author: Inara Scott
Publisher: Hyperion
Series: Delcroix Academy #1
Pages: 293
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: August 24, 2010
How Received: Won

SummaryDancia Lewis is far from popular. And that’s not just because of her average grades or her less-than-glamorous wardrobe. In fact, Dancia’s mediocrity is a welcome cover for her secret: whenever she sees a person threatening someone she cares about, things just... happen. Cars skid. Structures collapse. Usually someone gets hurt. So Dancia does everything possible to avoid getting close to anyone, believing this way she can suppress her powers and keep them hidden.

But when recruiters from the prestigious Delcroix Academy show up in her living room to offer her a full scholarship, Dacnia’s days of living under the radar may be over. Only, Delcroix is a school for diplomats’ kids and child geniuses—not B students with uncontrollable telekinetic tendencies. So why are the treating Dancia like she’s special? Even the hottest guy on campus seems to be going out of his way to make Dancia feel welcome.

And then there’s her mysterious new friend Jack, who can’t stay out of trouble. He suspects something dangerous is going on at the Academy and wants Dancia to help him figure out what. But Dancia isn’t convinced. She hopes that maybe the recruiters know more about her “gift” than they’re letting on. Maybe they can help her understand how to use it... But not even Dancia could have imagined what awaits her behind the gates of Delcroix Academy.

My Thoughts:
The Candidates starts off very slowly, despite the fact that it starts at the beginning of all the “action”. The very first chapter involves Dancia’s recruitment into Delcroix Academy, but it spreads off into five more chapters and sort of dragged on. That’s sort of how the entire novel played out, actually. There was no real action, besides the end, and the book mostly involved Dancia dealing with the way Cam makes her feel. In fact, the summary says that Delcroix involves humans with supernatural abilities but... it isn’t really like that, at all. The supernatural side doesn’t even get a chance to come out and play until the end. We didn’t even read about the classes – I think there were like, two genuine classroom scenes. It was all just about Dancia stressing over romance.

For the first half of the book, we’re left in total suspense. We have no idea what’s going on, and besides Jack’s suspicions, Inara gives us no bones – we’re just left guessing. Nothing’s explained. But then, at the end, we receive this onslaught of information all at once and it becomes overwhelming. I suppose that’s what irked me, too: why would all of this information be revealed to Dancia? Even if she was going to join them, I’d expect more resistance on the groups’ part. Or more secrecy. But nope, once “the cat was out of the bag”, everything just spilled out all at once.

I started out being indifferent to Dancia. She’s just average – average grades, looks, thoughts, etc. She blends into the background, and it worked so well that she didn’t stand out for me, either. She self-isolates her from her peers from fear of hurting someone and has no thoughts of her own. While that was great and all, her self-isolation made her making friends hardly believable. So yeah, I was indifferent to Dancia at first.

But then she pissed me off. I can appreciate Dancia swooning over an older guy (even though it was sort of gag-worthy since I did not like Cam whatsoever) and even ditching her friends for that reason. I mean, a lot of teenage girls do it, right? A 14 year old won’t suddenly become immune to an older guy giving her attention. But when she starts ignoring, and even avoiding, the one true friend that she’s made at Delcroix, the one who has helped her since the beginning and makes her feel like she belongs and truly understands the way she feels about everything, just because of said older guy, then I get pissed off. Sure, she’s a teenager and I shouldn’t be so critical, but she treated Jack like absolute crap. He was always there for her and remained loyal to her, even if she kept treating him unjustly. When Jack needed Dancia, she would always back away; when Dancia needed Jack, he was always there for her. What crap.

Actually, I take that back. Dancia treats all of her friends like absolute crap. Jack just gets the most crap from her because Cam tells her to stay away from Jack. I mean, she bags on her two “best friends” whenever they do something she doesn’t like. She hates “Perfect Girl” Allie for no reason. I get that teenagers can be very judgmental, but hating people who try to help you and people who have absolutely no reason for you to hate them? Ugh. Jack had it right when he finally got mad at Dancia’s stupidity: she’s definitely “deaf, dumb, and blind.”

