[ARC Review] Alienated

Amy's Reviews, ARC Reviews, Reviews 3 Comments 28th January, 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] AlienatedAlienated by Melissa Landers
Series: Alienated #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion on February 4th, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. Handpicked to host the first-ever L'eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she'll have inside information about the mysterious L'eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara's blog following is about to skyrocket.Still, Cara isn't sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L'eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn't seem more alien. She's certain about one thing though: no human boy is this good-looking.But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn't just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life-not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

I started this book when I was on vacation and I ended up really liking it.  I was on a cruise boat, and I found this book provided just the right kind of vacation reading.  The story is light, full of action, and of course there is kissing.  It was one of those reads that drags you in and doesn’t let go until the end.  For me, I found Alienated by Melissa Landers quite a fascinating read.

The book is set in an alternate reality where aliens have made contact with Earth.  This alien race shares DNA with humans. They even look like humans with subtle differences. Their race is more advanced and possesses technology that can save Earth from a water shortage.  They even have the technology to cure cancer.  So when they agree to send exchange students to live on Earth, the politicians know they have to make the populace happy because Earth can benefit so much from the friendship with these aliens.

Cara is a straight A student who agrees to host the only alien exchange on USA soil.  Not everyone is happy about the exchange and becoming friends with aliens, and soon Cara and her alien find themselves in danger.  Angry mobs aren’t the only problem because Cara and Aelyx are falling in love.  Being a sucker for romance of course I was all over this plot line of star-crossed lovers like white on rice.  I really did like the book because while it was cheesy, it was the right kind of cheese that is believable, romantic, and leaves a swoony smile across my face.

I liked that Aelyx starts off hating the assignment and believes that humans are beneath him, to developing compassion and growing to love not only Cara, but the human race.  These traits that had been bred out his people after years of cloning and it’s good to see that everyone needs passion in their lives because it keeps the drive we all have going to try new things, fall in love, and better our lives.  I like that it is Cara’s loyalty and passion that helps him see the light.  It is that loyalty and passion that causes her to risk everything for love and leave behind everything she has ever known.  I felt the chemistry sizzled off page and their love was genuine and believable.

In the end, I really liked Alienated.   For me, this book was about two beings who think they can’t be more different, but realize that they each have something valuable to offer each other.  I liked the message in the book of finding one’s passion and tolerance.  This book is about tolerance and acceptance because every being has something valuable of offer.  The way the book ended was kind of bittersweet.  I am now eagerly awaiting the next installment because I can’t wait to find out what happens next in the Cara and Aelyx love affair.  Alienated is a book that made me cheer, swoon, and bite my nails in suspense. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a read that will take them on romantic adventure.

[ARC Review] The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy

ARC Reviews, Bry's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 27th January, 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 Boleyn Bride by Brandy PurdyThe Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy
Published by Kensington on February 25th, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Netgalley
From carefree young woman to disillusioned bride, the dazzling lady who would become mother and grandmother to two of history's most infamous queens, has a fascinating story all her own. . .

At sixteen, Elizabeth Howard envisions a glorious life for herself as lady-in-waiting to the future queen, Catherine of Aragon. But when she is forced to marry Thomas Boleyn, a wealthy commoner, Elizabeth is left to stagnate in the countryside while her detested husband pursues his ambitions. There, she raises golden girl Mary, moody George, and ugly duckling Anne—while staving off boredom with a string of admirers. Until Henry VIII takes the throne. . .

When Thomas finally brings his highborn wife to London, Elizabeth indulges in lavish diversions and dalliances—and catches the lusty king's eye. But those who enjoy Henry's fickle favor must also guard against his wrath. For while her husband's machinations bring Elizabeth and her children to the pinnacle of power, the distance to the scaffold is but a short one—and the Boleyn family's fortune may be turning.

The events surrounding King Henry VIII’s “Great Matter” have been rehashed and retold so many times, and is so well loved by historical fiction fans everywhere that it feels as if any author with a penchant for history could sell a book on this subject and have it do rather well. However, with the Boleyn Bride, Brandy Purdy has shrewdly revived the well reiterated tale by placing the narrative with an extremely overlooked and oft-forgotten historical figure: Elizabeth Howard. Wife of Thomas Boleyn, mother to Anne, long serving lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon, faded former interest of the King, Elizabeth is the perfect candidate for a refreshing perspective.

