Review: “The Beautiful and the Damned (The Hollow #4)” by Jessica Verday


17334497Title: “The Beautiful and the Damned (The Hollows #4)”

Author: Jessica Verday

Genre: YA Contemporary, PNR, Paranormal

Publication Date: October 1, 2013 (Simon Pulse – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: Cyn’s blackouts have deadly consequences in this sexy, suspenseful spinoff to the New York Times bestselling Hollow series.Cyn and Avian are far from a perfect match. She’s a witch who casts spells on men so she can steal their cars. He spends his time being judge, jury, and executioner to the truly evil in the supernatural realm.

When the blackouts Cyn’s been having ever since her time in Sleepy Hollow start escalating, she finds herself unable to remember where she’s been or what she’s been doing. Frightened, she seeks guidance at a local church, and it’s there she meets Avian.

The unlikely pair soon discovers that her blackouts are a side effect of what she truly is—an Echo—a conduit for souls of the dead. The only way to prevent Cyn from losing complete control is to return to Sleepy Hollow and vanquish the source of her power—but she may not survive the process. And if she does? She won’t ever be the same…

☆: 3.5/5 stars – A good standalone, but may lose people who haven’t read the original trilogy.

Review: Fair disclosure – I haven’t read the original “Hollow” trilogy, to which this book is a companion. But even so, “The Beautiful and the Damned” is a tightly-written, nice, short, companion book which gives the audience a small taste of the original “Hollow” world while creating an entirely new world with elements that were introduced or hinted at in the original text. Even if you haven’t read the original trilogy, if you’re looking for a read to devour in a short amount of time, I recommend “The Beautiful and the Damned”. Even if you may get a bit confused.

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Review: The Outside by Laura Bickle


The OutsideTitle: The Outside

Author: Laura Bickle

Genre: Horror, Survival, YA, Paranormal

Publication Date: September 3, 2013 (Harcourt Children’s Books)

Source: print ARC via Amazon Vine

Synopsis: One girl. One road. One chance to save what remains…

After a plague of vampires is unleashed in the world, Katie is kicked out of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. Now in exile, she enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two “English” friends and a horse by her side. Together they seek answers and other survivors—but each sunset brings the threat of vampire attack, and each sunrise the threat of starvation.

And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can these new people be trusted, and are they even people at all?

In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, it’s up to one Amish girl to save her family, her community, and the boy she loves . . . but what will she be asked to leave behind in return?

3.5/5 stars – More survival-horror than vampire-horror, but still well-paced and entertaining

Thank goodness I didn’t have to wait long to read this! After enjoying The Hallowed Ones and its version of the vampire apocalypse, my ability to be patient and wait for a sequel like a champ disappeared. The Outside turned out to be a little bit of a disappointment, but it’s still a great novel and fans of the first book will no doubt love it just as much!

Katie was forced to undergo a lot of character development as the vampire apocalypse took hold last we saw her, but now that she’s no longer considered part of her community, she gets even more. She breaks all the rules trying to survive, including some of her most deeply held beliefs. She and Alex have plenty of moral arguments about good and evil, what sacrifices have to be made (and boy, are some big ones made!) in the name of survival, and forgiveness. This book takes a much quieter approach than its predecessor and it works perfectly. Love it! In addition to all that, it’s fast-paced comes up with plenty of new scares and schemes to make our characters suffer through now that they’re Outside. Whee!

With all that said, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I liked this installment less. The rough recaps offered toward the beginning were definitely a factor. It might have been helpful to someone who read The Hallowed Ones a long time ago, but that recap felt unneeded considering how recently I read it. Even then, it and the out-of-place detailing of Amish life were a little much. Katie’s not even in her community for most of the book and what she details isn’t always of use. This installment also feels like the kind of survival-horror narrative I’ve gotten bored of over the last couple of years. The semi-old-fashioned vampire horror of the first book was more entertaining in a way, though this is the superior book thematically.

Though the ending is open, enough questions are answered and enough loose ends are tied up that it appears The Outside is the end for this series–duology, really. Bickle’s writing and plotting is strong enough that if she decides to write more YA novels, you bet I’ll be back to read them.

Review: “Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #2)” by Fiona Paul


13399046Title: “Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #2)”

Author: Fiona Paul

Genre: YA, historical, paranormal, retellings, AWESOME

Publication Date: July 16, 2013 (Penguin – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!

In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.

So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.

Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?
Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – an absolutely AWESOME followup to book one!

