Review: Integration

Title: Integration (Bonfire Academy #2)
Author: Imogen Rose
Genre: YA Paranormal
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: July 10th, 2012
Rating: 4 Stars

Second haiku warning:

A boyfriend missing
A lover must pay in blood
A princess must die

Welcome back to Bonfire Academy.

 
Review:

You know that warm fuzzy sensation you get when returning to a series you love? That’s the feeling I got when I picked up Integration. I read Initiation quite a while ago and absolutely L-O-V-E-D it. I loved the school, the ‘trust no one’ philosophy, the unique paranormal world that Imogen Rose creates, and most of all, Cordelia. So naturally I progressed into reading Faustine, and while it was a great book, I just didn’t connect to it in the same way. Probably because I simply liked Cordelia better than Faustine. Hey, a girl can have favorites, right?

Integration picks up where Initiation left off, with Cordelia returning to Bonfire Academy to complete her internship and sort out her feelings for Quinn (her childhood friend and longtime boyfriend) and Jagger (the Fae hybrid with whom she’s synched). Like all of Imogen Rose’s books, the action starts quickly and doesn’t let up until the end. Once again Cordelia is tasked with watching Faustine who is in being threatened by an anonymous and hostile paranormal, while also juggling her professional responsibilities and trying to locate her missing boyfriend.

Integration is shrouded in far more mystery than Initiation which I enjoyed, although having read Faustine first, I was always trying to put the facts together and figure out where the story was heading. (Given the opportunity, I would have read Integration first).

What I liked…. Cordelia is fearless and confident (despite nearly being torn to pieces the prior year). She’s got a strong sense of responsibility and loyalty (despite her inability to do the right thing by Quinn). And although we are constantly reminded that paranormals do not experience human emotions per se, Cordelia exhibits strong feelings for both Faustine and Jagger. Despite being a ‘new adult’ we still get to see her struggle with jealousy, love and friendship. She’s also got a great deal of spunk, which I love in a female heroine.

What I couldn’t quite wrap my head around (spoiler alert!)…. It seemed to me that Cordelia should have recognized that the Smelt was possessed and acted sooner, just as I felt she should have made some of the other mysterious connections more easily. I really wanted to jump in and give her a good shake when  I felt the clues were so obvious! Fortunately, I can’t dive into my Kindle though, because quite honestly, I’d probably never come back out.

Overall, another winner for Imogen Rose. With lots of action, intensity, and a highly original paranormal world, I look forward to the next chapter in Cordelia’s story and am excited to see how it plays into The Bonfire Chronicles (Faustine’s story).

* Note: This book is recommended for mature/upper YA readers as it does contain references to adult situations.

 

Review: Last Bastion of the Living

Title: Last Bastion of the Living
Author: Rhiannon Frater
Genre: Dystopian
Length: 375 pages
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: June 12th, 2012
Rating: 4.5 Stars

A walled city surrounded by lush land, protected by high mountain summits, and fortified by a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, The Bastion remained humanity’s last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. On one fateful day, the valley gate failed and the Inferi Scourge overran and destroyed the human settlements outside the walls, trapping the remaining survivors inside the city. Now, decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city of dwindling resources…and dwindling hope.

Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her entire life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness.

Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate, reclaiming the lost lands and energizing the populace with renewed hope for the future. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.

Review:

Last weekend I tucked in with Last Bastion of the Living for Fraterfest and all I could think the entire time I was reading it was ‘How did I wait so long to read this book?’ Last Bastion was obscenely good. Now, I’m a big fan of Rhiannon Frater, and I loved the As the World Dies series, but Last Bastion of the Living was so much better. I freaking loved this book!  And while I respect the stand alone novel, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wishing for more!

What’s so great about it? Nearly everything–the word building, the zombies, the heroine, Maria, who was smart, tough, and completely kick-ass. Last Bastion is fast paced and action packed with just the right amount of romance to add to the storyline. I’m not usually a fan of anything too close to science fiction, but I was enamored with the world Frater built. As she described life in the Bastion, I could easily imagine the crowded streets, defunct transport systems, and the oppressive despair. Heck, I think I could even imagine the smell of the highly seasoned protein lumps meant to sustain the sparse population.

I also happen to be an action junkie so the rapid pace and continuously evolving story had me hooked. Every time I thought I had things figured out, the storyline shifted revealing more lies and deceit. This story- and the zombies- bore virtually no resemblance to the zombies of the As the World Dies trilogy, for which I commend Frater. I love that she took an entirely different route here and created another fantastic story! Throughout, I found myself pulling for Maria and her squad despite the impossible odds. I desperately wanted to see them succeed and couldn’t put Last Bastion down.

