Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Title: The Book of Broken Hearts
Author: Sarah Ockler
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: N/A, Stand Alone

Hardcover, 352 pages
Publication: May 21, 2013 by Simon Pulse

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Source: Publicist

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

It’s the last summer before Jude Hernandez heads off to college but she isn’t relaxing or hanging out with friends instead she spending the summer watching her Papi because he’s been recently diagnosed with Early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The disease is slowly eating away at Papi’s memory and though he can’t remember what he had for breakfast that day; he remembers the good ol’ times when he was biking in South America on his motorcycle ‘Valentina’. Jude comes up with a brilliant plan in helping with her dad’s memory, he seems to recall anything and everything related to his motorcycle…so fixing it up/working on the bike might help to keep him calm and focused.  Jude and her father ends up hiring a guy from Duchess the local bike shop, but to her surprise he isn’t just any guy… he’s Emilio Vargas! Jude made a blood oath with her three sisters long ago to never ever get involve with a Vargas, especially after two Vargas brothers broke her sisters’ heart.  Under no condition is Jude planning on breaking her oath to her sisters, she won’t even give him a chance to break her heart. However, the more time Jude spends with Emilio she sees that he isn’t like his brothers or any guy she ever dated before…he the first guy to really make her happy.

The Book of Broken Hearts isn’t just a lovey-dovey romance novel; it’s the story of love, hardship, family, joy, heartache, and living life to the fullest. I was immediately sucked into the story by Jude’s voice…and JUDE, what a cool name for a girl! Jude is such a caring and selfless teen. Jude is the youngest of four sisters, (8 year age gap between them) who is living at home till the end of summer and at which point will be off to college in Denver. I love how responsible Jude was, and how she handles the situation with her dad. She never once complained about being stuck at home, or how she’s watching her dad 24/7. Jude is always thinking about others, putting her parents and even what her sisters’ think above what she feels. Then she meets Emilio, he is the opposite of everything her sisters’ warn her about. Emilio is funny, sexy, caring, and helps Jude with her father whenever something happens; unlike her friends who bails out when things get uncomfortable/or embarrassing.  

Ockler has penned one of the most heart-breaking (in a good way) book I’ve read in a long time…I cried practically every few chapters! I love Jude, her family and Emilio. This book really makes you think about the meaning of family and how short life can be. I’m a sucker for anything to do with family. Bottom line, The Book of Broken Hearts was an amazing-heartfelt story. The book takes place during the summer, and it would be a great book to pick up while you’re lounging at the beach, the park, or relaxing at home this summer! I highly highly recommend this book, I don’t read many contemporary YA but this book was sooo great that it’s definitely making me think about having more contemporary YA in my book rotation!! Check this book out you guys, you won’t regret it!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: Being Jamie Baker by Kelly Oram

Title: Being Jamie Baker
Author: Kelly Oram
Genre: Science-Fiction/Fantasy YA
Series: Jamie Baker #1

E-book, 362 pages
Publication: June 18, 2010 by Bluefields

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Source: Author

An accident that should end in tragedy instead gives seventeen-year-old Jamie Baker a slew of uncontrollable superhuman abilities. To keep her secret safe Jamie socially exiles herself, earning the title of Rocklin High's resident ice queen. But during a supercharged encounter with star quarterback Ryan Miller she literally kisses anonymity goodbye. Now the annoyingly irresistible Ryan will stop at nothing to melt the heart of the ice queen and find out what makes her so special. Unfortunately, Ryan is not the only person on to her secret. Will Jamie learn to contain her unstable powers before being discovered by the media or turned into a government lab rat? More importantly, can she throw Ryan Miller off her trail before falling in love with him?

After a horrible accident Jamie discovers herself with powers, her boyfriend dead, and a local journalist who is all too keen on exposing her secrets. Jamie and her parents move across country to start fresh where no one knows her, hoping to escape her past. Jamie puts up walls and alienates herself from everyone to make sure she doesn’t accidently hurt anyone. Life may be lonely but Jamie is slowly getting used to doing everything alone…until Ryan Miller comes along. Ryan Miller is the most popular boy in school and Jamie is known as the ‘freak or Ice Queen’ at school…so it was strange when Ryan Miller approaches her eating by herself in the Cafeteria. It turns out his friend dared him to get a kiss from Jamie, because that would be impossible! It surprises them both when Jamie agrees, shrugging it off and thinking nothing of it. Soon Jamie finds Ryan at every corner, trying to befriend her and break down the walls she had put it for so long. She constantly tries to shoot him down but Ryan isn’t easily deterred, slowly charming his way into Jamie’s life. Jamie starts to really enjoy herself, trying to enjoy a little teenage normalcy until a person from her past shows up in town.

