Ads 468x60px

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney

Title: The Brokenhearted
Author: Amelia Kahaney
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Publishing House: Harper Teen
ISBN: 9780062230928
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


Prima ballerina Anthem Fleet is closely guarded by her parents in their penthouse apartment. But when she meets the handsome Gavin at a party on the wrong side of town, she is immediately drawn into his dangerous world. Then, in a tragic accident, Anthem falls to her death. She awakens in an underground lab, with a bionic heart ticking in her chest. As she navigates her new life, she uncovers the sinister truth behind those she trusted the most, and the chilling secret of her family lineage... and her duty to uphold it.

(Image, summary and information courtesy of Goodreads)


Daughter of the elite of the elite, Anthem Fleet is tired of the same old routine. There's got to be more to X, the land her parents own but go to lengths to protect her from, than just school, ballet, and the prison she calls a home. When she goes to a rave with her best friend, she meets the mysterious and charming Gavin, who soon makes her detest her predictable life. When Gavin is abducted right before her very eyes, Anthem is more than panicked. She's angry, she's hurt, and she's got a bionic heart that makes her impossibly better in all aspects than regular human beings. Anthem wants Gavin back, and she's not going to back down until she saves him.

How many people with bionic hearts do you actually know? Yeah, that's what I thought - which is why I snagged a copy of Amelia Kahaney's The Brokenhearted just as soon as I spotted it on bookshelves here (after making an obnoxious gasp and a muffled squealing and dancing combo, of course). I had high expectations for this one, only to go through it with a mild interest. 

Anthem is bored. She's been a good girl for far too long, doing ballet and only ballet that her deceased sister was good at, and trying to pretend that her family life is perfect, empty-eyed pill-popping mother and super busy land god father and all. This all changes when she meets Gavin, who makes her feel like somebody important, someone worth getting to know, someone not measured by her family's immense wealth, and most of all, someone not boring. But Gavin gets taken hostage, and on her way home, Anthem dies... Only to live again with a bionic heart that makes her some sort of enhanced human being. With the help of Ford (who is just adorable), Anthem begins to learn how to combat, and to be a vigilante. (Yes, a ballerina vigilante. Don't judge.)

My interest wasn't really piqued when she met Gavin. He sounds like a dream, sure, but he just didn't really do anything for me. It wasn't until the book was almost ending that made me sit up and pay attention, because - Okay. I can't say it because that would be giving the whole thing away, and you would probably stone me if you were actually interested in reading this book. 

Was The Brokenhearted boring? At times, sure, but you can get by. If you're in the mood. While The Brokenhearted does have a story, albeit a bit half-baked, it just makes me wish that I could take Anthem a bit more seriously. Anthem's not afraid to get dirt under her nails, and she grows to know how to stand up for herself as time goes by. It's just that her making this decision to be a lovelorn vigilante that really threw me off. 


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Title: Nantucket Blue
Author: Leila Howland
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Publishing House: Disney Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423160519
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked

For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she'll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn't.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it's the things Cricket hadn't counted on - most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits - that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

(Image, summary and information courtesy of Goodreads)


Cricket knows that this summer is going to rock. She's invited to stay with her best friend Jules' family in their Nantucket house, where a. she can hang out with her bff all day long, b. she can finally get together with the gorgeous Jay Logan, and c. hel-lo, she can just have fun without worrying about the looming prospect of college. But this perfect dream turns to ashes when Nina, Jules' mother who Cricket positively adores, suddenly passes away. Her best friend starts pulling away from her, and her invitation to stay at the Clayton house in Nantucket is rescinded. Cricket thinks that this isn't something that anyone should go through alone, so she finds another way to stay on Nantucket - whether Jules welcomes her with open arms or not. 

There are a lot of reasons why Nantucket Blue was such a pleasure for me to read, including but not limited to the pseudo-mini vacation Howland all invites us to as we join Cricket in her quest for the best summer ever in her high school life. I loved that I could very well imagine myself in beautiful Nantucket without leaving my favorite reading spot (and getting a much unwanted tan). Initially, Cricket and Jules' friendship is made of the strong stuff that could put any super glue to shame. But when the rug is pulled out of Jules' feet, Cricket can't help but stumble as well. Nina, Jules' mom, is everything that Cricket's mom is not. She's stylish, vivacious, a bit eccentric, and she doesn't care about what strangers might think of her. This death is basically the catalyst of what changes Cricket and Jules' friendship. And while Jules is drifting further and further apart from her and surrounding herself with her Nantucket friends - friends that Jules obviously does not have in common with Cricket - Jules' younger brother, Zack, is becoming more than just a friend to her.

