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The Calling – Kelley Armstrong

5 Jul

Publisher: Random House Canada
Released: April 10th, 2012
Genre: YA paranormal
Review copy from publisher

Maya Delaney’s paw-print birthmark is the mark of what she truly is–a skin-walker. She can run faster, climb higher, and see better than nearly everyone else. Experiencing intense connections with the animals that roam the woods outside her home, Maya knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s able to Shift and become one of them. And she believes there may be others in her small town with surprising talents.

Now, Maya and her friends have been forced to flee from their homes during a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set. Then they’re kidnapped, and after a chilling helicopter crash, they find themselves in the Vancouver Island wilderness with nothing but their extraordinary abilities to help them get back home.

From Random House Canada website.

So, it’s no secret that I am a bit obsessed with Kelley Armstrong’s writing. She is, by far, my favorite young adult and adult author. But that doesn’t mean that I approach her books with rose-colored glasses, no. Just because I adore her and her writing doesn’t mean that I am going to fall head over heels in love with all her books. Cuz while I really, REALLY enjoyed The Calling, I wasn’t all crazy for it.

I’m not even sure it’s anything that I can put into words. There’s a lot of action in The Calling, and I think I was craving more character development and such. I also felt that some of the information doled out was chunky, almost like an information dump. But I loved the mystery of the story and also trying to figure out who was on whose side. The whole group dynamic of the teens fascinated me.

As always the writing was awesome (except for the aforementioned issue I had) and I was drawn into the story from the open line. Kelley just has a way of plopping the reader right into the middle of things. The book was face-paced and made for a quick read. So while I wasn’t all drooly over it, I really enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next book.

Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath – Helene Boudreau

19 Apr

Normal is Never Coming Back

Jade is totally confused. As in, “will this be a leg-day or a tail-day?” kind of confused. Even worse, it’s been forever since her first kiss with Luke and now—nothing. Not even a text message.

Sigh.

But Jade doesn’t have time to figure out the weirdness of boys and how to use her shiny new tail. (Seriously, being a mermaid should come with a handbook.) She has to come up with a plan to get her missing mermaid mom back on dry land.

The only problem is…Jade is afraid of the ocean. But even aqua-phobic mer-girls have to take the plunge sometime…

I don’t know about you, but when I read the first book in a series and absofreakinglutely love it, I’m always nervous reading the second book. What if I don’t like it? What if it isn’t as addicting as the first book? What if it totally sucks? This was so not the case with Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath. It was as funny, charming, addicting and well written as the first book. I fell in love with it from the first page and continued loving it until it was over. Then I hugged my ARC whispering to the book gods “Please bring me the next book SOON”.

I just love Jade. She’s so cute and awkward and smart and dorky that I just want to put her in my pocket and take her home. Boudreau writes her in a such a way that Jade never becomes a caricature of herself, even when she’s at her goofiest. That’s a fine line to walk and it’s done beautifully. She’s one of my favorite YA characters.

I also love the tone of Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath. It was light and airy and funny and snarky and just wonderful. The pacing was also top-notch. Boudreau kept things moving, but not at a breakneck speed. It was a super balance of action, mystery and character development.

*Slight spoiler, but a good one*

THERE’S NO LOVE TRIANGLE!!!!!!!!!! For this alone I could fly out to Boudreau’s home and hug her. Or bring her cookies if she’s not the touchy-feely type. While love triangles done right are super, it was refreshing to have some romance-y stuff in a YA book and not have more than two people involved. Cuz in real life? Most teens are lucky to have one love interest.

*End of spoiler*

I really could go on and on and on and on about how much love I have for this book and for Boudreau’s writing and how happy this series makes me. But I want you to experience it for yourself. So if you haven’t read Boudreau’s Real Mermaids books, please do. Your book-loving heart will be all the happier for it.

Thanks an unbelievable amount to the folks at Source Books for the review copy.

Hemlock – Kathleen Peacock

3 Apr

Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered.

Since then, Mac’s life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac’s hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy’s killer:

A white werewolf.

Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control.

Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boy-friend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.

