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Blog Tour, Teasers, Giveaway and Review: Amber Sky

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AMBER SKY is the first prequel novella preceding the adventurous steampunk horror tale CRIMSON SKY, and tells the story of Nash before he joined the Dauntless Wanderer when his only means of survival was to fight to the death, and how he was forced to make a choice that would change his life forever…

Buy it here: Kindle | Kobo | iTunes | Smashwords | Goodreads

Press-ganged into servitude by a ruthless band of marauders who survived the devastating Storm, Nash has grown tired of his career– the young, undefeated champion of the Stray Dog fighting pits. All he longs for is a place to live where his family is not his enemy.

When his captain gives him an assignment to embed him deeper into the crew, Nash attempts to refuse, until the life of his friend is threatened. Determined to save her, Nash embarks on the mission to subjugate and control a supplier. But the supplier has other clients, one of which could be the son of the most feared pirate captain in all of Westraven.

And if Nash plays his cards right, the key to his deeply desired freedom, if he can live with the consequences of his choice…

Set two years before the events of CRIMSON SKY, this prequel novella tells the story of how Nash and Sawyer crossed paths– and fists. While best enjoyed before reading CRIMSON SKY, this bonus story can be read at any time or enjoyed as a standalone.

About the Author:

Amy is a Canadian urban fantasy and horror author. Her work revolves around monsters, magic, mythology, and mayhem. She started writing in her early teens, and never stopped. She loves building unique worlds filled with fun characters and intense action. She is the recipient of April Moon Books Editor Award for “author voice, world-building and general bad-assery,” and the One Book Two Standout Award in 2015 for her Cursed trilogy. She has been featured on various author blogs and publishing websites, and is an active member of the Writing GIAM and Weekend Writing Warrior communities. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, watching movies, taking photos, gaming, and struggling with chocoholism and ice cream addiction.

Her short stories published by independent houses like Mocha Memoirs Press and April Moon Books, and she has independently published a collection of standalone and series novels including Storm Born, Path of the Horseman, and the Cursed and Dark Sky series. Many of her short stories have been featured in anthologies such as Amok!, Avast, Ye Airships!, and That Hoodoo, Voodoo, That You Do, and Stomping Grounds.

Social Media Links

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

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HALLOWEEN THEMED GIVEAWAY!

Click above if you’re interested in being entered to win:  One Ebook of AMBER SKY, One Paperback Copy of THAT HOODOO, VOODOO, THAT YOU DO, and Swag!

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3Penguins
Quick Reasons: I agree, this should be read BEFORE Crimson Sky; love the glimpse into Nash’s past, and how his relationship with Sawyer was forged; the characters felt a bit stiff at times; this wasn’t quite as engaging a read as the full-length novels have been; a good dose of sass, a good amount of action

HUGE thanks to Amy Braun for sending me a copy of this novella free in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I feel…a bit let down by this novella, unfortunately. I’ve had the opportunity to read both full-length novels in this series so far, and LOVED them to pieces–but this one fell a bit flat, in my opinion. I feel like a big part of this falls on the storytelling and characterization–there is SO MUCH focus on getting this story told within such a short amount of time, I’m not sure the characters were allowed to show their true colors completely. Having read the rest of this series, I’ve grown to know and adore these characters as older versions…and I didn’t see much of those men in this novella. They aren’t as well-rounded.

I did, however, appreciate the backstory that this novella provides. We were given a glimpse at these characters from BEFORE–and that’s not often something readers get the chance to see. I especially enjoy that we see more of Nash–while he’s just as integral a part of the later series as the rest of the crew, I feel he sometimes slips off to the sidelines to observe. We were put right into his head for this read, and I loved that shift in perspective–the chance to see Nash in his element, instead of through someone else’s eyes.

The action is decently written, though not as high-stakes or fast-paced as the books later down the line. While there are several battle scenes, I didn’t feel as emotionally connected during them as I thought I would I missed the nail-biting anticipation of the other books in the series. I feel like something important was missing in this read, overall–I have a feeling it might be the rest of the crew, all the characters I’ve so grown attached to in the future journey.

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This was, overall, a quick and entertaining read. There are some noteworthy snark moments, particularly from Sawyer (still love Sawyer, guys; I’m obsessed!). The battle scenes were engaging, though not necessarily as emotionally-driven for me as a reader. I appreciated a glimpse at this world from a new set of eyes…but in the end, I’m not sure I really NEEDED this book in my life. Still, it’s a fast-paced, swashbuckling tale of vampires and pirates (er…mostly sans vampires)–and I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here! I definitely recommend to lovers of prequel novellas, backstories, and ruthless daring in the face of life and death. Amy Braun, you know how to keep a reader on her toes–I can’t wait to see what you do next!

3

Damned If I Do: This Vampire is Fighting for LIFE, not Death

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Damned if I Do (The Harker Trilogy #1)

The Harker Trilogy #1
250 Pages
Paranormal/Fantasy/Romance
Publication Date: September 14th, 2015
Get a copy here!

