Blog Tour & Giveaway: Summer of Shambles (Ondine #1) by Ebony McKenna

Dive into this wonderfully witty young adult series from author Ebony McKenna, set in the far off European country of Brugel.

15-year-old Ondine is struggling to fit in at Psychic Summercamp and doubts she possesses any of her family’s magical abilities. She resolves to leave, determined to follow her own path and be a normal teenager. Whatever normal is in a place like Brugel.

On the way home Ondine is shocked when her pet ferret Shambles starts talking – in a cheeky Scottish accent no less! He is in fact a young man trapped in a witch’s curse. When he briefly transforms into his human self, Ondine is smitten. If only she can break the spell for good, Shambles can be handsomely human on a full-time basis.

During the summer, these two misfits uncover a plot to assassinate a member of the royal family and discover a secret treasure that has remained hidden for decades. This attracts the attention of the arrogant Lord Vincent, and Ondine can’t help being drawn in by his bad-boy charm.

With so many demands on Ondine’s attentions – and affections – normal has never seemed so far away.

The Summer of Shambles is the first in the four-part ONDINE series. Fans of The Princess Bride or the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series will love this delightfully quirky fairytale.

 

This is a stop on the blog tour hosted by Xpresso book tours.

Don’t forget to check out of the rest of the schedule and partake in the rafflecopter giveaway.

Brief Review:

So I haven’t quite finished reading this, so this isn’t a formal review yet. But I just had to share some of my impressions so far.

This is a terribly entertaining read, but not one I would rush through. The footnotes are a hoot, and I suspect this would be even more fun to read in a physical book than an ebook just because of the ease of flipping back and forth.

If you’re in the mood for a light read with a cheeky sense of humor, I highly recommend this book!

 

Excerpt:

With a yelp of shock, the ferret dropped backwards off the edge of the table, dragging the tablecloth down with him.

“Shambles!” Ondine screamed, racing towards him.

He lay there, a lump underneath the fabric, moaning in pain.

“Oh, my darling, I’m so sorry!” Ondine cried. She didn’t need to look around to know Melody was standing behind her, probably just as freaked out as she was. Ondine pulled the tablecloth back to reveal Shambles’s head and give him some fresh air.

Shambles groaned even louder. “Oh, the pain!”

“He can talk! Great heavens! Shambles can talk!” Melody said, amazed.

“You heard that?” Ondine’s heart picked up speed at the revelation, yet there was little time to explain it all. If she thought Melody being able to understand Shambles was a shock, she had an even bigger one coming.

As he lay groaning and writhing on the ground, twisting and turning under the tablecloth, Shambles grew to twice his size and his face fur matted together, forming skin. The long whiskers retracted and his head began to bulge.

“I’m dying!” he cried out to Ondine. “Bring me whisky, I’m dying!”

The dream. That horrible dream!

“Mercury’s wings!” Ondine cried as great wet tears splashed down her face and on to Shambles’s writhing, deformed body. “You can’t die, Shambles! I won’t let you!”

“I’ll get Mrs Howser,” Melody said, and ran back inside.

“Oh God, oh God,” Shambles groaned, “I’m goin’ tae boak.”[1]

“No, Shambles, you’ll be OK. Melody’s getting help,” Ondine said, although what help anyone could be at this present moment escaped her. On the other hand, a witch had got him into this mess; maybe a witch could get him out of it?

Confusion scrambled her brain. She couldn’t think what to do – she’d never seen anything like this before and didn’t even know how to start helping him. All she could do was stand back as Shambles kept growing and expanding under the tablecloth. Moaning and groaning about the state of his gelatinous body. All the while his face pulsed and wobbled. A horrible thought made Ondine feel ashamed for even thinking it.

What if his face set like that?

“There’s the light,” he said. “It’s calling me, I have tae go tae the light.”

Fear making her tremble, Ondine looked in the same direction. Her horrible dream was about to become reality.

As she turned her head, she felt her stomach lurch as a white light shone on her face. A moment later, blessed relief coursed through her. “That’s not the light, Shambles. That’s just the full moon, you bampot.”

When she turned to check on Shambles, her breath hitched. He’d stopped thrashing about, stopped moaning and groaning. Now he was shivering.

