Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review of Capital Girls by Ella Monroe

 Capital Girls by Ella Monroe

Capital Girls wasn't what I expected. Although, to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what I expected it to be, exactly, but it read like an episode of a highly politically slanted Gossip Girl - or probably, more like several episodes. While GC was not one of my favorite TV shows, for this book, that's not a bad comparison. It worked really well actually and Capital Girls turned out to be an interesting, fast paced story and a quick and easy read.

It starts out with our main character, Jackie, visiting the grave of one of her recently deceased best friends, Taylor. She is confessing to Taylor a secret she can't share with her other friends, because she's falling for a really hot guy she shouldn't fall for and Taylor always knew exactly what to do in every situation the girls had ever found themselves in.

Jackie is an almost eighteen year old girl who is dating the Presidents son, Andrew. She is frustrated with their very non-sexual relationship and she makes a few really poor choices that lead to HUGE consequences. And when you're in a relationship with the Presidents son, you live your life in the fishbowl for the public eye to scrutinize, and any small or big indiscretion gets plastered across every tabloid nationwide.

Laurie Beth is trying to find her own path in life. She dreams of singing and dancing on the stage and plans to apply to Julliard even though it will go against everything her mother wants her to do. She has her own secrets to keep - mainly to do with the fact she's in love with someone she can't have.

Lettie is the quiet Latino girl who plans to change the world. She is a Paraguayan immigrant to the US. She is here with her family on a embassy scholarship so she works hard in a less than desirable position for the money she and her family need to survive. There is an interesting side-storyline going on with her and the real life immigration issues she is focused on fighting for and her plight for her home country. But a blossoming secret connection with an old friend may change her priorities and make her dreams that much hard to achieve.

Whitney is the California transplant and newest to the group. She is the daughter of a tabloid reporter who happens to be one of the most well-known, cut-throat  people behind the biggest celebrity scoops in California. Whitney hates everything about Washington D.C. and the only thing she wants is a ticket back to her life in California. Sadly, Whitney's only way to get home is to make her mother happy. So she is forced into the role of Mole and goes uncover to get the scandalous secrets and juiciest capital gossip about her newest a-lister friends.

And finally, back to Taylor. Taylor was the beautiful, vivacious and adventurous blond bombshell all the girls in the capital city envied and wanted to be. She was the one who took the biggest risks, always made the best times and the most memorable, she partied hard and lived harder. Living every moment of her life to the fullest.
She was also the glue that essentially held together the four girls - the 'Capital Girls' as they called themselves - who had been best friends since childhood. And they were inseparable ... until the accident.

The horrible car accident that took Taylor's life changed the lives of everyone around her.
Her tragic death sent shockwaves of grief throughout her elite circle of friends and her family. (Throughout the book are flashbacks of Taylor from the different characters' memories and points of view, which gave a great sense of Taylor as a realized character in the book even though she had died before the first word on the first page)
Everyone in the story grieves differently for their friend/sister/daughter ... all the characters are struggling to move forward in their lives. However, those holding secrets are having a harder time moving forward than others.

There are quite a few plots and story lines here, but for me, it was the mystery as well as the scandal of all these huge secrets that propelled me through this story. Wanting to know how it all was going to turn out, who was going to end up doing what and/or with whom and wanting to see if my guesses were going to be right, or if there were going to be major curveballs thrown in a the last minute.

Even though a few of those big, awful secrets are revealed before the last page, and there are several giant secrets alluded to throughout the story, so believe me, it's worth getting to the end for!. Being the first in a trilogy, Capital Girls also ends on a cliff hanger that leaves us dangling with even bigger questions about even bigger secrets.

Luckily, I have book two in the Capital Girls trilogy on the shelf ready to read. yay me! It's called Secrets and Lies, and from that title, I can only guess what's in store for these likeable and loatheable characters. I'm definitely looking forward to finding out. because I'm nosy like that.

Overall, I really liked and enjoyed the story.
I would recommend Capital Girls to anyone who loves Gossip Girl and Sex in the City type entertainment. I would probably say appropriateness level would be ages mature teen/17+ due to the fairly adult themes - underage drinking, smoking weed and talk about sex (or doing it) - not to mention the lying, cheating and political backstabbing and blackmail that goes on behind the closed doors on Capital Hill.
Of course, if you're old enough for either of those racy-ish TV shows then this book will be a breezy fun walk in the park.

Just a couple small things that bothered me. And really, it's probably *only* me, so...
There was a whole lot of name brand and designer name dropping, as well as the names of all the trendiest places in the Capital city.
Name dropping is okay when it's lightly sprinkled in to add flecks of realism to the story and the name of a famous location certainly assists in the world building ... but when overdone it's something that just annoys me.
There were times I would say to myself "okay, this paragraph was brought to you by that so-and-so top designer, or major product, or trendy restaurant or shop etc"
Having said that, while it was sometimes too much for me, it still worked for this particular story - in a "I'm so posh and rich" Sex in the City product placement sort of way.
Also, there are a LOT of characters to keep up with in this book. I only mentioned the main characters in my review, but there are more than a dozen people to keep track of here. The kids don't always have the same last name as their parents and I stayed about half confused trying to remember which character was the sibling to whom and/or which parent the kid belonged to and then you have to throw in how that other person is connected to the poliitcal foodchain, etc. Also, Jackie kept calling one of the women 'Aunt' and I still don't think any of the kids in the story were actual cousins ... so yeah, O_o ...
There were several times I wished for an appendix or a family tree sort of thing in the back of the book that explained all the different relations.

