Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Review: End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days #3) by Susan Ee

Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Skyscape
Source: Library
Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter

End of Days is the explosive conclusion to Susan Ee’s bestselling Penryn & the End of Days trilogy.
After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.
When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

I tried to wait for the crushing disappointment to dissipate a bit before writing this review, so at least you won't have to listen to me rant like a lunatic. Much.

Was this a bad book? Ehhhhhhh.
It just wasn't anything like what I expecting.

Ok,  my biggest problem with this was that literally NONE of the questions I had were answered. 
So if you go into End of Days thinking that you're going to find out about the origin of the angles, who/what they really are, and whether or not they're really talking to God? Have they been duped by some huge conspiracy? How about Penryn's mom? Did she have some prior contact with angels in the past that somehow drove her mad? Is that how she knows about the rotten eggs? Was she maybe not as crazy as we all thought? Why did the sword allow Penryn to pick it up? Was there something more to her? Why is Paige so different from everyone else that they experimented on? 
Forget it. You'll get hints of half-answers. Nothing else.
If anything, you'll have more questions when this is over. And a big reason that I was so friggin excited to get my hands on this, was that I (mistakenly) believed that between the pages of this little novel, I'd be rewarded for my dedication to this trilogy.
No rewards for Anne! *sobs*

Well, if nothing else, Raffe is back for the majority of the book.

And at least the romance was well done, right?
Bzzzzt! Wrong!
I can only describe the romance & subsequent make-out sessions as grody to the max.
What? Do kids these days not say that anymore?
Fine. Then I found everything about those two disturbing in this book. See, once again, I assumed that this book was going to somehow fix things. You know, made the ginormous thousand year age gap acceptable in some way. Or maybe one of them becomes mortal or immortal...something!
Alas, no. Get used to disappointment, kids.
But (maybe) worse than that was the awkwardly creepy love scenes.

I could have lived my whole life without reading about those two grinding while he flies her around searching for Hellions. 
Dry humping? Really?!
Maybe I've been out of the 'clothes on' game too long, but when the hell did dry humping make a comeback? I mean, come on!

And I really could have gone without the scene where she puts his hand on her boob while he's sleeping next to her.
Unacceptable Creeper Behavior! Swerve to avoid!
Was that supposed to be ok simply because she's a girl? It's not! It's not ok! How are we supposed to teach our boys that this is the kind of thing that will land your ass in jail, if there's some weird double standard for girls? How well would that scene have played out in anyone's head if she had woken up to find him using her hand to rub his junk?

Alright. Whatever. Maybe I'm one of the few people who didn't lurve the end of this trilogy.
Other than the gripes I already talked about, the last thing is that I never really got into this story the way I did the other two books. It may have been because I kept waiting for answers to happen. And without those, this book fell really flat for me.
But. It's not a horribly written novel. I finished it in a day, and while I wasn't in love with anything about it, I can't honestly say that it was The Worst Book Evah, either.
It was (for me) a middle-of-the-road kind of story, with an ending that felt rushed and unfinished.

Monday, June 29, 2015

[Shades of Treason Tour] Interview & #Giveaway with Sandy Williams!

Cat: First, I have to say how excited I am for Shades of Treason! The cover is eye-catching, the synopsis sounds intense, and the heroine seems like a badass. I can't wait to read it!

Sandy: I’m so happy to hear the cover caught your eye! One of my big fears with self publishing this was that I wouldn’t find a cover that looked New York quality—I am so not a visual person—but I love the cover and have gotten a lot of compliments on it. Yay!

Cat: I was delighted to hear that your next novel would be a Science Fiction Romance! Have you always been a sci-fi fan or is this something new to you? 

Sandy: I read science fiction before I read urban fantasy and romance. It all started in 6th grade when I ran out of books to read and had to sneak into my brother’s room to steal something. That book was Timothy Zahn’s HEIR TO THE EMPIRE, and that was my gateway book into science fiction. It wasn’t until later, though, that I realized I needed a strong romance as well as a strong, kickass plot to enjoy a book. Linnea Sinclair and Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax books hooked me on SFR, and I keep looking for more books that are like theirs.  And because I love that breakdown of plot and romance, I of course had to write my own. =)

Cat: What can you tell us about Lieutenant Ramie Ashdyn that we wouldn't know from reading the synopsis? 

Sandy: She’s pretty much the opposite of McKenzie from my Shadow Reader books. She’s confident and she kicks ass. (i.e. if this was fantasy and not SF, she would totally know how to use that sword McKenzie keeps holding on the book covers. =) ) She’s also flirtatious, especially when it comes to her former instructor. She gets a kick out of getting under his skin. 

