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Review & Giveaway: Heartkeeper by B.T. Lyons

Monday, July 29, 2013


(Heartkeeper Saga #1)
by B.T. Lyons

Genre: MG Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic
Publication: July 6, 2013 by Clean Teen Publishing


Mankind has survived the near-collapse of life as they knew it, now living in harmony with the world around them. Adain, a young Tenderfoot of this Future Earth, is about to take part in his Heart Chase – the search for a animal spirit that will act as his companion and conscience for the rest of his life. Success in the Heart Chase and surviving the subsequent Trials over the year ensures his place amongst the People as an adult, but failure means his certain death...and his whole future lies on the Heart of a mouse.

Heartkeeper is the first book in the Heartkeeper Saga, an epic adventure of friendship, challenges, and danger as humans struggle to regain their foothold in a new world that is no longer theirs to control. Can they survive in balance with the Earth, or will the Earth decide they no longer belong?

◆ A copy was provided by Clean Teen Publishing for review ◆

Heartkeeper is a unique, magical story that imparts valuable life lessons on living in harmony with the land, people, and animals.

Children going through trials to find and bond with an animal spirit that will stay with them for life? I knew immediately that this book was made for the child within me. Since a young age, I've been in love with stories where people and animals interact with each other. My favorite Disney princess growing up was Pocahantas because she had so many animal friends, and animals play prominent roles in many of my favorite childhood reads. I'm also a believer in magic (in books). Heartkeeper combines these ideas together in a world where humans must make room in their hearts for an animal spirit and follow its guidance if they are to survive.

Adain is one of many thirteen-year-old Tenderfoots going through a year of trials that will make adults of them. Trials that will determine the goodness in their hearts and whether they can uphold the covenant that humans made to live in harmony with the Land He's quiet and unassuming, a thinker and diligent worker with a keen eye for observation. It's because of his watchful eye that he notices danger emerging in the community, and it's because of his caring heart that he becomes involved in the flow of change. Nothing about him stands out in particular. Adain is an ordinary boy who just so happens to become involved in events, which I appreciate. The world needs more ordinary heroes to inspire us.

The story was much too short for one that covers such a long span of time. While I appreciate a simple, straightforward plot now and then, this story has the potential to be so much more. I felt as if more developments ought to have taken place. It would have been better for the story to be split into two or three separate novels that spend more time detailing various events that take place. There isn't much to the plot other than the enemy that Adain has his eye on. I would have liked to see more of the trials and what Adain and the other Tenderfoot do over the course of the year. More danger and intrigue could have been introduced, as well as the budding of friendships, first loves, and other things that happen during this period of life.

Still, I love this story for the magical, compelling world and for the inspiration. Most post-apocalyptic books out there are about humans struggling to rebuild civilization after its collapse, and it makes sense. It's what we expect humans to do after the end of the world as we know it. Few of them dwell long on the impact of the "apocalypse" on the land and how humans will try to commune with it, and I love how Heartkeeper does this.

There are so many valuable life lessons to gain from this story. Heartkeeper is about the transition between childhood and adulthood, when you learn that the adults and guardians you trusted aren't so invincible and all-knowing like you thought they were. It is about making a place for yourself in a world where you have to grow up faster than you like. It is about friendship and betrayal, honesty and integrity, and self-discovery. While the target audience looks to be younger MG readers, I believe that readers of all ages will enjoy this one.

  1. Heartkeeper
  2. Heartbound
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (film)
  • N/A

Imagine Weekly: Stacking the Shelves #66

Sunday, July 28, 2013
Imagine Weekly is a weekly feature where we share a summary of what has taken place on the blog the previous week and show off books that we got.


The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carons (Goodreads | Amazon)
Darker Days by Jus Accardo (Goodreads | Amazon)
Ward Against Darkness by Melanie Card (GoodreadsAmazon)

The Grotto Under the Tree by John A. Theo Jr. (GoodreadsAmazon)
The Rise of the Red Shadow by Joseph R. Lallo (Goodreads)

Thanks to CBB Book Promotions, Entangled Publishing, Harper Collins, and Pure Textuality
* Check out more book hauls through Tynga's Stacking the Shelves *

Previous Week


Other News

Upcoming Week
  • TBD - I've been sick this past week and haven't had time to prepare next week's schedule

What did you get this week? Leave a link in the comments section, and I'll check out your week's haul!

Review: Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Touching the Surface

by Kimberly Sabatini

Genre: YA Paranormal
Hardback: 352 Pages
Publication: October 30, 2012 by Simon Pulse


When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

◆ A copy was provided by Kimberly Sabatini for review ◆

I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, it's light and funny. With the mystery of why Elliot is a third timer, it has the potential to be deep and complex, but the story is relatively simple overall. At the same time, this is one reason why the story didn't exactly work for me. All it really does is alternates between the present with Elliot in Ombil and the past through the delves into people's memories. Even at the end when Elliot pieces together her past and comes to terms with herself, I didn't feel as if I'd learned anything of consequence about the characters and humanity. Or even that I'd read a story with an interesting take on life after death, since the story focuses on the drama with Elliot figuring out her past life and her love-hate relationship with Trevor.

