Friday 28 September 2012

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Series: Medusa Girls, Book One
Publisher: Templar
Format: ARC
Published: 1st September 2012

Number of Pages: 368
Book: For Review*
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mythical, Paranormal, Romance, Magic, Mystery, Humour, Action-Adventure, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Swearing, Beasties' Deaths
No Alcohol, Drug References
Author's Site: Tera Lynn Childs

Watch out, all you mythological beasties roaming the streets of San Francisco.  There’s a new kick-ass team of demon-fighters in town…
Meet Grace, who just moved to San Francisco.  It’s a tiny bit scary, starting over, but it gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door.  And even more shocking when a girl who looks exactly like her turns up to fight the monster.  Then, there’s Gretchen, who is fed up of monsters pulling her out into the small hours, especially on a school night.  Getting rid of a minotaur is just another notch on Gretchen’s combat belt, but she never expected to run into this girl who could be her double in the process.  Finally, there’s Greer, whose life is pretty sorted, thank you very much.  But everything tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they’re all sisters.
Grace, Gretchen and Greer – three teenage descendants of Medusa who must embrace their fates in a world where monsters lurk in plain sight.

"You belong to an elite lineage of guardians," she explained.  "Destined to hunt down the monsters that escape into our realm and send them back into theirs..."
Everyone knows about Medusa, right?  The evil snake-haired woman who turned people to stone with a single glance, one of the Gorgon sisters.  We all know she was a monster, don't we?
Well, think again.  Medusa and her sisters weren't monsters - they were protectors, the only ones standing between the human world and the real monsters, the ones trapped in a hell-like underworld. 
But with Medusa dead, it's up to her ancestors to protect humanity.  Speaking of...
Grace Whitfield is just starting at a new school in San Francisco and she’s doing ok-ish - there's even a cute guy in the picture - until a man with the head of a bull walks in.  Even more shocking is running into her doppelgänger, who is battling monsters
Gretchen Sharpe is focused - she's been kicking beasties' butts for four years, since she ran away from home at the age of twelve, and was taken in by Ursula, who taught her all about her destiny.  Her duty.  What Ursula thoughtfully left out was that her destiny is a shared one: shared by three sisters
Which brings us to Greer Morgenthal, the high society girl, who is growing up with the picture-perfect life and is most certainly not impressed to find her so-called-long-lost-sisters knocking on her door and telling her that monsters exist and that she exists to find them. 
Yes, Grace, Gretchen and Greer are Medusa's descendants and they must protect humanity from the monsterpocalypse...
I love Tera's Fins series, so when I was offered the chance to review Sweet Venom, I pounced!  I started reading the moment it landed on my doorstep, discarding my usual read-the-month-before-publication rule.  Considering this book had two of my favourite aspects - demon-butt-kicking and Greek mythology - I had huge and excited expectations going into it, and added to them was the fact I love Tera's other books: I never thought Sweet Venom could live unto my giant-sized expectations.  I was very, very wrong.  Sweet Venom just rocked my world and left me hungry for more, more, more! 
I loved how Tera wrote all of her characters.  They were all so real and vivid.  And there were just so many to love!  Gretchen was so kickbutt awesome - a total badass demon fighter!  She was tough and snarky and brave and awesome!  Reasons to love Gretchen: she uses words like "monsterpocalypse" and curses like "what the Hades" and "son of a centaur".   So yes, she definitely must go into my Kickbutt Lead Girls Wall of Fame!  Grace was shy and nerdy - I just loved all her geekiness, snark and how she made me laugh!  She was so chirpy and rambly, so hyper and bubbly it was impossible not to love her.  Plus, she totally killed me!  Now Greer we didn't meet ‘til the end.  She was totally fierce and a bit snobby and cynical - she was just very Gossip Girl.  I didn't know her as well as the other girls, so I can't wait to learn more about her.  But the whole sister bond was amazing and developed so brilliantly and believably.  I cannot wait to see where they all go!
Oh, and there were also yummy guys.  And they were all so mysterious and secretive - I am desperate to know all of their secrets!  Anyway, Nick was cute and persistent and funny - but who is he?  Thane was a great brother - but what was his secret?  And Milo was adorable and hot - but does he have a secret like all the other hot guys in this story?  Either way, I love the budding romance between him and Grace!
The writing was just amazing.  It's no secret that I love split POVs and Tera is just one of the best and most natural users of the style I've come across.  Each girl sounded so different and unique and I loved that it was between sisters rather than love interests.  And I loved the plot just as much: it was action packed, addictive, fast paced and just so much fun!   Plus, I loved that even though there were cute guys to crush on, the huge emphasis wasn't on romance, but instead on the sisterly bonds.  And, of course, the mythology - which I loved!  I've always loved Greek myths and absolutely adore the twist Tera put on the Medusa story.  Even with all the Greekish books I've read, I've never come across one with this twist, or anything near it.  
As I said earlier, I love Tera's Fins series to pieces, but man do I love the Medusa Girls!   It's funny, action packed, fast paced, utterly addictive and just, quite frankly, kickbutt awesome.  And it's totally changed my view of Greek mythology - if my brother ever calls me Medusa (again) I'm just gonna smile and say "Thank you", 'cause in my head I'll be thinking of this book!
So yeah, this book kicked butt.  It's safe to say I'm absolutely and totally desperate for the next in the series.  I'm gonna be first in line to get my greedy little hands on it!  Oh, why must everyone make me love a book so much, and then make me wait for I don't even know how long for a sequel?!!?

