Sunday, May 31, 2015

Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir~Hank Quense | Review

Title: Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir
Author: Hank Quense
Genre: Nonfiction Writing Guide
Length: 69 Pages
Release: May 2015
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

As an aspiring author, this guide will be extremely useful. Quense outlines his own planning process, giving suggestions for programs or techniques that can be adapted to fit the needs of many writers. 

Among the topics discussed are setting, character, and story development. All of these are very important aspects for any form of story. The author has also included a sample character outline and features or emotions that he uses to give his characters life. 

A lot of the guide discusses the use Mind-Maps to store important information about the story. While this approach is not for everyone, it is easily adaptable. I personally prefer lists, but these map structures can be adapted to fit that as well. I found them very helpful. 

The author has included the text for one of his short stories in the appendix in order to more easily convey some of the points he makes about his mind mapping process. I found this extremely useful because it gives you a glimpse of the process can work with a longer project. 

Quense uses a very structured format when writing his stories, so this process will not appeal to everyone. However, it's important to explore multiple avenues when writing. It takes time to develop a system that works for you. This will definitely be a valuable resource in my own writing endeavors.

I'm sure the guide as a whole could use some more polish, but it is a valuable resource for writers. I feel that it would be most useful to those just beginning who are not sure where to start in planning. The process is straightforward and easily adaptable to different genres and styles of writing.

Out of Sight~Benedict Reid

Title: Out of Sight
Author: Benedict Reid
Genre: Middle Grade/YA Contemporary
Length: 170 Pages
Release: 2014
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rob is a teen from Seattle living in New Zealand. He's the "American" in the group. After being exposed to the music (and coffee, but mostly music) in Seattle, Rob decides to start a band. With his friends David and Jimmy, Rob forms Out of Sight. The only problem: Rob has no musical talent. He has a good ear, but he can't sing or play an instrument. 

Early on in the novel, when he discovers that Dave's sister Michelle is a killer bassist and singer, Rob decides that maybe his musical talents lie in management. He enters the band in a musical competition hoping that if they win he can use the winnings to help his crush Sarah with medical expenses. Things get crazy from here, but Out of Sight is a crown favorite. 

This novel was fun, but could definitely use some improvement. The writing could use some polish to help it flow more smoothly. Rob and the rest of the characters are fairly interesting, but some of their dialogue is choppy. 

I like the music aspect of the novel. I always enjoy reading about bands and managers. They just make for really fun stories. The added charity aspect is a nice touch and Sarah was a nice character for the story. I did think that some of the success of the band and events were somewhat extreme for a group of teenagers just starting out. It just wasn't quite as realistic as I was expecting in that regard. 

There was some tension between the band members when one of them starts ditching practice and playing with another band. This was too glossed over. The outcome was overall satisfactory, but I think a bit more focus on this aspect could have helped give the story more of a realistic feel. 

This was a fun read, but I did not find it extremely engaging or compelling. I think that many middle grade readers would definitely enjoy it and I would recommend it to this age group and those who like to read stories aimed at this age group.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Down the Wormhole~Ana Franco | Review

Title: Down the Wormhole
Author: Ana Franco
Genre: YA Fantasy/Mythology
Length: 203 Pages
Release: March 2015
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This story has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it fell short of the mark for me. I expected more connection to the modern world than there was, so that was surprising. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I felt that it was all mythological gods and things when I was expecting more connections to reality. 

The author, Ana Franco, from what I understand, is not a native English speaker or writer and still wrote this novel in English! The language usage was confusing through a lot of the novel and the switch from perspective to perspective could be a bit abrupt, but I think with some more polish the story would flow much more smoothly. 

The story itself deals with Celtic and Norse gods. The mythological aspect was quite interesting, but I don't think things tied together very well. There would be strange bouts of conflict that would suddenly end or be ignored for a while before popping back up again. I found this both confusing and rather off putting.

The characters were likable in most cases, but I didn't feel that they were very developed. And relationships were rushed. Along those lines, the passage of time didn't seem to make any sense at times. Sometimes it seemed like only a few minutes were supposed to have passed and then it would be a week or two. It left me rather confused. 

I think the story has a lot of potential and could be a fun mythological tale with romance and humor, but it needs more polish and some development to be really enjoyable. 

The Thirteenth Hour~Joshua Blum | Review

Title: The Thirteenth Hour
Author: Joshua Blum
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 349 Pages
Release: January 2015
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This book was a lot of fun. There really is no other way to describe it. A majority of the story is told as a dream. Albert, a young daydreamer, falls to sleep in class and a man and woman visit his dreams. The story they tell him becomes the majority of the novel. 