Everyone has always wanted super powers as a kid, I know I did! Jamie may have super speed, hearing, and cool glowing eyes but readers also see the downside to having powers…making sure your secret never gets out. I felt really bad for Jamie, thinking that the only way to protect her family and secret was to alienate herself from everything…no friends, no boyfriend, no parties, no job, practically a nonexistent life. Then Ryan comes along and turns her world upside down, slowly you see that she isn’t a cold hearted person…just a normal girl who wants to be happy and to have a friend.  Oh Ryan, Ryan, Ryan. He is such a flirt, and a bit cocky but I love his perseverance. Ryan never once gave up on Jamie. She keeps pushing him away but he’s so charming she can’t seem to stop herself from liking him or spending time with him. I really enjoyed their banter, and every moment the two had page time.

Being Jamie Baker was fun-light read, but not without some serious moments…there were a couple of scenes that made me teary. What made this book were the characters, and Oram did a great job in creating such real and relatable characters…even if we don’t have super powers like Jamie LOL. Summer is just around the corner and this would be a fun summer read; if you haven’t already read it I suggest checking this one out. The book is told in first person perspective and is the first book in a planned series. This was a great book and I’m looking forward to reading the next, More Than Jamie Baker which comes out January 2014. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review: Hearts of Shadow by Kira Brady

Title: Hearts of Shadow
Author: Kira Brady
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Deadglass #2

Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages

Publication: May 7, 2013 by Zebra

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Source: Publisher, Author

Grace Mercer’s unmatched wraith-killing ability made her the unofficial defender of a city shattered by supernatural catastrophe. So there’s no way she’ll allow the new regent of Seattle’s most powerful dragon shifter clan to “protect” her from a vicious evil stalking the ruined streets—and keep her from the freedom she’s risked everything to earn.

Leif’s science-honed instincts tell him Grace is the key to keeping shifters and humans safe. But helping this wary fighter channel her untapped power is burning away the dragon’s sensual self-control and putting a crucial alliance at risk. Soon the only chance Leif and Grace will have to save their world will be a dangerously fragile link that could forever unite their souls…or consume all in a storm of destruction.

I read a lot of paranormal romance novels but it’s rare that I stick with a series after the first book because the world or leading couple didn’t make a lasting impression on me. This is not the case with the Deadglass series. I was so happy when I found out the heroine was going to be Grace ‘Reaper’ Mercer; she definitely stood out from the secondary characters in the first book, Hearts of Darkness. Hearts of Shadows is the second book in the Deadglass series, and it picks up six months later with Seattle’s Drekars (dragon shifters), Kivatis (totem animal shifters), and humans rebuilding after the Unraveling (Gate of Hell was open). Aptrgangr and wraiths are loose in Seattle and to make matters worse Kingu, a demi-god is wrecking havoc everywhere he goes looking for his long lost lover’s heart and the Tablet of Destiny. 

Grace is the type of heroine I always love reading about, one that is strong, independent, kick-butt, and has the I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. Grace is only human but she battles Aptrgangr and wraiths daily.  She wants to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Grace had a rough life. Her parents died when she was young and was left on her own defending/providing for herself on the mean streets of Seattle.  Around that same time, her situation got worst. Sven Norsgad, a Drekar bound Grace to him as a blood slave making Grace his personal plaything and fighter. After Sven died, Grace wasn’t freed but found herself bound to the next Regent, Leif.  Grace has a burning hatred for all Drekar after what Sven put her through, and Leif is no exception.  Grace has fortified a wall around herself so she doesn’t ever get hurt again but the more time she spends with Leif her perspective starts to change…maybe not all Drekar are bad. 

