Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr

Diving right into the third installment of Melissa Marr's lushly written Wicked Lovely series, I was immediately bombarded with the sense of barely controlled tension. After some tricky maneuvering in Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange, Aislinn, Keenan, Seth, Donia and even Niall have all reached a somewhat tenuous balance but everyone knows the least little provocation could set off a war none of them can afford. Aislinn is thankfully settling into her role as co-Queen of the Summer Court but finding it daily harder and harder to hold Keenan at arms length when every instinct tells her she should get closer as summer draws nearer. And Keenan, well, he's never been a faery to miss a golden opportunity and he's not gonna budge an inch where Aislinn is concerned. He knows the stronger their bond is, the stronger the Summer Court will be and he's not going to let anything, let alone a mere mortal, get in the way of his goals. The mere mortal in question happens to be Seth - Aislinn's human boyfriend who is becoming increasingly frustrated with his mortality. Knowing he's too fragile and weak to truly protect Aislinn against any faery wishing her harm, he's stuck waiting on the sidelines, watching as Keenan draws her ever closer. This little love triangle is further complicated by Donia, who is slowly turning into the Ice Queen she truly is as she watches Keenan woo Aislinn while professing he truly loves only her. I'd be a little bitter too. And Niall? Well, we can all just sit back and appreciate the Dark Lord in action, because frankly, if I was the betting type, my money would be on him.

Melissa Marr has such a way with words, sending her readers into this convoluted world full of court politics and murky relationships. Each individual Marr introduces is more alive and solid than the previous with each adding their own spin to events. Often while reading this series, I've found Ms. Marr's faeries to be remarkably human. That could be due to the fact that the boundaries between faery and mortal are so thin in her world - they go to the same night clubs, the same parks - and not surprisingly, they often seem to have more human than faerie qualities. That said, when Seth travels to meet Sorcha of the High Court of Faeries, I was so entranced with her complete 'otherness' as a quintessential faery. I should have fully expected that someone embodying Faerie would be a little bit different but I was surprised by how imperial everything about Sorcha and her court appeared. Just loved the contrast.

There are so many characters to love in Fragile Eternity but I found myself constantly irritated with Aislinn. How did she stray so far from being one of my favorites? The girl makes some seriously deluded choices that made me want to strangle her. Out of every single character that has set foot in a Melissa Marr book, Niall has to be the winner - hands down. Who else could have began as a bodyguard and adviser and in one decisive step taken up the role of the King of the Dark Court and no one doubts for a minute that's where he belongs? That's right, NOBODY. I love his friendship with Seth and I love even more his barely controlled violence. He's freaking awesome.

series reading order:
~ Wicked Lovely
~ Ink Exchange
~ Fragile Eternity
~ Radiant Shadows (April 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
Au Courant review
The Book Smugglers review
Darque Reviews review
Em's Bookshelf review

book source: my local library

I just gained like 10 pounds

I picked up Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader on a whim as a Christmas present for my mom because she really likes the series (I've never read the books myself) but after flipping through, I just knew it would never make it under the Christmas tree. Oh boy, are there ever some good 'ole fashioned recipes just like my Granny used to make in here. And they're all FROM SCRATCH! Just this last week I made chicken and dumplings, apple pie, beef stew, cinnamon rolls, and now I'm eyeing a chocolate raspberry cake.
Don't even ask me to step on a scale right now. I think I'll just head back to the kitchen...

p.s. sorry mom, I'll find you something else, I promise

Are you Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood?

Please do yourself a favor and head over to The Thrillionth Page to take Carolyn's oh-so-funny Are you a Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood quiz. Guaranteed instant cure for Wednesday morning blues. Personally, I'm basically a Cinderella (surprise, surprise) with a little of Red Riding Hood thrown in to keep things interesting. It's true: I love a good happily ever after and if it can happen while wearing three-inch heels, so much the better.

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

After simply loving the fantastic timing and characters in Kelley Armstrong's The Awakening and The Summoning, I thought I'd check out her backlist to see if her adult novels were just as good. I knew in picking up Bitten that I'd be getting a werewolf novel (perfect timing for Halloween) but didn't know much else.