Logan is an orphan who grew up in a small town at an orphanage where he met his best friend Aurora. At 18 Logan is sent to become an Imperial Soldier. He soon finds himself training as an Imperial Ranger to be sent on a quest for the secret to eternal life. 

The beginning of this novel was really fun and I really enjoy the humor. Logan is just an average kid with average abilities who finds himself in an interesting position. After saving the life of a wizard he's thrown into the life of the Rangers. When training completes they have to set sail on a ship bound for the four corners of the earth on a search for eternal life; the king wants to live forever. 

The quest involves sea serpants, castles in the sky, elves, back flipping chimpanzees, dragons (indirectly), flying (and intelligent) surfboards, vengeful sorcerers, and so many other obstacles. Along the way Logan once again meets up with Aurora and their destinies entangle. 

The adventures that Logan and Aurora have were so much fun and humorous. Even when things seemed bleak, there was always some humor to be had. I really loved that about this story. It was so different from the novels that I'm used to reading and it was a nice break from the norm for me. I enjoyed the writing a lot. It could use some polish here and there, but overall it has a nice quality that makes it easily readable and enjoyable.

The overall theme of dreams and never being too old to be a dreamer was great because it's so true. We should never be too old to dream and to make our dreams come true. There's nothing wrong with chasing what you want. The dreams throughout the story and how they were presented was an interesting touch as well. 

I previously reviewed the accompanying short stories A Shadow in the Moonlighg and Falling Leaves Don't Weep. I really enjoyed both of those short stories at the time I read them and it was nice to see how they connect with the full novel. It's not necessary to read those before you read this or to read this before you read those, but they go together nicely. 

This was a really fun story and I'm glad that I finally made the time to read it. It's a humorous coming of age story that I think many readers would enjoy. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday Talks | Biggest Influence on my Reading Passion

Tuesday Talks is a goodreads group that was created by Janie and Janelle. Every Tuesday we discuss bookish topics through blogs, youtube, and goodreads. You can find the group here if you're interested in joining or want to watch/read the responses of other participants.

Biggest Influence on My Passion for Reading
Honestly, I think my biggest reading influence would probably be my parents. And my older siblings. I have nine older siblings and many of them were already big readers by the time I thought about picking up a book. 

Both of my parents are huge readers. My dad loved reading westerns and my mom pretty much reads anything. I remember when I was younger that my parents would always read before they went to bed. They also read to us when I was little (my siblings read to me as well). 

I wasn't a huge reader until I was an early teenager. I enjoyed reading and stories because that's what my parents always did, but I couldn't read very well myself (mostly because I refused to practice). I saw the Harry Potter movie the day it came out when I was ten years old and then I wanted to read those books. At first my mom read them with me (because she could read faster out loud than I could silently, wow, I was slow). Then I started reading more on my own and read almost anything I could get my hands on. Mostly fantasy. 

So I think my family-my parents in particular-shaped my love for reading. And fantasy stories got me hooked. 

What about you? What got you into reading? Parents, siblings, teachers, friends?

Date and Dash~Susan Hatler | Review

Title: Date and Dash (Better Date Than Never #10)
Author: Susan Hatler
Genre: Romance
Length: 105 Pages
Release: May 2015
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was a really fun, fast read. It was a nice addition to the series. I believe this is the final installment. If it is in fact the final story in this series, I would have liked to see more appearances by previous characters, but that didn't hinder my enjoyment of the story. 

What I enjoy about this series is that the main characters tend to be career driven women who also want to find love. That isn't any different here. Mary Ann is very driven in her life. She has a steady job, but also likes to be impulsive. The main story follows her as she tries to buy back a bracelet once owned by her grandmother. She just runs into a few problems along the way. 

The romance in this story was really cute. Logan is kind and considerate, despite Mary Ann's initial impression. The two get to know each other while filming a reality dating show and their real and pretend dates are adorable. He tells her about his past and his drive to do good deeds and she tells him about her fears of failure and why her grandmothers bracelet is so important. I just wish we had more Logan in the story. At some times it felt like he wasn't very involved. 

All of the side characters were really interesting and it was nice to see a few familiar characters as well as references to others. Mary Ann had some issues with her sister Ginger (another familiar face) and it was nice to see them start to figure out how they misunderstand each other. Mary Ann's work life was full of frustrating people and watching how that played out was both satisfying and kind of disappointing. I just wish there had been more involved there. Not much, but a little bit. 

The ending, as usual, was sweet and not excessively overdone. This was really fun and I think anyone who enjoys sweet, clean love stories would really enjoy the read.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fantasy of Flight~Kelly St. Clare | Review

Title: Fantasy of Flight (The Tainted Accords #2)
Author: Kelly St. Clare
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 253 Pages
Release: May 2015
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

My veil is off and I need it back.