Star Rating:
4½ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Fins by Tera Lynn Childs
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan
Charmed (The TV Series & The Books) 

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
Happy Reading
* This book was received from Templar in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Series: Dust Lands, Book Two
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books
Format: ARC
Published: 2nd August 2012
Number of Pages: 304
Book: For Review*
Genre: Dystopia, Science-Fiction, Romance, Thriller, Suspense, Action-Adventure, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Death, Swearing, Violence, Alcohol References
No Drug References

There’s a price on Saba’s head.
They call her the Angel of Death.  She defeated a tyrant, but victory has come at a cost.  Haunted by the ghosts of her past, she needs Jack.  His moonlit eyes, his reckless courage, his wild heart.  But Jack has left, and a ruthless new enemy searches for Saba across the Dustlands…

'What happens to you changes you.  Fer good or ill, yer changed ferever.  There ain't no goin back.  No matter how many tears you cry.  It sounds simple, but it ain't.'
Saba, once known as The "Angel of Death", has gotten her twin Lugh back and defeated the Tonton, destroying a dangerous society. 
Everything should be good, but little do they know that their actions have sparked a new and deadly chain of events...
And, of course, Saba is without Jack, the one her heart desires.  She's torturing herself over her past, being haunted by it, and those she killed, and the only one who could make everything better has vanished. 
And worse, Jack can no longer be trusted. 
And the new enemy is rising...
And it wants the Angel of Death...
Rebel Heart (Dust Lands, #2)My first reaction upon seeing the press release and that Jack "can no longer" be trusted was to have a minor heart attack.  What could Jack have possibly done?  Once I'd gotten my head round it, I dove into Rebel Heart (which is a totally fitting name, btw).  I loved Blood Red Road to absolute pieces and I had such high hopes for this one.  Small issues aside, Rebel Heart really outshone my expectations!  I do love this series and how real Young makes the world and characters.  And the insane addictiveness that had me reading way into the wee hours; hooked to every word: Every. Single. Word - my God, Young is pure magic!  I can't wait for her next book.  I need the next book.  I'm going to go insane waiting for it.  Like actually insane. 
I adore all the characters in this book.  I love all the main characters to pieces, flaws and all.    Saba, whose spirit is what I loved best in Blood Red Road, was so hurt now, broken.  But broken as she was, she still had that Saba-stubbornness, that aspect that made her tougher than nails.  And I must say, the brokenness of her almost made her more human, gave her actions deeper meaning, developed her character. And, weirdly, made her more honest about her feelings.  We did get to see the Angel, but she wasn’t as hard as she was.  Which was good.  Till she did something stupid...  But Jack, oh how I love him!  He's cute, sweet, adorable.  And learning about his past... it just made me love him more.  As for Lugh - no more golden boy.  He was lost too and I felt sorry for him, but the way he always thought he was right just bugged me.  Though seeing it from his side did make me understand more...  Emmi is just my favourite though - I love Em!  And the minor-ish characters are just as brilliant.  Auriel was a particular favourite.  Slim too.  But most if all, I love the animals.  Hermes the brilliant horse.  Tracker the tame wolfdog - fierce, loyal, protective.  And obviously most of all my Nero!  He is the coolest pet ever!  Smart, loyal, protective, caring.  He makes me wanna get a crow!
Even as distant ad Lugh and Saba were, they were still so protective of one another.  Always looking out for one another.  Even if they don't like where it took them.  The relationship between Saba and Lugh was really more normal in this one, not as... romantic as in Blood Red Road.  And I loved that Em and Saba were closer in this one - I so do want them to be close!
I adore the writing in this series.  It's so unique, so addictive and vivid.  I could hear Saba's voice, see what she saw.  I love how Young's words paint a picture without losing the Saba-touch.  And, my God, do I love the Saba Touch!  I must say, the plot in this one was even better than Blood Red Road.  There were so many questions, so much suspense, so much action.  And it was even more complex, even darker.  And despite all the psychological suspense, the plot was fast paced and still totally, ridiculously addictive. 
Again, I must mention the world: 'cause it's so rich.  I loved seeing more of it, seeing some of the tribes and other people.  Per example, the head-hunters on ostriches (emus?) - hehe!  And the camel whose owner wore a pink dress (and no, said owner is not female).
There were lots of things I wanted from this book as I went in.  I wanted Saba and Em to be closer.  I wanted to see the Free Hawks again.  I wanted to know more about DeMalo, about Jack's past.  I wanted Saba and Jack to be together...  I could go on, but I won't.  I must say, some weren't in the book, or not like I wanted them to be.  And the whole broken-Saba wasn't something I wanted, but it did make sense.  I mean, the girl had to shoot her best friend.  What do you expect?!  But most of all, my main complaint is not enough Jack by far!  Though, this one bit I really didn't get.  I'm not sure why it was in the book.  And if Saba is what she might be, I'm going to cry.  I'm sorry for the cryptic-ness but I don't want to give anything away!   I don't really know how it fit in with the plot - unless what I don't want to happen, happens.  Then again, this might all be stemming from my love of Jack...  Maybe. 
But overall, this more than lived up to Blood Red Road.  I loved this book, minor niggles and all. 
With complex characters, a kickbutt world and an assortment of brilliant animals, the Dust Land series is unlike any other.  I really can't recommend it enough, can't say how addictive it is.  How it's not perfect and all the more perfect because of that.  I just loved every second it spent wrapped up in Rebel Heart - I'm desperate for the next in the series.  The last in the series.  I need to know how it ends.  And at the same time, I never, ever want it to end.  Ever.  
And when I'd finished, I was left with this... hole.  Like a part of me was missing.  I may not like all the characters all the time, bits may annoy me and confuse me.  But no matter what, this book packed a punch.  Pulled me right in.  Didn't let me go, especially after I put the book down.  The kind of book that burns in you and keeps on burning even when you aren't reading it any more. 
And, again, I'm so sorry for the rambling!