If this book sounds even slightly interesting to you then read it if you get the chance. For the folks who read one book right after another, this is a great filler book for in between those meatier books that take a long of brain power to read. :)

rated: 4

**I won this book in a GoodReads first-read giveaway. Thank you Goodreads and Sarah at http://us.macmillan.com/capitalgirls/EllaMonroe for the opportunity to read Capital Girls. They also very kindly sent along an ARC of the second book in the series, Secret and Lies, which I plan on reading soon - if not next.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (3)

**Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga of Tynga's Reviews that spotlights the books we receive each week**

We went over to Trading Books again this week to try and find a copy of The Hobbit (no luck) and I think it was the first time EVER that we spent less than $10 in there! LOL, we came out with 3 books for about $8.

  • Thirteen R3asons Why a novel  by Jay Asher 
  • Changeling by Delia Sherman 
  • Dark Apprentice - Star Wars Volume 2 of the Jedi Academy Trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson (of which Richi already had books #1 and #3 on the shelf and he NEEDED this one to complete the trilogy, Yay!
** ^the two books of mine^ are considered part of my Christmas 2012
Richi won a book from Goodreads First Reads and it was wrapped up so sweetly by the author. Richi's birthday is on the 13th, so he considered this one as a 'sorta first gift' for his birthday. :D

The Gilded Mirror - Corfe Castle by Jocelyn Murray - Richi's Review

I received two books in the mail - wins from the Spooktacular Blog Hop at Halloween.

  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (won from Mary at Readers' District) I've heard so many reviews of this book/series, looking forward to seeing what all the hoopla is about. 
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (won from Heather at The Flyleaf Review) (I am SO SO SOOOO EXCITED about TGoFaT!!! I've wanted this book for EVER and now I just need to get through my obligated reads to be able to dive into this one) Thanks again Heather!

I also won a giveaway for a pretty Christmas Tree ornament.

It was from Fantasy Steampunk through Melissa Turner Lee who wrote The Earth Painter and The Man Painter and came with a handful of lovely postcards from Charleston, North Carolina which is where the story of the Painter series takes place.

Great week for us!

Happy Reading y'all :)
~ Lynne

Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes

The Rock of Ivanore

Synopsis (from book): The annual Great Quest is about to be announced in Quendel, a task that will determine the future of Marcus and the other boys from the village who are coming of age. The wizard Zyll commands them to find the Rock of Ivanore, but he doesn’t tell them what the Rock is exactly or where it can be found. Marcus must reach deep within himself to develop new powers of magic and find the strength to survive the wild lands and fierce enemies he encounters as he searches for the illusive Rock. If he succeeds, he will live a life of honor; if he fails, he will live a life of menial labor in shame. With more twists and turns than a labyrinth, and a story in which nothing is at it seems, this tale of deception and discovery keeps readers in suspense until the end.

Richis Review: This was an excellent and quick book. The story itself wasn’t very original; a fairly typical coming of age fantasy novel, but it really didn’t matter because it was so enjoyable. There is plenty of action and adventure to keep things moving along and to keep it exciting, but there is also a balance of slower more thoughtful moments. There were a lot of similarities between this book and other fantasy series such as Lord of the Rings and Shannara, but it was presented in a different enough way to make it enjoyable, without feeling like it was a copy.

The story is nice and teaches good morals lessons through the actions of the good characters, such as friendship, caring for others even people you don’t know, forgiveness, mercy and accepting of those who are different from you. There were some twist and turns in the story, adult readers that are familiar with fantasy will more than likely guess what those are, but those who are less familiar probably won’t.

The characters are great, again nothing original but they had good personalities and there was good dynamics in the group. Xerxes (a talking walking stick) was hilarious and made a lot of great remarks. The characters also go through a lot of development through their quest, especially considering this is a fairly short book aimed and younger readers.

There were a couple of religious undertones, such as a character seeing what he thought was an angel, but there probably isn’t anything that would bother anyone no matter what their religious beliefs are.

This would be an excellent book for young readers who love fantasy, for anyone who is looking for a fun, quick fantasy book.

rated 4 **** 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review of The Gilded Mirror: Corfe Castle

The Gilded Mirror: Corfe Castle by  Jocelyn Murray

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Anna is exploring her grandmothers house that is full of antiques. She discovers an old mirror, when she wipes the surface she finds herself in Corfe Castle in the year 1643. She meets up with Elizabeth Bankes, daughter of the family that owns the castle, Elizabeth believes Anna is her cousin and gives Anna a tour of the castle and the estate. The two soon become friends.
The English Civil war comes to the castle as the Parliamentarian Roundheads surround the castle and lay it under siege. The girls help the family defend the castle, but even if Anna survives will she ever be able to get back to her own time?

The story is based on the real-life siege of Corfe Castle and the Bankes family that lived there.

