Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: Relic by Heather Terrell

Title: Relic
Author: Heather Terrell
Genre: Young-adult, Dystopian
Series: Books of Eva #1

Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication: October 29, 2013 by Soho Teen

Source: I received an arc from the publicist in exchange for a honest review.

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When Eva’s twin brother, Eamon, falls to his death just a few months before he is due to participate in The Testing, no one expects Eva to take his place. She’s a Maiden, slated for embroidery classes, curtseys, and soon a prestigious marriage befitting the daughter of an Aerie ruler. But Eva insists on honoring her brother by becoming a Testor. After all, she wouldn’t be the first Maiden to Test, just the first in 150 years.

Eva knows the Testing is no dance class. Gallant Testors train for their entire lives to search icy wastelands for Relics: artifacts of the corrupt civilization that existed before The Healing drowned the world. Out in the Boundary Lands, Eva must rely on every moment of the lightning-quick training she received from Lukas—her servant, a Boundary native, and her closest friend now that Eamon is gone.

But there are threats in The Testing beyond what Lukas could have prepared her for. And no one could have imagined the danger Eva unleashes when she discovers a Relic that shakes the Aerie to its core.

Relic isn’t like most dystopian novels out in the genre nowadays. It isn’t violent (no fighting or killing involved) or action packed like most…but it doesn’t make the book any less interesting. Every year there is a ‘Testing’ where young men from prominent families participate in to find relics of the past society (before the flooding about 240 years ago). These relics are suppose to teach/educate the people of Aerie the evil ways of the past society and what eventually caused the wipe-out of most of population save for a few people (which makes up the current society of Aerie). Eva, daughter of an Aerie ruler is the first woman ever to participate in The Testing, taking her deceased brother Eamon’s place. Whoever finds the most important/worthy relic win the high position of Chief Archon. Eva not only is carrying out Eamon’s final wish to take part in The testing but also prove to everyone that a Maiden-lady is also capable of participating in The Testing. 

Relic grabbed me right off the bat. The prologue shows Eamon somewhat preparing for The Testing a few months prior and that during one of his climbs he falls to his death…except it wasn’t accidental. The big question from the start is who murdered Eamon and what did he know that was worth killing for?

Eva, Eamon’s twin sister is a strong-willed protagonist, which is one of the many reasons why I love dystoians. Eva is always questioning the society rules, and of course wanting more to life than to be a Maiden/Wife. Most of the people of Aerie and the male testers couldn’t believe that Eva, a woman was testing because she seemed too fragile. Not only did Eva hold her own in everything she did, she also did better than most of the testers that’s been studying/practicing for it all their life. 

The world-building/setting is quite straightforward. Aerie’s society lives by the Lex rules (which is based off the bible), and the reason for The Testing is to retrieve artifacts from before the flood to teach the people of Aerie the wicked ways that caused the downfall of mankind. Example some of the past ‘relics’ they found was Apple products (yes, as in the Apple ipad, or iphone that so many people use today), credit cards, pharmaceutical meds, and other materialistic products such as luxury handbags and cosmetic. Instead of a futuristic-dystopian that is depicted in most books out today, Relic is the complete opposite. It is as if the society went back to how things were 240 years in the past not the future. Terrell’s world is highly creative, and it’s kind of scary to see the truth in how much society worships these materialistic products. 

The novel started out strong and dragged a bit in the middle during the testing but picked up again toward the end. For most of the book Eva is out in the arctic tundra, utilizing her survival skills to stay alive and search for Relics embedded in the ice crevasses. Overall Relic was pretty good; it had a different kind of dystopian vibe going on…which is refreshing to read. Since this is the first book in a planned series, I hope the characters will be more fleshed out in the next books, and to learn more about the people of Aerie, The Healing, and who murdered Eamon. The book is well-written and the short chapters made for a quick read.  There are also a couple of pictures here and there in the book, which I also thought was pretty cool (based off ARC). I definitely recommend this book to other Dystopian book lovers. For those who are new to the genre, Relic would be a great start to the genre! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: Waterfell by Amalie Howard

Title: Waterfell
Author: Amalie Howard
Genre: Paranormal Young-Adult
Series: The Aquarathi #1

Paperback, 360 pages  
Publication: October 29, 2013 by Harlequin Teen 

Source: I recieved an Arc from the publicist.


