Saturday, July 26, 2014

High Stakes by Brandy Schillace

This review was written by: C
Received: Free Electronic Copy from Author
Publication Date of Book: April 2014
Pages: 142
Stars: (4/5)

Short summary of the story:
Jacob Maresbeth is just your average sixteen-year-old boy, well, aside from his vampiric tendencies that is. As a child, Jacob developed a strange blood disorder that his father has come to call "epilemia." This disorder has a strange set of symptoms, including nocturnal habits, fast healing, and, of course, the consumption of blood.  This is why one should not be surprised that Jacob's sister, Lizzy, prefers to call him a vampire.

The story begins with Jacob and Lizzy being sent to live with their Aunt Sylvia, in Ohio, for two weeks. Aunt Syl is one of those great quirky english majors that possesses so many lovable qualities.  Of course, Jacob is less than thrilled to spend time with her and must keep up the appearance of being an invalid and the fact that he drinks blood, a secret. Aunt Syl seems to be a bit overbearing and loves to joke about Jacob's  "irritable bowels."  Jacob soon meets Syl's Hungarian research assistant, Zsófia. This beautiful graduate student just happens to be writing her dissertation on vampires (ironic right?). Soon Jacob is spending quite a bit of time with Zsófia and hoping that his love for her will be returned. The universe, however, has different plans. 

Jacob has a nasty habit of overeating when he's depressed, leading up to the fact that he drank about almost over a two weeks supply of blood. Why is this a problem? Well, now that he has met Zsófia, he plans to stay another two weeks so that he can spend even more time with her. Nothing can possibly go wrong as long as he rations the remaining packs of blood, but then strange things begin to happen. The remaining blood packs go missing and Jacob's health declines, bringing forth drastic changes in his demeanor and appearance. Perhaps Jacob's "epilemia" is a lot more than what his family believed it to be and Zsófia is definitely hiding a few secrets of her own.

I loved the fact that Brandy Schillace wove so much humor into this tale. Jacob possesses that lovable sarcastic humor that I absolutely adore! The sibling banter was also great and the witty remarks and comebacks kept me smiling and laughing the whole time. I also enjoyed the fact that this story was much more of a take on a modern day vampire. The possibility of vampirism being a disease was wonderful and refreshing, too. Overall, I found Jacob to be a protagonist that felt believable and real, and one that I would love to read more about.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Obsidian (Lux #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: May 2012
Pages: 335
Stars: (5/5)

Funny how a little spark of pain unleashed something more powerful than the fleeting ache it caused. Memories...

Katy is forced to move to West Virginia on her mother's impulse to start over after a tragic death in their family.  Little does she know, this move will change her life forever. Spending her days hoping that her books will come so that she may review them on her blog, she quickly makes friends with her energetic next door neighbor, Dee, and enemies with Dee's arrogant, green-eyed brother, Daemon.  Life couldn't get much more interesting than that. That is until she finds out that her neighbors are aliens of light from the planet Lux.  What could go wrong with that?  After Daemon uses his powers in front of Katy to save her life from an oncoming car that would have eminently hit her, Katy now has been marked.  Daemon has shown his powers to a human, leaving his energy on her that enemies of a Luxen can see and take advantage of.  This fickle character decides that it is his responsibility to watch over her until the excess energy surrounding her in  a brilliant glow (that humans can't see) fades to nothing.

Katy and Daemon act as though they loath each other despite the fact that they have an underlying chemistry.  They're also consistently bating and bickering with each other, an amusing yet sometimes tiresome thing to read.  However, we get to glimpse that not only do these characters have an up and down relationship, but they also care for each other deeply.  Without wanting to admit it, they each feel a pull to each other just like magnets, and underneath the surface, they have things in common.  Dee and Daemon lost their brother, Dawson, who fell in love with a human girl while Katy lost her father to cancer.  While crying won't change the past, they will never forget their loved ones.  Daemon's remembrance of his loss and the reason because of it makes him pull away from Katy whenever he gets close to her, making things complicated in their "relationship."