Review: In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. The book came beautifully wrapped and made a wonderful early Christmas present, thank you  Jocelyn Murray for doing that.

The first eighty pages of this book felt like a guided tour of the castle, complete with re-enactment actors. It was nice to see the world brought to life by the various characters and to see medieval times being taught in an informal, easy to follow and fun way.

The language is semi-authentic with the use of words such as "Aye", "Tis" and "O", although it doesn't go to extremes and is easy to read and understand.

The book is probably targeted at girls aged between ten and sixteen, although people outside of the target group can enjoy it as well. The writing style is fairly simplistic, but it does make it a quick and easy read and it does teach the medieval world to its audience in an easy to understand way.

There was some mild violence and one use of "William the Bastard", also known as William the Conqueror, making it unsuitable for very young readers.

The characters were well written and the main ones undergo some development despite being a fairly short book. They really bring the medieval world to life and make it seem very interesting. Although they were fairly simplistic with the enemies being a one-dimensional, pantomime villains who enjoy doing evil things and are only capable of being bad, where as the good characters only want to do good things and feel bad when they are forced to kill while defending their home.

It is also one of those stories where the children take huge risks and do things that seem unlikely. For example at one point the girls sneak out of the castle and into the enemy camp, where they steal some supplies, they are not spotted my either side.

The book is nicely presented with some illustrations and photos of the castle. I liked the front cover that has a illustration of the castle being viewed through the Gilded Mirror.

Overall I would say this was a fun and quick read, targeted at teenage girls that are interested in history, but can be enjoyed by others as well.

***1/2 plus 1/2 for wrapping the book up so nicely :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (2)

**Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga of Tynga's Reviews that spotlights the books we receive each week**

We did our 'Support Small Business' shopping yesterday (since I was too sick to do it over T-day weekend). So we visited our local Trading Book store, a local charity thrift store and the flea market as well. Richi and I both found a dozen or so great books each.  We also bought a bookshelf from the thrift store ... because seriously, who doesn't *always* need another bookshelf, right?

Here are my 'new' shelf goodies (by the way, these books are going to be considered as part of my Christmas 2012).

 The stack on the left are the ones from Trading Book store:

The stack on the left are from the flea market:

I also received a giveaway book through Goodreads First Reads program to read for review:
On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield.

it's very textbook-y ... but looks quite interesting :)

As usual, I also managed to find lots of lovelies to feed my Nook with:

The 19 Dragons by SM Reine
Dead(ish) by Naomi Kramer
A Circle of Iron by Greg Benage (Eldernost: Book One)
Shadow of the Sun by Laura Kreitzer
The Soulkeepers (book one) by G.P. Ching
Falling by Amber Jaeger (Hemlock Bay #1)
Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Tales of Goldstone Wood #1) - this is supposed to be an amazing series!
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Spooks and Magic by Jack Sorenson (Alana Weatherbee #2)
The Medium by C.J. Archer
Sorrows Child by Georgina Anne Taylor (The Taint #1)
His Robot Girlfriend by Wesley Allison
Graveminder by Melissa Marr
Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly
Stolen Promise by Lisa Marie Wilkinson

~So those are my newest shelf editions. :)
Have you heard about or read any of these? what did you think?

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Review: Xterra Series by Ivis Bo Davis

Xterra Conspiracy - Book #1

Synopsis: A scientist discovers that the Earth’s magnetic core is deteriorating and with it, the ability to sustain life. Nations unite to form a single world order under control of the U.N. They come up with a solution, to construct six massive spaceships, a kilometer and a half wide and over a thousand meters tall, fill them with the best and the brightest humanity has to offer and send them into the stars, in hopes of finding a new home for a small portion of humanity.
In an effort to avoiding exporting war to space it was decided the ships would not be equipped with any weapons and no military personal or their families would be allowed to be on them. Todd, a highly intelligent billionaire, who was troubled by dreams of the ship being destroyed because of it lack of weapons, decides that in the interests of humanity he must sneak some on-board in an effort to save the ship. Todd is helped by his best friend Randy.
In the Swiss Alps, a young girl tragically dies in an accident. As her best friend, Angela (who happens to look almost identical to her dead friend) weeps over her body. Angela’s father General Worthington quickly devises a plan for the girls to switch identities, thus allowing his daughter to leave the dying planet.
A secret group that is really controlling the world begins to suspect Todd and will stop at nothing to prevent him from succeeding. But why are they so ruthless? So begins the XTerra Conspiracy.

Review: This book is very highly detailed. The descriptions go on at length and just about every part of the book has these high details. For the most part this is a good thing, as it makes it easy to visualise what is happening and to follow the story. Occasionally it goes on for too long and I found myself wishing it would move on with the story instead of giving me such a lengthy description. One early example of this is that an SS officer reads a report about Todd, we are given the full report (about 5 ½ pages) it probably would have been nicer if we were given a summary by the person reading the report. The details were also too long when characters are recapping events. One example of this is Todd is telling his friend Randy some events that have happened to him; the problem is that as the reader we have only just read about them but we are still given a fairly detailed summary of them.
Finally some of the characters engaged in what I call Star Trek explanations, they will say things (usually scientific explanations) that are solely for the benefit of the reader and in no way a realistic thing a person would say (usually they are telling the person something that they should already know)

The science used in the book is believable and the author obviously has a good scientific mind and has done research prior to writing. I really appreciated that, although it probably should be said that a reader probably needs at least some scientific knowledge to fully enjoy this book. The science fiction tech was pretty high as well and a knowledge and enjoyment of this sort of thing really helps. I liked the fact the author included a list of websites and books for those of us interested in reading more about the technical aspects on which the series is based.

