Monday, February 23, 2015

ARC: 336 pages
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Seed #1
Synopsis
All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.

At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S’s companion. She feels excitement... and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community — particularly the teenage son, Ellis — only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant.

Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask. But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.



Seed was a really hard book to rate because while I couldn't stop reading and it kept me up late into the night, I can't say that I liked the story. Reading Seed was uncomfortable, but like a really bad car crash you can't look way, or in this case you had to keep reading to see how things will come crashing either for the worst or hopefully for the better.

The story opened up with fifteen year old Pearl getting her period for the first time, and one of the women in Seed took her to a hole in the ground and left her there overnight, as their tradition when a girl becomes a woman. And right there, right from the start, I was engrossed. 

After that crazy beginning, we got to see the idyllic Seed: the women cooking and taking care of the children, the men (called Kindred) doing their manly work and the teenagers (sixteen year old Jack, Pearl and Kate, who was little older than Pearl) doing their various chores with the younger children running alongside them. Then, there was Papa S., their leader, who carefully watched over them. 

But then there were little things that you learn that makes you realize that there's an oily film beneath that shiny surface that Pearl, in her innocence, does not see because Seed was all she's ever known. Pearl loves her life and there was genuine love and happiness among the members. But, with the arrival of a new family the oily layer becomes more visible and Pearl couldn't help slowly begin to question some things despite trying to cling on to the idyllic image.

Seed was not an easy read--I mean, I devoured it because I had to know who everything will end but I was uncomfortable reading it at the same time. 

I was somewhat frustrated with Pearl sometimes because the evidence of evil was there, but she couldn't see it because she didn't know any different. At the same time, I understood her. She was a true innocent, Seed was her whole world, and later in the story she refused to believe that everything she knew was a lie. And, of course, Papa S. was controlling. I felt for Pearl, but the character I really felt sorry for was Kate. What Kindred John and Papa S. did to her was sick. We don't see it first hand because it's told in Pearl's point of view but you know what's happening when she's "helping" John in his room and when Papa S. chose her as his companion, you know what that entailed. And there's a high possibility that Kate might even be Papa S.'s daughter--we don't know if the other two men, the Kindreds, also have sex with the women or if it was just Papa S.--but that adds another layer of sick and twisted. 

After everything that happened, the ending was inevitable. I wasn't surprised it ended up like that but those poor little kids! I was a bit shocked by what happened to Ellis, though. That was a twist I didn't see coming. I found out that Seed is a two-book series and, while the ending wasn't really a cliffhanger, I really want to know what will happen next. 

I applaud the author for taking on a controversial topic like cults and telling a complicated story in a very compelling and readable way. I know there's quite a few YA books the came out recently about cults, but Seed is one of the best I've read and it is really worth picking up. It will make you think, pull at your emotions, make you angry and make you disgusted, but you also can't help but turn the pages. I highly recommend it. Also, I think Seed would be a great book for book clubs because it will spark a lot of discussion and questions.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Weekend Plans + Weekend TBR + GIVEAWAY

Friday, February 20, 2015 with
Hello everyone,
Today is Friday! YAY! Even though Monday was a holiday for us this week felt like it dragged on and on. I am counting down the hours to 4:00 PM this afternoon, which is the start of the weekend for me.

Weekend Plans. Aubrey and I are planning to see The Duff the movie on Saturday! I was apprehensive the first time I saw the trailer because they changed the plot a lot. The Duff is one of my all-time favorite contemporary YA novels and I still reread my favorite parts once or twice a year. I was hoping for a faithful adaptation instead of the loose one the trailer hints at. But in the last few weeks as they did the marketing and the reviews from critics start to pour in, I got more and more excited. The reviews are really positive and, while it did not stick close to the book's original plot, it still seems like a movie I will enjoy.

Weekend TBR. I am hoping to finish two books this weekend. The first one is called Seed by Lisa Heathfield, which is a contemporary YA about a girl who grew up and lives in an isolated community (yes, a cult) called Seed. But a newcomer make her doubt and question everything she's ever known.

The other one is a new adult called Rebound by Noelle August (the pen name for a writing that consists of Veronica Rossi, who wrote the Under the Never Sky series, and Lorin Oberweger). It's the companion to Boomerang, which I enjoyed quite a bit (my review) and it features characters we already met in Boomerang.

Giveaway. I reviewed Maya Banks's latest release In His Keeping about two weeks ago (my review, in case you miss it) and I like it. Well, Maya's publicist has a signed copy of In His Keeping and she was nice enough to let me host a giveaway.

