A Note:


I once told myself: IF I am accepted into grad school, this blog would no longer be updated. As it turns out, in April, I received news of my acceptance for the Fall 2013 semester, where I will attain a Master's degree of Science in Nutrition.

Running a blog, as many of you may already know, is a demanding side job once the excitement wears off. And once I fell out of the blogging community's loop (have you SEEN how many blogs there are now? Wow!), it was like the kiss of death. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get into a blogging routine once this happened due to the disconnect I felt from the community.

So I took a break. I struggled with the loss and with missing my blog. And then I realized I didn't have to run Book Faery to still be a book reviewer; I could read my books and post reviews online. I'm still a book review blogger, just not in the traditional sense.

I'll still be online. You can chat with me on Twitter, where I'll be posting links to my reviews and talking books. I'll also be posting links to nutrition articles. And if you'd like to connect with me where I guarantee I will post reviews, just add me as a friend on Goodreads.

So that's all, folks! It's been a fun and amazing journey, and I thank you all for listening to my thoughts about books. I hope we all can keep in touch elsewhere :)


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tori's Review: Deceived by the Others by Jess Haines

352 pages
Price: $6.99
ISBN: 978-1420111897
Released: July 5, 2011
Publisher: Kensington
Author's Website: Jess Haines
Buy it: Amazon
Obtained: Author
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: H&W Investigations
Book Order:
1. Hunted by the others (book review)
2. Taken by the Others (book review)
3. Deceived by the Others

My Rating:

My Opinion:
I love the creative endings Jess has for each book. In HUNTED BY THE OTHERS (HBTO), we had a final showdown that had me rooting (out loud, I might add) for the good guys. I turned into a bloodthirsty little bitch, too, as I prayed for the villains to be murdered. In TAKEN BY THE OTHERS (TBTO), we have another kickass showdown that had me cringing away from all the gore and violence. It was actually at this point where I felt more sympathetic towards Shia. And finally, in DECEIVED BY THE OTHERS (DBTO), I was left with a feeling of intense excitement. More on that later in the review.

If anyone has read my past reviews, they might have ascertained that I have a feeling of ambivalence towards Shia; in the beginning of this series, it was her intense fear of vampires that frustrated me. For whatever reason, I was unable to feel any sort of sympathy, and thus was willing to write her off as a pain in the ass... that is, until she sucked it up and did what she had to do by the final showdown.

In TBTO, she once again went back to frustrating me because of her fear of vampires. Thankfully, that fear was not as intense, and I was willing to overlook it this time around. She also made me feel bad for her as she experienced murdering someone for the first time.

Thankfully, in DBTO, we have no intense fear of the bloodsuckers that transforms Shia into a scaredy cat. In fact, if anything, I think Shia was fairly kick ass (and this is reinforced upon reading the beginning of book 4). I could have done without all the lovey dovey pet names Chaz and Shia had for each other, and I certainly would have enjoyed a little bit more action in the beginning, but by the midway point, I was not disappointed. It seems with most UFs there is a buildup, and once a person has the patience to stick with it, they are greatly rewarded, as is the case with DBTO.

For fear of spoiling the great surprise, I will say no more about the plot. But I would like to say this: DBTO finally has me switching teams now. Eff Chaz, Royce all the way, bebe!

As for the ending, since I said earlier I would touch upon it more: it was not intense and action-packed like the prior two books. And you know what? Since this book wasn't like the others, I'm okay with that. What made me adore it almost as much as its predecessors was the sense of well... normalcy, and a slumber party. I love books that capture the essence of the latter.

I highly recommend DBTO. The author's writing skills have improved exponentially since the start of this series, and I am happy to say that the characters have grown on me, too.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Guest Post and Giveaway with Merrie DeStefano!

Why I Love The Bad Guys
By Merrie Destefano

I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to be scared. Ask me to go to the latest horror movie or offer to lend me Stephen King’s latest book, and I’ll probably say no. Then again, I might say, “Hell, no.” Either way, the answer is, I’m not going to do it. Even movies that most people think are great fun—like Super 8—put me on edge and make me want to run away, screaming. Anybody remember that scene in Super 8 at the gas station? At that point, it felt like somebody had off peeled my skin and was getting ready to gouge out my eyes. It took all my courage and more to sit through the rest of the movie.

It always surprises my friends when I tell them stuff like that. They say something like, “But, you write scary books.” And I say, “I do?”


Apparently writing scary stories is my way of being in control of the monsters. I’ve always known that they were real and hiding under my bed/in my closet/in the back seat of my car. Whenever I write, I get a chance to expose the scary monster for who and what he is, thereby taking some of the scratch out of his claws.

That said, I really like my bad guys. Now, don’t confuse my main character—who is almost always slightly rebellious and might be called a bad boy—with my actual bad guy. In my first book, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles, Chaz was quite the rebel-with-a-twisted-cause, but Neville was definitely the bad guy. He was the one who would give you nightmares. I loved writing him, because he gave me the opportunity to explore the dark, creepy underbelly of the world. Without him, the reader never would have seen just how horrific the whole resurrection system had become.

