Category Archives: Book Reviews

Where I Specifically Review Books

ARC Review: A Stolen Kiss – Kelsey Keating

A Stolen Kiss
Author: SKelsey Keating
Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA, Romance, MG
Release Date: Mar 1, 2016
Publisher: Swanfide Publishing
Rating: ♦♦♦♦

Summary:  A stolen kiss. An unstable curse. One big mess in the making.

Derric Harver never expected to amount to anything more than the palace stableboy, but when Princess Maria’s curse keeps her from accepting a prince’s proposal, she turns to him for help, and he doesn’t dare refuse.

With the help of a lady’s maid and a prince, Derric and Maria embark on a dangerous adventure to find the sorceress who cast the curse. Along the way they battle deadly creatures and make new friends–all the while struggling with the undeniable chemistry between them. Reaching their destination won’t be easy, but the true peril lies in the truths they’ve fought for years to keep hidden.

A Stolen Kiss is the first in the Stolen Royals Series–an adventure with magical creatures, dangerous secrets, and being true to the power within.

Here’s the thing. I need to learn to differentiate between MG and YA when I receive arcs. 😀 This book is so MG. And I’m not a fan of MG.

However. This book was adorable.

In spite of the ‘on the nose-ness’ dialogue that comes with MG, and the over explaining, and the ‘problems are super easy to solve’ trope that comes with the MG territory, I enjoyed the story.

Just like this story. Delicious, cheesy, and it doesn’t lie. Seriously. Adorable.

A Stolen Kiss takes place in a world where fairy tales are history and main characters are much more fair-minded and progressive than usual. There’s magic and sorcery and royals and balls and all the things we expect. However, the story keeps you guessing.

A Stolen Kiss is a light read with funny and cute moments. It’s a story about friendship and what you’re capable of when you’ve been trapped in an oppressive mindset for so long. Told in the dual perspective of the main characters, A Stolen Kiss doesn’t shy away from having other fun and interesting characters as well. Everybody’s got their own story – and I think that’s where A Stolen Kiss really shines.

The ending was my favorite. Overall four stars. Cute, sweet, and full of surprising twists!

Side Note: That cover is totally adorable.

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ARC Review: Nexus – Nicholas Wilson

Nexus
Author: Nicholas Wilson
Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance
Release Date: July 8th, 2014
Publisher: Victory Editing
Rating: ♦♦♦

Summary: Captain Anderson Grant of the corporate starship Nexus boldly explores alien worlds (and occasionally the alien women, too). Grant and his crew struggle with the company’s version of manifest destiny, as well as its attempt to coerce them into military force. They begin to question whether the largest threat to their mission and their safety will come from outside the Nexus or from the company that respects them more for their genetic possibilities than their individuality.

Contains Mild Spoilers

Nexus is one of those difficult books to review. Mostly because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s basically an R-rated Star Trek, if all of Star Trek’s jokes were about sex.

So here are the bad points.

It’s vulgar. Excessively so. Practically everything that comes out of the Captain’s mouth – who is *of course* our main character – is some sort of joke about sex or genitalia.

The Captain is almost textbook Mary Sue (Marty Stu) – in charge of the ship and unquestionable authority. The guys who dislike him are jerks, he’s a great fighter, and has a tragic past (which of course wasn’t his fault, but he still blames himself for it anyway.) He also makes so many sex related jokes that you get tired of him after a while, and its amazing that his crew hasn’t. And *of course* every female in his vicinity wants to sleep with him. Including aliens and the ship’s AI.

ALL the women want to sleep with him. Seriously, just once I want to see a story where all the women *don’t* want to sleep with the Captain. (I miss Firefly.)

There’s a lot of exposition. It’s interesting exposition – this alien species is like this, because of this, this, and this, but a whole lot of it nonetheless. Sometimes characters stop the Captain just to tell him their life stories – which of course he listens to, because he has nothing better to do.

Those things would have made me stop reading before I reached chapter three. Nothing is more annoying than a Mary Sue – male or female. So here’s the catch. I found myself enjoying this book.