And completely human.

The next surprise came straight after the first, as Shambles looked up at Ondine. Far from looking like a bucket of twisted shoes, his face could have belonged to a movie star. He was even more handsome than Lord Vincent. With a shock of black hair and a dangerous gleam in his green eyes.

He was glorious!

Heat coursed through her body and her tongue turned to sandpaper as she tried to swallow. Something flip-flopped in her belly. Thank heavens for the tablecloth, because from the looks of things, he didn’t have a patch of clothing on. Ondine’s pulse hammered freshly in her ears.

I’m going to have a heart attack before I make sixteen.

“I’m nawt dead,” he said at last.

Despite her concern for some modicum of decorum, a smile broadened her face and happiness bubbled in her veins. Heavens above, her dream had been wrong. Way wrong.

Those devilish green eyes stayed fixed on hers, while a lopsided grin added a mischievous gleam. Suddenly she averted her gaze and dropped her lashes so she could study the ground.

“I’m nawt dead,” Shambles said again, louder this time as he turned his hands back and forth in the moonlight. Then he wrapped the tablecloth around his middle, stood up and shook his head in amazement. He took a step closer and cupped Ondine’s cheek in his palm. Heat seared her face. “The dream didn’t come true.”

“The . . . the . . .” The dream? He knew about it?

“You’re not dead by a long shot,” Old Aunt Col said from the doorway, making Ondine and Shambles-Hamish turn quickly to see they had company.

“But if you lay a finger on my grand-niece, you’ll wish you were.”

Indeed, they had an audience, including Ondine’s mother who, from the shocked look on her face, had seen quite a bit too.

____________________________________________

[1] Vomit. A lot. Usually after drinking. A lot.

 

Don’t forget to check out of the rest of the schedule and partake in the rafflecopter giveaway.

About the Author:

Ebony McKennaEbony McKenna lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and son.
She has worked as a journalist, market researcher, website editor, and company director.
As a teenager, she lived in a family-run restaurant. This provided the inspiration for Ondine’s family, as Ebony has also waitressed, prepared food and yep, she washed dishes. So many dishes.
Now she writes novels for a living, so her hands are dry. Except for when her characters are making her laugh too much and she has to wipe tears away so she can see the keyboard.

She’s always loved trivia nights and the Eurovision Song Contest, and wishes she’d put money on Conchita Wurst winning this year.

Author links:

 

Quazi-Hiatus

I’m taking a bit of a break for a while. I’ll still be reading and posting reviews as they come up, and I’m still planning on participating in the tours I’m already signed up for through the end of the year. But I’m not planning on keeping any certain number of posts per week or any weekly themed posts or things like that. They might still pop up here and there, but not with the frequency of last month.

But … In other more exciting news …

I just bought a car.

20141017_171018

That’s a pre-owned 2014

Chevy Cruze. It’s got about 22.5K miles on it, but it still has that new car smell. The grinning guy in the red shirt is my boyfriend. He doesn’t know how to handle the technically advanced features — I mean I’ve got a keyless ignition and remote start on the fob, and he’s thoroughly enjoying playing with it. Pretty soon, I might actually get to drive my new toy too …

Blog Tour & Giveaway: School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino

Thrust into a world of men, can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death?

Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.

Scythes hungry for souls, Deaths who subjugate a race of mysterious magicians, and echoes of an ancient war with Dragons.

As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn’t an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.

 

This book is on tour with Enchanted Book Promotions. Check out the rest of the tour stops, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaways: one for an ebook copy of School of Deaths; one for a $20 Amazon gift card.

 

Review

I received a copy of this book as a part of the tour hosted by Enchanted Book Promotions. It in no way affects my judgment of the book.

Rating: 4/5

This was such a fun read—I don’t think I’ve ever been let down by a reaper book. It’s a relatively untapped subset of the urban fantasy genre, and these books are always so unique. I particularly enjoyed the idea that people are recruited to be Deaths and have to go to a school and pass a test to get out of their contract. And there are Deaths that “fade,” or just get so old that they simply stop existing. And there are Deaths that “cease,” or get killed and therefor forgotten. If a Death ceases they are erased (just like if the light from the crack in Amy’s bedroom wall touches you, for you Doctor Who fans). It was nicely illustrated, and I was pleased with how Mannino set up the rules of the world. They were creative, they were interesting, and they were consistent.