It’s, you see, I just, this book… gah!!!!!!! I have so much flipping LOVE for this book that I’m a bit of a blabbering mess trying to write this review. Even more so than normal. If I could, I’d give each of you a copy of Hemlock, a day where you don’t have to do anything, some great tea, chocolate and a cozy blanket and tell you TO READ IT. And you would. In one fell swoop. Because when I sat down to read Hemlock, I did nothing else until I was finished. But this is a review blog and I’m not a millionaire, so let me try to explain why I have so much love for this book. But first I have to thank the folks at HarperCollins Canada for the review copy. And for not serving me with a peace bond. I kinda pestered them for the last six months about getting my grubbies on an ARC of Hemlock. 😀

Lately I’ve been very meh about paranormal YA books. I think I had just read so many of them that I kind of burnt out on the genre. They were all blurring together and I was having a hard time differentiating one from another. Then Hemlock landed on my door and it pretty much kicked me in the ass. It made me excited about the genre again.

Kathleen’s writing style is just beautiful. It’s detailed without going overboard, flowery where it needs to be, straightforward in other parts. From the first page her writing flows and just keeps flowing until the last word. Which, in my opinion, came way too fast.

The story was tight and had just enough twists and turns to keep me happy without making it seem like they were just put in willy-nilly to make things more dramatic. There were a couple “HOLY HELL!” moments and they were absolutely delicious. I mean I was all like, “WHA?? OMG!!!!”.

Mac is just a great, well rounded character. Actually, they all are. And the Trackers? EVIL. But fascinating. Yups. There’s just something about a burly group of psychotics with access to weaponry that adds a super WTF element to a book. Would it make me sadistic if I said I think they may have been my favorite part of Hemlock?

There’s also some romance, but it’s not all mushy-gooshy. I actually really liked it. It was real and it added to the story, rather than being a separate element. It didn’t feel like it was just shoved in because the book needed some romance, you know?

So yeah, in case you couldn’t guess, I absolutely LOVED Hemlock. It’s one of my favorite reads so far this year (if not THE favorite read) and I know it will be one of my go-to books for when I want to read something awesome. And I cannot wait until the second book comes out. Wonder if Kathleen needs a beta reader……..

The Shattering – Karen Healey

3 Nov

This is my first review book from Little Brown and Company. How exciting, eh? Well, for me it is. And what’s even more exciting is that I absolutely loved The Shattering.

This was a cool book. I mean, it’s basically a murder mystery, but as is the case with all good reads, there’s more to it than there seems. Something supernatural is involved. I won’t ruin it for you and tell you what, but it was pretty awesome.

The Shattering is told from three different view points, something that I’m seeing more and more in YA literature. When it’s done well, as it is in The Shattering, I find that it really adds to the story telling. Each character was different enough that it wasn’t confusing.

The story is set in New Zealand, something that threw me for a bit of a loop in the beginning. There were things that were mentioned and it was assumed that the reader would know what the characters were referring to. I felt a bit stupid at first, but as soon as I hit google and figured things out, it was smooth sailing. And, oddly enough, this need to look up some things didn’t bug me in the least. I kinda liked it.

While the ending wasn’t a complete surprise, there were elements that I didn’t see coming. And Healey didn’t wrap things up all nice and neat and happy. And that’s my favorite kind of ending. You know, where things may be resolved, but not everyone gets a perfectly happy ending.

The Shattering was an awesome read. I look forward to reading more from Healey.

Dark Inside – Jeyn Roberts

31 Oct

Oh my dear gods this was one Hell of a scary book! I mean it. The concept totally freaked me out and there may have been a night or two where I “accidentally” left a light on when I went to sleep. Not that it stopped my overactive imagination from thinking about Dark Inside once I fell asleep. There were nightmares.

I loves me a good plague book.  And this, kiddies, is a damn good plague book. But the folks don’t die of the plague in a fit of bloody coughing and oozing orifices, no. Instead it turns regular old peeps into murderous maniacs, hacking and pulling apart anyone who isn’t infected. Scary shit, my friends, scary shit.