The AI is incredibly funny and easily steals the show every time she’s on the page, the heads of division have their distinct personalities (despite the large cast) and are pretty ingenious, and the world building (literally so, because they’re looking for new worlds) is complex and fascinating, even if too sex-focused at times. Even the science is fun to read, if you like that sort of thing. (Which I do.) The author clearly did his research.

If you’re looking for a laugh, happen to like the Star Trek premise, and can handle all the vulgar jokes on every page, then by all means this book is for you. The sarcasm is biting, and I found myself laughing aloud at parts.

Overall: three stars.

There’s even a crazy military specialist in cryo-stasis who wants to take the Captain’s job. Sound familiar?

ARC Review – The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

 

The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Genre: Children’s
Release Date: Aug 26, 2014
Publisher: Random House Children’s
Rating: ♦♦♦♦

Summary: Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.

Science can change the world, but can it go too far?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough, he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility.

I’ve got one word for “The Fourteenth Goldfish”.

Adorable.

Me reading this book.

This is a charming story of a young girl figuring out who she is and what she wants while her grandfather (who suddenly turned into a thirteen year old boy) inspires her. It’s about science, possibilities, and discovering that you’re passionate about something. It’s also about smelly teenagers, taking out the trash, and changing your mind sometimes.

It’s not a very complex storyline, nor a very difficult read, and I would have enjoyed it when I was seven instead of eleven like the heroine of the story. The relationships seem real, though at times too dramatic, but the writing is simple and to the point.  It is surprisingly cute though, and had an ending that I did not expect.

Overall four stars. Not blow my mind exceptional, but above average. Cute.

ARC Review: Defy – Sara B. Larson

Defy
Author: Sara B. Larson
Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA, Romance
Release Date: Jan 7, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic – Scholastic Press
Rating: ♦♦

Summary: A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

Contains Mild Spoilers.

Before I begin, I would like to clarify. This book is NOT high fantasy (despite what they tell you.) It is a romance novel. So I will review it as one.

Defy starts out moderately well, with all the stereotypical beginnings of a girl forced to disguise herself as a boy – the parents killed off in a tragic beginning, and a sudden disguise to escape some dreadful fate, in this case, the breeding houses. Stereotypes can be useful, to form rules that you can break and subvert later.

THIS IS WHAT I WAS EXPECTING. TOTAL BADASSERY.

Except that doesn’t happen here. The stereotypes stay.

Defy could have been so good.

Time passes and we discover that the main character has become one of the most expert swordsmen in the Prince’s elite guard – a position that would have earned her the Captainship, had she been older. (By the way, not a very good way to select a captain, who says they’ll be loyal?) This is a nice point, as I enjoyed the descriptions of her fighting, of knowing how adept she was. However, she’s also the fastest, the most skilled shot, and second in command. Very Mary-Sue like. Dangerous territory.

Most of the time, I barely believe her as a boy. And when everyone suddenly discovers she’s a girl (seriously, everyone, at once, all of a sudden they know) she acts less like a boy than ever. And she doesn’t even act like a decent girl. She acts like she’s young and spoiled. She’s whiny. Petulant. She overdramatizes everything when they don’t want to talk to her. Prince Damien saves her life in the most protective way. (Because he’s secretly really good at fighting. I thought she was the guard. Come on.) They’re being kidnapped and all she can think about is what these boys look like. It makes me wonder how exactly she’d been capable of putting the disguise up at all. (Since when do men not cry when people in their family die? What makes her think that makes any sense at all?)

I’m not even going to address how often her heart fluttered, or how often she ogled some guy. Because clearly that was more important than a war, assassination attempts, getting kidnapped, and the general horror of things. (Like breeding houses. Come on, really? Illogical. And stupid in a 20 year war. )

We have:

stock characters (evil king, gorgeous pouty prince, a slimy skinny vizier, best friend that’s sweet but has no backstory)

a barely developed world, (I can’t even differentiate between countries)

plot devices that are unrealistic, (I’m looking at you breeding houses)

magic that is undeveloped, (shields and healing and no explanations)

no religion, (oh wait, someone said underworld and demon, once)

no history, (except for that which relates to the main characters)

ugly people are bad, (like the fat guy that is in charge of the breeding houses, and that stupid vizier)

and so many other things I couldn’t name them all.