Nerissa Marin hides among teens in her human form, waiting for the day she can claim her birthright—the undersea kingdom stolen from her the day her father was murdered. Blending in is her best weapon—until her father's betrayer confronts Nerissa and challenges her to a battle to the death on Nerissa's upcoming birthday—the day she comes of age.

Amid danger and the heartbreak of her missing mother, falling for a human boy is the last thing Nerissa should do. But Lo Seavon breaches her defenses and somehow becomes the only person she can count on to help her desperate search for her mother, a prisoner of Nerissa's mortal enemy. Is Lo the linchpin that might win Nerissa back her crown? Or will this mortal boy become the weakness that destroys her?

I initially thought Waterfell was a mermaid book, which I haven't read much of but thought the synopsis sounded great and wanted to read it. However Waterfell isn't about mermaid per-say but about sea creatures...alien sea creatures that is. Our main heroine Nerissa is a sixteen-year-old going on seventeen Aquarathi princess and future Queen of Waterfell (underwater kingdom). Nerissa and some of her people left their home planet after the land inhabitant decimated the sea and made everything uninhabitable, so they made their new home on earth.

I'm going to be honest, when I read that they were an alien race, I didn't want to continue. It didn't sound like an original idea. It also didn't help that I was having a hard time connecting with Nerissa. Nerissa was kind of a mean girl. She came off as selfish and shallow not really caring about other people's feelings but herself. She kept repeating over and over how selfish she was with her peers and how she didn't want to face her responsibility as the only heir to the throne of Waterfell. Even when she knew her people were suffering, she was contempt on to stay on land pretending to be a human teenager. Thankfully Nerissa realizes (even if it took awhile) that she couldn't continue running away from her fear and responsibilities and took action. Nerissa's personality was a huge improvement and I found myself warming up to her in the end.

Most of the secondary character were also great, not fully fleshed-out but enough to make them memorable. My favorite character was Jenna, the human best friend. Nerissa's foster/Aquarathi family thought Jenna was a weak human and nothing but a liability. Jenna was far from being a liability, and was a total kick-butt heroine. She is fierce and loyal and even out shined Nerissa in some of the scenes. A kind of friend anyone would be happy to have. I know I sure would!

Waterfell is a perfect balance of romance, action and suspense. The chemistry between Nerissa and Lo from the start was undeniable. Nerissa tried to fight off Lo's charm but he was just so upfront about his feeling, you can't help but get all mushy about it. The romance was probably the main focus for the first half of the book but the second half was full of action and suspense. Some parts were predictable, but Howard was still able to surprise me with the nonstop twists and turns at the end. The ending literally left me gosmack at how good it was! I can't wait to see what happens next, especially with how Waterfell ended.

Waterfell is a wonderful addition to the young-adult genre, and in the end it IS an original play on mer-people/sea creatures. I'm so glad I didn't give up on this book, because there's more to the story than what the synopsis proposes. I have had difficuilty with lot of YAs in the past, but I am really happy with what I am reading this year...and so far I'm loving everything that coming out from the YA genre. I highly recommend Waterfell to YA and Paranromal book lovers, there is really something speical here, and I definitely see this series getting better and going far.

Friday, October 25, 2013

[Blog Tour] Review: Cold Blooded by Amanda Carlson + Giveaway

Title: Cold Blooded
Author: Amanda Carlson
Genre: Urban Fantas
Series: Jessica McClain #3

Trade Paperback, 336 pages

Publication: October 8, 2013 by Orbit 

Source: I received a review copy from the publicist.

Jessica arrives back in town to find her best friend missing and the most powerful witch in the country is blaming her for it. But before they can move to save her, the group is attacked.

On the run, Jessica and Rourke head to the mountains. Several surprises await them, but in order to save her father they are forced to leave for New Orleans early.

Arriving on the Vampire Queen's doorstep unexpectedly, and bringing trouble on their heels, the Sects are thrown into an all out war. The vicious
skirmish ends up forcing the vamps and Jessica to fight on the same team.

