[Review] Not A Drop To Drink

Fry's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 10th March, 2014

[Review] Not A Drop To DrinkNot A Drop To Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Series: Not A Drop To Drink #1
Published by Katherine Tegan Books on September 24th, 2013
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Source: Gift
Goodreads
four-stars
Amazon
Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

It took three attempts to make it through this book. Not because this book is bad, by any means, but it’s a gritty, realistic survivalist story and sometimes that leads to slow plodding chapters full of hunting and gathering. The two attempts I had at reading this before found me setting it down for something with a more clipped pace.  As they say, third time’s a charm, and I’m glad I followed through to the finish.

Set in a dystopian world where water is a precious commodity, the story follows a young girl named Lynn as she and her mother attempt to survive in a world full of uncertainties and predators- both human and animal. A tragedy early on leaves Lynn on her own and she must decide if she’s going to continue on her mother’s path of lonely survival, or feed that spark of compassion within her and help the needy around her farm.

The book doesn’t brush over any topics- gutting a deer, stillbirth and rape are all mentioned with efficiency. It fits the landscape, but for readers with a low tolerance for such things the book may come off as crude and excessive.

There is a romance, if one could call the budding relationship between a lonely girl on the cusp of womanhood and the first boy her age she’s seen ever a romance. While it didn’t feel forced, it also didn’t feel like there where hot sparks flying either. I enjoyed the minimalism of the romance, as it remained a tertiary plot point and never overthrew the main theme.

This book reads like a standalone, and was probably meant to be one. It wasn’t until very recently that a second book in the series was announced. While secretly hoping that A Handful of Dust wouldn’t be a direct sequel, I’m glad to see it is (they’re toting it as a ‘companion novel’ but when you’re following one of the main characters from the previous book, it’s pretty much a sequel). There’s some potential there. Though, even if the author decided to move away from her lone wilderness survivors and tell the story of life in the city, that would also prove sufficiently compelling.

[ARC Review] The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas

ARC Reviews, Bry's Reviews, Reviews 3 Comments 9th March, 2014

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

[ARC Review] The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth LoupasThe Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence by Elizabeth Loupas
Published by NAL Trade on April 1st, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
Amazon
Elizabeth Loupas returns with her most ambitious historical novel yet, a story of intrigue, passion, and murder in the Medici Court...

April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.

Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets …even to love her …or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?

I don’t think there has been a book since Dance with Dragons that I have been as rabidly excited about as I was about discovering The Red Lily Crown. We are talking world-melting levels of excitement. Why?

I am a Renaissance historian who specializes in Medici Florence. I love the Medici, in particular Cosimo I, first Grand Duke of Tuscany. And as far as Medici books go, 99% of them are going to be written about Lorenzo the Magnificent, or Catherine de Medici, Queen of France. Both fabulous and interesting, don’t get me wrong, but no one, and I mean no one, is writing fiction about my beloved Cosimo I, or the Duchy period in Florence!

How badly did I want to read this book NOW? Badly enough that when I could not find ARCs on NetGalley, Edelweiss or anywhere else, I actually ended up contacting Elizabeth Loupas — who, might I add, was an absolute sweetheart and super lady. Seriously, what a lovely woman. She made sure I had a copy within 24 hours, and this was me:

So was the book worth all that self-imposed hype? YES. Admittedly, due to the time period this book has more to do with Cosimo’s son Francesco Medici but still, this is what I’ve been dying to read!

The Red Lily Crown’s protagonist, Chiara Nerini, is the daughter of the late Carlo Nerini, an anti-Medici bookseller and dabbling alchemist. After Carlo’s death, the Nerini family is struggling and hungry, and Chiara is desperate enough to support her sisters and grandmother that she approaches Francesco Medici with the hope that he will buy her father’s alchemical equipment. It is a known fact that the Medici prince is obsessed with alchemy, and when Chiara gains his attention, it becomes evident that he is interested in far more than the alchemist’s tools. Francesco demands Chiara enter his service to become his soror mystica, (female alchemist), to aid the alchemical work he has begun with an English metallurgist, Ruan, to create the famous Philosopher’s stone. As Chiara is forced to prove her virginity to occupy the title, she realizes she is now in Francesco’s power, unable to leave, or defy him.