MULAN WOULD RUN AND HIDE FROM SHAME.

The romance was believable, though entirely pathetic, which is why this is getting two stars. If I had reviewed this as high fantasy, it would not get any. I mean, the second Prince Damien was described as sardonic you knew she was going to fall for him. She was fluttering the whole book. For a girl who’s supposedly good at acting, she sucks. It also gets two stars because she didn’t say yes to him at the end. Which made me happy. No one deserves a happy ending here. Good.

Defy disappointed me, truly, and I had such high hopes. For supposedly being a book with a strong willed heroine, it fell as hard as it could fall. Even her fantastic sword-fighting skills were attributed to magic. Because, of course, no woman could possibly beat all those men without magic. And that makes me the saddest of all.

I wouldn’t recommend this book, because the heroine is weak and whiny, (though she started out strong, I don’t know what happened), the plot is nothing new, and the romance is so stereotypical I knew what would happen on page six (which is the second page of chapter one). Damien is your typical hidden sensitive soul, Rylan has nothing to him, and Alexa has no concept of how to act like a man.

I wouldn’t recommend this book, because it claims to have a strong heroine, and yet, and yet, she becomes that very weak-willed girl that we all want to burn away. Because young girls might  read this and think that’s what being a strong woman is. Fluttering in the arms of your prince.

And while its okay to flutter in the arms of your beloved, just ask a WWII bride what she felt like during the war and you’ll see a strong woman. It won’t be this.

THIS IS WHAT A BADASS GIRL LOOKS LIKE.

Ps. Do we know anything about anyone else besides Damien and Alexa? No. Because they’re not the main love story. So we don’t care about anyone else’s backstory.

 

ARC Review: The Foxes of Caminus – Laura Burroughs

Foxes of Caminus
Author: Laura Burroughs
Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA
Release Date: Oct 3 2013
Publisher: Smith Publicity
Rating: ♦♦♦ 

Summary: Fraternal twins, Anya and Harlie Fox, are lured from their cozy Atlanta home and deposited on an uncharted island with a riddle to solve. That’s when the teenagers’ lives get complicated. They discover they and their friends have some extraordinary talents. When intruders infiltrate their academy, espionage, kidnapping and murder follow, and the twins are drawn into one of the oldest conflicts in human history. When Anya is forced to accompany  two classmates on a dangerous mission though space and time, Harlie uses his unique talent to help. But the plan goes awry. The twins must challenge their own sense of truth and reach across lines of belief to come out of it alive. The odds are long, the stakes are high and the future of the island hangs in the balance.

If I could use one word to sum up Laura Burrough’s enchanting debut novel it would be ‘surprising’. Foxes of Caminus is bright, well developed, detailed and an utter fantasy for the present times. Despite my emotional roller-coaster while engrossed in the book, I actually find that I liked it.

There are so many moments that Foxes is simply delightful. The ample futuristic technology, the lush descriptions, and the x-men-like talents of the scholars, all put together sets the stage for another perfect best-seller.

However. I quite nearly quit a few pages in.

The first few pages do not set up what you are about to encounter at all. The twins are dropped off on an uncharted island (by their seemingly uncaring mother who told them nothing) and told to solve a riddle. It seems so clear when I write it in the previous sentence. But it is not so in the book. The present is over explained, (here is a map, look at the map, it’s an old map) yet nothing is said for a final goal. There’s no set up, no preamble, no chance to see the characters in a defining moment before we finally get to the main angle: The Academy.

THAT’S WHAT THIS WAS ABOUT? THIS WHOLE TIME? REALLY? YOU COULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING. MOM IS DROPPING US OFF AT THIS STUPID SCHOOL, BUT WE HAVE TO SOLVE A RIDDLE TO GET IN, LAME. WOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH BETTER.

When the twins finally do enter the Academy, it seems so rushed and haphazard (to the characters) that I hardly believed that’s where the story was taking me. Not to mention that the transitions between the dual narration of the twins was often so jarring that I had to backtrack to see where I had left one off.