Armentrout can spin a story like no other. Obsidian had a great plot and a take on aliens that was equally refreshing and intriguing.  It was definitely original and especially fantastic!  The characters weren't just something on a page but people with feelings and actions that we all have, such as a driving desire to keep those around us safe. I was actually surprised by this book.  I'm not normally into alien paranormal romance, but I am now!  Each character was unique and equally amazing to read about.  There's no doubt that I'll follow this series to the end!  

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Eyes to See by Joseph Nassise

This review was written by: C
Received: Library
Publishing Date of Book: October 2011
Pages: 320
Stars: (5/5)

Eyes to See was awesome! Joseph Nassise wove a world of darkness and creatures that go bump in night that resulted in a believable and intriguing adventure. The mystery surrounding the main character, Jeremiah, and his hidden past made the book even more of a great read!

Here is a short summary of what the book is about:
Jeremiah Hunt was once an ordinary human with a normal life and family until his daughter, Elizabeth, was kidnapped. This shocking event caused Hunt's perfect life to crumble around him. He lost his wife and almost all of his money in futile attempts to find his daughter. Rescuing Elizabeth became his obsession and he soon lost all hope in finding her.  As the days passed it became prominent that he may not find her alive. One day a strange eyeless preacher approaches Hunt and tells him he will find his daughter if he is willing to go the distance. Jeremiah immediately returns home to find a strange book of rituals. A single page contains a spell to allow one to see the unseen. Hunt believes this spell will enable him find his daughter, but it actually takes away his sight and opens his eyes to a horrifying world that was right under his nose.
The story continues with Hunt aiding the police with a few gruesome murders. His newfound ability to see the dead has allowed him to gain support of Officer Stanton, who has continued to help Jeremiah in the search for his daughter, even though the case has gone cold and was therefore shelved, in exchange for the use of his gifts. These seemingly random murders are what bring Hunt to the realization that they might actually be related to the disappearance of Elizabeth. Hunt meets a few friends along the way, including a hedge witch and a berserker, who aid the blind man in his search for the truth.

I found the story to be quite original, fast paced, and full of plot twists. The book never became boring and the characters always had hidden secrets that were being revealed. I also enjoyed the fact that the story was told in segments that went back and forth between the present and Jeremiah's past. This allowed for short breaks in both story lines that were refreshing and sometimes frustrating (I was tempted several times to skip a few chapters until the next segment came up so I could see what was going to happen!).
I also enjoyed the fact that Jeremiah grew as a character. He began as a mundane human, working his days away, and eventually became a respectable man hell-bent on doing anything he had to in order to find his daughter and bring her safely home. To me he became admirable and the fact that he gave up everything to find Elizabeth, along with his everlasting love for his daughter, were both touching and were the best qualities that Hunt possessed. He persevered and would never give up, no matter what stood in his path. I can't wait to read the next two installments in the series.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Carrie by Stephen King

This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Publishing Date of First Edition of this Book: April 1974
Pages: 290 
Stars: (4/5)

"But hardly anybody finds out that their actions really, actually, hurt other people!  People don't get better, they just get smarter.  When you get smarter you don't stop pulling the wings off flies, you just think of better reasons for doing it."
-Susan Snell

