Top Social

Featured Posts Slider

Review: Hidden by Donna Jo Napoli

Monday, December 29, 2014

Donna Jo Napoli

Genre: Historical
Hardback: 384 Pages
Publication: December 30, 2014
by Paula Wiseman Books (S&S imprint)

Lost at sea when her sister is taken captive on a marauding slave ship, Brigid is far removed from the only life she knew as a princess and the pampered daughter of an Irish king.

Now Brigid has few choices. Alone and abandoned, she disguises herself as a boy and vows to find her innocent sister taken into slavery. Through her search many years pass and she grows from being a child to a woman, tough Brigid does not give up. She lives from the land, meets friend and foe along the way, and gains a reputation as a woman thought to be fierce enough to conquer men. It is not fierceness that guides her but the love of sister and the longing for her family to be united. One day she finds her way, knowing that her only real power comes from within herself.


I love how historical novels like Hidden give us a look into life as it was in the past. Hidden explores the adventures of an Irish girl who finds herself in Norse territory. I especially enjoyed seeing the different cultures of the time and wish that more time was spent world building. There's so much potential for historical fiction to teach us about the lives that people led in the past.  I also love the focus of sisterly bonds. Though Brigid and her sister become separated at a young age, Brigid always remembers her sister and makes decisions based on what will allow her to chase after her sister faster. We don't see familial bonds enough in YA lit, so I was delighted to see this.

It was surprising to see that family wasn't the entire focus of the novel. The synopsis is misleading in that it doesn't tell us how much of Brigid's growth depicted throughout the novel. This causes Brigid's concern for her sister to be put on the back burner. I think it's really neat how the novel takes us through the important moments of Brigid's life. It helps give us a feel of how Brigid has grown over the years and how her experiences with different people help shape her into the person that she becomes. However, this comes with a cost. While it shows us the overarching span of Brigid's growth, we don't get to know her with the depth that we might have otherwise gotten if the story had focused on a more specific timeline. Just when I got settled into one period of Brigid's life, the story skips a few years to show us what she got out of her time in the place she was staying and has her move on. This is problematic because it feels more like we're watching a documentary of Brigid's life rather than partaking of an adventure alongside her. Furthermore, it takes the focus off Brigid's goal of finding her sister, which is the entire reason that Brigid postpones her journey home.

At the same time, it's moving to see Brigid sacrifice the different lives she might have otherwise led in pursuit of her own happiness. So many years pass before Brigid is able to begin her search for her sister. Anything could have happened in that time, and she doesn't have the Internet or media to help her. Nevertheless, she refuses to give up hope that she will find her sister one day. Her determination to rescue her sister leads her to touch lives she might not otherwise have come into contact with. It's a great reminder that our determination to reach out own goals can bring us to do things for others, thus resulting in greater happiness all around.

I do wish that the novel didn't skip around so much. The whole of Brigid's story is more than one novel has sufficient room to tell properly. It would have been better to tell it across several books or to skim over her younger years faster and focus the novel on the search for her sister. As it is, this was an enjoyable novel albeit one with a loose, poorly structured plot. I recommend this for readers looking for a historical novel that depicts Irish and Norse culture.

An ARC was provided by Simon & Schuster for review

Rating: 2.5 stars

  • Hush (companion novel)

  • Slavery
  • Rape scene (not very explicit)

Review: Penumbra by Keri Arthur

Monday, December 22, 2014

Keri Arthur

Series: Spook Squad #3
Genre: Urban FantasyCrime
Paperback: 320 Pages
Publication: October 28, 2014
by Dell


Agent Sam Ryan wants out of the Special Investigations Unit. She’s sick of the attitude from her partner, Gabriel Stern. She’s sick of the paperwork. Most of all, she’s sick of feeling lonely. But her boss isn’t about to let her go that easily. He gives Sam a choice: either stay stuck in her office or guard a clone replacement of Dan Wetherton, a government minister. Sam reluctantly chooses the latter—even though she suspects she’s being used as bait to draw out the SIU’s elusive nemesis.

Gabriel would like nothing better than to be on his own, without a partner to hold him back. Then he learns that Sam has been assigned to protect Wetherton—or whatever it is that’s replaced him. Wetherton’s clone could have come from only one place: Hopeworth, the military base that contains the secrets of Sam’s past. Determined to protect her, Gabriel is drawn into a fight against unspeakable evil. And all too soon, Sam and Gabriel discover that the connection between them is far more powerful than anyone could ever have imagined.