There were a few scientific things I wished were explained, such as why can’t the humans live on Mars? Also (at least according to Todd’s dream) it’s possible to the ship to go so fast that it’s not able to see a massive asteroid belt in time to avoid it, this seems to be unlikely due to how dangerous it would be.
Although it happened later on, it seemed odd that there weren’t any protests that only a select group of highly intelligent people were allowed onto the ships. I was glad that a deeper explanation of why there were no weapons onboard was given, as that while a nice idea it just seemed too risky not arming humanities last hope.

The story is really good, I loved seeing how Todd’s plan came together and reading about the secret governments plans to stop him. It was very nice reading about very early stages of true space flight, something rarely tackled in sci-fi. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the series to see what happens to the ships and what they encounter on their journey.

The characters are very good, Todd reminded me some what of Artemis Fowl, he is very intelligent and does a good job of planning ahead and avoiding the law, while often being underestimated by adults. I really enjoyed the dynamic between him and Randy; it was both enjoyable and realistic.
The rest of the cast all are interesting with great personalities, Sandra Koenig the SS agent heading the investigating was a particular highlight. As well as most of the main cast being excellent characters, most minor characters have strong and interesting personalities even if they only appear for a few pages.

There were a few spelling and grammatical errors, not enough to detract from the book but enough to be noticeable.

Finally I love the cover art on this book, it’s beautiful!

Overall I REALLY enjoyed this book; the characters and story are awesome. For the most part I appreciated the author’s high use of science, technology and the highly detailed descriptions, although occasionally I felt they dragged on a little too much and I wanted it to get back to the story. I will be defiantly reading the rest of this series.

Thank you to Ivis Bo Davis for sending me this awesome book, and a big thank you for signing it as well.

rated: 4 

Review: In full disclosure I won the first book in this series in a Goodreads Giveaway.

Xterra Escape - Book #2

Synopsis: Todd and his friends are now in space aboard their shuttles after managing to out run the SS. The Ark is almost complete and close to launch. All is not well however, the group discovers that the Bank has secretly created a base on Jupiter and is building war ships, with orders to pursue the Ark to ensure it stays under their control, if they are unable to do so the warship will destroy the unarmed Ark. Troubles on Earth are escalating and it’s only a matter of time until Iraq launches it’s newly acquired nuke, but what will it’s target be?
Will our heroes and the humans on the Ark be able to escape the Bank, SS, Earth and all its troubles?

Review: In full disclosure I won the first book in this series in a Goodreads Giveaway.

WOW this book is amazing, it was even better than the first book (which was also amazing). I loved just about everything about it. It is easily five stars, in fact I was only about a third of the way through the book and already knew that it was going to get five stars. It’s a shame its publishing date fell just outside of the deadline date for the 2012 Goodreads Choice Award or I would have been nominating it for that.

The book starts off with some nice reminders of what happened in the first book, enough to remind the reader if it has been a while since they read it, but not so much that it takes up too much time. It is also told in a natural conversational way making it easier to read.

Once again there is plenty of science and technology used in this book. The author clearly knows what he is writing about and has done plenty of research to make the science-fiction in his book believable. A good understanding of both real world science and science-fiction will greatly help a reader understand and appreciate this series but it’s probably not essential since the author does a great job of explaining things. I like how the author includes the sources for his book.
I especially enjoyed how the author explains how the spaceships deal with rapid acceleration and how artificial gravity is created.

The level of detail in the descriptions is again of a high level, it is easy to follow what is happening and to visualise all of what is happening in the story. I felt the author done a better job of not overdoing it in this book compared to book one, as there was only really one time that it felt like it went on for too long (when the characters are telling Todd on what he missed out on while unconscious, events that as a reader we have only just read about.)

There is an especially well written, major event that occurs about a third of the way through this book. In was so wonderful I didn’t miss the fact the main characters weren’t even involved in it or the fact that it went on for a long time describing events in high detail.

The Christian religious elements and theology are much stronger in this book; I liked that the characters pray throughout the book, and the discussion about God towards the end of the story. I would say Christian readers will enjoy this book, but the religious elements aren’t so strong that non-Christians can’t enjoy it too unless they are strongly non-Christian.

The characters are amazing and extremely well written. They have strong and distinct personalities. The dynamics between the main characters is entertaining, enjoyable and believable.

As well as the human characters, the two computer personalities are fantastic and highly amusing. They are so lifelike and human you can almost forget that they are computers.

I like the fact the characters act on the information that they have, they don’t instinctively know stuff or guess what everyone is doing based on little information.