I have recently decided to try reading some of Stephen King's novels due to the consistent hype and excitement surrounding all of his books that fans can't seem to get enough of.  I figured that Carrie would be a good place to start as it's one of his classic horror novels as well as the first novel he ever wrote that was published. Natural intrigue has always surrounded this book with its ultimately fascinating telekinetic protagonist that is placed in the center of "Carrie".  Carrie is a high school girl going through the world in a daze full of religion, an overbearing mother, and cruel, unending pranks.  Ever since she was little, Carrie was branded as being "weird" due to her insanely religious mother who believed that practically everything was the work of the devil, including the physicality that surrounds growing up.  Her father had never been a part of her life due to his early death, leaving behind a black Bible that Carrie's mother always totes around.  
There appears to be two constants in her life that evolve around praying for forgiveness and being the brunt of everyone's cruelty.  She was "ruined" by her mother, as several accounts in the book tell.  She used to be such a beautiful little girl until an untimely incident that occurred at a young age.  It was at this time that Carrie fully used her telekinesis in a powerful way after her mother severely scolded her, so much so that it ended up lying dormant within her until yet another tragic incident that happened practically a decade later.  When Carrie freaked out at this incident, her female peers immediately scarred her with their taunting and brutal jeers full of scorn and laughter.  This situation called forth the telekinetic powers once again.  However, I believe that she didn't fully understand them and therefore didn't know how to own them and use them properly.  With only the gym teacher to console her, she went home early. 
Carrie's many horrible experiences not only consisted of her peer's torture, but they also include the dreaded closet located in her very own home.  This bleak closet was supposed to help her think about her sins while God looked upon her with righteous scorn with only her waste and tears to accompany her.  Her mother once put her in this nightmarish reality for over 24 hours.  The enduring psychological pain that Carrie felt undoubtedly seeped deeper than most would think.  
After the newest incident in which her telekinetic powers reawakened, as previously described above, only Sue Snell felt remorse for her detrimental bullying towards Carrie.  With her regretful feelings weighing her down, Sue told her boyfriend to take Carrie to the soon approaching prom.  Her boyfriend surprisingly accepted her request and wish for atonement, bringing Carrie to an experience that changed the lives of hundreds forever.  
The change in Carrie that took place after she found out that the most popular boy at school wanted to go to their final high school dance with her instead of Sue was shocking.  She practically turned into a different person from then on.  At the prom, Carrie was a much happier, lightened individual who looked beautiful, instead of awkward, with beautiful people also surrounding her.  However, this dance was not meant to be "beautiful".  One final prank on Carrie during her prom results in an unexpected backlash that no one ever expected.  Unbeknownst to many, Carrie had been practicing her special abilities, abilities that could end them all, along with their town.  
"Carrie" was written in various increments of sworn testimonies in court by the survivors of Carrie's final outburst, book excerpts written about what Carrie did, and newspaper clippings after Carrie's backlash.  These all were all accompanied by what Carrie was doing with her as the main perspective in the writing, as well as other characters (like Ms. Snell).  Surprisingly, it was a rather short novel.
I don't know what I really expected from this book, but I was pretty happy with Stephen King.  He managed to write an equally frightening novel as well as a testimony of the human tendency to hurt others without a second thought or final consequences.  While I enjoyed and was surprised by the different characteristics that Carrie took on throughout this book, I was also saddened by all of the loss that was depicted in the novel.  I felt as though Carrie went way too far, but of course, this added an element of loss that was essential to the novel.  I didn't think that I would be squirming while reading this novel, but there were parts that I was surprisingly grossed out by.  
My favorite parts of "Carrie" were when we got to see her past as well as her mother's past, a definite welcome among the prominent high school scene.  The world that King  created to surround Carrie with, meaning the devout religious mother, was the element that really piqued my interest.  I think that this was what truly drew me into the story.  The pace was just right, too.  The only thing that I disliked, or favored the least, was how the last increment of "Part 2: Prom Night" was written.  It went back and forth from various bystanders' accounts (who witnessed Carrie's actions) and prom goers and then to Carrie's exact same account in a slightly different way.  Don't let this discourage you, though.  "Carrie" was a great horror read that left me with many thoughts at the end.  It was full of intricate accounts that enriched the novel to the heart of the story.  The results of persecution will be looked at twice after reading this.  "Carrie," a compelling story, built up and ended with great big BANG! I'm starting to see why King is frequently described as the "master of storytelling".

The Whatnot (The Peculiar #2) by Stefan Bachmann

This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Pages: 368
Publishing Date of Book: September 2013
Stars: (5/5)

"A tower of blood," she sang to a wavering, sliding tune.  "A tower of blood and a tower of bone.  A tower of ash and a tower of stone.  Who's at the top of them, who's in the dark?  Who climbs the stairs without leaving a mark?"