I came very very close several times to dnfing this book, but my curiosity to learn the answers to all my unanswered questions coming out of Generation 18 kept me pushing through to the end. Only to read the last pages and realize that they'll never be answered. Not to mention that the big war that's been promised to us from book one only really begins at the end of this book, so really what we've been reading is the prequel to the war that never happens.

This is too bad because the series had a great premise and was interesting enough that I kept reading it to the end because I wanted to find out what happens. Though Penumbra is supposed to reveal and conclude everything, however, I feel like it served primarily to push Sam and Gabriel's relationship into becoming something. Past Keri Arthur books have had a large focus on the romance, so it normally wouldn't have been overly problematic for me. Nevertheless, with so many gaping plot holes in Penumbra plot-wise and character-wise, it overtook the rest of the plot. There's also minimal world building, but that's a problem I've faced accepted comes along with Keri Arthur books because it does let us get to the action faster.

The romance was also poorly developed, something I thought would have still been there even if everything else fell apart. There was a lot of potential to explore Gabriel's psychology here as he struggles with his loyalty to Andrea and his hawk form that mates once only for life even as he feels an undeniable attraction to Sam (for reasons we never find out). However, he seems to get over it pretty quickly, which meant we don't get to see Sam fulfill her plans to try to seduce Gabriel. . .that seems to have gotten lost somewhere.

As it is, Penumbra is a disappointing, poorly executed "conclusion" to the Spook Squad series. Not only does it fail to answer the multitude questions that have been raised throughout the series, it switches over to an epilogue of sorts immediately after Sam and Gabriel promise to fight to take down Sethanon together. If you're looking for answers and a solid conclusion to the series, I wouldn't bother reading this one. If you care enough though, you can read it for answers to Sam's past and to see the beginnings of her happily ever after with Gabriel.

An ARC was provided by Random House for review

Rating: 1 star


  • Making out
  • Violence, gruesome deaths

Imagine Weekly

Sunday, December 21, 2014
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 received for review:

Hidden by Donna Jo Napoli (Goodreads | Amazon)
The Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowen (Goodreads | Amazon)
The Child Returns by Kristen Taber (Goodreads | Amazon)

The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost (Goodreads | Amazon)
Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly (Goodreads | Amazon)
The 100 by Kass Morgan (Goodreads | Amazon)
Day 21 by Kass Morgan (Goodreads | Amazon)

Thanks to Harlequin, Harper Collins, Kristen Taber, Little Brown, Merit Press, Random House, and Simon & Schuster
* Check out more book hauls through Stacking the Shelves at Tynga's Reviews and The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer *

Last Week on the Blog


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

Review: The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Vampire Lestat
Anne Rice

Genre: Gothic Horror
Paperback: 550 Pages
Publication: October 1986 (originally 1985)
by Ballantine Books

Lestat, having risen from the earth after a fifty-five years' sleep, and infatuated with the modern world, presents himself in all his vampire brilliance as a rock star, a superstar, a seducer of millions. And, in this blaze of adulation, daring to break the vampire oath of silence, he determines to tell his story, to rouse the generations of the living dead from their slumbers and to penetrate the riddle of his own existence.


Once again, my love of vampires reigned supreme when I drew this book for review. I was already well acquainted with Lestat from previous books and the film adaptation (yes, I did picture Tom Cruise at times while reading), so I was curious as to how his origin story would turn out. Needless to say, I was dazzled by the time I finished.

Since he's our protagonist this time around, let's look at Lestat. While he came across as devilish yet somehow magnetic in Interview with the Vampire, this book provides for a slightly different vampire. He's still a brat and seems to have thing for breaking rules, but we get to see why he acted the way he did in the last book. Call it my weakness for rock stars in leather on motorcycles, but I found myself falling for Lestat in the first few pages of the novel. I actually had to remind myself that this same guy was the antagonist of the book I'd read only a few weeks ago. But these first few chapters really reminded me why other characters find themselves so drawn to him.

I think what gave way to this change of feelings towards Lestat was the way this story was told. Since we only saw him from Louis's perspective in the last book, we saw Lestat as Louis painted him: a cruel leader who wanted to keep any and all knowledge of other vampires and vampiric nature from his fledglings. Again, since we see Lestat's life from his early years as a young aristocrat and actor to his transformation into a vampire and the years that follow, we learn the reasons why he kept all of this information from Louis and Claudia. He actually reminded me of Louis when he is first transformed, fascinated with his new senses and holding a desire to live among mortals.

Where pacing was a problem for me in the last book, it wasn't the case for this one. Lestat as a narrator has a livelier voice than Louis, and the way the narrative is split into parts allows for an easier transition to the different major events of Lestat's life. What I did find myself struggling with a bit was the fact that Lestat doesn't really mention dates as time goes by. He'll say that a few months or years have passed, but there are rare instances of concrete dates given. This may just be due to his vampire nature, since the passage of time feels different to immortals. We also get more on the physical aspects and abilities of vampires and their mythos, including the origin of Those Who Must Be Kept, the oldest vampires in existence.