Cricket is immensely likable, even if she does come off as thinking of herself too highly at times. No matter how many times it seems that the universe is conspiring against her to not make her stay at Nantucket, she finds a way to be there. Scrubbing toilets and changing sheets might not be the ideal scenario, but hey, she's on Nantucket! I also like how Cricket doesn't seem to let Jules' shabby treatment of her make her go back running home; in fact, it even makes her determined to make things good again between them. Cricket's flaws can only be perceived as endearing because no matter how much I look at it, she's just looking out for her best friend, and making sure she's alright - which makes Cricket just so real to me.

The ending had some loose ends, but I am very sure that I don't want to take off any rainbows for that reason because I immensely enjoyed reading this one. Although Nantucket Blue sometimes came across as having too many things going on at the same time, I still get a nice feeling whenever I see this one on bookshelves. I'd recommend Nantucket Blue to anyone who's looking for a beach read. People who are too busy for a vacation, or find themselves hampered by work or school work can also pick this up to be transported to a magical Nantucket.

Edit: AHHH!!! There's going to be a Nantucket Red, out May 2014. Heaps excited!


Monday, January 27, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW: False Sight by Dan Krokos

Title: False Sight
Author: Dan Krokos
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: August 13 2013
Publishing House: Hypersion
ISBN: 9781423149859
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


All Miranda wants is a normal life.

She's deterined to move past the horrible truth of her origin as a clone so she can enjoy time with her boyfriend, Peter, ad the rest of her friends at school. But Miranda quickly learns that there's no such thing as normal - not for a girl who was raised to be a weapon. When one of Miranda's teammates turns rogue, it begins a war that puts the world in jeopardy. Now Miranda must follow her instincts - not her heart - in order to save everything she's fought so hard to keep. With the image of a terrible future seared in her mind, what will she have to sacrifice to protect the people she loves?

Dan Krokos' sequel to the tour-de-force False Memory is a mind-blowing thriller that pulls no punches as Miranda searches for the truth - and discovers the deadly consequences that come with it.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


False Sight is the sequel to False Memory. I'll try to keep this spoiler free.

Despite their play at being normal, Miranda knows that that's just not possible. Especially when one of her team turns rogue and she loses someone close to her heart. As they chase this rogue, Miranda and her team realize that the trouble they're in is even more far-reaching than they thought. Think inter-dimensional disaster.

False Sight is an interesting sequel to False Memory. There's never a dull moment in False Sight and Miranda is thrown into one mess after the other all for the sake of saving the world she loves. 

There's no such thing as normal when you're a clone and Miranda's trying to move past that so she can work on her relationship with Peter. Not exactly easy when her teammate goes rogue against her will and she might too. Talk about highly dangerous. 

While Miranda is an interesting narrator and Peter seems like a stable guy I just found it harder to connect with the characters this time around. I'm not sure if it's because I'd forgotten parts of False Memory or something else entirely. It's hard to keep track of things that happen in books when I read so much in a week, unless it's truly something worth remembering. And you know, I did have to wait a whole year for this book. So.

One thing that threw me for a loop was the introduction of a plot twist that was so....out of this world. Something bigger and larger than what I initially imagined that I got a little bit confused. It took some time for me to adjust, because it was a surprise, but once I did I had to admit that it was all kinds of interesting. Those flesh-eating monsters were nothing to scoff at. 

And that ending! That ending makes me so ready for the next book. I'm definitely interested to find out in which direction the next book will take me. 




Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Sunday Post #40

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. This special post will provide a recap for posts that have been written for the week (January 20 - January 25, 2014)





Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Shadowplay by Laura Lam

Title: Shadowplay
Author: Laura Lam
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: January 7 2014
Publishing House: Strange Chemistry
ISBN: 190884440X
Source of Copy: NetGalley


The circus lies behind Mica Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which dould decide all of their fates.

People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus - the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he's perfecting...

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey's extraordinary journey.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads.)


Shadowplay is the second book in the Pantomime series. Check out our review for Pantomime here. This is a definite must read!

Shadowplay starts exactly where Pantomime ends - with Drystan and Micah on the run, leaving behind the circus and seeking refuge with an acquaintance of Drystan's. Jasper Maske. He takes them in and teaches them magic thrusting Micah and Drystan into a world of illusions and deception and bitter rivalry.