They killed my sister and infected me.

Now I have to pick up the pieces before I die.

I’ve spent the last five months trying to find the bastard who did this. Yet, even with the help of a hot amnesiac vampire named Jude, I’ve had zero luck.

Until now. And it could change everything. Even though I grew up in a family that hunted the supernatural, there were still things I didn’t believe in.

Now I have to hurry for the slim chance that I could save us all. Because when you fight against immortal vampires, you’re the one who’s running out of time.

3.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: forbidden love; vampire lore with an interesting and unique twist; a vampire and a witch walk into a bar…and blow the roof off; well-developed, snarky characters; the relationships built upon and portrayed throughout are gold; loads of action and fight scenes; this will leave readers hungry for more

Huge thanks to Erin Hayes and Giselle @ Xpresso Book Tours for granting me access to this title free in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I need to start this review off with an apology, dear penguins. I am a terrible, terrible book reviewer. See, I read this book on the plane ride home from my vacation. On the 15th. You know, several weeks ago? And then I got off the plane…and promptly forgot that I had a review to write at all. I guess I should have written myself a note on the cocktail napkin that came with my drink, or on my hand, or on my forehead… Something?! Regardless, I’m typing it up now–do you forgive me, penguins, for being such a basket case? I hope you do.

This book was equal parts “magical, snarky, stubborn witches”…and “blood-thirsty vampire.” There was an incredibly unique and inventive take on magic meets monster to this story that I became immediately engrossed by–no, really! I think it took all of one chapter for me to realize this was EXACTLY the type of book I love to fall into. I ADORE the world Erin Hayes built around her readers in this book–it was dark, full of action, and compelling. I was entertained from the very beginning–and hungry for more at the end. Seriously, I’m super glad I have the second novel in this series to dive into soon–I am dying to know what happens next!

The characters are well-rounded, snarky in all the right places, and realistic in their relationships/reactions. This read is FULL of drama, emotions, and broken personalities…and I adored every single minute of it. The love story is, while touching upon the cliched “forbidden” of mortal and the undead, both endearing and surprisingly steamy. I LOVE that this book is written in two perspectives, as well–it helped to fully immerse me in the story AND in the characters. There’s also an intriguing…twist, near the end, that caught me off guard. I’m not sure how that will come into play in the second novel, but it’s bound to be interesting!

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I had a TON of fun diving into this world of chaos, vampires, and magic–and I can’t wait to pick up the second book! I am sorry, though, that I forgot until tonight that I’d even finished this read; how dare I call myself a book reviewer?! Feel free to revoke my privileges, if you must…though I do hope you don’t. I recommend this read to lovers of vampires, forbidden romances (think akin to Twilight, sort of…), and a fight to the death (or, rather, a fight to NOT die). This is entertaining from start to finish; if you’re seeking a fun, quick read, perhaps you should consider this one!

3

Midnight Sky: I Refuse with that Ending. You Can’t Make Me!

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Midnight Sky (Dark Sky #2)

Dark Sky, Book 2
338 Pages
Expected Publication: August 2nd, 2016
Preorder a copy here!

There are secrets, there are betrayals, and there are sacrifices…

The Behemoth has been destroyed, and the bloodthirsty Hellions seem to have left Westraven. But Claire Abernathy’s mind is not at ease. A terrible disease plagues her sister, appearing to have been brought on the Vesper, the leader of the Hellions beyond the tear between worlds– the Breach.

To save Abby and stop the Hellions for good, Claire must find the machine her parents built before the attacks, and fix it before the monsters return. To do so, she needs the help of her crew, and must ignore the secrets and rivalries between her captain and the man she saved.

Because the Hellions are not the only dangers following Claire. Twisted humans and old enemies surface to stop her and destroy all she loves. While she is determined to endure the trials, a single betrayal could shatter the hope of a better world, and force Claire to make a choice that will cost her dearly…

4.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: OW, MY HEART! No, seriously, I’m pretty sure it just snapped into a trillion tiny pieces; once again, vampires versus pirates!; annoying love triangle used for plot; creeptastic characters and situation; THAT ENDING SHATTERED ME!; the idiot character stops being an idiot only to have the entire world fall to pieces

HUGE thanks to Amy Braun and Xpresso Book Tours for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my opinions of or read on this book.

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AND I SWEAR, THAT ENDING! I might look calm and collected on the outside, but guys, I am screeeeeeching so loud on the inside right now. I can’t even. I don’t want to. I just… NO. No, give me these cinnamon roll characters and let me hug them close and love them for the rest of forever and tell them everything will be juuuuust fine. Let me do that, won’t you?! Because I cannot even with that cliffhanger ending. I just can’t, and you can’t make me. I refuse.