Leif never wanted to be King; he’s the type of person that likes to work behind the scenes. Leif is a scientist who has been building different structures and gadgets to help re-establish Seattle. Leif isn’t like most Drekar, he doesn’t have a thirst for powe, torture people like his brother Sven, or care for politics. He is kind, intellectual, genuine and passionate. Leif has always longed for a soul (Drekars are soulless), to find his love, and his one true match. Leif believe that when his time ends there will be no entry to Valhalla, but instead just a dark void of nothingness for one needs a soul to enter Odin’s hall. Leif’s belief changes after meeting Grace, instead he finds hope. He never met anyone more intriguing, strong and beautiful as Grace in all the years he’s been alive, and he’s been alive a long, long time. Grace makes him want more in life and to strive to be a better person, to be the proper king to his people and human citizens of Seattle.

Hearts of Shadows is an excellent follow-up to the Deadglass series and in my opinion better than the first book. I loved how this book picks up directly where readers left off, and though the leading characters changes in each book…the main story/book arc is the same. Brady has created a fascinating world with different mythology infused together, and strong multifaceted characters that make lasting impressions whether they are primary characters or secondary (Zetain, the female Drekar, or Thorsson). For those who read the first book, Hart and Kayla make a short appearance in the bookJ. I highly recommend this series to all PNR/UR fans. This is a series you don’t want to miss, and definitely a couple you will love! The ending gives readers an idea of what is in store for book 3, and I can’t wait…if you think the demi-god Kingu is bad, think again! I wonder which two characters Brady will pick for the final book, I’m with most readers and am hoping for Corbette and…Lucia? 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Guest Blog with Christine Amsden

 Cassie Scot: Looking Forward

When I talk about Cassie Scot I'm usually not talking about the book, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. I'm usually talking about the entire series. This is my third book, but my first series, so it has been an interesting adjustment for me. In my mind, Cassie's story is complete, even though for the reader it has barely begun.

In fact, Cassie's story is complete. There are four volumes in the series, all written, all under contract, and all pending release within the next year or so. Each of the volumes is framed by a self-contained mystery, which should give the reader some sense of closure at the end. Personal, romantic, and familial problems remain, however, and these issues are what I think of as Cassie's story. The first book is about Cassie solving a murder/missing person mystery. The series is about Cassie discovering who she is and what she wants. I suppose that part doesn't play as well in a teaser, but I think it's relevant. To some extent, we all strive to figure out who we are and how to accept ourselves. This is never more true than when faced with the disapproval or disappointment of parents – something Cassie knows all-too well. 

Cassie isn't the only one going through a period of self-discovery. To a lesser extent Evan Blackwood is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants. Well, he's sure about one thing – and if you've read the epilogue to book one you know what that is. He's confused about much of the rest. In stark contrast to Cassie, Evan has a lot of magical power and he doesn't want to be like his father – using that power for his own wealth/comfort and little else. At the same time, Evan is used to getting his way and he has the power to take most of what he wants. On the surface this may seem like a good thing, but in Secrets and Lies, book two in the Cassie Scot series, he will learn differently. It was a challenge to show him going through this sort of transformation from Cassie's point of view, but I hope the reader sees it. 

When I look at the series as a whole, one of the choices I have often found myself questioning is the use of vampires in the first book. This may seem like an odd thing to say. I mean, it's urban fantasy. Of course it has vampires! Well...

I didn't plan to write the first book right away. In those early weeks, I thought I would write a long short story or novella as a sort of proof of concept. There were a lot of important details popping around in my mind – Cassie character, her family, the town, the rules of magic, the love interest – somewhere in the middle of all that I decided to test the waters with vampires because it's simple. Everyone knows them. They don't require a lot of thought. I don't know when they became permanent, but somewhere along the line I knew I was writing a whole novel instead of a short story, and by then the plot had stuck. 

Vampires are not at all important to the overall story. It's not the last you'll see of them, but they don't have a huge part to play. If you're a vampire fan, sorry, but hopefully you love Cassie enough to stick with her. Those who are sick of vampires in fantasy, bear with me. And know that these vampires are Stoker-esque (and not even a little bit sparkly :) ).

