Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Something Sweeter

SOMETHING SWEETER
Sweet, Texas #3
Candis Terry
Adult Contemporary Romance
384 pages
Avon
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The men in Texas are hard to resist . . .

Seattle event planner Allison Lane is an expert at delivering the perfect wedding—even if she might not exactly believe in the whole "'til death do us part" thing. When her father decides to tie the knot with a woman he barely knows, Allison heads to Sweet, Texas, to make sure his new honey is the real deal. What she didn't expect to find at the local honky-tonk was a sexy Southern man as bent on charming her pants off as he is on blowing her "true love doesn't exist" theory all to hell.

And they always promise . . .

Veterinarian, former Marine, and Sweet's favorite playboy Jesse Wilder takes one look at Allison and knows she's a handful of trouble he can't deny. But even after a sizzling kiss and obvious mutual attraction, it seems Allison has no such problem. When Jesse uncovers her sweet side, can he crush his playboy image, melt her cynical heart, and change her mind about taking a trip down the aisle?

Something sweeter.


MY THOUGHTS
Something Sweeter is a fun foray into the heart of Texas, use of the endearment "darlin" present and as swoon-worthy as ever as it flows from the mouth of former Marine–and current veterinarian–Jesse Wilder. In addition to a slow-burning relationship between our lead couple, we’re also treated to the meddling, antics, and unwavering support of his brothers and his endearing mother, their playful familiarity allowing us to really snuggle into this story surrounded by the warmth of love and laughter on all sides. There’s plenty of conflict in the relationship between Jesse and Allison, but the drama is kept to a bare minimum, making this the perfect read for a lazy summer afternoon when a little heat and a whole lot of charm top the list of reader must-haves.

Allison, having grown up with a mother divorced five times over, is utterly convinced love is fleeting and subject to the whims of those who claim to feel it, and therefore finds herself in Texas to ensure her father made the right decision with his recent engagement to a virtual stranger. Because this is a lighter contemporary romance, we don’t delve too deeply into Allison’s relationship with her mother, and as a result it’s sometimes tricky for us to fully put ourselves in her shoes with regard to her conviction that happily ever after doesn’t exist. Having said that however, though Allison’s beliefs on love are clearly the kind that will require the entirety of this story’s four hundred pages to change, she’s not overly frustrating with her stance, sharing with Jesse upfront how she feels without throwing her opinions in his face every five minutes.

Jesse is as smoldering ex-military southern gentleman as they come, his Texas drawl practically audible as it reverberates through the pages and travels straight to our hearts. There are a number of stops and starts to his and Allie's physical relationship, but with her career requiring her to head back to Seattle after her visit with her father, it’s easy understand why they both err on the side of caution when it comes to intimacy. He works hard to show Allie that lasting relationships are not the mystical unicorn she believes them to be–even as he denies the depth of his own growing feelings for her–and despite the stubborn nature they both share, they’re a joy of a romantic couple overall.

Something Sweeter is predictable in the way all romances are, but as always with this genre, the characters themselves and their individual journey to happily ever after take precedence over the mystery of where the relationship is headed. Ms. Terry has written a romance full of sweetness and heart, and I look forward to going back and watching the previous two Wilder boys fall for their women just as Jesse fell for his.

Rating: 4/5



Find Candis:


This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Mortal Danger

MORTAL DANGER
Immortal Game #1
Ann Aguirre
Paranormal Young Adult
372 pages
Feiwel & Friends
Available August 6th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Revenge is a dish best served cold.

In Ann Aguirre's Mortal Danger, Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn’t imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She’s not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he’s impossible to forget.

In one short summer, her entire life changes and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly . . . bad things are happening. It’s a head rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil’s bargains, she isn’t sure who—or what—she can trust. Not even her own mind.


MY THOUGHTS
Mortal Danger is a story that starts out on a literal edge, Edie ready to leave life behind in the hope that death will be less cruel, only to be stopped by an enigmatic young man who offers her a different type of escape. The first few chapters make us as readers incredibly uneasy, Edie’s thwarted suicide and the fact that her first request from Kian is to be made beautiful causing us to fear what this tale has in store for us in terms of the message carried by her actions. While the synopsis suggests the revenge aspect is a focal point though, where Ms. Aguirre takes us (thankfully) instead is far beneath the hell that is high school and into one much more befitting of the name.