In the Boleyn Bride, Purdy’s writing style is very much reminiscent of Phillipa Gregory, almost uncannily so. However, Purdy’s writing is free from the incredibly glaring author-held biases that always taint Gregory’s work for me. Certainly, there are strong images and attitudes towards significant historical figures constructed within this book, but it is evident these biases come from Elizabeth and her feelings, rather than from a writer who simply cannot remove personal lens from her material. Indeed, Elizabeth’s vitriolic hatred for her husband and those who brought death to her children is constructed with sincerity.

The construction of Elizabeth is interesting, for as the actions and choices and thoughts of her life are unfurled she is not a likable individual – yet she is the one presenting her life to the reader in such a critical, jaded fashion. Does it make a character more or less likable for them to acknowledge their own avaricious, selfish, promiscuous and unbecoming behaviour? Do we condemn Elizabeth’s character for her candidness about her dalliances, her lack of maternal instinct, her hatred and her snobbery? I feel not. I enjoyed her all the same!

My largest complaint about this book is its repetitiveness. I very quickly lost count of the overused phrase, “Bullen – I mean Boleyn!”, which, while admittedly made a strong point of Elizabeth’s ire for her husband, grew tiresome. I also found the predictability of Elizabeth’s visitation to her star-crossed and oddly unfitting doll maker lover after every major event too repetitive, particularly as it added nothing to the story. Her lover, Remi, scarce had personality or insight to provide, so these visits simply became an unproductive motif.

Overall, The Boleyn Bride is an enjoyable read and refreshing retelling of a story heard many times. Brandy Purdy demonstrates great skill as a writer, but could have benefited from less redundancy.

[ARC Review] Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

Amy's Reviews, ARC Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 25th January, 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.

[ARC Review] Uninvited by Sophie JordanUninvited by Sophie Jordan
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-01-28
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Source: Edelweiss
From New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan, Uninvited is a chilling and suspenseful story about a girl whose DNA brands her as a killer, perfect for fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and Confessions of a Murder Suspect.Davy had everything—a terrific boyfriend, the homecoming crown, a bright future at Juilliard—but when her genetic tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome, she loses it all. Uninvited from her prestigious school and avoided by her friends and family, she is placed in a special class with other

I really really liked Uninvited by Sophie Jordan.  This book was exciting, terrifying, sexy, and thought provoking.  The book is set in a dystopian future where scientists have discovered that homicidal tendencies are actually genetic.  They now test everyone for HTS, aka the kill gene.  The book opens with a teenage girl,  with a bright future ahead and the whole world to conquer. Then one day she comes home from school to discover that she is a carrier for HTS.  Her whole world comes crashing down around her because she doesn’t feel any different, but now they say she is to become a killer.

I really liked Davy as a character.  I could really feel for her and everything she went through.  Her life goes down the drain pretty quickly, one minute she is popular, and the next she has a case worker and is going to school in a cage.  It is in situations like this that you find out who your real friends are. Davy discovers that her old friends are like rabid dogs turning on her in a second because she is the “dangerous” one.  I like that Davy is able to pick up the pieces somehow and make some new friends, and even one that could be something more.  I liked the relationship between Davy and O’Rouke.  I felt that their relationship moved at a believable pace, was quite sexy, and full of feels.

The overall story gave me feels and was quite terrifying in some aspects.  This could happen because things like this have happened throughout time.  When governments are tanking and they need scapegoats, something to distract the people and rally them together.  In this future, it is identifying potential killers, rounding them up, and monitoring them for the good of humanity.

I liked the questions this book brings up. Does treating potential killers like second class citizens because they “might” hurt someone really stop murders or just breed more?  When someone has nothing to lose, just how far will they go?  How far do you go to protect the ones you care about?  I think that what I liked most about this book is it asks such provocative questions about a future that could really happen.  I think that is what a good dystopian novel is, “could this happen to you?” That is the most terrifying thought of all. On that note, go read Uninvited by Sophie Jordan because this book really was so good when I read the last page I was floating on a happy cloud.




[Arc Review] Tin Star

ARC Reviews, Fry's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 25th January, 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] Tin StarTin Star by Cecil Castellucci
Series: Tin Star #1
Published by Roaring Book Press on February 25th, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Source: Netgalley
On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.