As Fransesco Medici inherits the role of Grand Duke of Tuscany, Chiara is ingratiated into Medici service, first in the household of Isabella Medici, then in the service of the Grand Duchess Giovanna of Austria, and finally, to Bianca Capello, Francesco’s Mistress and later wife. Chiara becomes inevitably invested and enmeshed within Medici intrigue, exposed to deception, adultery, murder, and the ruthlessness of the Grand Duke, who will stop at nothing for what he wants.  Chiara and Ruan, bound together in their research, grow to hate Fransesco for his ruthlessness, but cannot escape him. 

The plot is so rich and so thick that to explore it any further would be to give away many spoilers, but suffice to say the material is expertly faithful to real world history, and the personal choices made by Elizabeth Loupas to answer long-standing mysteries are wonderful supplements to her intended direction. Loupas has brought to life both her fictional and literal characters, the atmosphere of 1570’s Florence, and the incredible world presence of the Medici. She has so diligently constructed the intensity of this legendary Renaissance family, paying respect to their history, their legacy, their perseverance, and the individuality of each Medici – so often they are carelessly lumped together, which can be so disappointing. Whats more, the complexity allotted to the characters give them concrete reality, and the subtlety that I crave in great writing. For example, even though Fransesco is portrayed as as the unquestionable villain, he is difficult to hate, for he is so essential to his characteristics! He is an avaricious sadist, but he is a true sadist, with motives beyond pain. He is a man who loves to roleplay and escape the grandeur of his life; he craves simplicity, yet paradoxically craves his power, and so exerts it in the avenue he feels is safe, which is with his mistress. Similarly, characters who are afforded much sympathy and forgiveness for their trespasses, such as Chiara’s father, still inspire such feelings of hate and dislike that I could barely stand to see his memory given patience. No one portrayed in this story is worthy of full trust, nor is anyone worthy of pure hatred, for these people are wholly, and truly human.

For these reasons and so much more, this is a book I not only appreciated, but also devoured and loved. I could rave forever, but I think I might as well leave this review summarized with a simple sentiment: If you love history, the Medici, or just a fantastic read, the Red Lily Crown comes absolutely, exuberantly, and vehemently recommended by this saucy historian.

[Review] The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling

Anne's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 6th March, 2014

[Review] The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn FlewellingThe Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling
Series: Tamir Triad
Published by Random House, Spectra on October 21, 2009
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 524
Source: Library
Goodreads
five-stars
Amazon
Sometimes the price of destiny is higher than anyone imagined....

Dark Magic, Hidden Destiny

For three centuries a divine prophecy and a line of warrior queens protected Skala. But the people grew complacent and Erius, a usurper king, claimed his young half sister’s throne.

Now plague and drought stalk the land, war with Skala’s ancient rival Plenimar drains the country’s lifeblood, and to be born female into the royal line has become a death sentence as the king fights to ensure the succession of his only heir, a son. For King Erius the greatest threat comes from his own line — and from Illior’s faithful, who spread the Oracle’s words to a doubting populace.

As noblewomen young and old perish mysteriously, the king’s nephew — his sister’s only child — grows toward manhood. But unbeknownst to the king or the boy, strange, haunted Tobin is the princess’s daughter, given male form by a dark magic to protect her until she can claim her rightful destiny.

Only Tobin’s noble father, two wizards of Illior, and an outlawed forest witch know the truth. Only they can protect young Tobin from a king’s wrath, a mother’s madness, and the terrifying rage of her brother’s demon spirit, determined to avenge his brutal murder....

It’s rare to come across an Epic Fantasy novel that breaks out of the Tolkien mold. (Seriously, there wasn’t even one drinking song (that’s a win for everyone) and forget Elves and Dwarves.) The Bone Doll’s Twin not only breaks the mold, but manages to create something unique and new. I imagine that this book is what you would get if Game of Thrones and Wuthering Heights had a lovechild.