Seriously though–this series? You NEED this series in your life. Let me just word-vomit a few things here to tell you why you need this series in your life, yes? Okay. Let’s see. Vampires. Pirates. Steampunk. Alternate worlds. Aliens. Vampire aliens. Steampunk pirates. The sweetest love of EVARRRRRR. Strong family connections. SO. MUCH. DRAMA. Action/adventure. …Is that good enough for you yet? No? Well then.

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These characters are sassy, stubborn, and strong-willed. They breathe life across every page. They seep beneath your skin and wrap themselves around your veins. You will be rooting for them before you even realize what’s happening–trust me, this is a thing! These characters are, in my opinion, EVERYTHING I could ever ask for in a book–and more. Of course, there was one character I was very disgruntled with at the end of book one…and for pretty much the entirety of this book…who FINALLY, FINALLY! saw the light and took his head out of his butt, only to have the entire world fall apart around him. Because booooooo, that happens. But YAY for other things that happened before the world blew up! (I know, I know, this literally makes no sense but…SPOILERS!)

And this story! THIS. STORY! It is action/adventure taken to extremes. There is, obviously, a love story happening. There is a love triangle that, sadly, was used to propel the plot further. There is jealousy, and drama, and angst, and betrayal, and battles, and heartache, and…. Gah, pretty much every emotion you could imagine comes into play in these books in some way, and it’s beautiful. Also, they’re very quick reads–I finished both Crimson Sky and Midnight Sky in pretty much one short sitting, and didn’t even realize I was speeding through them until I hit the 90% mark and blinked around like a lunatic.

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Basically, these books are gold, and everybody needs to read them. Because I said so. They’re entertaining, quick to get through, and filled with snarky action scenes. You won’t regret picking this series up, guys, so if you’re into steampunk pirates, alien vampires, and emotionally-charged battles… Well, DO IT! Do it and don’t look back–I certainly won’t be! (But…now I am desperate for book three, and we all know how patient I am. Which is not at all. BOOK THREEEEE, I NEED YOU!)

4

Of Light and Darkness: Romance?! No. RoMESS!

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Goodreads Rating: 3.80 Stars
400 Pages
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication Date(s): 1st Edition June 26th, 2011; 2nd Edition January 11th, 2016
Also available on Kindle Unlimited!
Get a copy here!

Shayne Leighton’s stunning New Adult debut is a fiercely imaginative, multilayered dark fantasy where Alice In Wonderland meets Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire in a story about a girl caught between two societies . . . two magic sides . . . and two loves.

Charlotte is the only mortal in a society of beasts and nightmarish things. By night, she hunts other humans to satiate her Vampire guardian. By day, she struggles to find her place of belonging among the magic and monsters.
But when war conflicts her peaceful, however odd little life, she must fight for love and survival the only way she knows how…
…with her blood.

3.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: romance?! NO, this is a roMESS! it’s like…a love square meets a love triangle, if that makes sense? (and it’s epic); fated soulmates; vampires and wizards!; this is “light versus dark” tale taken to the extreme; a new spin on several old tropes; love the creative twist to vampire lore Shayne Leighton uses; some major grammatical errors brought the score down a bit for me

I…don’t even know what I just read, but I ADORED it and now need the second book ASAP. Is it September yet? I need book two!

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I just… I HAVE to start with the romance, because it’s epic, guys. Seriously, I tried explaining this drama to the hubs while reading, and I was like… “It’s like, it’s like…” And the hubs? Sort of smirked. “It’s a mess!” he said. So…yes. This is NOT romance. It’s a roMESS, and I loved every single moment of it, mostly because it was SO entertaining and amusing. Like seriously, everyone’s in love with the vampire…except that one dude who’s in love with the vampire’s charge. It was insanity, and awesome, and I giggled every time any of the characters fought over any of the other characters, which seemed to happen every chapter. It was just… gah! GAAAAH! I thoroughly loved how far off the beaten love-triangle track Shayne Leighton took this book. So many kudos to her!

 

There are some very annoying grammatical things happening in this read that, ultimately, took my rating down just a notch. The commas, guys. The commas are EVERYWHERE, and not always in the ways they should be. There are repeated words (as in, “for that” might be repeated twice in a row in the middle of a sentence). And while these things did not detract from my enjoyment of the read or entertainment of the story…it was a LOT, in the end.

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But I WAS enthralled, and I was entertained, and I giggled like a maniac more than once. Shayne Leighton brought a lot of spunk and creativity to the “light vs. dark” battle in this book–and squashed the idea that there are no unique stories to tell left in the world. This book is unique in every way that matters. Vampire lore is built upon in a different way, love triangles are squashed and then recreated… This entire book was one large, awesome journey.

