Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: Doon by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon

Title: Doon
Author: Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon
Genre: New Adult, Fantasy
Series: Doon #1

Hardcover, 368 pages
Publication: August 20, 2013 by Zondervan 
Source: Author/Publicist  


Veronica doesn't think she's going crazy. But why can't anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes? When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months.

But the Scottish countryside holds other plans.

Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna's great aunt—and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation. Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica's daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they've longed for...or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.

I was super excited when I first heard about Doon. Two best friends off on a trip to Scotland for the summer sounds like the beginning of something magical in itself but then they both gets transported to the mythical land of Doon! It is there that both girls learn of their connection to the mythical land and where they meet their....soul-mates? It all sound quite swoon-worthy don’t you think? I’m sad to say that Doon wasn’t what I expected, and more often than not it reminded me of all the other YA cliché…been there, done that kinda deal.

Off the bat I was struggling to get into the story, and the duo narration didn’t help one bit. Doon is narrated by best friends Veronica and MacKenna. The narration jumps between Veronica and MacKenna between chapters, and while I don’t usually have issues with multiple narrations, I couldn’t differentiate between the two girls. They sounded almost the same, and at times I had to turn back to the beginning of the chapter to remind myself who was speaking. I also found it difficult to relate and connect with our two main heroines, and later the rest of the characters. The story focuses mostly on Veronica with MacKenna as a secondary story/background. Of the two heroines, I actually found myself more interested (not much, but at least more than Veronica) in Mackenna’s narrative and story. Veronica was the type of heroine I don’t like reading about. She’s been having ‘visions’ of Prince Jamie of Doon and when she finally meets him in the flesh it was like insta-love for her. To Veronica’s surprise, Prince Jamie would give her the cold shoulder and the evil eye like she’s beneath him. What does Veronica do about it? She questions herself, what did she do wrong, and what can she do to make him notice her? She complains about Jamie’s hot-cold behavior, nice and lovey-dovey one minute and the next minute he avoids her like the plague. Yet, she turns around and does it too. All she wants is for him to notice her and when he does, she pushes him away. Honestly, I can go on and on about what I didn’t like about Veronica and Jamie’s relationship. The majority of the characters all felt one-dimensional, and I wished they all had more personality.

As for the world-building, it was nonexistent. I loved that the book takes place in Scotland and with a magical Scottish land of Doon to boot…but the details of both was sadly lacking. I don’t remember any descriptions when the girls arrived in Scotland. And then when the girls were transported to Doon, the authors described the bridge and the mountains…that’s honestly all I got for descriptions. The magical land of Doon sounded like modern day- anywhere. I mean they had indoor plumbing and pizza for goodness sakes (what they learn from people entering through Doon’s barriers for 24 hours once every 100 years)! It’s hard to see how special this place was because there wasn’t anything magical about it. 

The story is told strictly as good versus evil, and nothing in between. I like my stories to have more depth to them, and Doon wasn’t one of them. The girls were just like any regular high-schooler, looking for their prince charming and to get their happily-ever after. I mean yes, MacKenna was a little bit better in wanting a career and some independence…but in the end she regrets it. *sigh*.  I wanted to love Doon so much but I just couldn’t get into the story and characters. I mean look at the beautiful cover! Doesn’t it scream adventure and magic? Bottom line, Doon is a mash-up of every YA cliché you can think of, with unlikable characters (excluding Duncan) and a rather bland world. Doon actually has many great reviews on Goodreads, and while it might not be for me….it might be for you.  I suggest checking out an excerpt or chapter before reading it to get a better feel for the story/writing style. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blog Tour: [Review] Big Egos by S.G. Browne