Described by the author as “Gothic Fantasy,” the story revolves around a princess whose very gender has to be hidden because of her royal blood and the King’s obsession with killing off any female heirs to the throne. (In the world Skala, a prophecy declares that the kingdom will prosper only as long as a true Queen of Skala rules, so you can understand King Erius’, who is also the princess’s uncle, preoccupation with pruning the family tree of female children.) While the hidden heir plot is common in Fantasy, Flewelling’s manner of hiding the child brings a fresh take to this overdone plot.

The magic used to accomplish the disguise requires the sacrifice of the princess’s twin brother, who is killed at birth, so that the princess can take on his outward appearance. There is a mishap (what’s a good plot without a mishap?) that causes Brother (the only name he’s ever given) to be bound to his twin sister. This one mishap is the root cause of several other tragic events that will befall Tobin (the hidden princess) and her family. It traps Brother to the earth and as he and Tobin age he becomes stronger and more vindictive.

Gender and identity is a theme throughout the trilogy, but doesn’t overwhelm the story. Through Tobin, who later becomes Tamir, the reader explores what it is to lose your identity and whether or not gender changes the core essence of your identity. Tobin is one of the most empathetic characters I’ve come across in a long time. He’s easy to sympathize with and I found myself wanting him to have an easy time of it, even though it would have made for poor reading if there weren’t trials and conflict.

Ki, Tobin’s squire, is one of my favorite characters. He’s snarky, loyal, adventurous and Tobin’s best friend. Some of my favorite scenes in the trilogy are those from Ki’s point of view. One of the things that made Tobin’s transformation to Tamir so interesting is Ki’s struggle with the change. Some truly beautiful scenes revolve around this conflict.

The author does an excellent job of character development and not just that of the heroes. The villains are three dimensional rather than gross caricatures of evil. One of the most interesting characters to me was the lead Wizard Harrier Niryn who has the King’s ear. A nod to Tolkien’s Wormtongue, Niryn is the power behind the throne whose desire is to accumulate even more power. His back story is quite compelling. While I understood and even sympathized with his childhood, I wasn’t able to like him because of the horrific acts he routinely performed (this mirrors much of my feelings about Lord Voldemort’s childhood in the Harry Potter series). It’s easy, or should be, to make a reader sympathize with the hero, but to do the same with a villain takes some truly epic writing skills.

On the other side of this, the good guys are not always good regardless of their intentions. The wizards Iya and Arkonial, along with the witch Lhel, are responsible for the magic hiding Tobin. This also means they’re responsible for Brother’s murder. This is a case where heroes perform an act, usually reserved for villains, for the very best of intentions, a whole “the good of the many outweigh the good of the few.” Watching their struggle with the ramifications of this act brings added depth to the plot.

One of the main themes throughout the Tamir Trilogy is whether or not the ends can ever fully justify the means. Something that the author leaves you to ponder throughout the trilogy, but refuses to spoon feed you the “correct” answer.

My only complaint with The Bone Doll’s Twin is that it leaves off at a cliffhanger. We’re literally left wondering if one of the central characters would be dead by the next volume. (I’d like to make a note that the author has no problem killing off main characters.) It’s a small complaint because all three books are out so I was able to immediately begin The Hidden Warrior. (Not sure I would have survived if the sequel hadn’t already been published.)

I loved the entire triad! The writing was beautifully executed and the world building was top notch. The characters are sympathetic and fleshed out. The best part about finishing this trilogy is that I can visit the world of Skala again in the Nightrunner series (a series that takes place in the same world, but during a future time period and with new characters). There isn’t anyone I wouldn’t recommend this book or triad to.

[Giveaway] Lucky is Reading Giveaway Hop (US Shipping only)

Giveaways 35 Comments 6th March, 2014

Source: Purchase

Lucky-Is-Reading-Hop

We are giving away a prize pack of some of our favorite romantic reads that take place in fantastical lands.