There’s a tension between the three species in the realm where Deaths exist (Deaths, Elementals, and Dragons). As is suggested in the description, Suzie being the first female Death in millenia doesn’t really help. Neither does the fact that Suzie is determined to solve mysteries that no one else has even noticed. Trust a girl to shake things up, eh? 😉

I’ll be honest and say that some of the bits at the beginning weren’t my cup of tea. There were some teenage problems(read: really problems with society in general, not just our teenage population) that, while I generally enjoy reading YA, I could do without. But they weren’t important to get through and understand, as they kind of set the scene.

At times it moved a bit slowly, but I assure you it picks up. Once you get into the meat of the plot and Suzie learns enough about the world she’s been thrown into, it moves along pretty nicely. Overall, I didn’t have any problems with the general pacing.

I do wish Suzie had been a bit older—I think there could have been a bit more depth to her character if she’d been a bit more mature when this all hit (after all, there’s only so much I can expect out of a thirteen year old). It certainly didn’t detract from the quality of the book, but I think a couple extra years might have brought this book to the next level.

I’ll happily read the sequel that’s in the works— the ending wrapped everything up in a tidy bow and I don’t feel like we’re missing part of the story, but the door was left open for some potential follow-on books set in the same world or even picking up pretty much where this one left off. I’m looking forward to seeing how the world develops after the shock Suzie is putting it through. And, I mean, who doesn’t want to read about Dragons and Deaths at the same time?

 

Excerpt

An enormous white wolf with blood-red eyes snarled at her. Suzie screamed.

The walls closed in and the wolf pounced. She ran.

Her body still ached with pain, but her heart thundered in her chest, pounding with complete fear. The wolf howled and another white wolf appeared, with the same blood-red eyes. She sprinted away.

She didn’t remember going outside, but the walls were trees. The trees grew dense, a forest closing in. She ran and ran, faster and faster. The wolves howled behind her. More white wolves lurked ahead.

Wolves everywhere. Far behind her, she heard Luc laughing.

One of the bone-white wolves snarled and leapt for her throat. She fell back and rolled. The wolf turned toward her and vanished.

A massive white cobra with blood-red eyes hissed at her. She scrambled to her feet and ran again. Panting hard, her legs in agony, she couldn’t think. Her only emotion was fear. Fear surged through her body, giving fleeting strength to her aching legs.

The ground opened and she fell. Down and down until she landed hard on something moving. Spiders. Thousands of bone-white spiders with tiny red eyes. Crawling. She screamed until the sound caught in her throat.

The cobra re-emerged, hissing.

Suddenly she understood. The cobra hissed at her again, its red eyes glaring at her.

“You’re a ’Mental, aren’t you?” she asked the giant snake.

Luc yelled something behind her. The snake vanished.

For a strange moment, the world cleared. Suzie looked around. The Ring of Scythes surrounding the College stood in the distance. She had run away from the school and collapsed in a field. Behind her, a real forest loomed.

“Not me, you imbecile, her.” screamed Luc. His dark face tightened, and he yelled at some invisible threat. The albino man, the ’Mental, stood near him. Luc yelled in terror and ran back toward the College.

The albino turned toward Suzie.

At once all sensation was gone. This time she didn’t see wolves, snakes, pits, or spiders. This time, she saw nothing.

The attack was swift and precise, cutting her deeper than a scythe.

Fear.

Pure, unfettered fear. Fear deeper than terror, darker than nightmares. Fear filled with horrors, too terrible to deny.

Fear swept through every cell in her body.

Suzie tried to fight. She tried to scream. Finally, she started to run again. She ran into the forest, tripping over roots. The albino followed her, and the forest darkened.

Crows cawed at her. If she turned, they’d attack. The trees reached down to grab her, but Suzie ran until she reached the other side of the woods. She collapsed.

Deep in the forest, far behind her, someone was crying.

 

About the Author

Christopher ManniniChristopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet.  He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland.  In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups.  He spends his summers writing and singing.  Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University.  His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.