Likewise, in my new book, Feast: Harvest of Dreams, you might think Ash is dangerous and charismatic and somebody to stay away from. Okay, I can give you that. But he is far from being the bad guy. Take a closer look at Thane, one of Ash’s Darkling cousins, and tell me who the bad guy in this book really is. Thane can give me the shivers just thinking about him.

That’s one reason I love Thane—he’s scary, through and through. I never questioned his motives. I understood him like the keys on my keyboard. He was fantastically sinister; he took all the Darkling characteristics and transformed them into something truly evil. He showed the reader just how dangerous a Darkling could be.

My story elements are never completely set up and my book in not ready to write until I have my villain. He becomes the driving force behind the story, pushing the other characters around the chess board like a hot iron. He stands in direct opposition to my main characters, and this conflict is what creates the story.

So, do I love my scary bad guys? You bet I do. I wouldn’t be a good writer if I didn’t.

My question for you is this: What scary bad guy have you loved? Try not to get the bad guy confused with the bad boy. I’m talking Hannibal Lector here, not Mad Max. So, what scary bad guy made a strong impression on you, so much that you’ve never been able to forget him? And as much as you love to hate him, can you imagine that story without him?

Merrie Destefano left a 9-to-5 desk job as a magazine editor to become a full-time novelist and freelance editor. Her first novel, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles, is an urban fantasy published by HarperCollins/Eos, and her second novel, Feast: Harvest of Dreams releases June 28, 2011. With twenty years’ experience in publishing, her background includes editor of Victorian Homes magazine and founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine. Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, their two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies include reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, while her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time. For more information, visit her website at www.merriedestefano.com.

Want to win everything in the picture below?

Giveaway Guidelines:
* Open Internationally! Thank you Merrie!
* Answer Merrie's question
* Leave your email in the comments section so I can contact you
* Giveaway ends July 6th

Extra Entries:
* Link back to this giveaway on some social networking site or on your blog. Be sure to include the link to your post in your giveaway entry--and make sure that I can view it! (For every site you do this on, you'll receive one extra entry)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Copycat Syndrome

When it comes to "specializing" in a genre, as most blogs tend to do, you're bound to stumble upon trends. Whatever sells, right? But when is copycat syndrome a bad thing?

Here's what I've noticed from reading so many books:

In Paranormal Romance (YA), love triangles are predominant. Forget about kicking ass and not taking names; we need two guys who will tolerate anything and everything because they want the girl, and we need the heroine to go back and forth between both of them. 

In Dystopians (YA), 90% of the human population is dead and zombies have taken over the world, or, teenagers are baby-makers. (I haven't read enough dystopians to complain about either, yet)
In adult PNRs, the hero MUST angst so much that he inevitably pushes the heroine away in a wretched attempt to save her from himself... despite the fact that he is madly in love with her, and she with him. OR, one of the characters is keeping a secret, which will inevitably hurt and piss off the pursuer, who then backs off in their rage.

Finally in Urban Fantasy, the heroine is either too meek that you forget about her the second another character appears, or she's too snarky/badass to the point where it seems like she's trying too hard instead of being naturally snarky/badass. 

Now of course, if you read as many books as bloggers tend to, you're bound to become jaded at some point. When one considers how many books are out there, it's impossible to find anything truly unique. It's an issue all authors struggle with when creating their universe. It is also what makes "copycat syndrome" understandable. Something from a book moved an author enough that he/she wants to recreate that character/element in his or her own story. 

The problem is when the majority of publishable books follow the same themes and plot formulas. This "copycat syndrome" begins to exhaust people, which makes them become more critical, and then everything suddenly seems like crap (during the burnout periods). I've heard complaints about how readers no longer want commit to reading a book because it either A) has a cliffhanger; B) is part of a series; or C) has both. Of course, that is not the author's fault, and it would be silly to blame an author for that in the first place. These complaints do beg the question of why it is necessary to drag certain series out, just because others were so successful.

Is it better to keep churning books out and losing that originality and spark that earlier books once held? Or, is it better to get the story out and then move on? I actually love Lauren Oliver's books because she does just that (which is a rarity nowadays). BEFORE I FALL was the perfect example of less being more. Granted, I wanted to have something else happen, but it was clear that the world and its characters served their purpose.

So readers, I have a few questions for you:

* Series or solo books?
* Series: drag it out, or end it when it's "time?" When is this "time?"
* Series: how many books does it usually take before a series begins to go downhill?
* Copycat Syndrome: good, or bad? Would you prefer other authors to do "spinoffs" of your favorite series, or would you prefer authors to create their own world, hopefully avoiding influences (as much as possible) from other series?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tori's Review: Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre

Paperback: 336 pages
Price: $6.99
ISBN: 978-0451463241
Released: April 6, 2010
Publisher: Penguin
Author's Website: Ann Aguirre   
Buy it: Amazon
Obtained: Library
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Corinne Solomon  
Book Order:
1. Blue Diablo (book review)
2. Hell Fire 
3. Shady Lady (book review)

As a handler, Corine Solomon can touch any object and know its history. It's too bad she can't seem to forget her own. With her ex-boyfriend Chance in tow-lending his own supernatural brand of luck-Corine journeys back home to Kilmer, Georgia, in order to discover the truth behind her mother's death and the origins of "gift".