Stuck in the lethal outer rings of Glacium, I must fight to survive until I can find the answers I seek and find a way back to the Bruma castle. Being a Solati from the enemy world of Osolis would be bad enough, but being the Tatuma, the next in line to rule…No one can find out who I really am. Especially now the veil is off.

Has the Tatum refused King Jovan’s peace offers and declared war? Do my brothers and Aquin know I’m alive? Who are my enemies and who are my friends? Nothing is certain. Though, if I think about it, nothing has been certain in a long time.
All of my worries must all be put aside.

I can’t imagine many distracted fighters survive The Pit.

Warning: Fighting, adventure, action, fantasy, sexual themes and heartbreak (about twice that found in Fantasy of Frost. Watch out for the cliff-hanger ending, too! 

This is the sequel to Fantasy of Frost, which I read earlier this year and really enjoyed. I was so excited to get an advance copy of this novel! And first of all, let's just admire that cover. I mean, look at it. The first one was really cool and had a similar pattern, but this one is just brilliant. The ice and fire and just everything. It's beautiful. And gives a great representation of the worlds.

This novel picks up shortly after the events of book one, with Olina among fighters in an illegal fighting ring. While I enjoyed watching Olina develop her skills and gain some independence, I felt that the first thirty percent or so of this novel dragged somewhat. I felt that the story became somewhat derailed and lacked the flow that kept Fantasy of Frost so engaging. I expected more development regarding the area and Kedrick's death and this became kind of a side though for Lina. 

After this slow start things picked up a bit when Lina was reunited with Jovan and the rest of the Glacium court. Things were very different this time around, but more was discussed regarding potential wars and Kedrick's murder. The story finally returned to what had captivated me so much while reading the first novel.

There were some relationships in this novel that I felt were kind of just thrown at your or forced. Some of the connections just happened too quickly and portions were a bit rushed while others were slow. The flow was just a tad off this time around. I also really don't understand the society on Glacium. For some people they think that everyone is equal, others look down on women, abuse seems rampant, but then they claim it's not an issue there. Maybe this is to show that they aren't all on the same page as far as life goes, but it felt a bit out of synch. 

There was a touch of romance in this one and I actually really liked that part. It definitely introduces a new side to the story. There were also some developments with the war and the ending leaves you wondering what exactly will happen.

Overall this was a solid read. It wasn't brilliant and it lacked the flow of the first novel, but I am really looking forward to the next installment. I'm definitely intrigued to see where the story will go from here and what will happen to the characters as they take the next step on this journey. There are still plenty of questions to be answered and I'm excited to see where they go.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hello, I Love You~Katie M Sout | Review

Title: Hello, I Love You
Author: Katie M Stout
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 304 Pages
Release: June 2015
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This novel had an intriguing premise. I like the boarding school aspect and moving far away from home. I've never really listened to KPOP, but it's music so I assumed it might have some interesting contributions to the story.

The synopsis was somewhat misleading, I thought. Grace was running from the music her life had revolved around with her dad and brother, but I never felt that this was really the reason for any of her issues with her feelings for Jason.

Grace was somewhat annoying, particularly in the beginning. She was kind of a stuck up brat and even though the novel was in first person, you never really felt like you knew what was going on in her head. I understand keeping things hidden for dramatic effect and everything, but I think things were revealed too late in the story. The comparisons between American culture and Korean culture were somewhat frustrating and I felt that Grace was kind of harsh, particularly considering she was the on who chose to go there. (This was nothing compared to her mother, who I really wish had just not been there.)

The love story was cute. Jason was frustrating and very hot and cold toward Grace throughout the story. Then I felt she did the same thing to him at points. They were cute together, but I don't think their story needed to be as long as it was. I like that it was dealing with some tough material (Grace and Jason both had family issues they were dealing with), but I think it could have delved more into this and focused on that aspect of the love story.

The characters, while frustrating, were enjoyable and I really enjoyed the read. It wasn't perfect, but it was fun and sweet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Talks | Bookish Pet Peeves

Tuesday Talks is a weekly discussion group created by Janie and Janelle. You can find the goodreads group here. Come join the fun and discuss bookish topics with us!

Bookish Pet Peeves
I'm actually having a hard time coming up with very many pet peeves I have in regards to books and reading. Surprisingly. But here goes, I'll try to give you some of my thoughts. 

