Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Center Stage July 2013 Character Spotlight

Center Stage is a monthly feature hosted by Ginger-Read Reviews, in which we highlight a character from the books we've read in the past month.

July 2013 Center Stage Character:
Warner from the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

I love participating in this meme because it gives me the chance to write as much about a character as I want. With reviews, I feel the need to rein in the character discussions somewhat in order to talk about the book as a whole. I think Warner is a character who would agree with me that a single paragraph devoted to him is nowhere near sufficient.

This guy . . . . Where to start?! From the moment he showed up in Shatter Me, he commandeered my brain, messed with it repeatedly (and he's probably not done yet, either), and refuses to be dislodged from it. Seriously, I haven't been able to stop thinking about him since I finished Unravel Me a few days ago.

This isn't even a love-hate type of situation here. I am utterly fascinated by Warner's character. Every time Juliette and I believe we might have made a sliver of progress figuring him out, he does something unexpected. That may be putting it mildly.

My cousin Melissa had been nagging me to death to read this series. Now that I'm up to date, she has accused me of loving Warner just to spite her because she'd told me before I started Shatter Me that there was nothing to like about Warner in that book. I beg to differ. Melissa's opinion of him has changed since reading Destroy Me and Unravel Me, but she continues to think that I love Warner because she said I wouldn't. Again, I beg to differ. As my cousin, Melissa should know that I am not normal. I laugh at things in books that no one else would find funny. I hate books everyone else loves. I love characters everyone else hates. So, really, it comes as zero surprise that I love Warner. He and I totally have this in common:

"I have an extremely low threshold for disorder; it offends my very being." — Destroy Me, Chapter 2

And here are a few more of my favorite Warner quotes, just because:

"At least I'm honest about being a liar." — Shatter Me, Chapter 14
"Love is a heartless bastard." — Destroy Me, Chapter 21
"My loyalties lie with those who know how to live." — Unravel Me, Chapter 54

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Awakenings Blog Tour: Book Spotlight & Giveaway

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Awakenings by J. E. Shannnon! I have a book spotlight for you today featuring an excerpt from the novel, and there's also a giveaway for you to enter!

Awakenings by J. E. Shannon
By J. E. Shannon
Entranced Publishing
Publication Date: July 29, 2013
Amazon | Kobo | Smashwords | Goodreads


Evie Shepard awakens to a nightmare. She's been buried alive and has no idea how or why. As she struggles to remember what happened, she begins to notice changes—heightened senses, as well as increased speed, agility, and strength. And her heart no longer beats. She soon makes a disturbing discovery: she wasn't buried alive; she was murdered. Somehow, she has come back . . . and she wants revenge.

** Awakenings Trailer **

** Excerpt **

Lightning strikes the ground, leaving behind a thick, black scorch mark. Within seconds, it strikes a second time, pausing briefly before giving a third earth-shattering blow. I don’t see the actual bolts—all I see is a flash of light, followed by my sister and me running, out of breath and terrified. Another flash, and we are huddled together in a rusted, abandoned car. Another burst of light, and the car door screeches open and we are being ripped away from each other by unfamiliar hands. It’s with that final memory that I open my eyes. As soon as I do, something grainy flows into them, so I shut them again.

I can’t see, I can’t hear; but I can feel that I’m lying on cold earth. The longer I’m awake, the more I become aware of an unbelievable pressure on my chest. Slowly, I realize that it’s not just my chest—my face and body also feel as if I’m being crushed. Oily nausea roils through me, but I clench my teeth to stop myself from panicking. Where am I? I try to move my hands and find they’re pinned to my side. I try to open my eyes again and instantly get something in them. I flex my fingers, and the grittiness that slips through them makes me aware of the awful truth—I have been buried alive.

I let out a shriek, but have to close my mouth as dirt begins to slip past my lips. Struggling frantically, I feel the earth move under my hands. I realize I can’t be buried very deep, or the pressure of the dirt would surely have suffocated me by now. I’m astounded it hasn’t already, though I have no way of knowing how long I’ve been underground. I force myself to be still, to stop and think about what I have to do. I need to be very careful getting out, making sure not to cause a cave-in and possibly crush myself. I need to remember to breathe shallowly or I will run out of oxy— And that’s when I realize that I’m not breathing. Not at all.