But while trying to uncover the secrets in her past, Corine and Chance find that something is rotten in the state of Georgia. Inside Kilmer's borders there are signs of a dark curse affecting the town and all its residents-and it can only be satisfied with death...

My Rating:

My Opinion:
In comparison to its predecessor, HELL FIRE had improvements and elements that remained the same. Instead of going into lots of details, I'm going to list what was good, and what was not so good in this book. Hopefully, you can use this "checklist" to help determine whether what bothered me will ultimately bother you.

The Good:

-The plot. Thankfully the complaints I had about BLUE DIABLO did not apply in HELL FIRE. The sense of mindless wandering did not overwhelm the book's pages and I was generally satisfied with each scene. Nothing felt unnecessary and everything that happened seemed to move the story forward.

-Secondary characters. Shannon, the demon, and Butch made HELL FIRE more of an engaging read, which is good, since some of the other characters had a tendency to frustrate me often.

-The showdown. Somewhat anticlimactic, but satisfying enough that I can't find any complaints. I expected more of a fight, but then I forgot that the characters in this series are people. They have the frailty of human beings (since, even when they do have magical abilities, said abilities don't help much with durability and their mortality). In this sense, the Corinne Solomon series is refreshing since there are no vampires or werewolves. There's just psychotic human beings as the villains.

The No-So-Good:

-Corinne. At one point I was ready to DNF HELL FIRE because Corinne was so difficult to like. She was whiny, bitchy, and incredibly negative. That negativity ended up ruining quite a few enjoyable scenes, thus frustrating me further. At one point, I told a friend that if Corinne was real, I would have smacked her. Thankfully, as the story picks up, Corinne's annoying-ness isn't focused on as much.

-The romance elements. This has more to do with Corinne than the guys. Because Corinne was such a miserable person, I couldn't fathom why Chance and Saldana would have any interest in her whatsoever. Her logic for driving one man away (I won't say which) by the end of the book actually took me by surprise. She seemed to become so smitten that I was unable to wrap my head around why she would suddenly change her mind.

Overall, the good did outweigh the weaknesses, and I think that is important to acknowledge. Would I recommend HELL FIRE? If you can't handle an annoying heroine, I might suggest staying away from this one. HOWEVER, I would like to point out that I am halfway through SHADY LADY (book 3), and Corinne has not bothered me at all. Before writing this heroine off, I would suggest waiting until you see what I have to say for the most recent release, first.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tori's Review: Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre

- 336 pages
Price: $7.99
ISBN 13: 978-0451462640
Released: April 7, 2009 

Ann's Website 
Buy it via the Publisher
Buy it via Amazon

Obtained: Library 
Genre: Urban Fantasy 
Series: Corine Solomon 
1. Blue Diablo
2. Hell Fire (book review)
3. Shady Lady (book review)

Other women change their hair color on a whim or to impress a new boyfriend; Corinne Solomon dyes hers because she's running scared. She's a handler, a paranormal who can touch something and almost instantly know its history and, if she's lucky (or unlucky) its future, too. Now hiding out in Mexico, she wants to keep a low profile, but when people come begging for her help, she can't refuse, although she knows that she should know better.

My Rating:

My Opinion:
BLUE DIABLO is the sort of urban fantasy that effortlessly sinks its claws into your mind and demands your undivided attention. The problem is, once you become its victim (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since it's one hell of a journey), the story begins to run in circles the further you progress.

The romance between Corine and Chance both had me salivating for more, and rebelling in disgust. Chance's character felt more on the two dimensional side at some points, making me wonder what Corine saw in the man. I wasn't sold on their love completely, and I think this had more to do with Corine's doubts and thoughts than anything else. Despite that, I felt he was the perfect match for his ex, and their bickering amused me.

A few hiccups in the story ripped me out of Corine's universe and left me scratching my head from either the weirdness (ex: Kel), or because of the repetition (ex: Corine continually mentioning how she should get a passport. Also, the group's lack of having any idea of where to go made the book not only seem like it was losing focus, but also made it felt temporarily monotonous/the situation hopeless). This only occurred once or twice, but it was enough to make note of that. Also, there were a few moments where the story slowed down, and in these moments, I was more than happy to walk away and take a breather (but not for long). Those not fully invested in this world may walk away for good during any one these lulls.

Overall, BLUE DIABLO's a great read, but one can easily discern that Corine's birth into the publishing world occurred years ago; the writing and the storyline barely hold a candle to Aguirre's newly released dystopian, ENCLAVE.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Guest Post with The Character Therapist (and giveaway!)