There were a couple of very minor problems I had with this book. Firstly why did our heroes decide to send a human scout party to investigate the base around Jupiter, it didn’t have a real-life purpose as far as I could tell and was really only to set up the sequences that followed it. As these were some great sequences it can be forgiven. As part of that, why is the “Shark” almost totally unmanned and undefended?
The other problem contains a MAJOR spoiler do NOT read unless you have already read this book.
It’s a pet peeve of mine when authors bring back supposedly dead characters, so I wasn’t very happy how Brad Worthington came back after we thought he was dead. I do like his character, but when authors trick us like this it seems a bit of a cop out, it also hurts later dramatic tension since we know the characters can be saved from death.

This is a fantastic series and a wonderful book easily worthy of five stars. The story is excellent, the characters strong and believable with wonderful interactions and dynamics. The level of detail in the description is at a high level without over doing it, and the science and technology is believable and great to read about.

rated: 5+Loved
rated: 5+Loved

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (1)

**Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga of Tynga's Reviews that spotlights the books we receive each week**

Have you ever "accidentally" ended up with more books than you'll read in a year? or more? Well, I've had one of those months. ;-) Not that I'm complaining.
A few weeks ago, Richi and I went to the local Trading Books store and I found an armful a really great, used books to bring home. Then www.Thriftbooks.com had a seasonal discount coupon so we ordered another dozen or so books (some I've been waiting months to show up on my available wishlist).

From Thriftbooks.com: 
The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge (Iron Codex #1)
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1)
Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver (thriftbooks.com)
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez (thriftbooks.com) **I'd been waiting months for this particular version to show up!
Alice I have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor - The Looking Glass Wars #2)

From the local Trading Books store:
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Cemetary Girl by David Bell
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
FableHaven by Brandon Mull (book one)
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Around the same time, after a several month dry-spell, I won a few ARC/giveaway's from Goodreads first reads. First I won book #5 in a series I'd only read the first book of. So I promptly purchased books 2 and 3 - Currently reading book #2.

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley - Flavia De Luce #2 (thriftbooks.com)
A Red Herring with Mustard by Alan Bradley - Flavia De Luce #3 (thriftbooks.com)
**note that the matching bookmark shown was IN the purple book (I Love when bookmarks or other random markers are still in a used book or comes with a book)
((also I still need to buy the 4th book in this series - it's in my shopping cart at Amazon))
Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley - Flavia De Luce #5 (Goodreads first read win) 

Capital Girls by Ella Monroe (Goodreads first read win)
Secrets and Lies by Ella Monroe  (included with the Capital Girls)

Glimmers by Barbara Brooke (Goodreads first read win) book is signed by the author - she also included a home made bookmark, business cards and kind thankyou note :)

Also, over the last two weeks I've won books, gift cards and swag from blog hops, flash contests on Facebook and random being in the right place at the right time. yay me :).

signed Bookmark for Keystone by Misty Provencher (won from blog hop)

That Time of the Month by Emily Shaffer (won from blog hop)

Book Tote and signed bookmarks for The Light Tamer Trilogy by Devyn Dawson (FB Flash Contest)

Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes (FB Flash Contest - shown with a matching bookmark I won earlier in the year)  This book has been on Richi's 'to-read' list for the longest time, so I was really thrilled to have won this book for him :-) yay!

City of Women by David R. Gillham (RAOK from Goodreads friend)
The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

I also downloaded ebooks for the Nook and Kindle cloud

Project Ele by Rebecca Gober
Flutter by Melissa Andrea
Cornerstone by Misty Provencher
Tortured by Caragh M. O'Brien (a bridge story between Birthmarked and Prized)
Marked by Kim Richardson (Soul Guardians Book 1)
Grizelda by Margaret Taylor
The Ivy by Lauren Kunze with Rina Onur

Kindle Cloud Freebies:
Brightest Kind of Darkness by P.T. Michelle
GPS with Benefits by Vanessa Morgan
Grace Doll by Jennifer Laurens
The Earth Painter by Melissa Turner Lee (book one of the Painter Series)
The Light Tamer by Devyn Dawson (book one in the Light Tamer Trilogy)

So ... as you can see, I have been richly blessed in books this last month. Lots to be Thankful for and Loads of really awesome books that'll keep me busy for the next few months, at least  :D

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Fall of the Altairan Empire

The Fall of the Altairan Empire. Book One: Book Two: Priestess of the Eggstone

In full disclosure I won the second book in this series in a Goodreads giveaway.

Nexus Point

Synopsis: Dace crashlands on a primitive planet.It is strictly off-limits to unauthorized personal and a non-ininterference policy is enforced. The natives believe she is a demon from the sky and attempt to kill her, at least some of the undercover agents on the planet are smuggling drugs off the planet and will kill Dace to keep her quiet. Her only hope is convincing a Patrol agent that she really is innocent and that she can help him catch the real criminals.

Review: The story itself is good, it is not a typical sci-fi story but it’s not totally original either. You can see the influences from traditional sci-fi shows such as Star Wars and Star Trek.

The language is fairly simple, that’s not to say it is bad, just not elegant or elaborate and we are only told the bare facts and not any additional information. While it makes the book less stimulating it also makes it a quick and easy read.