And I thought Lam's world building couldn't get any better... I was wrong. Shadowplay is amazing, it's exciting and magical and wonderfully atmospheric. Shadowplay is where I was able to glean more information on the Phantom Damselfly and her connection to Micah Grey - his odd powers and her history and how they both intertwine. Lam's attention to detail and her vivid descriptions of the theater and the illusions Drystan and Micah carried out were the absolute best it's hard not to get caught up in the story and impossible to NOT picture them in your head. 

Lam has a wonderful cast of characters that feel so real it's impossible to not feel what they feel. Micah's matured in this book, he's more confident in his own skin, and his budding relationship with Drystan had me cooing at my iPad in the middle of the night with a silly smile on my face. Don't get me wrong though, the romance is not a major part of the story but it's there - the subtle looks and careful smiles - and it had Michelle and I clamoring for more. (Drystan and Micah forever!) I also like the fact that a lot about Drystan's past was revealed and how natural it all felt so we get to know him better.

To avoid any spoilers let's just say that Micah and Drystan and Cyan do a lot of magic tricks and illusions and perform for an audience - I was particularly into how Lam explained the tricks in such a scientific and precise way. In between performing, Micah has visions and speaks with the Phantom Damselfly and there are flashbacks that explain to Micah who she was and her purpose for seeking him out. And at the end of that roller coaster ride of magic and deception, Lam throws in a few plot twists that totally took me by surprise. That ending still sends chills up my spine. 

For fans of Pantomime, Shadowplay does not disappoint. For those who still haven't read this series - you must. What's not to love about books with beautifully written prose, characters that are so undeniably real you have to cheer for them and wonderfully detailed world building that makes me want to leave this world for theirs? 



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publishing House: Balzer + Bray
ISBN: 9780062224736
Source of Copy: Requested from publisher via Edelweiss


Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and 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 - 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.

(Image, summary, and information courtesy of Goodreads)


On what was supposed to be the happiest day of a woman's life, Nyx was anything but. All her life, she's known that she will be the wife of the Gentle Lord, the very reincarnation of the devil himself who strikes deals with the desperate - deals that more often than not always work in his favor. And all her life, it is with this thinking that she knows that she must kill him. But Ignifex seems not to be whom she originally thought he was. He's cunning, mischievous, even playful, but he is also the first person to truly see her as she is. Nyx knows that her original mission was to kill Ignifex and save Arcadia, but there seems to be a few kinks in the developments that follow that may make that plan impossible.

If there were a poll for best female heroine of the year, I would probably scream Nyx's name from the top of my lungs. She is exactly the kind of heroine I've been waiting for - she's clever, incredibly sassy, and she's not afraid to dole out her death threats in the same breath she could ask Ignifex if he could please pass the butter. Nyx might be spitting poison, but her anger isn't entirely pointless and absurd, what with her being almost forced to be the daughter to be married to the Gentle Lord. But Nyx did get the right side of the bargain. Ignifex is actually a delight to read about, because even if Nyx was somehow using her feminine wiles to charm him, it seems that he's not above to trying to seduce her as well - which he does more than willingly. While he's busy trying to evade Nyx's attempts to sever some parts of his anatomy or kill him, he's also allowing her to come inside the walls people put up for him in order for her to truly understand him. 

Cruel Beauty doesn't also only play with a Beauty and the Beast retelling. The numerous magical doors remind me a lot of Bluebeard as well, and this aspect even makes the story richer as Nyx tries to discover the 'hearts' of the house to bring Ignifex, even at the expense of her own heart. 

The story does go a bit loopy towards the end and it might be a bit distracting, which was why I took off half a rainbow. But that aside, Cruel Beauty is an utterly delicious treat about the real power of love and the importance of truth.

Rosamund Hodge's Cruel Beauty is expected to hit bookstands on January 28, 2014.


Monday, January 20, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW + Novel Nails #9: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: January 8 2013
Publishing House: Razorbill
ISBN: 9781595145994
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


Hannah's best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can it when Lillian's ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders linked only by a paper valentine? Hannah can hardly begin to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn't there to save her a place among the social elite.And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able to move o with her life - and it's up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Paper Valentine is magical. I've been a fan of Brenna Yovanoff's writing ever since The Replacement. When The Space Between came out it was no surprise that I bugged the staff of my local bookstore to please save me a copy. I was there every week and every week I asked if my copy had arrived. Yes. I'm annoying when I'm desperate.