The prize pack includes:

Signed Poster of the cover art from These Broken Stars

Hardback copy of These Broken Stars

Hardback copy of The Winner’s Curse

Paperback copy of For Darkness Shows the Stars

Good luck and as always thank you for entering!

 

IMG_0599[1] https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1383578978l/13138635.jpghttps://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1377023523l/16069030.jpghttps://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1338529086l/8306761.jpg

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[Arc Review] Sekret

ARC Reviews, Fry's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 3rd March, 2014

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

[Arc Review] SekretSekret by Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Published by Macmillian Children's, Roaring Book Press on April 1st, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 337
Goodreads
four-stars
Amazon
From debut author Lindsay Smith comes an espionage thriller with a dash of both history and dystopia.

Yulia’s father always taught her that an empty mind is a safe mind. She has to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia, especially because she seems to be able to read the minds of the people she touches. When she’s captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she’s thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power where she can trust no one.

She certainly can’t trust Rostov, the cruel KGB operative running the psychic program. Or handsome Sergei who encourages her to cooperate with the KGB. Or brooding Valentin who tells her to rebel against them. And not the CIA, who have a psychic so powerful he can erase a person’s mind with his own thoughts. Yulia quickly learns she must rely on her own wits and power to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Set in 1960’s Space Race, Cold War, Communist Russia, this book follows a young girl with psychic powers as she rebels against the destiny the government has set forth for her.

Yulia can read minds and events through touch. It doesn’t matter whether she’s touching an inanimate object or a person, she can glean information from any source. This power only surfaces after her family goes into hiding and her father leaves. Eventually, the KGB (the main security agency in Russia) finds her and takes her in. She is forced to live in a school with other psychics in order to hone her talents. The government wants to use this psychic force to stop terrorist threats and insurgency within the nation.

Yulia’s first thought is of escape, but it’s hard to plan an escape when her thoughts are visible to her fellow classmates and to her teachers. She learns to hide thoughts and though coerced with her family’s safety to remain put, she continues to dream of leaving the Russian dutiful life behind.

When a team of Americans show up to sabotage a secret rocket launch, it throws Yulia into the thick of things but also gives her hope and a chance of escape.

I know very little about Russia, let’s be honest, so I don’t know how plausible the history is. Still, the author weaves a wonderful look at life and events for that time, melding the fantastical psychic element into them seamlessly.

The characters are well rounded and their powers are varied in both execution and strength. There is a brief, but still standard love triangle which splits abruptly despite revival. The singular romance continues unabated, but doesn’t overwhelm the story or the action.

The book takes plenty of twists and turns, but after a certain point I had grasped the thread and latched onto the hints. That left me less than surprised at most of the reveals. This didn’t take away from the story, but the shock and awe would have been felt deeper had there remained an air of mystery.

Still, I found the book to be intriguing and enjoyable up until the end. Seeing that this is the first in a series of books, I will most assuredly be picking up the next installment.

[Arc Review] Salvage

ARC Reviews, Fry's Reviews, Reviews 2 Comments 1st March, 2014

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
[Arc Review] SalvageSalvage by Alexandra Duncan
Published by Greenwillow on April 1st, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
four-stars
Amazon
Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

I’m not sure what drew me to this book, but I’m glad that I took a chance on it. It ended up being completely different from most of the space-faring adventures I have picked up in the past. This made it unique and appealing to someone like me, who only tends to read action packed science fiction with no-nonsense heroines who kick ass.

Ava is a teenage girl who has never been off her small deep space merchant ship, the Parastrata. In fact, her culture doesn’t let women off the ship very much at all. Only those who are high ranking or those who get special privilege are allowed off the ship at any point. This leaves her body much weaker than her mind and pretty much holds her hostage to her own ship or a similar ship.

Ava’s worldview is very limited. Though she enjoys fixing bits of the ship, deemed a male oriented task, she makes sure to do it in secret and only if it seems as though no one else would be tasked with it. Her goals in life are to marry and have children. Even with the crush she has on a boy she met once when his ship visited, he is not her top priority.