  • Dog Eared Pages: This is one of those things that really annoys me. My dad was a huge reader and he always dog eared his pages, so you would think I might have picked up the habit. Nope. I really can't stand when pages are dog eared. I also don't use book marks though, I just remember page numbers. I'm not against book marks though, I just don't use them. 
  • People Starting Conversations While I'm reading: It doesn't bother me so much for people to interrupt my reading to tell me something, but when they try to start a full conversation or discussion when I've been reading and they can see that I'm reading, it really annoys me. 
  • People Tossing Books Around or Carrying Them in Damaging Ways: This one may need some explanation. I don't mind when the spine of a book is cracked or if the book has some wear from being read. What I don't like is when people just toss their books in a bag or shove them in a backpack without making sure the covers don't bend or get scratched or something. This past year at Yallfest, there were so many people shoving books in suitcases or totes and not caring about damaging them and it made me cringe every time. And these were book people! It just drives me crazy. 
So these are some of my bookish pet peeves. I'm sure there are others, but I really can't think of any at the moment. Let me know in the comments what your bookish pet peeves are!   

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Twist of Date~Susan Hatler | Review

Title: A Twist of Date (Better Date than Never #5)
Author: Susan Hatler
Genre: Romance
Length: 138 Pages
Release: July 2013
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book fell very short of the mark for me. I've really enjoyed the other stories I've read in this series, but this one felt very different to me. The storyline itself had potential, but I never felt that it was reached.

Melanie was not a character that I could relate with easily. She was very immature and often seemed more like a teenager than a 27 year old woman. There were moments where I enjoyed her, but she was too silly for me to ever really enjoy. She was bouncing from relationship to relationship in search of love, but then was bothered when she didn't think men wanted to commit. I felt she was somewhat hypocritical in her views because even though she was never with more than one man at a time, she never gave herself time to consider if she really wanted to be with them before expecting them to want to make a big commitment to her. 

Matt, the main guy in this story was likable, but you never really got to see much of him. There was some flirting between the characters and you saw some of his sweet side, but you never really got to know him. Other than what he was studying in school he was a mystery. I would have liked more development with his character instead of so much focus on Melanie running from him because she thought he was a player. 

Overall this was just an ok read for me. It wasn't particularly enjoyable but I didn't completely dislike it either. It was just fell short of the expectations I had based on my experience with this series and author previously.

Mini Reviews | The Raven Boys~Maggie Stiefvater, Just Listen~Sarah Dessen, and Amy and Roger's Epic Detour~Morgan Matson

I decided to do something a bit different today and combine the reviews for three of my recent reads into one post. These will be short reviews with some of my thoughts about these novels.

Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA Paranoraml/Fantasy
Length: 416 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: September 2012
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I love Maggie Stiefvater's writing. I'm a huge fan of the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy and the companion novel Sinner. Her writing is just beautiful and is what got me hooked on her stuff. For some reason it took me years to pick up this book (and just in time to complete the first three before the final one comes out later this year!), but I'm really glad that I did. 

This is an extremely character driven story and I love that. Blue is the daughter of a psychic and has been surrounded by the paranormal her entire life. She knows, through psychic visions, that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. How exactly is a question she doesn't want answered. So Blue avoids guys, not wanting to fall in love and doom her love to an early death. That gets complicated when she sees Gansey's spirit, warning her that he will be dead within a year. And she would only be able to see him if he were her true love or she were the one who killed him, which, I guess, would kind of be one and the same with Blue. 

Blue's life gets mixed up with the raven boys: Gansey, Adam, Noah, and Ronan. Their paths cross somewhat unexpectedly and together they embark on a quest to awaken the ley line (a line of power that runs through their town). Much of the novel is spent in the development of these characters and them getting to know each other. It could be rather slow at times, but was overall very interesting. Gansey is brilliant, rich, and ambitious. He just doesn't know how to act around other people without them thinking they are his playthings. Adam is a poor genius who goes to their prestigious school on scholarship, hoping to escape his abusive household. Ronan has a troubled past that seems to be steeped around the death of his father, which is somewhat of a mystery. He's rough, but one of the more intriguing characters for me. Noah is quiet and nearly invisible. His history is shrouded in dark events and twisted people. 

There is not a single character that I did not enjoy in this story. The story alternates between the characters, giving you insight into each of them as the story progresses, and I loved that style. It's all told in third person and Blue is the main focus a majority of the time, but the rest of the cast gets a good share of attention. I am really excited to dive into the next book and see where the story is headed. This one had a very satisfactory ending, but there are definitely many loose ends that need answers. 

Title: Just Listen
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Length: 383 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: April 2006
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

This is my sixth novel by Sarah Dessen and probably my second favorite. What I love about Dessen is that she throws you right into the story and hits you with some really tough material. It can be painful, but it's worth it.

