Review: Jenny Pox by JL Bryan

DESCRIPTION

Jenny’s touch spreads a deadly supernatural plague. She can’t control her power, so she devotes her life to avoiding contact with other people in her small Southern town. Her senior year of high school, she meets the one boy she can touch…but if she’s going to be with him, Jenny must learn to use the horrific power inside her to survive his devious, manipulative girlfriend, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all.


REVIEW
First, let me just say this book is not for the faint of heart, the weak stomached, or anyone under the age of eighteen. And I loved every page of it. I was a little hesitant about Jenny Pox initially, but decided to give it a try. And while the gory descriptions of the Jenny Pox tried my gag reflex, it was well worth the $2.99 price tag.
I thought I might have difficulty connecting to Jenny in the beginning (she’s just a little more country than I was prepared to handle with her perpetual use of the word aint’t) but it didn’t take long to fall under her spell. Maybe I didn’t quite feel Jenny’s pain (how could I possibly?), but I empathized. JL Bryan painted an image of a life so lonely and isolated that Jenny was unable to even pet her own dog without killing him. When I think of all the conscious and unconscious contact I go through in a single day, it’s inconceivable to go one day, let alone a lifetime, without a hug, a hand to hold, or a shoulder to lean on. And even though Jenny’s touch was lethal, she was the underdog. Always an outcast, always a loser, it was impossible not to want to see her triumph over a small town determined to see her beat down.
When Jenny meets Seth, the only person in the world she can safely touch, you just know they’re meant to be together, two parts of the same whole. Soul mates even. Too bad Seth’s girlfriend Ashleigh has different plans. And Ashleigh’s not exactly the kind of girl who’s used to hearing the word ‘no’. As Jenny struggles to find the courage to pursue a relationship with Seth and her own happiness, it quickly becomes apparent that Ashleigh will stop at nothing to get what she wants. (This is where the manipulation, gratuitous sex, and all out evil come into play. But I’ll let you find out about that for yourself!) While I loved the paranormal aspect of the book and the uniqueness of the story, what I enjoyed most was watching Jenny grow from sheltered and insecure to a strong and confident young woman willing to fight for what she wants.
This book has it all: teen angst, young love, insurmountable odds, sex, death, revenge. All set perfectly in the heart of small town America. You name it, JL Bryan’s worked it in. And work it does. I can’t wait to get my hands on book two, Tommy Nightmare! What can I say? I’m a sucker for indie writers. And underdogs.

Review: Daimon


 
DESCRIPTION

 For three years, Alexandria has lived among mortals—pretending to be like them and trying to forget the duty she’d been trained to fulfill as a child of a mortal and a demigod. At seventeen, she’s pretty much accepted that she’s a freak by mortal standards… and that she’ll never be prepared for that duty.

According to her mother, that’s a good thing.

But as every descendant of the gods knows, Fate has a way of rearing her ugly head. A horrifying attack forces Alex to flee Miami and try to find her way back to the very place her mother had warned her she should never return—the Covenant. Every step that brings her closer to safety is one more step toward death… because she’s being hunted by the very creatures she’d once trained to kill.

The daimons have found her.

REVIEW
Daimon (pronounced demon) opens with Alex struggling to be a normal teenager. Ripped from the only world she knew growing up, the years haven’t healed old wounds and Alex isn’t exactly that interested in fitting in with mortals. Besides, she has way too much attitude and a kickass fighting style that’s hard to reign in. It’s hard not to like Alex from the start (even though she uses oddly masculine phrases like ‘It’s on like Donkey Kong) because although she’s tough, she’s got a hopeful spirit and suffers from the same insecurities of any teenager – mortal or otherwise. She’s got bad taste in boys, a hopeless crush, and chores she’ll never get around to doing. Alex also possesses the inherent spirit of a survivor that you just have to admire.
Daimon is the prequel to Half-Blood which is scheduled for release in October and my first novella. I picked it up on my Kindle for $0.99 and at 86 pages it’s a quick, action packed read. I got a taste, but it definitely left me wanting more. If the cover wasn’t enough to draw me in (how lovely is it???), the early reviews of Half-Blood posted by other bloggers did the trick. It’s fair to say that this isn’t my usual read and I don’t think I’ve been exposed to gods and mythology since my seventh grade lit class, but that was part of the attraction. Daimon was different. Mythology, mystery, action, a notable lack of vampires and werewolves. Seriously though, Daimon laid the groundwork for the Hematoi world and I can’t wait to learn more about the descendants of the gods or the Covenant.
The countdown is on for Half-Blood and October 18th can’t get here soon enough!