Title: Big Egos
Author: S.G. Browne
Genre: Science-Fiction, Satire
Series: N/A 

Paperback, 384 pages
Publication: August 6, 2013 by Gallery Books   

Source: Publicist, review copy for blog tour

BuyAmazonBook Depo
Does your lifestyle not fit the person inside you? Then try someone else on for size! Call him whatever. Call him whomever. He can be any legally authorized fictional character or dead celebrity he wants for six to eight hours, simply by injecting a DNA-laced cocktail into his brain stem. It’s called Big Egos and it’s the ultimate role-playing fantasy from Engineering Genetics Organization and Systems (aka EGOS.) And, as one of the quality controllers for EGOS, he’s the ultimate ego-tripper, taking on more artificial identities than advisable—and having a hell of a time doing it. Problem is, he’s starting to lose the ability to separate fact from fiction. His every fantasy is the new reality. And the more roles he plays, the less of him remains. Sure, it’s dangerous. Yes, he’s probably losing his mind. Okay, hundreds of others could be at risk. But sometimes who you are isn’t good enough. And the truth is, reality is so overrated. . . .

Ever wish you can walk in someone else’s shoes?  In Browne’s latest novel, Big Egos an unnamed narrator and countless of other people do just that…they become anyone they want to be whether it is a celebrity, or a fictional character for a couple of hours and three thousand dollars. Our nameless narrator works as a quality controller for EGOS (Engineering Genetics Organization and Systems). His job is to personally test out all the Big Egos to make sure there isn’t any side effects/ or deficiencies, and monitor which Big Egos are the most popular. This might be another satire novel from Browne but it does get serious toward the last half of the book when our nameless narrator and others starts to experience problems from using too much of ‘Big Egos’. Things go from happy-go-lucky to the total opposite when Big Egos related deaths start to occur.

The concept for Big Egos is so creative and fun. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like it, nor seen anything currently published with a similar idea.‘Big Egos’ which is also what the product is called is a DNA-laced liquid that is injected at the base of one skull. Then for about six to eight hours the person can be whoever they want to be. Some of the fun celebs and fictional characters mentioned in the book were; James Bond, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, Jessica Rabbit, and Elvis to name a few. 

What I really enjoyed about this novel is how Browne tied his unique story to relatable real life situations and society/modern culture today.  Identity is the main theme of the novel.  Everyone at one point in their life tried to search for their identity.  Asking themselves: who are they or who do they want to be? Some people try to set themselves apart, to be different/ original or to jump on the band-wagon to feel like they’re a part of something. I think Browne does an excellent job exploring this idea of Identity, and while this book had me cracking up from start to finish I also learned a lot from it which I didn’t expect (thought this book was going to be more for like brain candy). 

With so many celebrities and fictional characters possibilities and an ambitious plot, there is never a dull moment. I highly recommend Big Egos to those looking for something different and fun to read.  Anyone who loves pop-culture will also enjoy this book.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Title: The Bone Season
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: New Adult
Series: The Bone Season #1

Hardcover, 480 pages
Publication: August 20, 2013 by Bloomsbury USA
Source: Publicist, Arc


It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

The Bone Season is a dazzling and intellectual read that absolutely lives up to the hype. I. Love. Every. Second. Of. It.

The story takes place in the not too distant future (year 2059) in London, England.  Paige Mahoney isn’t your typical 19-year-old. She runs with the underground gangs, and her Mime-Lord, Jaxon is one of most feared and notorious lord in London.  Paige is a voyant (clairvoyant), dream walker, who can get information from people’s mind and is Jaxon right-hand-gal. The world in which Paige lives in is tightly controlled by an enforcement group called The Scion. Their goal is to eliminate any and all voyants. Paige and her gang, The Seven Seals are infamous but so far have been able to delude the government for a long time…until Paige murders two Scion members. She gets captured and thrown into voyant jail located in off-the-map Oxford.  The place is called Sheol-I and is run by creatures from the netherworld called Rephaim (though they look like humans). The Rephaim procure voyants for two main reason; one for their army and two for their life-force (Rephaims sustains their life force from feeding off Voyants/Amaurotic(non-voyants)’s aura).  The strong voyants are paired with Rephaim for proper training, while the rest become servants and entertainers.  Paige is desperate to return to her old life, to her gang and the only way that is likely to happen is if she begins to trust the person she loathes the most, her Rephaim master, Warden. 