As an aspiring author, I tend to enjoy analyzing what makes a character tick. The only problem is, sometimes I get so wrapped up with my characters, they become way too real for my own good. Suddenly, the lines between fiction and reality blur, and I'm left wondering who the hell is actually in charge of the story and universe. It happens.

On the bright side, there are awesome resources like today's guest poster, here to remind me that, while it's good for my characters to seem real, I also have to remember that I'm the one in charge, and that it's my responsibility as an author to torment and rev up the tension as much as possible. What a great reality check!

This post will deviate from the typical "author interview/guest post," but I hope all of you readers (and aspiring authors) will appreciate what Jeannie has to say. And while you're here, make sure to enter the giveaway and go show her some love--she just relaunched The Character Therapist and is looking for more people willing to present her with characters to dissect :)

Allure of Alpha Males
By Jeannie Campbell, LMFT

Females seem to dig alpha males, thus, many romances we read feature the swashbuckling muscular hero on the cover—usually shirtless, sporting washboard abs, and possessing a chiseled jaw.

With a description like that, it’s not too hard to see what the attraction of these men might be.

I’ve always wanted to know why though.

So I used my training and powers of observation to discover a few facts.

1) Alpha maleness doesn’t hinge on looks. Don’t get me wrong. I like a good-looking guy as much as the next girl. But don’t tell me that a guy with a slightly crooked nose or a rugged scar hasn’t mesmerized you. Doesn’t it just add to the masculine power they possess?

2) Alpha maleness doesn’t hinge on aggression. Studies have been done on this phenomenon I’m about to share. But alpha males seem to differ from other men in that they have a lack of excitability. They have solid inner strength, the kind that’s not shaken easily and doesn’t require violence or force to protect. They generally don’t raise their voice and maintain a calm demeanor, even when under stress.

3) Alpha maleness doesn’t hinge on confidence. I add this qualifier because I know lots of men who have copious amounts of confidence and self-esteem—but instead of drawing me in, they push me away and come off as arrogant. An alpha male, while usually confident, seems to possess more of a natural dominance in their power to command…a “quiet confidence,” if you will.

4) Alpha maleness doesn’t hinge on charm. There are men who command attention without saying a word. When a man has got the art of body language down to a masterpiece, wit and humor aren’t necessary. Flirty behaviors sometime serve as a mask that a beta male uses to prevent the risk of being direct. A sizzling, smoldering stare might be all the come hither a woman needs instead of blathering compliments, however sincere.

So, now that I’ve discussed what doesn’t equate with alpha maleness, I’m sure you’re wondering what does. And that’s where you come in.

I’m afraid I don’t have a psychological reason to give you. There are theories, granted, such as the evolutionary biology theory that women want alpha males to mate with so that their offspring inherit characteristics that will ensure survival…blah, blah, blah.

What I find far more interesting is individual experience. What traits do alpha males who you know exhibit? It could be some of what I mentioned above—remember, I said alphas don’t have to have good looks, charm, and confidence, but they certainly can.

Leave a comment with your own assessment of what makes a man an alpha to be entered to win my Writer’s Guide to Personality Types. Don’t forget to include your email address so we can alert you if you’re the winner.

I hope that I’ll get a chance to connect with many of you over at my new website, The Character Therapist [http://charactertherapist.com] and my blog (http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com) If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll receive my Writer’s Guide to Character Motivation for free!

Thanks for stopping by, Jeannie! I hope that all you readers--whether you're writers or not--will go check out The Character Therapist. There's a lot of interesting information that can always help you better understand the book characters you adore (or hate).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Shift Giveaway Winners

Thanks for spreading the word, everyone!

Without further ado, the two lucky winners who will be receiving a copy of SHIFT and their ghost bracelets (thank you very much, Simon & Schuster!) are...

Shadow Kohler

Congratulations! Please respond to my email by Monday night. If you don't, I will pick another winner.

And to everyone else: have a wonderful Father's Day tomorrow!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tori's Review: Serpent's Storm by Amber Benson

320 pages
Price: $7.99
ISBN: 978-0441020096
Released: February 22, 2011
Publisher: Penguin
Author's Website: Amber Benson 
Buy it: Amazon
Obtained: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Calliope Reaper Jones 
Book Order:
1. Death's Daughter
2. Cat's Claw
3. Serpent's Storm

Calliope just wants to make it big in the Big Apple like any other working girl. But Callie is also Death's Daughter, no matter how much she tries to stay out of the family business. And now her older sister has made a deal with the Devil himself to engage in a hostile takeover of both Death Inc. and Heaven-once they get Callie out of the way.

My Rating: DNF

My Opinion:
I try to avoid reading Urban Fantasies later in the series when I can help it because it's usually a huge leap of faith by beginning so late. The book either drags me into its universe and I enjoy it, or I am left feeling severely disappointed and guilty.

But sometimes, the writing simply does not work for me. After reading the first third of SERPENT'S STORM, I'd finally had enough with Calliope. Her personality grated on my nerves, and she came off as a whiny child I had no interest in learning more about. Instead of feeling invested, or even sympathetic, I grew agitated and restless. (Though to be fair, I suppose it doesn't help that I judged her too much based on her issue with Daniel at the beginning of the book.)