Review: Okay, guys, if you liked “Venom”, you’re going to totally fall head over heels for “Belladonna”. “Belladonna” builds upon “Venom” in every single way, and ups the stakes to every single extreme. There’s also a bit of a potential bit of a retelling of a real-life person, and it’s just…awesome. We also get a semi-resolution of the love triangle posed in book one. This review may have spoilers for book one, so if you haven’t read book one, you might want to hold off on reading this review. Either way, if you haven’t already, you simply MUST give the “Eternal Rose” series a try – it’s one of my favorite YA historical paranormal series out there today.

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Blog Tour Stop! Review and Giveaway: Defy the Dark edited by Saundra Mitchell


Defy the Dark

Welcome to the first stop on the blog tour for the Defy the Dark anthology! See the end of the post for the other stops and a giveaway for a copy of this anthology (totally worth reading!) and more.

Title: Defy the Dark:

Author: Saundra Mitchell (editor)

Genre: Anthology, Post-Apocalyptic, Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, YA Contemporary, Time Travel, Historical, High Fantasy, LGBT, Magical Realism, Paranormal Romance, Comedy,

Publication Date: June 18, 2013

Source: ARC provided by contributor Valerie Kemp for an ARC/blog tour

Synopsis: Defy the Dark, an all-new anthology edited by Saundra Mitchell. Coming Summer 2013 from HarperTeen!

It features 16 stories by critically-acclaimed and bestselling YA authors as they explore things that can only happen in the dark. Authors include Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Hawkins, Carrie Ryan, Aprilynne Pike, Malinda Lo, Courtney Summers, Beth Revis, Sarah Ockler, and more.

Contemporary, genre, these stories will explore every corner of our world- and so many others. What will be the final story that defies the dark? Who will the author be?

☆: 4/5 stars – Pretty solid! If only the contest winner’s story were in here too…

Sadly, my review of this is incomplete. My ARC is missing one story: “The Sunflower Murders” by Kate Espey, the winner of the Defy the Dark Author Contest. Yet another reason to buy the finished copy because it’s sure to be awesome!

Anyway, some statistics first before I review each individual story. Number of authors whose stories I fell in love with and whose future publishing exploits I will stalk/continue to stalk: 2. Number of authors whose works I have sworn off for good: 4. You’ll pick them all out easily!

“Steepstalk” by Courtney Summers: 5/5. This story puts us in the head of a stalker. That’s about the simplest way to put it. She’s so obsessed with her object of “affection” that she she rewrites events in her favor and we never even get her name. Who has time for themselves when so deeply obsessed with someone else? Not this girl. Books where the lead characters are being stalked are my guilty pleasure, but getting put in the head of one was just as great!

“Nature” by Aprilynne Pike: 1/5. The weakest story of the anthology, not to mention the only one I gave 1/5. This story has twenty or so pages and four or five are spent dumping the history of this post-apocalyptic world on us and telling us why ladies of certain hip sizes are forced to have all the babies. It’s a poorly written story with too many glorified parallels to Mormonism, a religion I have many fundamental problems with. Creepy in all the wrong ways.

“The Dark Side of the Moon” by Dia Reeves: 3/5. This made sense solely because I’ve read this author’s Portero books, which this story is set in. It’s weirder than a gaggle of geese playing hopscotch, what with baby spider people, not-magic magic, and a kid trying to prove himself to his girlfriend’s parents. Kinda fun, but it grates on me when obviously magical things are crawling around and people say it’s not magic the way Patricia does. Points for an interracial relationship, though. He’s black, she’s white.

“Ghost Town” by Malinda Lo: 4/5. Well-written, creepy, and starring an LGBT character as Lo’s stories always too. She’s such a reliable source of diversity! She develops her female lead Ty well, gets across how hurt she is by the prank the girl she liked pulled on her, and all that tripped me up is that its parts were told in reverse chronological order. I didn’t catch that until my third reread and it made the first two quite confusing.

“Eyes in the Dark” by Rachel Hawkins: 2/5. There are a few creepy moments and good writing here and there once they drove into the forest and encountered the red-eyed creatures, but this is mostly a story that induces facepalming. The female lead cheats on her boyfriend with some eye candy, the writing is immature, and they call something skanky for laughs. It’s not that funny to me. Her writing has been getting too immature for me to deal with anyway, so off my list she goes.

“Stillwater” by Valerie Kemp: 5/5. It’s the only other five-star story in this anthology and let me tell you, it is GOOD. This creepy little Texas town has kept two branches of the same family together for years and when they go to sleep, they forget how they can escape this odd, magic-entrapped place. The authentic Southern voice, the elements of magical realism, solid writing, and how the story plays out makes me want to keep an eye on what Kemp does in the future. This is why I love anthologies: I usually find one good author to start following.