What I stumbled into was a complex and very character driven story about a strong female werewolf, trying to build a life for herself outside of the Pack. Since werewolves are only born male, Elena was bitten (against her will) and has never really gotten past that little detail. Even though her Pack has helped her try to accept this new part of her life, she's determined to break all ties with them in favor of trying to make it on her own in the city. She does pretty good for a while, even moving in with her boyfriend Phillip - a kind and patient man who has absolutely no idea what she really is. That is until the Alpha Jeremy calls asking for help and her return does she start to panic. Even though she's been gone more than a year, Elena still hasn't really sorted out her feelings about being a werewolf or her fellow wolves. She really doesn't know what to do about Clay, Jeremy's foster son, the man who stole her heart but who ends up breaking it more often than not since he tends to usually act more like a wolf than a man. Unwillingly, Elena returns to help the Pack only to discover they are on the brink of an all-out war with some insane loner-wolves who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Elena's story moves at a fast clip with plenty of action and some truly memorable characters to lead the way. Unfortunately, as I got more settled into Bitten, I continued to have issues with a few aspects Elena's story. The characterizations are all there and there were even some really good Pack dynamics happening - I just couldn't get over my irritation with Elena. That's not to say I didn't like her at all, I actually did - she's had some pretty rough things happen in her life and has come out a strong, determined woman - very admirable, but I couldn't stand the way she treated Clay and Phillip. I mean, I know Elena had moved away, trying to make a clean break from her life with the Pack and had set up shop with Phillip; but when things change does she break it off with Phillip or even ask for some time apart? No, the girl doesn't know what she wants (somewhat understandable) and so continues to keep both men stringing along. Very bad form. I understand that there was a lot going on to distract her from making up her mind, but she was so dang slow about it, she just ended up hurting my head. Probably part of the reason is because I became super attached to Clay. Southern drawl and all, the man is a total package. So it's entirely possible I might have become a little miffed any time I thought he wasn't being treated right. That said, Bitten spun an intriguing story full of what I like best: believable characters - I just wish some had acted a little differently.

series reading order:
~ Bitten
~ Stolen
~ Dime Store Magic
~ Industrial Magic
~ Haunted
~ Broken
~ No Humans Involved
~ Personal Demon
~ Living with the Dead
~ Frostbitten

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
All Booked Up review
Alpha Heroes review
Angieville review
Flames Rising review
My Years of Reading Seriously review

book source: my local library

Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

Sirantha Jax is feeling the pressure - as a jumper, the urge to dive headlong into grimspace (yet again) is stronger than ever but here she is, traveling to Ithiss-Tor as an ambassador for the Conglomerate. In the wake of the Farwan Corporation's collapse, the Conglomerate is still struggling to keep citizens safe in the face of the mafia-esque Syndicate subtly flexing their muscles and the Morgut's increasingly frequent fatal attacks. Jax isn't necessarily ambassador material, but since she's probably the only human ever to become friends with an Ithorian-turned-bounty hunter, Vel, she's the best mankind has to offer. And how scary is that? As ambassador, she is charged with creating an alliance with the Ithorians 'bugs' since they are essentially the only civilization ever to have defeated the Morgut. The Ithorians however, distrust and loath humans: seeing them as inferior, weak beings. They even think Vel somewhat defective for leaving their planet to live among humans. Lucky for Jax however, he's got her back and is there to help her navigate the political doublespeak and intricate Ithorian customs.

Not only is Jax having to tread lightly with the Ithorians - she's the kind to shoot first, blow up the planet, salt it, and then, ask questions later - she has to figure out a way to help her lover March come out of his permanent 'kill' mode. The least touch or perceived threat (real or imagined) results in him literally going berserk on anyone and everyone. Worst of all, even though he remembers loving Jax, he can't figure out why he ever did and can see no future whatsoever with the feisty jumper. But Jax isn't giving up on him and will try to do everything in her power to bring the old, uber-conscientious March back.


I'm still reeling over this series - Grimspace and Wanderlust have to be two of my best discoveries from the past year and Doubleblind did not disappoint. I'm the first to admit that there's plenty going on in these books but Ann Aguirre has this masterful ability of being able to connect multiple cultures and characters flawlessly that you have to just simply sit back and trust her to take you where you need to go. I cannot say how much I love Jax. And March. And Vel. Who wouldn't love somebody with a pack as bottomless as Mary Poppins' carpet bag, that is, if Mary Poppins carried shock guns, all weather jackets, transmission scramblers, and sundry computer hacking materials. Handy to have when you're on an alien planet full of bugs wanting to kill you.

Doubleblind distinctly departs from the non-stop action formula present in the previous two Jax books with spectacular results. Essentially a character-driven novel, we are truly able to see how much Jax has grown over time. Nothing is so satisfying as that. Two books ago there is no way she would have been able to complete a mission as ambassador, let alone one as delicate in nature as this one. Jax herself understands the irony of her situation and let's just say, she's feeling the strain.
I know; it's crazy for me to be the voice of reason, the prudent one, but that's the hat I'm wearing right now, and let me tell you, it's tight across the brim.
After facing some rough make-or-break situations, Jax has learned the value of patience, listening to those around her, and not always going off half-cocked. Fun that, but not always effective. Much of this change has to be the direct result of her time spent primarily with March and secondly with Vel. Vel has that alien viewpoint which has caused Jax to look at the effect of her choices in a new light - she's still paranoid and a smart-mouth, but she's learned how to control it in her favor. Furthermore, March used to be the one who had to wait patiently for Jax and now she is the one making sure March knows she'll never give up on him - a monstrous task since we always knew the man was crazy but now, he's downright off his rocker. In Doubleblind, Jax proves she is more than capable of subtly as well as a respectable right hook and I'm just not sure I can wait until next year for her next adventures in the upcoming Killbox (promising title, don't you think?).

series reading order:
~ Grimspace
~ Wanderlust
~ Doubleblind
~ Killbox (October 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Book Pushers Anonymous review
Fantasy Cafe review
Impressions...of a Reader review
Janicu review
The Thrillionth Page review
Kmont and Katiebabs discuss it Part I & Part II

book source: my local library

Big Box Challenge at Princess Bookie

As part of Princess Bookie's ginormous Big Box Challenge, she asked us to recreate a cover of one of nine books. I'm really looking forward to the release of Scarlett Fever and I couldn't help but mesh her with one of my all-time favorite movie heroines.