There were a few times where the story would jump forward in time suddenly, this could be a little confusing and also made me feel like I had missed out on something. SPOILER: The most prominent of these was a time Dace is captured while she was sleeping at the Inn with Tayvis, Dace simply goes to sleep, then wakes up imprisoned. END OF SPOILER

Dace was an okay main character, my main problem was that she spends most of the book being carried and pushed around (both literally and figuratively) by all the other characters in the book. She will get picked up by one group, who are either mean or nice to her, then something will happen (typically an attack), Dace will then use the opportunity to escape (if the group was mean to her) or gets separated (if they were friendly), she will wander around lost for a while, then she will get found by another group and the whole sequence starts over again, and this goes on for about two-thirds of the book.

Another problem was that she was almost useless; she doesn’t do much to help herself or her friends. It’s not until about half way through the book that she actually does something useful, then it is only to play a minor part of helping her and Tayvis escape, she then goes back to being useless. I find it hard to fully support a character like this.
Once we get to about two-thirds of the way through she starts to be stronger and she starts to do things. While it is great to see her much stronger and more interesting, unfortunately it does happen quite suddenly making it unbelievable. I did like the character she became.

She has a smart mouth on her throughout the whole book, and it was enjoyable reading some of the things she would say or think.

On two occasions the bad guys leave Dace tied up in an “inescapable” trap and leave her there completely unguarded (there is also a third occasion that she is tied up, and there are guards but they are not very well placed). All of this felt rather cheesey like the old Batman TV show where the villain would leave the hero in a trap and leave him alone to escape.

There were a few plot holes or places where characters would do something that was unbelievable, while not enough to break the story it was annoying. SPOILERS When Tayvis thought Dace had betrayed him, why would he stay at the Inn? If the academy gives well rounded training that could prepare the students for anything, why is Dace so useless for much of the book? Worst of all why would someone who accidently crash onto a quarantine planet face prison time, but someone who takes over leadership during a violent coup not face charges if they are successful? While not strictly a plot hole I did think people shifted their alliances too easily and suddenly. It was also a little convient that the Patrol had no way to contact reinforcement before Dace rescued Tayvis, then after she did he had easy access to communications after they escaped.

The final battle was a little confusing as there were a lot of names of characters that came in and out quickly and it made it hard to remember who was who, this is partly brought on by the fact there was several bad guys, most of whom have similar personalities.

I did enjoy the final part of the book where we find out what happens after the last dramatic part of the story; it was a perfect balance of tidying up the story and bringing the conclusion, while setting up the future of the series without dragging on for too long.

Despite having some problems, the story was still enjoyable.

Book Two: The Priestess of the Eggstone

Synopsis: Dace is finding trouble again, or perhaps more accurately it is finding her. She is now a transport pilot for Beliff Inc. With the opportunity of owning the ship at the end of her contract her dream of being an independent pilot is once again alive.
Dace hires Jerimon to be her co-pilot he seems better than her last one, but when they get boarded by Sessimoniss, eight foot tall lizard aliens who are demanding the return of their God in the form of an Eggstone it turns out that he is trouble after all.
Dace's problems don't end there, it turns out the company she works for is a front for the Targon Crime Syndicate and Dace has been transporting illegal weapons for them.
Their various activities soon bring them to the attention of the Patrol and our heroes are on the run from the law as well.
Dace and Jerimon are now on the run from Targon, the Patrol and the Sessimoniss in a desperate attempt to trace the Eggstone before one of the groups catch up with them.
Meanwhile Tayvis is trying to track down Dace, he still has feelings for her, but he is under orders to convince her to join the Patrol on a mission that will return her to her dreaded homeworld.

Review: I thought the writing was a lot stronger than the first book. There was much more detail included. Not only the depth of detail but how often we are giving the details. This makes the story much easier to follow and easier to visualize the world.

One small detail was lacking, and that was recapping of who characters were. A couple of people were introduced early in the book, not talked about for most of the book, when they turn up near the end of the story, I found it hard to remember who they were. It took me a couple of pages to remember who Luagin was, and I still have no idea where Leon was in the story.

There were less unwritten jumps in this book compared to the first one, when the story jumps forward in time we are given a short summary of what happens. This made the story easier to follow and didn’t leave me feeling like I missed something.

There weren’t any big plot holes in this book, and just a couple of hard to believe plot points SPOILER Dace simply being able to walk away from the Sessimoniss during the ceremony seemed unlikely. END OF SPOILER

One thing I really liked was just how dirty and grungy the world is. The characters are regularly in the engine room, getting covered in grease, scrapping their knuckles, hair covered in filth and getting bruises over their body. This makes the world see real, it reminded me of shows like Battlestar Galatica and Star Wars.

It was great seeing the various worlds in the book and they were all diverse and interesting. The Sessimoniss world was particularly interesting.

The story was a bit too romancey for me. It was also fairly clichéd; she has a fluttering heart over the men, thinks about what it would be like to kiss them, she also internalizes things rather than talk about them and plays the “guess why I am annoyed with you” game with the men.

There was a bit more humour in this book. It worked nicely adding something but without over doing it or making bad jokes.