About J. E. Shannon

Author J. E. Shannon

J. E. Shannon currently lives in Florida, but is a Missouri native. She spends most of her time reading, writing, and taking care of her small child and two crazy dogs. Visit her at

Blog | Twitter | Facebook

** Giveaway **

To celebrate her new release, J. E. Shannon is giving away a Kindle with an ecopy of Awakenings (US only). One runner-up will win an ecopy of Awakenings (open internationally). You can enter here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

* This review may contain spoilers for the previous book, Anna Dressed in Blood. *

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Girl of Nightmares (Anna #2)
By Kendare Blake
Tor Teen

To Sum It Up:

The ghost of Anna Korlov saved Cas Lowood and his friends, but now Anna is trapped in Hell. Cas sees visions of her being tortured, and despite being told that there’s no way to bring Anna back, he’s determined to help her. Cas faces a lot of obstacles to his plan, including a secret organization that believes all ghosts, regardless of whether they’re peaceful or evil, should be permanently banished from the mortal world.


I’d seen quite a few mixed reviews for Girl of Nightmares from readers who, like me, had loved Anna Dresssed in Blood. So I didn’t really know what to anticipate from the sequel and maybe even went into reading it with slightly lowered expectations. While I can now see why this may not have garnered quite as much love as the first book did, I was far from disappointed with Girl of Nightmares.

I think the most common gripe I’d seen about this novel was how little Anna was in it. And she really isn’t, at least not to the extent you might assume from the title and the cover (which is fantastic, by the way). Yes, I felt a little let down about this, but my biggest concern was how Cas was going to handle her loss. I was worried that he was going to act all mopey and angsty throughout the book. Now that would have upset me immensely because one of the things I loved about Anna was Cas’s snarky narration. Fortunately, he holds himself together reasonably well. I mean, I wouldn’t call him cheerful, and his distraction over seeing glimpses of Anna being tortured in Hell nearly gets his friends, Thomas and Carmel, killed. On the whole, though, Cas avoids turning into a one-man pity party and still manages to make plenty of biting comments, a Cas Lowood specialty.

Speaking of Thomas and Carmel, I’ve really grown to like these two. Okay, so I was kind of mad at Carmel for a few chapters while reading this, but I understood her reasons for her actions. Plus, she eventually worked her way back into my good graces (Yay, Carmel! I knew you were a good person at heart!). To think that I found Thomas sort of annoying when I first met him in Anna—man, I love that kid! I love his geekiness and his loyalty to his friends, and I love that he’s found a clique with Cas and Carmel. Thomas seems a lot more confident here, too, and at times his wit rivals even Cas’s. Oh, and I’d also just like to say that Thomas’s grandfather, Morfran, is like one of the coolest, if not the coolest, grandpas in YA.

You know which character I didn’t like in Girl of Nightmares? Gideon Palmer, the friend of Cas’s family whom Cas consulted for advice in Anna. Here I was thinking that Gideon was this happy-go-lucky English chap/supernatural expert, and he turned out to be a secretive jerk, emphasis on “secretive.” I felt foolish for taking a liking to him in the previous book. He’s not a villain here, exactly, but I’d certainly never trust the guy again.

So why didn’t Girl of Nightmares quite measure up to Anna Dressed in Blood in my mind? Well, I didn’t think it was as scary as the first book, and the fright factor was, surprisingly for a chicken like me, a big reason why I enjoyed Anna so much. There’s also a lot of focus in Girl of Nightmares on how Cas’s athame (i.e. his ghost killing knife) might be more than merely a weapon. The knife probably ended up in more pages than Anna did, and really, I wasn’t all that interested in the athame’s story. But, this was still a very, very good sequel, and I was sad to see the story come to a close.

All in All:

I really liked this, even though I had a few small quibbles with it. It’s not the all-out horror read that Anna Dressed in Blood was, but I still think Girl of Nightmares is totally worth reading.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout

* This review may contain spoilers for the previous books, Obsidian and Onyx. *

Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout Opal (Lux #3)
By Jennifer L. Armentrout
Entangled Teen

To Sum It Up:

Daemon and Dee have their brother, Dawson, back, but they’ve also suffered a loss that Katy blames herself for. Dawson is determined to rescue his girlfriend from the Department of Defense’s clutches—with or without anyone’s help. No one wants him to get taken by the DoD again, either, so Katy, Daemon, and the rest of their group begin planning a rescue operation. They wind up having to rely on information from one of the last people they’d ever trust, but they have no other options if they even hope to break into the DoD’s secret facility.


I believe that the novelty of the Lux series has officially worn off for me. Opal was a long, slow read that I never thought I’d finish. I really had to push myself through some parts where it seemed like absolutely nothing was happening.

So much of this book felt repetitive to me, as though the series has settled into a fixed pattern. Katy worries about something. Daemon assures her that everything is going to be all right. Katy gets distracted by Daemon’s hotness. Katy and Daemon commence extended smooching session then return to matters at hand, like dealing with the evil Department of Defense. Start all over again with Katy stressing out. I’ve always thought the aliens vs. the government story line was cool, and Dawson was a welcome addition; his despair over being separated from his girlfriend, Beth, was so sad. At this point, though, I need more than that to remain invested in the series.