Another issue I had was the storyline. It just didn't draw me in after a while. So, because of a heroine I did not like, and a plot that did not work for me, I'm afraid I will be DNFing this book.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tori's Review: Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

- 304 pages
Price: $8.99 
ISBN 13: 978-0142414361 
Released: March 31, 2011 

Lisa's Website
Buy it via the Publisher
Buy it via Amazon

Obtained: Contest 
Genre: Paranormal YA 
1. Wake Unto Me

A haunted castle, a handsome young man dead for four hundred years, one heck of a scary portrait of a witch, and a treasure hunt -- not to mention a princess for a roommate! -- all await 15 year old American girl Caitlyn Monahan when she earns a scholarship to a French boarding school.

There are secrets behind the stone walls of Chateau de la Fortune, buried for centuries along with the mystery of who killed Raphael, the charming ghost who visits Caitlyn at night. But as Caitlyn unearths the history of the castle, nothing scares her as badly as the secret she learns about herself, and the reason she was chosen to come to the Fortune School.

And nothing breaks her heart as badly as falling in love with a dead guy.

My Rating: DNF

My Opinion:
I was intrigued when I first started reading WAKE UNTO ME. Then I stopped to watch Obama's speech about Bin Laden. Fast forward two days later, and have now DNF'ed the novel.

Caitlyn was a sympathetic character, but then at some point along the journey to France, she transformed from someone I could tolerate as the heroine to someone I could not stand. Suddenly, she went from a "normal" teenage girl with issues to someone who's a blabber mouth speaking her mind about everything. Blame it on being nervous, but she began annoying me because of that behavior.

Another element I took issue with was the voice. For me, it was bland and detached, feeling more like a history book than a YA novel. There was also a lot of telling in the story and barely any showing. For so much emphasis on showing in stories, I'm surprised that so many YA debuts don't have much.

One of the elements that I was most excited about was the romance with Raphael. Too bad I nearly reached the halfway point and only saw him two times. After Caitlyn's behavior at her new boarding school, the romance was the only thing I looked forward to. Alas, I could only read for so long before I gave up.

I know some people who said they loved the book, so really, it all just depends on the reader's mindset, I think. I began this book with a certain amount of excitement. I continued wanting to finish it ASAP so I could start a new book, and I think that mentality is what spoiled my experience.

Other Reviews   Chapter Chicks - A
Call me Crazy - 5/5
My Love Affair with Books - 4/5

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Giveaway of SHIFT by Jeri Smith-Ready

Special thanks go out to Simon & Schuster and Big Honcho Media for making this giveaway possible!

Are you interested in winning a copy of SHIFT by Jeri Smith-Ready? Are you wondering what on earth this series is about? Well look no further. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Simon Pulse, two lucky blog readers will win their very own copies of this wonderful book.

...but that's not all! Because the SHADE universe deals with ghosts, it's essential that you have the ability to ward off ghosts too. So not only will the winners receive a copy of SHIFT, they'll also receive a super cool Ghost Bead Bracelet.

Aura’s life is anything but easy. Her boyfriend, Logan, died, and his slides between ghost and shade have left her reeling. Aura knows he needs her now more than ever. She loves Logan, but she can’t deny her connection with the totally supportive, totally gorgeous Zachary. And she’s not sure that she wants to. Logan and Zachary will fight to be the one by her side, but Aura needs them both to uncover the mystery of her past—the mystery of the Shift. As Aura’s search uncovers new truths, she must decide whom to trust with her secrets…and her heart.

Jeri Smith-Ready's previous adult novels include Wicked Game, Requiem for the Devil and Eyes of Crow. This is her first teen series. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two cats, and a retired racing greyhound. Learn more at www.jerismithready.com.

Giveaway Guidelines:
- Open to US only
- Giveaway ends June 17th 
- Answer the question: What would you do if you could see and talk to ghosts?
- Include your email address in the comments so I can contact you if you win

Extra (optional) Ways to Win: 
+1 Spread the word about this giveaway (make sure you link back to this post!) and include the link with your contest entry

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tori's Review: Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready

384 pages
Price: $17.99
ISBN: 978-1416994084
Released: May 3, 2011 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Author's Website: Jeri Smith-Ready
Buy it: Amazon
Obtained: Big Honcho Media
Genre: YA 
Series: Shade 
Book Order: 
1. Shade (book review) 
2. Shift 

Aura’s life is anything but easy. Her boyfriend, Logan, died, and his slides between ghost and shade have left her reeling. Aura knows he needs her now more than ever. She loves Logan, but she can’t deny her connection with the totally supportive, totally gorgeous Zachary. And she’s not sure that she wants to.

Logan and Zachary will fight to be the one by her side, but Aura needs them both to uncover the mystery of her past—the mystery of the Shift.

As Aura’s search uncovers new truths, she must decide whom to trust with her secrets…and her heart.