I think what I loved the most about this book was the emergence of other vampires, some of whom were familiar faces from the previous installment of the series. We once again meet the brooding Armand and learn briefly how he came to be born to darkness, as well as the establishment of the Theater of the Vampires. Later Lestat encounters Armand's creator Marius, who also gives us his tale of becoming a vampire and becoming the guardian of Those Who Must Be Kept. (Marius was already familiar to me since I'd read Pandora, so it was fun getting to hear about his tenure as a vampire.) Towards the end of the book we also get the reappearance of Louis, our narrator from Interview. Call it my weakness for him in particular, but I just about screamed with joy when he showed up. The moments with him also illustrated the change in how Lestat is portrayed.

I'll admit that I did like how the ending for Interview set you up for this book, but I really loved how the ending of this book sets up the next sequel. The last few sections are thrilling, with Lestat's band putting on their first show at a sold-out stadium in San Francisco, and the scene is fabulously put together, making you feel that you are right there with him onstage. The high energy and action of these last few pages, as well as the cliffhanger at the very end, left me excited to pick up the next book.

This book definitely tops its predecessor. Again, Rice's writing is fantastic in this book, and Lestat as a protagonist is a real delight. The vampires were great, possibly better this time around, and the ties to the last book worked incredibly well. The origin stories were good additions and could easily be picked up again in more detail in later books. This installment of the Vampire Chronicles was an absolute joy to read.

Rating: 5 stars

  1. Interview with the Vampire
  2. The Vampire Lestat
  3. The Queen of the Damned
  4. The Tale of the Body Thief
  5. Memnoch the Devil
  6. The Vampire Armand
  7. Merrick
  8. Blood and Gold
  9. Blackwood Farm
  10. Blood Canticle
  11. Prince Lestat
Similar Books
  • Hotel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  • Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman
  • Sunglasses After Dark by Nancy A. Collins
  • Violence
  • Kissing
  • Scenes with intense homoerotic undertones
  • Some gore
  • Some graphic depictions of murder

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Thousand Pieces
Of You

Claudia Gray

Series: Firebird #1
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Hardback: 368 Pages
Publication: November 4, 2014
by Harper Teen

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.


A Thousand Pieces of You is by far one of the best books I've read in 2014. In fact, I knew that there was a good chance I was going to love this book from the first lines of the novel.

My hand shakes as I brace myself against the brick wall. Rain falls cold and sharp against my skin, from a sky I've never seen before.

How beautiful is that?

To my delight, the novel continued to live up to the high expectations those first lines set. The worlds that Marguerite crosses are beautifully imperfect in their own ways and gives a glimpse of how her life can change so much based on even the smallest change in history. To my surprise, I found myself getting swept into Marguerite's life as she chases Paul across the different dimensions. While I expected a somewhat emotional book, given their complex relationship (I mean, we're told from the beginning that he murdered her father. . . or did he?), I hadn't expected the depth to this book. The idea of two peoples' fates being tied together and seeing how parts of their relationship don't seem to change no matter what happens to them in the present or in their alternate egos. . . while I do believe that there is a danger to thinking there is only one person out there for us, as it can cause us to stay too long in a relationship that really isn't working (I had to say it), it's breathtaking.

Marguerite's story starts in the right place and time for me. Starting in medias res is a perfect introduction to so many components of the book: the multiverse, Marguerite's chase, and the mess of emotions this novel will work in your heart. It proceeds not to get bogged down in backstory or even to narrate the story from the beginning like a lot of books I've read. Instead, it gives us information as needed, giving time to build up the tension before revealing everything to us. My only problem is that the villain close to home was pretty easy to guess. (Spoiler alert: highlight to read.) There's a problem with the two-guy trend in YA lit. If one isn't good for you, the other has to be bad for you. At least, that's how it seems to run right now. Nevertheless, there are some twists to the plot, and the multiverse itself is interesting enough to keep me hooked.

Frankly, there are some glitches in believability. The science of the Firebird doesn't seem plausible to me. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, but the whole idea was seriously questionable to me. Even then, there was just enough given that I was left with more questions than if Marguerite had no knowledge whatsoever about its workings. (In that case, I could have accepted it and moved on.) Nevertheless, while I have questions here, it certainly didn't take away from my enjoyment of the novel. The different worlds that Marguerite visits are beautifully sketched with such careful detail and compelling characters that they really come to life and made me feel for each one. It made me feel like this was what I've been waiting to see in a good sci-fi romance book.