Dace is a stronger character in this book, similar to how she ended in book one. She doesn’t get pushed around and stands up for herself. She still has a smart mouth on her. Although I thought she spent too much time thinking about kissing the guys and her emotions about them.

There were a few secondary characters and this time they stuck with Dace for most of the book. This allowed the reader to learn their personality and get to get attached to them. Jerimon was an interesting character to begin with and the dynamics between him and Dace was entertaining, although he lost something once he fell in love with her. Jasyn was an excellent character and provided a great sister role for Dace. Lady Rina was a fun character as well, a real firecracker of an old lady. One of my favourite characters was the Eggstone itself, the way it talked seemed so alien.

There were several nods to the first book, such as the fact Dace now has a fear of fire or not having boots. It would probably be a good idea to read the first book before this one as it would be easier to follow the story although it probably isn’t essential.

The cover for this book is much better and more appropriate for the genre.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, the story and characters are excellent, the writing style is much stronger than the first book. It was a little bit too romancey for my tastes. I am really looking forward to the next book.

Monday, October 29, 2012

So, for the past few days I've been dashing all over the internets on the Spooktacular Blog Hop hosted by I am a Reader Not a Writer and The Diary of a Bookworm... and boy has it ever been FUN!!

Obviously, TwoReads didn't participate in this HUGE blog hop with a giveaway of our own ... we didn't have the blog last year and didn't have a clue what this was all about ... but now that I've visited nearly every one of the 450+ blogs that participated in this particular hop, *pwheeew!*  and honestly, I did not realize how many spectacular book blogging site were out there ... I have really enjoyed getting to see the sights... I have found some incredible blogs ...  not to mention the generosity of these people - holy cow!!!

Unfortunately, since I've been mostly flying right from one blog to the next trying to get to them all, I didn't get to casually look over each blog as much as I would've liked to. :( However, over the next couple weeks, I WILL definitely be re-visiting the blogs that stood out for me - as well as checking out everyone I have added to the blog roll list, facebook, goodreads, etc.

This has been soooo educational as well as inspirational. I've decided, the hubs and I *will* be having a giveaway here on TwoReads (hopefully before the end of the year) so stay tuned for that. I can also say that after entering so many rafflecopter entries this past weekend, I have a lot to think about as far as the different hoops to jump through and all.

Anyway ... if you're here to check out my blog because I've followed yours during this blog hop, Yay! I realize there's not a ton to look at (yet) but hope we're more actively blogging after the new year.

Thanks so much for stopping by, you've made me a very happy blogger today :)

Feel free to leave a comment, follow me or something

Kindest Regards,

Friday, October 12, 2012

80 AD by Aiki Flinthart Series Review

80 AD by  Aiki Flinthart Series Review

I really enjoyed this series; the premise is something fairly original with the characters trapped in a computer game world. Some plot points do get repeated throughout the series.
The main set of characters is very good. Phoenix and Jade undergo quite a development during the series; Marcus and Brynn are excellent characters too and bring plenty of entertainment to the books. The many secondary characters that typically appear for just one book are also interesting and usually bring something new and varied.
The humour is very good especially that provided by Brynn’s antics.
It was enjoyable seeing a different culture in each book and it brought some nice variance to what was happening in the stories.
It has a number of good lessons, the importance of doing the morally right thing, working well with others, helping people, not losing control, and being self confident.
The reminders of what happened in the previous books has the right balance, enough to remind you what happened but not too much to break up the flow. Because of this it doesn’t matter if you have a gap in-between reading the books.
I enjoyed the appendix at the end of the first book as it gives some historical information that applies; it was a shame that this wasn’t included in the rest of the series.

I would recommend this series to fans of high school/young adult fantasy books, that are looking for something a little different, although some knowledge of computer games and/or roleplaying games would help with understanding of some parts. There is some fantasy violence and one use of the word “bastards” in the first book making it suitable for an audience of 13+.

Oh and it’s currently FREE on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. 

Book 1: The Jewel of Asgard

The basic premise of the story is somewhat traditional, young people thrown into an adventure and expected to save the world. But the specifics in the way it is told is new to me. The characters each are playing a computer game, by some strange events they are thrown INTO the computer game, except that the world appears to be real.

Having some knowledge and enjoyment of computer games and Role-Playing Games would help anyone reading this book, especially at the start of the book when they are creating their characters and playing it just as a computer game.

One nice effect of the computer game element is that because the book characters become their computer game characters the book doesn't have the annoying thing that happens in some books where children become very powerful heroes in a short amount of time. There are other gaming elements, such as a concept of a number of lives, recruiting NPCs, character skills and quests.

The pacing of the book is excellent with a good balance between action sequences and slowing scenes.

The characters are very well written, they have interesting personalities and you are drawn into their story. They are fairly stereotypical though, for example the boy Phoenix chose to be a fighter in the game, he enjoys battles and adventures, and wanted to play in the game world straight away. The girl wanted to be a pretty half-elf wizard and wanted to go home instead of going on adventures.

The characters have some development, Phoenix begins to feel bad about killing enemies and starts to take the world seriously instead of just being a game. It is also interesting to see how at first his real life skills and the skills of his character are sometimes in conflict with each other but he learns how to use both world abilities in unison.