The book is wonderfully atmospheric and I love it. It's got a delicious blend of mystery and thrills and romance and the complexities of friendship. Yovanoff manages to talk about anorexia in a way that isn't preachy at all and I love her for that. I do. To top it all up, Yovanoff has a great cast of characters who are so real it's hard not to fall in love with each and every one of them.

I loved Hannah as a narrator. She's got a whole lot of substance and depth and it's hard not to feel her grief and her devastation and guilt. She wonders if there's something more that she could have done for her best friend. Hannah isn't all rainbows and butterflies, she's sad and broken because that's what losing someone close to you does. But she's not mopey or whiny or whatnot, she's just sad. It's a sadness that's just there; hidden behind the smiles and the laughter and her attempt at normalcy, and its so incredibly real I just wanted to hug her. 

I'll admit Finny Boone took a while to get used to. I thought he was going to be your usual jerk that Hannah inevitably falls in love with but he's not. He's got the bad boy look down pat but he's quiet and he's actually nice despite what everyone thinks. I loved how he and Hannah just fit together, he's not perfect, he's got his own issues but they fit. I like how their relationship wasn't just all fireworks and kissing and while they do have those, they also bonded over long stretches of silence.

As for the murders going around town, it was something else being kept in this state of suspense. I kept trying to guess who the killer was but I couldn't so I ended up just hoping and praying that it wasn't going to be Finny. Anyone but Finny, please. I loved how Yovanoff managed to blend the murder-mystery aspect with Hannah's ghost problem and touch on other subjects while she's at it. And while there a few questions left unanswered, and some loose ends that still remained loose I was all in all satisfied. Very. Satisfied.

For those who are looking for a book that's wonderfully atmospheric with undeniably lyrical prose, check Paper Valentine out. On second though, check out ALL of Brenna Yovanoff's books, they are wonderful.


"Novel Nails" is a feature of the blog that showcases nail art inspired by books and their covers. Nail art will be created by either Michelle or Nicole and will be featured alongside their reviews.

It's been so long since our last Novel Nails post hasn't it. Sorry guys but now it's back! And this week's feature is, obviously, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff. I love this book. I want to hug it, and cuddle with it and sleep with it. Yeah, not creepy at all right? Right.

So anyway, for this feature of Novel Nails I attempted another free hand nail art - sorry I'm a bit rusty - that I hope you guys will like.

The cover's just too pretty. Too. Pretty.

So for the colors I used:
Red: China Glaze Salsa
Black: Orly Liquid Vinyl
White: White acrylic paint 
(it's unbearably hard trying to freehand with white nail polish)

To start it off, I love my thumb, I really do. It was inspired by the vines creeping up the girl's throat. It's going to be so hard for me when I finally have to erase it.

Here's the rest of the manicure, sorry, the focus seems to be on the middle finger which was actually quite a challenge to draw since it's tiny.

Do you see that girl in the center of that heart? I tried copying her onto the heart I drew on my middle finger's nail. I might have gone a little cross eyed for a bit. 

As you can see, two of my nails have snakes and they were inspired by this part of the book cover. Sorry about the blurriness. 

Here they are! All matchy-matchy with the book. I definitely need more practice.

So what do you guys think? Yes? No?

If you want more nail art pics, you can always check out my instagram @nicolereadsbooks. I'll be posting more book related manis soon. I have a whole lot of books lined up.  


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #10: Raging Star by Moira Young

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme first initiated by Jill from Breaking the Spine. However, we've added our own twist to it! Not only will we feature books that will be published in the following months, but we will also feature books that are not available yet locally, and are still unavailable to us.

Title: Raging Star
Author: Moira Young
Publication Date: May 13 2014
Publishing House: Margaret K. McElderly
ISBN: 9781442430020


Saba is ready to seize her destiny and defeat DeMalo and the Tonton... until she meets him and he confounds all her expectations with his seductive vision of a healed earth, a New Eden. DeMalo wants Saba to join him, in life and work, to create and build a healthy, stable, sustainable world...for the chosen few. The few who can pay.

Jack's choice is clear: to fight DeMalo and try to stop New Eden. Still uncertain, her connection with DeMalo a secret, Saba commits herself to the fight. Joined by her brother, Lugh, anxious for the land in New Eden, Saba leads an inexperienced guerilla band against the powerfully charismatic DeMalo, in command of his settlers and the Tonton militia. What chance do they have? Saba must act. And be willing to pay the price.