Stefan Bachmann did it again!  He created an extremely intriguing and fantastical world that kept me glued to my seat for days.  Not only did I get to fall in love with his old characters again from the first book in The Peculiar series, but I also had the opportunity to fall in love and became attached to new ones.  By introducing fresh people, he brought together an even greater story.  (However, I did wish that I could have heard from Mr. Jelliby a tad bit more.)  Full of magic, fantasy, and a great plot, this book created a fabulous experience that included what it means to hope and persevere for what you love and believe in.  I was extremely pleased with this installment and have decided that I enjoyed it just the same, if not more, than the first book, "The Peculiar".  The ending was quite satisfying with, what I considered to be, a happy and content closing.  (I love this series so much that I wish another book would be written!)

The Story's Plot:
Years after Bartholomew's sister, Hettie, became stuck in the Old Country, a quick trip to a prison on his never ending journey to find her reveals a young street boy named Pikey who claims to have seen his missing sister.  Touched with his faery eye, Pikey has glimpsed this changeling girl but for only short periods of time.  Desperate to escape his miserable cell, he tells Bartholomew that he can see her again.  This promise gets him a chance at freedom, that is if he can still tell Bartholomew about his visions with his branch haired sister.  The only problem is that he cannot necessarily see her when he wants to.  It's sudden and unexpected.  However, this does not stop Pikey from telling him that he can do as he's asked.  

Hettie, while being stuck in the Old Country, is continually trying to survive in a strange and horrid land.  Suddenly and against her will, Hettie is taken in by the persistent Piscaltine, a strange woman who claims she just wants a friend.  Hettie goes on an incredible journey to try to find her inner strength and beauty, even though she is surrounded by faeries who call her ugly, stupid, and useless.

Consistently switching between Hettie's side of the story and Pikey and Bartholomew's, we get an equal part of adventure and suspense between all the characters.  The two boys try so hard to find a door into the Old Country between the lies and and deceit, troubles and worries, and Hettie attempts to believe in her brother who promised to rescue her, and she hopes to find a way out of the Old Country.

I strongly advise anyone who read the first book to finish the series.  You will not be disappointed!

"Why d'you believe the bad things?  I don't care if you hate me and if you leave me behind, but you can't GIVE UP!"

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The Peculiar (The Peculiar #1) by Stefan Bachmann

This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Publishing Date of Book: September 2012
Pages: 376
Stars: (5/5)

He didn't care if the faeries hated him, or the people feared him.  He was stronger than them.

In a different kind of world where people and faeries collide, magic is waiting to happen. It is here that Bartholomew Kettle, a Peculiar, lives in the faery slums.  Like any other Peculiar, he is looked down upon and shunned.  His life is formed by following the most important rule he knows: Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.  While his life has not been easy, he still holds on.  Residing in an apartment with his mother and younger Peculiar sister, Hettie, he hopes to find the one thing he believes he can never have: a friend.  When he sees the only boy he can call a companion, his neighbor who lives across the street, taken by a woman in plum, his life spins out of control.  He has not only witnessed a kidnapping, but he has also been seen by the same woman in plum.  Soon his sister is taken away from him and his mother.  It is now up to him to find her.  With the help of Arthur Jelliby, a man who wishes to go unseen as well, they set out into a dangerous world that may just fall apart at the seams.  Will they find Hettie?  Is it possible that they will find out why so many Peculiars are being taken and murdered?  Can they put a stop to the mysterious and evil Mr. Lickerish who plays apart in all of this? Find all this out and more in the wonderful book, Peculiar, by Stefan Bachmann!
I have to say that this book was beautifully written.  Bachmann created a vivid and vibrant place that added a special element that no other book has.  The eerie and creepy feel to The Peculiar naturally drew me in along with the imaginative and colorful characters.  I am happy to say that I have never read a book quite like this one!  Now I just have to get my hands on the second installment!

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