The Vamp Queen ends up owing Jessica, but what Jessica doesn't realize is just how soon she'll have to cash it in...

COLD BLOODED, the third installment in the Jessica McClain series is yet again full of actions, snarky dialogue and more supernatural surprises than I can count on my fingers!

Like the previous two books in the series, COLD BLOODED picks up exactly where we left off in HOT BLOODED. Jessica is in the mist of trying to figure out where everyone is while making her way to New Orleans as an army of sorcerers and demons track her down. Jessica’s only hopes for survival lies in the hands of last person she’d ever thought she’ll need help from, again…Eudoxia, Queen of the Vampires.

In the last book I complained that the plot/story wasn’t as engaging, slow starting but I’m happy to say that it isn’t a problem this time around. The action starts at the first page, as an explosion obliterates Jessica’s work place. From there things literally get more crazy as trouble waits for Jessica at every turn. What I enjoy about this series is, it feels like no time has passed since the last book…the series feels like one giant story, where I don’t have to stop and think about what happened in the last book (each book is approximately 7 months apart). I had hoped that we’d learn more about the Lycan prophecy and although we didn’t learn any new details, readers got to learn the extent of Jessica’s powers...and I was amazed at what she/her blood can do! I’m sure this is still just the tip of what she’s capable of.

All the usual characters make their appearance, some more than others. I had thought that book 3 would be all about the witches, but in my opinion the vampires stole the show especially their queen. Readers learn about Eudoxia’s history/background, why she’s so powerful, and ultimately what she really wants from Jessica. I was also really happy that we got to see more of Naomi and Ray. Things have certainly changed for these two characters since they met Jessica, and I find their relationship and how they differ from their own sect intriguing.

Just when I thought I’ve read everything and anything in the urban fantasy genre (although HOT BLOODED had some major crazy mythology) Carlson throws a bunch of new revelations one after another…don’t know what I’m talking about here’s three things that you’ll find in COLD BLOODED:

• Jessica can communicate with ghosts
• Two words, Baby Oracle
• What kind of “cat” Rourke is.

And there’s plenty more where that came from! What’s so great about the Jessica McClain series is you really don’t know what to expect, it’s unpredictable and fresh. COLD BLOODED was as much fun as the previous books, and is probably the best of the three. While Jessica and company somewhat averted the crisis in COLD BLOODED, the ending leaves reader on a cliffhanger that opens up a new dilemma for Jessica to deal with in the next book, RED BLOODED (book #4). I can’t wait till the next book, especially since they’ll be in a whole new playground! I highly recommend this series; it has everything…action, suspense, romance and mystery! 

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: Exile by Shannon Messenger

Title: Exile 
Author: Shannon Messenger
Genre: MG, Fantasy
Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities #2

Hardcover, 576 pages
Publication: October 1,2013 by Aladdin 

Source: I received an Arc from the publicist. 

Sophie Foster thought she was safe. Settled into her home at Havenfield, surrounded by friends, and using her unique telepathic abilities to train Silveny--the first female alicorn ever seen in the Lost Cities--her life finally seems to be coming together.

But Sophie's kidnappers are still out there. And when Sophie discovers new messages and clues from the mysterious Black Swan group, she’s forced to take a terrifying risk—one that puts everyone in incredible danger.

As long buried secrets rise to the surface, it’s once again up to Sophie to uncover hidden memories—before someone close to her is lost forever.

Sophie and the gang are all back in EXILE, the second installment in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger.  The story begins with Sophie discovering a rare creature that the councils have been searching for millenniums, an alicorn (unicorn with wings). The alicorn is put into Sophie and Grady’s care for rehabilitation in time for a timeline reset celebration and eventually the alicorn home in the sanctuary (where all rehabilitated rare animals go to). Meanwhile, Sophie is still trying to learn more about her abilities and worrying about her second year at Foxfire Academy.  Days leading up to Sophie’s return to Foxfire, she discovers cryptic messages from the ‘terrorists’/rebellion’ group The Black Swan urging her to find answers to her past by visiting a particular person…Prentice, the keeper for the Black Swan except Prentice is locked away in Exile, an undisclosed location that only a handful of people know about.