Annabel, the main character, is was one of the most relatable characters I've read in a Dessen novel so far. She struggles with confidence, self worth, all of the things that teenage girls are known for having issues with, Annabel has them. After her best friend Sophie ditches her and she becomes an outcast, Annabel is trying to deal with the fallout while figuring out exactly what happened that night and how she will ever be able to live with it. 

Owen is a reformed bad boy who never goes anywhere without his ipod and earphones around his neck. Owen and Annabel form an unlikely friendship and his honesty (a requirement from his Anger Management) helps Annabel realize that it's ok to open up. It's better to face things face on than to have them haunt you. But she's afraid of hurting the people around her, including herself. 
My favorite part of this novel was probably Owen. He was so real and genuine. His love of music was intriguing and his honesty was beautiful. Hearing about who had been and how he was dealing with the changes he was making in his life was inspiring. And watching Annabel grow as she learned from him was really nice. They brought out the best in each other. 
Annabel's family and their issues was a nice touch in the novel as well. The sisters, Kirsten and Whitney, both had their own issues but I appreciated how much they all supported each other and how much they all grew as the story progressed. It was a really nice read. Some of the things that Annabel did or didn't do frustrated me at times, but overall I really liked it. 

Author: Morgan Matson
Genre: YA Contemorary
Length: 344 Pages (Paperback)
Release: May 2010
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

This novel really makes me want to take a road trip. The playlists, state facts, and pictures were excellent touches. It really lets the reader feel like they're a part of the road trip experience. 

Amy was a likable and easy to relate with character. She was dealing with the recent death of her father after an accident she felt responsible for and felt that her family had shut her out. 
Roger is the son of her mom's friend and is enlisted to travel cross country from California to Connecticut with Amy. The two decide to deviate from the given itinerary and detour to several cities and sights both on the way and out of the way. A four day trip extends as the two embark on quests to find something they've lost. 
The relationship building between Amy and Roger was really nice. I like how they were kind of awkward around each other at first but soon came to understand and support each other, even when the other had goals they didn't necessarily agree with. Their adventures were fun and heartbreaking in nearly equal measure. Watching them start to care about each other for real and not just as one person cares about the concerns of a stranger was great. 
The only thing that really kept me from giving this a full five star rating was the end. The last bit of the novel felt too rushed at points. Amy and Roger's relationship was kind of launched into overdrive and felt too fast for me at the end. I also think that some of the revelations could have been spaced apart more, instead of being concentrated toward the end of the story. But overall it was a really good read.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday Talks | Matching Book Covers

Tuesday Talks is a weekly discussion group created by Janie and Janelle and run through goodreads. You can visit the group here to find out more about the group and join in the discussions.

Matching Covers: Does Your Series Have To Be The Same?
This will be a pretty short post from me today. I don't own a large collection of books and when I am able to purchase books I generally don't care what cover they have. I do prefer a series to have matching covers, but it's not a big deal to me if they don't. 

There are certain series' that I've read before that I prefer a certain cover version over another and I would definitely search those out to buy. If I found the non desired cover for a good price though, the cover wouldn't be a deal breaker. 

Honestly, it's more about the story for me in general anyway. If I like the book I don't mind the cover much. And if my series of books doesn't match it's not that big of a deal to me. I have a few series' right now that don't completely match. In some cases it's the covers, others it's just the size of the book. 

What do you think? Do you need all of your covers to match? Are you fine with different ones? Do you get all of your books in hardback or paperback to make sure that matches too? Let me know in the comments below!

Double Feature~Maggie Dana | Review

Title: Double Feature (Timber Ridge Riders #9)
Author: Maggie Dana
Genre: Middle Grade Equestrian
Length: 120 Pages
Release: April 2014
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is either the third or fourth novel I've read in this series and what I love about these kinds of books is that you don't have to read them in order to enjoy them. The most recent one I read was book eight, so it was nice to read this one and get some questions I had lingering from that story answered, but they are enjoyable no matter the order you read them. 

In this installment Kate and Holly are preparing for two large events: Nathan's movie premiere and the Festival of Horses. But first, they have to get Kate back at Timber Ridge.

This novel answered a lot of those questions I had left open at the end of book eight. Many of the relationship questions were answered, Kate finally dealing with her conflicting feelings for Nathan and Brad. Kate and Holly were dealing with the falling out that nearly destroyed their friendship. And Kate was finally getting back on good terms with the rest of her friends. 

We also get to see another side of Angela. There have always been hints as to why she is the way she is, but here we get some more concrete information. We get a little bit of a glimpse into her past and also see some of her friendlier side. It was nice to see her and the rest of the girls gain some understanding of each other. Hopefully they will be able to continue growing as the series progresses. 