The only reason I didn’t give this book the full five stars?  The back story on the creation of the zombies. Now, it’s just a blip on the radar and only gets a passing mention, but I just couldn’t buy it- at all. Personally, I would have preferred the mysterious Inferi Scourge virus went unexplained in lieu of the truth, but that’s just me.

Overall, exactly what you expect from Rhiannon Frater: action, suspense and Texans! An amazing and original read, highly recommended for zombie fans! Treat yourself this Halloween… You won’t regret it!

Review: Throne of Glass

Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: August 7th, 2012
Rating: 5 Stars

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Review:

What can I possibly say about Throne of Glass that hasn’t already been said? Probably nothing. As usual, I’m late to the party, but that’s never stopped me before, so I’m going to keep on writing because TOG was an amazing story! If you follow my reviews you know that I’m selective (read: stingy) about giving out 5 star ratings, but this book earned it! It’s hard to believe that Sarah J. Maas is a debut author or that this epic tale was ten years in the making. Thank hades for persistence!

First and foremost, TOG has an intriguing and original plot. I’m not really into fantasy, but this book sucked me in ala Hunger Games style, and after just  a few pages, I was hooked. There are several storylines unfolding as TOG progresses and I loved that Maas allowed us to see the inner workings of the glass palace through the eyes of multiple MC’s.

As for the protag? Celaena is a girl after my own heart- smart, strong, and attitude to spare. Oh, and did I mention that she’s completely unapologetic? It’s hard to reconcile such a young girl with the word ‘assassin’, but Mass does a wonderful job presenting Celaena as both lethal and endearing. She’s proud of her accomplishments and elite status, yet Celaena does not relish in taking lives. She’s grounded -or as grounded as a troubled teenage assassin with a penchant for fancy dresses can be. This was another thing I loved about Celaena: although she’s survived unimaginable horrors, and despite her less than trusting demeanor, she is not calous or cruel. Celaena has a good heart and is fiercely loyal to those around her.

And the dreaded love triangle? It was done so well  I was completely unable to choose between Chaol and Dorian. Both had something Celaena needed and each connected with her in a very different and gratifying way. Ultimately, I found myself flip-flopping with each turn of the page, unable to determine who I felt was best suited to hold the assassin’s heart. After all, how’s a girl supposed to choose between a guy who radiates heat and one who understands the very fiber of her being?

The only down side? Book two, which is currently unnamed, will not release until next year! This is extra brutal since it’s already written!

Review: Fairy Metal Thunder

Title: Fairy Metal Thunder (Songs of Magic #1)

Author: JL Bryan

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Length: 194 pages

Publication Date: September 16, 2011

 Rating: 3.5/5

Description:

 A rock & roll fairy tale.

Jason plays guitar in a teenage garage band called the Assorted Zebras, but they have no fans, no gigs, and they’re going nowhere. Even worse, Jason has a crush on their lead singer, but she doesn’t seem interested in him at all.

Then Jason steals instruments from the fairy world. Soon the band is enchanting crowds, and Jason is a step closer to the girl of his dreams, but the new gear is brimming with dangerous and destructive magic they can’t control.

Their shortcut to success has cost a troupe of innocent fairies their livelihood and turned Jason and his band into enemies of the powerful Queen Mab, who sends supernatural bounty hunters to track them down, including one of the most dangerous horned creatures in Faerie…a small unicorn named Buttercake.

Review:

Fairy Metal Thunder was unlike anything else I’ve read. It was light, fun and refreshing! I’ll be honest, I had really high hopes for this book going in. I’m a big fan of JL Bryan’s The Paranormals series so I was sure that Fairy Metal Thunder would be a great read. It may have fallen a little short of my expectations, but it was a well constructed story and I’m curious to see where the Assorted Zebras go next. Will I be reading more? Definitely.

So what did I like?

The narration: FMT is told primarily from a male POV and that is pretty unique for YA (at least on my bookshelf). I found Jason to be a rather pleasant lead, although he was such a good kid that this book felt like it was targeted at younger readers which I wasn’t expecting. Still, I enjoyed seeing the world (especially first crushes) through the eyes of a teenage boy for once. Especially one that was actually a little immature and just flat out normal.