(Warning: some potential spoilers)

At the same time, when you travel to another universe here, you adopt the body of the you in that reality. (Hence, you can't travel to a world where you're already dead or never existed in the first place.) I know that it's her body, so Marguerite naturally assumes that the her from that dimension would agree with her decisions, but each action she makes influences that her in that dimension. Sometimes, she does some questionable things that I strongly feel violate the rights of her alter ego. Like putting her alter ego's life in danger and having sex with someone. So it was really cool when Marguerite later realizes the ethical problems of multiverse traveling and raises the question herself. Even if her alter ego also likes the guy she had sex with, she took a precious moment away from her alter ego, who may not have even wanted it, not to mention that it complicates her feelings for that person in her own world.

That said, I did have a serious problem with the sex scene. On top of Marguerite violating her alter ego's rights, putting her in a compromising position, and endangering her (there's no condoms or birth control), she didn't know the guy very well. Sure, she knew the version from her world, but their relationship moved very quickly. This wasn't even the first time it happened. Near the beginning of the book, she would have had sex with another guy if he hadn't decided they should wait. Everything just seems to move so fast for Marguerite in relationships. It made me very uncomfortable. Other than this, however, I loved the book for the most part.

(End potential spoilers)

Set in a richly imaginative multiverse with, A Thousand Pieces of You is filled with compelling characters, plotline, and narration, that come together to explore some deep questions about fate and the ethics of traveling into parallel universes. I recommend this to readers that enjoy an emotional, deeply provocative novel that will sweep you into its world.

An ARC was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 4.5 star

  • A Thousand Pieces of You
  • Firebird #2
  • Firebird #3

  • Alcohol, Drugs, Clubs
  • Kissing, making out, sex
  • Some violence

Review: House of the Rising Sun by Kristen Painter

Monday, December 15, 2014

House of the Rising Sun
Kristen Painter

Series: Crescent City #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Crime
Paperback: 403 Pages
Publication: May 13, 2014
by Orbit Books

Augustine lives the perfect life in the Haven city of New Orleans. He rarely works a real job, spends most of his nights with a different human woman, and resides in a spectacular Garden District mansion paid for by retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, who has come to think of him as an adopted son, providing him room and board and whatever else he needs.

But when Augustine returns home to find Olivia's been attacked by vampires, he knows his idyllic life has comes to an end. It's time for revenge—and to take up the mantle of the city's Guardian.


House of the Rising Sun has a compelling plotline. Those of you who have followed this blog regularly know that I've been getting into urban fantasy this year, and I was prepared to be taken for a thrilling ride with this one. While the novel wasn't quite the thrill I hoped it would be, the story definitely had me hooked with the intrigue surrounding the sudden population of vampires, not to mention the different subplots relating to different characters.

I especially like how the story is focused on Augustine, a male character. It's different from most UF books I read, and I liked him pretty well despite the awkward start. (Meeting him in a hotel the morning after... not a great start for me.) As I got to know him, I really grew to sympathize with Augustine. He's a kind boy who had to grow up too fast because of his differences. His abilities are pretty neat as well, and I enjoyed seeing how he makes use of them on the battlefield. The addition of Harlow's narrative was a surprise. I hadn't expected her presence as the synopsis only mentions Augustine. Honestly, I really didn't like her for much of the novel and still don't particularly like her. Family is really important to me, and the way she treats her mother (the sweet Olivia) made me so mad. To give her credit thought, she grows somewhat over the course of the novel.

I found the world very compelling and wish there was more world building. For the most part, I felt like I was reading for the plot when so much could have been done to really bring the world to life. I would have also loved to see more character development. So many of the characters are going through trying times with all the deaths and ruckus going on. I would have loved to see more of the characters' growth over the story.

Overall, House of the Rising Sun is a solid novel. While there is definitely room for the story to grow over the course of the series, it has a unique plot and characters with compelling backstories. If you're looking for a good, but not fantastic UF crime novel, I would recommend picking this one up for a different kind of UF read.

** I'm writing this review a several months after I read the book, so my memory isn't the best **

An ARC was provided by Orbit Books for review

Rating: 2.5 stars

  1. House of the Rising Sun
  2. City of Eternal Night

Similar Books
  • Kissing / making out
  • Alcohol
  • Sex
  • Violence

Review: Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen

Friday, December 12, 2014

Centaur Rising
Jane Yolen

Genre: MG/YA Urban Fantasy
Paperback: 272 Pages
Publication: October 1, 2014
by Henry Holt and Co.