Introduction to...

I'm coming up on my 100th blog post (yipee!) and it really got me to thinking about what I want to accomplish with this here blog thingy. After much thought and massive consumption of salty snacks, I've decided that in order to help me accomplish one of my reading goals, I'm going to start a new feature called Lit 101 - wherein I'll spotlight and review at least one book considered to be 'classic literature' each month. These books will be the ones everyone should probably read at least once in their lifetime and namely the ones that I've personally never gotten around to reading and wish I had.

I'd love for others to join me in my classics adventure - feel free to pick up the ones I've got planned or choose another great work you've never read but have always wanted to settle into. Here's the books I've got scheduled for the next couple of months:

November ~ Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
December ~ The Awakening by Kate Chopin
January ~ Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

I'm competely, totally open to suggestions!!

And just to get the 'ole juices flowing, here's a couple of lists naming some of the greatest books ever written: BBC Big Read, Newsweek's Top 100 Books, College Bound 101 Books

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Possessing a practical and curious nature, Alexia Tarabotti has come to accept her faults as the natural cause of her spinsterhood: she's not noticeably pretty (unlike her silly two half-sisters), her deceased father happens to have been Italian (practically unforgivable), and she doesn't have a soul (though of course that isn't widely known). This last point however begins to sway in her favor when she is unexpectedly attacked by a vampire, in a library of all places, without even first asking her pardon - or permission for that matter. As a preternatural however, Alexia's lack of soul allows her to negate any supernatural - vampire or werewolf alike - with only a touch. Handy that. Allowing her to escape becoming a vampire's dinner but resulting in the loss of her tea and having to answer to the gruff Lord Maccon - the local alpha werewolf under the direction of the Queen - who is less than pleased with Alexia's intervention. These two stubborn and...(cough, cough)...outspoken personalities have clashed before and this latest meeting doesn't bode too well for their future either. What follows is a give and take comedy/mystery wherein Lord Maccon gives Alexia advice, usually unsolicited, and she studiously ignores him. Often resulting in less than pleasant results for Alexia.

I was pleased to find Soulless as intriguing and different as its unique cover. Ask the hubby, I have gushed who knows how many times over that dress, that sway back - I adore it all; so that's saying a lot. The language was also a winner - Alexia practically leaps off the page from the very beginning. The following scene takes place at the outset of the book just after she has successfully deflected the vampire's attack and its got a little of everything that I enjoyed about this book:
She decided to waltz directly out of the library without anyone the wiser to her presence there. This would have resulted in the loss of her best hair stick and her well-deserved tea, as well as a good deal of drama. Unfortunately, a small group of young dandies came traipsing in at that precise moment. What young men of such dress were doing in a library was anyone's guess. Alexia felt the most likely explanation was that they had become lost while looking for the card room. Regardless, their presence forced her to pretend that she, too, had just discovered the dead vampire. With a resigned shrug, she screamed and collapsed into a faint.

She stayed resolutely fainted, despite the liberal application of smelling salts, which made her eyes water most tremendously, a cramp in the back of one knee, and the fact that her new ball gown was getting most awfully wrinkled. All its many layers of green trim, picked to the height of fashion in lightening shades to complement the cuirasse bodice, were being crushed into oblivion under her weight. The expected noises ensued: a good deal of yelling, much bustling about, and several loud clatters as one of the housemaids cleared away the fallen tea.

Then came the sound she had half anticipated, half dreaded. An authoritative voice cleared the library of both young dandies and all other interested parties who had flowed into the room upon discovery of the tableau. The voice instructed everyone to "get out!" while he "gained the particulars from the young lady" in tones that brooked no refusal.

Silence descended.