Cam rubbed me the wrong way. Seriously. While Dancia thought he was swoon-worthy and a great guy, I just thought he was slimy. I didn’t like him, nor did I trust him. Dancia has proved time and time again that she is freaking stupid, and for her to wholeheartedly trust Cam after he lied to her over and over just exemplifies Dancia’s stupidity. I don’t even think he truly likes her. He can say whatever he wants and smooth talk her over, or whatever, but I doubt I will ever trust Cam.

Jack was this novel’s saving point. He was such an interesting character that had so much depth in him. Not only has he been in a gang and has been homeless, but he was abandoned by his own parents. And he’s still going. I would have given up by that point. But Jack is strong, if only sad and lonely. He’s so sweet and caring, and he knows how to turn up the charm with Grandma! He’s also troubled with inner demons, has fears of being followed, and has suspicions galore. But he’s still a great friend, always there for Dancia whenever she needs him no matter how shitty she’s treated him. (Can you tell I’m “Team Jack”?)

Cover Musings: Pretty. :) Very eye catching in a bookstore. xP

Memorable Quotes:
At that moment, all I could think of were those cartoons where Goofy gets stuck in front of a snowball rolling down a hill, and the snowball hits him, and he’s smushed into the side of it, and you can see him spread-eagled on the snowball as it keeps rolling down the hill.
Because that’s exactly what I felt like. (pg. 17)
Life was changing. I wasn’t sure where it was taking me, but I had a feeling things would never be the same. (pg. 89)
I blinked and tried to focus on what he had just said. My heart slowed abruptly. Apparently he hadn’t pulled me aside to ask me to be his one true love. (pg. 96)
“Did you move up here with your mother?” Grandma asked.
I threw her a black look. Didn’t she know it was rude to bring up such personal issues in the Walmart checkout line?  (pg. 151)
Jack was powerful, even I could see that. He could be dangerous. There might even have been a little evil in him.
But isn’t that true of all of us? (pg. 292)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: I liked this book, but there were also a lot of things I didn’t like about this book (the main character being one of them). It was very slow-paced and dealt with Dancia’s feelings over Cam more than anything else, and didn’t really deal with “magical abilities” like the jacket said it would. Cam, the main love interest, rubbed me the wrong way – I totally thought he was slimy from the very moment he was introduced. Jack was the novel’s saving point and was one of the only characters that had more than one dimension to him. I do want to see where the story progresses, naturally, but the book wasn’t as addicting as I thought it would be.

Rating: 3.5/5

**This review was submitted in the 2010 Debut Author Challenge!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Series: Paranormalcy #1
Pages: 335
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: August 31, 2010
How Received: Won

SummaryWeird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie’s dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

My Thoughts:
My. Bleeping. Goodness. Those three words were pretty much all I could think of while I was reading. It was that good. I had been apprehensive about listening to all of the hype around Paranormalcy, and I’m mad that I waited until now to read it.

Paranormalcy has such a unique take on paranormals. There are paranormal beings that follow the general “guidelines” that we all know – vampires that drink blood, werewolves that become wolves during the full moon – but Kiersten makes them her own. Each paranormal has the ability to glamour themselves to humans, and each species had little distinctions that made them unique to “normal” paranormal mythology.

Evie was honestly one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. She reminded me a bit of Sophie from Hex Hall and Rose from Vampire Academy mashed together. She’s witty, she’s snarky, she has attitude, and she carries around a badass pink taser. But she’s also extremely sheltered, innocent, lonely, and has insecurities. There are so many dimensions to Evie’s personality that I think I could keep writing a few more paragraphs just about her. She’s so dynamic and extremely vibrant. In a huge, “underground” paranormal world, Evie is definitely not normal and yearns to be normal. Evie was such a teenager: it was almost endearing to listen to her caring more about her favorite TV show and wearing pink clothing than tagging paranormals.

