Friday 31 August 2012

Review: Saving Grace by J.M Hill

Saving Grace

  Saving Grace by J.M. Hill 
  Publisher: Self-published
  Publication Date: April 25th 2012
  My rating: 3.5 Stars

Grace Burke doesn’t need a thing. She enjoys her quiet life in Fall Rivers, Colorado—running a bookstore and coffee shop with her cousin, Kate. The two have a successful business, a small circle of friends, and each other. What more could she want?

When the Anderson brothers move into the house across the street, it doesn’t take long for her to realize exactly what she’s been missing. At first sight, the youngest brother, Michael, captures Grace’s heart, and her quiet life is disrupted.

Then it turns upside down.

Grace isn’t the only one with eyes for Michael. Nina Sandler, one of Michael’s clients, threatens to come between them. When Nina can’t get Michael’s attention, she focuses on Grace—in a very dangerous way.

But love is never easy and if the best things in life are worth fighting for, then Grace must find the courage to fight. Not just for love and happiness but for her very life.

Grace and her cousin Kate are so close they’re like sisters.  They live together, run a bookstore/coffee shop, enjoy cooking, and watch sports religiously.  They lead a happy, but relatively uneventful life.   That is until the three gorgeous Anderson brothers move right next door.  They immediately hit it off with them and before you know it their lives are filled with friendship, and laughter, and for Gracie, longing.  She falls hard for Michael, the youngest of the brothers, and they form a close friendship.  Grace want to tell Michael how she feels, but is afraid of what that will do to their friendship.  Plus, there’s the issue of Nina, one of the Anderson’s clients.  Grace knows Nina likes Michael as more than a friend, but she’s not sure if Michael feels the same.  Nina makes it no secret to Grace that she doesn’t like her, and puts her down whenever she has the chance.  Of course, she only does this when Michael is out of earshot.   

Finally, at the urging of Garrett, one of the Anderson brothers, and Kate, Grace tells Michael how she feels and gets mixed signals back.  Something holds Michael back but he won’t say what, and Grace wishes she never said anything in the first place.  Add to that, Nina steps up her hate campaign.  Michael finally notices what’s been going on, and he takes immediate action, which infuriates Nina, pushing her over the edge.

Saving Grace was a sweet romance, but also a suspenseful read.  I seriously felt shades of Fatal Attraction, and I have to say, it creeped me the hell out!  I enjoyed the friendships between the Anderson brothers and also, between Grace and Kate.  Even though they weren’t sisters, they might as well have been.  Family tragedy bonded these two together, and it was touching to see their unconditional love for each other.  I loved the relationship Grace had with Garrett, the giant of a big brother she never knew she needed.  I enjoyed the romance between Michael and Grace, as well.  The gradual build from friendship to more, made their connection so much sweeter. 

I enjoyed this story overall, but it took a while to get going.   I felt the beginning to middle should’ve been shortened.  Also, this read more like a journal that Gracie was dictating, and there was a lot of telling rather than showing.  Once the story got going though, I was glued to the pages, anxious to find out what was going to happen next! 


Thursday 30 August 2012

Review: Sanctum by Sarah Fine

Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands, #1)

  Sanctum by Sarah Fine 
  Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's/
  Amazon Children's Publishing
  Publication Date: October 16th 2012
  My rating: 4.5 Stars

"My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple."

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos's best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn't just anyone – she's determined to save her best friend's soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she's captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city's endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn't – the dark city isn't the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

I loved this story! 

Seventeen year-old Lela has a promising future which is surprising considering her past.  She went from foster home to foster home, ending up incarcerated in the juvenile system of Rhode Island.  Finally she is set free to her first caring foster parent, Diane, and starts high school again.  While trying to keep her nose clean and fit in as the new girl, she comes upon a disagreement between one of the popular pretty girls and a junkie on the playground.  When Lela realizes that this popular girl is about to be assaulted, she steps in and defends her, making a friend in the process.  Nadia the popular girl takes Lela under her wing, and Nadia’s acceptance and friendship encourage Lela to go for a life and future she never thought possible.  She and Nadia are accepted into college, and so Lela is hopeful for the first time in her life.