"Mark my words, I will use something much, much stronger than smelling salts," came a growl in Miss Tarabotti's left ear. The voice was low and tinged with a hint of Scotland. It would have caused Alexia to shiver and think primal monkey thoughts about moons and running far and fast, if she'd had a soul. Instead it caused her to sigh in exasperation and sit up.
It's hard to exactly put my finger on why I enjoyed this book so much (besides the "primal monkey thoughts" line) - like Gail Carriger says herself it's a little Victorian era, paranormal, mystery, romance, and a little steampunk thrown in for good measure. Even though the steampunk aspects were a bit of an afterthought, I believe it was the concept of Alexia herself that drew me the most. The fact that she is one of the only soulless individuals in England leaves her adventures wide open as she draws not only the attention of the local supernatural community, but the Queen herself. Being a self-professed bluestocking who would much rather spend her time with books and a cup of tea than with her two flighty sisters, Alexia can be exasperating to those who aren't themselves firmly grounded in intellectualism and practicality. Understandable. But still she's witty, knows what she wants, and above all, is very, very fun. The ending was a bit over the top since the focus had shifted a bit from Alexia's independent misadventures to her relationship with Lord Maccon - a bit too sweet for my tastes, but I've got high hopes for the duo's return in Changeless, the Parasol Protectorate book two due out March 2010.

series reading order:
~ Soulless
~ Changeless (March 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
The Book Smugglers review
Dear Author review
The Hiding Spot review
Popin's Lair review
Pure Imagination review

book source: borrowed from a friend

Heroes at Risk by Moira J. Moore

Thanks to Angieville, I've stumbled onto many, many new series that have totally sparked my interest and have left me clamoring for more. Out of all the authors she's recommended, Moira J. Moore's Heroes Series has to be one of my new favorites. Questionable covers aside, its got danger, bucket loads of humor, intricate world building, romance, and of course, characters that you can't help but adore. Not only that, but it's one of the most original story lines I've come across in quite a while. Heroes at Risk is the fourth novel in a progressively entertaining series about Source Taro and Shield Lee, a set of Pairs who through a unique bond are able to control natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. Lee and Taro have been circling each other for quite some time and in the last book, things sort of came to a head between them and changed everything - in my opinion - for the best. But that could all change as they return to High Scrape to resume their normal duties as a Pair.

Back in High Scrape at last, Lee is more than happy to be back to her normal life, ready to do some shielding, ready to avoid any kind of danger or intrigue. So of course, Taro finds his way into trouble while attempting to chase down grave robbers during their first week back. Naturally, Lee is less than pleased. But trouble seem to follow the Pair wherever they go, leading to the discovery that the citizens of High Scrape have turned to magic - namely casting spells using the ashes of people supposed to be lucky - in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the calamities (famine, extreme weather) High Scrape has recently been plagued with. The regulars aren't exactly pleased with how Triple S (basically the employers of Source and Shields) have been handling things and are looking for anything to fix it. Lee and Taro are more than disbelieving in the power of magic, not to mention the fact that it is highly illegal, but when people throughout the city begin to fall prey to a mysterious illness, the Pairs find themselves at risk and are more than determined to find out what is going on.

I was so excited to get back to the sometimes exasperating, yet always entertaining, world of Lee and Taro. Taro has this whole devil-may-care-handsome-aristocrat thing going on, yet in this book he really shows how insecure he is at times, especially where Lee is concerned. Although sometimes I wanted to shake Lee for her obliviousness - making Taro spell out exactly what he means all the time - she is so dang lovable. Her inner dialogue is too funny, full of self-depreciating humor and little quips on the intelligence (or lack thereof) of the people around her. I love her thoughts, but I still think a book, or even a short story, from Taro's perspective (hint, hint!) would be seriously welcomed. Srsly. Through Lee's eyes, we get such a limited view of Taro's thoughts and it would be perfect to know what he's thinking much of the time - even if it is just that Lee is a complete idiot. Fantastic book Ms. Moore, please keep them coming.

Oh, and as far as last lines go, this one is a killer.

series reading order:
~ Resenting the Hero
~ The Hero Strikes Back
~ Heroes Adrift
~ Heroes at Risk

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
The Book Smugglers review

book source: borrowed from a friend

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Starting a new high school can be brutal. Lucius knows his first day might be a bit more rocky than others' since he's never really put any effort into fitting in. Lucius' parent's are hoping this new school will be a fresh start not only for him but for the entire family but Lucius knows having two hooks for hands will automatically label him as the 'crazy' kid. Add in that he blew his own hands off in a chemical explosion of his own creation and you've got yourself a social misfit. What he doesn't expect on his first day is to make an instant connection with the lovely Aurora Belle, another transfer student, who is so nice and pretty that the other students welcome her with open arms. Even though he doesn't expect it, Aurora continually goes out of her way to become friends with Lucius, drawing him out even thought the other students are mystified as to her reasons for doing so.

This compact little book (only 193 pages) was a quick read - full of little surprises that kept me turning the pages. Both Lucius and Aurora are trying to navigate their new lives while dealing with very personal struggles while ultimately learning about second chances and the empowerment that comes from looking past appearances.

It was also fun to note how much emphasis Lauren Baratz-Logsted placed on the names in this book. Knowing Crazy Beautiful is intended as a retelling of beauty and the beast, the names Lucius Wolfe and Aurora Belle take on a whole additional meaning. Aurora Belle is such an obvious princess name: Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, anyone?) and Belle, naturally for beauty - fits her to a tee. Lucius Wolfe: now that's just a beastly name altogether don't you think?