I freaking loved Lend. It was hard to not love Lend. He reminded me of your typical paranormal-next-door. At the beginning, he carries a lot of intrigue because we don’t know who this person is. We don’t know his powers or what he does. But as the story progresses, little bits and pieces of Lend come peeking through his “mask” as Evie and him become closer together. And that was probably the best part about Paranormalcy: Evie and Lend get to know each other before they even come close to being in a relationship. Whenever Lend got nervous around Evie, I would squeal like a little girl. It was so cute.

The pacing was great. I ended up finishing this book in a little under 5 hours (with distractions) – I was that hooked! The plot was so unique. Humans that try to control paranormals by “tagging” them? A girl who can see through the paranormals’ glamour? Mass-murders from a seemingly unknown source? Combine that altogether, along with kick ass characters, and you have a great story, which is exactly what Paranormalcy was. Paranormalcy only touches the edges of the world Kiersten has developed – there is a lot more to the world and I really wanted to find out more about it.

Just trust me when I say this: Paranormalcy is bleeping awesome!

Cover Musings: Uhm. Gorgeous. I love that the cover is an example of what Evie wears to the prom. I didn’t realize it until the end, but still.. very pretty. <3

Memorable Quotes:
“If you fail to report within the next twelve hours, you will be terminated. If you attack any humans, you will be terminated. If you attempt to remove the tracking device, you will be terminated. We look forward to working with you.”
I always thought that last line was a nice touch. (pg. 4)
“You’re IPCA?” one of the vamps asked. The others were shifting nervously in place.
“Yes. I’m going to have to ask you to line up for tagging.” I waited for them to start laughing. (pg. 52)
“You aren’t going to kill us?” the speaker asked, giving me a suspicious look.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” Seriously, did I look like some sort of psycho assassin? Maybe it was the pink sneakers. Or the heart earrings? (pg. 52)
“You’ll come back, right?”
“Sure. You’re the coolest person here.” He started to smile, so I shook my head, putting on a mock-serious face. “Don’t be flattered—most of your competition is undead.” (pg. 92)
I sighed heavily. “Gosh, now I don’t even feel like watching another episode of Easton Heights.”
Lend put his arm around me and patted my shoulder. “At least there’s one good thing to come of all this, then.” (pg 126)
“We’ll talk about it later, okay? I’ve got a date to get ready for.”
“It’s gonna take you three hours to get ready?”
“I don’t know. My date’s pretty freaking hot—I’d better look good.”
He laughed, letting go of me and climbing off the bed. “Yeah, mine too. Maybe I should change?” He shimmered, switching to blond hair and blue eyes. “What do you think? Does this face make me look fat?” (pg. 267)
We sat down and Lend put his arm around me. Every single jaw at the table dropped.
“Man,” John said, shaking his head. “All this time I was pretty sure you were gay.”
I batted my eyes innocently. “I’m sorry, John. Are you disappointed?” Everyone laughed, and John grinned.
“Maybe a little,” he answered, scooting into Lend’s free side to cuddle up. (pg. 271-272)
“Lend!” I burst through his door. He looked up, surprised. Still in basketball shorts and a plain T-shirt, he was lying on his stomach on the bed, sketching. I stopped and frowned. “Aren’t you going to get ready?”
He laughed. “Remove clothes, put on tux. Should take all of two minutes. You look hot though.” (pg. 299)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: I haven’t been so pleased with a novel in a while, which is why Paranormalcy was such a great read. I was so engaged in the book that I whizzed through it within a few hours. Evie was a strong, sassy female lead, while Lend was more mellow and laid-back. Their personalities contrasted well with each other, and their developing romance was such a pleasure to experience. The plot was unique (and coming from a huge paranormal genre for books, that’s saying a lot!) and interesting and... Just. Gah. This book was so addicting. I highly, highly recommend it!

Rating: 5/5

**This review was submitted in the 2010 Debut Author Challenge!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Muscle Bound by David Marlow

Muscle Bound
Author: David Marlow
Publisher: iUniverse
Series: N/A
Pages: 350
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: January 30, 2008
How Received: Publisher

SummaryUnlike so many of his gay buddies, Chase Hyde had no plans to settle down. A self-acknowledged “roamosexual,” his foremost objection was that having a partner would take him off the market. So even if love was never in the air, lust was always just around the corner.

