Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

By: Ilona Andrews
Published: December 2, 2013
Published By: Ilona Andrews

Description: Dina Demille runs a Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town and tries her best to pretend to be normal. Her broom is a deadly weapon, her house is a sentient magic inn for otherwordly visitors to Earth, and her only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, normal can be a little difficult. Now something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth begins hunting dogs in her neighborhood. Feeling responsible for the welfare of her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with an alpha-strain werewolf and a cosmic vampire, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’d ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.

My Thoughts: I’ll admit, for some time I was a bit afraid to pick up any of Ilona Andrews’ books outside the Kate Daniels series that I love so much. In my mind, no other book would really compare, and I’d probably find myself wanting the Kate Daniels ones. But when Ilona Andrews announced on the twitter page that they were offering up ARC’s of Clean Sweep I just couldn’t pass up that opportunity.

Clean Sweep began as a free web serial story on the IlonaAndrews website, and was later self published as an eBook. It began following Dina, an Innkeeper in Texas as she comes across a dead dog in her neighborhood that has been tragically savaged, and is not the first of its kind. Dina knows something fishy is up, and she unintentionally elicits the help of Sean Evans in search of the beast terrorizing the neighborhood. What ensues is an interesting story of magic, other worlds, strange creatures, and infuriating situations.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Clean Sweep. It was a wonderful view into a different type of storyline, and had tons of different types of mythological beasts and historical facts. I have no idea how Ilona and Andrew Gordon think up these things but their brains are thoroughly insane (in a good way). The story is not at all predictable, thanks to the random beasts that pop up out of nowhere and the randomness that goes on. It also helped that there were a few pics included to help bring the story to life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It brought me around to the other works by Ilona, some of which I am currently reading/listening to (Expect more reviews to come shortly.) I would recommend this one to those who are interested in Sci Fi, and action books, and of course, fans of Ilona Andrews. 5 Stars (possibly biased rating due to my infatuation with all books by Ilona…still, I assure you it’s a good one.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Book: Kill Me Softly
By: Sarah Cross
Published: April 10, 2012
Published By: EgmontUSA

Description: Mirabelle's past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents' tragic deaths to her guardians' half-truths about why she can't return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who's a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren't pretty things, and they don't always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she'll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

My Thoughts: Kill Me Softly was an interesting take on Fairy Tales that I will remember long after I turned the last page.

We follow Mirabelle, a girl who lives with her two godmothers and who's 16th birthday is coming up. She desperately wants to go back to Beau Rivage, the place where her parents died a tragic death, and the one place her godmothers forbid her to go. She decides to run away and go there, as a birthday gift to herself. There she finds out that fairy tales are real, and must decide her fate.

I thought the story was pretty good, though I didn't much like Mirabelle in the beginning. She was a bit dumb to me. I mean, who follows a random guy to a room in a town where she knows no one? Who goes out with a guy who bursts into your room in the middle of the night and claims you need to leave? Who decides 10pm at night is a great time to wander in a cemetery, alone, in a town where fairy tales are real and no one knows  where you're going? She makes stupid decisions like these and others that just make me wonder about her common sense and self preservation. I just didn't like her at all. I did, however like the fairy tales in the story and how real the author made them. These weren't Disney's fairy tales either, there weren't very many happy endings. Still it was interesting to read and I really enjoyed it.

I give this story 3 stars. Though I really enjoyed how the author made the tales come to life, I can't get past how naive Mirabelle was. It really bothered me and a lot of her decision making skills really grated on me. It almost made me put this one down, but I stuck through it because I saw all the glowing reviews and knew that at least some of the things bothering me would be answered at the end. If your a fan of modern twists on old tales, pick this one up.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dual Review: The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure by James Dashner

Book: The Scorch Trials
By: James Dashner
Published: October 12, 2010

Published By: Delacorte Press

Description: Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety . . . until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.
Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim . . . and meal.
The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.
Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

By: James Dashner
Published: October 11, 2011
Published By: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Description: Thomas knows that Wicked can't be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they've collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It's up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.

What Wicked doesn't know is that something's happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can't believe a word of what Wicked says.

The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.
Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

My Thoughts: I have decided to put these two reviews into one just because I finished them so quickly and didn’t want to do two reviews, and also because it came out long enough ago that there are a bunch of other reviews that will probably give you a better idea of this story as a whole. The same issues I had in the first book, The Maze Runner, are prevalent in these. I couldn’t seem to care one way or the other about the characters. I merely wanted to know what would happen.

The stories by themselves were great. I liked seeing how Thomas would get everyone out of the situations they were placed in and liked seeing what they would encounter next. The worlds and settings James Dashner created were good ones. Still, there was a huge disconnect between me and the characters. Thomas didn’t think like me, and oftentimes I thought he was na├»ve and stupid. I just wanted to shake him or punch him in the face. I felt the same with the other characters. 

Still, this series is a good one that I would totally recommend if you like Dystopian. Just don’t expect to connect too much with the characters. 4 stars.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

By: Robin Wasserman
Published: April 10, 2012
Published By: Random House Children’s Books

Description: It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.  When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love.  When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

My Thoughts: The Book of Blood and Shadow really surprised me, and in a really good way. It’s kind of a bit of murder mystery with a slice of historical fiction and a twinge of running for your life.
It began slow. We followed Nora as she began going to a new school, met some new people, and became a teacher’s aide. The teacher had an obsession with an ancient manuscript, and she and her friend’s job was to translate and decipher it, only after a while, strange things start to happen. Their teacher gets put in a coma, her best friend Chris dies, his girlfriend Adrienne is in shock and Max has disappeared and is thought to be the murderer.

The only thing Nora can think is that it all has something to do with what’s in the manuscript, and Nora is determined to figure out the secrets hidden in it. It takes her on a journey deep into Prague where she uncovers secrets that others would prefer would be left covered, and doing so may just get her killed.
In the beginning, I wasn’t too involved in the story, but slowly but surely it dragged me under, until I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I listened to this in audiobook format and the narrator was perfect. She set the entire tone for the story.

This book was full of information that you couldn’t miss. It had love, loss, betrayal, pain, guilt, anger, torture, fanaticism, fear, and everything in between. Nothing was as it seemed and everything happened for a reason.

I absolutely loved this book, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good mystery with historical elements, murder and doesn’t mind a little bit of religious perspective. It was absolutely amazing and I will be reading this again. 5 stars.