The story was light and fun and there were little details to make it stand out (like the names) but just didn't deliver in some aspects. For starters, the ending felt rushed and not as well thought out as it could have been. There was so much buildup and I felt that Lucius' motives for setting the explosion in the first place were never sufficiently explained.

That said, even though Lucius fairly leapt off the page at times, Aurora never really solidified into a real character. She was just a little too squeaky clean. Not that that's bad: I love a good girl as much as anyone, but you just want some depth to go along with all that innocence and kindness. Obviously, Aurora is beautiful and would never judge by appearances - not to mention the fact that her mother passed away from cancer = instant empathy points - but where's the flaws? the quirks? I hate to pick on the nice girl, but she just needed a little more oomph.

One thing I did love however was the actual book itself. The black and white cover: a little edgy and with that ever-so-important dash of instant attraction. It also didn't hurt that the book itself is a nice, bright unmistakable hot pink. Contrast, contrast - thy name is perfection.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
GreenBeanTeenQueen review
Presenting Lenore review
The Story Siren review
Tempting Persephone review

book source: borrowed from a friend

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Set in an alternate Europe at the outbreak of World War I, Leviathan is a mix of past and future technologies with Europe divided into two main groups: the Clankers, who favor machines and mechanics and the Darwinists, who have perfected the art of fabricating new animals for flight, travel and all kinds of work. Please take a moment to check out this wicked-cool map found on the front and back panels of the book delineating the two groups.

In the middle of the night, fifteen year old Prince Alek of Austria is awakened to find himself bustled off into one of his families' stormwalkers, basically a tank that walks on two legs, after learning that both his parents have been killed. Remember those history lessons about what started WWI? Archduke Ferdinand getting killed, right? Yep, that's Alek's dear old dad. Surrounded by a small group of men his father selected long ago, including his sneaky-smart fencing instructor Count Volger, Alek and his compatriots are running for their lives across the continent.

All her life Deryn has wanted to fly. Only problem is, in 1914, girls aren't allowed anywhere near the Royal Air Force of England but that isn't stopping Deryn. With the help of her brother, she becomes Dylan, a somewhat skinny, but tall youth, who impresses many with his daring and knowledge of aeronautics. As a boy, Deryn has some rocking good adventures, narrowly escaping a life of skirts and curtsies in favor of a life in the sky, riding on the massive airship, the Leviathan.

I can't stress how cool this book is. So many little details all rolled into one fantastically perfect book: the world building, the characters, the illustrations (oh gosh, the illustrations!), the rearranging of history - so perfectly clever. Told alternately by Alek and Deryn (2 chapters a piece), Leviathan firmly thrusts the reader into two opposite worlds, establishing a foundation of the politics and science of Europe as both race across the continent until their paths collide in the snowy alps of Switzerland. The adventure is non-stop as each new page brings Alek and Deryn closer together. Besides Deryn with her ability to simply DO ANYTHING, I'm totally in love with the clever-boots female scientist, Dr. Nora Barlow. With her bowler hat and mysterious cargo, she's got more than a few secrets up her sleeve and the backbone to get things done.

I've only read one other steampunk novel, Clockwork Heart, and was not super impressed, but Scott Westerfeld gets it with Leviathan. In his illuminating author's note, he said:
So Leviathan is as much about possible futures as alternate pasts. It looks ahead to when machines will look like living creatures, and living creatures can be fabricated like machines...That's the nature of steampunk, blending future and past.
Done and done. Mr. Westerfeld, I'm converted. Every since discovering Scott Westerfeld's Midnighter's Trilogy, I know I can always count on him to come up with an intriguing new premise and completely deliver on the execution. The only problem is, Leviathan is the first in a planned trilogy and I don't think I can wait possibly years to recover from that cliff-hanger ending.

I can't finish talking about this amazing novel without mentioning Keith Thompson's fabulous illustrations. 50 black and white uber-detailed illustrations complement this amazing book - effortlessly bringing each machine, beastie, and of course, each and every fabulous character to life.
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
glossolalia review
Karin's Book Nook review
King of the Nerds!!! review
So Many Books, So Little Time review

book source: my local library

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Upon opening The Demon's Lexicon, I was greeted with this intriguing first line:
The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn't have been so bad, except that Nick kept his favorite sword under the sink.
Attention getter huh?

And things just took off from there. Nick and Alan have been on their own and on the run for their entire lives. Numerous groups of power-hungry magicians would love to get their hands on a powerful talisman their insane mother Olivia stole; only problem is that the talisman is the only thing keeping her alive. So over the years, they've learned to run fast and defend themselves when necessary: Nick with his physical strength and deadly sword (knew we were getting back to that, didn't you?) and Alan with his brains and a deadly shot. This picking and up and moving constantly has seemed to work until a brother and sister come to Nick and Alan requesting their aid in removing a demon's mark placed on Jamie. Alan has always been a pushover for people in trouble and will stop at nothing to help Jamie and his sister Mae. Frustrated and confused with his brother, Nick has always trusted him with their lives, but as Nick begins to discover secrets his brother has kept for many years, the bond between the brothers begins to unravel, threatening to tear them apart.