My Rating:

My Opinion:
SHIFT lacked a lot of the emotional punch that its predecessor SHADE had. That's not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, I'm somewhat glad that I wasn't bawling my eyes out over every bittersweet line Logan uttered.

This time around, we follow Aura's relationship--or lack thereof--with Zachary, the hottie Scottie. I loved Zachary in SHADE because he was such a kindhearted, understanding individual. In comparison, Logan seemed to be selfish and toxic for Aura. In SHIFT, while I was glad more focus was paid to his persona, I was also disappointed with a few of his actions.

Suffice to say, I felt that Zach, while mostly a lovable character, had his moments. These instances where he is made to be "the asshole" seemed completely out of character for him when one considers how sweet he was in the initial book. Granted, this man-stupidity (a common phenomena) eventually gave way to logic by the end... but I still did not appreciate it!

Logan charmed me in SHADE, but in SHIFT, I was ready for him to pass on. I felt for the kid at times--especially when he was forced to recognize and accept Aura's new wants and needs--but for the most part, I felt his obliviousness to the feelings of those around him lessened him in my eyes.

As for Aura, I think that she both progressed and regressed. I wanted to applaud her for behaving so maturely when it came to Logan. As for her regression, this has more to do with Dylan and Zach. At times I could not fathom the love she had for Zach--particularly during the prom scene. Such behavior would have instantly made me turn around and tell the Scot to go to hell. But maybe that's just me. I felt somewhat disappointed when Aura didn't give him a piece of her mind. I also experienced a brief moment of "wtf?" during the phase with Dylan. By the end, though, I was happy with how much her character had developed.

There's a lot more relationship drama in SHIFT, but overall, I am incredibly happy that I had the opportunity to read this book and see what happened next. Unfortunately, the final book in this series does not come out until 2012. I suggest that all of you unfamiliar with this series start reading now, so that you're ready for the third book next year.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tori's Review: Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

336 pages
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 978-1416994077
Released: May 4, 2010 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Author's Website: Jeri Smith-Ready
Buy it: Amazon
Obtained: BEA
Genre: YA 
Series: Shade 
Book Order:
1. Shade
2. Shift (book review)

Love ties them together. Death can't tear them apart.

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift.

My Rating:

My Opinion:
For some reason, I procrastinated when it came to reading SHADE. It wasn't that I thought the premise was boring (it sounded anything but), but it wasn't calling to me. Perhaps because I knew so little, I didn't want to sit down and give SHADE a chance. Besides, I had plenty of other review books I needed to pay attention to and that I was behind on.

Fast forward a year (I got SHADE in 2010 at BEA), and here I am, ready to review the first two books in this trilogy. And of course, like a few rare gems that totally blow my mind, SHADE showed me my place and admonished me for neglecting it.

I cried while reading Aura's tragic story. Not once, not twice, but FIVE times. And it wasn't even a couple of tears and a few sniffles--this was full-blown bawling my eyes out. I had a stuffy nose, couldn't breathe, and my eyes were bloodshot by the time I was done. Why? Because the love story between Aura and Logan was so tragic, so heartbreaking, it shattered my icy heart and even made this jaded (occasional) YA reader give a shit.

Characterization is flawless. Logan, Aura, and Zach are all three-dimensional. The plot was engaging, the dialogue realistic. Logan initially reminded me so much of my first boyfriend (who was also a guitarist, ha!) that I think I was able to relate with Aura on a whole different level. Granted, I never had a fear of him leaving me, but for other aspects regarding the music? Definitely.

SHADE is not your run of the mill paranormal romance love triangle. There is a love triangle, but Jeri handles it so well that I honestly did not care. Highly recommended read!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

BEA 2011 Special Giveaway: Winner Announced

Thanks to everyone who entered and spread the word about this giveaway! Unfortunately, I can't give you all books, but I can give one of you a copy of LEGEND.

According to Random.org, the winner is...

Tiger Holland

Congrats! Please respond to my email by Wednesday with your mailing address, and I'll ship your ARC out to you ASAP.

And to all of you who did not win: stay tuned, because there will be another opportunity to win a book on Wednesday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tori's Review: Flying Blind by Deborah Cooke

Paperback - 336 pages
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 978-0451233882
Released: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Penguin
Author's Website: Deborah Cooke
Buy it: Amazon
Obtained: Publisher
Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult
Series: The Dragon Diaries
Book Order:
1. Flying Blind

Zoë Sorensson is perfectly normal, except she's been told she's destined for great things. Zoë's the one female dragon shapeshifter of her kind. But Zoë is at the bottom of the class when it comes to being Pyr and her powers are AWOL, so she's sent to a Pyr boot camp.

Zoë quickly realizes that she has to master her powers yesterday, because the Pyr are in danger and boot camp is a trap. The Mages want to eliminate all shifters and the Pyr are next in line-unless Zoë and her friends can work together and save their own kind.

