Saturday, April 25, 2015

[Early Review] Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Title: Scarlett Undercover
Author: Jennifer Latham 
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 320 pages
Publication: May 19, 2015 by Little Brown BFYR

Source: Won through the NOVL newsletter giveaway.

Preorder|AMAZON|B&N|

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic fifteen-year-old, ready to take on crime in her hometown. When Scarlett agrees to investigate a local boy's suicide, she figures she's in for an easy case and a quick buck. But it doesn't take long for suicide to start looking a lot like murder.

As Scarlett finds herself deep in a world of cults, curses, and the seemingly supernatural, she discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks...and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father's murder.
Scarlett Undercover is said to appeal to fans of Veronica Mars and I couldn't agree more. Scarlett was almost an exact copy of Veronica from her personality to her sharp tongue. What also caught my attention about this book was the mention of ancient curses and jinns. I thought there was going to be a stronger supernatural aspect to the sleuthing mystery but it only served as the basis for the plot. While I was hoping for a supernatural book, overall I still enjoyed Scarlett Undercover. I love how the curse and jinns were tied back to Scarlett and the case she was working on. Scarlett been investigating her father’s murder for a couple of years but little did she know that taking a seemingly easy and harmless case from a 9-year-old will not only help her find her dad’s killer; but also turn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse involving a mysterious cult.

Scarlett is a hard as nail sixteen-year-old. I admired her headstrongness and commitment to her cases but she found herself in so many dangerous situations that I can’t imagine a regular 16-year-old being caught in the middle of. The author did a good explaining how Scarlett is able to defend herself against say a grown man and why she found herself in those sticky situations but it wasn't believable. I thought Scarlet’s character overall was okay, I didn't love her or hate her. I had a problem connecting with her because there wasn't anything relatable. As for the other characters, I didn't think they were fully developed. Even the best friend/love interest fell flat for me. In my opinion the author focused mainly on the plot and not enough time on the characters that it suffered. Because the plot was great, it was everything else that wasn't up to par.

Despite the weak character developments, I still thought Scarlett Undercover was a fun and quick read. Latham debut has a lot of promise, and if there’s more books in the series…I think she can only get better from here on out. Would I recommend this book? Absolutely.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1

Hardcover, 400 pages
Publication: February 24, 2015 by Tor Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.
I've been a fan of Schwab since I read her young adult novel, The Archive and later her adult novel, Vicious. And I must say again, is there anything that she can’t do? Schwab has pen yet another amazing, imaginative and wholly original novel. With each book she publishes, whether it is YA or adult, it really does get better and better; not only her writing but also her characters and world building. She pushes the boundaries and does things that no author has done before guaranteeing a one-of-a-kind novel each and every time.

I remember saying that Schwab’s last book, Vicious was ambitious but I think she just outdid herself once again. The world of A Darker Shade of Magic was multifaceted, comprising of alternate Londons, each London unique from the setting, laws, language to its inhabitants. With such a expansive world and cast, you’d think that something in the novel would suffer like world building, character development, or even the concept but none of that happened. I never had a problem differentiating which London Kell enter or left or which Monarch belonged to which throne. So while the world was complex, Schwab made it easy for readers to understand the worlds, which had magic and which didn't.

Schwab knows how write realistic, well fleshed out characters…we've all seen it in Vicious. So it comes as no surprise at how much I ended up loving Kell, Lila, Rhys and even the bad guys! Kell is my favorite kind of male lead. He is charming, devoted, and usually takes the high road but isn't afraid to get his hand dirty or break the rules when he needs to. He goes beyond the duties of a stranger, friend and family member. His relationship with his brother, Rhys was beautiful as it was heartbreaking (the scenes towards the end killed me). Then there is Lila, a Grey Londoner thief and aspiring pirate. She’s an unconventional heroine which made me love her even more. In the short span of the book she grown from a street rat without morals to a hero saving all the Londons from the vindictive Twins all while remaining her spunky and snarky self. There are so many more unforgettable characters but I’ll let you discover them for yourself, if you haven’t already read this book (then again who hasn't? I know I'm late to the party).

Let me just say that all the hype you've heard about The Darker Shade of Magic is true. Although I've read a couple of 5 stars novel this year, A Darker Shade of Magic has just climbed to the top as being my new favorite read so far this year. I highly recommend A Darker Shade of Magic for those who want to read a fresh and original fantasy, this book is un-put-down-able and should be on everyone’s must read list! I'm so glad this is going to be a series, super ecstatic! Read it, you won't regret it!



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Grisha #1

Hardcover, 368 pages
Publication: June 5, 2012 by Henry Holt & Co.

Source: Personal Library.

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Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
I've heard a lot of amazing things about The Grisha Trilogy, so I decided to read the first book in the series, Shadow and Bone. I wanted to see what the fuss was all about, and why people were so obsessed with the mysterious character called ‘The Darkling’ and Mal. Well, now I see why so many people love it. I was immediately hooked by the prologue and Bardugo’s writing. The Russia inspired fantasy world was rich and beautiful. I think it’s been optioned, and if so, it would look great as a movie…I can just imagine all Grishas wearing their Keftas, the palace scenes and the shadow fold.