Chase expected to continue his carefree lifestyle until, through a correspondence in cyberspace, he met Hunter Row, an up-and-coming Madison Avenue advertising executive and fellow bodybuilder who, unlike Chase, pined for a monogamous, long-term relationship.

Driven by their shared passion for muscle, the two men form a powerful connection and jump into an intense, long-distance love affair. Neither Chase nor Hunter can imagine the twists of fate that await in Muscle Bound, a passionate tale set against the turbulent and perpetual pursuit of sexual conquest.

My Thoughts:
I think I should start off by mentioning that this book has a lot of erotica. A lot. In between the back story would be wedged numerous sexual encounters between Chase and his “love” interests. Normally, I wouldn’t mind a few scenes here and there, but the thing with the sex scenes in this book was that they were blunt and vulgar. None of that “fading to darkness” stuff or toned down stuff (like "manhood", etc) – it takes you for the entire ride, very matter-of-factly. I had no idea you could say... certain words in so many different ways.

This book also deals with homosexuality. Chase, our MC, is a homosexual body builder and he enjoys hooking up with a lot of other muscular men. However, while the book has homosexuality in it, it doesn’t really deal with the emotions and uncertainty of homosexuality. The only time it did so was when one of Chase’s interests was questioning his sexuality – but Chase never dealt with it. He was certain of who he was and how he got there. Rather, the book focuses on the gay relationships revolving around the world of body building.

All of the characters were... interesting, to say the least. I couldn’t connect with most of them (most of them were obsessed with steroids and body building) on a basic level, but if you looked past their body building obsession, there are real emotions underneath. I enjoyed reading about Chase’s sexcapades and the diverse range of guys he chose to be involved with. Half of the time, the book almost felt like a drama or soap opera. (ex. Chase being involved, and loving, a married man who swore he was straight but loved Chase, also). There were so many issues and drama that could be applied to my own relationships, so I was able to connect with Chase through that outlet.

The book is divided into four different sections, named The Roamosexual Agenda, True Jock, Pumping Irony, and Muscle Bound. Each respective section deals with Chase in different areas of his life. The first is when he meets Hunter and starts a relationship with him. The second is with his sex partner turned close friend/brother, Kutchie. The third, and arguably largest section in the book, was with Christian, a married man who was Chase’s boyfriend. And the last is Chase and Hunter again. The way the book was cut up into sections was... I’ll leave it with the word “confusing”. Basically, the first book and the last book are about Chase’s relationship with Hunter. The second and third books are Chase’s backstory, giving an example of what or who shaped Chase to be the person he was today. While back stories are great, the third book was a huge chunk of the entire book. By the time we got back to Hunter and Chase in the fourth book, I had stopped being giddy about their romance and rather just felt sad about what happened between Chase and Christian.

But despite all that, the writing was superb. I loved the way David wrote. His prose wasn’t the best I’ve read, by far, but you could tell he had a handle on the English language and he used a lot of huge vocabulary that made my inner geek really happy. I wasn’t too crazy about the alternating POVs in the same chapter. Or, heck, I would have been fine with it if it had just been two central characters, but almost every supporting character had a few sentences for their own perspective.

Going beyond the erotica, homosexuality, and confusion, Muscle Bound is a book about love, really. Well, okay, not just about love, but rather about how many different events can shape you to be who you are. Chase’s love life was a predominant aspect in the entire book, making him hopeful, crushed, and even bitter. Deep down, he didn’t know how to love because he was always so guarded and refused to submit to the idea of love. But taking chances, opening yourself up to hurt, is what life is all about. At least, that’s what I got out of it before the fourth book. Once the fourth book rolled around, that message pretty much went out the window. To be honest, I’m a little pissed at the ending and how Chase handled Hunter and Christian. The ending is definitely not happy and ended quite abruptly.