As mentioned previously, Edie has us a touch worried in the beginning chapters, wondering if her story is going to be one where we spend the entire time fearful the next chapter is going to be the one where her need for vengeance will result in an action we simply cannot forgive. What we find in place of a single-minded drive for revenge on those who broke her (the means by which we don’t discover until much later in the story), however, is a fierce intelligence and a beautifully level-head, her dealings with the popular crew surprisingly free of the venom and vitriol initially expected. Edie instead approaches them in a much more reasonable way, her anger and hurt still present and palpable, but she never seeks to actively shame or humiliate them the way they did her.

Perhaps most surprising about Mortal Danger is just how small a role Edie’s revenge plays in the overall plot. Once she makes her deal with Kian, the teenage bullies who forced her to the bridge in the first place suddenly pale in comparison to the immortal ones who now hold all the cards in a game she never wanted to play. Edie is the type of heroine we crack the spine of every book hoping find, her initial insecurities replaced with a confidence, sharp wit, and extraordinary problem solving ability (all traits it’s made clear to us come from within and are not simply side effects of her newfound beauty). She tackles her numerous problems head on, self-reliant to an admirable degree but not so much so that she doesn’t know when to ask for help, and so very careful as to where she steps on the gameboard that has suddenly become her life.

Overall, Mortal Danger is a stunning start to a new series, giving us a heroine who makes mistakes and is riddled with flaws in the most beautiful way, and who despite a rough start, comes to fully appreciate all life has to offer even in its darkest moments. The ending lacks a touch of the excitement and action promised all along as Edie faces off with one of the game’s top players, but that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise gritty and darkly entertaining story. Ms. Aguirre never fails to impress with her characters and her creativity, and Mortal Danger is yet another reminder of how fascinating (and also terrifying) her mind is.

Rating: 4/5
 

Find Ann:


This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Visual Review: The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18505841-the-art-of-how-to-train-your-dragon-2?from_search=true

A couple years ago I was sitting on my couch at home on a Saturday night (like the social butterfly I am), watching a little animated film HBO chose to premiere that week when I fell madly in love. The movie was How To Train Your Dragon, and it was one of the cutest movies I'd seen in forever. Not only was the animation astoundingly beautiful, but the characters were also laugh out loud funny, and I spent the next two days watching it ever single moment it came on. Which was a lot, as those of you who have HBO know. Once they premiere a movie, they play it 24/7.

Fast forward four years to 2014 when I discover my beloved movie has a sequel releasing. Best. News. Ever. Making my How To Train Your Dragon love complete was the arrival of a special package in the mail, one that contained a truly stunning book featuring the artwork that helped bring the second installment to life.

I majored in film in college and have always been fascinated by the behind-the-scenes aspect of moviemaking, so this book was a real treat for me and something I highly recommend to those interested in art, animation, costume design and the like. Between the covers is page after page of both sketches and finished artwork, the characters, settings and costumes broken down visually and then described by key members of the production staff to give us an in-depth look at everything the filmmakers take into consideration during the animation process. While the information provided by the director, production designer, art director and numerous others is an absolute treat, the true highlight of the book is the artwork itself, so I'm going to let it do most of my talking for me.

I took a few pictures of some of my favorite pages of the book so I could share them with all of you, and hopefully encourage those who have yet to experience these movies to give them a try! I have little doubt you'll love them as much as I do, and you might just want to pick up a copy of this book for display on your coffee table. Because...dragons. And Gerard Butler. You're welcome.

MEET THE HUMANS

Hiccup in sketch form:



Stoick (Hiccup's dad) in both sketch and painted form:


(One of my favorite things about this book is the fact that we get to see the artwork in various stages of completion - from early black and white sketches and storyboards to paintings in color to final animated form.)

The fashion of Astrid (Hiccup's love interest):


Drago (the villain):
 

MEET THE DRAGONS

Toothless in sketch form:

(Look at his face! Is he not the cutest dragon you've ever seen? I want him for myself.)