Boiled down, this really is a story about two brothers and the bond between them. Good, bad and often ugly. Since Alan practically raised Nick, they know precisely which buttons to push to inflict the most hurt and pain even though they are intensely different people. Ouch. I've got a close sister, I know the truth in that.

At different times I intensely disliked or mistrusted each and everyone one of the characters in this book - I also loved every character too, just at different moments. It made me a bit uncomfortable at times since I wasn't sure how I felt about them, but there is such a unexpected 'reveal' that once explained, I nodded my said and just said "ooohhhh" [insert light bulb turning on over my head]. All the seemingly weird scenes made sense and were totally understandable because, dang it, it finally clicked. Pretty impressive, since there was only slight foreshadowing and I had no idea what was in store for Alan and Nick. I'm a big fan of when that happens. I really enjoy urban fantasy in general, but this strangely dark and often creepy book contained so much character development and interesting secondary characters that I couldn't tear myself away. Although, I couldn't help reading this one without thinking of Kmont's post over at Lurv a la Mode about the crappy parents in YA novels - undeniably, Olivia is one crazy mom lurking in the shadows here. She has her reasons, but still - woman is psycho.

series reading order:
~ The Demon's Lexicon
~ The Demon's Covenant (May 2010)

Because Everyone likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
Lurv a la Mode review
My Favorite Author review
Realms of Speculative Fiction review
yaReads review

book source: my local library

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Sequels or prequels have never been my favorite thing because they are always bound to disappoint in some way or other. They may not follow the same characters or just in general, may not live up to the awesomeness of it's predecessor. Which is always disappointing. When I got a hold of Graceling earlier this year, I was in complete love - Katsa and Po's story was amazing and as soon as I heard a prequel was in the works, I agonized over Kristin Cashore's ability to top or even equal it. After tearing through Fire, however, I can tell you she has reinvented the standard for sequels. Turned it on it's head. Made me so completely fall in love with Fire and the Dells that I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying: Bring on the sequels Kristin Cashore, because I will read simply anything you publish now. ANYTHING.

All Fire's life she has wanted nothing more than to not become the monster her father Cansrel was. But in the Dells, monsters are a part of everyday life: brightly colored monster raptors, monster cats, and even monster bugs attract humans with their unique scales or fur and by using their mind to force their will on others. Fire is the last living human monster, a young girl with hair like fire and a face that can make others fall at her feet in rapture or fear or simply make them want to kill her. She's lived in an isolated portion of the country next to her childhood friend Archer for her entire life, trying to use her mental capacities for good rather than evil. See, she's had to work hard to destroy more than a few misconceptions about monsters since her father (a deranged, pleasure-seeking monster) had wrecked havoc as the King's twister adviser - eventually leading the the King's death and the region's current state of unrest. Even though Fire couldn't be more different from her father, she's developed an overactive conscience and has worked extra hard to keep her abilities in check. But as war looms closer and closer for the Dells, Fire is sought out for her mental abilities by King Nash and his brother, Brigand. Agreeing to help these men may be the most taxing thing she's ever done seeing as nobody in the King's City want to trust her and everyone is harboring more than a little fear, desire, and hatred for her alone.

What killed me most of all reading this book had to be the depth and complexity of emotions. Nothing surface here. Fire's desires and hopes are all firmly rooted in her past and each is clearly thought through, leaving me with a sense of knowing Fire as if I'd grown up next door to her and Archer. On top of this brilliant display of complicated feelings has to be the exquisitely slow development of relationships and events. Ms. Cashore knows how to take her time. No forced encounters, no rushed big reveals, just a slow and steady buildup until such a solid foundation is in place that when you finally uncover the truth, so many little details click into perfect place. I seriously could not put Fire down and if I wasn't reading it, all I could think about was when I'd get to read it next. It was the perfect combination of action, love (all types), and the desire to make things right in times of war and heartache - establishing itself as one of the best books I've read this year.

series reading order:
~ Fire
~ Graceling - my review

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
The Book Smugglers review
Bookworming in the 21st Century review
Steph Su Reads review
TV and Book Addict review

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

Rose Drayton has lived all her life in the Edge - a small strip of land stretching between the Broken (the world as we know it and completely non magical) and the Weird (magic, magic everywhere). Edgers usually possess a little magic and can travel freely between both worlds, but usually stick to themselves. Living in the Edge will make you tough all by itself without compounding the fact that Rose has had to raise her two younger brothers all alone while defending herself from bride-hunting bluebloods and Edgers alike who simply would like her as a brood mare due to her impressive magical abilities. To say she has some trust issues with males and outsiders in general would be an understatement. So when an imposing blueblood Lord Declan Camarine shows up on her land declaring Rose to be 'his' and demanding three challenges to win her hand, Rose is less than enthusiastic. Her response is to shoot Declan with a cross-bow. Not that she hits him, but still, my kind of girl. Rose is already feeling a little out of her league, when some truly nasty creatures begin showing up in the Edge and fighting them off might become the hardest thing she's had to do yet...besides accepting Declan's help.