 

And the actual romance–the one this book focuses on? It’s forbidden love, taken to the extreme. It’s “guardian turned lover.” It’s sweet, and tender, and makes several romances I’ve read recently pale vastly in comparison. It’s realistic, while so much of this book is magical. This romance is fated…but written so beautifully, you’ll forgive that tiny detail. The rest of the characters, as well, are beautifully-rounded. Each has a purpose. Each draws you further into the story–even those you come to loathe, and I promise, there’s at least one that I started out liking only to realize, several chapters farther, I actually REALLY hated.

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This whole read was a wild, fascinating journey, and I am SO glad I took a chance on this book. While there are some annoying grammatical issues, they did not, in the end, detract from my enthrallment in the least. The prose is not necessarily “flowery”…but it’s gorgeous, all the same, with some sobering, wise pearls hidden in the mix. The characters are well-rounded, snarky, and entertaining…and romance? No. From now on, this book will be considered a roMESS in my mind–and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all! If you like vampire/mortal love stories, fantastically magical journeys, and light vs. dark battles, this is the perfect read for you! Trust me–it’s worth picking up!

6

Crimson Sky: In this World, it’s the Vampires…or the Pirates

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Crimson Sky (Dark Sky #1)

Dark Sky #1
Goodreads Rating: 4.15 Stars
240 Pages
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Get a copy here! (Also available on Kindle Unlimited)

They’re always watching. They’re always waiting. They’re always starving…

Ten years ago, the sky shattered and the Hellions emerged. No one was able to keep them from destroying the city of Westraven. Now that the bloodthirsty monsters rule the skies and have forced the few remaining humans underground, Claire Abernathy lives in a nightmare. She survives by using her skills as an engineer for a ruthless tyrant connected to her mother and father’s past failure.

Then Claire’s world is torn apart when her sister Abby is kidnapped by the Hellions, and Claire herself is taken by dangerous sky pirates known as marauders. But Claire will not be intimidated by them while her sister’s life hangs by a thread, and so she strikes a deal with them: If they help rescue Abby, she will fix their ship and give them the chance to take the revenge they desperately seek.

As Claire fights for her sister’s life, she begins to realize that the Hellions are not the only dangers she’ll face. Burdensome secrets and devastating betrayals threaten her at every turn, and if she loses herself to them, it won’t just be her life that is destroyed…

4Penguins
Quick Reasons: vampires versus pirates!; steamy, sexy romance turned into icky love triangle–what?!; I mean really, these characters are STUBBORN!; lots of snark and sass, especially between our main duo; interesting, though slightly confusing, world-building; steampunk stacked on horror; special snowflake MC

HUGE thanks to Amy Braun and Giselle @ Xpresso Book Tours for sending me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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So, if you look above to my “quick reasons” blurb, you’ll note that this book had three things that GREATLY intrigued me throughout: vampires, pirates, and steampunk/dystopian. It sounds like an odd mix, doesn’t it? A little bit off-the-wall, perhaps a LOT weird? Well, rest assured, dear penguins: it was all of that, and more…and it was BRILLIANT.

Let me just get this out of the way right quick: this book? is not the easiest of things to read. There are a LOT of grammatical errors/missing words. It didn’t make the book any more difficult to read–it was pretty easy to fill in the blanks and figure out which words were meant to be where, etc….but it did get a bit frustrating, hence the slightly lower rating than I would have otherwise given it. Like I said: not really a hindrance to the read, but an annoyance. Alas, such is how things go, right?!

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But let’s put grammatical issues aside and focus on the things that REALLY count, shall we? This story is SUCH an entertaining, horrifying, interesting read! While I was slightly disappointed with the world-building (like…we know almost nothing about the Hellions, save they came through some sort of gap in space/time and are, at least in my opinion, rather a lot like giant mosquitoes–no, seriously, that’s what I imagined throughout the entire book!), the read itself is fast-paced and easy to fall into. So while some of the finer details slipped through the cracks…in the end, I could NOT put this book down or stop reading to save my life. I was just too interested in finding out what happened next!

The characters are just as vibrant and unique as the rest of the story–with their own mixed bag of secrets and pressure points. I almost immediately jumped on the Sawyer/Claire ship…only to be HUGELY disappointed and full of rage, only to jump back on it…only to be even MORE disappointed and full of rage. These two characters are going to be the end of me, I swear it–seriously, guys, stop being stubborn and let things happeeeeeen! The snark and sass flung between them is electrifying (and not always in a good way); they push each other, they help each other grow… I just. OY with the poodles already!

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Raging love-triangle hormones aside, I had a TON of fun reading this and cannot wait to dive into book two (which is conveniently waiting for me patiently–yay, ARCs!) The characters are bright and individualized, the plot is entertaining (if a bit confusing on the world-building front), and the snark is enough to detonate at least a hundred Hellion airships. This is steampunk/dystopian goodness at it’s best…with pirates and vampires thrown in for good measure. I definitely recommend to lovers of…pretty much anything I said above! Seriously, if this review piques your interest at all, you should let the book speak for itself–you’re bound to love the journey!