One night during the Perseid meteor shower, Arianne thinks she sees a shooting star land in the fields surrounding her family’s horse farm. About a year later, one of their horses gives birth to a baby centaur. The family has enough attention already as Arianne’s six-year-old brother was born with birth defects caused by an experimental drug—the last thing they need is more scrutiny. But their clients soon start growing suspicious. Just how long is it possible to keep a secret? And what will happen if the world finds out?


Centaur Rising is unique from other urban fantasy books I've read in that it explores how an isolated incident of magic will be received by the human world. This is definitely the part that I loved most about the book. From seeing the family's initial reactions to how they dealt with keeping this secret to how they deal with peoples' reactions upon learning their secret. (Because you really can't hide a growing centaur boy forever.) Robbie's reaction is especially precious. Having been homeschooled for most of his life because the other kids at school made fun of his appearance (he's a thalidomide baby), he hasn't really had the chance to socialize with other young boys, and the way he takes to Kai, as they decide to name the centaur, is precious. It's also a great reminder that sometimes we should accept gifts / miracles for what they are instead of questioning them.

Another wonderful aspect about the book is that it provides a sketch on how people approach conflict. As more people find out about Kai, more people want to give their opinion on what should be done, providing the breeding grounds for dissension. Even when people seem to be in agreement on the surface, there is a lot of internal conflict as well with everyone struggling with his or her own demons and the adults keeping things from the kids (Arianne is thirteen, Robbie six). This makes it a great book to present to upper MG and younger YA readers because it shows them the different ways that people approach conflict and deal with the problem of keeping a secret. Given the troubles keeping a secret brings Arianne's family, it also raises the question of whether a secret is worth keeping. Is it worth keeping the secret, or would have transparency from the beginning have been better?

Despite the great themes in the book, I did have problems with the narration. I always felt like a future Arianne was relaying events to us. While this is case, the narrative distance made it hard to relate to the characters over the course of the story. Arianne the narrator seems to be so busy telling the story that she misses out on chances to explore her feelings in the moment and show us how it feels to be a part of these events. The dialogue also felt forced and the characters weren't well developed. Mostly, the characters were brought in as needed to make a point and disappeared afterwards until they were needed again. This is a missed opportunity to show us how an unusual event influences people. While we definitely see the community coming together, there definitely could have been more to the process. For example, while Mr. Suss is mentioned, we never really see him appear. I would have also liked to see more exploration of the changes in Joey's mother after she finds out about Kai. It's also problematic that Kai, the one upon whom everyone's attention is focused, never really gets a chance to speak for him. Even when he speaks up at the end, it's truly Arianne who makes the bargain in his place.

Nevertheless, this is definitely a story meant for younger readers. There are great themes for them to explore in this book, and the unique plot may capture their interest. I recommend this for those who enjoy MG/YA books with a magical feel.

An ARC was provided by Macmillan for review

Rating: 2.5 stars

  • N/A

Similar Books
  • N/A
  • Language
  • Alcohol and alcohol-related aggression (drunken dad shows up)

Review: The Dark Between by Sonia Gensler

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Dark Between
Sonia Gensler

Genre: YA ParanormalMystery
Hardcover: 352 Pages
Publication: August 27, 2013
by Knopf Books For Young Readers

At the turn of the twentieth century, Spiritualism and séances are all the rage—even in the scholarly town of Cambridge, England. While mediums dupe the grief-stricken, a group of local fringe scientists seeks to bridge the gap to the spirit world by investigating the dark corners of the human mind. 
Each running from a shadowed past, Kate, Asher, and Elsie take refuge within the walls of Summerfield College. But their peace is soon shattered by the discovery of a dead body nearby. Is this the work of a flesh-and-blood villain, or is something otherworldly at play? This unlikely trio must illuminate what the scientists have not, and open a window to secrets taken to the grave—or risk joining the spirit world themselves. 


I think this is the first time I've ever read a novel that centers around Spiritualism. Since this was the case, I have to admit that I was looking forward to reading it based on the premise. However, I felt that this novel fell a bit short on its promise.

I have mixed feelings about our protagonists. Kate, Asher, and Elsie get fairly equal amounts of screen time, so they're pretty well developed characters. However, I thought their individual developments could've benefited from some flashbacks. We're told about their pasts in tidbits, in particular about Elsie's unique condition, but these pieces are never expanded later on. I wanted to know more about the art tutor Elsie once loved, the relationship between Asher and his father, and how becoming an orphan affected Kate. Since the brief pieces of their past aren't elaborated on, I thought this was a big loss, as this information could've made these somewhat interesting characters even more so.