EXILE, is a terrific follow-up book in the series. Messengers definitely delivers in this sequel as she takes readers from a school setting to explore other dark and mysterious parts of the Elvin world. The book focuses mainly on Sophie’s endless abilities and her relationship to the Black Swan group. Readers discover alongside Sophie what really makes her different from the others (genes), how and why the Black Swan Group created her in the first place (one of their many goals/tasks that they need her to fulfill). 

The main theme of family and friendship is once again present in EXILE, and just as heart-warming. Sophie has a strong support system, but ties are strained when someone close to Sophie is on the brink of death/destruction. Sophie learns to rely on her amazing guardian/parents that care for her dearly and friends particularly Keefe this time around. Trying to do everything on her own and keeping secrets started to take a toll, but eventually Sophie was able let other help shoulder the burden. 

There were some characters from book 1 that took the back seat this time around only popping up for a few scenes here and there, but I was glad to see a character that we met at the end of book 1 make a solid addition to book 2. Sandor, Sophie’s goblin body guard literally shadows Sophie wherever she goes and their bickering with one another was just hilarious. I was also happy that we got to see more of Keefe, he was a comical relief during the more dark-serious scenes (but he was serious when it mattered). 

I love EXILE, and after reading it, it has cemented itself as one of my all-time favorite series. Messenger weaves another amazing adventure with characters you can’t help but love and care about. If you’re looking for a series you can get lost in, this is it. I’ve written this in my last review but I’ll say it again; this may be a middle-grade series but it WILL appeal beyond its core audience, definitely a book/series for all ages. I highly recommend Keeper of the Lost Cities & EXILE, you will not be disappointed!  I can’t wait for book 3, dying to know more about the Black Swan, Prentice and of course  to see more of Sophie and her wonderful friends and family. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

[Blog Tour] Guest Post with Michael Chulsky

The Great Cover Debacle
by Michael Chulsky 

Originally I had intended to talk about why I started writing The Descending Darkness and my aims for the series. This was before I realized that I have pretty much answered that question by accident a few times throughout my tour. That’s no fun at all. So instead, I thought a change of topic was in order. After much thought, I decided to share a little story that I think is quite funny. And I hope you readers enjoy.

I’ve received many compliments on the cover for TDD. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. I didn’t expect anybody to love the cover; in fact, I thought people were going to come at me with barbed wire and lemon juice – if you’ll forgive the dramatic visual. For the record, it’s not that I thought the cover was awful or anything. I thought the cover was really nice, but I’m the type of person who is very hard on themselves.

Now comes the story part.

Robin Tidwell, author of Reduced, Reused, and Recycled – as well as the owner of my publishing house, shot me an email telling me that the edits were done and we needed to come up with a cover. I told her my thoughts and she passed them along to the cover designer. I waited a couple of days and I was presented with a few demo covers…and they weren’t for me. I told Robin and we talked about what I liked, if anything, and what I didn’t. She passed along my thoughts once more and I waited. I received another few demo covers and, unfortunately, they too weren’t for me.

This is the point in the story where I take the time to stress that I’m not a diva or one of those girls from My Super Sweet 16. I just had a certain vision for the cover and being that this was my first novel, everything had to be absolutely perfect.

So after about a week of us going back and forth…and I’m sure, many ibuprofens on Robin’s side, we finally decided that maybe it would be best if I had my significant other try his hand at designing it. Frankly, it’s easier to explain exactly what one wants in person, rather than over the internet. And I have a strong feeling if we didn’t reach that conclusion, Robin and I would probably still be trying to work out a cover. :P

It took the fiancé a few days, but we finally created the exact cover that I had envisioned from the beginning. I was ecstatic. Since the response has been overwhelmingly positive, it makes all of the work and chaos worth it.

About the Author

Michael Chulsky grew up in New Jersey and has been writing ever since his fourth grade teacher let him create a class newspaper to channel his creativity. He is the author of The Descending Darkness and currently lives with his fiancé. When not writing he enjoys browsing Tumblr, listening to music, and devouring every piece of cheesecake that falls into his line of sight.

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