Mannino is currently working on a sequel to “School of Deaths” as well as an adult science fiction novel.

 

Watch the trailer here

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AeszKiTz0k

Links

All purchase links can be found at http://www.christophermannino.com/school-of-deaths.html#.U81VLPldWSo

www.ChristopherMannino.com
http://poetsfire.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CTMannino
https://twitter.com/Ctmannino
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00K2XOP88
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8108129.Christopher_Mannino

 

schoolofdeathsbanner

Don’t forget to visit the rest of the tour stops, and enter the rafflecopter giveaways: one for an ebook copy of School of Deaths; one for a $20 Amazon gift card.

Sunday Post: October 12

 

 

 

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

 

 

 

Things are still crazy, but I’ve managed to make some time for some me things (like, you know, reading and blogging)

This week:

Book Reviews:

Description Reviews:

  • None 😦

Other Stuff:

Ongoing Giveaways:


In the Real World:

Things are still crazy but I’m much closer to finding a balance, as evidenced by the presence of posts listed up there ^^.

The boyfriend and I went to see Dacular Untold Friday night, and it was really good. I highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it already. It did a decent job with the actual history and whatnot, and I personally quite enjoyed the portrayal of the characters.


Upcoming:

  • Blog Tour & Giveaway: School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino
  • Blood Cross (Jane Yellowrock #2) by Faith Hunter

Posts I’ve enjoyed reading this week:

(Not a long list again this week…)

Marked (House of Night #1) by P.C. Cast & Kristen Cast

After a Vampire Tracker Marks her with a crescent moon on her forehead, 16-year-old Zoey Redbird enters the House of Night and learns that she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess Nyx and has affinities for all five elements: Air, Fire Water, Earth and Spirit. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is mis-using her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny – with a little help from her new vampyre friends (or Nerd Herd, as Aphrodite calls them).

 

Rating: 2/5

I really don’t know how I felt about this book. Overall, I thought it was ok. And I might read the next one if only because I’m curious about the couple of things that were alluded to at the end of this book. So since I’m otherwise having difficulty articulating my thoughts, I’m going to follow a review format I’ve seen used by a few other bloggers for this post.

The likes:

I found that for the most part I did like the main character, Zoey. She’s sensible and has a good head on her shoulders. She’s not overconfident, but she’s not really down on herself either. And she does develop well over the course of the book (though I might argue that the bulk of her development is a bit sudden at the end if the book, but hey, epiphanies happen in the real world too, right?). I also liked that when the supposed “hottest guy in school,” and possibly even “hottest guy in the world” asked her out she didn’t completely lose herself. In fact, she approaches the offer warily.

I liked the way magic was structured in the world. It was pretty cool, and unique, and interesting to learn about.

The dislikes:

Everyone basically picks up on the new religion flawlessly. I mean, yeah, it seems to be somewhat beat into them that as fledgling vampyres they must respect the religion of the House of Night and follow Nyx. But no one even bats an eyelash at suddenly being told to worship a goddess that they ever did. I suppose an argument could be made that only teenagers who had a predisposition toward the belief system of the House of Night would be destined to be marked, but that’s somewhat of a stretch for me.

I honestly didn’t care for the fledgling idea in general. I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m a traditionalist when it comes to vampires (that’s obviously not true, given some of the books that I’ve raved about here), but there are some stretches to the baseline myth/legend that I have difficulty accepting. The idea that certain people get “marked” by a tracker and therefore will become vampyres (yes, I intentionally switched the spelling) is only ok at best. The idea that they then have to go to school to learn what life is like as a vampyre when they may or may not survive the transition (that will happen 4 years later, by the way) is just bizarre.