She’s also very, very tough. She grew up on a planet called Glory, which is basically a hellhole. It’s noteworthy that she survived the streets of that planet without losing her soul or being killed by one of the crime bosses. She’s a survivor, and even though her situation in Shades of Treason seems impossible to overcome, she won’t give up. I love that about her.

Cat: Why did you decide to self-publish this series? 

Sandy: Short answer: I was unwilling to give up all my rights for forever to a traditional publisher.
Longer answer: I think I can find my readers better than a traditional publisher can. Sci-fi romance is a pretty niche genre, and I’m not entirely sure a traditional publisher would know how to find readers who might enjoy the Anomaly novels. And quite honestly, I’m not sure a traditional publisher would want to try to find the audience. What I mean by that is that, because this is a relatively small subgenre, it might not be “commercial” enough for a publisher to take a risk on. Not unless the genre suddenly explodes (which would be AWESOME).  And there are a lot of other little reasons, but those are the main ones.

Cat: What heroines (from novels, movies, or real life) have been influential to you?

Sandy: This is a tough question because I don’t feel like I’ve drawn on any heroines from movies or books. I’m sure I’ve subconsciously drawn on some, but for the most part, I write about women who I’d like to be like. McKenzie from the Shadow Reader books was an extremely normal person, but she happened to have a special power and to be brave and loyal. I love those two qualities. I wish I was brave, but alas, I’m not. 
My admiration of Ash is the same. She’s strong, independent, and probably most importantly, confident. Confident in her abilities, her appearance, her decisions. I’m the complete opposite, so yep, I wish I was like her.

Cat: With your busy writing schedule, do you still find time to read? What novels have you read this year that you would recommend?

Sandy: I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like, but I have started to set time aside each day to read. I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately for some reason, but I did recently read The Martian, and you guys, that book is phenomenal. It’s about an astronaut who is stranded on Mars and has to find a way to survive using his brain. That’s such a dry summary, though. I don’t know how to explain how awesome it was. It’s in my top 10 books of all time, and the whole time I was reading it, I felt like I was on the edge of my seat watching the movie, Apollo 13, but with a different plot. 
That still doesn’t do the book justice, so let me just issue a challenge. Hop on over to Amazon or B&N or your retailer of choice and download the sample. I was hooked within two pages. I bet you will be, too. If you are, and you do read it, let me know. We can join the Mark Whatney fan club together. =)

Cat: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions!

Sandy: Thank you so much for having me!

Sandy Williams has lived and breathed books all her life. When she was a teen, she was always the first to finish her class assignments so that she could read as much as possible before the bell rang. Her grades didn't suffer (much), and she was able to enroll in Texas A&M University. She didn't sneak in novels there, but her college lecture notes are filled with snippets of stories. After she graduated, she decided to turn those snippets into novels. Sandy writes books with high-octane action adventure infused with a strong romantic element. She is best known for The Shadow Reader novels, an urban fantasy romance series about a human who can both see and track the fae. When she’s not reading or corralling her twin boys, she enjoys playing EuroGames like Dominion, 7 Wonders, and Agricola.

Ash would have given her life to save her teammates.
Instead, they gave their lives to save hers.

Lieutenant Ramie Ashdyn is an anomaly, a person whose genetic makeup makes her stronger and smarter than the average human. She’s pledged her life to protect the Coalition, an alliance of thirteen planetary systems, but when a top secret operation turns bloody, she’s charged with treason and the brutal executions of her teammates.

The Coalition needs the information Ash’s team stole on their last mission, so they send in Commander Rhys “Rest in Peace” Rykus to get it. He’s the man who’s responsible for turning Ash into an elite soldier... and he’s a man who isn’t, never was, and never will be in love with the woman he trained. Or so he tells himself.

Ash wants nothing more than to clear her name and be the woman her former instructor wants her to be, but the enemy who killed her teammates did more than frame her for treason and murder: they telepathically silenced her mind, preventing her from saying anything that might point to the truth about what happened.

Now Ash is trapped and set to be executed, the truth dying with her. Unless she can prove her innocence. But taking that path could destroy the Coalition she’s sworn to preserve and protect...

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Twisted (Tangled #2) by Emma Chase

Release Date:
Source: Library
Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter

There are two kinds of people in the world. The ones who look first, and the ones who leap. I’ve always been more of a looker. Cautious. A planner. That changed after I met Drew Evans. He was so persistent. So sure of himself – and of me.
But not all love stories end happily ever after. Did you think Drew and I were going to ride off into the sunset? Join the club. Now I have to make a choice, the most important of my life. Drew already made his –in fact, he tried to decide for the both of us. But you know that’s just not my style. So I came back to Greenville. Alone. Well, sort of alone....
What I've come to realize is that old habits die hard and sometimes you have to go back to where you began, before you can move ahead.
TWISTED picks up two years after Tangled’s end, and is told from Kate’s POV.