Much like previous books I've reviewed, this narrative follows a different character in each chapter. This was fine, but the problem I had with this structure was that there would be switches of the narrative within individual chapters. These sudden changes felt jolting and disorienting because of the switches of character and situation. I felt that this would've been better handled if each chapter just followed one character at a time.

Normally I take my time reading books because I like to savor them, if you will. This was a rare instance where I wish I had rushed through the book instead. The pacing felt very, very slow throughout the whole novel. There were a few sections that I wish hadn't meandered so much, and these made the plot seem to drag out more than necessary. Unfortunately, the prose didn't do anything to help this problem either. It wasn't horrible, but at times it didn't make for smooth reading.

Throughout this book, I felt most invested in the mystery. The way the clues were gradually revealed worked well, and I really liked how the three protagonists discover personal ties with the society of paranormal researchers. Since there were quite a few possible suspects for the murderer, it was actually fun and compelling to see how the trio gathered evidence and figured out who could and couldn't be guilty. I was curious about the nature of the murders and really wanted to know who or what was doing the killing, and the sleuthing moments didn't disappoint.

That being said, the ending left quite a bit to be desired. Once the killer's identity has been revealed, the story skips to a few hours afterwards with the characters discussing the accident that resulted because of said discovery. It honestly felt really anti-climactic for me. I thought this revelation would cause some sort of uproar, but because the character who finds out who the killer decides not to tell everyone the truth, we don't get the full effect of the revelation. I have to admit that I was genuinely shocked at who it turned out to be, but I felt that the motivation was lacking. Even though this novel is a standalone, the last few pages made me think that there would be the possibility of a sequel, or at least some sort of epilogue.

Part of me thinks I'm being a bit generous with this book because I genuinely liked the mystery for the most part. The characters were all right, though I still wish we had gotten some more on their respective pasts. However, missing background on characters, sudden switches in narrative, a lukewarm climax and an unsatisfactory ending hurt my enjoyment of this book.

Rating: 2 stars



Similar Books
  • Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
  • Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison
  • Kissing
  • Some touching
  • Brief physical violence
  • Some disturbing imagery

Review: Kissing Coffins by Ellen Schreiber

Friday, November 28, 2014

Kissing Coffins
Ellen Schreiber

Genre: YA Urban FantasyParanormal Romance
Paperback: 240 Pages
Publication: May 1, 2007 (originally 2005)
by HarperTeen

Not far from Dullsville, someone's lurking in the dark. . . . After meeting the handsome and shadowy Alexander Sterling, goth-girl Raven's dark world has a bright, new glow. But as in her favorite movie, Kissing Coffins, Raven knows that love always has its complications, especially when Alexander has a big secret to guard. When Alexander suddenly disappears, Raven leaves Dullsville to begin a dangerous search to find him. Can she stay safe, no matter who--or what--she encounters on the way? 


When I first discovered the Vampire Kisses series, I read some of them out of order, this entry being the first one I picked up. While I remember being very excited when I read this book a few years ago, I have to admit that I had to hold back any fond teenage memories of that reading. Fortunately, this entry in the series held up better than the first.

I know I brought it up when talking about the last book, but comparisons tend to come up between this series and Twilight, since they fall within the same genre and came out within a few years of each other. Unlike Bella, who does nothing in the several months the sparkly one is gone in New Moon, Raven is very active in this book from the beginning. She goes out and does some investigating (calling herself "Nancy Drew dipped in black") to figure out where Alexander could have gone. I feel like this sequence is both a plus and a minus. The bad thing is that it makes Raven looks like a clingy girlfriend, needing to know where her boyfriend could've gone off to only a few days after he leaves town. The positive is that her taking initiative and actually doing something is better than just moping around and wondering when Alexander will return. It reminds us of how feisty and spunky she is. I also liked that we got some of her thoughts about dating a vampire and the possibility of being turned into one; she takes the time to stop and consider the consequences of such a choice.

We don't see much of Raven's family here, but we are introduced to her Aunt Libby, her father's sister, and the town of "Hipsterville." I loved Raven's aunt and would really like to see her again in the future. Like her niece, Libby isn't afraid to be her own person; she's a modern-day hippie who works at a vegan restaurant during the day while performing with a theater troupe at night. Maybe it's because Raven only spends two or three days in the town, but I really wanted to see more of Hipsterville. Where Raven's hometown of Dullsville is called a pastel, conservative town full of preps, Hipsterville is full of people from many different subcultures, from Goths like Raven to hippies like her Aunt Libby. I felt like Schreiber could've spent some more time in the town for us to get a better feel on the town's funky vibe.