Review: Supernaturally


DESCRIPTION

 Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.
So much for normal.
REVIEW
Oh, bleep! I don’t even know where to start. At the beginning perhaps? Kiersten White has done it again! Supernaturally was a good read—fast paced, action packed, and filled with plenty of teen angst. Supernaturally picked up right where Paranormalcy left off (although, much to my disappointment, there wasn’t nearly enough of Tasey in book two!).  
One of the things I really enjoyed about Paranormalcy was Evie’s quirky and authentic teen voice which continued to shine through in Supernaturally.  And even thought it tugged at my heartstrings a little bit, it felt right that Evie struggled with the normalcy she so badly craved growing up and with the morality of exercising her rather unique gift. Because that’s the real world and part of growing up is discovering that the things we want most rarely turn out to be what we’d imagined. Besides, it’s impossible not to relate to Evie as she struggles to balance a semi-long distance relationship, the gym teacher from hell, faerie mischief, and college applications. All while trying to find her place in the world.
While Supernaturally delivered on the promise of a light and endearing story, there were a few things that left me wanting. First, there were some points where I felt like the story (and Evie’s emotional roller coaster) were being pushed forward at a break neck pace in order to bring the story to a close. Secondly, there was suspicion thrown on the staff at David’s diner that was left unresolved. It probably wasn’t anything heinous, but closure would have been nice as those loose ends keeps tickling at my brain. What were they up to??? Maybe it’s a sign of things to come in book three, but I hate to be left hanging!
All in all, a must read for fans of Paranormalcy. Up next? Endlessly. Which, by the way is an awesome title. I’d count the days, but alas, no release date yet.

Review: Dead Rules


 
DESCRIPTION

Till death

Jana Webster and Michael Haynes were in love. They were destined to be together forever.
Do

But Jana’s destiny was fatally flawed. And now she’s in Dead School, where Mars Dreamcote lurks in the back of the classroom, with his beguiling blue eyes, mysterious smile, and irresistibly warm touch.

Us

Michael and Jana were incomplete without each other. There was no room for Mars in Jana’s life—or death—story. Jana was sure Michael would rush to her side soon.

Part

But things aren’t going according to Jana’s plan. So Jana decides to do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true—no matter what rules she has to break.

REVIEW
Let me start by saying that Dead Rules had such amazing potential. I read a pre-launch interview with Russell and put this on my TBR list immediately. Between the blurb and the author interview, I was sure this was a book for me. I logged on to Amazon and downloaded it on my Kindle (at my own expense) within days of the release. My expectations? Fresh, witty, imaginative. And it was most of those things, but there were still some things that really irked me.
But let me start with the good stuff. The concept was original and well thought out. Although Dead School was a little confusing initially (by design), it all came together in the first couple of chapters. I loved the idea that it was located right here on planet Earth, but could only really be seen and experienced by the dead. I also liked the idea that the students had to figure things out for themselves and that the rules were cryptic. That’s what real life is like, so why should death be any different? And for the romantic in me, the budding relationship between Jana and Mars was the one thing that really hooked me and kept me reading. I felt more connected to Mars than any other character in the book and wanted to see if he would manage to change his status at Dead School and move from Slider (read: bad boy) to Riser. Of all the characters in the book, I felt Mars had the most depth, was the most likeable, and had the greatest sincere desire to change his circumstances. Ultimately, many of the characters felt flat to me. I honestly didn’t really care what happened to any of them, except for Mars.
Which leads me to my biggest issue with this book: I didn’t really like the protagonist, Jana. She was selfish in the extreme and to be honest, although Russell laid the groundwork for Michael, her boyfriend, to be the only support system in her life, I struggled to believe that she really thought killing him was the right thing to do. I know, I know. There are loves that twisted out there, but I just wasn’t buying it. In addition, she had some very annoying and repetitious sayings that just didn’t feel genuine. Seriously. How many teenage girls skip profanity in favor of phrases like ‘farts, fudge, and popcorn’? Also, I’ve never met a teenage girl (and I know plenty of them) who would introduce themself as ‘Webster, of Webster and Haynes’. Sounds like a law firm, right? I hate to say it, but I couldn’t help but think this was a middle aged males’ perception of teenage girls and it just didn’t resonate with me.
Other things that irked me (spoiler alert): There were apparently very few virgins among the teen population. Believe me, I understand that teens have sex, but the numbers felt extremely skewed. Lastly, when Michael finally showed up at Dead School (after killing his girlfriend – even if it was an accident – and after dying while attempting to kill her again) he was a Riser. I’m no expert, but it seemed like he should have been a Slider and the lame excuse that attempting to shoot Jana and her friends was self-defense didn’t make it any more plausible. The logic here just felt fundamentally flawed.
I know my review of this book is in the minority, but it just didn’t work for me. While it had some good points, I just didn’t connect with the storyline or the characters in the way I had hoped to. For those of you who have it on your TBR list, don’t let my review discourage you. I’ll be interested to see what you think!

