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Review: The Morning Star by Robin Bridges

Monday, August 26, 2013


The Morning Star

(Katerina #3)
by Juliet Marillier

Genre: Historical FictionFantasy
Hardback: 320 Pages
Publication: August 27, 2013 by Delacorte BFYR




Synopsis

St. Petersburg, Russia, 1890

Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to be known as a doctor, not a necromancer. But Tsar Alexander III forbids women to attend medical school; his interest in Katerina extends only to her ability to raise the dead. Twice now, Katerina has helped him by using her power to thwart the forces of darkness—vampires bent on resurrecting the lich tsar Konstantin Pavlovich so that he can take what he sees as his rightful place on the throne. Katerina thought she had bound Konstantin to the Greylands, the realm of the dead, but he has found a way out. Now he is searching for the Morning Star, a sword that will allow him to command a legion of supernatural warriors.

Katerina must find the sword before Konstantin does—and she must travel to Egypt to do so. Along the way, she puts up with unwanted attention from her former fiancĂ©, the nefarious Prince Danilo, and struggles with her feelings for her true love, George Alexandrovich. But with the looming threat from Konstantin, Katerina's focus remains on the sword. Russia's fate will be determined by whoever wields the Morning Star—and delivers the final blow.


Review
◆ A copy was provided by Random House for review ◆

When I know there's a big battle coming up in the last book of a trilogy, I expect to be wowed. I want to see lots of suspense and fight scenes. I can see where people would find it in this book. However, everything seemed too stagey. I never felt drawn towards any of the characters' struggles or the plot as a whole.

Katiya is still an admirable character. She makes tough decisions in order to protect those that she cares about. However, she's human, and it's understandable that the very love that drives her to protect those close to her also causes her to make decisions that can compromise their safety, all because she wants to keep them close. Other than Katiya, there's not much to say about the other characters. Katiya never spends a good amount of time with the other characters, and if she does, much is often summarized and not enough detail is paid attention to them. Danilo and George were disappointing on the whole. I loved their unique personalities, but they were so very flat in this book. It seemed as if they'd come to embrace the stereotypical love-triangle heroes with George being the fair hero and Danilo being the mysterious intruder. There's also a 'possessed' Danilo twist that confused me much of the time because I didn't know who was speaking half the time and just how much the two personalities had blended together.

The romance wasn't all that great either. I really hate when characters do impulsive things for love, and despite her initial decision to part with George for his own good, Katiya ends up doing just that. When I think about it from the lovers' perspective, it seems to make sense for them. They love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together. However, I just didn't see the rational in rushing things like they do, especially when there's so much at stake, and they know their parents wouldn't approve of them rushing into things. Then there's the scene at the end with Danilo. I don't know. It just seems like so much was over-dramatized, and a lot of things happen a bit too conveniently for the characters.

On the whole, this was a disappointing conclusion to a series that I had come to love.


Series
  1. The Gathering Storm
  2. The Unfailing Light
  3. The Morning Star
Similar Books
  • Something Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard
Content
  • Kissing

Click here to read my interview with Robin Bridges on the Katerina Trilogy!

Ember Blog Tour: Interview with Christine O'Neil & Giveaway

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Entangled Teen has launched its latest division Ember, which will be specializing in digital-first YAs. Very recently, they've launched two exciting titles: Darker Days by Jus Accardo and Chaos by Christine O'Neil. In celebration of the launch, I have for you today an interview with Christine O'Neil and a giveaway!




Chaos

(Karden Chronicles #1)
by Christine O'Neil

Genre: Paranormal
Publication: August 19, 2013 by Entangled Teen Ember



Synopsis

My name is Maggie Raynard. After sixteen years being just plain me, suddenly, when I lose my temper, my fingers become weapons of mass destruction. Turns out I'm a semi-god, descended from Aphrodite. Sounds cool in theory, but when I accidentally put my ex-boyfriend in a coma, things go downhill pretty fast.

Now some new guy named Mac Finnegan has made it his mission in life to continually piss me off. I'm stuck learning how to use my new powers while also dealing with regular high school problems, and with this annoying and super-hot—guy all up in my business, I'm about to flip out.

But it gets worse. I just learned there's this watchdog council of semis who keep an eye out for any bad apples. They think I'm the baddest one in the bunch and want to take me out before I do any more damage. My nemesis Mac might turn out to be my salvation, only he's got secrets of his own...and they may just kill us both.




Darker Days

(The Darker Agency #1)
by Jus Accardo

Genre: Paranormal
August 19, 2013 by Entangled Teen Ember



Synopsis

A little sin can be deadly...