The horse show itself was excellent. The dressage, cross country, and show jumping were described beautifully. It reminded me a lot of the shows I used to do so often as a teenager. There was even a written portion in the event that reminded me of the competitions I loved so much in my 4-H years. It was nice to see some various pieces of horse knowledge thrown in that didn't necessarily pertain to the story or style of riding being presented. 

This was a really fun installment in the series and I'm excited to read more of them in the future. I definitely think that horse crazy middle grade aged kids would love this series. I will definitely be recommending it to the current generation of horse enthusiasts. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Two of a Mind~S M Stuart | Review

Title: Two of a Mind 
Author: S M Stuart
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Length: 256 Pages
Release: March 2015
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received a free copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What’s the response when diplomacy fails? How will it affect our future? Do we really want to know?

24th July 2110: When the midnight chimes end at Dez’s 16th-Eve Party she realises she’s destined to be an 'Empty'. Her subsequent attempts to connect with her Psyche-Twin have startling consequences and she soon finds herself facing the worst of nightmares.

Seth has his own demons. He needs to unearth the truth about his mother’s death and enlists Dez to help in deciphering the clues hidden in her diary.

Little do they realise that they will soon be searching for a merciless killer - one who is connected to them by a cruel twist of fate. Unwittingly their enquiries bring them to his attention.

Most of this novel is told in first person from Dez's perspective, but there are some portions told from various third person perspectives of past events. I really like this method of storytelling. I think it makes for a great story where you get more than just one view of things. I found it somewhat choppy in this story.

The jumping from present to past (with a rather large cast of characters in these scenes from the past), was somewhat hard for me to follow at times. Most of the characters were connected somehow through family ties, but even this was sometimes difficult to remember. The past and present scenes all tie in together eventually and overall it worked fairly well, I just think a bit more polish on these transitions would have helped me stay connected. 

I found the concept of the "psych-twins" very interesting. The way it was presented was very intriguing and I was always interested to see what else was going to happen, particularly with Dez and Seth and their issues with their PTs. 
At times I found the choices the characters were making to be a bit abrupt. Or the novel would just jump from fighting to laughter in a way that I didn't really find made much sense. I just found it rather distracting at times for things to be so back and forth. I also found the use of exclamation points (particularly in these situations) to be rather distracting. 

With some polish I think I would enjoy this novel a great deal more. As it is, I thought it was a fun read, but not overly gripping or brilliant. I will be interested to see where the author goes with the rest of the story. 

Along for the Ride~Sarah Dessen | Review

Title: Along for the Ride
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Length: 383 Pages
Release: June 2009
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

This was my fifth Dessen novel and probably my second favorite out of the five (behind Lock and Key). What I enjoy most about Dessen's novels is how much time you just spend in the main characters head, hearing her thoughts. Sometimes those thoughts can be frustrating, but as a person who likes to think a lot, this appeals to me. There are things I liked and disliked about this novel, so lets get into them.

Auden was a likable character, but I didn't find her brilliant. She made some stupid decisions occasionally that didn't really seem to fit her character all that well. She did grow throughout the novel and I enjoyed watching that growth, even if it was slow going at times. 

The novel doesn't really pick up pace until over half way through. Even then there isn't a whole lot happening, but what was happening kept me interested. It was nice to see Auden having to question her opinions of Heidi and Maggie. She thinks they are superficial at first, but learns over time that nobody can be categorized so simply. 

The thing I disliked most about this novel was Auden's parents. I just found nothing about them appealing. I know they were supposed to be self absorbed and annoying, but I was hoping for a little more growth than we got. Her mom was working on it and her dad was too, in some ways, but I was constantly frustrated by these two. 

What I loved most was Eli. Out of the five Dessen novels I've read I haven't liked a guy character as much as I liked Eli. He was complicated, but caring. He wanted to help Auden experience the things she missed out on growing up and their adventures together were so much fun. Honestly, I think this novel would have been better with more of Eli. 

Overall this was an enjoyable read. It wasn't as emotionally charged as some Dessen novels I've read, but in some ways that was a good thing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tuesday Talks | Those Hard to Pronounce Names

Tuesday Talks is a goodreads discussion group created by Janie and Janelle. You can visit the group and join the discussions here. Come and share your thoughts with all of us!

Hard to Pronounce Names
We've all read them. Those names of characters and places that either have weird spellings or are just made up. So, what to do about that odd name. 

Generally, if I can't find out how it's actually supposed to be pronounced, I just make up my own pronunciation. I know a lot of people will just skip over names they can't pronounce, but I like having something to call the person/place in my head. When I'm saying the name for a video or something, I'll sometimes use my pronunciation and spell it out so people will know who/what I'm talking about. 

Personally I actually enjoy these types of names. I love just creating something that's different, so I love reading about them as well. This probably has something to do with my favorite genre being fantasy, where this tends to be a regular occurrence. 