The beginning of Tin Star was fascinating. Tula Bane is stranded upon a remote space station by the leader of their colonizing cult, Brother Blue. She survives his brutal attack and abandonment only to find that she’s living in a universe where humans are not thought highly of. Their prejudice runs deep. She’s forced to survive by proving to everyone else on the space station that she can adapt and respect their customs while supporting herself.

Her footing gathered, she lives a relatively functional existence. This changes when a new group of humans, rescued from a crash, show up on the station. The tone of the book changes dramatically after this point. While there is plenty of drama involving Tula trying to retain her position with the aliens while the newcomers attempt to undermine it by living up to the alien stereotypes, there are also added layers of attraction and reluctant comradery.

At this point, Tula seems to be in love (though, I would more describe it as lust) with both of the male humans aboard the ship. Only one of these relationships moves any farther than awkward glances and descriptions of tight muscles. Even that one stays pretty chaste, remaining at the making out stage. She never becomes too attached to any of the humans, preferring to remain alone and trusting in her alien neighbors.

The other human, Els, is a backstabbing schemer. This fact and Els’ actions culminate into the climax of the story, forcing Tula to make a lot of hard decisions and revealing a romantic ally that she should have been more aware of.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I would have liked it more if the book retained the dark and gritty survivalist aspect instead of traversing upon a romantic detour. Still, Tula is a tenacious, bright protagonist with plenty of promise. The overarching demand for satisfaction and revenge on her part was neither forgotten or overbearing. I can’t wait to see what path her story takes in the next installment.

[Review] Leviathan – Leviathan #1

Blue's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 23rd January, 2014

[Review] Leviathan – Leviathan #1Leviathan by Scott Westerfield
Series: Leviathan #1
Published by Simon Pulse on Oct 6, 2009
Genres: Alternate History, Steampunk
Pages: 464
Source: Amazon, Audible
Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

I love alternate history, and I love original world-building. These two things are in great abundance in the introductory work to Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan series. Unfortunately, I also love creative characters and novels with self-contained narratives. These two things were in shorter supply.

It is definitely refreshing to see someone take up an alternate history novel that is not set in World War Two or the Cold War, and Westerfield does a wonderful job of laying the undertones for conflict without hobbling himself to real world events. ‘Clankers’ and ‘Darwinists’ facing off made for a surprisingly compelling read, and I could sympathize with both sides through their respective narrators Alek and Deryn. Their voices were excellent, believable, and the use of each side’s slang added a level of reality to the story that I have rarely seen authors pay attention to. The plot unfolds quickly without feeling rushed, and have I mentioned just how much I love the world that Westerfield has built? Yes fabricated beasts and giant diesel driven mechs aren’t the most original ideas, Girl Genius was doing basically the same thing years before, but there’s such detail in his telling that characters can expound on basic concepts without feeling like they’re hitting the reader over the head with exposition.

Deryn and Alek, the woman disguised as a man and the renegade prince, aren’t bad characters but they fall flat when set against the background, and the supporting cast. The observant female ‘Boffin’ Dr. Barlow truly steals the show, usurping any scene she has with the main pair, and forcing them into the background. It’s a little hard to hold an audience when your primary protagonists are less interesting than a snarky gene-manupulator.

The plot flows well, if a little clumsy through Alek’s early chapters. If I thought that Westerfield had made the ‘Clanker’ chapters feel mechanical and stilted on purpose I would applaud, but he saves the day with Deryn and her living airship. I found myself wanting to follow her story exclusively until the pair finally meet towards the end of the book, where things really begin to run like clockwork…

Until it abruptly ends a few chapters later. It would be nice to get some kind, any kind, of resolution to the story that I had just spent those hours reading. I understand that this is the first work in a trilogy, but why does that preclude it from a real ending? Can we get resolution on at least one plot thread? The author has plenty to choose from, dangling at the end of the book like string in front of a kitten.

I suppose it worked, since I plan to get the second book Behemoth just to find out where things go from here. The world is too compelling to leave alone, even if the protagonists aren’t, and hopefully they will get better as the series advances and the intentional layers of mystery and obfuscation pull back. Bottom line- worth a read, but plan on getting the second book as well if you want to get more than a taste of this fantastic world, or resolve any plot at all.