Cover Musings: I don’t really like it at all. There are a lot of other muscle building images that could have been used – perhaps a body builder at Venice Beach, or at least in LA?

Memorable Quotes:
Okay, so, I normally do memorable quotes. However, when I went back through my notes for all the memorable quotes I wrote, they were all... er... Rated R. Or wouldn’t make sense out of context (like “the 51st state”). So I decided to omit quotes for this review. Sorry guys! 

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: I surprisingly had a lot of fun reading this book. It almost felt like a drama, with all of the troubles Chase had to suffer with his relationships. The writing was awesome, and I loved David’s use of vocabulary! I kind of wish we had a more conclusive ending, because I absolutely hated the ending. I kind of wanted Chase to have a happily ever after, not a sad ending.

Rating: 3/5

**This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you, Jason!)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Guest Post at Books are Dreams & a Merry Christmas to all!

Hello all! I hope you are all having wonderful holidays! I sure know that I am.

Today, I'm guest posting at Katie's blog, Books are Dreams. It's my first guest post, so I'm soopah excited about it. Not only that, but it's about Christmas! To be honest, I used to be a real downer during the holiday season. I despised it and everything about it. My friends and family joked that I was Scrooge. Want to know why? Well, you'll just have to find out at Katie's blog!

And if that alone doesn't want to make you head over, there is a special youtube clip (made by yours truly) that I share in the middle of the post! I promise that it'll be worthwhile. ♥ I personally love replaying it over and over again, even if it took place years ago.

On top of that, Katie's Holiday celebration is still going on (until tomorrow, at least). There are still ongoing giveaways and lots of cheerful Christmas posts, so go check it out!

Edit: I'm going to tack on my "Merry Christmas" on here, since it seems a bit redundant to have two separate posts for it.

Merry Christmas, everyone! :) Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat!

I hope you're all enjoying some good time with the family, or having fun opening presents (or watching presents be opened), and just enjoying this day, overall! 

Family is truly what makes my Christmas special. We can really grind each others' gears all the other 364 days in the year, but Christmas is where we put aside our differences and truly appreciate each other and enjoy each others' company.

What makes your guys' Christmas special? :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Follow Friday Dec. 24

Follow Friday is a weekly meme posted on Friday's that is hosted by Parajunkee @ Parajunkee's View. To join, all you have to do is follow the host and the week's featured blogger. Then put your name on the linky, grab the button, and follow, follow, follow as many people as you can! If someone comments and says they're following you, be a dear and follow back -- it's all about spreading the love during Follow Friday! :)

This week's question is:


On Friday (24th), I'll be hanging out with my cousins. We'll go to Honey-Baked Ham to get our ham (*cry* two hours for a ham...) Then start cooking tomorrow's meal (the stuff that needs to be set overnight, at least). Then at around 10:30PM we're heading off to Midnight Mass at our church for Christmas Eve. Once we get home, we'll open one present, go to sleep, and open the rest of the presents in the morning. Around 1-ish, my family (aunt, uncle, two cousins, and cousins gf) are coming over for Christmas dinner. We'll all chillax (yeah, I just said chillax) until around 7/8PM. My cousins and I will probably hit the Wii, Xbox 360, or PS2 or PS3 while drinking wine. (Mini advertisement: the wine will be Stella Rosa, which you should try if you haven't because it's sooooo good!) Then lastly, we'll take Christmas photos and then they'll go home. Lots of family time ♥ Let the good times roll! ♥

I'll be busy on both of these days but I have reviews scheduled and whatnot. :) I'll see you all when I get back (hopefully I'll be full to the brim on honey baked ham!). I hope you ALL have a wonderful Christmas and happy holidays! ♥

Don't forget to check out my interview and giveaway with Julian Vaughan Hampton! Ends 12/29!

Also, I am guest posting about Christmas at Books are Dreams (link coming soon!!). You can also win fabulous prizes from giveaways while you're there. Head on over to join the fun event! :)

Review: The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Series: The Iron Fey #3
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: January 25, 2011
How Received: Netgalley

My name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who’s sworn to stay by my side. Drag me into the core of a conflict so powerful, I’m not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.