Unfortunately, Nadia hasn’t been truthful about her mental state and has been miserable for a long time.  In her despair does something rash and takes her life, thinking this is her way out from all her pain.  Lela knows this to be exactly the opposite.  You see, a couple of years ago, Lela was just as desperate and tried to take her own life, but what waited on the other side was nothing close to relief.  She passed through the suicide gates for a short time before she was revived and now experiences terrifying nightmares of her brief time there.  Knowing this is what her friend Nadia will face, Lela is determined to go after her and help her get free.  Nadia helped Lela find a life and hope that she never thought could be possible, so she’s not about to fail her again by letting her stay in that terrifying realm.  When Lela arrives there though, her efforts are thwarted by a deadly but beautiful Guard, Malachi.

Lela was a character molded by tragic events yet she wasn’t a bitter person.  I easily connected with her right away, loving her loyalty and determination to help her beloved friend.  She was a tough cookie but an endearing character.  Plus, you got to love a girl who loves Buffy!  It’s a rule!! When Malachi shows up in her life, a need she never knew existed was filled.  Here’s a swoony quote for you:

That simple moment, touching him, feeling him breathe, his hand stroking my hair—it was all I could have hoped for, all I could have wanted.  I was filled up with it, this warm, buzzing feeling in my chest, and it was completely satisfying.  I wondered if it might be what I needed after all.

Malachi, oh my heart, Malachi!  Boy is he fierce and protective, yet he has his own sad story that hurts your heart when it’s revealed.  I totally swooned over him the entire book *sigh* and I now must add him to my ever growing list of book boyfriends!

This was a fresh and original story, and I thought the author did a wonderful job creating a realistic world and paranormal world, intertwined together.  The pace of this story was a little slow in the beginning but it picked right up and then I was turning the pages quickly to find out what was going to happen next.  Sanctum leaves us with a satisfying conclusion but also changes everything!  I can’t wait for the next installment. 

I want to thank my book-angel, the lovely Alexa at Collections, for lending me her precious copy!

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Review: Ocean of Secrets by Aimee Friedman

  Ocean of Secrets Aimee Friedman
  Publisher: Scholastic UK
  Publication date: July 5th 2012.
  My rating: 3.5 stars

Many are drawn to Selkie Island. 
Few know why.

When Miranda Merchant escapes her lonely, hot summer in New York City, little does she know what awaits her. She steps off the ferry on to an island rife with legend and lore.

She isn't expecting to feel a connection to this unusual place. And when she meets Leo, a mysterious local boy, she finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship, reality . . . and love.

But is Leo hiding something she never could have imagined?

Ocean of Secrets has something magnetic and alluring about it; I’m a person who quickly gets weak at the knees for a gorgeous cover and Ocean of secrets in my opinion has one of the best around. Ever since I have received a copy I haven’t been able to stop staring at it. Everything just seems to fit together for the cover; the colour, the picture and the title; it just gives off a totally mesmeric feel. I was initially a little let down by the title change it was previously known as Sea Change. But once I finished the book, thinking it over this new title matched the book perfectly as the marine Miranda goes to is full with several secrets.

Miranda is forced to spend time with her mother at the mysterious Selkie Island. After her grandmother passed away, she left her house to Miranda’s mother. Miranda’s felt that she has not seen much of her mother since her parent’s separation, so decides to spend the summer with her. Before she even reaches the Island, a strange man on her boat starts putting odd stories in her head; about the myths surrounding Selkie Island and how it’s supposed to have creatures that live in the waters. Miranda know he’s just pulling her leg, there’s a young boy on the boat too, so she thinks he’s making up this story for show. But when Miranda finally gets up on the Island, she starts to notice strange things; she stumbles across a book in the house which hints at exactly what that strange man on the boat was hinting at too. And then there’s the mysterious Leo, Miranda hasn’t had much luck with guys recently, so she’s not sure what Leo’s real intentions are, he seems too good to be true; tall, tanned with blonde hair, a smile that could make you melt and strong muscular arms. The thing is that he loves the water too; Miranda only ever seems to bump into him at the beach or in his grotto and always in the evening. Could these ideas that have been put in Miranda’s head actually be true? Could these creatures exist? Or is it part of her imagination?