Opal seemed overly long to me, and I even lost track of how much time had passed in the book once or twice. There’s a big build-up to the big break-in at the DoD’s top secret facility where Beth is being held, but the emphasis is all on the training and the planning, which I didn’t find all that interesting. After a while, I just wanted Katy, Daemon, Dawson, and everybody else to just storm the place and get it over with.

In my review of Onyx, I went on a mini-rant about one Blake Saunders. It was too much to hope that he had disappeared for good at the end of that book. I knew he’d return, because Blake has the persistence of a bedbug infestation. Ugh, and he’s got the gall to act all arrogant! What I didn’t expect was the new low to which he took creepiness; seriously, Blake is a real piece of work.

While there’s a lot of tension to the story in Opal, the novel’s unhurried pace tends to knock the punch out of it. This book really dragged for me, and I couldn’t shake a sense of déjà vu that a lot of scenes and dialogue were very familiar. I do have to say, the ending was such a shocker that even though I’d thought perhaps this series and I were going to part ways, we can’t now. I may regret it afterwards, but I feel obligated to hang in there for one more book because I need to know what happens after a jaw-dropping ending like this one.

All in All:

There’s finding a comforting familiarity when you read the sequels in a series, and then there’s feeling like you’re reading the same thing over and over again. Unfortunately, Opal leaned toward the latter for me. I hope the series regains its footing with the next book because Obsidian was such a fun read.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (5): Favorite Creature

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Favorite Creature from the Series

Ever since the regally handsome Buckbeak knocked Draco Malfoy on his arse, hippogriffs have become my favorite magical creature in the wizarding world. Not only are hippogriffs beautiful and intelligent, but they are also proud and extremely loyal. I thought it was brilliant that these creatures allow a person to approach them only after that person earns their approval. My fondness for these magical creatures also stems from the relationship between Buckbeak and Sirius Black. These two guys went on the run together and I can easily see them parading about the open sky.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout

* This review may contain spoilers for the previous book, Obsidian. *

Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout Onyx (Lux #2)
By Jennifer L. Armentrout
Entangled Teen

To Sum It Up:

After being healed by Daemon, Katy starts exhibiting some strange powers of her own. She’s unable to control them until the mysterious new guy at school, who understands the situation, offers to help her. This obviously doesn’t sit well with Daemon, who doesn’t trust this newcomer at all, but it’s either that or let the Department of Defense find out what Katy can do. Daemon and the rest of the Luxen are already wary of the DoD when Katy spots one of the last people she ever thought she’d see with them. Something doesn’t add up, and Katy and Daemon are determined to discover what the DoD is up to.


With its cool, incandescent aliens and government cover-ups, Obsidian was a surprisingly fun read. Although I wouldn’t say I loved it, I was still excited to read Onyx. I liked that Daemon and Katy were still hurling verbal barbs at each other in this one, because that was a huge part of Obsidian’s entertainment factor, but overall the sequel didn’t quite win me over like the first book did.

My biggest problem with Onyx can be summed up in one word, or rather, one name: Blake. There’s only enough room for one smug guy in this series, and sorry, Blake, but that role has already been more than adequately filled by Daemon. From the moment Blake showed up at school screaming “new kid!” I just didn’t like him. You know when someone keeps turning up unwanted and can’t take a hint? That’s Blake in a nutshell. The sole upside of his presence in the book was Daemon constantly calling him the wrong name, much to my amusement.

What really bothered me was how Katy trusted Blake, this person she just met, so implicitly. Based on the Katy from Obsidian, I thought she was smarter than that. I also couldn’t help being slightly annoyed with her for questioning Daemon’s feelings for her. She worries that he only wants to be with her because of the connection that was created between them after he healed her following the fight with the Arum in Obsidian. I found myself a little impatient with Katy’s line of thinking and some of her decisions this time around, but it’s not as though they were so bad they made me wince or anything like that.

As for Daemon, he’s still pretty much the Daemon you know and love and occasionally want to punch in the throat. Personally, I’m still not madly in love with him, but he does crack me up, and he truly does care about Katy. Plus, anybody who hates Blake is fine by me. I wasn’t sure if the Daemon in Onyx was going to be a nicer, sweeter version of the Daemon from Obsidian. It bugs me when a dreamy alpha male is introduced in the first book of a series and is then progressively watered down in the sequels. Luckily, Daemon’s jerk factor was so high in Obsidian that he could afford some tamping down without turning into a wimp. An overwhelming amount of his appeal in the first book was his gargantuan ego and smartass-ness, so though Daemon does display more of a sensitive side in Onyx, his other charming personality traits are still very much intact.

I was disappointed to see Dee with a much smaller role here, along with Katy’s human friends, Lesa and Carissa. To think that their page time probably went to Blake. Boo. Overall, Onyx felt a little uneven compared to Obsidian, though once again, anything to do with uncovering the Department of Defense’s secrets was gripping, and the ending packed a wallop.