Assorted dragons:




LANDSCAPES





STORYBOARDS




Find The Art of How To Train Your Dragon 2:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Take a Walk on the Wilds Side Blog Tour: Interview with Kat Kruger


Today I'm thrilled to be a part of the promotional tour for the third book in Kat Kruger's paranormal young adult series, The Night is Found. Kat was nice enough to answer a few questions for me about her trilogy and this final installment in particular, so I hope you all enjoy the interview! Welcome to Supernatural Snark Kat!

The Magdeburg Trilogy is set in Paris and features the dark world of both bitten and born werewolves. What’s one place in Paris those of us unfamiliar with this world would be correct in guessing was a werewolf haunt? One place we’d probably never expect to find them?

Paris has a lot of green space. I think it’s natural to assume that’s where werewolves would hang out in their beast form. In my trilogy I’ve got a few scenes in Parisian parks, mostly at night.

As for where you might not expect a werewolf, I’ll go with behind the counter of a butcher shop. Arden LaTène is a butcher by day.

If Connor could tell the world something about werewolves–positive or negative–that they don’t already know from the mythology of film and fiction, what would it be?

Connor would probably point out that werewolves aren’t so different from humans, that we all just evolved separately. In the world of the Magdeburg werewolves, those born to it are descended directly from Neanderthals whereas bitten humans are ones who have a tiny percentage of Neanderthal DNA in them. The born ones transform into wolves and the bitten turn into the wolfman type creatures of horror movies. There are other differences, particularly when it comes to social skills and emotional range, but the bitten are more the big bad wolves of fairy tales than the born.

What’s one facet of general werewolf mythology you knew from the beginning you definitely wanted to either utilize or avoid for your werewolves?

I mostly wanted to stay true to the general mythology surrounding werewolves but also wanted to add my own interpretations. However, one thing I didn’t want them to be was completely savage creatures with uncontrollable urges due to the powers of the full moon. Most animals aren’t born with that kind of bloodlust so, like everything else in this series, there had to be a rationale for the impulse. In this case, bitten humans just make for bad werewolves. It’s a curse in their DNA.

One other thing I knew from the beginning was that I didn’t want my books populated by shirtless hunks who were more eye candy than valuable participants in the plot.

If you were to find yourself at Connor’s school in Paris and saw him walking through the halls on your first day, what would your initial split-second impression of him be?

Adorkable.

Let’s say Connor is given the opportunity to recruit a werewolf from any book, movie or TV show to either help him navigate his new world or fight along with him. Which werewolf would he most want on his side?

If he was still alive [SPOILER ALERT] it would be Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter series, simply because he’s an excellent teacher and fighter. I would say the same of Geoffrey Beck from Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy but [SPOILER ALERT] werewolf mentors don’t seem to have a long lifespan.

If you were to stumble into this world and suddenly find yourself face to face with indisputable proof that werewolves exist, how terrified/intrigued/accepting would you be?

Having immersed myself in this world and the research for so many years, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of it turned out to be real. Not in the least! There’s been some science-y stuff that I made up based on research that eventually turned out to be true or close to true. Maybe I should expect the Luparii to show up at my door for having outed werewolves to the general public...

If the third and final book of this series was made into a movie and you had to pick a single tagline for the promotional poster, how would that line read?

It’s time to take a walk on the Wilds* side…

*For readers: The Wilds are a group of American werewolves introduced in The Night Is Found.

Thanks so much for stopping by Kat!

• • • • • • • • • • •

THE NIGHT IS FOUND


When they tried to kill a prince, they made a king

In the aftermath of his pack leader’s assassination Connor Lewis is ready to take control. Rodolfus de Aquila’s plan before he died was to unite the European werewolf packs against their common enemies: the Hounds of God who make the laws and enforce them ruthlessly and with questionable motives, and the Luparii, an intergovernmental group of werewolf hunters now bent on the extermination of his kind. The uneasy alliance between these two factions has fallen apart, and now a battle wages leaving the pack werewolves scrambling to escape bio-chemical warfare on one side, and total domination on the other.

