Sunday, July 24, 2011

In My Mailbox Jul. 24


Oh my oh my, it's been such a long time since I've done one of these. But I got a ton of really awesome books this week, ones that I thought needed sharing. In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

(and this isn't even all of them)

(mostly from Borders' closing sale...I'm still depressed about that)
The Secret Prince by Violet Haberdasher
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Rip Tide by Kat Falls
Taking Off by Jenny Moss
The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan
The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

The Space Between by Alexandra Sokoloff
Haunt by Amber Delaine
Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy by Gregory Blackman

Chime by Franny Billingsley
City of Fire by Laurence Yep
The Hunt of the Unicorn by C.C. Humphreys
The Farwalker's Quest by Joni Sensel
The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
Shield of Stars by Hillari Bell

So what did you get this week? Did you get a chance to take advantage of the Borders closing sales?

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Necromancer's Apprentice by R.M. Prioleau

Title: The Necromancer's Apprentice
Author: R.M. Prioleau
Series: -
Published: April 1, 2011
Publisher: R.M. Prioleau
Pages: 114 (paperback)
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Jasmine Na’Darod lived a simple life with her parents and older sister on the family’s farm. She never strayed far from home until the ill-fated Blood Moon arose, basking the country of Caristan with a terrible, sickening drought.

When her mother falls ill, Jasmine and her family are forced to leave home in desperate search of a cure. During their journey, a series of tragic events will change Jasmine’s life forever.

With her former life shrouded and forgotten, Jasmine embraces a new path granted by an unlikely stranger, who, ironically, practices the Art of death and undeath.

As Jasmine is drawn to this enigma of a man, she soon realizes there is more to him than what she initially perceived — his true motives are beyond anything she could ever imagine…

Deeply compelling and morbidly intriguing, The Necromancer’s Apprentice is a beautifully-narrated gothic fantasy with memorable characters. --


Even after finishing the book, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t think I really liked it, but at the same time, I didn’t hate it, even though at first I know I didn't like it. Jasmine was very apathetic towards everything, which for me was a problem. I have difficulty liking characters that feel like that don’t have anything to live for and are at peace with that, particularly when said character announces this detail about themself at the beginning of the book. In my mind, I immediately question, “Ok, well then where’s the room for growth?” Even if a character finds something to live for, the fact that they don’t even want to try looking to begin with is a sign that I’m not going to like who I’m reading about. But as the story developed, Jasmine’s apathetic nature made it possible for the story to focus on the mystery behind Master Dagg, and more importantly, focus on the nature of death and loyalty. The whole thing kind of reminded me of Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist (which I absolutely loved), and appealed to my fascination with the dark and macabre.

However, there were lots of plot holes, unclear character motivations, and lack of developed relationships. I know this was a novella (just a little over 110 pages), and in a novella there’s not a lot of room for long periods of description or investigation, but some more explanation would have been nice. Jasmine goes through a kind of transformation that would have taken years to accomplish, but is accomplished in less than six months. It was unsettling, especially after the horrific events that happen to her and her family in the beginning of the book. I also wanted to know more about the Necromancer, and what kind of magic he was working on down in his tunnels. While the story questions him and his practices, it doesn’t fully explore what exactly was going on and why in a greater context.

But, even with that said, I think that The Necromancer's Apprentice has potential. It was a quick read, it was a dark read, it was a gruesome read, with poetic writing, interesting fantasy elements and a twist at the end I didn’t see coming. But it also needs a good editor and another draft.


My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond

Title: My Sparkling Misfortune
Author: Laura Lond
Series: -
Published: April 28, 2010
Publisher: Dream Books, LLC
Pages: 164 (paperback)
I received this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle readily admits that he is a villain and sees no reason why it should stop him from being the protagonist of this book. After all, Prince Kellemar, an aspiring hero, has defeated him in a rather questionable way. Bent on revenge, Arkus attempts to capture a powerful evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but a last-minute mistake leaves him with a sparkling instead a goody-goody spirit that helps heroes, watches over little children, and messes up villains plans. Bound to Lord Arkus for five years of service and sworn to act in his best interests, the sparkling is not easy to get rid of, and of course his understanding of best interests is quite different from what Lord Arkus has in mind. --Goodreads