The Bone Season is one of the most complex and original novel I’ve read ever, EVER. I must admit it was a little daunting at first with the terminology/slangs and the shear amount of explanation needed for the world-building. Some reviews felt that the author was info-dumping too much.  I agree that there was a lot of information to take in, but thought it was well-done. The information was spread throughout the book, and sometimes the author incorporated flash-back chapters to better explain certain things. There are also maps, flow chart and a glossary at the back to help familiarize readers with the terminology and clairvoyance distinction. I didn’t know there was a glossary till I finished the book, but it was easy to figure out the meaning from the sentence used. To be honest I didn’t even notice/or wasn't bothered by all the information because as I got further into the book it merged perfectly into the story/plot and I was deeply engrossed by it. 

Paige is a likeable heroine. She’s a tough chick that can hold her own in everything she does and as the book progress; she grows stronger with everything that’s thrown at her both physically and mentally. All the characters play a crucial role in story and world-building whether it is big or small. I enjoyed reading about Paige’s gang the Seven Seals, the ruthless Rephaims (hoping to learn more about Nashira, the Blood-Sovereign…her background that is) and the Harlies (street performers) in Sheol-I…there’s tons of characters which added another layer of richness to the story. Beside Paige, there was another character that stood at the forefront of the story, Arcturus Mesarthim “Warden”, the Blood-Consort to the Blood-Sovereign, Nashira Sargas and Paige’s Rephaim master. Gosh. The page-time and interaction between Paige and Warden were pure gold. Their banter goes from Master-Servant to Teacher-student, and then to something more personal/intimate towards the end of the story.  I had hope early on that their relationship took on a more romantic turn, and was glad that it did in the end…but it was super brief and short-lived LOL (will see how things play out in the following books). The tension and chemistry between the two characters was deliciously-intense and just how I like my leading couples! 

The world-building is mind-blowing. Shannon attention to details is impeccable.  Just when readers are finally wrapping their heads around the gist of Shannon’s world and the seven orders of clairvoyance, the author spins another intricate layer to the world and story. The story isn’t a light-easy read, and will probably take a couple read-through to fully understand everything, but that shouldn’t be a problem because one you finish reading this book…you’ll want to read it again and again. I can’t believe it’d be another year till the second book (boo, sad face)!

The Bone Season is a highly imaginative, adrenaline rush thrill ride that will leave you breathless. Literally. (I’m talking about two particular action scenes that had me gripping the pages with unnecessary force)! All in all The Bone Season was an extraordinary debut novel.  The cast of characters and world-building was amazing and perfect. I can’t wait to read the future installments, and can definitely see this series/author becoming a huge success. I can’t recommend this series enough because it is sooooo good. I’m sure everyone will find something they like because it crosses a lot of genres such as; dystopian, paranormal, science fiction, and high fantasy. The Bone Season is a must read, and is the best book I’ve read all year!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn

Title: Kitty in the Underworld
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kitty Norville #12

Mass Market Paperback, 305 pages
Publication: July 30, 2013 by Tor Books

Source: Publicist 


As Denver adjusts to a new master vampire, Kitty gets word of an intruder in the Denver werewolf pack’s territory, and she investigates the challenge to her authority. She follows the scent of the lycanthrope through the mountains where she is lured into a trap, tranquilized, and captured. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a defunct silver mine: the perfect cage for a werewolf. Her captors are a mysterious cult seeking to induct Kitty into their ranks in a ritual they hope will put an end to Dux Bellorum. Though skeptical of their power, even Kitty finds herself struggling to resist joining their cause. Whatever she decides, they expect Kitty to join them in their plot . . . willingly or otherwise.

In the 12th installment of the Kitty Norville series, we find Kitty in a whole new scary situation. Kitty just heard word from Washington that one of her allies and strong key player was taken out when he went after Roman/Dux Bellorum on his own. Roman is searching for an object of power in his home territory, and so far the group has no way of pinpointing Roman or an idea of how to defeat him. He is amassing powers and followers in The Long Game and Kitty and her allies need to hurry up and figure out a plan before he gains more power than he has now. With everyone on the defense that Roman will change tactics and strike at them first; Kitty get nervous when she gets a report that two weres trespassed on her territory. Kitty and one of her pack-mate goes out to the territory boundaries to search for the two trespassers, but things takes a turn for the worst when Kitty gets knocked out and taken prisoner. 