Another nice thing is that the characters act in a real way. For example they need to pee and poop, and they miss their families.

The appendix is good, as it gives some information about the Romans, their armies and about Britain and its people.

There are a few spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, but not enough to take away from the book.

Book 2: The Hammer of Thor

Book two continues with Phoenix, Jade and their companions traveling through Nordic lands to try and return Truda to her home, and then get hold of Thor’s hammer. Failing to do so will not only bring about the end of the computer game world but their original world as well!

As you would expect level two of the game is harder than the first. The warriors have to battle against indestructible trolls, and Jade has to use her wits to help defend them in a Norse Gods courtroom or they will become sacrifices!

Fortunately the computer avatars skills seem to have improved since the first book, this helps them with their quests but they still have to struggle to overcome great odds.

The personalities of the “real” characters are also developed, with all of them getting more fleshed out in this book. All four main characters in the party, as well as the newly acquired Truda are great to read about and are very interesting.

Phoenix and Jade are at odds in this book, often arguing or being mean to each other. In one of my favourite sections of the book, Marcus gives an excellent practical demonstration to Phoenix of how co-operating with a friend will get you more points than trying to compete with them.

Jade and Phoenix also deal with real feelings, such as fear of having to be in this world without the other one, as well as missing their families.

The computer game elements are not quite as prominent in this book. Jade and Phoenix still have a number of lives and this becomes an issue in this book as they start to get used up. They also sometimes talk or think about their lives in the ‘real’ world. They have to use some of their skills from their original lives. Although I somewhat missed seeing the computer game parts of the book, it did make it more interesting in a way as it does raise the question if the computer game world is real?

The plot is cleverly woven and several seemingly different things, turn out to have a common root that is only revealed at the end of the book.

The pacing is excellent with a great balance between fast action sequences and slower talking/thinking scenes.

There is quite a bit a humour in the book again, one of the funniest is when Phoenix gets to use a real toilet again!

Book Three: The Tekhen of Anuket

Level three of the series is set in Egypt, the group of hero's are set the task of freeing a trapped Goddess before time runs out and Egypt is plunged into a never ending drought.

The story is exciting and like the previous ones, there is a good balance of action and slower talking scenes that allow for character development.

The characters face even stronger foes this time including a powerful wizard and a host of undead soldiers. The avatars are stronger so they are can battle against them.

Phoenix character is very interesting in this book, he is slowly becoming controlled by his berserker sword and his friends are at as much of risk of his anger as his foes.

The computer game elements are still in the book, mostly to do with the main characters having a number of lives. In this book they use up a number of them, they also rise the interesting question of is it right to use up one of their lives to help 'save' them.

Book Four: The Sudarshana

A good addition to the series. Our heroes adventure in a game world continues, this time they are in India. The story is of the same great quality as the previous book, the characters are excellent and the group dynamics is fantastic.

The new character in this book that joins our regulars on their quest is a player from the real world. This was very interesting to see as it has massive implications for what is going on in the story. Unfortunately it raised a number of plot points that are my main reason for only rating this book three stars.

Firstly the new character states that every character in the computer game has their own unique quests, this is to stop players teaming up, and they are not allowed to discuss what their quests are with other players or they will be banned! This doesn't make sense in the real world, since it would be practically impossible to create that many unique quests for 1000's of players. Plus the fact that the whole point of on-line games IS to team up with other players in order to complete quests. And why they heck doesn't anyone tell him "HELP! We are trapped in this game and can't get out!"

Admittedly this may be explained in the final book, but it also seems odd that new players have been allowed into the game after our two heroes have become trapped in it, it has been assumed that their real bodies are still in the real world, plugged into the game.

The other problem I had with this book is that most of the main plot points are from the previous books; avoid a large army (book one), go back and help people instead of adventuring on towards your goal (book two), free a trapped God (book three). There are some new things in this book, but not enough for my liking.

Overall this was a good story with great characters and group interactions, but was let down by the fact it is too similar to the rest of the series and plot points that make no logical sense

Book 5: The Yu Dragon

The Yu Dragon is the final book in the excellent 80AD series. I was very concerned with the opening chapters of this book as it was very similar to the previous books, the male characters end up trapped in a tomb and Brynn triggers a bunch of traps and guardians after he tries to steal some treasures. Ironically even the characters point this out and blame ‘the programmers’ for being unoriginal. Fortunately once you are past those early chapters the story expands and there are plenty of new ideas.
Both of the main characters undergo big developments in this book and they have to work hard in the battles against the final boss. Seeing the final changes that have been building throughout the series was very satisfying and I felt a great sense of completion. 

SPOILER: I was really annoyed with Marcus’s resurrection, I like him and was sad when he died, but it felt spoiled by being brought back as it lessened his sacrifice and it was a plot point that has been used before. It also made the rest of the book less tense as it seemed that the characters would always survive.

The interaction between the characters is very well written and the humour in the book is highly entertaining.
The actions sequences are exciting but there is also a good amount of slower more personal scenes to balance it out.
I enjoyed the ending; it was nice that the author kept whether the world of 80AD was real or not a mystery.