All in All:

Blake was kind of a blight on this, but even when he wasn’t around, Onyx still didn’t quite measure up to Obsidian. Onyx wasn’t without its moments, but it wasn’t a knockout, either.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1)
By Rachel Hawkins
Disney Hyperion

To Sum It Up:

Sophie Mercer is a witch, and her magic doesn’t always work the way she wants it to. She’s been to nineteen different schools, and when her latest spell goes awry, she’s sent to Hecate Hall, a sort of reform school for other Prodigium (witches, warlocks, fae, and shapeshifters) students. Even at Hex Hall, though, Sophie can’t escape trouble. A group of mean witches wants her to join their coven, and almost everyone suspects her vampire roommate of being behind a series of attacks on their classmates. Sophie is at Hex Hall to learn to control her powers, but it may actually be the most dangerous place for her.


It can’t be easy trying to compete with a certain über-popular series set in a magical boarding school, but Hex Hall carves out a nice little niche for itself. This was a quick read with a mostly breezy tone, though it also didn’t shy away from going dark when it needed to.

For me, the book’s greatest appeal was its humor. From Sophie’s overdone love spell that backfires horribly at the beginning of the novel to her failed attempts to magically create a non-hideous dress for a school dance, I was very amused while reading this. Sophie herself is a pretty sarcastic protagonist, and her snark-laden exchanges with Hex Hall’s resident hot guy, Archer Cross, are especially entertaining. I don’t know—I wasn’t particularly impressed with Archer. He’s sharp with a one-liner and dreamy to look at, but I wasn't exactly swooning over him. I did think it was hilarious how he and Sophie, after getting off to a rocky start when they first met each other, ended up being punished together, assigned to inventorying the school’s storage room of unwanted magical items, thanks to their sadistic teacher, the Vandy (loved her nickname).

Almost from the moment she sets foot in Hex Hall, Sophie is beset by a trio of witches who want her to complete their coven. Elodie, Anna, and Chaston are your archetypal mean girls, and Sophie sees them for what they are. I really liked that about her, but I also thought that she should have figured out who the culprit was behind the attacks on some of Hex Hall’s students a little sooner. To me, piecing the clues together didn’t take too much of an effort. And, despite Sophie being 16, the book sometimes had a youngish feel to it; not all of the time, because it ventured into decidedly young adult territory in some places. At other times, though, I felt like I was reading a book written for a slightly younger audience.

Still, I enjoyed reading this, and it left some very intriguing loose ends that I’m eager to find out more about. I’m also curious about Cal, the groundskeeper (not janitor like Sophie mistakenly calls him); I have a hunch that there’s an interesting story there. Plus, Sophie is a likable, funny character, which gives me further motivation to continue the series.

All in All:

Hex Hall isn’t an overly challenging read, but it is a fun one. The standout aspect for me was the humor, which made the book very much worth a read even if the premise wasn’t entirely novel.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Biggest Reading Influence

It's been ages since I did one of these posts, where I yap about a book, author, or other bookish subject that's had a profound impact on me as a reader. It's challenging sometimes just keeping up with the everyday blog stuff like reviews and the occasional meme, so posts like these tend to get pushed to the backburner.

I've been thinking about writing on this particular topic for a while, but I've been hesitant because personally, I hate cloying sentimentality, and I'm nervous about my little story coming off like that, despite my best efforts to avoid going there. But I've also been in a blogging funk lately and doing a lot of second guessing over content. So, in the spirit of blogging about what I feel like blogging about, I'm writing this post because it feels like the right time for it.

I never would have become the reading fanatic that I am today had it not been for my parents. They fostered my love of books from as far back as I can remember. Some of my most treasured memories are of my mom reading to me when I was little. She did the best character voices, and she didn't mind when I asked her to read me the same book over and over and over again.

I didn't understand until I was older why it was always my mom who'd read to me. My dad had quit school when he was 16 and started working full time. His parents didn't give him too much of a hassle over it because he was also helping support his five younger sisters at home (they were a family of ten all together). My dad never went back to school, and I think he tried to keep quiet how poor his reading skills were, but he encouraged me to read as much as my mom did. He often came home from work with the best surprise I could ask for—a new book. My parents were far from wealthy, but growing up, I never wanted for books to read, whether they were bought or borrowed from the library. We went to the library often, and I always had all of the time in the world in there to browse (well, until the library closed, anyway).

My dad will be gone four years on Tuesday, my mom eight years next month. One of the many, many things I regret never telling them was how grateful I am that they made reading such a vital part of my life. Every Sweet Valley Twins book they bought for me in Waldenbooks whenever we went to the mall, every trip we made to the Greenpoint branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, every massive book haul they let me do at school book fairs—I wouldn't love books as much as I do now without all of those things and so many others like them.