Nicole: You guys, I cannot believe that this series is ending now. I mean yeah, obviously it was bound to end, but that doesn't mean that I'm not gonna be sad to see this go. No more Jack and Saba? Cue teary eyes. But anyway, for those of you who aren't familiar, Raging star is the last book in the Dustlands series, Blood Red Road being the first and Rebel Heart being the second. I have a review of Rebel Heart just in case. But seriously, if you haven't started on this series yet you totally should. Go! I'm just so excited to see what happens in this installment. 

What books are you guys looking forward to?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Title: Heartbeat
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publishing House: Harlequin TEEN
ISBN: 9780373210961
Source of Copy: Requested from publisher via NetGalley


Life. Death. And... Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma - the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia - New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death - and maybe... for love?

(Image, summary and information courtesy of Goodreads)


I encountered my first Elizabeth Scott novel, Perfect You, from a book fair which took me a few re-readings and a few years to appreciate. I've also read her other works, so when this one popped up on NetGalley, of course I had to request for it!

Emma's more than angry and hurt. Her mom is being kept alive because of the baby inside of her, and that's all that her new stepdad seemingly cares about. Emma would much rather have her mom back rather than a new addition to a family that seems to be on the fast-track to falling apart. Try as her best friend might, Emma can't help but feel so alone... except for Caleb Harrison who seems to know what it is exactly she needs.

My heart goes out to Emma and her devastating circumstance, but there were some times I couldn't really say why she was so angry at her stepdad all the time! Of course her stepdad is going to be concerned for the baby - it's the only living reminder of their love, aside from Emma, whom he loves just as much, even if she is not his. I guess what pisses Emma off is seeing her dead mom on a bed, "living" for a growing baby, and knowing that her mother is never coming back home, which is like a sucker punch in the gut every time Emma visits her in the hospital. 

The romance was okay, and Emma was very lucky to have found someone who understand where all her anger is coming from, but I just wished that Emma could have found and healed herself at her own time and pace. When two souls are broken, I don't think that Emma and Caleb relying on each other for support is quite healthy, especially if and/or when it ends at some point. 

Scott is an already established teen reads expert writer along with Sarah Dessen, so she obviously has writing and themes pat down. If you're on the market for a contemporary that's on the medium to borderline heavy side of drama, Heartbeat is an okay choice.

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott will be available on bookstands on January 28, 2014, as per publisher information.


Monday, January 13, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

Title: Black Dog
Author: Rachel Neumeier
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: February 6 2014
Publishing House: Strange Chemistry
ISBN: 1908844841
Source of Copy: Requested from Publisher via NetGalley


Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge - the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases - like Natividad's father and older brother - Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad's mother can finish her magic and their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brother's must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister's Pure magic. Natividad's twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But first they must survive the looming battle.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads.)


I was hoping to like Black Dog, I really was. But it's not exactly easy to get into a story that's slow and really, really confusing.

Before Natividad's parents died, they forced Natividad and her siblings to run to the Dimilioc black dogs to find refuge. When they do, it's not an easy thing to gain acceptance into the pack, what with her parents' killers right behind them and a forced mating between Natividad and a black dog of her choosing - when she comes of age. But the mating can wait they'll have to deal with the black dogs determined to kill them first.

Natividad is boring. It's so hard to write about a character that's boring because while I don't loathe her, I don't like her either. She just fades into the woodwork, you know? Like she isn't even there. I don't even get why she's so special. I mean, she's a Pure. And so? Ezekiel is the black dog who's sniffing around Natividad's heels. I so wanted him to be interesting, but he just wasn't. He's domineering and possessive - not unlike the other alpha males of YA - and he's already claimed Natividad as his and they've barely spoken to each other. Instant love? not really because despite Ezekiel's attraction, I'm not exactly sure where Natividad stands.

Another thing I was surprised about was the dual POVs. I wasn't expecting that. They switch between Alejandro - Natividad's older, black dog brother - and Natividad. Alejandro's parts are somehow repetitive and I had to stop myself from skimming through them because what if I end up missing some important detail, right? Ugh. No. They were full of Alejandro trying to control his powers, hating on Ezekiel, worrying about his siblings and basically second guessing all his decisions. 

And you know what hurts? How slow the story was. At one point I felt like it was an endless trek through tons of decision making, arguments, dominance challenges and posturing. The plot wasn't very engaging despite this being a new twist on the old werewolves and witches tale. There was little to no back story too, there was mention of vampires if I'm not mistaken but their role in everything is vague at best. 

I hate that feeling when I finish a book and feel the need to ask what in the world just happened there. That's exactly how I felt when I finished this book, like nothing was actually resolved. Kind of sad if you think about it. 