Star Rating:
4¾ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
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* This book was received from Scholastic in exchange for an honest review

Saturday 22 September 2012

Envy by Gregg Olsen

Series: Empty Coffin, Book One
Publisher: Splinter
Format: Hardback
Published: 7th September 2011
Number of Pages: 352
Book: For Review*
Genre: Murder Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Action-Adventure, Supernatural, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Smoking, Swearing, Alcohol References
No Drug References
Author's Blog: Gregg Olsen

“A blast of icy air blew in from her open bedroom window.  The silver razor blade glinted, beckoning her.  Katelyn fantasized about taking control of her pitiful excuse for a life the only way she could.
“The bathtub was nearly full.  Steaming.  Just waiting. 
“Katelyn had no idea that, not far away, someone else was doing the exact same thing.  Just waiting for the right time to make a move.

The night Katelyn died was the beginning of something that would change everything.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  THING,
Evil comes in all sorts of flavours.  Some bitter.  Some deceptively sweet.  That’s what Katelyn discovers on the day she dies.  One minute she’s a depressed teen with a loser life.  The next, she’s lying on a stainless steel slab, eyes glassy, skin frosted over, and very, very dead.  Was it:
Twins Hayley and Taylor Ryan stumble upon the truth, which is far more disturbing than they could have ever imagined… and which sheds light on another secret, a hidden past they didn’t know about.
Inspired by a ripped-from-the-head-lines true crime about cyberbullying, Envy is the gritty first volume in a new bone-chilling series that takes you to the edge – and pushes you right over.