Out of all the characters in this novel, Rose's two younger brothers, Jack (a shape shifter) and Georgie (a boy who can raise the dead), were obvious standouts. They trust Rose implicitly and even though they sometimes don't follow instructions explicitly (they are boys) they stole my heart. Both Rose and Declan are fighters and their relationship morphed into something very believable even if I sometimes found myself giggling over Rose's effusive descriptions of Declan's rippling abs since it reminded me so much of Hugh Jackman's 'shower' in Australia. Other than that, Rose is smart and knows how to take care of those she loves which totally rocks in my book. To be honest, I'm not really sure where Ilona Andrews is planning on heading with the next installment, but my hopes firmly rest on a story for William, Declan's shape shifter army buddy. The man has Potential in spades.

Can I talk about the cover a moment here? If they had left off the Highland Warrior (he is SO not Declan) I would have totally dug it. Rose against the old truck with a rifle slung carelessly over her shoulder and magic swirling around? Super. But Mr. Piercing Gaze just ruins it for me. This was a fun book, but I'm not going to lie that the teaser for Magic Bleeds, the much anticipated fourth Kate Daniels book, had me squealing for joy.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
Beside the Norm review
Bibleeohfile review
Book Love Affair review
Book Pushers Anonymous review
Lurv a la Mode review

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

At Fairfield High, where you happen to have been raised matters a great deal. If you were lucky enough to be born on the north side of town, you live in a mansion, wear designer clothes, are most likely lily-white and either cheer or play football. On the other hand, if you ended up living on the south side of town, you live hand to mouth in a cramped apartment with your family and probably one of your brothers (or sisters) has been 'jumped' into the Latino Blood gang. Worlds apart and expected to mix on a daily basis at school without consequences.

Yeah, right.

Brittany Ellis can't wait for senior year to start, she's captain of the pom-pom squad and is dating the gorgeous football captain, Colin. Everyone thinks she has the perfect life - but on the inside she's constantly stressed about her perfection-driven mother and handicapped sister.

Alex Fuentes has had to be the man of his family for a long time. He joined the Latino Blood gang to protect his mother and two younger brothers and now wields his bad-boy rep like the weapon it is. Unlike many of the other gang members, he's stayed away from drugs and works hard at school even if he knows he's never going to escape his life of violence. But he's made his choice and he's not afraid.

Neither Alex or Brittany are prepared for their chemistry teacher to assign them as year-long lab partners who are required to submit a final project together. Both expect one thing from the other person and what they get has to be the furthest possible thing from that. Lots of verbal sparring matches, pranks played, and honest emotions shared take these two to a relationship more real than anything they've ever come across in their entire life. Not to mention some truly undeniable teenage sexual tension leaving both super-confident teens completely unsure of themselves. *grin* I don't miss high school one bit...

So many aspects in this book of two cultures clashing could have gone wrong but they were handled so well, I didn't even notice. Number one on this list could have been Alex's involvement with the LB gang. This element could have come across as contrived or even comical, but to my complete surprise the LB's scared me silly. Most of the teenagers in the gang I just felt sorry for (with the one exception of Alex's ex Carmen. Carmen? That girl with her stiletto boots and long red fingernails would have had me running for the hills), but the older Original Gangsters had me seriously considering the consequences of Alex's choices.

After having recently finished Jennifer Echols' Going too Far (loved, loved), I was looking forward to the switch from good boy/bad girl to good girl/bad boy. All I can say was that it was done to perfection in Simone Elekes' Perfect Chemistry. Brittany retained her good girl shine without ever becoming annoying and Alex had so many hidden insecurities and dreams that I couldn't but help love his bad boy swagger. I know it's the cliched West Side Story plot all over again, but this time, it's totally up to date and unbelievably well written. And I do have to note, out of the many epilogues I've read - most extremely cheesy - this one was so needed and just so endearing sweet and funny, it totally rocked. I think I read it at least three times. Okay, maybe four.

Going too Far by Jennifer Echols

Let's start with the classic bad girl meets good boy story and then turn it on its head with characters who totally rock and are so much more than they seem.

Aaaannndddd BEGIN!

On June 7th (graduation night), Meg is getting out of the small Alabama town she was born and raised in with plans to never, ever come back. She only has a couple of months before graduation in which she plans to get into as much trouble as possible without getting caught. That is until she gets caught by Mr. By The Book Officer John After. Her punishment is to ride patrol with Officer After for one week in hopes of seeing the error of her ways and going on to lead a productive life.

What she doesn't count on is the fact that Officer After is young, incredibly handsome and more than a little funny (usually unintentional). While he initially seems pretty one-dimensional in his mission to 'save' Meg, John reveals himself to posses immensely deep waters leaving me wanting more, more, more. And Meg! Blue hair and full of bravado - I love her.