Alina was a likable character overall. There were times she doubted herself, but I get it. It’s a lot to shoulder when all of Ravka believe that you’re their salvation…being the only sun summoner known in existence. Even though Alina was a strong character, I couldn't help but notice she didn't escape the usual YA heroine trope. For example, regular and Grisha girls alike have sort of a crush on The Darkling and wish that he would give them the time of day. But then of course, he only has eyes for Alina, who mentions over and over in the book how plain and unremarkable she is compared to other Grishas. Then near the end of the book after Alina’s transformation from sickly and bony to a full-blown attractive Grisha her best friend Mal happens to just finally notice her? How convenient. Trust me, I was touched by his speech at the end, and thought it was swoon worthy but just the idea nagged at me and made me roll my eyes.

Despite my feelings on those two issues, overall I enjoyed Shadow and Bone. I think it’s a great start to the trilogy. And even though I haven’t finished the series, it’s cool to hear that the author has another book/series coming out in the same world! Bardugo did an amazing job with the world building. I don’t read many fantasy, or YA fantasy novels for that matter, but if most of the YA fantasy is like this…I wouldn't mind getting behind it. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series. I highly recommend it!



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Deadly Spells by Jaye Wells

Title: Deadly Spells
Author: Jaye Wells
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Series: Prospero's War #3

Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Publication: February 10, 2015

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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After the grisly murder of a dirty magic coven leader, Kate Prospero and The Magical Enforcement Agency team up with the local police to find the killer. But as the infighting between covens turns ugly, an all-out war brews in the slums of Babylon.

When a tenacious reporter sticks her nose in both the investigation and Prospero's past in the covens, old ghosts resurface. The team will have to use all the weapons in their arsenal to stop the coven war and find the killer before the case brings down all their careers - and their lives.
Kate and the gang are back in Deadly Spells, the third installment in the Prospero’s War series. Kate and the MEA team are once again called in to help the BPD on a homicide investigation when the victim turns out to be an important Votary Member. The first two Prospero’s War books focused on the Babylon Covens but in Deadly Spells the main focus is an outside party; a Brazilian Cartel/Coven who is scheming to make the Covens turn on one another. The Brazilian Cartel/Coven, A Morte, wants to get into the dirty potion business and they sent their most deadly assassin to ensure they get what they came for. But things aren't what they seem when secrets are reveals and motives come to light that turns everything that Kate believes in and stands for on its head.

Deadly Spells didn't feel quite as heavy in terms of action or shocking revelations like the previous two books. As it was hinted in the last book, there’s a lot more to Kate’s mom death than what we already knew and readers finally learn the truth in book 3. We also learn a lot more about Kate’s MEA boss Garner, about her past and her involvement with this book’s villain, Pantera. Then on the home front, Danny is having problems at school that gets him expelled for using potion on another student. Poor Kate, she can never catch a break.

Anyone that has already read this series knows there are two main guys vying for Kate, her partner Drew and Mayor John Volos. Even though Kate knows that both men are interested in her and surely sees all the signs…she is in total denial because she ends up going on a date with Danny’s teacher Mr. Hart. Mr. Hart really surprised me! Who knew under that nerdy exterior he was such a douche bag. The brief date scene made me so mad for Kate, and I wished that she decked him in the face. Dude really needs to get smacked a few times. I love Drew and think he’s perfect for Kate, so I’m glad with how the book ended. As for John, I still don’t know what to make of him and what his motives are. He’s really confusing. I know he still loves Kate, but he’s from her past…and in my opinion the past needs to stay in the past.

I thought Deadly Spell was an excellent follow up to Curse Moon, not much action as I would like but still entertaining nonetheless. I pray that there will be more novels in this series (since there hasn't been any word yet on whether there will/will not be more books in the series), because it certainly still has a lot to give. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to see what happens next!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Angelfall by Susan Ee

Title: Angelfall
Author: Susan Ee
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic 
Series: Penryn & the End of Days #1

Paperback, 288 pages
Publication: August 28, 2012 by Skyscape 

Source: Personal Library. 

Buy|Amazon|B&N|

It's been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain.

Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night.

When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back...

Like many of my books, Angelfall has been sitting on the shelf unread for a couple of years. I even bought the sequel the week it came out thinking I’d get to them sooner than later. But that never happened either. Then I found out the author was coming to my area a month and half ago, so I put down what I was reading; determined to read Angelfall. And I am so glad that I did. Angelfall was amazing! I regret that I waited so long to pick it up!