My mom, my dad, & me

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (4): What Would Your Animagus/Patronus Be?

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
It's a free week, so I've chosen to do:
What Would Your Animagus/Patronus Be?

Don't you ever wonder what your animagus and/or patronus would be if you were a witch/wizard? Well, I know what ours would be! Ally would be a monkey because monkeys are weird, friendly, and sometimes a little terrifying. Lee would be an owl 'cause she's so smart and stuffs. Also, Lee practically stays up until dawn reading. I would be an octopus because I love octopuses, and they love me, too.

What do you think your animagus or patronus would be?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Found Around the Shelves: Summer Reading Memories

I had so much fun with the previous post that I did, in which I revealed my large tiny book hoarding problem by gathering all of the unread books lying on my shelves, that I've decided to do some occasional themed posts on my book collection. It's really not that big, so we'll see how many topics I can think of before I run out of books to talk about (Of course, I can always add more, but I'm trying to be good with my book buying). And yes, sometimes I have way too much time on my hands that ideas like this even pop into my head.

Since it's the middle of summer, I thought a timely subject would be books that were assigned for school to be read during summer vacation. It also sort of ties in to my previous post about the book hoarding because I still have some of these books 20 or so years later, which explains why most of them look the worse for wear:

When I moved a few years ago, I did a pretty thorough clean out of my books while packing, and quite a few titles from my old school summer reading lists got tossed. I figured that I wasn't likely to read them ever again, and I really can't say that I've been itching to reread James Agee's A Death in the Family, Robert James Waller's The Bridges of Madison County, or Carson McCullers's The Member of the Wedding, among others. The books that I have kept weren't necessarily because I loved them, but for whatever reason, I just didn't want to part with them. There's also still the mystery of where my copy of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man went. I know I lent it to somebody in college, but it was never returned. That book made zero sense to me when I read it for my senior year of high school, so it's not like I was crying over it going missing, but it has given me a phobia of lending my books out that persists until this day.

I remember actually being excited to receive my first summer reading list when I went to high school orientation. Ahh—the optimism of a freshman! The following year, I wasn't quite so thrilled when those pieces of paper were handed out toward the end of May, and I absolutely dreaded the sight of them at the end of junior year. I think my favorite list is still from freshman year, when I read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Pearl, and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The selections after that were more miss than hit. I didn't realize it at the time, but they were slowly putting a damper on my love of reading that I wouldn't break out of until I was well into adulthood. I did rather like Les Misérables, though. I only had to read the abridged version, which is why my copy in the photo is so small; the unabridged version is over 1000 pages. My cousin, Ally, owns a copy, and seriously, it could double as a makeshift weapon.

Senior year's summer reading assignment was quite a drudge because I'd chosen English as one of my concentration subjects, and I had to take two English classes that year—which meant two summer reading lists. Les Misérables was on one of them, and I think I had a bit of luck because another book was on both lists. I had to read The Bridges of Madison County that year, and why, I could never figure out because our reading diet consisted almost exclusively of classic literature. Maybe it was because Bridges was still selling copies like mad at the time, and they just wanted us to read something off the bestseller's list for a change. I had the worst time reading Madame Bovary; Emma Bovary, if you thought your ennui was unbearable, you should have tried reading about it.

I really have to laugh at that reading list now because back then, I never thought I'd get to the end of it. There were about seven books on it, and I can usually read at least that many in a month now. When I was 17, though, the last thing I wanted to do was spend my summer doing my forced reading for school. There was only one time when I had to read a book over the summer for college, Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson, and that was for a special incoming freshmen event. And with that, my summers of required reading were finally over.

If there are any summer reading memories you'd like to share, whether they're happy stories or horror stories, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain
James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra
By Colm McElwain

* A copy was provided by the author for review.

To Sum It Up:

Eleven-year-old James Clyde has no memories of his parents. As far as he knows, his grandfather, Wilmore, is his only living relative. James and his friends, Mary and Ben Forester, are off to spend their Christmas vacation at Wilmore’s mansion in the country when a shadowy figure from Wilmore’s past comes after him and poses a threat to James, too. The three children flee to the mystical land of Orchestra, which has been waiting all these years for the return of its hero, James, to save his people and to keep Orchestra’s three precious diamonds from falling into the wrong hands.


At first glance, James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra has all the right ingredients for a middle grade fantasy: knights, magical creatures, an evil queen, and an eleven-year-old boy prophesied to rescue the kingdom. James and his friends, siblings Ben and Mary, have a series of exciting adventures that are sure to thrill younger readers. For me, though, the book was missing that sense of whimsy that pulls you into a fantasy world and makes you feel like you’re a part of it as opposed to just reading about it and following along. I couldn’t quite find that connection to the book or the characters here.