Review: Enclave

DESCRIPTION

WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear–to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

REVIEW
Talk about a diamond in the rough. I never would have picked up this book if another blogger hadn’t recommended it. Why? Mostly, I think, because the cover didn’t really catch my eye and the title didn’t mean much to me either. Truth be told, without reading the book jacket, it put me in mind of the sci-fi/fantasy books my husband reads. I was sooo wrong. This book was amazing! I don’t give 5 stars often, but Aguirre definitely got my blood pumping. I didn’t have high expectations going in, and maybe that’s one reason I rated it so highly. There’s nothing worse than having a book built up in your mind so much before reading it that it’s impossible for said book to live up to your expectations.
Either way, I couldn’t put this book down. I downloaded it on my kindle the morning I was leaving Mexico and when I didn’t stop reading until it was done. (My family probably thought I was being anti-social in the extreme!) I read on the bench out front the resort, in the shuttle to the airport, on the plane, in baggage claim… You get the idea. The only place I didn’t read was in Customs because they frown on the use of electronic devices.
This was my first read by Aguirre and it won’t be my last. The word building was amazing, there was plenty of action, and I could easily relate to the heroine, Deuce. I was literally sucked into Deuce’s world from page one. I found myself wanting her to challenge the status quo and question the Elders despite the obvious conclusion that she would be exiled for independent thought. I felt her pain when she truly saw the corruption on which her society was built and felt the sting of betrayal when even her closest friends turned against her. I was even hopeful as she and Fade stepped above ground and went Topside in search of a land free of Freaks.
Deuce was a strong character and, despite the compassionate streak she kept hidden within the Enclave, it was clear how deeply her Huntress training had affected her. Forced to question everything she’d ever been taught, I found myself anxious to see her grow a person. I knew who she was, but I wanted to see who she’d become. Life underground was a little two dimensional and it felt like (as with any adolescent), Deuce had a lot more living to do before she’d be whole. Although she’d been raised to live by the sword and had little formal education, she was a thoughtful character who proved that she could shift her initial perceptions and change.
Now, to be fair, there were some things I didn’t exactly like, although I understood them. (Spoiler alert!) It drove me crazy that Deuce didn’t really understand Fade’s attraction to her or the thinly veiled meaning in his words at times. Yes, I understand that she came from a world where breeding was simply a means of species proliferation and she didn’t have any experience with emotional ties and loving relationships. But it still drove me crazy in the ‘How-oblivious-can-you-be-?-You-two-need-to-get-together-already-!’ kind of way. (Apparently I’m a romantic at heart.)
Also, I really hated that Stalker (former gang leader / probable rapist) was folded into their little band of survivors. While I understood Deuce’s reluctance to leave him behind and the practicality of having another skilled fighter to face the Freaks, it still burned. I tried to remind myself that, like Deuce, he only knew one way to survive in the world and that he needed to be shown a different way, but it didn’t really help.
I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this book half as much if I weren’t so emotionally invested in the characters and the outcome, so I guess that even though they drove me a little crazy, I can’t wait for book two of the Razorland series, Outpost, which is projected for release in Fall 2012.

Review: Bloodspell by Amalie Howard

DESCRIPTION

The spell was simple …

Cruentus Protectum. Defend the Blood.
But what do you do if your blood is your enemy?
Victoria Warrick has always known she was different. An outcast at school, she is no stranger to adversity. But when she receives an old journal for her seventeenth birthday, nothing prepares her for the dark secrets it holds—much less one that reveals she’s a witch with unimaginable power.
What’s more, when she meets the dazzling but enigmatic Christian Devereux, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Enemies will hunt her. Friends will turn on her. The terrible curse that makes her blood run black will stop at nothing to control her. And Christian has a sinister secret of his own …
Without knowing whom to trust, can Victoria survive her blood’s deadly desires? Or will she lose everything, including herself?