Tacked onto that the general assumption that the only subjects worth learning about over that time (when normally you’d be in a normal high school) are:

  • Vampyre Sociology (sensible)
  • Some subset of the arts (as a band geek, I’m totally on board with this in any basic curriculum)
  • Language (again, I’m a bit of a language geek and good friends with folks who definitely are, so this is awesome)
  • Physical fitness of the not so modern-sport variety (like Fencing and Equestrian)

Nothing about math or science. Those fields apparently don’t matter for vampires. At all. Like, Not only was there no expectation that those classes are taken, but they don’t seem to even have been offered. I totally get not emphasizing them. I totally get people who don’t like them. That’s fine. But to be preparing these fledglings for a life that they will have to live, presumably, forever, to not offer anything in the fields of math or science just seems wrong, and a bit like the author went “I wish my high school was like this” rather than asking “What would be a realistic curriculum for this subset of society?” Maybe that’s just a personal pet peeve, but it bugged me. This may seem like a trivial point to go on about since the school curriculum is obviously not the plot. But seriously, about half of the book was about Zoey’s classes and nothing else. Sure, some of it was interesting, but for the most part I just didn’t care about what was going on in her classes.

Similarly, the overarching plot was all about regular high school teenage drama. Yeah, there was a magical component to it, but if I wanted to read about an outsider holding a coup against the queen bee popular girl, I wouldn’t be picking up an urban fantasy book. In fairness, some decent groundwork is laid for book 2 to potentially have a little more to it than that.

But now for the kicker:

Oh, the inconsistencies (what can I say? I’ve always been a nitpicker, and attention to detail matters to me). Some quick examples:

  • First she likes any brown pop and she has a diet coke, then throughout the rest of the book she likes any brown pop that’s not diet.
  • First Heath is her boyfriend. Then he’s her almost ex-boyfriend (which kinda makes sense because she supposedly never actually broke up with him). Then he’s her ex-almost boyfriend, implying that they had never dated at all. Well, which is it?
  • In most classes, she was coming in mid-semester, but in the Equestrian class it seemed like the first day.

There were other things that weren’t necessarily inconsistencies but were tacked on information that seemed to have been thrown in because it seemed convenient. I understand the desire to do this; I used to write like that myself. But the editing process should at least make those instances less obvious.

Interestingly enough, I started off giving this a 3-star rating. By the time I was halfway done writing I had knocked it down to a 2.5. And now that I’m reading back over, I’m knocking it down again. There was just too much that I didn’t care for, and a good chunk of my annoyances were driven largely by two factors: not liking the topic (particular to me) and not liking the writing (much more general). While I wouldn’t necessarily discourage anyone from reading this — I’m sure it’s great if you absolutely love reading about teenage drama, and some people certainly do — I still wouldn’t go out of my way to pick it up. I’d also caution that you should wait until you’re in a mood to put up with the drama.

Loony Blurbs: October 9

Loony Blurbs is a fortnightly theme created by  The Loony Teen Writer where we make up book blurbs from titles.

This is my first week participating, so I’m probably only going to do a couple. This sounded like so much fun that I just had to give it a try! (Not to mention it will be good for the writer in me). Click the pics to go to Goodreads and read the actual book blurb.

 

Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief #1) by Livia Blackburn

One day, or I suppose more accurately, one night, time stopped. Every hand on every clock stopped ticking. The tides stopped moving. The Earth stopped turning. Why, you might ask? Well, that’s a very long, and very complicated story. Suffice to say that in London the world stopped moving at 23:59:59 (that’s 11:59 and 59 seconds pm for those of you on a 12 hour clock). And now it’s up to young Mary Night to catch the Midnight Thief. Before the halt becomes permanent…

 

 

The Chocolate War (Chocolate War #1) by Robert Cormier

Two households, both alike in level of cream
(In fair Chocotopia, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil syrup makes civil hands chocolaty

In this retelling of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet,  the royal families of Darkegue and White-ulet are locked in a bitter struggle with each other. Only when young Milkeo and Orangette fall in love and suffer a terrible fate do the two families come to an understanding: there’s enough room on the shelves of Chocotopia for everyone.

 

 

So what do you guys think? Care to give it a try yourself? Swing on over to The Loony Teen Writer and see what other titles are listed for today!

Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner

A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

 

I received an ARC of this book via Xpresso Book Tours. It in no way affects my judgment.

Rating: 4.5/5

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I went into this book. I mean, the description is accurate, but it doesn’t really prepare you for what you’re about to read. I practically inhaled this book (to the extent that when my boyfriend kept interrupting me to go look at the bathroom he just painted, I started getting huffy—seriously, how is it fair to interrupt a scene like that repeatedly?!).