My Sparkling Misfortune offers a twist on the traditional fantasy fairy tale stories that lovers of the movie Megamind will enjoy. I can’t help but make that comparison, since both stories feature bad guys who want nothing more than to be known as the most devious and evil person on the planet. Lord Arkus begins his tale by bragging about how evil he is. But when the pompous Prince Kellemar tricks him into running from the kingdom, he goes hunting for a Gormak, an evil spirit to help with his evil plans. Much to his dismay, Lord Arkus winds up catching a Sparkling, a good spirit. And while Lord Arkus realizes that he can use the Sparkling’s powers to protect him from forces hunting him, he can’t directly use the spirit’s powers for anything evil. Being a bad guy is hard enough as it is without a good spirit breathing down your neck, but the Sparkling (named Jarvis) is intent on turning Arkus into a good guy. Talk about pressure!

My Sparkling Misfortune is one of those books that readers of all ages will be able to appreciate and enjoy. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that had me giggling on just about every page, but My Sparkling Misfortune broke that streak. With such a snarky and hypocritical protagonist who refuses to admit that he actually has a heart of gold…well, how can you blame me? I was sold after the very first paragraph. Lord Arkus’ voice is strong, clear, and the irony and hypocrisy in his actions was hilarious. I could easily read 600 more pages of his story and not get bored. For as evil as he said he was, I just couldn’t bring myself to hate him, especially after he starts working with Jarvis. Jarvis was a wonderful supporting character, able to hold his own against Arkus’ volatile personality. The way the two of them bickered had me thinking that they were a married couple, rather than a master and servant.

Even though the book is short (just over 160 pages), it doesn’t lack in plot, detail, or positive morals. Lond’s world building is top notch, with just enough description for the reader to understand the magic of Arkus’ world and its culture. Even those who are not used to reading fantasy or those who are intimidated by it will find that My Sparkling Misfortune is easy to slip into. Like I said before, I’m positive all who pick up this book will have a fun time reading it! I hope that Lond writes a sequel sometime in the near future.


Guardians Inc.: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain

Title: Guardians Inc.: The Cypher
Author: Julian Rosado-Machain
Series: Guardians Incorporated
Published: Feb. 26th, 2011
Publisher: Julian Rosado-Machain
I received this book from the author in exchange for an exchange for an honest review.

GUARDIANS INC.: THE CYPHER is two stories in one. A glimpse into a multinational company that is in reality the oldest of secret societies, one that spans close to seven thousand years of existence, weaving in and out of history, guiding and protecting humanity from creatures and forces that most of us believe are only mythology and fairy tales.

The other is the story of Thomas Byrne, a young man thrust into secrets he shouldn’t be aware of and dangers he shouldn’t face but, that he ultimately will, for he is a Cypher. The only one who can steer humanity’s future.

The ultimate conspiracy theory is that Magic is real. Kept in check by technology but, every five hundred years the balance can shift and, if it does, technology will fail and those creatures we’ve driven into myth will come back with a vengeance.

To protect the present, Guardians Incorporated needs to know the future. --

A dash of science fiction, a dash of fantasy…Guardians Inc.: The Cypher was a story that was oh so familiar and oh so original at the same time. It’s like Julian Rosado-Machain took everything that I love about middle grade children’s fiction and slammed it into one awesome, well-paced fantasy. It had a mysterious society, good guys, bad guys, in between guys, gargoyles, elves, principals that are skilled at every form of martial arts (and then some), and a mysterious book of prophecies that could determine the fate of the world, among other things.

The story focuses on fifteen year old Thomas and his grandfather, Morgan. After responding to an ad in the paper, he and his grandfather are hired to work for Guardians Incorporated, a business that Thomas quickly discovers is much more than it seems. Guardians Inc. not only has their hand in economics, marketing, medical research, historical restoration and international relations, but they’re also responsible for maintaining the balance between technology and magic. When it’s discovered that Thomas and Morgan are Cyphers, people with the power to translate any written language, Thomas’ grandfather is kidnapped by an opposing society. An interesting and practical power to have, all things considered, and we get to see Thomas put his skills to good use as he explores the underground magical culture and discovers that with his newfound gift, the fate of the world rests in his hands.