One of the obstacles I encountered when trying to immerse myself in the story was how identical the characters’ voices sounded to me. Whether it was an adult or a child who was speaking, the dialogue didn’t provide much insight into their personalities. On the whole, I didn’t get much of an idea of who these characters were, other than some were clearly good and some were clearly evil. It was hard taking a particular interest in most of them because I felt as though I’d barely gotten to know them. The exception was Kila, one of the knights on the side of good. He embodies chivalry with his bravery, dedication to his duty, and, of course, his masterful skill with a sword. I’ve always loved tales of knights saving the day, and my favorite part of the book was reading about the exploits of Kila and his brothers-in-arms.

I also thought that exposition could have used some more detail. There are references to stories about the land of Orchestra and its magical diamonds that Wilmore, James’s grandfather, has apparently told the three children. I would have liked to have heard one of these stories myself to gain a deeper understanding of the lore, but you have to wait until the trio actually journeys to Orchestra to learn more about Orchestra. As I read the book, I had the overall impression that the characters were in on information of which only bits and pieces were shared with the reader. Several later chapters are devoted to recounting how James ended up an orphan, and they filled in a lot of the blanks, but I wouldn’t have minded learning a few of these things a little earlier.

Younger readers will probably take to the quest aspect of the novel, but I needed some additional backstory and depth to the characters for this to be a page turner. I did enjoy reading about anything that had to do with the knights of Zara, and the action sequences were pretty intense. I just wish I’d connected better with James and his friends.

All in All:

I think some fine tuning of the character development and the dialogue were what would have made this a solid read for me. I liked its quest-driven premise, and I’m always happy to see knights make an appearance in a fantasy novel.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review & Giveaway: Chase Tinker and the House of Secrets

Chase Tinker and the House of Secrets by Malia Ann Haberman
Chase Tinker and the House of Secrets (Chase Tinker #2)
By Malia Ann Haberman
Crossroad Press

* A copy was provided by the author for review.

To Sum It Up:

The evil Marlowes are more determined than ever to steal the source of the Tinker family’s magic, and now they’ve been joined by some unlikely allies. In addition to worrying about protecting his family, Chase Tinker is learning that his relatives can be quite secretive. There isn’t much time for him to be angry about being kept in the dark, though, because the Tinkers need to stick together if they’re to stand against their enemy and rescue one of their own.


Chase Tinker and the House of Secrets is a strong follow-up that certainly lives up to its name. We find out several surprising things about the Tinker family—and even a few about their old foes, the Marlowes—in this action-packed sequel that maintains the charm of the first book, Chase Tinker and the House of Magic, while also reflecting in tone the increasing maturity of its characters.

Continuing character development is something that I look for in any sequel regardless of a book’s target age group, but I’m especially keen to see it in middle grade titles. The ones that tend to click with me as an adult reader feature characters who make me feel as though I’m watching them make a progressive journey into young adulthood. Chase Tinker and the House of Secrets does not disappoint in this area. Chase still acts impulsively at times, but he’s also more aware of the responsibilities he’ll shoulder one day as the Keeper of the Tinker’s magical house. He grows up quite a bit over the course of the novel, and by the end of it, he’s been thoroughly tested. Extreme circumstances force Chase to take some drastic action that leaves him shaken and guilt-ridden. It’ll be interesting to see how he copes with what happened as the series continues.

Although this book delves into a little more serious territory than the last one, there’s still plenty of lighthearted stuff going on. Chase is more preoccupied than ever with not looking like a dork in front of Persephone, the housekeeper’s daughter. After very briefly becoming Keeper, Chase is able to use powers that once belonged to other Tinkers . . . every time he sneezes. This causes some distress for our young hero, of course, like being attacked by a garbage can in the school bathroom. There’s also an incident involving Nori, a newcomer to the series with a special connection to the Tinkers, and everyone in the room turning into goats. Moments like these made me laugh and reminded me why I still enjoy reading middle grade books.

The titular house figures prominently in the story once again, but its amazing magic never eclipses the characters, which I really appreciated. You always know that the characters are the heart of the story; it just so happens that they live in this fantastic house where probably anything is possible. Returning to the Tinker house was a total thrill, and I loved the direction in which the series turned.

All in All:

This was another awesome adventure for Mr. Tinker and his family and friends. The intensity went up by just the perfect amount, and the magic was irresistibly enchanting once more.

The Kindle edition of Chase Tinker and the House of Magic, the first book in the Chase Tinker series, is currently available from Amazon for only $0.99! Click here to buy a copy!

** Giveaway **

One (1) winner will receive a $15 Amazon gift card and a bookmark signed by author Malia Ann Haberman!