“There is nothing so evil in the world as what humans can do to one another.” – Edward Scot (Cassie's father). This may have almost seemed like a throwaway comment in book one, but it wasn't. It definitely becomes important later on, and it's something I firmly believe. I've never thought fantasy novels needed literal demons to fight. Give a human being power, and let's see what he decides to do with it. History has shown us that it isn't always pretty.

The last time I revised the first book in this series, I had completed the final volume. This means that I had my plan fully formed and implemented. There are a couple of little things in the first book that you probably won't even think about unless you go back and reread it sometime after you finish the series. Then you'll think, “Oh, she did have a plan!”

I love it when authors do that. I hope I've pulled it off to your satisfaction as well.

Book Two Teasers:

1. Cassie is going to learn something very important about her mother that she never knew.

2. Kaitlin and Madison will take on bigger roles, and each will develop a problem of her own.

3. Edward Scot (Cassie's dad) and Victor Blackwood (Evan's dad) will come face to face. Their mutual enmity will not be in doubt.

4. The reader will learn one more of the reasons why Edward hates Victor.

5. The mystery will be the search for two teenage girls who went missing from a summer camp.

6. The life debt Cassie owes Evan will be a big deal.

Thank you Christine for stopping by! I had the pleasure of reviewing Casie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, and I highly recommend it to all UF/PNR fans. Please scroll down the page to check out my review of Casie Scot: ParaNormal Detective! The kindle/eformat is currently available now and the paperback edition will be out MAY 15, 2013!

 Christine Amsden has been writing science fiction and fantasy for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children, Drake and Celeste.

Other books by Christine Amsden 

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Review: Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective

Title: Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective
Author: Christine Amsden
Genre: New Adult, Urban Fantasy
Series: Cassie Scot #1 (ending leaves opening for possible sequel)

Trade paperback, 250 pages

Publication: (paperback) May 12, 2013 by Twilight Times Books

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|AMAZON|*available now in e-format*

Source: Author

Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective is the first book in a new series by Christine Amsden, her first foray into the new adult genre. I had the pleasure of reading Mrs. Amsden’s science fiction book The Immortality Virus back in August of last year and when the author offered me an early review copy of Cassie Scot I was happy to accept! Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective is narrated in first person by our heroine, Cassie Scot who is the eldest daughter of the towns most prestigious and power Scot family. Her parents are both exceptionally powerful sorcerers, and all six of her siblings also have powers of their own…except Cassie. Cassie is 21-years-old and is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life, having a foot each in the real and paranormal world. Cassie is well known amongst the towns’ people because of who her family is but all she wants is to create a name for herself independently from her parents/siblings so she opened up her own detective agency. The agency been opened for 6 months so far and she doesn’t have a single client, so when Lawyer Frank Lloyd asks Cassie about a job offer she jumps on it immediately. All she has to do is serve a subpoena to Belinda Heweitt, a local witch…a simple task that surely takes no more than 10 minutes. Nope. It not only took more than 10 minutes but Cassie found herself deeply involved in a murder /missing person case, a case along the line of paranormal.  It is up to Cassie to figure who the killer is, not just to prove to herself but her family as well that you don’t always need magic to get things done. 

I really enjoyed Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective, the story and Cassie’s voice drew me in on the first page! There are three main powerful families in Eagle Rock, Cassie’s family among the three. The regular town folks have an idea that something more is going on in town, something paranormal but for the most part they try to ignore it/or pretend it doesn’t exist. Cassie is a likable heroine; she’s independent, smart and has normal problems like everyone else which makes her real/relatable. Cassie may not have any special abilities but she never lets that stop her from finding the killer and solving the problem herself I also love Cassie’s family, you can tell how close everyone is and how much they love one another. The siblings all have different ability or they’d take after either parent, for example you have a healer, pyromancer, seer, and someone who can talk to the dead…all very unique, and I hope we get to see/read more of the Scots family in the next book.

This is an awesome start to a new series, and I can’t wait to find out what will happen next with Cassie and the gang. The ending didn’t necessary leave on a cliff-hanger but it left readers with a lot of questions about Cassie, her family bold choice regarding her part in the family’s power of 9, Evan’s intention and lastly is Cassie really ungifted, the black sheep of the family like she thinks she is? I highly recommend checking this book out!  Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective is a light, fun, paranormal-mystery with a dash of romance that will have you eagerly waiting for the next book once you reach the last page!