Dark Inside is told from the view point of different teen survivors as they deal with the plague and the earthquake that preceded the plague, and also what the world becomes in the weeks after the plaque hits. What I loved about these different view points is that not all the kids are super nice, super hero types. There are some dark characters in this book. Damaged souls. It just added another layer of delicious awfulness to the story: when disaster hits, not everyone rises to the occasion.

There’s an element of the supernatural in Dark Inside, although we aren’t 100% sure what that is. The author does an amazing job of showing and not simply telling. Even at the end of the book I wasn’t sure where the plague came from or what the ultimate goal was. But one thing I did know: it was nasty and evil and extremely determined.

I usually hate making book comparisons, but Dark Inside reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s The Stand. Smooshed together with one of my fave movies, 28 Days Later. That’s not to say that Roberts was copying either. But the tone and epicness of Dark Inside was reminiscent of both, in a good way.

This was a unique read that had everything I love about a good post-apocalyptic plague book: multiple points of view, freakyplague, lots of evil folks and a desperation that I could feel in every page.

For me, the only thing scarier than Dark Inside is the fact that I have to wait so long for the next book.

This was another surprise book from the amazing folks at Simon and Schuster Canada.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

26 Oct

I love when I get a book I wasn’t expecting for review and it rocks my reading world. This was definitely the case with The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, which arrived as surprise book love from Simon and Schuster Canada.

Sometimes when I love a book so freaking much, I have a Hell of a time reviewing it. I usually sit on the review, trying to tone down my gushing a bit before I write it. Well, I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer way back in June. And I’m still not sure what to write for my review. That’s how much it blew my frigging mind.

This was such a different book. But in a totally “Holy crap I want to marry this book and have it’s little book babies” kinda way.  It had a touch of almost every genre: romance, contemp, mystery, horror, thriller, paranormal. While it may seem that all of these genres coming together would make for a messy, disjointed book, this was far from the case.  The different elements fit together perfectly. Hodkin’s writing style made it seem like all of these genres were made for each other.

What did leave me feeling off balanced for most of the book was Mara’s story. From page to page I was never 100% sure what was going on. But instead of pissing me off like it sometimes does, I loved it. This uneasy feeling of not knowing added another layer to the story, making it even more enjoyable.

To say I didn’t see the ending coming would be putting it mildly. It was a major “What the Hell?” moment that had me rereading passages to make sure I was understanding correctly. Actually, through the last part of the book this happened a few times.  But it wasn’t that Hodkin was writing in a confusing manner or that the plot twists and turns were unbelievable. It was the fact that she so brilliantly tied things together in such a surprising manner that I was once again caught off guard. It was wicked.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was a freaking amazing read and will definitely be on my best of 2011 list. I usually don’t reread books, but I anticipate wearing out a couple of copies.

Bargains and Betrayals – Shannon Delany

12 Oct

So, you know when you’re reading a series and you’re thinking “Okay, not blowing me away, but not horrible either. Think I’ll keep going.”? I have to admit, that’s where I was with Shannon Delany’s 13 to Life Series, published by St Martin’s Press. If you read my review of the first two books then you know I had some issues with both of them.  But man, I frigging LOVED Bargains and Betrayals. I mean it. The issues I had with the first two books vanished. This was a kick ass, well written YA paranormal book.

The main issue I had with the first two books (don’t read any further if you haven’t read them) was the whole Pietr dating Sarah but smooching Jessie all the time story-line. I felt that it just didn’t groove with either Jessie or Pietr’s personality. I’m so beyond happy that that was taken care of at the end of the second book.

I also felt that the pacing was a heck of a lot more even in this book. Never once did I feel that things were happening way to face. Yes, things happened quickly, but it felt like it was the right speed.

I loved that the book switched from Jessie’s point of view to Alexi’s point of view. It really, for me, showed off Shannon’s mad writing skillz. Alexi’s sections were written so differently from Jessie’s, something that’s hard to do. But Shannon does it flawlessly. Never once did I get confused about whose section I was reading.

A lot of the mystery that’s introduced in the first two books is explained, but in no way are things wrapped up nicely. I mean, Holy cliffhanger. It left me yelling “Nooooo, I need to know moooooore!”

So, yeah, sometimes when you aren’t in love with a series, it pays to stick with it. Because I so can’t wait for the next book to come out.