It’s taken me forever to write this review.  Not because I didn’t like Envy – I absolutely loved it.  No, it was because I wasn’t sure what to say without giving away the whole plot.  I hope I did the book justice!
One evening, Sandra Berkley finds her daughter Katelyn in the bathtub.  Dead.  Also inside is an espresso machine, still plugged into the wall.  Her death is heard all over town.  No one knows how Katelyn died.  Suicide?  Murder?  Accident?  No one knows.
Twins Hayley and Taylor Ryan need to know the truth.  With their unique powers, they are determined to find out how Katelyn died.  What they don't know is that in the process, they will shed light on a hidden secret from their past...
Me, I’m a mildly twisted person who dotes of TV shows like Criminal Minds and CSI.  However, whenever I try to read a crime novel, it’s either Sherlock Holmes or waay too graphic!  But Envy was perfect and new and amazing!  Two twin sisters with paranormal abilities, solving the death of an old friend, while struggling to keep their abilities hidden?  Safe to say, I loved this book!  I was constantly on the edge of my seat, desperate to find out who the killer was.  Envy has gotta be one of my favourite crime novels ever and I really think everyone should read it!  It is an exciting and entertaining read, but it has a hidden message too: bullying hurts and even the silliest thing can make someone feel horrible about themselves.  It was strong, powerful, amazing and perfect for CSI-loving teens!
Hay-Tay, the twins were just amazing: I loved them both.  Hayley, the more practical and level headed twin, was really into forensic science and liked to have a reason for everything.  With her analytic mind, she actually sort of reminded me of Sherlock Holmes!  I loved her and really related with her because, like me, she seemed to love sharing random facts and her mind went to the strangest places.  Taylor was ruled more by her emotions and a real outspoken, feel-good kind of girl.   She was very clever too but kind of more squeamish and peace-loving.  And they were so close – they told each other everything.  I loved seeing the similarities and differences between the two girls.  Both had strong morals and the most awesome gifts!  They knew things they couldn't know, felt things, saw things.  They were like Nancy Drews with really special powers!  And their bond was really sweet and really powerful.
And, in a horrid way, I loved getting to know Katelyn. It was obvious straight away that she had been hurt – badly.  The loneliness she felt was dreadful; she felt like she had no one.  So many terrible things had happened to her, and she just cut herself off, thought she was worthless.  Words really can have absolutely dreadful consequences. And Katelyn lived through the twins - we saw into her head, her life, through the girls.
As the book went on, I must have had about a million suspects, quite literally suspecting everyone in the plot.  But a few of the characters I liked and actually didn’t suspect (yeah, I suspected loads of the characters I liked… I may be slightly paranoid) were the twins’ family.  Their dad Kevin was brilliant, with strong morals and a family orientated feel.  Also, he role played serial killer scenarios with his kids over the dinner table: he was just brilliantly odd!  Their mum Valerie was really supportive and I loved learning about her past.  The whole family love and closeness really made the whole crime thing stand out even more.  I can’t say anything else about the characters without giving the killer away, but I will say the vast range of people was brilliant, different and ever-so brilliantly described.  Just amazingly padded out and real – every single character.  Some I loved, some I hated, all were brilliant.
I loved the writing: Gregg had the suspense thing down to a fine art.  He gave us titbits about the bad guy – who was totally sadistic, btw – and I just had to know who he was!  Also, Gregg totally got teenagers, how they think, talk, act.  I loved the snark and that we also got to see everything from the adults' POV too.  It was brilliant to see how the two age groups saw everything differently.  And I just loved all the facts!  About what goes on in the pathologist, how Katelyn died (call me morbid and twisted, but I swear I was a CSI in a past life).  I also liked how everything was closed and how we got to see how everyone coped after.  And that I was still left with so many questions that left me desperate for Book 2!
I must say, normally, I'm good at guessing killers. But Envy... I had three suspects and four pages worth of notes, obsessing over movements, conversations.  Well.  I was wrong. I had an inkling at one point, then settled on a different - wrong - prime suspect. The way Olsen wrote made me completely oblivious and suspecting everyone. And left me honestly surprised at the outcome. 
Envy was amazing. I really loved it. It was exciting and new, thrilling and chilling.  I write notes as I read, and I ended up with four whole pages worth of notes.  Suspects, plotlines, theories, gushing about the twins and other characters.  That, more than anything to me, is a sign of a good book.  I mean, there really wasn't a bad word there. Well, unless you want to count a very, very bad word about a few of my least favourite characters. I just can't help being stunned by Envy. It pushes all the limitations of YA fiction, yet never actually crosses the line.  And it does all that without speaking down to the reader.  Gregg Olsen: you are amazing!  I cannot wait for Betrayal!  I may even check out some of his adult fiction! 

Cybercrime. While Envy's characters and paranormal sides were obviously fiction, the girls' death and the cyber bullying case was taken from a true story: The suicide of Megan Meier from Missouri in October 2006 brought about by the horribleness of cyber bullying.  It's just as dangerous as physical bullying, maybe more so.  You never know who someone is on the Internet, and cyber bullies use that to their advantage.  So please, please be careful!  And if all of you would like to know more, I'd tell you to you where Gregg told all readers to go:

Ok, so there are these letters in the front and back pages of my hardcopy that are meant to mean something to the readers. 
After hours of trying to solve the mysterious letters like an anagram on my scrabble board, just like the girls  did, I realised something: I.  Was.  An.  Idiot!  I am, apparently, not-so-mildly stupid.  So there you go.