Did you like Tangled
Well, if you thought Drew's voice was hilarious, and can't wait to read more from him about his relationship with Kate?
Go somewhere else.
Yeah, this whole book (other than a little epilogue thingy) is told from Kate's point of view. And while I love Kate, she's just not as funny. So, no, this book does not have the same kind vibe as Tangled. I'm not saying that to keep you from reading Twisted, I just want to warn you to get your expectations in check. It's still a good romance, it's just different.

It's a fairly compact story that starts a few years after the first book left Drew & Kate with their HEA. I liked it, but there were a few issues I had with some parts of the plot.  
Ugh. This one is difficult to review with giving spoilers, but (basically) after a huge misunderstanding, Drew screws up. 
The entire thing was such a fairly obvious mix-up, and you'll kind of roll your eyes at the ridiculous 'snowball into nonsense' that ends their relationship. Honestly, if either of them had attempted to talk about what was happening, the story would've been over in 50 pages.

Him: You mean I didn't see what I thought I saw?!
Her: No, it was something else entirely
Him: So you love me?
Her: Yes! And as an added bonus...

It's annoying when there's an easy answer just staring a couple in the face, but they're collectively too idiotic to open a line of communication. But I get it, there has to be something to shake things up, and in this case it was the old Jumping To Conclusions problem.
Still. I'd like it to be a little less contrived.

The pace of the book bumped along nicely, and it didn't drag out the inevitable facepalm that Drew had coming to him...for too long. And Chase seems to be the kind of author who can get away with plot holes, because her writing is so friggin' bouncy and fun! Damn you, Emma Chase!
*shakes fist*
I mean, even with all my eye-rolling, I reallyreallyreally enjoyed reading this. Unbelievable!
Part of the reason I liked it so much, I think, was because Kate's friends and her mother played such a large role in the story. I loved that her ex (from the last book) really redeemed himself, and helped her out so unselfishly. Her mom was awesome, and it was nice to get to know her in this story. It's so nice to see family & friends portrayed as a group that has your back! You know, instead of the usually passive/aggressive relationships I normally find myself reading about in chick-lit.

Ok. So, yes, this was a fun romance, but don't expect the same thing as before. It's not as good as the first book, and the humor (while there) just isn't as funny. I'd still recommend it, though!

Monday, June 22, 2015

[Coffee Shop Talks] Talked About Books I Will Probably Never Read!

Books Everyone is Talking About That I Will Probably Never Read!

I know many readers are excited for Richelle Mead's upcoming release, Soundless. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this new novel ever since the cover was revealed. Personally, I've been disappointed by Mead enough times now so I am one of the few who will be avoiding this story.

Are there any books that everyone is talking about that you will never read?


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Release Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Library
Author Links: Goodreads
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...
In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.
Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.
As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

This one was a very low 3 stars for me. I probably would have rated less than 3, but I didn't think it would be fair to the book, because it wasn't badly written.
But I was so BORED the entire time I was reading. I kept waiting for whatever awesomeness was supposed to happen that made (seemingly) every other reviewer fall in love with it.
It never happened for me.

I didn't hate the characters, but I never fell in love with the idea of Isra & Gem together. Part of that reason may have been because of the image that got stuck in my mind of his physical description.
Gem was described as this lizard-like creature. Now, I'm not sure what the author intended, but I kept picturing some scaly Creature from the Black Lagoon. Only with sharp, pointy teeth.

It just ruined any chance that I could get behind the kissing scenes. I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I know that it's wrong of me to judge a character on their looks. Especially in a Beauty and the Beast retelling!
I feel so ashamed, but I couldn't help it. It grossed me out, and I couldn't get past it. I'm thinking I would have been fine if they hadn't done all the sexytime stuff.
*internally screaming*
THE TEETH!  Watch the TEETH, Isra!

Ok, obviously, a lot of readers weren't bothered by this, which probably means I'm even more shallow than I originally thought. Which is sad! I mean, if my husband had scaly skin & shark teeth...
I'd really miss him.
Now, while I did think this was a really different and interesting take on Beauty & the Beast, the plot seemed to drag too much for me to find it truly interesting. However, it does have an incredible backstory & setting, with this cool sci-fi/fantasy feel to it.
So, while it wasn't perfect for me, it might be perfect for you.