“I Gave You My Love By the Light of the Moon” by Sarah Rees Brennan: 3/5. Brennan normally writes great short stories, but this one is rather bland. Nothing more than a vampire-and-werewolf story that doesn’t use the words “vampire” or “werewolf”. It’s so unremarkable and especially disappointing because she’s shown she can do better.

“Night Swimming” by Beth Revis: 2/5. This one is a prequel to her Across the Universe series, but have fun trying to figure out who the unnamed main character is and their role in the series. I’ve actually read the first book of this series and have no idea who they are. Considering that they’re writing out vengeful plots in the end, they might be a little bit important. Being unable to fit the events and its main character into the continuity of the series took away what little I enjoyed about this odd story.

“Almost Normal” by Carrie Ryan: 3/5. There are elements of This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers in this zombies-are-invading-oh-noes story, but it doesn’t have the same magic to it. It also gives us the third nameless protagonist of the anthology!  I’m unsure if their gender was ever specified either, so my brain says they’re female and that makes their relationship with their girlfriend and LGBT relationship. My head, my rules. But they’re most likely male, sadly.

“There’s Nowhere Else” by Jon Skovron: 3/5. The idea of this teenage boy’s soul leaping into other bodies while he sleeps is fascinating, as is the eventual battle two separate forces wage for his gift. It’s rather blandly written, however, and undermines the genuinely entertaining premise.

“Naughty or Nice” by Myra McEntire: 2/5. And another one off my list! This story takes its lead characters Bex and Henry to Bavaria, where an unusual festival has them running from a monster whose sack they have to grab if they want to live. It’s an awesome idea, but the judgmental way Bex describes other girls and the haphazard way the hyponenuses (Henry and Bex each had their own love interest before getting together during the story) are gotten rid of makes this so difficult for me to enjoy.

“Shadowed” by Christine Johnson: 3/5. This is the one high-fantasy-themed story in the anthology and once again, I love the idea. A girl whose own shadow is trying to kill her? Yes! What kills it is the confusing ending, how the love interest attaches to Esme unnaturally fast, and the badly explained premise in general.

“Now Bid Time Return” by Saundra Mitchell: 4/5. The protagonist escapes to Europe for a week hoping the polar night (the sun being down all the time) will help her sleep, but she ends up finding so much more. It’s a little time-travel story that’s well-written with well-developed character and an amazing idea, but how they saw each other through time still confuses me and there’s no resolution whatsoever.

“The Moth and the Spider” by Sarah Ockler: 2/5. Aaaand another author off my list. This story of a girl trying to write her suicide note when someone calls her with the wrong number has a very literary feel to it, but it’s very odd too. We have no idea why Cali tried to kill herself and her only real quality is her desire to die until Theresa Zednick calls the number she thought was her mother’s. Not well-developed, though admittedly well-written.

“Where the Light Is” by Jackson Pearce: 3/5. Another unremarkable story. In a town of miners, the lead works in the mines in order to live up to other people’s expectations; his father was a heroic miner who saved people’s lives and died a few years before. He meets a Knocker (mountain-dwelling creature) while working in the mines one day and strikes up a friendship (later romance) with her. Decently written, nice idea, but it didn’t stick with me.

“This Was Ophelia” by Tessa Gratton: 3/5. The focus of this story is the romance between a girl named Ophelia (who cross-dresses and attends clubs as a guy named O) and a boy named Halden, who likes kissing boys and likes O but not Ophelia. These two fall in love over the course of three nights and their overdramatic affair is the focus of the story, making the story itself overdramatic. However, the prose is lovely and the Hamlet parallels are awesome.

GIVEAWAY TIME

Yep, another giveaway! This one is for a finished copy of this anthology, a gorgeous bookmark, and a glow-in-the-dark bracelet. Here’s what you’ve got to do:

  • Be 13 or older.
  • US and Canada entrants only, sadly.
  • Fill out the Rafflecopter widget to your heart’s content.
  • Don’t cheat! All your IPs are belong to me.
  • If you win (lucky duck!), you’ve got twenty-four hours to respond before I pick another winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NEXT STOPS

June 11th: Seeing Night Reviews

June 12th: Book Belles

June 13th: Reader Girls

June 14th: Soul Unsung

June 15th: Valerie Kemp (aka one of the contributors who wrote an amazeballs story and organized this whole shebang!)

