Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Revenge by Mark Young

When a trained killer threatens ex-cop Travis Mays - and those Travis loves -he finds a skilled adversary and an unexpected fight.

After a high stakes gamble ends in personal tragedy, Travis walks away from years of training and a highly successful law enforcement career. Determined never to look back, he starts a new life and a new career, teaching criminology at the university and building a cabin in the idyllic Idaho Mountains. He hires a beautiful river guide, Jessie White Eagle from the Nez Perce tribe, to guide him safely down the Lochsa. The turbulence of the whitewater, however, is just the beginning of his troubles. Travis finds himself in the crosshairs of a killer - calling himself Creasy - bent on revenge.

This fast-paced thriller takes readers on a wild ride down Idaho’s whitewater rivers, along the historic Lolo Trails once tread by the Nez Perce nation, and onto the city streets of California. Tighten your helmet. This ride never stops until the last shot is fired and the final body falls.

Just when you thought you figured it all out, you’re thrown for a twist. 
Revenge follows ex-detective, Travis May. As bodies keep piling up the clues all seem to point to the case that caused Travis to leave the force. As they rush to figure out who the killer is, Travis is faced with the ghosts of his past. 
I loved this story from the beginning. First off, I love a good mystery and Revenge delivered on that. Even though I thought I had it all figured out, the author threw a curve ball in the end and added a completely different layer that I did not see coming. I had to read the sentence a few times to confirm that my eyes were not playing tricks on me. 
Secondly, Revenge is one of the few self-published novels that I found refreshing to read. Sometimes, self-published books are littered with mistakes and continuity errors - possibly due to lack of proper editing - however, Revenge read as though it had a good editor. I did notice two things, but they were so minor I got past them without being pulled out of the narrative. 
Finally, I enjoyed the way the narrative moved from one point of view to the next. You got to see the killer’s moves without revealing too much for you to know who the killer is, at least until it was necessary. 

[review of copy from author]

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Between by Jessica Warman

Elizabeth Valchar — pretty, popular, and rich — wakes up the morning after her eighteenth birthday on the yacht where she’d been celebrating with her closest friends. A persistent thumping noise has roused her. When she goes to investigate, she finds her own drowned body is hitting the side of the boat. Liz is dead.

She has no memory of what happened to her, and can only observe in horror the fallout of her death. She’s also soon joined by Alex Berg, a quiet boy from her high school who was killed by a hit-and-run driver. The two keep each other company, floating in and out of memories and trying to piece together the details of what happened to each of them.

In her regular life, Liz was a runner. It wasn’t abnormal for her to run 8-10 miles per day. But as memories from closer to her death begin to surface, Liz finds that she’d been running much more than normal, and that she’d all but stopped eating. Liz’s mother, who died when Liz was nine, had battled with anorexia as well, and those around her worried Liz was following in her mother’s footsteps. But something more sinister was consuming Liz from the inside out.

When I received this book at BEA, I first thought it was another book - I’m not sure why, it was a long day - so when I brought it home and read the back of it and realised that it wasn’t a fantasy novel I was a bit cautious. While I step outside of fantasy novels every once in awhile, it’s mostly on recommendations or because I’ve heard great buzz about it, so going with no buzz and no expectation I started to read Between.

I was blown away.

Jessica Warman spins the tale of a high schooler named Elizabeth. Liz is pretty, rich, popular, dating a popular boy at school and at the top of the high school social food chain. Liz is a runner. Liz has a secret. Liz is dead.

When Liz awakes to her death she finds that she cannot remember the events leading up to her body being found face down in the water near her parent’s boat. 

The biggest thing that struck me about Between was how much I disliked Liz. Yet, I still wanted to hear what she had to say; this is a balance that I don’t often find in books where I dislike the protagonist. Jessica Warman kept the mystery alive long enough to see past Liz’s superficialness and realise that she was a living and hurting teenager just like the people she tormented in her life. Joining her in her death is Alex, a boy from her school who died the year before. In her life she would never be caught dead with him - death is indeed the great equalizer.

As their time together unfolds, Jessica paints a portrait of the life of Alex and Liz through Liz’s eyes. After a point I started to like Liz as a character. She is more complex than we are initially lead to believe and these complexities all tie into the path that leads to her death.

The more I read, the faster I wanted to get to the resolution, while, at the same time, not wanting it to end. The writing is gripping, and as the mystery slowly unraveled, the depth of the players are revealed as well. Yes, you might be able to figure it out before the big reveal, but it was the character development and the emotions that came bursting through the pages that was the most fascinating part of this novel. I could almost close my eyes and see high school again.