I also loved the development we got in this book on Alexander. Just as we discovered Raven's love of vampires in the last book and her desire to become a creature of the night, here we got to see some of Alexander's thoughts on his vampire nature and what he thinks it would be like to have been born a human. I thought this worked well to establish him as a complement to Raven; just as she wishes to live in his world, he wants to live in hers. I really loved this about him and felt that it made him come across as a mature character, or at least more mature than Raven. There's also some development of Raven's best friend, Becky. She is described as mousy in the last book, but her few moments here show that she stands up for herself a little more now that she has a boyfriend.

What I probably loved the most about this book was the antagonist, Jagger Maxwell. Maybe it's because I just reviewed Interview with the Vampire, but I feel like Jagger is a modern-age teen version of Lestat de Lioncourt. Schreiber portrayed him as very gorgeous (albeit gorgeous if you're into guys with piercings and funky hair colors) and seductive; even I found myself drawn to him, though he clearly seemed dangerous. However, I felt like his appearance just screams "I'm the villain of the story!" when he is first introduced. I thought this could've been more subtle, like Jagger could still have the appearance of a bad boy but some redeemable quality that wouldn't make him seem like such a bad guy.

Just like the last book, we think that the whole storm has blown over by the last few chapters and that Alexander and Raven can live in peace. However, the very last chapter came with a twist that sets you up for another sequel. Unlike the twist from Vampire Kisses, this one could be seen coming, as there were a few clues sprinkled in about the person it centers around. The twist has a better setup for the sequel than the first book, and you don't quite get the feeling that the story is missing a chapter at the end or something. The trouble with Jagger has presumably ended, but then comes a new character and there is the feeling of "To be continued" that leaves you in anticipation for the next book.

Though it has some flaws, this book was an improvement to the last one in my mind. (For this review and the last one, I read the new edition that has the first three books of the series collected in a single volume. If you would like to check it out, click here.) Even though Schreiber still relies on some stereotypes, there's actually more development to some of the characters, in particular Alexander and Raven. We get to leave Dullsville and see the town of Hipsterville, if briefly. We get a great villain in Jagger Maxwell, and the lead-up to the next book was executed well. This book was definitely better than the original.

Rating: 4 stars

  1. Vampire Kisses
  2. Kissing Coffins
  3. Vampireville
  4. Dance With a Vampire
  5. The Coffin Club
  6. Royal Blood
  7. Love Bites
  8. Cryptic Cravings
  9. Immortal Hearts

Similar Books
  • The Taste of Night by R.L. Stine
  • Got Fangs? by Katie Maxwell
  • Pulse by Kailin Gow
  • Kissing
  • Some touching
  • Biting
  • Some physical confrontation

Review: Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber

Friday, November 21, 2014

Vampire Kisses
Ellen Schreiber

Genre: YA Urban FantasyParanormal Romance
Paperback: 253 Pages
Publication: July 26, 2005 (originally 2003)
by HarperTrophy

In her small town, dubbed "Dullsville," sixteen-year-old Raven — a vampire-crazed goth-girl — is an outcast. But not for long... The intriguing and rumored-to-be haunted mansion on top of Benson Hill has stood vacant and boarded-up for years. That is, until its mysteriously strange new occupants move in. Who are these creepy people — especially the handsome, dark, and elusive Alexander Sterling? Or rather, what are they? Could the town prattle actually ring true? Are they vampires? Raven, who secretly covets a vampire kiss, both at the risk of her own mortality and Alexander's loving trust, is dying to uncover the truth. 


I was in high school when the Twilight craze was at its strongest, and I was a fan at first. But around the time the movie came out my junior year, I decided that I needed to look for some new vampires, preferably some that didn't sparkle. I actually read most of this series in high school, but I thought it would be good to revisit it and see if it holds up as well for an adult as it did for a teenage girl.

Schreiber's writing is fresh and light, definitely easy enough for a tween to follow. I did find a few inconsistencies in timing and details, but these were probably minor enough that wouldn't really bother younger readers. There is a bit of angst thrown in for teens to relate to, but it's not done in a heavy-handed way. There's plenty of humor, and seeing a Goth girl get the best of preppy boys made for some good laughs, whether you're a Goth or not.

Personally, I love and hate Raven at the same time. I love her because she is spunky and sassy, stands up for herself and what she believes in, and cares for her best friend and family even though they don't agree with or share her lifestyle choices. I hate her because her sassiness sometimes borders on making her look like a brat and at times her tastes seem a little... extreme in keeping with cliches, if you will. Something I think people should keep in mind (and that I wish I had known a few years ago) before reading this book is that Ellen Schreiber was a comedian before becoming a writer. Raven is a parody of Goths, what with wearing black lipstick every day, obsessing over vampires, and automatically hating any article of clothing that isn't black. As a Goth myself, I frequently found myself rolling my eyes or giggling at her, as I still embrace some of those cliches at my age.