1

A Review of Night World (No 1), by L.J. Smith

Night World, No. 1 (Night World, #1-3)

Goodreads Rating: 4.03 Stars
729 Pages
Simon Pulse Publishing
Get a copy here!

Overall Rating: 3.5Penguins


Mini Review: Secret Vampire

In Secret Vampire, Poppy thought the summer would last forever. Then she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now Poppy’s only hope for survival is James, her friend and secret love. A vampire in the Night World, James can make Poppy immortal. But first they both must risk everything to go against the laws of Night World.

Rating: 3/5 Penguins
Quick Reasons: snarky, intriguing characters; broody, mysterious vampires; a lot of huffing and puffing but not much blowing-my-socks-off; very quick, off-the-cuff ending; things wrapped up WAY fast; semi-awkward, robotic writing

Reading this was a bit like forcing yourself to watch a movie you’re not really interested in, but not NOT interested in at the same time. Does that make sense? Regardless, it’s how I feel.

The romance between James and Poppy was sweet…if not a bit on the “obsessive first-love” side of the line. I mean honestly, Poppy even says herself near the end—she’s only ever wanted James. Which…eh. That’s just not the way things work in real life.

She had never been so close to anybody. It was as if they were one being, together, not predator and prey, but partners in a dance. 

The characters are sort of flat and one-dimensional. There’s not much “growth” happening, save in Phillip’s case. Which was disappointing for me, seeing as Poppy and James are the main two of this story. The action, while pretty fast-paced, felt a bit like throwing puzzle pieces into place near the end of completion: a lot of it was stiff and awkward, and it all seemed to wrap up MUCH too nicely at the end to get bonus points for taking me on a wild journey.

Also, nothing new added to vampire lore. I remember reading these books when I was younger and enjoying them…what happened? Regardless, it was entertaining, and there were some good snark moments.


Mini Review: Daughters of Darkness

Fugitives from Night World, three vampire sisters leave their isolated home to live among humans in Daughters of Darkness. Their brother, Ash, is sent to bring the girls back, but he falls in love with their beautiful friend.

Rating: 3.75/5 Penguins
Quick Reasons: much more interesting, well-rounded characters; the action scenes didn’t feel as rushed or off-the-cuff; the romance was just the sort I LOVE (hate to grudging respect to friendship to maybe possibly might be love); an introduction to this world’s werewoves

This story was MUCH more entertaining than the first one. The characters are snarky, quirky, and well-rounded; I fell in love with them all pretty much immediately, even the “villain.” There’s a TON of growth happening in this read, particularly for our main pair, Ash and Mary-Lynnette.

“Do I look like the kind of person who wastes time turning goats into pin cushions?”

The snark, in particular, was fierce for this story. And I ADORED every moment of it! There were a few times I was tempted to LOL…though I managed to hold back. The husband looks at me funny when I give in, after all. But really, the writing was much better–less awkward, more smooth and seamless. The humor was well-done and quick to lighten the mood. The romance was also much more believable–it wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t even LIKE at first sight. I rather adore those relationships that start at “loathe and hate” and work their way to “respect and maybe, might be, SOMEDAY, love”–they’re my favorite.

I liked this one much better than the first story. Still nothing “new” on vampire lore, but the enjoyment was real!


Mini Review: Spellbinder

Two witch cousins fight over their high school crush. It’s a battle between black magic and white magic in Spellbinder.

Rating: 3.25/5 Penguins
Quick Reasons: witches and magic!; the battle of “good” vs. “evil” brought to terrifying life; paranormal occurrences, bad-girl characters, good morals (this tackles the idea of “prejudice”)

Okay. So the middle story in this collection was my favorite of the three. This one wasn’t bad, per se–the characters are well-rendered and realistic, though Blaise had a HUGE flair for the dramatics.

The characters fell a bit flat overall, though, much like those in the first story. Instead of leaping off the page, they just sort of seemed to float there–disconnected spirits, almost. Blaise, of course, had enough personality that she was easy to imagine in my head. The rest of them, though… Well, they just seemed a bit one-dimensional again.

The worms were beautifully drawn, with their nervous systems and reproductive organs shaded in different colors of highlighter, but the artist had also given them big goofy smiling faces. Grotesque but lovable in a cross-eyed way.

I did enjoy the switch from vampires to witches; there was some new lore mixed in with the old that made this story fascinating. There was a ton of magic and the paranormal, which kept my interest as well. The action was a bit flat, though, throughout–there was no real sense of “buildup” for me. Things just sort of chugged along, without pulling in my feelings.


Overall, these were all interesting and entertaining reads, though not my favorite; the characters fell a bit too flat for my liking, and the action scenes were a bit too fast or hazed over to catch my attention. I’d recommend these to younger readers, definitely–or people seeking snarky, tongue-in-cheek paranormal fiction.

1

A Review of The Medium (Liminality #1), by M.R. Graham

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Lenny is good at teaching physics. He is good at fixing things, making friends, and not attracting attention. He is good at being a medium, helping spirits pass beyond the Veil. But as a vampire incapable of violence, he has always been a bit of a joke.