I. Completely. Believed. Every. Page.

Not only is it perfectly plausible (I mean, given that we assume that mermaids exist of course), but each scene was so well written it wasn’t even a stretch to believe what I was reading. There’s a bit about the economics of the world that still doesn’t quite sit well with me—the local economy of the island has obviously suffered from the relentless onslaught of the mermaids, and they don’t have any food anymore, yet they seem to have an endless supply of iron and wood to make weapons and build new ships. Maybe the iron is an abundant natural resource on the island? I mean, trade would obviously help with that particular problem, but it’s been pretty clearly demonstrated that options down that path are somewhat limited. It’s a minor nit in the grand scheme of things, but I did wonder about it on more than one occasion.

Meela was one hell of a main character, and I was particularly impressed with Warner’s ability to write her as both an 18 year old and a 10 year old (yes, we have a flashback at the beginning of the book. And it’s important and well-done and everything). She had a strong voice throughout, carried herself with a certain amount of sense rather than acting rashly (as some main characters in urban fantasy have been known to do *cough*trope of the genre). And her moments of indecision were’re dramatized or played up to emphasize that “this issue matters—pay attention because it’s going to come up in the test at the end of the book,” which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine (and something I find to be far too common). Those pieces of indecision that did exist were appropriate for the situation and were meaningful.

If you flip through the reviews I’ve written recently, you’ll notice that I’m not much of an action-reader. Suspense is difficult to write and I find that I dislike it more often than I like it. But this book had me pretty much on the edge of my seat as I was reading—not because I seriously wanted to know what would happen next, but because I had enough of an idea of what was going to happen that I didn’t want it to happen. I mean, some of those girls are scary (and whose bright idea was it to load a ship full of eighteen-year-old bags of estrogen and tell them to organize themselves?), and some of the mermaids are even scarier.

Overall the plot was/is incredible (yes, this is/will be a series, and yes, I plan on reading the next book). There were a couple of times I found myself wondering about some of the peculiarities of the situation that the residents of Eriana Kwai find themselves in, but it’s adequately explained. More importantly, the girls on the ship wondered about the same things in a very natural way.

I’ll be honest and say that if you mind brutal honesty and gore in your books, you should steer clear of this one. Otherwise, I strongly encourage giving it a go.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: October 7

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, with a different “top ten list” every week.  This week’s theme is “Top Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels.” This one is going to be difficult for me, because most of what I read and love are “character driven” books. I’m going to try really hard to balance this between my more recent favorites and some of my slightly older ones, just to keep things even.

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Let’s be honest. You can’t talk about character-driven books without talking about The Fault in Our Stars. It’s pretty much, by definition, driven by its characters. Not only is it well-written, but it’s emotive and enrapturing. And August was just … He’s a truly spectacular character and really makes the book as great as it is. Without him and his querky sense of humor, this book wouldn’t have been nearly so successful.

 

2. The Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead

Seth and Georgina. That in and of itself is enough said right there. However, I have to write enough to take up the space of the book picture or my formatting will look funny. This is another one that is very nearly by definition character-driven. Yes, it has other fun plot points, but at its heart this series is really about two people falling in love over and over and over again. And any serious reader is going to just melt over Seth (and he’s not even your stereotypical alpha male!), not to mention the heartbreaks throughout the series.

3. Trickster’s Choice & Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce was one of the first authors I truly fell in love with. I didn’t really read terribly much before Harry Potter, at which point my mother discovered I liked fantasy books and sat me down in that section of the library. Tamora Pierce took the place in my bookish heart that the majority of the population reserves for Harry Potter. I’m glad that the Trickster books came around when I was old enough to really appreciate them, because I’m confident I wouldn’t have had nearly as much respect for Aly when I was younger. Her scheming and planning puts master strategists to shame, and she does it all while still acting like a teenager (for the most part).

4. Chicagoland Vampires by Chloe Neill

Merit and Ethan are an amazing match. Their hatred for each other at the beginning of the series burned just as hotly as their love for each other does ten books into the series. There are interesting plots in each of the books and LOTS of really cool world-building stuff going on, but it’s 100% these two vampires who keep readers coming back for more time and again. (Not to mention that’s it’s Merit’s insistence on helping everyone that drives half of the plots (at least early on) anyway).