Now, I should probably mention, Ava’s merchant culture and all ships within that merchant culture, are polygamist. Ava is perfectly happy being someone’s third or fourth wife. This is just how she was raised. When it turns out that she is ready to be married, though, it turns out she will be sent to the other ship, the one with the boy she already has a crush on. This changes her goals and she starts to get excited and hope that the boy, Luck, who is of marrying age as well, will be her husband.

Luck also comes to the same conclusion, and in a night of passion before the marriage papers are signed, they are caught. They find out that instead of being meant for Luck, Ava was meant to be the wife of the captain, Luck’s father, who already had plenty of wives. Luck is beaten for his insubordination and Ava is sent back to her own ship in shame. On on her own ship, she is dressed in her funeral best and left near the airlock, to be thrown out into the void once the ship is away from the port they are currently using.

A childless widow, one of Ava’s dead mother’s friends, risks her life to get Ava off the ship and onto the space station. Ava, who already knew she had an aunt living on earth, is told of her location and to find her. Ava gets very lucky at this point, beseeching help from a woman who looked as though she’d seen her fair share of trouble. She is taken down to earth where the woman, Perpétue, and her daughter nurse Ava as she acclimates to the gravity.

Eventually, Ava is able to do small tasks around the household and in growing stronger, is taught how to fly the small spacecraft that is the family’s courier livelihood. Returning from one of these trips, they see that their island home is overrun by the ocean and a terrible storm. The young daughter, Miyole, is rescued, but Perpétue is lost in the process. Ava is thrust with the sudden burden of providing for a young child. So, she decides to go try and find her aunt in Mumbai.

The quest that unfolds tests Ava’s sense of self. She finds obstacles that test her world view and her capacity. Coming through the other side, she grows into a strong minded character with her own thoughts and desires. When given the chance to have everything she could have wanted at the book’s start, she finds that she’s advanced well past that stage and declines.

While the book is not full of the most exciting adventures, it does have its fair share of tense moments. It remains compelling despite this. Ava’s growth and discovery take center stage and keeping the plot moves at a great pace as she learns new things and encounters new people.

[Review] The Little Android

Fry's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 26th February, 2014

[Review] The Little AndroidThe Little Android by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #2.5
on January 27th, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Short Story, Young Adult
Pages: 18
Goodreads
three-stars
The Little Android is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles by New York Times-bestselling author Marissa Meyer.

When android Mech6.0, saves the life of a handsome hardware engineer, her body is destroyed and her mechanics discover a glitch in her programing. Androids aren’t not meant to develop unpractical reasoning or near-emotional responses…let alone fall in love.

I’m both overjoyed at getting another glimpse into Marissa Meyer’s world, and full of regrets. It’s not like I didn’t know that the next characters and adaptations into her interesting science fiction world would be Rapunzel and Snow White, but it’s still disappointing that we won’t get a full functional character to go with The Little Mermaid.

Still, the story is sound and it’s a good appetizer for the main course of Cress. Our main character, Star, is an android who, with a malfunctioning personality chip, falls in love with an engineer she’s required to work with. She ends up rescuing him, and in the process destroys her body. Instead of allowing herself to be scrapped and thrown away for having feelings, she leaves (no one cares that an android just up and rolled it’s way out of where it should be?) and attempts to find herself a new body before her old one shuts down completely.

Here’s where Cinder comes in, placing this story before the events of the actual novels. Cinder plays the wicked witch role, despite being neither wicked nor a witch, and offers the desperate android an escort bot body. Yes, the body is also malfunctioning, offering Star only pain when she moves, staying on par with the story version.

Since Cinder is obviously not the one trying to steal Star’s love, there is another love interest to cause Star grief. Eventually, Star, in a bittersweet act of love, helps her engineer and the object of his affection get together. Could you expect anything less from a Little Mermaid adaptation? It was pretty much perfect.