  • This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
  • You must be at least 13 years old to enter.
  • Winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond or else another winner will be chosen.
  • Giveaway ends at 11:59 P.M. EDT on July 22, 2013.
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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (40)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's an opportunity for everyone to share the new books that we've acquired.

So I finally gave in to my cousin Melissa's repeated pleas to read Shatter Me, and she was right—it was AMAZING! The only logical thing for me to do next was to immediately get my hands on Destroy Me and Unravel Me, which is how I ended up buying books this week.

For Review for a Blog Tour:

Shadows by Paula Weston
I am SUPER excited to read this! Thank you so much to Tundra Books!


Unleash the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon


Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

What did you add to your shelves this week? Please link me up!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park
By Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Griffin

To Sum It Up:

In 1986 Omaha, Nebraska, Eleanor Douglas has just returned to living with her family. Her home life is still miserable because of her abusive stepfather, and, as the new girl at school, Eleanor is almost instantly subjected to ridicule. Park Sheridan begrudgingly offers her the seat next to him on the school bus, a moment that proves to be significant for both of them. Soon Eleanor is secretly reading Park’s comic books over his shoulder; this then leads the two to talking about comics and music, conversations that become essential parts of their daily lives.


I feel like this review needs some kind of disclaimer (yep, it’s going to be that kind of review), so here goes. This is the toughest review I’ve had to write so far. It’s going to be rambling, for which I apologize in advance; I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts for over a week, and it’s just not happening. Normally when I finish a book, I have a rough idea of the points I want to cover in the review, but with Eleanor & Park, I don’t know where to start.

Before I attempt to articulate why this book didn’t work for me, I also feel the need to disclose that realistic fiction is the genre that I read the least often. I usually read for escapism, and though realistic fiction is still fiction, most of the time I prefer to read about a world that’s far removed from this one. So why do I still bother with the genre, then? I have had the occasional success with it, and I worry that cutting it off completely would mean missing out on some great books. It’s just a matter of finding the ones that are right for me. Sadly, Eleanor & Park was not one of them.

I first became interested in the book after it seemed like everyone was reading it, and if you look at the reviews, a slew of them are five star. I took a particular interest in this book when I found out that Park was half-Korean, the son of a Korean mother and a Caucasian father. While our situations aren’t quite the same (I was born in Seoul and adopted when I was four months old; my mom was of Irish descent, my dad of Irish and German descent), I was still very curious to read about Park’s experiences growing up in an interracial family. I don’t know if I went into the book with subconscious expectations of how Park’s heritage would be explored, but to me, it was a subject that wasn’t probed nearly deeply enough. In fact, the portrayal of his whole family was one of the stumbling blocks that I encountered while reading this.

Park senses a distance between him and his father, and he wonders if it’s because he inherited more of his features from his mother than his brother, Josh, did. Now, Park also says that his parents are madly in love with each other. If Park’s dad is madly in love with his Korean wife, why would it matter if his son takes after her in appearance? I’m missing something here. There’s also zero backstory about how Park’s parents met other than that his father was in the military and stationed in Korea, and Park’s mother conveniently doesn’t talk about her life there. It’s as if she had no life until she married Park’s dad, came to America, had two kids, and started doing hair and nails out of her garage. I found this image one-dimensional and unsettling.

As a character, Park didn’t strike me as one of substance. Aside from his occasional identity issues, there wasn’t much else to him. He alternates between pondering his looks and mooning over Eleanor. I did want to scream at him when he asked Eleanor, this girl whom he’s supposed to be absolutely, completely in love with, if she was the one scrawling lewd graffiti on her own textbooks. What?! When she suggests that it might be Tina, one of the girls at school who’s been bullying her, Park sticks up for Tina. He was so clueless at times about how hellish Eleanor’s life was, especially at home.

I wasn’t fond of Eleanor, either. Personality-wise, she wasn’t the type of character I could connect with, but I also really didn’t like the way she saw Park sometimes—as Asian first, as Park second. Before she knew his name, he was “that Asian kid.” Even after these two are supposed to be madly in love with each other (which I didn’t buy, and the romance in general was too sappy for my liking), she still makes the offhand remark about his appearance, not in a mocking way, but it’s like this is the first thing she notices about him. If this was meant to reinforce how lacking in ethnic diversity Eleanor and Park’s neighborhood was, I don’t think this was necessarily the best way to go about doing so. There was a lot of potential here to examine why Eleanor thinks and says some of the things she does, but there’s hardly any follow-through.

I get all nostalgic over the 80’s, and the geek in me appreciated the X-Men and Star Wars references. And I was ecstatic to see Elvis Costello and “Alison” name checked. All of this was not, however, sufficient to overcome the issues I had with the book, which also asked me to believe that these two characters were the 1986 equivalent of Romeo and Juliet. I’ve never considered the latter couple to be the paragon of adolescent love, so perhaps that was another reason why I had trouble with Eleanor & Park. Of course, there are many readers who loved this book, and I encourage you not to let my sole experience with it dissuade you from checking it out.