Monday, June 15, 2015

[Coffee Shop Talks] HBO's Book to TV Series - How Do They Stack Up?

**UPDATE** I had this post written out yesterday evening before watching Game of Thrones. I would just like to say..WHAT THE HELL?!?!? WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS TO US?!? They are seriously testing my loyalty as a fan!!!!!

I don't watch as much TV as I used to years ago, but when I do, I'm always seeing what's on HBO. I'm a big fan of several of their series. Game of Thrones, True Detective, The Leftovers, and Veep are the ones I'm currently following and I LOVE Vice, Real Time With Bill Maher, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. 

I was a faithful follower of HBO's True Blood and I loved Season 1. I continued to follow because there were certain elements of the story that I liked, but overall it did not come anywhere close to being as good as the books. And I don't say this because the TV series didn't follow the same storyline as the novels. I just didn't fall in love with the world and the characters in the same way that I did when I read the Sookie Stackhouse series.

I'm a huge Game of Thrones fan and I think it's one of the best TV series ever created. This has to be the only series I will ever watch that is able to keep my devotion as a hardcore fan even after my favorite characters are killed off. At this point in the show I'm crazy about Arya, Jon, Tyrion, and Daenerys. If one of them were to die, I would be pissed, but I still wouldn't quit this show. That being said, I have only read the first half of A Game of Thrones. Honestly, it's a lot to tackle. Sure, there are only 5 books so far, but that's nearly 5,000 pages. They're massive. Also, I'm not really interested in knowing what will happen to the characters or what should have happened to them that didn't. Not yet anyways.

I like The Leftovers...but I don't really know why I like The Leftovers. It was often irritating because during the entire season you don't really know what's going on. Maybe that mystery is part of the appeal, but it still drove me crazy at times. The other appealing aspect of this show is obviously Justin Theroux. Great eye candy. I do plan on reading Tom Perrotta's "The Leftovers" to see how it compares, but I want to wait and see where Season 2 goes first.

Do you follow any of these series and have you read the books? 
How do you think they compare?


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review: Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Release date: June 2, 2015
Published by: Dutton
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Author links: SiteTwitter | Facebook

On a dark Kentucky night in 1952 exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don’t go near Baines, not since Joseph Carl was buried two decades before, but, armed with a silver-handled flashlight, Annie runs through her family’s lavender fields toward the well on the Baines’ place. At the stroke of midnight, she gazes into the water in search of her future. Not finding what she had hoped for, she turns from the well and when the body she sees there in the moonlight is discovered come morning, Annie will have much to explain and a past to account for.
It was 1936, and there were seven Baine boys. That year, Annie’s aunt, Juna Crowley, with her black eyes and her long blond hair, came of age. Before Juna, Joseph Carl had been the best of all the Baine brothers. But then he looked into Juna’s eyes and they made him do things that cost innocent people their lives. Sheriff Irlene Fulkerson saw justice served—or did she?
As the lavender harvest approaches and she comes of age as Aunt Juna did in her own time, Annie’s dread mounts. Juna will come home now, to finish what she started. If Annie is to save herself, her family, and this small Kentucky town, she must prepare for Juna’s return, and the revelation of what really happened all those years ago.

Let Me Die in His Footsteps is a gripping Southern Gothic mystery about family curses, long-buried secrets, and how one young girl is affected when the past comes back to haunt her.

When this novel arrived on my doorstep, I wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't heard of author Lori Roy and judging by the cover alone, I assumed that Let Me Die in His Footsteps would be filled with romance and angst. What I discovered is that young love is one of the themes of this story, but it isn't executed in a way that I would describe as romantic. The overall tone is dark and foreboding and the relationships are flawed and complicated in a fascinating way. 

The story alternates in time and points of view. It begins in 1952 with Annie Holleran and travels back to 1936 with Annie's mother Sarah and her Aunt Juna. I enjoyed these shifts throughout the story and how they slowly revealed how Juna became a name to be feared and the reasons for the feud between the Baine and Holleran families.

In the beginning, I thought this story may have a supernatural element. It's mentioned that the Holleran women possess the "know-how", a second sight that is passed down from mother to daughter. There also seemed to be something "other" in the way that Juna is described with her evil black eyes and the fear she instilled in everyone. But I wouldn't place this story anywhere in the fantasy category and if you're looking for something paranormal, this isn't it. 

Let Me Die in His Footsteps is a wonderfully-written mystery with compelling and complex characters. The storyline keeps a steady pace and the mystery leaves you in suspense. It's a delightfully dark tale of love and loss and secrets and superstitions. I highly recommend it.