[ARC Review] Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

Amy's Reviews, ARC Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 23rd February, 2014

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

[ARC Review] Fire & Flood by Victoria ScottFire and Flood by Victoria Scott (Young adult author)
Series: Fire and Flood #1
Published by Scholastic Press on February 25, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
four-stars
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

For me, Fire & Flood is actually 3.5 stars and I rounded it up to 4 stars. I liked Fire & Flood, but I am not in love with this book. I don’t want to shout from the rooftops or start buying copies for all my friends yet. I think the book has potential. The best way I can describe how I feel about Fire & Flood is for me it was like a bland date with a guy you thought would knock your socks off. In the end, you like the guy, might even go on another date, but a part of you was just slightly disappointed there was not enough of that spark.

I really liked Victoria Scott’s The Collector, and I love her writing style. She definitely has a way of writing with self deprecating main leads the also seem shallow but have lots of heart. That is why I liked Tella. In the beginning she comes off as a girl more obsessed with designer jeans then changing the world, but by the time the book ends she is ready to take on an evil pharmaceutical company.

Fire & Flood is like the Amazing Race meets Hunger Games. Tella’s brother is dying and one day she gets an invitation to race in a game that spans across the world and puts her in several different ecosystems. Why does she compete? The prize is a drug that will save her brother’s life. Not knowing anything more than that she takes off to compete in this underground race.

I liked the book itself, it was full of action. I love the show The Amazing Race so the plot really intrigued me. I thought the scenes in the race were done really well. I really felt like I was in a rain forest or out on the desert. Like I said, I like the change Tella goes through and that by the end she was able to take down the bad guy without the help of the big tough hero.

The things I didn’t like about Fire & Flood that kept it from knocking my socks off was the same complaints I know I had seen other people have. While I thought the world building in the race was good, the world outside of the race is confusing. The book never explains if the events take place in the modern world, an alternate world, or sometime in the future. I didn’t think Tella started asking enough questions until the end of the book. Everything was like: go do this, grab this, latch on to this guy for support. Tella would do all of it, follow the rules unquestioningly if it meant winning the race. I don’t know, I guess that is partly believable in the aspect of how far would you go to save someone you love. It is also kind of unbelievable too. I know I would need more answers. It is not until the very end when Tella starts getting those answers. That is where I think this book has potential because I am very curious to find out what happens next. While Fire & Flood was good in some aspects and had problems in others, the story itself is really decent and I look forward to the next book in the series.

Book releases February 25, 2014.

[Review] Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Fry's Reviews, Reviews 2 Comments 20th February, 2014

[Review] Daughter of Smoke & BoneDaughter of Smoke & Bone Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on June 5th, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 418
Source: Purchase
Goodreads
five-stars
Amazon
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I know, I know, I’m just jumping on this bandwagon now. But, believe me, I was judging the books by their covers. Don’t tell me the covers aren’t lame. Closeups of girls faces with overambitious stage makeup or masquerade masks? Why? There was only one masquerade scene in the whole book. Why is that the subject for the cover? Alas, I will never understand publisher’s and the way they promote thing.

The second thing that kept me away from the series was the insufferable usage of the ‘blank & blank’ seen in most book titles these days. I know it’s suppose to be deep, finding buzz words to paint a picture of the fantastical landscape. But seriously, it’s gotten old. When the fantasy landscape is riddled with them, how do you know which is which?

The third thing that kept me away, I heard there was something of an intense romance that was either complete perfection or utterly horrible depending on the person reading the book. I hate a lot of romantic tropes, but I put up with them if the story is good enough. So, when confronted with those skeptical reviews, I stayed away.

Granted, these are all shallow reasons for staying away from this book. I decided to jump in on a whim, to see what all the fuss was about. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to read. Sure, I cringed a bit when I found out there was a fight between what amounted to, in this world, as Angels and Demons. But, really, all the cliches are so well done that after a certain point, it didn’t matter anymore.

Our main character, Karou lives dual lives. On one hand she’s an art student in Prague. On the other, she knows about magical doors all over the world that all lead to the same room. A room filled with chimera, with monsters. That room holds her foster family, whom raised her from birth.