The imagery: JL Bryan does a phenomenal job of creating a faerie realm that’s understated and beautiful. I don’t read a lot of books on the fae, but it was easy for me to visualize the realm as Jason experienced it for the first time. As the story progressed, I also enjoyed seeing the realm in greater detail through the eyes of Aoide, the secondary narrator, and one of the faeries desperately trying to recover her instrument. I’m hoping Aoide plays a bigger role in book two of the series! I’m curious to see what kind of trouble she can get into with the queensguard at her side and what legths she’ll go to in order to recover her instrument and appease the queen. Besides, there could always be a little romance brewing. But I digress….

The plot: Rock n’ Roll? High school garage band? Magical instruments? Sold. It was a great summer read. You know the kind– you don’t have to think too hard and the overall feeling is warm fuzzy bunnies. The story is fast paced, easy to follow and unique.  Seriously. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing else like it on the market.

A kickass unicorn named Buttercake: Enough said!

And what left me wanting?

Not much. The story was a little simplistic for my taste (perhaps because it’s meant for younger readers). And while I’m not a stickler for editing, there was one glaring issue that hung me up as I tried to discern the authors intent.

Overall, I really can’t pick out too many things that I didn’t like about FMT. While it wasn’t my favorite JL Bryan book (let’s be honest– he’s got some great ones!), it’s a well crafted story and one I’d recommend if you’re looking for some light summer reading!

Next up as I continue with my indie TBR list? I’m thinking The Fallen Star. Or maybe Prince of Wolves. Decisions, decisions….

Review: Vanish (Firelight #2)

 DESCRIPTION

To save the life of the boy she loves, Jacinda did the unthinkable: She betrayed the most closely-guarded secret of her kind. Now she must return to the protection of her pride knowing she might never see Will again—and worse, that because his mind has been shaded, Will’s memories of that fateful night and why she had to flee are gone.

Back home, Jacinda is greeted with hostility and must work to prove her loyalty for both her sake and her family’s. Among the few who will even talk to her are Cassian, the pride’s heir apparent who has always wanted her, and her sister, Tamra, who has been forever changed by a twist of fate. Jacinda knows that she should forget Will and move on—that if he managed to remember and keep his promise to find her, it would only endanger them both. Yet she clings to the hope that someday they will be together again. When the chance arrives to follow her heart, will she risk everything for love?

In bestselling author Sophie Jordan’s dramatic follow-up to Firelight, forbidden love burns brighter than ever.

REVIEW

Second book syndrome? Not even close. To be honest, I’m always wary of the second book in a series. Will it be as good as the first? Will I feel let down? Is it just a vehicle to get from book 1 to book 3? For me, Vanish surpassed my expectations. I loved this book! While Firelight was engaging, Vanish was captivating. Although there were certain aspects that were perhaps predictable, there were still quite a few twists that I didn’t see coming and which really gave the story additional substance for me.

Aspects I really enjoyed? Jacinda was less self-centered in Vanish which helped me warm up to her and be more empathetic to her angsty teen emotions. Instead of remaining focused solely on her own plight, she was more aware of the struggles and sacrifices of those around her. We also get to learn more about the inner working of the pride (finally!) and the draki society. I, for one, was left wanting more in Firelight and Vanish doesn’t disappoint. We get up close and personal with the draki and the harsh realities of life within the pride which frustrated me at times, but for which I have high hopes in book 3.

Most of all, I was thrilled to see the relationship between Cassian and Jacinda grow in Vanish. I was curious to see if there might really be something between the two, aside from the obvious pressure and expectations of the pride, and if her infatuation with Will was truly genuine and lasting.

Oh, yeah. And I shouldn’t forget to mention that Sophie Jordan once again proves she is a master of the cliffhanger ending. I actually kept turning the pages thinking I accidentally skipped a page before I had that moment of clarity in which I realized Vanish had ended and that I would be desperate to get my hands on book three in the series.

The one thing I still can’t figure out? If the pride is living in the mountains more or less off the grid for all intents and purposes, what’s the deal with all of the modern conveniences like cable? Still, I’m eagerly awaiting Hidden (Firelight #3) which is scheduled for release next year.

 

Review: Silence

DESCRIPTION

The noise between Patch and Nora is gone. They’ve overcome the secrets riddled in Patch’s dark past…bridged two irreconcilable worlds…faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty and trust…and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in one another, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they’ve worked for—and their love—forever.