All it takes is a drink in a hotel bar, a stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time, to run him afoul of Sebastian Duran, a lunatic who controls other people’s minds better than he can control his own. Torn away from everything he knows, trapped and starved and under constant mental assault, Lenny’s best hope is Kim Reed, a wizard tasked with bringing down Duran. Kim cannot believe that Lenny is evil, but neither can she hide him, and while she battles for his freedom, Lenny is forced to confront his own potential for monstrosity.

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3.5 Stars
Quick Reasons: interesting, entertaining take on vampires/vampire lore; sort of confusing writing at times; lyrical and circular plot; strange, ambiguous epilogue; a lot less action in the second half of the read; nice examination of abuse, Stockholm Syndrome, and PTSD

So…this book is WEIRD.

Now, don’t go misunderstanding me! If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know by now that weird books are my bread and butter. I breathe them. I thrive on them. I often toast them and eat them for breakfast.

I kid, I kid! Sort of. But not about that first sentence—this book is weird, and while there were some moments I wasn’t sure it was weird in a good way, overall I’d say the weirdness is a weirdness I’d take any day. It stands out.

“Protection! I had a place to live. I was comfortable here. And they were a family, and I liked them, and they were mine. You can’t go around breaking other people’s things and then expecting them to rush to help you!”

There’s a weird play on vampires and vampire lore going on in this read that I’m not entirely sure can be summed up without confusion, because I’m still slightly confused about a few key points myself. The Broken, for instance—I’m not sure I understand what they are or how they come about. There’s also a sort of…circular repetition going on with the prose that at times felt a bit stilted and awkward but, for the most part, actually made a TON of sense…especially after learning everything we do about Lenny and his journey. The epilogue at the end, though, felt unnecessary to me—I’m not sure why it’s there, apart from introducing a new character and making things more confusing overall. If it were up to me, I’d leave the book with the last chapter—it clears up the beginning, it sets the stage for an interesting opening in the next book, and it closes up everything that’s happened before. Simple. Lyrical. Gorgeous, though bittersweet. In my opinion, perfect.

The characters are both endearing and disturbing at turns. I’m sad we didn’t, in the end, see more of Kim—she seemed like such an important, fascinating character…and was forgotten. Or, rather, forced to move on due to unforeseen circumstances. Note for authors: if you’re going to have a character be kidnapped by family and held magically hostage for ¾ of the book, perhaps you shouldn’t have that character in the first place. I get that Kim was integral to rescuing Lenny, but…he gets re-kidnapped by the psycho-vamp and it all came to pretty much naught, so what was even the point?

There are a lot of things happening in this book, and it does get sort of confusing after a fashion. A lot of characters are introduced, explained, and then left to rot in the distance. A lot of promising futures are hinted at…only to be thrown out the window. Don’t get me wrong—for this particular story, I understand! But at the end, despite the cyclic nature of the plot, I felt there was a huge chunk of story I wasn’t receiving. It feels unfinished, I suppose, in a bigger way than just “because it’s only book one.” There is also a lot of experimentation with abusive relationships, PTSD, mental illness, and Stockholm Syndrome/codependency going on, which brought a different level of interesting to the vampire story.

They drove for nearly a week straight after that, and by the time they got where they were going, Lenny was no longer sure who he was supposed to be. He stayed with a monster for the sake of a ghost he did not know he could save.

So, yes—this book is weird, and it has some moments that defy weird and creep into utterly confusing, but it’s SO SO worth it for the complexity of the characters and the awesome use of cyclic writing. While I’m disgruntled about the ways some of the characters played out, I think I’d like to pick up the next in the series—I need to know where Lenny ends up next, because let’s be honest, the guy’s been through hell. I’d definitely recommend to lovers of weirdness, vampires, and complexly intriguing characters. This was a fun read; I can’t wait to dive into more of M.R. Graham’s work!

0

A Review of Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Twilight, #5), by Stephenie Meyer

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Celebrate the tenth anniversary of Twilight! This special double-feature book includes the classic novel, Twilight, and a bold and surprising reimagining, Life and Death, by Stephenie Meyer.
Packaged as an oversize, jacketed hardcover “flip book,” this edition features nearly 400 pages of new content as well as exquisite new back cover art. Readers will relish experiencing the deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful love story of Bella and Edward through fresh eyes.
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Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: first half is pretty much word-for-word the original, with some interesting differences; a bit of disappointment in the gender swap; somehow I liked Beau much better than Bella?; an interesting and unexpected twist on the ending

I know what you’re probably all thinking right now: Really, Beth? Really?!

“You know I don’t understand what you mean, right?” I asked.