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Defy by Sara Larson

Title: Defy
Author: Sara B. Larson
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Publishing House: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545597586
Source of Copy: Requested from publisher via NetGalley


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?

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


With a cover like that, you'd think that there would be action scenes, cunning plotting, a little kissing here and there, and more kingdom-protecting action. No. More than anything, Defy is a romance. And not even the Icona Pop "I don't care, I LOVE IT!" kind. I can't even process why I immensely dislike it because every time I start, my brain stops and I can't form proper coherent sentences, so I'm leaving it up to you guys to think about how terrible this was. (You can only imagine how long this review took me to write.)

When war ravages her family, Alexa's future is looking bleak, especially when girls are forced into breeding houses to populate future armies. But thanks to her quick-thinking twin brother Marcel, he "transforms" her into Alex, a terribly good swordsman. So good, in fact, that Alex and Marcel are appointed as the spoiled prince's own guards. The prince, however, seems to have different plans for the kingdom... plans that Alex might even die for. Because either way Alex faces, it all comes down to trust - and the wrong choice might tip the scales into the favor of chaos.

I thought that the most annoying, supposedly kick-butt female protagonist I would ever come across was Celaena Sardothien of Sara J. Maas' Throne of Glass. As it turns out, she has now been overthrown in favor of Alexa Hollen. I have absolutely no idea how Alexa managed to convince other guards she was Alex. At the sight of half-naked guys, she starts hyperventilating and going on and on about how naked it is. So for three years, Alexa still hasn't desensitized herself from seeing a naked guy. And she's part of the Royal Guard 24/7. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that there's bound to be some equivalent of a Royal Guard Locker Room over there. It's like the author is insinuating that the only way readers can be reminded that Alex is a girl, is by having her distracted by rock-hard pecs and washboard abs. I mean, that's the only thing Alexa does all the time, aside from being a good fighter. Wait, let me stress that that's all she's good at - fighting. She's not even being a great citizen because, as I've summed it up from my personal GoodReads account, she "seemed to be more interested in the stage of undress of her romantic interests compared to the current affairs of the kingdom". THAT'S how annoying she gets when she's in the same room as Rylan and the Prince (Oh, wait. That happened too.) The romance was actually so distracting that any semblance of plot I had only ended up being more muddled.

The only person I found a teeny, tiny bit amusing was the prince. He plays with people the way cats play with mice, and it was mildly entertaining because it was like he was the only one who had any ounce of personality and backbone. 

If you're looking for a heroine who trumps all the guys and does it while looking cool, Alexa is definitely not her. Defy is not for people who have come to expect an epic high fantasy.




Tuesday, January 7, 2014

(Blog Tour) MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Roomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando

Title: Roomies
Author: Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Format Acquired: Borrowed ARC
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Publishing House: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316217491
Source of Copy: Blog tour


It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer - and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives... and each other. Even though they've never met.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


When a simple question about which appliance they're bringing to the dorm room slowly becomes an email volley between two different girls, an unlikely friendship ensues. Elizabeth, or EB, already feels differently about her friends and even her boyfriend. Lauren never has time for herself because of her familial responsibilities. Which change already on the onset, EB and Lauren are not sure how to deal with the new developments - including each other.

I can't relate much to Roomies, even if I am in college. I live in the capital, and still live at home with my family. I just drive into campus when I have class, so I really can't feel the way these girls feel about leaving their homes. But the way Zarr and Altebrando write Roomies makes me feel like I do know how EB and Lauren are feeling. They're leaving behind not only family and their comfort zones; they're leaving behind places they knew like the back of their hands and people they had memories with. Maybe Lauren isn't too far away from home, but since she literally has had no life of her own, it'll be hard for her to make new memories.

What I did find a bit surprising was the romance. I thought that the way EB and Mark met was cute, but it did often remind me that Roomies was fiction. Keyon and Lauren are beyond adorable and believable, so I was more interested in them than EB and Mark. 

And of course, there has to be a scene somewhere where EB and Lauren have a fight so that they could make up. I wasn't really feeling the nuances of it, and it just seemed to me a convenient way to cement their unanticipated friendship.

EB and Lauren are quite fortunate in the sense that they already have a head-start on the friend thing in college, and I do imagine that they'd make the kick-butt roommate pair in their campus hijinks. If only every college freshman was so lucky, eh?

I'd recommend Roomies not only to teens who have just graduated from high school, but also to teens who are afraid of leaving their comfort zones. I'm not saying it's always bound to be better out there, but it'll make your life a little bit more interesting, if it isn't already.