5. The Hollows by Kim Harrison

Recent followers of Classy Cat Books are probably not shocked that this made the list. I love The Hollows series. Absolutely 100% love it, even when I notice its faults. It’s actually Algaliarept that made me fall in love with these books so strongly at the beginning—I was just getting going on my demon phase, and he was awesome as far as my teenage self was concerned. And we must mention Jenks too, with his colorful curses like “Tink’s panties.”

 

6. The Hero series by Moira Moore

We’ve had a bunch of dark colors all in a row, so I’m mixing it up some and throwing a brighter one in now (yes, I’m anal about color diversity; I cook that way too). Dunleavy Mallorough and Shintaro Karish make quite the pair in this series. They’re another pair that start off pretty much despising one another (I mean, poor Dunleavy is insanely introverted, and she’s forced to spend time with one of the most outgoing and social men possible. Who could blame them?) and end up evolving their feelings for one another. Taro is also pretty unique in his abilities, and the pair of them are a fearsome team when they’re stubborn.

7. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I need to finish the rest of this series, but right off the bat I knew Celaena would be a character I loved. And Dorian. And Chaol. Another one where the plot was great but the book would never have made it very far without such a strong cast of characters. They’re believable, they’re relatable, and you feel their emotions right along with them.

 

 

8. The Keeper Series by Tanya Huff

Oh, Austin. You’re one of the most entertaining cats. I’ll be honest and say that I remember loving the books and I remember loving the characters. And I even remember the significant plot points (and the significant funny scenes). But otherwise, it’s been so long that I don’t really remember much detail about these books. I do remember, however, Austin. The cat. He’s absolutely wonderful. And you should … feed the cat.

 

9. The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost

I mean, this series gets referred to more often as “the Cat and Bones books” than it does as “the Night Huntress series.” Bones is a whole lot of fun with his scathingly sarcastic remarks. I think I preferred him early on in the books over later, when his relationship with Cat had developed more, but that could be the part of me that likes mean boys talking. Either way, this series doesn’t rely solely on the leading actors: Vlad, Mencherys, and a host of other spectacularly written characters are in the mix too, and learning about their histories is at least as much fun as watching Cat and Bones’ relationship develop.

10. The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

Such a good series. MacKayla had her moments of being dense and irritating, but they weren’t misplaced (just think about what you would do in her situation!). And Jericho’s alpha-male badass-ness more than makes up for it. More importantly, one of my favorite things about this series is its portrayal of the fae as truly foreign. I’ve commented in other reviews that writing the fae as completely alien as possible is difficult, because it’s our natural inclination to try to make our characters relatable to the reader. Moning does an excellent job of managing both.

 

(I just want to throw out there that I’m super proud of myself for varying the type of books. Yeah, they’re almost all urban fantasy, but I’ve run the gamut between fae, vamps, witches, and just general magic-y stuff. And at least I have one non-fantasy book, right?)

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Tortured Souls (The Orion Circle #1) by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Sometimes Rest in Peace isn’t an option…

Kacie Ramsey sees ghosts—and it’s ruining her life. Her mother left, her father blames her, and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t keep the ghosts away. Now a new power has emerged. Nightly visions of grisly murders and a relentless predator draw her to the brink of insanity.

When the phantom appears at a party, Kacie’s longtime crush, Logan, saves her. He invites her to join the Orion Circle, a group of supernatural hunters with chapters in schools all over the country. Through the Circle, Kacie learns to embrace her spiritual powers, and for the first time in her life she feels in control rather than a victim.

But the Foxblood Demon will not give up so easily. A demented serial killer in life who trapped the souls of the thirteen children he murdered, imprisoning them within the walls of his mansion. Now in death, he plots his return while drawing power from the pure souls of the children. He recognizes something in Kacie he’s never seen before—a medium powerful enough to provide a vessel for his tainted soul.

Kacie can’t ignore the tortured souls of the children crying out to her every night. With Logan at her side, she will fight the Foxblood Demon. But can they banish this powerful phantom, or will Kacie lose not only her body, but her eternal soul to the monster.