“I’m counting on it,” she said…

Yes, really. When I first discovered the Twilight books in college (with huge thanks to the roommate who owned them and forced all of us to read them!) I immediately fell in love with the story. Of course, at the time, I wasn’t such a big reader—which meant I appreciated them not for their artistic development or awesome plot, but because I enjoyed the STORY. The characters, the action, the love story—I was enraptured, at the time, with the idea of someone so extraordinary falling so completely for a girl who was almost ME. What can I say, I didn’t have very high expectations for my reading material at the time.

I have since then gone through several drastic changes in my reading preferences, and while I can admit I might not like the books NOW if I were to be only just picking them up…I still do hold them in pretty high regard emotionally. They’re the kind of books I turn to when I need a mindless read. The books I grab when I need to shut off my brain and just disappear for a while. So, yes. When this “retelling” was announced, I jumped at the chance to read it—I was SO excited about the gender swap, the potentials it carried with it for a new and intriguing story.

Seriously, though, this wasn’t a life and death situation—it was just high school. It’s not like anyone was going to bite me.

Unfortunately, it fell a bit flat for me regardless. You see, I didn’t realize going into this that it would be practically word-for-word the original story in the beginning. I was expecting a different type of drama, a different world unfolding! So to be thrust back into the original with some simple pronoun changes and just a few alterations to make it more “fitting”… Well, this didn’t take me over a week to read for nothing, I guess.

I LOVE Beau as a character, though—somehow, he comes across much more likable than Bella? I think part of this can be attributed to one very simple thing: he didn’t spend the ENTIRE book agonizing, beating himself up over stupid things, or comparing his supposed faults with the rest of the world. He was much better written, and more entertaining to read about, because he actually had a personality—instead of being the flat, paper-doll fit for molding like Bella was, Beau held his own against the world, and made himself known. I appreciated this quite a bit, and wish Bella had been written in a similar way. I also do wish that the gender swap hadn’t gone all across the cast of characters. While a few escaped this fate, I felt that swapping each and every character did nothing for the story overall. I’d have rathered only one or two specific characters were switched—it would have stood out much more, and made things more interesting.

“Try not to get caught up in antiquated gender roles.”

Now—while the ending of this matches (up to a point) the original book, there’s one HUGE and marked distinction that I wasn’t expecting heading into it. Having gone in blind, I’m not going to go into details about the specifics—I think it’s best readers don’t know about it when they head into this book. I will say, though, I’m not sure HOW I feel about the change. While I enjoyed it—FINALLY, the new and exciting changes I’d been seeking all along!–I also felt it was cut a bit TOO short.

Overall, this was an okay reimagining of the original story, but I’m not going to go crazy and call it my favorite, because it’s not. I appreciated some of the things Stephenie Meyer did here…but was also angered by others. I fell unexpectedly in love with one specific character…but the rest, overall, fell pretty flat. Still, I’d recommend for lovers of the original Twilight series—imagining the characters in a different light was interesting and, for the most part, entertaining!

5

A Review of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange

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A married man in possession of a dark fortune must be in want of an eternal wife…

My hand is trembling as I write this letter. My nerves are in tatters and I am so altered that I believe you would not recognize me. The past two months have been a nightmarish whirl of strange and disturbing circumstances, and the future…

I am afraid.

If anything happens to me, remember that I love you and that my spirit will always be with you, though we may never see each other again. The world is a cold and frightening place where nothing is as it seems.

– – – – –

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: a paranormal, vampiric continuation of Pride and Prejudice (I can’t help it, I LOVE these characters! I’m obsessed); unique and interesting vampire lore I’d have loved to learn more about; thrilling action; a sense of mystique, like dreaming

“No”, she wanted to say. ” I don’t want you to care for me, I want to be with my husband.” But nothing came out. She turned beseeching her eyes to Darcy and she saw him as if from a great distance, through a distorting glass, but his words were firm and clear. “She has no taste for your company,” he said.

“No?” said the gentleman. “But I have a taste for her.”

Hers, thought Elizabeth. He should have said hers.

“Let her go,” said Darcy warningly.

“Why should I?” asked the gentleman.

“Because she is mine,” said Darcy.

If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ll know without my telling you that I have a HUGE obsession with all things Pride and Prejudice. Someone should have warned me, when I first set out to read the book (and then, watch the 2011 film!) that it would be something akin to chocolate for me: I just can’t get enough! I suppose it helps that the cover for this particular reimagining is absolutely gorgeous.

The writing for this is much like that from the original Pride and Prejudice: elegant, verbose, and breath-takingly exquisite. I found myself slipping back into the world, its traditions and customs… Everything about this read leaped to life for me from page one. Because this takes place just after the wedding of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and they leave Hertfordshire to travel on their wedding tour, there were some characters I sorely missed seeing in these pages… but seeing the relationship grow and mold, given the secret Darcy has been hoarding for decades, made up for it.

“Do we say to the wind, do you wish not to blow? Do we say to the thunder, would you rather be silent? No. We never think of these things.”