My Rating:

My Opinion:
FLYING BLIND's beginning was the embodiment of what I needed in a YA right now: it was refreshingly unique, combats bullying in a satisfying, physical way, and leaves a sweet taste my mouth when I think about teenage girls pining for their "soul mates." Alas, the entire book does not continue on such a strong note--especially the last 15% of the novel.

Zoë is a reject in high school who's forced to deal with the popular girls on a daily basis. Thing is, when said girls take their bullying too far while torturing Zoë's best friend, things take a turn for the worst. You see, our young heroine is a dragon--a wyvern, to be exact--and she's got a short temper. Go figure the dragon in her would reveal itself at the most inopportune time.

The remainder of the book explores dragon life. I thought that all of this information was presented in a clean and crisp way. I wasn't bogged down with overwhelming amounts of information all at once, and because this is a spinoff series, I wasn't left in the dark (too much), regretting not reading the other series first.

Zoë is likable enough in the beginning, but as the story progresses, her immaturity quickly got on my nerves. For a 15 year old, she behaved pretty abhorrently at times, which lessened her in my eyes.

By the time the "first" bad guy is vanquished, I was ready to close the book and call it a night (which I did). I felt that the story began to lose its momentum the closer Zoë got towards her real transformation. During the first showdown, I felt some moments were corny, and I actually cringed at how many times Zoë lifted her claws up in the air, ready to fight. I wish that, instead of overusing this, Cooke thought of a few more creative ways for the fighting newbie to prepare herself for battle.

After the crew learned the fate of the other dragons (or Pyr), I could confidently say that I was done with the story. I was emotionally exhausted after all the drama, and was not ready to pick myself up and continue on. When I finally did, about four days later, a lot of the initial magic and excitement for this story dissipated.

I think I'm being a bit generous by giving FLYING BLIND a 4 star rating. Initially, I wanted to lower it to 3.5, but I think that my physical and mental exhaustion played a role in my lack of interest with the ending of the book. I also wanted this higher rating to reflect how I was unable to put the book down; I began it in one evening, and was up until 2AM (had to get up for classes at 6:30AM). Would I recommend this to others? If you're not sick of dragons, and if you can deal with an immature heroine, I'd say go for it!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tori's Review: Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance

432 pages
Price: $7.99
ISBN: 978-0451413079
Released: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Penguin
Author's Website: Karen Chance 
Buy it: Amazon
Obtained: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy 
Series: Cassandra Palmer 
Book Order:
1. Touch the Dark
2. Claimed by Shadow
3. Embrace the Night
4. Curse the Dawn

Cassandra Palmer recently defeated a god, which you'd think would buy a girl a little time off. But it doesn't work that way when your job description is Pythia-the world's chief clairvoyant. Cassie is busier than ever, trying to learn about her power, preparing for her upcoming coronation, and figuring out her relationship with the enigmatic sexy master vampire, Mircea.

But someone doesn't want Cassie to become Pythia, and is willing to go to any lengths to make sure the coronation ceremony never happens- including attacking her mother before Cassie is even born.


My Opinion:
Roughly two years ago, CURSE THE DAWN was released. After such a long and tortured period of living in limbo, the fifth installment to the Cassie Palmer series has finally reached the public. And oh what a wait it was.

In a way, the hiatus was a good thing. Why? I remember when I read the first four books in this series, I was engaged, but not 100% with the writing and characters (this, mind you, was all before I embraced my book addiction; it was when I actually worried about running out of books to purchase and devour). After reading HUNT THE MOON throughout the week, and having it haunt me when I wasn't reading it, I was addicted. That little spark that was lacking in the earlier books was shining brightly, demanding my complete attention.

The writing has improved. I had an easier time picturing everything, and the dialogue definitely was a bonus. I got a real taste of characters via conversations (especially Pritkin this time around). Everything in this book flowed so smoothly and effortlessly that I couldn't help but be enamored.

There is a love-ish triangle in this series, and I thought I was going to hate it. I remember I despised the idea of Pritkin and Cassie being together initially--that is, until the two got down and dirty to save Pritkin's life in a past book. I was always a Mircea fan, but after HUNT THE MOON, I think I'm legitimately torn because both men are so likable, and both have their faults. Kudos to Chance for actually making me question who I want Cassie to be with. 

Fans of the series will definitely appreciate this installment because we learn more about character histories. I think I'm also torn between the two men because Chance focused on both equally this time around, permitting them to reveal something substantial that happened in both their pasts, and thus, making them easier to like.

I have two minor qualms with this book: some of the fight scenes, and redundancy. There was a tendency for certain things to repeat themselves--whether it was a certain behavior during an interaction, or something a little more substantial, like a trending when it comes to attacks. I hate to say it, but halfway through the story, I was able to predict the inclination in the fights for shifting, attacking, crazy chase, and regrouping.