Review: “Phoenix (Black City #2)” by Elizabeth Richards


16148491Title: “Phoenix (Black City #2)”

Author: Elizabeth Richards

Genre: YA, Paranormal Dystopia, PNR

Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (Penguin – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Weeks after his crucifixion and rebirth as Phoenix, Ash Fisher believes his troubles are far behind him. He and Natalie are engaged and life seems good. But his happiness is short-lived when he receives a threatening visit from Purian Rose, who gives Ash an ultimatum: vote in favor of Rose’s Law permanently relegating Darklings to the wrong side of the wall or Natalie will be killed.

The decision seems obvious to Ash; he must save Natalie. But when Ash learns about The Tenth, a new and deadly concentration camp where the Darklings would be sent, the choice doesn’t seem so simple. Unable to ignore his conscience, Ash votes against Rose’s Law, signing Natalie’s death warrant and putting a troubled nation back into the throes of bloody battle.

☆: 4/5 stars – a fantastic followup to book one!

Review: When I read “Black City” in anticipation of reviewing this book, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and how very thorough Richards was in pretty much all areas of building her book, her world, and her characters. Happily, “Phoenix” definitely doesn’t disappoint, and really ups the stakes for Ash, Natalie, and the rest of the bunch living in Rose’s state. However, there was one big issue I did take with this book (even though it all worked out in the end), that I thought Richards could have avoided (or used some other plot device to bring about the same reaction/payoff), but otherwise? I really enjoyed “Phoenix”, and I think that fans of “Black City” are going to love it, too.

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Review: “The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)” by Julie Kagawa


Title: “The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)”

Author: Julie Kagawa

Genre: YA, paranormal dystopia, PNR, urban fantasy, AWESOME

Publication Date: April 23, 2013 (Harlequin Teen – North America)

Source: Traded-for ARC/NetGalley Review Copy

Summary: Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – a fantastic follow-up to “Immortal Rules”!

Review: As expected, Kagawa doesn’t disappoint with this follow-up to “The Immortal Rules”. If anything, she’s just gotten better – the prose smoother, the pace faster, yet not leaving anything behind. And it’s got one of my favorite plot devices in post-apocalyptic/dystopian lit – plagues! Yes! Red Lung is back with a vengeance and time is running out for Alison and company, and the result is absolutely glorious. If you read and liked “The Immortal Rules”, “The Eternity Cure” is almost better than that first book, and so much more.

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Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa


13581990Title: The Eternity Cure

Author: Julie Kagawa

Genre: Horror, Paranormal Dystopia, Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Paranormal Romance

Publication Date: April 23, 2013

Source: Publisher-provided ARC via NetGalley

Summary: Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

☆: 4/5 stars – Improves upon the first book in almost every area, but one element still confuses me.

I couldn’t read my copy of The Eternity Cure fast enough despite the fact that I read all but about twenty pages of this hefty book in a single day. It’s just one of those books. The pacing issues The Immortal Rules had? Not even a problem here. Kagawa wrote a solid sequel and darn near killed me with that ending–in more ways than one.

Allison is still the humane-yet-willing-to-kill vampire she was in book one and she still kicks just as much butt. She has her angsty moments where she feels like she’s not good enough for Zeke and those happen about twice as often as I can take, but that’s okay. She cuts off a man’s arm and I think that’s an acceptable apology for all the angst. She just better not carry it into the next book! (The angst, I mean. If she wants to gain another level in badass and carry around a sliced-off vampire arm, she can do that.)

As I said, the book keeps you glued to the pages from beginning to end. With Jackal joining the party and Kanin’s fate still up in the air until the end, it’s tense. Some of the scenes send chills up and down my spine, like what’s become of the humans living in the Fringe. We only knew about what the Red Long Virus did to people through secondhand information, but we get to see it up close and personal this time. Ugh. That’s a horrible way to die, scratching off your face and all that.

I see where a lot of people are going to love Jackal being a smartass throughout the book and half the time, he’s got some pretty quotable, funny lines. My issue is that almost every line of his dialogue is some snappy comeback or pointed sarcasm. Everyone loves some of that every now and then, but it’s possible to go overboard. Jackal’s character fell overboard and got eaten by a shark, it was so bad at times. He’s all bark and bite with no real depth as a character. We learn about his past, sure, but he’s still rather flat.

Something about the ending also troubles me. I can’t fully discuss it without giving something MAJOR away, but how did the key character get into such bad condition in the first place when a plot point at the end reveals why they didn’t die when they really should have? It just seems odd. I hate how I phrased that, but there’s literally no other way I know how to put it.

Still, The Eternity Cure is a solid sequel and I’m looking forward to the next book in the Blood of Eden series. I’m just sad it’s over a year away!

Oh, and fans?

Enjoy the cliffhanger.