If you want to add your name to the virtual hat, just enter below. This giveaway is U.S. only and ends on February 27 (next week Friday).

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Good luck and happy reading,
Michelle

Wednesday, February 18, 2015



E-ARC: 352 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Source of my copy: HarperTeen/Edelweiss
Series: A Wicked Thing #1
Synopsis
Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and
Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.


Sleeping Beauty is my least favorite fairy tale but I was intrigued by author Rhiannon Thomas's take on it. The story starts when Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince. But it's one hundred years later, all of her loved ones has died, the prince is a stranger and it's a whole new world and politics from the one she knew.

I was intrigued, especially with that cover! But, overall, while I liked A Wicked Thing, I wasn't blown away by it.

A Wicked Thing started out pretty slow but I was into it. The story was told in third person POV through Aurora and I thought her reaction to waking up one hundred years later at the kiss of a stranger was realistic. Her family, her entire world was gone. She's surrounded by strangers, and they expected a lot from her. 

I get where she's coming from. If I was in her place, I'd react the same way and feel the same way in the beginning: disoriented, powerless and weak. But she stayed that way for most of the book and I just couldn't connect with her character. There was little character development and this dragged the story. And because the story was dragging, it took me longer to read the book because I would put it down and didn't really feel the urge to pick it up again.

I was surprised to find that A Wicked Thing was a dark read--this was not the happy, singing in the forest with the little birdies and woodland creatures Disney story we're familiar with but it was too sad. I don't know, you guys. I'm not docking any stars for this because I know the original fairy tales were dark, sad and depressing, but I like my happy, sweet romances. I was expecting some of that here, but there was a pervading dismal feel throughout, which also added to my lack of excitement in picking up the book after I put it down.

And speaking of romances, there were three (yep, three) potential love interests: Prince Rodric (who woke her up with his kiss), Prince Finnegan (a visiting prince who wanted her to defy the king and leave with him), and Tristan (a revolutionary who showed Aurora life outside the palace walls). In the first couple of chapters, I was rooting for Rodric because we meet him first and he seemed like a sweetly awkward guy. But Aurora just doesn't see him that away, so I think he's out of the running. I liked Finnegan and Tristan from what we got about them, but they're not fully fleshed out. Aurora herself doesn't really form strong attachments to either of the boys so it's kind of hard for me to for one.

Rereading my review, it sounds like I don't really have much positives to say, huh? Okay, I thought it started well--I was interested in seeing what happened after Aurora woke up from her kiss. My biggest problems were the slowness of the plot, my lack of connection to any of the characters and I also didn't get the romance I was expecting, but I enjoyed the author's writing. The prose in A Wicked Thing was easy to read and I liked the author's voice. I liked seeing the familiar elements of Sleeping Beauty and then seeing where the author took it. It didn't blow me away or anything, but I did like it enough to warrant a 3-star rating. Borrow it from your library if you're interested in what happened to Sleeping Beauty after she woke up from her hundred-year slumber.

Read an excerpt here.

Author
Rhiannon Thomas is a recent graduate from Princeton University, where she studied English and Japanese, and smuggled bubble tea into the library on a regular basis. She now lives in York, England.

As well as reading and writing YA fiction, she runs the blog FeministFiction.com, where she discusses TV, books, and all kinds of fannish things from a feminist perspective.



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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

ARC: 352 pages
Publisher: FSG
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Synopsis
Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.



I have struggled to write this review in the last couple of days and it's probably going to be disjointed but here we go... 

First of all, I loved The Winner's Crime! I loved everything about it. 
Now that that's out of the way, this review will be split into two parts: The non-spoiler section and the spoiler section (which will be in the green box). Read the spoiler part at your own risk.

Non-spoiler:

Writing. I love Marie Rutkoski's writing style. It's very readable, but at the same time there's a sophistication about that the elevates it from the typical YA novel. 

Setting and new characters. In The Winner's Curse we stayed in Herran pretty much the whole time. But in The Winner's Crime we got to see and learn more about the other countries outside of Herran. The majority of the book was set in the Valorian Emperor's court, but we got a glimpse of the East and met the Dacran queen and her siblings (I think they will have significant roles in the third book) and the war heats up and with Arin's new... invention.

And since we're talking characters, I just love how complex all of the secondary characters were, especially General Trajan (Kestrel's dad), the Emperor, Verex and even Risha (the eastern princess who was kidnapped and kept at court as a political prisoner)--there is more to that girl and I think she's going to play a very significant role in book 3.