As for the fight scenes themselves, I don't remember if I had similar sentiments for earlier books, but I felt lost at some points. I'm not sure if this was because of editing issues, or if I wasn't catching certain details. Even upon rereading these pages, I still felt overwhelmed and confused. It seemed like Chance either got lost or too wrapped up in these scenes. To me, there seemed to be a few consistency errors, but again, I'm not sure if it's my fault or not. For example, in one chase scene, Pritkin was supposedly pulled into the car (or at least, I thought he was), but then then a paragraph later, he was back on the fence, being dragged again. In that very same scene, Cassie told a vampire to drive, then took the wheel back; a few paragraphs later, the vampire was driving again. I felt it happened fairly often with the more intricate fights, which lessened my enjoyment of them since I was having difficulties attempting to envision the overall picture.

Word of warning: there is a cliff hanger in HUNT THE MOON. I, personally, was not agitated by this, but I know a lot of people will not be thrilled... especially after a two year wait for this book coupled with no word of book six's release.

Overall, HUNT THE MOON was an excellent reunion with a wonderful world and characters. Mircea and Pritkin were just as sexy as I remembered, and I actually started tearing up at the end because I thought Pritkin died at one point (but he didn't!). Cassie didn't annoy me as much like she did in the past, and I was hating every moment where I wasn't reading. I think Chance just proved that, despite a reading slump, a creative author can effortlessly wipe away the fatigue any reader may be feeling via an engaging world and characters.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tori's Review: Frostbound by Sharon Ashwood

- 384 pages Price: $7.99 
ISBN 13: 978-0451231956
June 7, 2011

Sharon's Website
Buy it via the Publisher 
Buy it via Amazon 

Obtained: Author
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: The Dark Forgotten 
1. Ravenous (book review)
2. Scorched
3. Unchained (book review)
4. Frostbound

As a snowstorm locks down the city, someone beheads the wrong girl. Vampire-on-the-lam Talia Rostova thinks it was meant to be her. And now she's the prime suspect in her own botched murder and the prisoner of her smoking-hot-neighbor: a hellhound. And the hot-blooded Lore was bred to serve and protect, so he's not freeing Talia until he's sure she's the prey and not the hunter...

My Rating:

My Opinion:
Ashwood's debut RAVENOUS was a pleasant surprise for me. The characters were strong and likable, the romance was sizzling, the plot had my heart racing, and falling in love was essentially effortless. When I read UNCHAINED, I had a similar jaw-dropping reaction to the sheer genius of the entire novel. (I haven't read SCORCHED yet, so I cannot comment on that one)

And now I've just finished reading FROSTBOUND. I wouldn't say that it's my favorite in the series because hell, Holly Carver and Alessandro Caravelli are a hard pairing to beat, but I did enjoy the book as a whole.

Before I go any further, I would like to mention that for the past two-ish months, I have been unable to commit to any book I open up. For some strange reason, I had no motivation or energy to read, and not for the lack of trying. Getting emotionally invested was another problem I suffered from, and I think that the remnants of that issue will be reflected at one point in the review. Please keep that in mind while reading my commentary.

The beginning of the novel starts off with a bang and instantly had me engrossed with its contents. Then, when Lore and Talia meet, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat during their interactions. The couple, when not being serious, had a spunky-ness to them that I can always appreciate. The problem was, at some point the book lost my focus for a bit. As more characters came into play, I found that the plot seemed to be weighed down as it tried to accommodate them and the issue at hand. Lots of character development, not so much action and butt kicking.

Mind you, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, the character interactions are a great thing, and I enjoy them. They can truly make you appreciate the time an author takes to make each and every individual as three-dimensional as possible. Other times (I think it was that time), I crave the "take no prisoners" plot that will keep me glued to the pages and begging for more. Either way, the story didn't lag for very long.

Soon enough, I was busy doing exactly what I wanted: holding my breath and reading as fast as I possibly could once Talia encounters a certain bad guy. I literally could not put the book down after that, and I'm glad I didn't, because the entire showdown by the end left me happily sighing in delight.

The only real complaint I have--which will seem like a big deal considering it's a PNR--has to do with the romance between Lore and Talia. For me, it felt somewhat difficult to connect with them on an emotional level. I don't know if it's because of me and my reading slump (which I'm seriously thinking it is), or if it's because this coupling simply did not work for me in the general sense. I was excited for Lore's story, so I feel disappointed that I wasn't grinning like an idiot as the two fell in love.

...Which is interesting, because during one scene with Omara and Darak (towards the end of the story), I suddenly felt the excitement that was evading me with the main couple. I found myself sitting up straighter, staring at the pages with some insane expression, and practically burning through the scene as fast as I could to see what would happen next. I have my fingers crossed that the scene I'm referring to was a bit of foreshadowing for a future book/coupling.

I also think that, because the Castle is not referenced to as much in the beginning, that may have disappointed me. FROSTBOUND generally lacks appearances from past couples and references of past events in the beginning of the book, and on some level, I think I missed both. It was not until the Castle finally played a part in the story that I felt that connection to the series I was so desperately craving, and when I got it, I was a happy camper.

Would I recommend FROSTBOUND to readers? Hell yes! Pick up the entire series before you begin reading, because once you start one book, you're going to want to read them all. Another job well done, Sharon, and thank you for finally inspiring me to start reading again.