My Thoughts:

I want to start off by talking about the ending. “Because it ends at the beginning”. No, really. It all ends at the beginning. I have never been so impressed in such a long time with an ending than I have with The Iron Queen’s ending. It had all the elements that make a good ending: sacrifice, selflessness, and a sense of peace and acceptance. Everything was over. All the loose ends were being tied. To be honest, I didn’t even need the epilogue to be happy with the ending Julie gives us: I was happy right there at Meghan’s decision. Not because I’m mean or cruel, but because everything made sense – it all came together. But the epilogue just made me so much happier, because it consolidates everything (to a point) that happened in the first two books. It’s a happy ending, but at the same time, it’s not a happy ending. And I loved it.

The pacing was a bit slow for my tastes, as it was with the first two books as well. It would pick up, and I’d get excited that action is about to happen, flip a couple of pages, a couple more, and then the action starts. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the detail that went into this book, because there are a lot of things to be explained – but I kept getting distracted by other things and putting this book down a lot.

On to the characters... I just have to say thank goodness Meghan took a 180 from The Iron Daughter. I couldn’t stand her constant and unjust whining in that book. Strong Meghan, the one who takes things up on her own and wants to actively fight back – emotionally and physically – instead of remaining on the sidelines, was back and boy, was she stronger than ever. I loved all of the decisions she made in this book, and was so happy at the selfless sacrifice she makes at the end.

Ash was... Well, I’ve never been an Ash supporter, and this book didn’t really change my stance, either. I appreciated that there were more interactions between Meghan and Ash, because I never understood why Meghan liked him, other than the fact that he’s forbidden, mysterious, etc., since the two never got to know each other. I loved seeing other sides to Ash – the soft Ash, the one that cries when he feels like he’s losing his beloved, the one who will risk his own life to save hers.

And Puck. I love Puck. I am Team Puck 100%, no matter what Meghan decides. Most of my quotes consisted of lines Puck says; he’s too witty and charming for his own good! I was a bit sad that he’s pretty much getting the short end of the stick, but that doesn’t deter him. He still rushes to Meghan’s aid and still tags along with the group. In fact, I loved his decision to join Ash, his one-time-friend-but-ultimately-his-enemy, at the end. I think that, above anything else, speaks volumes of Puck’s character.

I’ve always thought the concept of Iron fey was ingenious, and this novel was no exception to that thought. Reading about the Iron realm was so exciting – it lives by its own set of rules, and I was constantly wondering what traps or things were set in store for our party when they headed into it. I personally loved the Gremlins (especially Razor). Can you say cute?! I love how Julie makes people we previously thought were antagonists and suddenly makes them into allies. I cannot wait to read more about the Iron realm!

Cover Musings: I think we can all establish that I absolutely adore most of the covers of the Iron Fey series. I think this one, though, steals the show. Love the red around the borders!