After hearing rumors of a union between the American packs Connor returns with Amara to his home city of New York to learn how to bring the Old World packs together. Werewolf society in the New World has taken a very different course from that of Europe, but when Connor meets the American leaders he begins to question if their ways are, in fact, the path forward.

A world away from Madison, Arden, and all those that he is trying to protect, Connor must discover the secret to uniting and  leading the packs under one final charge, or else risk extinction for their entire species in the epic conclusion to The Magdeburg Trilogy.


THE NIGHT HAS TEETH
The Magdeburg Trilogy #1
*Book one is currently FREE on Amazon!

THE NIGHT HAS CLAWS
The Magdeburg Trilogy #1

GoodreadsAmazon

• • • • • • • • • • • 

BLOG TOUR
 

Be sure and check out the other participating blogs for more interviews, reviews and giveaways!

July 8 — Canlit for Little Canadians  (Review)
July 9 — Canlit for Little Canadians (Guest Post)
July 10 — Chapter by Chapter (Guest Post)
July 10 — Glamorous Book Lounge  (Review)
July 11 — Glamorous Book Lounge  (Q&A)
July 11 — The Diary of a Bookworm (Review)
July 14 — DJ DeSmyter (Review)
July 15 — A Portia Adams Adventure  (Review)
July 16 — A Portia Adams Adventure  (Q&A)
July 17 — Book Drunkard (Review)
July 18 — Kat Ross (Guest Post)
July 21 — Liberty Falls Down (Q&A)
July 22 — Liberty Falls Down (Review)
July 23 — Escape Through the Pages (Review)
July 24 — Manga Maniac Cafe (Q&A)
July 25 — Supernatural Snark  (Q&A)
July 28 — As You Were  (Q&A)
July 29 — Misbehavin’ Librarian (Review)
July 30 — Paper Droids (Review)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: Crown of Midnight

CROWN OF MIDNIGHT
Throne of Glass #2
Sarah J. Maas
Young Adult/Fantasy
420 pages
Bloomsbury
Available Now
Source: BEA 2013

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie...and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.


MY THOUGHTS
Crown of Midnight is a story that manages to escape all the pitfalls so common in second installments, improving upon the very best elements of Throne of Glass and completely doing away with the aspects that were perhaps more of a struggle for those (like myself) who didn’t have the benefit of Celaena's history as outlined in the prequel novellas. Ms. Maas gives us Celaena at her finest in this sequel, her brutality as much a focus as her vulnerability; the two a swirling combination of character perfection that has her stealing a part of our hearts and forever locking it away in the pages of her story.

Where the Celaena of Throne of Glass seemed to be a young woman who bought a bit too much into her own press, touting her accomplishments and her abilities to any and all who would listen, the Celaena of Crown of Midnight is closer to the woman found in the pages of the prequel novellas, her mind every bit as sharp as her blades and her heart surprisingly open despite all that’s happened to her. Previously, we couldn’t help but grimace at her arrogance, but in this newest book we do nothing but smile at her confidence and pity all those who continue to underestimate her in terms of both her lethality as well as her humanity.

Celaena is a beautiful tapestry of scars–physical and emotional–and they are on display in all their painful glory in Crown of Midnight. Our hearts ache for her as past and present collide, history delivering a brutal sucker punch of repetition to send her reeling once again, but though she staggers with every blow she’s dealt, she never once stays down. Despite the villainous king she serves and the court of liars and social climbers surrounding her, she stays true to who she is–good and bad; blackest pieces and brightest facets–always seeking to help those around her even when they question her motivations and judge her actions. She doesn’t play games with Chaol or Dorian, following her heart even as memories of the love she let herself have once before plague her, and doing so in such a way as to mitigate the damage done to the one whose affection she cannot fully return.

With the love triangle safely put to bed with minimal angst and drama, and the over-the-top ego of Throne of Glass reduced to a charmingly inflated sense of self, the best parts of Ms. Maas’s ability to tell a story are able to shine through, making us immeasurably happy and devastating us in turn until we’re nothing but an emotional mess staring dumbly at the last page wishing futilely for more. Crown of Midnight is gritty and glorious, giving us a protagonist who is a hero in the end but often a villain in the means used to achieve it, and there’s absolutely nothing more satisfying than walking side by side with her as she journeys through every shade of gray.