[Review] Ex-Heroes

Chris's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 22nd January, 2014

[Review] Ex-HeroesEx-Heroes by Peter Clines
Series: Ex-Heroes #1
Published by Broadway Books on February 25, 2010
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction
Pages: 338
Source: Purchase
The first novel in Peter Clines' bestselling Ex series.

Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.

Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Billions died, civilization fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland.

Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions protect a last few thousand survivors in their film-studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. Scarred and traumatized by the horrors they’ve endured, the heroes fight the armies of ravenous ex-humans at their citadel’s gates, lead teams out to scavenge for supplies—and struggle to be the symbols of strength and hope the survivors so desperately need.

But the hungry ex-humans aren’t the only threats the heroes face. Former allies, their powers and psyches hideously twisted, lurk in the city’s ruins. And just a few miles away, another group is slowly amassing power . . . led by an enemy with the most terrifying ability of all.

First off, this book combines two things I like, Superheroes and Zombies. In a world where a few people are granted superhuman abilities, what would happen when the zombie apocalypse breaks out? As it turns out, there’s only so much the heroes can do.

The book takes place roughly one year after the zombie plague has erupted. And the superheroes are struggling to survive just like everyone else. This group of survivors has holed up in Paramount Studios, or as they call it now, The Mount. Some of the heroes who keep the peace and guard the civilians are just highly trained individuals with guns and gadgets, others are truly out of this world with powers that can’t be easily explained.

Peter Clines does a great job of not only telling about their struggle for survival during the end of the world, but is able to slip in the tales of how they handled the collapse of civilization. He even manages to slip in simple explanations throughout the book about how some of these rare individuals gained their unique powers.

I really enjoy how even the heroes have to struggle for survival after the collapse of civilization. There is no one man who is able to lick the entire horde of zombies, and restore civilization with one arm tied behind his back like many would think in the more typical superhuman stories. Even the strongest of the heroes have their limits and weaknesses. It makes these superhuman characters seem more human. I found myself rooting for the heroes and holding my breath when there were complications that put the characters at risk.

And now, it turns out there is a threat none of them could have ever expected, a super villain who wants to take out the heroes and their small encampment of survivors. I won’t give anything away, but if you enjoy both Superheroes and Zombies then this is the book for you. I give Ex-Heroes a solid 4 star rating and recommend it to all my friends.

[Arc Review] Cruel Beauty

ARC Reviews, Fry's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 21st January, 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.

[Arc Review] Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28th
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: Edelweiss
Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Cruel Beauty is yet another foray into the sub-genre of fairy tale retellings. Authors expound upon a set story and shape it to their desires. These stories always bring something exciting to the table, whether they’re set in the future with space travel and androids like The Lunar Chronicles or are a modern day retelling of the Persephone myth like the Everneath series.

In this instance, we have a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that is set in the land of Arcadia. There is a Grecian flair attached to everything in this book. It’s interesting, considering the other Beauty and the Beast renditions I’ve read have been contemporary and then the standard French countryside. Still, it reaches into areas of Greek subculture that I, as a voracious reader of mythology haven’t ever touched on.

The book itself starts off very slow. We meet our main protagonist and learn of the hatred in her heart and of her quest. But, how many times do we have to be reminded of her love for her annoyingly happy sister, that she’s going to be marrying the demon lord that rules the land, that she’s avenging her mother, and that her father is having an affair with her aunt? Apparently constantly throughout the first few chapters. Once Nyx makes it to her husband’s abode and starts to explore, it eventually picks up.

The book offers what appears to be a standard love triangle. While Nyx battles with her feelings and her perceptions of both the demon lord and his shadowy footman, she is weighed heavily with her original task of avenging her mother. Eventually, her heart wins out, especially after finding out how futile her original destructive plan was.

In giving her heart over to Ignifex, a mystery opens up. This mystery takes us through the rest of the book and the climax, offering an interesting take on the Beauty and the Beast mythos as well as that of the Greek Furies mythos. The ending is satisfactory, though a little muddled and somewhat cliché with an interesting juxtaposition from the introduction.

Yes, this book has the Stockholm syndrome type love that you’d expect from the source. Despite that, the author ends up weaving an interesting and mysterious romance that is both dark and captivating.