Jessie Darker goes to high school during the day, but at night she helps with the family investigation business.

Cheating husbands and stolen inheritances? They’re your girls—but their specialty is a bit darker. Zombie in your garage? Pesky Poltergeist living in your pool? They’ll have the problem solved in a magical minute. For a nominal fee, of course...

When gorgeous new client, Lukas Scott, saunters into the office requesting their help to find a stolen box, it sounds like a simple case—until the truth comes out. The box is full of Sin.

Seven deadly ones, in fact.

They’ve got five days to recapture the Sins before they're recalled by the box, taking seven hijacked human bodies with them. Easy peasy—except for one thing...

There’s a spell that will allow the Sins to remain free, causing chaos forever. When the key ingredient threatens the life of someone she knows, Jessie must make the ultimate choice between love and family—or lose everything.


Author Interview with Christine O'Neil

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
Let’s see, I live in Pennsylvania with my hubs and kids and we spend a lot of time geeking out over TV shows like Sherlock, Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. We also love going to the movies and playing board games. I have two dogs, one name Gimli, who is a peekapoo (half Pekinese, half poodle) and one named Pug. He’s…a pug. I know >.< That’s a terrible name. We’ve tried others, but they never stick.

I’ve always been interested in reading, and, while I did write some before college, it was something I thought everyone had the ability to do and wasn’t something I ever thought of as a career. It wasn’t until my second time around in college as an adult that I fell in love with it and was encouraged by my professors to do more. Now I’m living my dream of being a full-time author and I love it!

It's wonderful how your professors encouraged you to write more and how you've become a full-time author! What draws you to the paranormal romance / urban fantasy genre?
I love the world building aspect. Like, who doesn’t want to just make a bunch of stuff up about a place that’s totally different that where they are right now? You can be as creative or fantastical as you want, as long as you maintain some sort of order and follow the rules you’ve set. It’s super fun.

Discovering new worlds is one of the things I love most about such books. In your opinion, what are three important "ingredients" to writing a successful PR/UF novel?
The first one is for books in general. Good, intricate, well-developed characters with a unique voice. I don’t care what genre I’m reading, that’s what sucks me in as a reader, so that’s what I strive to create as a writer. Then, more specific to the genres you mentioned, solid and fresh world-building. It can be hard because we’re all working off the same lore or mythology. Werewolves and full moons and silver, vamps and blood and crosses, gods and angels and demons…we’re all dipping into the same pool. The key is to try to bring something fresh and new to the table, even if it’s taking that established lore and turning it on its head a little. Last, I’d say making sure the writing is tight, and smart. PR/UF readers are savvy and there are a lot of good books out there, so taking the time to keep the tension high, the pace taut and really choosing your words carefully is important.

I agree that well-developed characters are important to my enjoyment of the book no matter the genre, and solid world building is always a plus for PR/UF novels! What inspired you to write Chaos?
This book was actually a collaboration between me and my editor and publisher at Entangled, Liz Pelletier. She was looking for someone to write a book on an idea she had and put out a call to authors, asking them to write a sample chapter that incorporated their best YA voice. Then she would pick one of the authors to work with. 156 of us sent in writing samples, and a week later, she called me, SUPER excited about the scene I sent her. She loved it so much, she wanted to contract my story immediately. So we took the little kernel of an idea I had written, and sat on the phone until around 2 a.m. brainstorming and world building around that scene. What we ended up was a loose outline for Chaos (and the rest of the Kardia Chronicles series). It was literally one of the most exciting and fun creative experiences of my life!

It's cool how many people can be involved in the writing of a novel--and how your scene out of so many got chosen for this project! If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
I love my heroine, Maggie, and I always said if she was a little older, she’d be the ideal girls night out buddy (aside from the whole “killing and maiming with her fingertips” thing). She’s super funny and witty, but she’s also got a huge heart that she tries to disguise with her humor. So fun to be around, but also someone I feel like I could bond with.

Maggie sounds pretty cool from the synopsis alone! What question did I forget to ask you and what is your answer?
You forgot to ask me if I would like to come to your house for dinner, and the answer is yes. A thousand times, yes! My favorite meal is chicken pot pie, in case you were trying to think of what to cook…

That would be awesome! I'm always open to hosting a gathering of book nerds at my place. What are you working on right now?
I’m working on book two of the Kardia Chronicles, which is slated for later this year, as well as edits for my next Entangled Brazen book (I write adult contemporary romance as well, under the pen name Christine Bell). The rest of 2013 is really popping for me with a September release called Dirty Trick, a holiday novella that I co-wrote with author Riley Murphy called Full of Possibilities, and then another novella from my Dare Me series called Down the Aisle. I also just started plotting my next YA series that’s shaping up to be an urban fantasy, which I’m really excited about!