REVIEW

So, I was on vacation last week and found myself sitting by the pool with nothing to read and an appetite for something deliciously paranormal. Based on another blogger’s recommendation, I downloaded Bloodspell by Amalie Howard on my Kindle. I needed a good book and all the ones I really wanted (read: hopelessly lusting after for months) hadn’t been released yet.
I was a goner when I saw the cover for Bloodspell. It totally sucked me in. Isn’t it lovely? Mysterious? Unique, even? I thought so. And I’m happy to say that this book delivers. Maybe I was a little stingy with my stars when I rated this one (I gave it 4/5 on GoodReads), but Amalie Howard’s world of witches and vampires was not only unique, it was enthralling. I loved that this story played on what we already know about these paranormal beings (without reinventing the genre), but that it also had a unique spin.
Victoria’s transformation from start to finish was real—and it wasn’t just her magic that changed her. She made a choice, a conscious decision, to change from the weak, cowardly girl we meet in chapter one into someone more. She chooses to take control of her life and reshape the way the world views her the old fashioned way—with a new haircut, better clothes, and a more outgoing personality. So maybe she doesn’t have a good firm grasp of her magic from the start, but that’s what makes it a great story; there’s continual growth on both a personal and a paranormal level.
Victoria’s cursed blood was refreshingly original and chilling. Her struggle to overcome the dark desires of her legacy had me on the edge of my seat… wanting more. Her relationship with Christian was heartfelt and though often troubled, I was beside myself to find a heroine who acted her age (yes, she occasionally did things to just spite him) and who stood her ground (thankfully she didn’t spend all of her time pining over him either).
Bloodspell was full of action from start to finish and while some of the plot twists were bordering on predictable, the likeable characters and fast past made it forgivable. If you like paranormal romance, insurmountable odds, betrayal, and ferocious fight scenes, this book’s for you. As for me, I can’t wait to see what Howard writes next!

Snapple Real Fact #   : 
(I know what you’re thinking: Why is my Snapple Real Fact at the end of the post today? And more importantly, where the heck is it? This Real Fact is brought to you courtesy of Mexico. That’s right folks. You’ll pay $3.72 USD for a 16oz bottle of Snapple south of the border, but don’t expect to find anything under the lid because you’ll be deeply disappointed!)

Review: Hollowland

Snapple Real Fact #760: Dolphins sleep with one eye open.
(And you thought you couldn’t get a good night’s sleep!)
Well, it seems we all survived the apocalypse and the only zombies that showed up at my house were in Amanda Hocking’s Hollowland, which by the way was an excellent read. I don’t usually do the reviewing thing, but I figured what the heck.  I’m expanding my reading horizons, so I might as well expand my blogging repertoire as well.
The DL on Hollowand:
Hollowland is the first book in The Hollows series by Amanda Hocking. For those of you not familiar with Hocking, she’s an indie author who recently reached millionaire status by self-publishing and selling her books on sites like Amazon (where I consequently picked up my copy for $0.99).
Description:

“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

Nineteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way – not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.

Review:
A pleasant surprise! What worked for me? The kickass heroine (I love women who can take care of themselves!) , just the right amount of levity to counterbalance the parade of deadly zombies, and the touching relationships that emerged among the central characters. As Remy and her ragtag band of followers made their way across the country, it was difficult not to get sucked in. After all, who could resist a zombie eating lion name Ripley?
Hocking did a nice job developing most of the characters and it didn’t take them long to find their way into my heart. Yes, it’s an unlikely tale of a zombies, but the characters were real and it was easy to identify with their problems, some of which were every day (read: boys!) and some of which were more, well, apocalyptic. I laughed and I cried which is more than I can say for a lot of books.
All in all, a good read. However, I do wish this book had been more thoroughly edited. I realize this was published before Hocking reached her current status and long before her book deal with St. Martin’s (Oh, did I forget to mention that selling a half million e-books will get you signed?), but good editing is something I feel passionately about.
With better editing, I’d have paid more than a dollar for this one. I couldn’t put it down and I look forward to seeing the next book in the series. Yeah, there were some flaws, but Hocking’s a young writer and I’ve followed enough NYT best-selling authors to know that with time (and practice) will come a more polished product. What can I say? I’m a sucker for underdogs. Recommended for zombie lovers and romantics everywhere!
J.J. Bonds