Most of the other characters were bland, and this was really disappointing. We get quite a bit on how Raven's parents were hippies when they first met, but there isn't really any description about how they came to become more conservative. As soon as Raven's little brother Billy was born, their parents trade in the lava lamps and seventies paraphernalia for Tiffany lamps and business suits. Lack of braces and glasses aside, Billy is a stereotypical computer nerd and annoying little brother. Raven's best friend Becky is a shy and mousy farm girl, mostly acting as Raven's shadow. The antagonist, popular jock Trevor Mitchell, had the potential to be interesting, but that promise fell short, since we are never told why he constantly picks on Raven. Since this is the first book in the series, there will hopefully be some more development on these characters later on.

This book features probably the best teenage vampire I've read about, and we don't see him as much as I would like. We do run into Alexander once or twice in the first half of the book, but he doesn't actually do anything. When he does start to get more screen time, we can see that he really seems like an average, somewhat sheltered guy. He's definitely the opposite of the cool and confident Trevor. He's sweet and kind and very polite, and is later revealed to be something of a romantic. Even though we don't get to spend a lot of time with him, what we do get is enjoyable.

Film critic Leonard Maltin once called Jaws a "miracle" movie, because everything that could've gone wrong went wrong. The same could be said for this book, but in terms of coincidences. It seemed that every piece of evidence that could prove Alexander to be a vampire had some sort of explanation. It actually got to the point where I was expecting him to turn out to just be a normal boy, but then came the reveal in the last few chapters, which felt a lot like the twist ending of a Goosebumps book. I'm also not sure what to make of the ending. It's a good thing that this isn't a standalone book because, by the end, the story feels like it still has something to say. The last chapter practically sets you up for the sequel and leaves you wondering what will happen.

This book isn't horrible, but it isn't stellar either. Lack of character depth and overuse of stereotypes aside, this was a pretty fun read. Despite being something of a caricature, Raven is a likable enough protagonist, and Alexander as a love interest is intriguing and sweet. The mystery and reveal could've been handled better, but there were quite a few moments that provided great laughs throughout the book. This is definitely a teen and tween friendly read, and this book is definitely better than that other series we've come to make so much fun of.

Rating: 3 stars

  1. Vampire Kisses
  2. Kissing Coffins
  3. Vampireville
  4. Dance With a Vampire
  5. The Coffin Club
  6. Royal Blood
  7. Love Bites
  8. Cryptic Cravings
  9. Immortal Hearts

Similar Books
  • Vampire Crush by AM Robinson
  • Got Fangs? by Katie Maxwell
  • Pulse by Kailin Gow
  • Kissing
  • Biting
  • Some physical confrontation

Giveaway: Endsinger by Jay Kristoff

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

by Jay Kristoff

Genre: SteampunkFantasy
Hardback: 432 Pages
Publication: November 25, 2014
by Thomas Dunne Books

The flames of civil war sweep across the Shima Imperium. With their plans to renew the Kazumitsu dynasty foiled, the Lotus Guild unleash their deadliest creation—a mechanical goliath known as the Earthcrusher, intended to unite the shattered Empire under a yoke of fear. With the Tiger Clan and their puppet Daimyo Hiro in tow, the Guild marches toward a battle for absolute dominion over the Isles.

Yukiko and Buruu are forced to take leadership of the Kagé rebellion, gathering new allies and old friends in an effort to unite the country against the chi-mongers. But the ghosts of Buruu’s past stand between them and the army they need, and Kin’s betrayal has destroyed all trust among their allies. When a new foe joins the war tearing the Imperium apart, it will be all the pair can do to muster the strength to fight, let alone win.

The traitor Kin walks the halls of Guild power, his destiny only a bloody knife-stroke away. Hana and Yoshi struggle to find their place in a world now looking to them as heroes. Secret cabals within the Lotus Guild claw and struggle; one toward darkness, the other toward light. And as the earth splits asunder, as armies destroy each other for rule over an empire of lifeless ash and the final secret about blood lotus is revealed, the people of Shima will learn one last, horrifying truth.

There is nothing a mother won't do to keep her children by her side.



1 Copy of Endsinger
Open to the US / Canada only

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Jay Kristoff grew up in the most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. He spent most of his formative years locked in his bedroom with piles of books, or gathered around dimly-lit tables rolling polyhedral dice. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of.

Connect with Jay
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

This post was made as part of the tour hosted by Thomas Dunne
To view the full list of participating sites, click here