What I loved about Ocean of Secrets was that it was chocker block full of secrets and no-one really ever confirms or denies anything. Some people may find this hugely frustrating. But I had a lot of fun with this because you’re kind of led to make your own assumptions. Anything was possible as there wasn’t really ever hard evidence that these creatures ever existed (If you’re thinking what these creatures are I’m sure the title, colours of the cover and oh so subtle hints dropped by the strange man on the boat would give you the biggest clues).

Miranda was an easy character to relate to, she’d not had the best time in New York and so wanted to break from it all. I liked how she was honest (most of the time) and up front with what she did and didn’t like, when Cee Cee, who I did find obnoxious at times and even her mum kept trying to force her to be with T.J. because he was totally the one for her. She put her foot down; she knew why they wanted her to be with him, because he was well off. Whereas Leo the genuine sweetheart they didn’t like which I really didn’t get. I found myself eagerly anticipating her scenes with Leo, as they were thoroughly swoon worthy! Also Leo definitely became my favourite when he admitted he enjoyed reading! (How can you resist a guy that loves reading too?)

Neat endings seem to bore me as of late, so I like how things were left in Ocean of Secrets, with very little answered, there’s still so many things we’re unsure of; I’m hoping that this was left this way on purpose with the hope of a sequel.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Review: Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Stealing Parker

  Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally 
  Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
  Publication Date: October 1st 2012
  My rating: 4.5 Stars

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

Parker Shelton is a high-school senior that’s gone through some major hurt in her life.  Her mother took off with another woman leaving Parker, her father and brother to deal with the damage.  Her “good friend,” Laura, not only abandoned her but takes pleasure in her family’s fall from grace.  She uses every opportunity to make fun of Parker, insinuating that Parker bats for the other team just like her mom.  Parker feels the need to prove Laura and other gossipers wrong, by quitting the baseball team, losing weight, and kissing every cute boy possible.  Trouble with that is she really misses baseball, doesn’t like hurting boys, and doesn’t care for the reputation she’s getting. 

When her best friend Drew proposes that she take a job as a manager to his baseball team, Parker sees this as a way to get close to the game she misses.  Complications arise when she meets the new junior coach, Brian and he starts paying attention to her.  Brian makes Parker feel special and she can’t help but feel a connection with someone just as passionate about the game as she is.  Parker is and should be off-limits to Brian.  He’s twenty-three and a school teacher, and Parker isn’t even eighteen yet.  To add more confusion to this situation is Will, aka, Corndog (yes the name is ridiculous, but there’s a story behind it).  Will starts paying more attention to Parker and they connect on so many levels.  She’s shied away from Will in the past, first because of her heartless “friend” Laura, and then later because they were both competing for class valedictorian.  That competition is now over, the decision has been made, and Laura is no longer in the equation.  Suddenly, Will is prominently in the picture, so easy to talk too, and so very understanding. 

This story tugged on my heart.  I felt so bad for Parker.  She had the rug pulled out from under her and instead of having her friend Laura to support her, she uses it as an opportunity to crush her like a bug.  Jealous much?!!  You bet, as you’ll see! In addition to having no support from Laura, her dad basically checks out and Parker is left to step into the role her mother held, doing the household chores and cooking for the family.  Parker was easy to relate to and like.  She was never bitter or hateful, even when she had reason to be.  Also, I would’ve liked her less if she continued on kissing a bunch of boys and kicking them to the curb.  Once she clues in on the effects of her behavior you see some definite changes.  I had mixed feelings for Drew, Parker’s best guy friend.  In some instances he was really supportive of Parker but still, something turns me off of him in the end.

I fell hard for Will.  Here’s a quote I loved:

“Hey,” he says, giving me a bright grin, showing off the dimple in his right cheek.  Yeah, yeah, I know you’re hot, Corndog.  I fight the urge to roll my eyes. Thanks to the years he’s spent baling hay on his dad’s farm, Corndog has gone from not to hot, from scrawny to sinewy, from geek to god, and now has to beat girls off with a stick.*

Yep, he’s wrapped in a drool-worthy package but the insides are quite nice too *swoon*!  Who can resist a boy who’ll sit and watch a chick-flick with you and enjoy it?  Will was there for Parker when she needed him most.  Plus, you can’t help but admire the way he cares for and loves his little brother.  Oh my heart!