The hows and the whys are a mystery. The one in charge, Brimstone, keeps plenty of secrets from Karou. He buys teeth with wishes and sometimes Karou helps procure the teeth, from poachers and auctions and everyday folk. Upon one of her errands, Karou sees a black hand print burned into the wood of the portal door. Soon, the black hand prints appear on every door across the world. With this advent, the books soon take a turn.

Kauro meets an angel named Akiva, who at once tries to kill her. She escapes, barely, and finds refuge in Brimstone’s shop. Curiosity get’s the better of her, and she wanders to a forbidden section, only to be thrown out. In the morning, she finds that all the portals are smoldering ruins. There is no way back to Brimstone’s shop or to her family.

From there, the book starts with the general quest to get to the other side of the portal, but then diverts into the romance that everyone totes as hit or miss. It’s an intense one, spanning multiple lives and all involving Akiva. His memories mixed with Madrigal’s and Kauro’s paint a picture that is both hopeful, elated and sorrowful.

Everything is so well done. The writing style is poetic, the characters are diverse and interesting, and the world building takes things that have been done before and paints them into a beautiful tapestry.

I will be continuing this series immediately (which I will promptly regret, as the last book is not out).

[ARC Review] Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

Amy's Reviews, ARC Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 19th February, 2014

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

[ARC Review] Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany SchmidtBright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on 2014-02-18
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
four-stars
Amazon
Jonah and Brighton are about to have the most awkwardly awful night of their lives. For Jonah, every aspect of his new life reminds him of what he has had to give up. All he wants is to be left alone. Brighton is popular, pretty, and always there to help anyone . . . but has no idea of what she wants for herself. Her seemingly perfect life is marred only by Jonah, the one person who won't give her the time of day, but also makes her feel, well, something. So when they are repeatedly thrown together over the course of one night, anything can—and does—happen. Told in alternating chapters, this poignant, beautiful novel's energy and tension, amidst the humor and romance, builds to a new beginning of self-acceptance and hope.

I am starting to think that 2014 is going to be year of contemporary romance for me.  I seem to be gravitating to the aspect that they feel so real.  It is easy to escape into the lives of people who feel like they could be your friends or neighbors and think that “yeah I’ve been there too.”  When I saw the premise for the latest YA contemporary I read, I was hooked.  Bright Before Sunrise is about a popular rich girl and the new boy in school that moved from the poor side of town.  This book is also about the events that span just the 24 hour period that bring them together for more than just a friendship.  This book is about hope, romance, and healing.

Like I said, I was hooked when saw the plot for this book.  I have always loved and been fascinated by movies that span a short period of time or a full day.  Movies like: The Breakfast Club, Empire Records, and Fun Size.  From these movies and books I have learned that a lot can happen in just one day.  In one day: lives can change, stunning revelations are made, and one can even fall in love.  That is what I liked about Bright Before Sunrise is the hope and possibility of it all.  I liked how in just 24 hours Jonah discovers that Brighton is more than just a rich popular girl.  She is a girl full of grief and tragedy and is ready to heal.  Brighton discovers that Jonah is more than a sullen loner from the wrong side of town.  He is actually just hurt over the events his life has taken, but he too is ready to heal.  I liked that both characters are just normal teenagers trying to deal with their neuroses the best they know how.  I think my favorite part is when Brighton is analyzing herself in the car about why she acts the way she does and Jonah tells her to lay off because they are not going to solve all their issues in just one night.

The thing that I really like about Bright Before Sunrise is that Jonah and Brighton come together for just one night: find out they have more in common than they thought, challenge each other, and fall in love for the night.  Who knows if they will work out but I like the sense that they will.  Just like at the end of The Breakfast Club, who knows if the jock, the basket case and the nerd will ever speak to each other out in the halls, but I like to think that they will all look out for one another after that day.  If you are like me and you are like books that are sweet, romantic, and quick to read; then pick up Bright Before Sunrise because this book really did leave me on nice cloud of happy.