All in All:

If ever there was a book that I’d describe as a “try it for yourself and see how like it” read, it’s this one. To me, liking a book is always a matter of personal preference, and in this instance, the book and I ended up being wholly mismatched.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (3): Best Odd Thing from HP

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Best Odd Thing from HP

I'm not sure if this exactly qualifies as odd, but something that made me laugh really hard from the books was Fred and George's Portable Swamp from Order of the Phoenix. Only the Weasley twins could have come up with a concoction like that! I loved the chaos it caused, and I loved how it infuriated Umbridge and Filch. It was especially funny when none of the other professors, due to their anti-Umbridge sentiments, would help clear it away. The swamp was certainly an ingenious invention, and it perfectly set up Fred and George's unforgettable departure from Hogwarts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Arrow of the Mist Blog Tour: Review

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Christina Mercer's Arrow of the Mist, organized by Xpresso Book Tours! I have a review of this YA fantasy novel for you today, and you can follow the rest of the tour by checking out the schedule.

Arrow of the Mist by Christina Mercer
Arrow of the Mist
By Christina Mercer
Publication Date:
March 21, 2013
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

* A copy was provided for review for the blog tour.


Terror strikes the Celtic inspired kingdom of Nemetona when barbed roots breach the veil of a forbidden land and poison woodsmen, including 15-year-old Lia’s beloved father. Lia and three others embark on a quest to the forbidden land of Brume to gather ingredients for the cure. But after her elder kinsman is attacked and poisoned, she and her cousin, Wynn, are forced to finish the quest on their own.

Lia relies on her powerful herbal wisdom and the memorized pages of her late grandmother’s Grimoire for guidance through a land of soul-hungry shades, trickster creatures, and uncovered truths about the origin of Brume and her family’s unexpected ties to it. The deeper they trek into the land, the stronger Lia’s untapped gift as a tree mage unfolds. When she discovers the enchanted root’s maker, it forces her to question everything about who she is and what is her destiny. Ultimately she must make a terrible choice: keep fighting to save her father and the people of the lands or join with the power behind the deadly roots to help nature start anew.


Arrow of the Mist is a fast-paced adventure that wastes no time cutting straight to the action. After Lia’s father is attacked by some venomous roots and becomes critically ill, she sets out with her grandfather, her cousin, Wynn, and Wynn’s friend, Kelven, in search of a cure. The group must venture into the dangerous fog of Brume, where the unknown awaits them.

World-building is such a critical element of fantasy, and Christina Mercer brings to life a magical, fully realized world that is teeming with vivid imagery. It drew me in instantly, and the sensory details that were utilized here were stellar. Seriously, reading this book was like being right by Lia’s side as she meets faeries, dwarfs, and even a unicorn (one of my favorite mythical creatures!). The world also boasts a rich lore, in which every tree tells a story, and it’s a lore that Lia knows by heart thanks to her beloved grandmother’s Grimoire. I really liked this use of a book-within-a-book to further enhance the feeling that this realm that Lia called home was a real place, complete with its own legends.

Lia quickly establishes herself as a smart, courageous, and tenacious heroine who’s prepared to do anything for her family. They’re a close-knit group, and Lia’s bond with her grandfather, Luis, was particularly touching. I just wish that I’d felt more of a connection with Lia, or even with any of the characters. It’s not that they lack dimension; it’s more that, in a way, they seemed a bit overshadowed by the amount of depth that was devoted to the world. Now, I loved the world and was immersed in it, but I couldn’t find quite the same investment in the characters. I liked both Lia and Wynn, who’s Lia’s traveling companion for a good stretch of the novel, but this was one of those instances where I couldn’t say much more about them than that.

There’s a lyrical quality to the prose in Arrow of the Mist, and it suits the story and the novel’s genre very well. It’s also an engaging writing style that keeps the book moving at a sprightly pace. What was missing for me here was an emotional attachment to the characters, but overall, this was an enchanting, enjoyable read.

All in All:

This is a solid fantasy with a highly imaginative world that should appeal to fantasy fans and anyone who enjoys quest-centered stories.

About Christina Mercer

Author Christina Mercer

Christina Mercer writes fiction in addition to mothering two young adults, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. Her varied interests prompted her to study creative writing, earn her official degree in Accounting, become a CPA, acquire a certificate in Herbal Studies, and keep honeybees. She took Writer’s Best in Show at the 2012 SCBWI CA North/Central Regional Conference and was a semi-finalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakout Novel Award Contest. You can find her at or working as the Reviews Director at

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