Kestrel and Arin. These two are the best! I love their opposites-attract thing. I love how cunning Kestrel was and how she's always one step ahead of Arin. She's such a unique character. She's not your typical YA heroine in that she's not physically strong, instead she relies on her intelligence and cleverness and I love that. Arin was the opposite. While Kestrel was kind of the ice queen and the logical one, Arin wears his heart on his sleeve and reacts based on his emotions. Some of the scenes they had together when they were alone was so bittersweet because of the situation Kestrel was in and Arin didn't know what was going on. I'm so excited to see how it will all go down in book 3.

Court intrigue. The Winner's Crime was all about the court intrigue and if you love that kind of stuff, you'll be in reading heaven. 

The pacing. I read some of the negative reviews for The Winner's Curse (I was curious because I thought The Winner's Curse was utter perfection) and many were complaining about the slow pacing. If you're looking for a lot action and explosions, look elsewhere because this series is not that kind book. Instead it is intricately plotted, with a lot of behind the scenes maneuverings and the game is won through clever words. Yes, the pacing is slow (and not everyone is going to like that) but it doesn't make the plot any less exciting.

Overall. Amazing! Excellently written. Fleshed out and layered characters. Intricately plotted. Unique. Spectacular! I absolutely loved it. 



Spoiler Section.

Chapters 43-47
. Holy cow, you guys! As soon as Arin made the decision to confront Kestrel about everything, I was all, Yes! Finally! But then, he goes at the worst time.

Arin goes to the piano room and we heard Kestrel's dad watch make the noise so we know he's in the secret room listening to Kestrel play and O.M.G.!!! I was screaming shut up, Arin! Just SHUT UP!! But then Kestrel did her ice queen thing to put him off even though he might never forgive her (my heart broke for her!) and I thought she pulled it off. She was able to convince her dad that Arin was just crazy but then...

General Trajan (Kestrel's dad). Trajan wouldn't go to the Emperor and tell on her, right? I thought. Because Kestrel and her dad finally came to an understanding about each other and her father cared deeply for his daughter. That was evident.

Okay, everything is going to be cool... Kestrel's dad wouldn't go to the Emperor...ARGH!! But he did! NO!!! I should've known Trajan's sense of loyalty to the Emperor overrode everything else because he's a soldier first and foremost. But like Kestrel there was that hope that her father trusted her and would be on her side (especially since Trajan also had his issues with the Emperor). By the end of The Winner's Crime, both felt betrayed by the other and I'm really, really curious how their father-daughter relationship will be in book 3. Is a reconciliation even possible?

Verex. Marie Rutkoski could've easily made a love triangle with Arin, Kestrel and Verex and I am so glad she did not. After I was sure there won't be a love triangle, I kind of brushed Verex aside because he felt like a throwaway characters. How wrong I was! There was more to him than meets the eye. I ended up liking Verex--he reminded me of Anden from Marie Lu's Legend series. I think he just might surprise everyone in book 3.

What I think will happen in book 3: (I'm most likely completely wrong)

I think Risha, the kidnapped/political prisoner eastern princess, is the true Jadis. Verex is already in love with her--I think she's just biding her time until she can stab Verex and/or the Emperor in the throat and claim victory for her people.

Arin will rescue Kestrel from the North and together they'll work to bring down the Emperor.

Arin will end up killing Kestrel's dad with his new weapon. Before he dies, there will be a reconciliation between Kestrel and her dad.

The eastern queen will end up conquering Valoria, but she'll make Kestrel the governor of Valoria and Arin will still be governor of Herran. They're going to name their first kid Tensen.


Wah! I need book 3 now!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hello everyone,
I don't do a lot of cover reveals on this here blog, but when I do participate in one it's for a book I really, really, REALLY want to read. I am really, really, REALLY dying to read Nalini Singh's upcoming contemporary novel Rock Hard.

In case you don't know, author Nalini Singh, creator of the amazing Psy-Changeling series and the fantastic Guild Hunter, has started a new contemporary romance series called Rock Kiss. The series features the members of a rock band called Schoolboy Choir, as well as their friends. So far a full-length novel, Rock Addiction (my review) and a novella Rock Courtship (my review--my favorite!) are currently available.

Rock Hard comes out on March 10th and is the second full-length novel and it features the heroine's best friend Charlotte from Rock Addiction and her new T-Rex of a boss, Gabriel Bishop. The events in Rock Hard and Rock Addiction are actually happening at the same time and we got snippets of Charlotte's story from RA--when I was reading RA I was actually more interested in Charlotte's story than I was the with Molly's story so I'm so happy that I finally get to read and know everything that is happening on Charlotte's side.