Memorable Quotes:
“Be forewarned, darling, I don’t care if you are Mab’s favorite son. If you threaten any in this house, I will rip your guts out through your nose and string my harps with them.”
“I’d love to see that, personally,” Puck muttered, smirking. (pg. 61)
“Looks like the war isn’t going well for us.”
“That’s what I like about you, prince. You’re always so cheerful.” Puck shook his head, gazing around the camp, and wrinkled his nose. “Although I will say, this place has seen better days. Does anyone feel like they’re about to hurl, or is it just me?” (pg. 138)
“The Desert of Lost Things,” Puck said dramatically. “Well, that’s appropriate. We’re here, aren’t we?”
“We are not lost,” I told him firmly, tossing the cell phone away. It hit the sand and was swallowed immediately. “I know exactly where I’m going.”
“Oh, good. And here I thought we were taking the scenic route.” (pg. 214)
Puck was already crouched behind a jagged outcropping, huddled against it as streams of sand flowed around him, bouncing odds and ends off the stones.
“Well, this is fun,” Puck said as we ducked behind the rock, huddled together as wind and sand shrieked around us. “It’s not every day I get to tell someone I was attacked by a pair of flying reading glasses. Ow.” He rubbed his forehead, where a bruise had started to form. (pg. 215)
“For the record,” Grimalkin stated as we ventured, single file, into the black, “I do not think this is a good idea. But, as no one listens to the cat anymore, I will have to wait until we are completely lost to say ‘I told you so.’” (pg. 218)
Ash gently took the branch from me, narrowing his eyes. “Do you know what this is?” he murmured.
Puck smirked. “Uh, yes, actually. In most circles, it’s called a stick. Used for starting fires, poking large insects, and playing fetch with your dog.” (pg. 243)
“Oh, look, demon fey, lake of liquid hot magma—does this remind you of anything?” He grimaced, giving me a weak grin. “When I said I’d follow you to hell and back, I wasn’t trying to be literal, princess.” (pg. 289-290)
“Last night, I was wondering how the courts were going to tell us apart from the false king’s army. Bad Iron fey, good Iron fey—they all look the same to me. Sooooo...” he swept the pole up with a flourish, and a bright green banner snapped open at the top, the silhouette of a great oak splayed proudly across the front. “I wanted to make it a picture of a flower or butterfly,” Puck said, smiling at my awed look, “but I didn’t think that would strike fear into the heart of the false king.” (pg. 301)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: As I got to the middle of this novel, I was almost sure of how I was going to rate this. My mind was set. Then I got to the ending. My god, did the ending change my mind! I can’t even begin to explain why I loved the ending so much. Not only was it selfless and saved a whole lot of faeries, but it tied up loose ends and was somewhat a happy ending. Meghan didn’t make me want to slap her this time; Ash showed his softer, more likeable side; Puck was just awesome and witty overall. The pacing wasn’t that great in the novel, but when the pace does pick up, it more than makes up for it.

My rating for the series overall (without the books from Ash’s perspective or the novella):
1. The Iron King (first book)
2. The Iron Queen (third book)
3. The Iron Daughter (second book)

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Lodestone: The Sea of Storms by Mark Whiteway

Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms
Author: Mark Whiteway
Series: Lodestone #1
Pages: 278
Genre: Science fiction
Release Date: April 12, 2010
How Received: Author

SummaryShann, an orphan with a fiery disposition, witnesses a battle between a Keltar and a stranger bearing a similar flying cloak. She tracks down the stranger, learning of the technology behind the Keltars’ power and joining him on a mission to free the slaves and cut off their supply of lodestones.

Meanwhile, Keris, a Keltar is sent on a mission to track down the rebels. She is attacked by a flying creature and saved by the enigmatic Chandara. At their Great Tree, she learns that a mysterious “Prophet” is out to destroy the Kelanni people. Their only hope is a powerful instrument hidden in the distant past.

Pursued by the Keltar, the party will encounter bizarre creatures, ancient technologies and terrifying dangers. Finally, they must seek to cross a massive storm barrier in order to reach the other side of their world, where a world-shaking revelation awaits.

My Thoughts:
Initially, it was very difficult for me to get into this book. I felt like I was being bombarded with new customs and everyday life, and it was very slow (despite its action-packed pacing). In fact, despite all the action that was in the beginning, the book didn’t really pick up for me until about ¼ of the way in. The beginning was pretty much getting introductions to the characters done, and weaving a plot to get them together. However, when all of the members of the “team” joined forces with one another, the book picked up the pace considerably. Once this happened, I was done – I was totally hooked.

I never anticipated how absorbed I would become into the novel due to the initial slowness of the book. But the world of the Kelanni was so intriguing. There’s unknown terrain and a lot of land to explore, as well as new creatures (like the Chandara and graylesh). There were so many customs and society norms to get accustomed too. The Kelanni themselves were an enigma we had to figure out – they are the “alien” race of the planet Kelanni, with animal-like tails and ears. (I kept picturing them as a scaled down version of Viera from Final Fantasy). They worship the 3 suns (yes, three suns!), Ail-Mazzorth, Ail-Gan, and Ail-Kar, and never see nighttime (or at least, the nighttime that we know of).