Both have a past chock-full of skeletons and more than a few hangups when it comes to relationships. Meg has been living life fast and hard (for very good reasons), just waiting for the other shoe to drop. All Meg wants is to get out of Dodge and John is content to stay where he is - definite damper for any relationship. Both are feeling the pull to get closer but each is on the defensive and know exactly what buttons to push.

Much as I love Meg's narrative, as a girl, I felt like some key descriptions of Meg's motorcycle-riding status were missing. Even if I had dyed my hair blue and had firmly established myself in bad girl-landia, I'd still want to wax poetic about my biker chick status at 17. Maybe that's just me wishing I was more edgy than actually I am, but that would be a selling point in my book and she hardly mentioned it at all. (!)

Even though the ending felt rushed, Going too Far caught me from the first and held on tight. Meg's monologue stunned me with it's subtly and humor of all things. I totally dig this chick in her road to self discovery and maturity. And Johnafter. *sigh* He cares! He really cares!! Sometimes I felt like I was watching MTV with all the teeny lingo, but since I enjoyed this book so much, I really didn't care. Not one bit.

Back on the Shelf

Like many other readers, I have a TBR pile that is never-ending and threatening to overtake me at any moment (personally I think of it as creative book storage). I enjoy nothing better than opening a book for the first time and not knowing what to expect from a new author. Sometimes, I'm immediately drawn into the lives of soliders, shapeshifters, or even a depressed robot. Others, I'm left feeling decidely underwhelmed and have a hard time even finishing the book. When that happens, I'm more than tempted to put it right back on the shelf becuase I feel like there are so many other books crying for my attention.

I recently started Aprilynne Pike's debut Wings, which has received some mixed reviews, and am having a heck of a time finishing it. It's most recent and perhaps dubious honor is that it is to be slated for the big screen starring Miley Cyrus as the confused teen Laurel. Miley? Understand now why I'm having trouble getting through it? After starting and stopping for the last couple of days, I've officially decided to label it as a DNF. Sad yes, but necessary. And now I'm onto bigger and better things: like Fire or Ilona Andrews latest, or maybe even Fragile Eternity..

What makes a book a DNF for you? Do you finish books no matter what or do you have a Must Read at Least 70 Pages Then Discard policy?

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

I've firmly entrenched myself in the incomparable Mercy Thompson novels and am now feeling the love from Patricia Briggs' most recent series, Alpha & Omega. Following an initial novella titled Alpha & Omega and an actual full-length book, Cry Wolf, this second full-length book has totally found its rhythm that works on so many levels.

After having married the enforcer (or assassin) of the North American werewolf pack, Charles Cornick, Anna is still trying to figure how to effectively use her talents as an Omega while making a life for herself with Charles. Charles' father, the Marrok Bran, has decided that the North American werewolves are going to reveal their existence to the world no matter what other wolves might think. To try to the help wolves from other countries understand how this whole 'big reveal' will pan out, Bran has called a type of council where various alphas can come and discuss their options. Not wanting his father to be anywhere near the discussions, Charles agrees to go in his place to act as an intermediary. Only problem is, due to Anna's past, she has more than a little trouble being in the same room with a bunch of dominate males; leaving both her and Charles on edge. Hoping the group will be kept in check by the moderating presence of the powerful fae Dana, Charles agrees to let Anna come. Of course at the meetings, tempers escalate as disagreements arise but when wolves start getting attacked and an alpha is even killed, Charles becomes the prime suspect in a crime Anna is sure he didn't commit.

Even though Ms. Briggs' series are both set in the same world, they follow essentially two distinctly separate groups - albeit both under the direction of the Marrok - and must be viewed as individual stories with just a bit of overlap. I've come to enjoy the inherent differences between the two series; Alpha & Omega benefits from the perspective of multiple narrators who offer differing insights and viewpoints while Mercy narrates all of her books to perfection. Anna herself couldn't be farther from the gusty Mercy, but I like her just fine. As an Omega, Anna is often seen as a super submissive wolf, but in actuality an Omega is outside of the pack hierarchy and doesn't feel the compulsion to follow orders as other wolves do. They also don't have that 'killer instinct' but can kick serious butt when needed. Their most attractive feature (at least to other wolves) is their calming influence on other wolves because the more dominate guys can actually relax around them since they realize an Omega would never challenge them. Got it? It's taken me two books to finally understand this concept and in all honesty, it's only because of one enlightening conversation between Anna and another Omega, Ric.

Hunting Ground felt like such a tighter novel on so many levels. I figured out what an Omega does (finally) and now, I'm totally digging Anna and Charles' relationship (finally). Anna has had a rough start as a werewolf and has taken some time to get more comfortable and relaxed around Charles, which lead to some nice conversations between the two in this book. They have a nice give and take and I think they both are starting to trust and rely more on the other. This was a great second book and I'm more excited than ever for the next installment.

series reading order
~ Alpha & Omega (novella) in On the Prowl collection
~ Cry Wolf
~ Hunting Ground