Review: Dead Rules


Till death

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

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.


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.


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.

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



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.

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


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?


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!)

Humble Pie, Sour Grapes, and the Bitter Taste of Rejection

Snapple Real Fact #883: Butterflies taste with their hind feet.
(Okay, so apparently rejection could taste worse; it could be infused with the taste of feet).
Today’s topic: The dreaded rejection letter. I got my first rejection letter (Okay, more than one, but who’s counting really?). I can’t say it’s a warm and fuzzy first, but it’s a first nonetheless, and one that I hope will bring me closer to my dream of being a published author.
I won’t lie. Rejection stings. Maybe more than a little. But it’s part of the process and I knew that going into it. I knew that publishing was extremely competitive (especially in the explosive YA genre) and that the odds were far from in my favor.  I knew that I was going to have to knock on a lot of doors and aggressively work to find people who believe in my work as much as I do.
In fact, the first rejection was kind of a relief; something I was expecting and just had to get through. After that, it was all downhill. Now I’m a little afraid of my email, although I haven’t stopped checking it compulsively. I just get a little more nervous each time I hit the refresh button on my inbox.
So, here I sit, a little dejected, posting my disappointment for the world to read although sharing openly like this is definitely not first nature for me. My real first instinct is to hide that which could be embarrassing or show weakness. But I want this blog to be genuine, so here’s to honesty!
I will say that each literary agent who has elected to pass on my work has been very polite and professional.  Knowing the volume of queries they receive, I truly am appreciative of the responses, even the ones that say ‘no, thanks’. At least I know where I stand. If the first twenty say no, I’ll find twenty more.
Despite this week’s disappointment, I still have faith. I certainly haven’t given up on myself or my dream. After all, I never expected overnight success.
I guess it could be worse. I could be one of these guys (or gals):
Seriously. I laughed so hard I cried when I found this site. My husband came running up the stairs to make sure I was okay. I now follow this blog for a good laugh and a reality check.
The best advice I can give myself and others?
Keep chasing the dream. No matter how elusive it might seem today.