Once the story was over and the book was closed I still carried the characters around in my head. It shook me a bit, how easily life can be taken away, how delicate a world we live in and how much the things we think matter don’t matter at all when we die. Sobering, Between is a must-read.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

 Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

Spellbound has quite a few good traits. The protagonist is witty and lovable. There is no love triangle (whew!). The paranormal aspects are intriguing (strange dreams of past lives and supernatural warnings? Oh my!) but there was something distracting about the narration. 
There were times that I felt as though Emma was just giving me a list of the things she did and then what she did next. There were also times where she spun the tale so tightly that I couldn’t help but admire the characters on the pages as opposed to parsing through the words. 
The conflict of the story felt a little forced and I kept wondering, why they characters were acting the way they were. Perhaps it’s their life of privilege but there had to be some other reason for their behavior, however, I seemed to have missed that reason. 
There were times when I loved Brendan (the love interest) and times that he felt overbearing and to me. I understand that this might be due to the circumstances surrounding his relationship with Emma, but sometimes it felt stifling. There wasn’t subtly to the sweetness, but it was super sweet and this doesn’t work for my particular taste. 
The resolution left me feeling a little confused. Perhaps this will be taken up in another story, but it felt as though one of the antagonists disappeared in the end, lost in the narrative. However, I enjoyed the little extra from Angelique’s point of view and would be curious to see how Cara Lynn Shultz explores this character and that story.

[copy for review from netgalley]

Monday, June 6, 2011

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

Evelyn was abandoned at birth and was shuffled through the foster system until she ran into an agency that keeps paranormals off the street. Now, using her unique gift for seeing past glamours, she works for the agency to keep humans safe. 
If I said, “I love Paranormalcy” and left it that way, would that be enough? Maybe, but I have to count the ways.
Evie is a great protagonist. Her voice is spunky and her feelings for the people in her life spills out through the pages. She’s not the typical tough girl hero and her quest to live a normal life - or as normal as she imagines - is very endearing. 
The story unfolds rather quickly as Evie tries to learn about who she is, between the detaining of Vampires and Werewolves and the fighting to stay alive. There was a little lag as the romance aspect was being built, but the story itself was still there, keeping me interested enough to turn the pages until I found out what was going on. I’m looking forward to the continuation of the story in Supernaturally.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bone Dressing by Michelle I. Brooks

TIME IS RUNNING OUT … THE DARK THAT’S BEEN CHASING SYD FOR MANY LIFETIMES HAS FINALLY CAUGHT UP WITH HER … Sydney Roberdeau lost her parents as a young girl. Waiting for her life to start and the freedom that will come with her eighteenth birthday, Syd spends much of her time haunting the local cemetery. It is there, stretched out among the dead, that she feels most alive, most at home. Until one rainy night when Beau, Sarah and T.J. crash her ghostly sanctuary, appearing out of nowhere, turning her already inside-out world one degree past upside down. Syd must now revisit past lives, dressing in the bodies of her previous selves … bone dressing. Her only chance to outrun the evil breathing down her neck is to face her own worst nightmares and her strongest desires. But if she can’t stay out of trouble in this life, how can she possibly fix mistakes from past lives? And just how many lives has she lived, loved and lost? What is Syd exactly, and what will she risk for the life of a man she doesn’t remember, the man she spent a lifetime with, the man she loves? Everything … including her very own life? Bone Dressing, the first in a series of seven books, will carry Syd and Beau on an adventure that transcends life itself.

Sydney has a history that she’s not aware of, but it finds her in the middle of the night on her parent’s grave.  
Bone Dressing has the makings of a good novel - the story is intriguing, the characters are likable and the villain is evil. However, there are a few hiccups. 
Firstly, the protagonist. For fear of giving away the plot I will be a little vague, but, there were times where I found myself wishing Sydney would keep quiet and move on. She is a very wordy story teller, throwing metaphors at the turn of every page and over explaining situations. Her emotions overflows as she spends half a page confessing her feelings to a stranger as impending doom sits and waits for her finish speaking before pouncing. 
I loved Syd more when she was not-quite-Syd and this was actually a good thing because it shows the development of a different character through the protagonist — while the two may be one person they are different people (yes, I get that it’s cryptic, but I fear I’m saying too much already!) 
Secondly, there were quite a few paranormal elements and I was left a little confused as to what was really happening in the end, however, as this is the first of a series I do believe that all of these elements that were presented would be resolved in one way or another. 
Lastly, I really was not sold on Beau - the love interest. Initially he didn’t intrigue me, however, towards the end I did find myself wondering what his story was. I might even enjoy reading a story from Beau’s point of view. 
Looking past these issues, the story itself was intriguing and fast paced. I’m keeping my eye on this to see how it unfolds. 
[Review based on copy from author. ]