While Thomas was most definitely the main character, the relationship with his grandfather was one that felt genuine and loving. Morgan was very much a conscious presence throughout the book, even when he wasn’t even there. Julian Rosado-Machain definitely has a talent for writing characters, and even alone, Thomas was very likable. For a fifteen-year-old, he was surprisingly flexible, and eager to do what needed to be done in order to save the world. He had a good heart and a passion for learning and reading classics such as 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The supporting characters were just as strong, and colorful. There’s Henri, a gigantic stone gargoyle and the muscle of the group, Bolswaithe the robotic butler, Tony, a former leader of Guardian Watchman team, Vice Princepal “Killjoy”, who is far from what she appears to be, and Tasha, a beautiful elf who may or may not have a thing for Thomas. Together, they provided an even balance of skills and dialogue needed to move the story along at a fun and interesting pace.

So when it comes down to it…Do you like Percy Jackson? Fablehaven? Harry Potter? Guardians Inc.: The Cypher shares a little from each of these middle-grade favorites, but spins them into a brand new and exciting adventure. Check it out, if you like what you see! You won’t be disappointed. Oh, and I also recommend that you check out the website. It’s just as entertaining to browse through as reading the book! You can find more information at the Guardians Incorporated homepage.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Solstice by P.J. Hoover

Title: Solstice
Author: P.J. Hoover
Series: ???
Published: May 4th, 2011
Publisher: Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Pages: 378 (ebook)
I recieved this book as part of the Solstice Blog Tour.

Piper’s world is dying. Global warming kills every living thing on Earth, and each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles which threaten to destroy humanity. Amid this Global Heating Crisis, Piper lives with her mother who suffocates her more than the chaotic climate. When her mother is called away to meet the father Piper has been running from her entire life, Piper seizes an opportunity for freedom.

But when Piper discovers a world of mythology she never knew existed, she realizes her world is not the only one in crisis. While Gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper's life spirals into turmoil, and she struggles to find answers to secrets kept from her since birth. And though she’s drawn to her classmate Shayne, he may be more than he claims. Piper has to choose whom she can trust and how she can save the people she loves even if it means the end of everything she’s ever known. --


P.J. Hoover has created a kind of book I've never seen before, blending dystopian, fantasy, and historical themes together to create the world of Solstice. Set in Austin, Texas, in a futuristic world where 99 degrees is considered cool, the world, having been reshaped by the devastating effects of global warming, is now struggling to survive. Heat bubbles are becoming more frequent, and if something isn’t done soon, everything will burn up. But that’s not all; hiding among the ever-dwindling population are the Greek gods, who seem to have had a role in all of this. Mythological mystery set aside, I felt like the setting was very well developed, and even by the end of chapter one I understood the emergency and seriousness of everyone’s predicament. It had the kind of easy to understand world building I hope to see in a novel, and even if Hoover didn’t include mythology in her plotline, I would have enjoyed reading about about how society was going to deal with the increasing temperature.

I really, really, REALLY appreciated the fact that the gods in this novel aren’t represented like you’d expect them to be, with the obvious physical and emotional characteristics. For example, whenever I think of Ares I have a tendency to imagine a character that is always angry and looks similar to Disney’s version in the movie Hercules. But Hoover wrote her characters in a way that prevented me from falling back on my imaginative stereotypes, even though they are recognizable if you are familiar with Greek mythology. They are more human than you'd expect, and getting to know them like they were humans was actually my favorite part of the book.

Piper was a fairly steady and stable heroine, but it irritated me when she succumbed to what I now refer to in YA novels as “Instalove Syndrome”—where the main character immediately falls in love with one (or even two) mysteriously hot guy who mysteriously shows up in her school and mysteriously announces that they belong together (mysteriously). Those relationships don’t make sense to me, and I think I’m just tired of seeing them show up in fiction. But after Piper actually got to know her love interest I felt like they had chemistry together, so in the end it was all good. For those of you who are more into paranormal fiction than dystopian, you'll be pleased to hear that the book actually becomes less about the dystopian aspects of the world and more about the mythological/paranormal as the story progresses. The elements that provided suspense in Solstice were well done, and had me guessing the truth until it was actually revealed.

Solstice was a book that was easy to slip into, and hard to put down. With a dying world, mythological characters, and steamy romance—not to mention the fact that it crosses between genres, I see Solstice appealing to a wide variety of people. If you’re intrigued by the book’s synopsis, then chances are you’ll end up liking it! If a sequel is every written, I'm definitely going to pick it up.

For more information you can check out P.J. Hoover's website HERE!