I had resolutely decided that this book deserved two stars, due to the fact that it lacked an overarching plot, that most structure seemed to be thrown out the window, and that there were moments when the cast seemed so large that I got lost in all their voices.

Excuse me, I’m the Doctor. You wouldn’t happen to see a major plot lying around, would you?

But there were so many moments that I resonated with what the characters were going through, wishing I could have gone to an Academy such as this, so many scenes where I genuinely forgot that I was here and not there (as readers often do) that I needed to give it another star.

I think however, that most of the problems I found incredibly frustrating would have been resolved by a beginning that set up the Academy, the talents of the Scholars, and the general coming-of-age type narrative that the book is (instead of a plot driven novel that it seems to be).

Had I known that it would have been Harry Potter-like in that the plot was the year instead of a streamlined story, I would have enjoyed it so much more. (A note on HP – there is a plot overarching the whole novel, and I believe Foxes would have benefited by tying all the unattached events together.)

Overall, I’d recommend it to a young teen, twelve, maybe thirteen. Not for the story, but for the genuine moments of discovery, the forbidden use of the word can’t, and the painful reminder that we are so often lost in our own paradigms and prejudices that cannot see what is right in front of our faces. I love the topics that this book covers and the genuine themes that it makes it’s characters face.

Shall I challenge your paradigm of time?

Ps. I did not enjoy her descriptions of people’s voices (honeyed, sultry, spicy, husky). They sounded like they were transplanted from a bad romance novel. And fourteen-year-old teens don’t really describe things like bad romance novels.

Defying Foxes

I AM DOING A THING!

It’s attached to the old thing. Except now, I’m in the middle instead of the beginning.

I’m reviewing books. I figured, since I do that regardless, I might as well practice my writing while I’m at it.

NetGalley provided me with ARCs in return for an honest review in all manner of places on the internet.

Here are the first two:

Foxes of Caminus

“Fraternal twins, Anya and Harlie Fox are lured from their cozy Atlanta home and deposited on an uncharted island with riddle to solve.”

This one seems like a fun rendition of Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles. (I didn’t read them – but I know Riordan’s writing. And it’s good.) So I’m moderately excited for this. The brother/sister dynamic is always fun.

Defy

“Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard.”

This one sounds awesome. I love it when girls kick butt. When they’re in armies and totally save the world. Makes me all happy inside.

DO THAT HAPPY DANCE! YES.

BUT WAIT!

There’s a love triangle. Between the unachievable and the constant. (Of course).

I.e. The Prince and her best friend.

So I know I’m going to throw this book at the wall.

WHY CAN’T A GIRL BE BADASS WITHOUT HAVING TWO BOYS FIGHT OVER HER?! WHY?!

IT SAYS WEIRD BUT I MEAN ANGRY!!!

Anyway. Off I go.

Book Review #1: Witches Abroad

It’s no secret to most of my friends that since I’ve discovered Terry Pratchett I’ve been inhuming every word in the depths of my mind. He’s brilliant. Pick up any one of his books and your afternoon has just been made ten times over.

Terry does what Joss Whedon does with television. Only he does it so much better. (No offense to Joss.) Every cliche, every trope (Search: Television Tropes and Idioms), and every pre conceived notion that comes with writing a novel is turned about on it’s head when you open the pages of any Discworld novel.

It’s no surprise to me that he tackled fairy tales.

Witches Abroad is one of those novels that will have you laughing aloud and smiling to yourself without being aware that you’re doing so. It’s brilliantly funny, surprisingly poignant in some places, and will have you questioning how exactly you view the world. It will make you question the meaning of happy endings, who exactly might be good and why you don’t travel more often. And, unlike most “high literature,” it will have you laughing most of the way there.

I can’t say that Witches Abroad was one of Terry’s best, which is why I’ve only given it four stars. The pace of this novel was unusual for him, perhaps a little too slow in places where he had already established the final destination. Maybe I’m a bit impatient.

However, the three main witches are a delight every time they speak, so if you’re not too impatient for the grand finale, the journey there will be fantastic.

I’d recommend it to anyone, and everyone. Read it.