About the Authors
Christine O'Neil
Christine O'Neil was born and raised in Connecticut, where she spent most of her childhood outdoors catching salamanders, frogs and colds. When she wasn't terrorizing Mother Nature, she was curled up under the covers with her nose in a book. As an adult, she's stopped stalking amphibians, but still loves books. When she isn't reading, she likes to spend her time people-watching. In fact, she's probably watching you RIGHT NOW O_O She's also pretty obsessed with writing YA books, but if she had to pick another profession she would be a ninja...or a Professor of the Dark Arts. Christine also writes adult romance under the pen name Christine Bell.


Jus Accardo
Jus Accardo spent her childhood reading and learning to cook. Determined to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps as a chef, she applied and was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America. At the last minute, she realized her path lay with fiction, not food, and passed on the spot to pursue writing. Jus is the bestselling author the popular Denazen series from Entangled publishing. A native New Yorker, she lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband, three dogs, and sometimes guard bear, Oswald.


This post is a part of the tour celebrating the Ember Launch

Back to School and Life

Friday, August 16, 2013
Some of you may have noticed that I haven't posted much new content since August started. Things have been rough here with my baby brother preparing to move into college and also in the lives of some of my close friends. I haven't really been in the mood to hide away by myself with a book and have instead been spending more time with those close to me. I probably won't be around much next several weeks either as I prepare to move back to the dorms myself and get back into the books (for school). It's been a time for thought about life and the future. Once things settle, I'll try to get two or three posts up a week. However, I won't be able to post as much as before because I've decided to take 18 hours this coming semester, and I also have some leadership roles in organizations to factor into account. I'll miss book blogging, but I need this break to take time to work out life and all. Thanks for the understanding.

Celebrate the Civil Rights Movement

Thursday, August 15, 2013
August 28th is the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a watershed moment in the struggle for civil rights. Today, as a part of the Random House "Celebrate the Civil Rights Movement" tour, I have for you a guest post by author Christina Diaz Gonzalez on what the speech means to her.




I have a Dream

by Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr.

Hardback: 40 Pages
Publication: October 9, 2012 by Schwartz & Wade




Synopsis

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial looking out over thousands of troubled Americans who had gathered in the name of civil rights and uttered his now famous words, "I have a dream . . ." It was a speech that changed the course of history.

This anniversary edition honors Martin Luther King Jr.'s courageous dream and his immeasurable contribution by presenting his most memorable words in a concise and convenient edition.


My Parents’ Dream
Guest Post by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I have a dream” speech touches many hearts because we all yearn for a better tomorrow… for a better world where freedom abounds and people are solely judged on the content of their character. It was just a couple of years before Dr. King gave that iconic speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. that my parents arrived in the United States seeking freedom from a totalitarian regime. They were young teenagers, but they had already been forced to grow up quickly because the only way they had to escape Castro’s Cuba was to leave without their parents through Operation Pedro Pan… a secret plan that, during a two year period, enabled over 14,000 Cuban children to find refuge in the United States. My grandparents had made the heartbreaking decision of sending away their children because they desperately wanted them to grow up with freedom and liberty, and not under Castro’s Communist regime. Yes, America was in turmoil at that time and Cubans faced their share of discrimination with apartment rentals blatantly posting signs stating “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Cubans”, but that was not the country they envisioned living in nor was it the one dreamed of by Martin Luther King Jr. No, the country they saw was (and still is today) a land of opportunity, of freedom, of hope. A place that, despite its many faults, is fueled with promise and possibilities.

It is to that country which I was born…the first U.S. born child in my family.

From a very early age, my parents made sure that I understood that, in this country, I could grow up to be whatever I wanted to be, that there would be no limitations to what I could do. My dreams led me to become a lawyer, wife, mother and finally, a published author writer. It is in the same country where Dr. King spoke about all people, regardless of skin color, having equal rights that we now have an African-American president. Yet, we still have work to do… but we most certainly have moved forward in the right direction in the struggle for Civil Rights. So, when I hear even a line or two from that classic speech, it reminds me of where we have been as a nation and why my family came here, but it also pushes me onward to continue fulfilling Dr. King’s dream of a country that is full of hope, liberty and freedom for all its people.