About 80% of the book, Kitty is held prisoner by what seem like crazy fanatics/or some New Age-er (her captors think they’re avatars for greater beings). They try to brainwash Kitty into joining their fight against Roman as well. The captors believe that through a ritual they can find and destroy Roman once and for all. Kitty isn’t so sure of the whole ritual idea, but one part of her wants to escape and another part of her wants to see if it is really possible. So many lives have been affected and lost against the war with Roman, and what she wouldn’t do to stop it all. Kitty is going through an internal fight in this book. She is fighting whether she believes they can do what they said, and whether she is willing to sacrifice herself like her ally in Barcelona. This was a slower book than the previous novel, not much action and the characters are all mostly talking things out. We learn a lot more about Roman, where he came from, why he was made, what he thinks of immortality, and his main goal for The Long Game. I think the history/background we learn about Roman and the new characters really make up for the lack of action this time around. I found it all fascinating and loved how the author incorporated many myths and cultures into their background. 

Overall, Kitty in the Underworld was another great addition to the series. I may be new to this series, but I can’t help but admire Kitty’s character. She is so developed, not only herself but her relationship with her mate, her pack, and her allies against Roman. She’s a strong leader, and know what she is and isn’t capable of…she never pretends to be anything other than who she is now. With a somber cliff-hanger ending, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Title: Changeling 
Author: Philippa Gregory
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Order of Darkness #1

Trade paperback, 315 pages

Publication: January 1, 2013 (paperback edition) by Simon Pulse 

Source: Publicist


The year is 1453 and all signs point to it being the end of the world. Accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, handsome seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is recruited by a mysterious stranger to record the end of times across Europe. Commanded by sealed orders, Luca is sent to map the fears of Christendom and travel to the very frontier of good and evil.

Seventeen-year-old Isolde, a Lady Abbess, is trapped in a nunnery to prevent her from claiming her rich inheritance. As the nuns in her care are driven mad by strange visions, walking in their sleep, and showing bleeding wounds, Luca is sent to investigate and driven to accuse her.

Forced to face the greatest fears of the dark ages—witchcraft, werewolves, madness—Luca and Isolde embark on a search for truth, their own destinies, and even love as they take the unknown ways to the real historical figure who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.

When I read the synopsis of Changeling, I was intrigued because I haven’t read many paranormal-historical fictions (come to think of it perhaps never).  The synopsis hints at supernatural occurrences/or sightings around Europe in the mid-1400s, but I must say the synopsis misinformed readers on what to expect in the novel. Changeling is not a paranormal-historical fiction but just historical-fiction. The year is 1453, and many people believe that the End-of-Days are upon them, and with it comes reports of evil/strange phenomenon spreading across Europe. Luca Vero, a young priest is recruited into the Order of Darkness by the Bishop/Pope to document these strange phenomenons and to get to the bottom of the problem plaguing the people.  

Changeling is centered on four main characters; Luca, Freize, Isolde, and Ishraq. Luca was inducted into the church at a very young age, and now a priest at 17-years old. Luca was chosen to be part of the order because of his curious mind and his thirst for knowledge. Freize is Luca’s servant who accompanies Luca on his various missions. Isolde is a 17-year-old daughter of a crusader. Isolde comes from a very wealthy family but when her father dies; her scheming brother takes her part of the inheritance for himself and sends her off to become a Lady Abbess at an Abbey nearby. And finally we have Ishraq, who is Isolde childhood friend/protector. Isode’s father brought Ishraq home from the Middle East and the two girls grew up with one another. The characters were a bit flat, but I still found each to have a distinctive personality and outlook of life…I hope in future books they’ll become more fleshed out/realistic.

I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the novel. Luca investigates two strange phenomenons in this first book (of a four book series). The first case is a nun who is accused of witchcraft.  The second case involves a werewolf terrorizing a village nearby.  The first case took about two-third of the book, and in which I thought was the end of the book but in the last third of the book Luca investigates another case. I would have preferred that each book focused on one primary mission, and I thought it was unusual that the author decided to cram another case in the last few pages. 