There are a TON of fresh, new faces making an appearance here. I found, at times, that Elizabeth suffered from morose and depressed moods I couldn’t quite connect with or understand—they moved so quickly from one place to the next (though in reality, “quickly” means a matter of weeks in the course of the book) that I sometimes felt a bit of whiplash. This also made it difficult, at times, to keep up with what was happening. If I have on complaint for this read, it’s that one character who shows up repeatedly is not thoroughly or adequately explained; he seems more a device to keep the plot moving than to bring anything substantial to the story. He’s a pawn, really, to get the characters from point A to point B. I wish he’d been more fully explored.

It is clear, though, that Amanda Grange has done her research and done it well for the time period. While we were privvy to several different cultures and traditions, each were well-examined (she even details the differences in fashion between the regions!) and really helped to pull me deeper into this world and enable me to see it more clearly. I had a ton of fun reading about the adventures—though I rather hoped to have a bit more climactic ending than we were given! Amanda Grange detailed (briefly) how the vampires in this world differ from those we are more familiar with, and I wish we’d been given MORE glimpse into that other world in this read—why couldn’t Elizabeth have found out sooner what she married? Why did the ending, with a magical cure, feel more like a cop out?

For the moment she was caught between the two worlds, neither one thing nor another. She would be sorry to let the former depart and yet she was longing for the latter to arrive: a new name and with it a new world and with it a new life.

Regardless, I enjoyed this read well enough to not be real bothered by the things I detailed above. This was a fun, suspenseful reimagining of a world I’ve become deeply enthralled by, and I am happy to have picked it up! I’d definitely recommend to lovers of Pride and Prejudice or its many variations and retellings—this is one you shouldn’t miss out on!

4

A Review of Twilight (Twilight #1), by Stephenie Meyer (RE-READ!)

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About three things I was absolutely positive.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

In the first book of the Twlilight Saga, internationally bestselling author Stephenie Meyer introduces Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, a pair of star-crossed lovers whose forbidden relationship ripens against the backdrop of small-town suspicion and a mysterious coven of vampires. This is a love story with bite.

– – – – –

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: interesting twists on “vampire” lore; tons of snark and intelligent humor; obsessive, almost unhealthy romance; the sort of read you can turn your brain off for/not think about

Yes, I read this book—AGAIN. I watched the first two movies the other night, and couldn’t help feeling I was missing out on the… “magic” I used to feel for them. I decided maybe I’d try reading the first book again and see how older me enjoyed it compared to the last time I read the series (something like five years ago.)

Even more, I had never meant to love him. One thing I truly knew – knew it in the pit of my stomach, in the center of my bones, knew it from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, knew it deep in my empty chest – was how love gave someone the power to break you.

I guess, going into this, I was expecting some sort of the same compulsion I felt reading this when I was younger. I got into this series VERY late in it’s publication life—I didn’t read the books until just before the movies started being made, and only then because my roommate convined me I ought to give them a shot. I remember, while not necessarily being blown away by the read, being obsessed with the series nonetheless. I needed to finish them; I think I read the books in about five days total the first time around.

But this time… I’m not sure. I guess older me, having read as many books as I have this year alone—having opened myself up to other genres, different authors—doesn’t see the same things young me did in this book. Instead, I caught a lot of things that I questioned other people for seeing the first time around. While I still enjoyed the read, it wasn’t as magical as I remember it being.

Bella is not nearly as creative as I used to think. Now, she’s sort of….flat and almost boring. A few of the things she said throughout this book bothered me a LOT more than they did when I was 22—perhaps due to life experiences, perhaps due to my own personal growth both in reading and myself. I wasn’t nearly as drawn to her and Edward as before—they’re the sort of characters I would expect to be on the sidelines in a novel, not the front-runners.

I couldn’t bring myself to regret the decision. When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.

The snark seemed almost better this time through, though. I was more entertained by the sarcasm than most of the story. I also still appreciate that I can turn my brain off completely—these books require very little thinking, so when I need to take a break and let my mind breathe, I usually pick this series up because it does the trick.

The writing… Well, it’s not the best, but it’s also not terrible. There’s just enough detail to keep readers “seeing,” though most of the descriptions focus on (surprise, surprise) Edward. Stephenie Meyer knows how to set a scene; I wish she’d used her flair with poetic prose to help bring this more fully to life by focusing more on the surroundings, the action, instead of just upon the characters and how “perfect” Edward’s face is.

Twilight again. Another ending. No matter how perfect a day is, it always has to end.”

So… While I enjoyed the read, and being able to turn my brain off for a while, I took a star off my original goodreads rating. This book just doesn’t appeal to me in the same ways it used to, and that’s totally okay! We all change when we get older; this is just one of the ways I grew, I guess. I’d still recommend the read to lovers of vampires, teenage angst/romance, and snarky dialogue! Perhaps I’ll pick up book two in the future for a reread; for now, I’m moving to something else.