 I did want a little more with a certain couple in the end, but I’ve been assured by Miranda that I get my wish in her next novel: Things I Can’t Forget.  I loved Catching Jordan so much that I have to say, I was a little afraid to read this and be disappointed. I had no reason to worry.  Stealing Parker stole my heart and I can’t wait for Miranda Kenneally’s next story!

 Random quote that had me laughing: “You were in the equipment shed with Corn Fritter?” “Corndog,” Will, Dr. Salter, and I say simultaneously.*

*Quotes are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change in the final copy. 

Monday 27 August 2012

Review: Undead by Kirsty McKay


  Undead by Kirsty McKay
  Publisher: The Chicken House
  Publication date: September 1st 2012
  Source: NetGalley
  My rating: 4 Stars

 Out of sight, out of their minds: It's a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.

The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.

Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.

But they've changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they're zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin' fast, because that's the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates' next meal. It's kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.

Combining the chill of THE SHINING, the thrill ride of SPEED, the humor of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and the angst of THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Kirsty McKay's UNDEAD is a bloody mad mash-up, a school-trip splatter-fest, a funny, gory, frighteningly good debut!
Undead was a heart-pounding, action-packed, zombie tale that took off and never stopped!  I dare you to catch your breath while reading it!

Robby is on her way home from the school-trip from hell (little does she know, haha!).  The school bus has stopped at the “Cheery Chomp” café (great name for a zombie tale) so they can all get off and have lunch.  Robby, being the new girl and class outcast, is tired of the mean-girls, and decides to stay on the bus. Her are her ominous opening words: “I would rather die than face them all again.  Die horribly. In a messy, fleshy, blood ’n’ guts kind of way.  It is a total no-brainer.”*

Stuck on the bus with her is the rebel-without-a-cause, complete with inky black hair and leather jacket, Smitty.  He’s been busted by one of the teachers for buying smokes and vodka with a fake ID.  But the teacher can’t deprive him of food, so Mr. Taylor makes his way to the café to grab a sandwich for him.  This leaves the bus driver, Smitty, and Robby to wait while everyone eats.  Within no time, Alice or "Malice" as Smitty calls her, runs back to the bus in a panic.  It seems when she came out of the restroom, the whole class, including Mr. Taylor, was dead as doornails.  Well, at least for the time being……

Robby was the perfect heroine for this tale, the ordinary girl stuck in extraordinary circumstances rising to every challenge with courage.  A zombie uprising brings out the best in this girl.  I instantly loved Robby from the beginning with her snarky and humorous internal commentary, she had me laughing throughout the story.  Smitty is all kinds of fun, and full of hilarious one-liners.  He is the hero to Robby’s heroine, and between the beheadings and vomit, there’s a sweet little romance brewing.  Then there’s Pete, the class geek and brain who manages to survive somehow.  And the last of this mismatched quartet is Alice, the gloriously shallow mean-girl who manages to still have her lip gloss and mascara carefully applied in all the chaos.  This beauty of a quote comes from her: “It’s such a nightmare!” Alice cries. “They want to kill us!” Her eyes narrow. “And Shanika’s got my CoutureCandy bag, the bitch!” she says to the driver. “Run them over!”*  Kirsty McKay’s wickedly wonderful humor is laced throughout. 

This story was non-stop action, terror, and ironically, fun.  It had my heart pumping from the anticipation of what was around the next dark corner.  But this was more than just a mindless romp; there is a mystery behind this outbreak that these four slowly uncover, and it hits close to home for one of them.  I totally recommend this story to adrenaline junkies and zombie lovers alike.  This ends on sort of a cliffhanger, but not the tear-your-hair-out kind.  With that said while I was typing up the review for Undead, I ordered Unfed (Undead #2).  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Thank you to Netgalley and The Chicken House for allowing me to read this.