Rating: 4.5/5
 

Find Sarah:


This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: Fireborn


Today I'm thrilled to be wrapping up the tour for Fireborn, the first installment of the new Souls of Fire series by Keri Arthur. I thoroughly enjoyed this book (as you'll see in my review below) and can't wait to see what future books have in store for Emberly!

FIREBORN
Souls of Fire #1
Keri Arthur
Urban Fantasy
370 pages
Signet
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
From New York Times bestselling author Keri Arthur comes a brand new series featuring heroine Emberly Pearson—a phoenix capable of taking on human form, and cursed with the ability to foresee death…

Emberly has spent a good number of her many lives trying to save humans. So when her prophetic dreams reveal the death of Sam, a man she once loved, she does everything in her power to prevent that from happening. But in saving his life, she gets more than she bargained for.

Sam is working undercover for the Paranormal Investigations Team, and those who are trying to murder him are actually humans infected by a plague-like virus, the Crimson Death—a by-product of a failed government experiment that attempted to identify the enzymes that make vampires immortal. Now, all those infected must be eliminated.

But when Emberly’s boss is murdered and his irreplaceable research stolen, she needs to find the guilty party before she goes down in flames…


MY THOUGHTS
Fireborn is the first in a new urban fantasy series from Ms. Arthur, thrusting us into a paranormal world full of the more familiar supernatural creatures such as vamps and weres, but utterly delighting us with the introduction of an entity we’ve seen very rarely (if at all): Phoenixes. Emberly is a phoenix, immortal in the sense that she experiences rebirth again and again and in possession of two separate forms when she calls on her fire. Given the unusualness of her kind, we find ourselves helpless to do anything but glory in everything we learn about her history, her various abilities, and the mythology of phoenixes in general. In addition to a truly fascinating protagonist in Emberly, we’re also given a complex mystery surrounding the Crimson Death virus, one that is clearly going to carry through future books despite the nice stopping point we find at the end of this first installment.

Emberly, while grabbing our attention from the beginning simply due to the fact that she’s a phoenix, also reaches out and tugs on our heartstrings as well, a troubled history with former lover Sam making itself known through clipped conversations and a painful exchange of barbs in the opening chapters. Though Sam’s anger at how his relationship with Emberly dissolved years prior is more than understandable when we learn what happened between them, we have the benefit of being in Emberly’s head rather than Sam’s, so we’re better able to see the why's of her actions when Sam can’t allow himself to see past his hurt. Thus we have the setup for what will undoubtedly be an emotional journey for the two of them, one that shows no signs of finding any type of resolution in the near future.

As is the case with many urban fantasy stories, Emberly is surrounded by a bevy of interested men, including Sam (though he fights it has hard as he can), but thankfully Ms. Arthur manages to create a situation between Emberly, Rory, Jackson and Sam that’s not nearly as frustrating as we might expect upon hearing of such a romantic setup. Each man has a distinct role in her life, but Emberly is not a woman who gets herself into irritatingly complex emotional entanglements, instead we learn early on that her heart belongs fully to Sam–despite his cool treatment of her throughout–while the other two fulfill very different types of needs or wants. Rory and Jackson are not love interests in any real way, they are friends, partners and sometimes lovers to Emberly, there for her when her heart or body take a brutal beating.

Overall, Fireborn is an intriguing start to the Souls of Fire series, giving our imaginations something new to play with as Emberly and Rory’s phoenixes take center stage, and ensuring our hearts are as involved as our minds thanks to Sam's heartbreaking presence in Emberly's life. Emberly is strong, smart and fiercely loyal to those she cares about (even if certain other people might argue the last one), and she is certainly someone with whom I can't wait to spend more time in the next installment.

Rating: 4/5
 

Find Keri:


*I'm the last stop on this month long tour, below is the full list of participating blogs so you can go back and check out additional reviews, excerpts and more!

6/23 - SciFi Chick
7/11 - Not Yet Read
7/14 - HEAs Are Us
7/15 - Live to Read