So what do you do when something is hard to pronounce? Do you skip it? Make up your own way of saying it? Or something else? Let me know in the comments!   

The Ruins of Gorlan~John Flanagan | Review

Title: The Ruins of Gorlan (The Ranger's Apprentice #1)
Author: John Flanagan
Genre: Middle Grade/YA Fantasy
Length: 249 Pages
Release: June 2006
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I've been thinking about reading this book for a long time. It's one of those that would constantly pop up as a recommendation online or that I would pass on the shelves in the library, but I never picked it up. I'm really glad I finally did. 

The story is kind of slow in some points, but it's a really fun fantasy read for younger audiences. I think I would have absolutely loved this book about ten years ago. I still really enjoy it, but then it would have been a definite favorite. I love these fantasy stories.

The world building for this was simply but well done. The society that Will (the apprentice) is growing up in is well described. At fifteen all of the inhabitants of his city either become an apprentice to a task master or become farm hands. Will is an orphan, so the likelihood of becoming a farm hand is more likely because he doesn't have a family connection to get him into one of the crafts. 

Each craft has a craft master and I really enjoyed getting to see a few of them, if only briefly. There is definitely room for development in this area as the series progresses and I'm sure that many of them get more attention. 

One of my favorite things about this novel was Halt, the Ranger, and his relationship with Will. It was really nice to see how much he appreciated and cared for Will even though he was a closed off sort of person. The development of this relationship was really well done. I also really liked the rest of the relationships we got to see develop throughout the book. 

This was a really fun book and I'm looking forward to continuing with the rest of the series at some point in the future. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Art of Lainey~Paula Stokes | Review

Title: The Art of Lainey (The Art of Lainey #1)
Author: Paula Stokes
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 374 Pages
Release: May 2014
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I read the prequel novella Infinite Repeat in March and decided that I wanted to give this novel a try. I really liked Infinite Repeat and loved Micah. I picked this book up and now here are some of my thoughts. 

First, let me tell you the main thing I disliked about this novel: Lainey. Yes, I know, the novel is told in first person and Lainey is the main character, but I had a hard time learning to like her. I understood in the beginning that she was somewhat shallow and needed to grow up, but I had a hard time connecting with her complete dependence on her friends to define who she was. When her boyfriend broke up with her she freaked out and didn't know how to define herself anymore. She did grow throughout the novel, but I felt like too much of it was toward the end and not developed enough. 

I'm not even going to get started on Lainey's friend Kendall. She just made me so mad. I could rampage about that for hours. 

Onto things that I did like.

Micah and Lainey. They start out fake dating so that he can get his ex-girlfriend back and she can get her ex-boyfriend, but then they actually start to get to know each other. I loved the development of their relationship, because it wasn't really sudden. They already knew each other somewhat and when they started hanging out they just became friends before their were any deeper feelings. They were themselves around each other (which Lainey needed) and they actually cared about what the other was feeling, even when it had nothing to do with them. It was just a really well done progression for me. 

I also loved Micah and his sister Trinity. We got more of them in Infinite Repeat, but what we get here was great. It was nice to just see two siblings and how much they love and support each other. He even made being nice to Trinity a rule for fake dating Lainey, which was so sweet. They were just adorable. Lainey and her brother Steve were a nice touch as well.

Watching Lainey discover herself and make new friends was nice. She realized that not everything about her old life was really as great as she thought it was. It's better to be true to yourself than be someone you're not. Leo and Bee were two of my favorites. She was already friends with Bee, but I think she actually learned to appreciate her. And Leo was just such a nice guy. I really would like more with these two. 

Overall I thought this was a really fun read. Parts of it really annoyed me and I think there is room for improvement, but it was fun and most of the characters were enjoyable. Or hateable. Take your pick.

Some Kind of Normal~Juliana Stone | Review

Title: Some Kind of Normal
Author: Juliana Stone
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 304 Pages
Release: May 2015
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What is Normal?

For Trevor normal was fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves Trevor with no band, no teammates and no chance of graduating. It's kinda hard to ace your finals when you've been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor—those beautiful blue eyes catching every last flaw.

For Everly normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor's daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.

The cover and title of this novel are what originally drew me to it. I'm not generally a fan of cover models, but with this view and perspective, it really worked. And the title on its own is very intriguing. Once I read the synopsis, I knew I had to give this novel a try. 

Trevor and Everly were both compelling characters. The story is told with a dual perspective first person narrative, which I love. We get Trevor and Everly's take on things. Each of these characters is fighting some sort of demon, trying to find their way back to normal. 