I've read a lot of post apocalyptic novels, and like I've said in previous reviews…they’re all similar to one another. Another reason why I didn't read Angelfall sooner was because I don’t really do Angels. I’d say 4 out 5 times it’s usually a miss for me. However, I didn't find one thing that I disliked about Angelfall. Well, maybe except that the book was so short. The Angels were wickedly scary and intimidating. They sure aren't like the baby cherubs statues we see smiling at us adoringly. They’re downright hostile and terrifying! And what I've come to see is, it’s exactly how I’d prefer my Angels. The author gripped me from the first page, dropping readers’ right into the fray and chaos after the Angels descended and wreck havoc on the streets of LA/SF. The action scenes were well spaced, keeping me engaged the entire time. I was a surprised that I could be so entertained with two characters. There were eventually more characters, but for most of the book it was just Penryn and Raffe and I wasn't bored one bit. I love their interaction with one another and their witty banter.

Penryn may be seventeen years old but she definitely acts older than her years. Penryn has always looked out for her schizophrenic mom and her wheelchair bound younger sister. That fact hasn't changed since the world ended; she is still scouring for safer shelters and food for her family. Penryn embodies everything that makes a strong heroine and she knows different type of fighting to boot (not sure whether she knew jujitsu or martial arts). I really liked her and was glad that she wasn't the usual YA girl variety. Raffe was also an excellent lead character. I think the pair complements each other very well, and it was great seeing Raffe treating Penryn like his equal and not a child.

Overall Angelfall was an excellent start to what I am sure will be an incredible series. I've seen a lot of raving reviews for World After and the final book, End of Days that will be coming out next month…and it just makes me more excited to start the next book. If you love dark and gritty UF/Post-Apocalyptic novels, then you don’t want to miss this series!




Tuesday, April 07, 2015

[Series Spotlight]: Midnight, Texas by Charlaine Harris + Giveaway


Today I'm shining a spotlight on Charlaine Harris's Midnight, Texas series, a trilogy that takes place in the same world as her NYT Bestselling Sookie Stackhouse series, which was the inspiration for HBO's hit show, True Blood!

Midnight Crossroad was recently released in a premium edition mass market on March 31st and the sequel, Day Shift comes out May 5, 2015. In anticipation of Day Shift's release, I’m pleased to be helping Ace spread the word about this wonderful new series by offering a lucky reader a chance to discover the world of Midnight by winning their very own copy of Midnight Crossroad!



Ace Premium Mass Market | $9.99 | 384 pages | March 31, 2015
Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth...


Hardcover | $27.95 | 320 pages | May 5, 2015
There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.
Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular—and very wealthy—clients dies during a reading.

Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight…


 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charlaine Harris a New York Times bestselling author who has been writing for thirty years. She was born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area. Though her early works consisted largely of poems about ghosts and teenage angst, she began writing plays when she attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. She switched to novels a few years later, and achieved publication in 1981 with Sweet and Deadly.

After publishing two stand-alone mysteries, Harris launched the lighthearted Aurora Teagarden books with Real Murders, a Best Novel 1990 nomination for the Agatha Awards. Harris wrote eight books in her series about a Georgia librarian. In 1996, she released the first in the much darker Shakespeare mysteries, featuring the amateur sleuth Lily Bard, a karate student who makes her living cleaning houses. Shakespeare’s Counselor, the fifth and last– was printed in fall 2001.


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Monday, April 06, 2015

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Title: Midnight Crossroad
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mystery
Series: Midnight, Texas #1

Paperback, 384 pages
Publication: March 31, 2015 By Ace

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Buy|Amazon|B&N|

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).
This is my first book by Charlaine Harris and I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Like many others, I’ve seen True Blood on HBO, based on Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series but that is basically all I know about Harris and her books. Midnight Crossroad is the first book in a planned trilogy and is said be in the same world as her Sookie Stackhouse series. The book is written in the third person following a small town and the lives of all of its peculiar denizens…and a talking cat!

For a small town, there sure were a lot of characters and POVs. The book started out slow, introducing readers to everyone in town and like the town; the characters themselves were a mystery and had a history/background waiting to be discovered. Nothing big or exciting ever happens in Midnight. The town is so small everyone knows everyone. However, the small town gets shaken up when the beloved local Bobo’s girlfriend is found dead and he is suspected of murder. And thus, we have is a straight murder mystery in finding out what really happened to Aubrey.

The pacing is slow and constant throughout the book, but I didn't mind. What kept me engaged were the vibrant characters. I’m not usually a big fan of multiple POVs, but I really enjoyed each and every single characters. They’re all unique and harboring secrets of their own, and for some of the characters…we got to learn exactly what those secrets were! I loved the small town vibe and how close knit the community was. If something happened to one person, you can guarantee the rest of the town folks will be there showing support or lending a hand…even if it means dispatching someone!

The writing took a little while to get used to but after a few chapters, I was fully immersed into the story and the town. While the book is suppose to be billed as urban fantasy…it felt more like a contemporary-mystery with a dash of magic than full UF but that didn't make me enjoy the book any less; quite the opposite actually. Midnight Crossroad was an excellent read and introduction to Harris’s writing and new series. I can’t wait to read more about this interesting group of characters. I highly recommend this new series to those who enjoy mysteries with a little touch of supernatural.