All of these customs are a bit overwhelming, actually, which happens to be one of the downfalls I found with this book. With any fantasy or science fiction novel, the authors need to ease their audience into the new world – explain things, hold their hand, etc. With this book, only a few things were explained (like the suns and their “religion”). I suppose that gave me a lot of leeway with my imagination, but I would have liked to have more things explained to me.

The characters were mostly enjoyable. I wasn’t able to connect with any of them, with the exception of Keris, but they were very fun to read about. Alondo was the “comedian” of the group, and I absolutely loved every time he spoke. Keris was a Keltar (one who is sworn an oath to the Prophet), but renounced her ways after an incident (vagueness is vague!). She had never been one to form close bonds to others, ever since she was a kid, and preferred to working alone than in a team. Lyall is haunted by his past and strives to actively change Kelanni for the greater good.

Shann is a young rebellious spirit that annoyed the crap out of me. I can appreciate her braveness and her spirit, but she had this unfounded vendetta against Keris that I saw was stemmed from jealousy and pettiness. Shann hated being treated like a child, but her actions and mistrust of Keris was the very epitome of childish. I can appreciate the doubt she had with Keris (since the group wasn’t sure of where Keris’s allegiance lay), but she doubted Keris too much. So much that it was unbelievable. And annoying. Time and time again, the “evidence” on Keris would be cleared, yet Shann remained doubtful. Ugh! Lastly, Boxx, the Chandara, is the last of the group, and my personal favorite. Chandara don’t have names or genders, but Boxx was called Boxx (“The Key”), and I always associated it as a him. He (in my mind, at least) was a cross between a centipede and a pillbug (roly poly) and had a different way of speaking that was adorable.

Despite my few misgivings with characters, inconsistencies, and lack of detail, this book was so entertaining after the beginning. The book is pitched as science fiction, and while it does retain a lot of sci-fi elements, I felt it had a more fantasy vibe to it.

Cover Musings: I love the colors on the cover. The cover almost seems like a painting, with a lot of colors merging with one another. It’s exactly how I depicted Kelanni in my head: colorful.

Memorable Quotes:
Once you understand the source of a tyrant’s power, you can use it against them. (pg 46)
Alondo turned to lead the morgren forward and Shann noticed his instrument was slung over his shoulder. She turned to Lyall, speaking in low tones.
“If we meet up with any dangerous beasts what does Alondo intend to do—serenade them to death?” (pg. 50)
“Keris?” it asked again in its odd accent.
“What is it?”
“Your People. Kelanni. They Do Not Like Me.”
“It’s not that exactly...” She struggled to find the words. “People are sometimes afraid of things that are unfamiliar, things that they do not understand.”
There was a pause as if Boxx were digesting this. He added, “Does Keris Like Me?”
She found herself unexpectedly flustered. “I will be back as soon as I can.” For the first time in as long as she could remember, Keris retreated. (pg. 75)
 She raised the makeshift club, and brought it down o nthe back of the Keltar’s neck. [...] Crack! The Keltar staggered forward from the impact. He turned, his left hand clutching the nape of his neck, and her eyes widened in disbelief. “Lyall! What are you doing here?”
His face was screwed up in pain. “Trying to rescue you. Although right now, it feels more like I need to be rescued from you.” As if to emphasize the point, he massaged his neck. “Oww!” (pg. 88)
 “I don’t have any answers for you, Shann. I hold myself responsible for a lot of things that happened. But I cannot change the past. I can only try and work for a better future—and to change the person I used to be.” (pg 260)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: A very well-done science-fiction and fantasy novel! The beginning is slow, but the pace began to pick up after all of the characters joined forces. There is tons of adventure and action packed into this book, as well as new creatures and lands. Kelanni was an interesting place to read about, and I found myself constantly wanting more! I was almost outraged at where Mark decided to cut the book off – I can’t wait to see what happens in book two!

Rating: 4/5

**This book was provided for review by the author in exchange of an honest review. (Thank you so much, Mark!)