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Crime Scene Investigations TV Shows
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendre Blake

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
Happy Reading
* This book was received from Splinter in exchange for an honest review

Thursday 20 September 2012

Bringing the Summer by Julia Green

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: ARC
Published: 10th May 2012
Number of Pages: 272
Book: For Review*
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic-Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Mental Health, Coming Of Age, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Swearing, Mild Violence, Smoking, Alcohol References
No Drug References
Author's Site: Julia Green

“I turn on to my back and let myself float, arms outstretched, eyes open to the wide blue sky.  For a moment I let myself drift, held by the water, surrounded by light.”

It’s the lazy end of summer but Freya is ready for something new, a change.  And then she meets the gorgeous, good-looking Gabes.  Freya is drawn not just to Gaves himself but everything about him, including his large, warm and shambolic family, so different to her own.
Then Gabes’ older brother makes it clear that he is interested in Freya – and Freya has some difficult decisions to make about what she really wants…

Freya's about to start her A levels, but she's still trying to cope with her brother's death.  She's just begun to think she's ready for a new start. 
And then a railway accident leads her to Gabes - gorgeous, sweet Gabes abd his big, bubbly, warm family. 
Soon Freya is falling in love - but not really with Gaves, but with his family. 
But then Gabes' brother Theo shows up - mysterious, dangerous Theo. 
As she gets closer to Theo, Freya has to question what she really wants. 
Byt us she ready to make the difficult choices?
I loved Julia Green's Drawing With Light, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one.  From the cover - and blurb, actually - I thought this would be a light read.  And while it was fun and quick, it also tackled some really tricky issues.  I just love everything about Julie's books, loved how complex her main characters were and how she made a clichéd idea into something new and amazing and beautiful.  Also, I so wanna be a Fielding!!
The characters were all so amazing and varying and believable.  Freya was really sweet and strong, but broken over her brother's death.  She was really clever and sensitive and observational, was mature for her age and sensitive too.  What I really loved about her was that she wasn't perfect.  She made mistakes.  But she was so sweet and genuine that you had to love her.  Gabes was so sweet and cute and arty.  I’d love to have him as a friend.  He was simple and straight forward and so cute, just so not-complicated and warm and genuine.  I just wanted to hug him!  Theo was quite, mysterious, dark and broody.  I loved how we slowly got to see beneath the arrogance to see the sensitive, vulnerable boy within.  He was dark and dangerous - the kind of boy you know you shouldn't get involved with but intrigues you anyway.  And the Fielding family - oh how I adored them all!  They were so big and cheerful and close.  And their house - I wish I'd lived there!  It was so wonderfully describes, so lived in and homely.  They were all so bubbly and fun and real.  My family's big and fun and close... but I still want a Fielding family!!  I especially loved their Christmas - loved it to pieces - loved them to pieces!
I loved all the characters, how padded out they were.  As I mentioned before, I adored the Fielding family and all of them in the family!  I also loved Freya's grandparents and friend from the island, Danny.  Danny seemed really sweet and I felt he was a character who could have been added to - just 'cause he seemed so darn cute!
The writing was beautiful - as Green's writing always is!  Green has this wonderfully simple and beautiful way of writing that always leaves me wanting more.  There's magic there.  You can see everything, feel everything.  The plot was one I guess you’d call self-discovery.  I should have been against it - two brothers, one girl is kinda cliché - but in this it just... wasn't.  While the plot is incredible and addictive, the writing and Fielding family just stole the show for me.  But I must admit, I had no idea where the plot was going and at some points I was actually scared!  And I loved how through the Fieldings, we slowly got to know about Bridie, who she was before she died.  As for the ending, it was perfect. 
Green tackled some tricky issues in this book, but like everything she does so effortlessly.  She doesn't make light of them but instead balances them with a light plot.  Also, it's message was so subtle you didn't really get it til the end.  It wasn't... obnoxious, like other books. 
One girl, two brothers, one huge happy family and a dead girl who bought them all together...  Bringing the Summer was a beautiful, edgy, fun read, one I couldn't put down.  It just grabbed me from the word go; Julia Green has this way of bringing a story and characters to life through her words, characters that just get inside your head.  I must get my hands on Breathing Underwater and I am seriously desperate for whatever Julia brings out next!  I loved the book: it had strong themes, but left me feeling all happy inside, warm.  It wasn't as hard hitting as some of the other books I've read this year, but I loved it and it was a great read. 

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
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* This book was received from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review