About the Author
Christina's Website | Facebook | Twitter

CHRISTINA DIAZ GONZALEZ made her literary debut with the much acclaimed The Red Umbrella. Her second novel, A Thunderous Whisper comes out in paperback in October 2013. She lives in Florida with her husband and children. Learn more about her at ChristinaGonzalez.com.

Did Not Finish Reviews

Saturday, August 10, 2013
Mudlark
by Chris Matthews

Genre: Fantasy   Ebook: 430 Pages
Publication: July 1, 2013 by Momentum Australia


On the outskirts of the city, a young orphan boy, Lark, is forced to scavenge the muddy flats of the river for treasure in order to survive. When he finds a magical box that cannot be opened, his life changes forever. Lark soon learns that he is destined to battle the Capposeign the corrupt and evil theocracy that rules the city of Perous with fire magic.

However, Lark soon discovers that he has his own sort of magic, earned through a childhood spent in the water. He must quickly learn how to use his power or die trying. In his quest to take down the Capposeign, Lark must ally with a witch, an artist, a revolutionary, and a strangely familiar and beautiful courtesan. Facing the powerful fire mages will push Lark and his friends to the very limit as they fight to save the city but will their efforts be enough, or will it all go up in flames?

The first third of this book went pretty well for a debut novel. The writing is solid and engaging, and I like how the story switches perspectives to give readers an idea of what is happening on multiple fronts. I also like how seemingly random incidents become part of a larger picture later on. At the same time, however, not enough time is given with each character to fully develop them properly, and over time it felt as though I didn't really know the characters and their thoughts. The perspectives also go back and forth in time, making it hard to piece the events in chronological order. On top of that, it feels as though the plot isn't really moving forward. I understand the need for certain things to happen for character development, but it's a problem when it feels as though the plot isn't moving right in the midst of the supposed action.

Content: Sex, Torture, Violence



Contributor
(Contributor #1), by Nicole Ciacchella

Genre: YA Sci-Fi Fantasy   Ebook: 216 Pages
Publication: September 2012 by NPC Books


One of only three students chosen for an elite, year-long apprenticeship, seventeen-year-old Dara Morrow is eager to excel in the high-stakes competition and prove herself a devoted Contributor. Success means a prosperous future with her Job Creator. Failure means losing her standing in society.

But Dara’s competition is ruthless, and her exacting master has little patience for her. When her mother is injured, Dara’s prospects become even more uncertain. If she can’t learn to navigate the hazards of the system, she risks not only her own safety, but that of all those she loves.

The story jumps right into the plot with Dara taking the test for the elite apprenticeship. While I appreciate how the plot starts moving right away, it could have taken the time to introduce us better to the characters (at least Dara) and the world. As it is, the story starts moving without taking the time to give at least the rudimentary world building. Yes, I know that Dara has been selected for an elite program, but I'd understand just how impressive it is had the story taken the time to show what place the Heads of Departments have in society. I also couldn't really connect to the characters. Dara tells us her opinions about characters, but it would have helped to see more interaction amongst them so I could observe their behavior around each other.

Content: N/A



The Lost Sun
(The United States of Asgard, #1) , by Tessa Gratton

Genre: YA Fantasy     Hardback: 368 Pages
Publication: June 25, 2013 by Random House BFYR


Seventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people. Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood--the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd's Academy. But that's hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That's not all Astrid dreams of--the daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities.

When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they've been told they have to be.

I was really looking forward to this because of the Norse Mythology, but the story isn't well developed. The first chapter jumps straight into the story with little world building. I had to try and work out the world as the plot moved along. The first couple chapters do little to introduce the characters as well, and I couldn't connect with them.

Content: Violence



Imperfect Spiral
by Debbie Levy

Genre: YA Contemporary   Hardback: 352 Pages
Publication: July 16, 2013 by Walker Childrens


Danielle Snyder's summer job as a babysitter takes a tragic turn when Humphrey, the five-year-old boy she's watching, runs in front of oncoming traffic to chase down his football. Immediately Danielle is caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented alien, outsiders use the accident to further a politically charged immigration debate. Wanting only to mourn Humphrey, the sweet kid she had a surprisingly strong friendship with, Danielle tries to avoid the world around her. Through a new relationship with Justin, a boy she meets at the park, she begins to work through her grief, but as details of the accident emerge, much is not as it seems. It's time for Danielle to face reality, but when the truth brings so much pain, can she find a way to do right by Humphrey's memory and forgive herself for his death?