 

 

I was provided an ARC of this book as a part of the tour hosted by Xpresso Book Tours. It in no way affects my rating.

Check out the tour schedule, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway for $25 to Amazon!

Rating: 3/5

I have mixed feelings about this book. The overall plot was quite good, and I’m very pleased with how this book was wrapped up while letting us know what’s coming in the next book. It’s clear that this particular series of events wasn’t an isolated case, even though it read that way for most of the book. The range of characters and skills was also a good mix, and I generally liked how the rules of the world were presented.

However, I did find myself skimming portions. The characters didn’t draw me into the book as much as I would have liked, and there were fluff scenes that didn’t really do anything to progress any of the plots (primary or otherwise). I acknowledge that these kinds of scenes are important to teenagers and a key part of the YA genre, but they’re most useful when progressing a romance subplot, something that went so quickly at the beginning of the book that there wasn’t really any room for growth in the ‘fluff scenes’ later on.

I really wish we’d gotten to learn more about the Orion Circle in this book. It kind of felt like it was just introduced and that was enough. And for the specific plot of this novel, it probably was enough, but I didn’t really feel satisfied by the brief sample we got. I’m glad that this is an organization across all ages and it’s not just teenagers fending for themselves (which is a personal pet peeve), but I found myself somewhat confused by the role the adults played. The adult psychic in charge of the group, for instance, had a bad experience at the place that was causing all the problems, and from then on her only involvement was advice here and there while the kids were doing all the dangerous stuff. It seemed odd to me.

But overall, these are just little things, and they’re not intrusive to the book. My biggest complaint is in how the emotional issues were handled throughout the first ~third of the book. Kassie had some issues with her parents growing up, but some of the emotion around her past seemed a bit forced, as if she were explaining it because she had to have had a rocky past. She shares a very random story about her experience with a particular ghost in her house, which quite frankly should have caused her more emotional disturbance than her parents, and that story never really comes back up later. And then things are mended with her family almost instantaneously, which again, felt forced. Thankfully, most of that was out of the way by around the 35% mark.

This was still a really good book, and I encourage you to give it a go and at least make it well beyond the halfway point. It’s a quick read and definitely worth the time 🙂

About the Author:

Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a YA/NA author with a soft spot for sweet romance and is a member of Romance Writers of America.

She is married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs and four cats. No, she doesn’t live on a farm, she just loves animals. Her house is filled with dragons, though she does lament that they are the porcelain, non-flying variety.

Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, videogames, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!)

Her debut novel, Shadow Fire, is the first book in the Light Chronicles series. Watch for book two, Stolen Moon, a standalone sequel, coming August 2014.

Author links:

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Don’t forget to visit the tour schedule and enter the rafflecopter giveaway for $25 to Amazon!

Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon 2014

My Shelf Confessions

 

I’m participating in this reading challenge this year, and you all should too! It’s hosted over at My Shelf Confessions, and will have an open linky for sign-up up until and throughout most of the read-a-thon (click the picture!). Some of the blurbs about it are below.

The Basics:

The  Wicked Wildfire Read-A-Thon is a time when we all get together to dedicate the days of October 17-27 to as much reading as possible. You read as much as you can in order to get yourself a little further through that huge to-read pile! We know real life gets in the way and even if you can’t participate more than one day, you’re welcome to join in on the fun!

In the meanwhile, we will be hosting book-related challenges where you can win some awesome prizes and have a Twitter party at the hashtag #WWReadathon! You can posts updates on your blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook or even YouTube — as long as the profile is public and we all can enjoy your reading progress! Make sure to link to the site where you’ll be sharing your posts/updates with us. 

Participation:

  • When participating, you only have to readHowever, it’s always fun reading starting posts and updates on your progress throughout the event! Even settling with a wrap-up post only to show how the reading went when it’s over, is fine if you want to share with us.

  • The Read-A-Thon will officially start Friday 17th at 12:0oam EST and endMonday 27th at 11:59 PM EST.

  • Find other participants’ updates through the linky below or at #WWReadathon on Twitter!

 

I’ll be updating my own progress here pretty regularly, and I’m hoping to at least participate in most, if not all, of the daily challenges. Hope to see you there!

 

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