It's too bad that we never do get to learn much about Ombil. While I understand that the story's focus is on the character relationships, Ombil is an interesting world, and I'm sorry that we never get to see more of it or of the other inhabitants and what they do here. The story takes place in a very short span of time, and we never do get to know anyone other than the central characters to the story, namely Elliot and Trevor, and even then I don't have much of an opinion on them going out of the story.

I never really connected with any of the characters. They tend to be melodramatic and TALK IN CAPS WHEN THEY'RE EMOTIONAL and are flat for the most part, even Elliot and Trevor as they learn more about their hearts. Elliot is loudspoken and selfish--and hard to like. She acts as if everyone should follow her, and when things don't go her way she gets depressed and mopey and puts the blame on others. She doesn't spend much time trying to look beneath the surface or trying to look through someone else's perspective. I wanted to feel sorry for her situation, but I couldn't when she acts the way she does. As for two boys, one is perfectly likable and the other is perfectly broken. The typical good boy and bad boy. The romance was bland and predictable. Unfortunately, it dominates a large portion of the plot.

Those who like a light paranormal romance with humor may find enjoy this read. However, the humor and story didn't quite work out for me. While I enjoyed the light reading, I ended up skimming many of the delves. I didn't like the constant scene switching and how scenes would get cut off when Elliot emerged from a delve. I don't know that this could have been avoided given the nature of the story, but I don't like it when a story relies on constant scence switches to move a plot forward.

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Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Friday, July 26, 2013

The School for Good and Evil

(The School for Good and Evil #1)
by Soman Chainani

Genre: MG Fantasy
Hardback: 488 Pages
Publication: May 14, 2013 by Harper Collins


This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

◆ A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review ◆

The School for Good and Evil is a clever, fun read that explores the human heart and what it means to be good and evil.

Agatha is a recluse, she isn't pretty, and her only company is a black cat named Reaper. Sophie spends hours on beauty care, she dresses like a princess, and she believes in fairy tales. Everyone thinks that Agatha will be sent to the School for Evil, and Sophie knows that she'll be sent to the School for Good. Realist, mistrustful Agatha could never fit in with the gorgeous princesses, and how would naïve, wanna-be-princess Sophie survive among evil witches? That's all if you look at the surface, however. Despite her gruff ways, Agatha is kind and caring. She considers Sophie her best friend and looks after her in spite of all the mean things Sophie can say. In comparison, Sophie is selfish, greedy, and as we learn, has a vindictive side to her.

Personality-wise, it's so easy to love Agatha. She's down to earth and isn't the kind of girl to wait for Prince Charming to come save her. In fact, she's the kind of girl who'll step in to save him if it looks like he can't help himself. She also isn't afraid to speak her mind, and I just love her dry sense of humor and the sensation she makes at the School for Good. (Not in a positive way, but amusing all the same.) It's harder to like Sophie, the spoiled brat that she is. And yet, I grew to love her character and what it adds to the story. Agatha is good and kind from the start. It's Sophie that needed to grow, and in spite of the things she ends up doing, she's the one that really made me question the meaning of good and evil.

Even if this is a fairy tale about two girls, there has to be romance to make the story complete. I adore how the romance is handled. He can be a jerk at times, and like Agatha I didn't know what Sophie saw in him at first. In time, however, more about him is revealed, and I could see the good in him. It was fun learning who is who's true love. This story isn't afraid to make fun of its characters and where they're all coming from. More than that, I love how it pushes the boundaries of good and evil and how it shows us that we can all be more than what people expect of us. And that girls don't necessarily need a prince to make them a princess.

It's been a while since I've read such a fun story about princes and princesses. This is a fairy-tale story that readers of all ages will enjoy. While this is a book that can stand on its own, I am glad that there is a trilogy in the making and can't wait to read the next installment!

More news! Roth Films has partnered with Jane Startz Productions to acquire the movie rights to The School for Good and Evil. Chainani and Hook scribe Malia Scotch Marmo are to write the screenplay. When I was reading this book, I was thinking about how fun it'd be to see it on the screen, so I'm thrilled that it's actually going to happen!

  1. The School for Good and Evil
  2. A World Without Princes
  3. Untitled
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Review: Return to Me by Justina Chen

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Return to Me

by Justina Chen

Genre: Contemporary
Hardback: 352 Pages
Publication: January 15, 2013 by Little Brown BFYR


Nothing is going as planned for Rebecca Muir. She's weeks away from starting college--at a school chosen specifically to put a few thousand miles of freedom between Reb and her parents. But her dad's last-minute job opportunity has her entire family moving all those miles with her! And then there's the matter of her unexpected, amazing boyfriend, Jackson, who is staying behind on the exact opposite coast.

And if that isn't enough to deal with, mere days after moving cross-country, Reb's dad drops shocking, life-changing news. With her mother and brother overwhelmed and confused, Reb is left alone to pick up the pieces of her former life. But how can she do that when everything can change in an instant? How can she trust her "perfect" boyfriend when her own dad let her down? Reb started the year knowing exactly what her future would hold, but now that her world has turned upside down, will she discover what she really wants?