I really love Danielle's memories of Humphrey. He's such a fun kid, and I can see why Danielle would grow so close to him. However, the story keeps alternating between flashbacks through the first quarter of the story. (I can't speak for the rest because I stopped reading around here), and it really irked me that the story wasn't moving forward. I know that Danielle needs time to wallow in grief, but I don't think we need to have all the flashbacks--at least, not all at once, and certainly not at the beginning when we're trying to get to know the characters and see where the plot is heading.

Content: Death



Things I Can't Forget
by Miranda Kenneally

Genre: Contemporary   Paperback: 320 Pages
Publication: March 1, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire


Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt--with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

I appreciate how the story shows the realistic struggle of a girl trying to figure out her beliefs and how to compromise with others. It's actually something I went through late middle school and early high school. However, I just can't connect with Kate. I'm also uncomfortable with how quickly her relationship with Matt is progressing, though this relationship seems important for her to be able to eventually reconcile with Emily. I stopped reading at 50%, but I might try and finish this later because I do want to know what happens. At the moment, however, I just can't read on.

Content: Language, Religion, Sex, Teen pregnancy


*** Content warnings are based on the parts of the novels that I read 
and may not reflect the whole of the novels ***

Review: Skull Creek Stakeout by Eddie Jones

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Skull Creek Stakeout

(Caden Chronicles #2)
by Eddie Jones

Genre: MG Mystery
Paperback: 192 Pages
Publication: August 6, 2013 by Zonderkidz




Synopsis

The good news is...vampires aren't real. The bad news is...you can't believe the news. After solving the Deadwood ghost story, Nick lands a job as a roving reporter for The Cool Ghoul Gazette, a website on paranormal disturbances. When the editor sends Nick to investigate a murder, Nick finds a corpse sporting fangs, bite marks and a gaping hole in its chest, courtesy of a wooden stake. Will Nick unravel the truth behind the 'blood covenant, ' or will his new job suck the life out of him? Nick Caden has a 'supernatural' knack for finding trouble. He's a normal fourteen-year-old who attracts ghosts, vampires, and the undead---or so it seems. But Nick's relentless search for truth leads him into worlds of darkness with grave consequences, where the dead, dying and deranged walk... on really hot coals.


Review
◆ A copy was provided by DJC Communications for review ◆

Caden flies to Transylvania, North Carolina to investigate the mystery of Barnabas Forester's death, one that seems to suggest that vampires are real. Forester was a wealthy recluse, and there are many who stood to gain with his death. To solve the case, Caden prepares to cross reference countless television shows in the hopes of solving the case before the police can. The closer he gets to the murderer, however, the greater the danger to himself and those around him.

Caden is a great character with a strong voice. He knows what he wants, and he isn't afraid to confront whoever it takes to pursue a lead. In fact, he can come off as interrogative when he's questioning people, but not so much that it alienated me. After all, Caden is a reporter, and I enjoyed seeing him 'banter' with people. The entertaining dialogue is one of the strong points of the novel. Some of the best exchanges of words are between Caden and Meg, the coroner's assistant who ends up helping with with the case. I also love Caden's Aunt Vivian, who is really is great aunt but hates to be called that because it makes her feel old. She's so filled with love and fun.

There is some romance in that Caden seems to find Meg attractive, and Aunt Vivian keeps calling them out for bickering like a married couple. However, there are only glimpses of it, for which I'm glad. A mystery novel should focus on the case at hand. The faux paranormal element of the vampire adds to the creepy factor. I also like the introduction of a mystery figure whose identity is never uncovered and who seems to be set to appear in future installments of the series.

I do wish that the story gave us a better idea of how old Meg is; it was disconcerting because I couldn't get a clear image of her in my mind. I only knew that she was padding her resume for med school and didn't have her driver's license, which makes her anywhere in the high school to college years. I wouldn't have minded so much if she only made a small appearance, but she's a constant presence in the story.

This is actually the first Caden book that I've read. For those who haven't read book one, like me, there was enough backstory provided that I didn't feel out of the loop. From other reviews I've seen, it looks like Caden has grown a lot from book one though, so reading book one should help give more insight into Caden's character. Nevertheless, I do appreciate how I didn't feel like I had to read book one to connect with the characters and the story.

Skull Creek Stakeout has made me a fan of the Caden Chronicles. I'll be following the series from here on out!

Note: There are Biblical references in the story, as well as talk of Christianity. Still, it isn't so much that it overtakes the plot to become the focus of the story, nor does it seem to preach to readers, though the Discussion Questions at the back of the book are focused on Christian values imparted in the story.


Series
  1. Dead Man's Hand
  2. Skull Creek Stakeout
Similar
  • Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur
  • The Hardy Boys series by Franklin W. Dixon
Content
  • Mild Violence
  • Mugging