 *Quotes are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change with the final copy.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Review: Inbetween by Tara A. Fuller

Inbetween (Kissed by Death, #1)

  Inbetween by Tara A. Fuller
  Publisher: Entangled Teen
  Publication date: 28th August 2012
  Source: NetGalley
  My rating: 4 Stars

Since the car crash that took her father’s life three years ago, Emma’s life has been a freaky — and unending — lesson in caution. Surviving “accidents” has taken priority over being a normal seventeen-year-old, so Emma spends her days taking pictures of life instead of living it. Falling in love with a boy was never part of the plan. Falling for a reaper who makes her chest ache and her head spin? Not an option.

It’s not easy being dead, especially for a reaper in love with a girl fate has put on his list not once, but twice. Finn’s fellow reapers give him hell about spending time with Emma, but Finn couldn’t let her die before, and he’s not about to let her die now. He will protect the girl he loves from the evil he accidentally unleashed, even if it means sacrificing the only thing he has left…his soul.

When I started this story, I really had no expectations since I haven’t read much of anything about Reapers.  I was guessing it might be a depressing story considering what Reapers do, thankfully I was very wrong.

Finn is a Reaper, someone who collects the souls of the dying for the Inbetween.   The Inbetween is a place for the souls of people who haven’t yet established their place in the afterlife, whether they’d go to Heaven or Hell is still to be determined.  So why do we have Finn urging Emma to fight for her life, instead of reaping her soul, in the opening scene?  You see as the story progresses, that Emma is everything to Finn, even if she’s forbidden. Unfortunately for Finn and Emma, she’s everything to Maeve, too; a shade with an axe to grind.   

Emma is a seventeen year-old girl who lost her father in a car accident that almost took her life as well.  Since then she’s been plagued by dreams of another life and a boy with haunting green eyes, and she feels like someone is watching her.  As if that wasn’t enough, Emma’s had several “accidents” or near misses that have almost killed her, since the car accident.  Emma doesn’t even think of a future when hers seems iffy at best. 

I felt bad for both Emma and Finn, but more so for Emma.  She thinks she’s crazy and having hallucinations and with all those close calls, I’d be afraid to leave the house! Emma doesn’t even feel comfortable sharing any this with her best friend, Cash.  The last time she told anyone anything, she wound up in a mental institution.  I felt bad for Finn too.  He constantly watches over Emma, fearing for her safety, yet is forbidden from being part of her life.  Of course, he can’t help himself, and then I was on pins and needles, wondering what’s going to happen to him.  Even though she’s alive and he’s dead and incorporeal, we do get a swoony romance.  Here’s a teaser for you:

I stepped into Emma, feeling her warmth draw me in.  She looked up, eyes wide, her peppermint breath fanning across my face. “What are you doing?”  She gasped, unable to catch her breath.  I ran an iridescent finger down her arm to her wrist, watched it scatter like stars across her skin.  Her breath hitched in her throat.  Her heart beat so hard the sound rippled through me like a shock wave. When her eyes met mine, the amount of want in them nearly brought me to my knees.*

At first, I thought there may be a love-triangle in the works because I kept getting thoughts like this from Emma:  “Cash was sarcasm and seduction wrapped up with a gooey artistic center.  He didn’t need a T-shirt to get any girl he wanted.  All he had to do was look at them.  The bad part was he knew it.”*  I was sort of drooling over Cash throughout the book, but I still didn’t want a love-triangle.  Plus, I was a little annoyed with him in the beginning.  The fact that Cash didn’t really believe Emma ticked me off.  Thankfully, no love-triangle appeared, and I’m happy to report we will get more Cash in the next story.  The story will be told in Cash and Anaya’s POVs.  Exactly what I hoped for!

This story felt like it flew by, I read it in pretty much in one day.  It was a story that easily held my attention, and I was quickly turning the pages eager to find out how things would turn out.  I’m pleased that things wrapped up nicely and we weren’t left with a cliffhanger.  With the way things were left with Cash, I’m anxious to read the next story. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Entangled Teen for allowing me to read this. 

*Quotes are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change in the final copy. 

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