REVIEW

Love, love, love Patch… and the book. If you’re waiting to read Silence, stop waiting! Go get your copy. Now. Initial reactions? Silence has all of the qualities I loved from the first two books in the series and then some. Impossible romance, mystery, danger, deceit, angel lore, and yes, that always fun teen wit.

When Crescendo ended so abruptly I wanted to throw my Kindle at the wall. I was frustrated and curious and dying to see how Patch and Nora would escape their latest challenge. In retrospect I begrudgingly admit that it was worth the wait. I was surprised to discover how little time had passed at the opening of Silence and was sucked in immediately. I couldn’t tear through the pages fast enough to figure out what exactly had happened. And I wasn’t disappointed. The story, which was crafted with great care, went in a direction I couldn’t possibly have anticipated and unfolded wonderfully.

Again, I found myself on the edge of my seat yelling at Nora with frustration, but also with more emotion and adoration than I would have given her in the past. Why? Because Nora finally grew a spine. (Thank you Ms. Fitzpatrick! It was long overdue and much appreciated!) Maybe it was just me, but in the first two books, Nora felt a bit more like a girl being tossed in the wind, just trying to keep her head above water. In Silence, Nora has grown a bit and comes across more as a woman on a mission. The kind who doesn’t give up and who stares down danger in the name of principle. Or maybe it’s just good old fashioned determination. Either way, I felt more connected to Nora in this book than in the previous two where, quite honestly, I just wanted more Patch.  (Added bonus, we finally get to see where Patch lives after that little cliff hanger at the end of Crescendo. Talk about a torturous wait!) In Silence, I found myself in Nora’s shoes trying to imagine how I’d react to rediscovering my past, uncovering the betrayal of those closest to me, and following my heart even when my head couldn’t make sense of the feelings within.

I was relieved when Silence didn’t end with a cliffhanger, but am intrigued to see where the story of Nora and Patch goes next. Fitzpatrick has opened the door for the fourth book in the series and I can honestly say that I hope Nora continues to find her strength and that maybe, just maybe, the couple can finally catch a break!

* FTC disclaimer: Like all books reviewed on my blog, I purchased this book for my Kindle and received no compensation for my opinion– It’s just that… my opinion.

Review: Karma Girl

DESCRIPTION

Bigtime, New York, is not big enough for both Carmen Cole and the superheroes and ubervillains who stalk its streets. An intrepid reporter, Carmen’s dedicated her life to unmasking the spandexwearers, all because her fiancéŽ turned out to be a superhero, and a cheating one at that-sleeping with none other than his nubile nemesis.

Exposing the true identities of the nation’s caped crusaders and their archenemies has catapulted Carmen from her sleepy southern hometown to the front pages of the country’s biggest newspaper, The Expos. Hobnobbing with millionaires and famished fashionistas is all in a day’s work for a woman on the trail of the Fearless Five and Terrible Triad. But when Carmen gets the scoop of her career, her life comes crashing down around her. And even Bigtime’s sexiest superhero, Striker, may not be able to save her.

 REVIEW

My first thought? What a fun read! For me, superheroes went the way of Saturday morning cartoons, but when I came across Karma Girl, I had to check it out. And what’s not to love? Carmen Cole is a woman scorned who’s devoted her super sleuthing ways to get getting revenge on the mysterious masked men and women who wreak havoc not only on Bigtime, but everytown USA.

While Carmen is a born puzzler who’s always playing with her Rubik’s Cubes, the story itself is actually a little predictable. I wanted desperately to shout the answers at Carmen as she sought the identities of the Terrible Triad and the Fearless Five, but it didn’t really detract from the story for me. Frankly, the characters were larger than life, the scenes and costumes so outlandish, and the action so fast paced that I couldn’t put this one down. But it wasn’t all fun and games, Carmen is forced to evaluate her life’s mission, her motives and even the consequences of her actions, reaffirming that she’s more than just a bitter journalist hell-bent on exposing others’ secret identities. I loved seeing Carmen grow as a person and face the sad fact that her own karma was perhaps at risk as a result of her quest for revenge. As Carmen takes on the toughest expose of her life, she also embarks on a journey of self-revelation and healing.

Yeah, it was a campy read, but it was light and fun and just what the doctor ordered. If you can suspend reality for just a moment and accept that every town has its own team of superheroes and villains, well, then you’re ready to go! With sexy (and leather clad) super heroes like Striker, imaginative super powers, and silly alter egos (like Travis Teague a.k.a. Tornado) Karma Girl’s got it all.