Overall Changeling is a great start to the Order of Darkness series. I usually read books with a magical/paranormal element to the story, but I found Changeling quite gratifying and engrossing.  I look forward to reading more about Luca and the gang and the missions they will encounter in future books.  I highly recommend this series to those who love reading about history specifically the middle ages. I actually think paranormal readers will also enjoy this series. Back in the 15th century, people would automatically think things that were unfamiliar/unknown to be evil or supernatural related therefore it was interesting to see how Luca solved each of the problems with a logical-scientific answer. So while it didn’t have real witches or werewolves like I hope, it was fascinating to have a glimpse of what people back then thought of the supernatural/superstition. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen

Title: Aquifer
Author: Jonathan Friesen
Genre: Dystopian
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 303 pages

Publication: August 6, 2013 by Zondervan

Source: Publisher, Z Street Team


Only he can bring what they need to survive...

In 2250, water is scarce, and those who control it control everything. And they’ll do anything to maintain their power – deceiving, dividing families, banning love... even killing those who oppose them.

But above all, they seek to control knowledge and communication – ensuring the truth that will bring their downfall will never be known. But one person verges on discovering it all.

Sixteen-year-old Luca becomes the Deliverer, the only one allowed to contact the people called ‘Water Rats,’ who mine the essential water deep underground and bring it to the ‘Toppers’ who desperately need it above.

But when he meets a Water Rat who captures his heart and leads him to secrets – secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself – the net around him tightens. Luca and those around him must uncover and share the truth needed to overthrow tyranny – even as they fight for their lives.

AQUIFER is set over 200 years in the future where water is scarce. Our protagonist and narrator, Luca has just turned 16 years-old and is the next in line to become The Deliverer. A Deliverer is a job passed on through generations from father to son, the ability to travel from above ground to below to retrieve water from the only remaining water source, the aquifer. Father Massa has been preparing/teaching Luca the route to the aquifer ever since he was young because the only way to get there is by memory. In a world where feelings/emotions and books are banned, everything is tightly controlled and monitored by the Amongus (guards/police)…because if you wrinkle too much (cause by feelings/emotions) you can potentially be undone (death penalty). 

I am always looking for a good dystopian novel, and when I first heard of AQUIFER I was excited because it sounded different/fresh than all the other dystopian. I must admit in the first couple of chapters the story wasn’t grabbing my attention, and Luca’s voice felt disjointed to me. I was lost in the beginning because the terms used were odd and the world-building was barley coming together. For examples Luca talked about how the citizens of New Pert (setting is set in a future Australia) weren’t allowed to ‘wrinkle’, meaning they’re not allowed to show any emotions. Books are also banned, therefore the majority of the people didn’t know how to read or write ‘scratches’.  It wasn’t long till the story picked up with nonstop action. The problems I just mentioned seem to just disappear and I found myself absorbed by Luca’s journey to find his missing father. 

Luca has always felt different than other toppers (those who live above ground). While many people perfected being emotionless, Luca was the opposite and at times couldn’t exactly pinpoint what emotions he was feeling. Over the course of the novel, Luca grew and fell into the role/prophecy he was destined to fulfill. I love how Luca questioned everything he knew whether it be about his family or the government. He didn’t ask to be the ‘next’ Deliverer but he stepped up to the plate when it matter the most. Another character I really enjoyed reading about was Seward, the pirate that accompanied Luca on his quest. Seward is an unforgiving character and is true to who he is. Luca and Seward’s relationship throughout the book was touching and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about Seward ties to Luca’s family. There are other great and unpredictable characters that readers will meet along the way and it really made one think... the person/people that you think you know, are they friend or foe? 

AQUIFER is a mesmerizing tale of family, friendship, love, secrets, deception and lost. I enjoyed AQUIFER more than I expected. It is by far the best book I’ve read all summer. I'm not sure if there will be a sequel but if there is one, you bet I'll be adding to my to-buy-list! I highly recommend this book to those who love dystopian or a fast-pace read. Give this book a try, you won’t regret it! This is my first novel by Friesen, and surely it will not be my last.