Okay, enough blabbing. Here's the cover and synopsis for Rock Hard.




In New York Times Bestselling author Nalini Singh’s newest contemporary romance, passion ignites between a gorgeous, sinfully sexy man who built himself up from nothing and a shy woman who has a terrible secret in her past…

Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred.

And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.

Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom.

If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.
Pre-order: Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo


For more info about Rock Hard the best place to go is Nalini's website/blog. She's also pretty active on Twitter. Let me know if you've already read any of the books in the Rock Kiss series. I'd love to know your opinion and chat with you about it.

Happy reading,
Michelle

Monday, February 9, 2015

ARC: 432 pages
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: January 27, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher/Sullivan & Partners
Series: Slow Burn #2
Synopsis
Abandoned as a baby to a young wealthy couple and raised in a world of privilege, Arial has no hint of her past or who she belonged to. Her only link lies in the one thing that sets her apart from everyone else—telekinetic powers. Protected by her adoptive parents and hidden from the public to keep her gift secret, Ari is raised in the lap of luxury, and isolation. That is, until someone begins threatening her life.

Beau Devereaux is no stranger to the strange. As the head of Deveraux Security, he’s more than familiar with the realities of physic powers. So when a family friend approaches him about protecting his daughter, he’s more than ready to jump on board. What Beau isn’t prepared for is the extent of his attraction to his beautiful and powerful client. What began as a simple assignment, just another job, quickly turns personal as Beau discovers he’ll do anything at all to protect Ari. Even if it costs him his life.



As with previous Maya Banks series I've read recently, I find I like the second book in the series significantly more than I did the first and that holds true here. I enjoyed In His Keeping a lot more than I did Keep Me Safe (my review).

I still do my issues with In His Keeping but first, here's what I liked.

1. I love that Ari had a great relationship with both of her parents. It was just so refreshing having that positive relationship and it stay positive throughout the novel too. So often lately in romance novels I read, one or both of the main characters grow up in broken homes and their problems stemmed from them having crappy parents or having no parents growing up.

2. Gavin and Ginger Rochester. I loved them! I wish they were my parents. The book opened up with Ari's parents, Gavin and Ginger Rochester, and how they ended up with Ari. I loved that we learned about Gavin and Ginger through Gavin's eyes and why they made the choices they did. It was great seeing the deep love they have for each other and then for Ari when she came along. 

3. Ari. I really liked her character. When the story began she was sheltered and inexperienced--because of the circumstances of how she came to Gavin and Ginger and their discovering her special ability, they kept her close and protected her, hardly letting her out when she was young. When things went to shit, she had to grow up fast. But it didn't happen overnight and it was great watching her character grow and become stronger. It was great seeing her embrace her power and kick some bad guy ass in the last hundred pages of the novel.

4. Ari taking center stage. In His Keeping was Ari's story and everyone else was secondary. Usually in romance the hero and heroine share the spotlight but here the spotlight was solely on Ari. Yes, Beau played a prominent role in keeping Ari safe but he answered to Ari. Even in the scenes where Ari was sleeping and Beau was talking to his team, they're talking about Ari so it was still Ari's show. This was all fine with me because I liked Ari's character a lot more than I did Beau's.

Which brings me to the things I didn't like so much...

1. Beau. He didn't leave much of an impression on me because I've read his character before in previous Maya Banks books. He's the typical cold fish but warms up to the heroine (but only to her!) and becomes an overprotective bear.

2. The romance and the sex scene. There was some mention that Ari and Beau were attracted to one another but there was hardly any build up to the first sex scene. To me, it came at an unnatural part point in the story and felt tacked on. After Beau and Ari slept together they're suddenly in love (even though they make a point not to say the words). The sex scene itself was written in a "paint by numbers" kind of way and it didn't come across as special.

I find that the things I liked in outweigh the things I didn't like so much. I enjoyed reading In His Keeping for the most part. I was able to read it fairly quickly once I got myself to sit still and read it. Yes, I have my issues with it but it's one of those books where you start reading it and you don't realize that you've read so many pages and it's 30 minutes later. I think that's the magic of Maya Banks. Her books are very entertaining and you want to know what will happen next so you keep turning the pages despite everything. I do want to read the last book in the series because it's about Zack and his character has intrigued me throughout the series. I thought he was going to be paired up with Tori Devereaux, but alas... I still want to read his book.