◆ A copy was provided by Little Brown for review ◆

Return To Me is the story of a teen coping with betrayal of the family, difficulties with relationships, and the search for self identity. It is also about healing, forgiveness, and growth.

Rebecca can’t wait to go to college, where she'll be free from her mom's dictatorship of lists and schedules. Then, her dad not only moves the entire family to New Jersey with her to pursue a job, he announces that he's been having an affair and wants a divorce. Rebecca feels very betrayed and becomes unable to trust anyone. She begins to question her relationship with her boyfriend Jackson, who seems too good to be true.

Rebecca is a strong and fierce person. Over the course of the novel, Rebecca learns to be true to herself and to trust her inner voice. She also matures from a girl who no longer knows whom she can trust to a young woman who can help her mother get through her devastation and form relationships with new members of her family. The feelings of having been betrayed by her father who she really loved and the life-changing situations she goes through also teach her to learn to forgive and to be thankful for what she's been blessed with. In the book, Rebecca shows us that no matter what parents go through, you can live your dream and find love.

Return to Me is a wonderful story about family relationships and how difficult situations can make family bonds stronger. It is a great book for the older teens who are facing with family breaking up, dilemma with love interests, and struggles of following their own paths. The challenges we encounter in our life can be discouraging and heart breaking, but we can always learn something through it and become stronger. It might be disappointing  for younger teens or readers, but older readers will find an inspirational story in Rebecca.

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Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Monday, July 22, 2013


(Lunar Chronicles #2)
by Marissa Meyer

Genre: YA Sci-Fi Fantasy
Hardback: 452 Pages
Publication: February 5, 2013 by Feiwel and Friends


The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.


Scarlet and Wolf make Cinder and Kai look like good little kids, which is saying something considering what a scary little fighter Cinder can be when she puts her mind to it, and Kai isn't an obedient little princeling either. Still, they aren't a fiery, gun-wielding redhead or a crazy strong street fighter, both carrying secrets in their blood. That's where I'm ending the comparison though. The two couples aren't very comparable; at least, not in the way that they captured my heart in their own crazy special ways.

Scarlet is far less timid than Cinder and much more outspoken. She has a take-charge attitude and won't let anyone talk her down. When she finds out her grandother is missing, Scarlet takes immediate action, though she doesn't know her enemy. All she needs to know is that her grandmother is in danger, and she'll risk her life to save her only family. In another character, all this recklessness would alienate me. However, Scarlet's character and story is so well developed that I could sympathize with her. The same can be said for Wolf, whose loyalties are questionable. For a long time, I didn't knew whether or not I could trust him, and yet my heart couldn't help melting before his charm. He's such a compelling character. My favorite moments with him are the times he lets his guard down and shows his vulnerabilities to Scarlet. Especially when it involves tomatoes.

The romance is so darn cute. It's so obvious how smitten Wolf is with Scarlet. And since he doesn't know what to do, she's the one taking the lead a lot of the time. Then there's Cinder and Kai. While the two of them parted on pretty bad terms and Kai doesn't know what to believe anymore, the two still harbor feelings for each other. Kai's decision in the end nearabout broke my heart, only I know that Cinder's going to do something about it.

I like how the series has been taking us around the country. Cinder and Kai are from New Beijing in the Commonwealth, and now Scarlet and Wolf have taken us to France. There's also a little American thrown in with "Captain" Thorne, Cinder's latest companion, a womanizer with a playful attitude. He and Iko make a good team in my opinion with how they keep fawning over the opposite sex; it's hard not to love them and their crazy personalities. Thorne is a good addition to Cinder's team, adding much needed levity to Cinder's life as she struggles with conflicts over her newfound knowledge of her true identity.

I also appreciate how the story alternates perspectives as needed to give us a picture of what's happening on multiple fronts, the primary ones being Scarlet, Cinder, and Kai. At the same time, this is what kept me from that oh-so-close 5-star rating. I didn't feel as though I got to know the characters so well because the perspective changed so much. It was close though, and it doesn't mean that the characters weren't developed--far from it! I love this second installment in the Lunar Chronicles, and I absolutely cannot wait to read the next book.

Also check out my interview with author Marissa Meyer on Cinder!

  1. Cinder
  2. Scarlet
  3. Cress
  4. Winter
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Imagine Weekly: Stacking the Shelves #65

Sunday, July 21, 2013
Imagine Weekly is a weekly feature where we share a summary of what has taken place on the blog the previous week and show off books that we got.


I also received 2 copies each of five of Lauren Oliver's books!! I already gave a copy of Delirium to a friend, which is why I don't have all of them pictured here. (I didn't think to take a picture until later.) Initially, I was supposed to receive one of each, but since the shipment came in so late I received another set.

Thanks to Bloomsbury, Harlequin Enterprises Australia, Harper Collins, Little Brown, Sourcebooks, Tundra Books

* Check out more book hauls through Tynga's Stacking the Shelves *

Previous Week


Other News

Upcoming Week
  • Reviews of Scarlet, Touching the Surface, Return to Me, The School for Good and Evil, Heartkeeper

What did you get this week? Leave a link in the comments section, and I'll check out your week's haul!