One of the main things I really enjoyed about this novel was the development of Trevor and Everly's relationship. Trevor is struggling with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) after a car accident the previous year left him in a coma for weeks. Everly is dealing with the stress of a failing family that everyone else sees as perfect. The two are forced into each others company, but soon start to actually care.

I liked seeing Trevor's growth. We get glimpses of what he was like before his accident and how he wants to change now. He makes some major mistakes concerning Everly and their situation at points, but I appreciated that when he realized he didn't want her to be like the other girls he's been with that he actually treated her differently. So often in novels the guy says this but doesn't actually follow through. Here I thought it was done beautifully. And we get to see him fighting his battles and facing the fact that his life isn't going to be what he thought it was. 

Everly is trying not to fall apart. She knows something that no one else does. She knows a secret that could-and is-tear her family apart. She just doesn't know what to do about it. Seeing her struggle through her day to day life, pretending that everything is fine, was painful, but satisfying. We get to see her grow as she faces all of these new developments with the family that everyone around her always thought was perfect.

Throughout the novel you're kind of kept in the dark as to what exactly is going on with Everly's family. You know that something is happening, and you get some of Everly's take on the situation, but this doesn't become apparent until nearly the end of the novel. It makes sense from a story telling point of view, but it was frustrating to not be given at least a little more toward the beginning.

Overall I really enjoyed this novel. It was a bit vague at points, particularly concerning Everly's family issues, which kept me from enjoying the story as much as I might have, but it was fast paced and emotional, which kept me reading. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

From The Ashes~Shelby K Morrison | Review

Title: From the Ashes (Legend of the Liberator #1)
Author: Shelby K. Morrison
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 285 Pages
Release: May 2015
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

For eighteen years Aia Wynnald has lived a lie. Raised as a highborn in the Kingdom of Tharien, she’s filled her days with tutors and archery lessons. But simmering beneath her polite surface is a dangerous gift, one which she must keep a secret. Aia is a Bender. And in Tharien, Benders are feared and hunted.
When her unruly power breaks free with dire repercussions, Aia’s lifelong goal of independence shatters. As she scrambles to piece her life back together while evading capture, she disturbs a vengeful force intent on destroying the kingdom.
Now, with the help of an unlikely ally, Aia will decide the fate of Tharien. To rescue those she cares about will require accepting what she is. But can she risk becoming the monster she’s dreaded to save the very citizens baying for her blood?

If you've read the excerpt I posted on my blog March 1st, then you already know that this story begins with action. It doesn't let up much throughout either. It is truly an excellent read. 

Shelby K Morrison certainly knows how to weave a compelling story. The writing here was beautifully done. The world building was superb. Fantasy is my favorite genre and world building is always what has me wary of a new read. There are so many that promise greatness just to fall flat. That's certainly not the case here. The magic system with the Benders and their special abilities is developed and explored as the story progresses, so nothing is thrown at you all at once. The descriptions of the world and society are woven very nicely through the story.

The characters were all beautifully portrayed and their struggles were so real. You could feel what they were feeling, understand their emotions, and wanted to be there helping them along. Most of the book is spent with Aia as she faces her once suppressed abilities and must decide where she stands with the Tharien. Does she try to protect them from the evil that would see them destroyed? Or should she turn her back on the people that have tossed her away? Her development as she faces these challenges is beautiful.

The rest of the characters are just as excellent. Cole, a Breaker (the people who track down Benders), is one of my absolute favorites. There is so much going on within his head. His loyalties are split in so many different directions and he faces some really hard decisions. Watching him grow was one of the highlights of this story.

The Kingdom is on the edge of destruction as a force of great power returns to exact revenge. All of the characters must decide where their loyalties lie and who they will fight for. There are some excellent action sequences throughout the novel that had me flipping page after page. It was a hard book to put down.  

If you're a fan of fantasy novels, this is one to pick up. The ending is perfect for the first book in a series. Enough of the main conflict is resolved so that it stands well on its own, but enough is left open to keep you interested in book two. No over done cliffhanger here. I am very excited to see where the story will take us next.

So go read this book. You won't regret it.

Buy your copy: Amazon, Barnes and Noble.
Shelby K. Morrison is the author of Shattered, devout member of the Pointless Research Addicts support group, and was voted Most Likely to Be President in high school. She believes fiction should be an escape and any great escape involves a world of wonder, characters you wish you knew, and good food. She can usually be found in three places; her office, the couch or....well just those two unless an overcast day calls her out of doors. She has a particular weakness for animals, Studio Ghibli movies, and Flamin' Hot Cheetos (resulting in a frequently stained keyboard). She is not opposed to tokens of appreciation, particularly edible ones. But if you really want to make her smile, drop her a line! 

You can visit Shelby online in the following ways: