Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Insomnia by JR Johansson

  Goodreads synopsis: It’s been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me.

Instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he’s had eye contact with. He spends his nights crushed by other people’s fear and pain, by their disturbing secrets—and Parker can never have dreams of his own. The severe exhaustion is crippling him. If nothing changes, Parker could soon be facing psychosis and even death.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. Parker starts going to bizarre lengths to catch Mia’s eye every day. Everyone at school thinks he’s gone over the edge, even his best friend. And when Mia is threatened by a true stalker, everyone thinks it’s Parker.

Suffering blackouts, Parker begins to wonder if he is turning into someone dangerous. What if the monster stalking Mia is him after all?

Lynne's Review: I gave this one five great big, wide-eyed and sleepless stars! I LOVED it! INSOMNIA by J.R. Johansson is one of the most original/amazing story lines I've come across in YA in a very long time!

Parker hasn't slept in years. He goes to bed each night, but instead of a nice, peaceful, restful night of sleeping, he is forced to watch the dreams and/or nightmares of the last person he made eye contact with each day.

Now, stop for just a minute! can you imagine the dreams you'd be forced to watch? What would the lady at the grocery checkout dream about? Or the security guard at the mall? How about the big, burly guy next to you in gym class? or .... your parents?
yeah, pretty scary thoughts huh?
I have to admit this book has certainly given ME reason to wonder about the dreams of people I make eye contact with throughout the day. And I can honestly say, I wouldn't want to watch anyone's dreams - or nightmares, for that matter - other than my own (and mine are plenty scary enough!).

After nearly four years of not sleeping properly, Parker's health is severely deteriorating. People are noticing that he's not well, but only Parker is aware how close he is to actually dying. He sees the warning signs: He is forgetting things and he's unfocused and falling behind in his schoolwork. He's lost weight and he can't seem to control his hands from shaking and trembling. His mom and his closest friends (who are clueless to the real problem) think Parker is on some kind of serious drugs... if only his problems were that easy.

A near car accident causes Parker to make eye contact with a girl he's never seen before. Watching her peaceful dreams that night, for the first time in years, Parker finds himself capable of sleeping - inside her dreams.
And then, it's almost as bad as it would be if he WERE on drugs. When he discovers Mia is new to his school, he memorizes her schedule and starts following her around. He becomes so addicted to this girl and the power she has over him, that he's more or less stalking her ... desperately trying to catch Mia's eye by the end of each day, and (understandably so) he's scaring the ever-loving shit out of her!

And now, someone is sending Mia very threatening emails. She's terrified of what the emails contain and since Parker has started obsessing about her, she's nearly certain the emails are coming from him.
And as she becomes more creeped out by his behavior, Parker discovers not all of Mia's dreams are peaceful. He witnesses her nightmares - sad memories of her tragic past that turn into horrible dreams twisted by her personal fear of fires and paralyzing nightmares of being chased by an evil monster who is out to kill her. In her dreams and in real life.
Mia thinks the monster is Parker. Parker's friends are beginning to suspect it might be Parker. And worse still, blackouts leave his memory spotty and he's caught himself not knowing his own whereabouts throughout the last few weeks, so even Parker can't help but wonder if he really IS the monster in Mia's life.

They don't know who it is .... WE don't know who it is.... O.M.G!! WHO.IS.IT?!?!?!

The pacing in this book is fantastic. I stayed on the edge of my seat deciding WHO the monster was going to be!! turns out I was correct at least twice during the many guesses - each guess thinking I was spot-on for sure - and I was still surprised at the end!

In all, we are treated with a very realistically written male POV (yay!) - I have mad respect for any author who is capable of writing the opposite gender in such a believable way - I loved Parker from the beginning. He does some pretty awful stuff, but he's actually a really likable guy. Someone who quickly has you rooting for him, whether you like what he's doing or not, you know what he's going through and you understand why he does what he does, so you want to see him succeed.

Insomnia is the first book in The Night Walkers trilogy. So while most the stuff is pretty much wrapped up by the end of this book, there are sill some big questions left on the table. It stands to reason we will be able to follow Parker and his life - hopefully uncovering the deeper secrets his mom may be hiding about his dad, as well as discovering the many uses (and misuses?) for Parkers abilities.
I for one can't wait to read more!

I would totally recommend this book to other YA readers (ages mature teen and up) especially those who appreciate a really well written, male protagonist, as well as to young readers looking for a psychological thriller hiding out inside a great, and well-told story. Ultimately, INSOMNIA is about a boy who doesn't know if deep down he's a monster or hero, right now, he's just trying not to die.

In full disclosure, I won an autographed ARC edition of this book (along with signed bookmarks & other cool swag: shown below) from the author, J.R. Johansson, during a guest spot and giveaway hosted on Mindy McGinnis' blog at

More information about the author and/or links to pre/order the book INSOMNIA (which I recommend) can be found at 

rating: 5 stars 


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: Firehurler (Twinborn Trilogy, #1) by J.S. Morin

Review: Firehurler (Twinborn Trilogy, #1) by J.S. Morin

Synopsis (by Richi) Kyrus lives in peaceful world, trade and business are important, they have a sophisticated view of the world, they do not execute criminals, magic is viewed by most as something that doesn’t exist, education and intelligence are highly valued. Kyrus himself is a scribe, somewhat lacking in confidence and likes a peaceful life. Every night he dreams he is another man in a vastly different world, that man is Brannis.
Brannis lives in a war torn empire, with enemies on every border, strength and power are important, it is a harsh and brutal world, where threats and traitors are dealt with in extreme ways, magic is common but controlled by the ruling classes, strength in magic and strength in arms are the most valuable traits a person can have. Brannis is the commander of an army, he is sure of himself and his abilities and does what he needs to do to survive in this world. Every night he dreams he is another man, in another world, that man is Kyrus…

Review: In full disclosure I received a free signed edition of this book from the author.

I absolutely love this book! The concept was amazing and original. There two main characters each one has dreams that he is the other one.

One truly impressive thing was how the author created two different worlds. Whenever I was reading, even without being told which characters were there, I could always tell which world I was in. Most authors struggle to come up with depth in their worlds; this author manages to do it twice in a single book.

The characters were excellent. They had strong personalities and were enjoyable to read about. Their thoughts and feelings come across well and they are both believable and extraordinary.

The characters are well developed during the story and progress in an exciting and believable way.

Most of the characters are not purely good or evil. The good characters have so negative traits and the evil ones have redeeming ones, this makes for more realistic and deep. Also some of the characters you are never certain if they are good or evil overall, this makes it even more interesting.

The story is fantastic. The two main plots are wonderful in themselves and just one of them would have been an enjoyable read. But having the two stories together, that are then entwined together make this book extra special. It is not just limited to two main plots; there are many subplots and parallel storylines as well.

The magic system is well done, allowing the mages to do a lot of things, but limiting them so they are never too powerful, in fact a mage can seriously harm or even kill themselves if they try to do to much magic. I also enjoyed how the system is explained to the reader.

The pacing was excellent. Typically one character would be having exciting action while the other character would be having slower paced scenes. This is perfect as the slower scenes are great for character development and fleshing out the story and prevents the story becoming boring with constant action. Due to the fact the POV only changes when a character goes to sleep, it did mean occasionally we followed a character for longer that would happen typically or seemed natural. Although as this “problem” is because of the original and wonderful concept of “dreaming” of the other world, it is easily forgiven.

The balance of detail is perfect. You are given clear details on what is happening and what everything looks, sounds, smells and feels like to build a very vivid view of the worlds, as well as what the characters thoughts and feelings are. But the descriptions are never too long or boring.

This is a BIG book, 485 pages in the edition I read, and the small print means it is probably closer to twice that if it had a normal sized print. It had  the depth of story, detail of description, scope and other things you would expect of a large fantasy novel, but it never dragged or made me wish it was shorter (in fact I would have been happy if it was longer.)

I only have a couple of criticisms of this book. The first is actually for the synopsis that appears on the back of the book and on Goodreads. I felt it gave too much of the story away, <spoiler> specifically being told that the characters will battle against others who also cross the worlds. I think I would have been surprised when that was revealed in the book, but unfortunately the synopsis spoilt this for me. </spoiler>

While I did enjoy how the author crossed over the two stories and used knowledge learned from one world to use in the other. I was slightly bothered how Kyrus took a lot of information from Brannis and was helped out by him a lot, but Brannis himself didn’t take very much from Kyrus (apart from a couple of things at the end.) Again this was really only a minor problem.

I am really looking forward to the next book in the series and learning more of the worlds, seeing where story goes, what happens to the characters and what exactly this connection is.

Overall this is a masterful piece of work, the descriptions, story, characters, magic system and writing style make this a highly rated book, with the bonus of a truly original idea this is easily a five star book.

A big thank you to the author and his wife/publisher for sending me this wonderful book and giving me the chance to read this book that I really wanted to read. And thank you for signing it as well.

rating: ***** +


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief by D.M. Jarrett

Review: Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief by D.M. Jarrett
Synopsis (from Goodreads) An action, adventure, quest story; with spies, aliens, commandos and some comedy.

The first exciting episode in the Sean Yeager Adventures book series of six books. An adventure with science fiction and comedy set in a near real world. SYA is a family friendly saga that is age appropriate from 7 to 70. Written for intermediate readers and upwards, younger readers (7 to 8) may not understand all the nuances but will be able to enjoy the story. Older readers (11+) will understand the sub-plots and nuances better. (similar genre works: Star Wars, James Bond, Artemis Fowl, Hitchhikers Guide) Sean comes home to find his belongings have been stolen through a giant hole in his bedroom wall. He is invited to pursue the burglar by Foundation Agents who are assigned to protect him. Not knowing why he is protected or how his father's disappearance is linked to The Foundation, Sean joins Major Clavity and Agent Rusham on a hair-raising pursuit of Von Krankhausen. He experiences flying cars, invisible attack ships and the power of The Foundation and its enemies. The story is told by a spy-robot who is reporting back to its home world and Deijan Klesus who is monitoring the situation on Earth.

In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to the author for this opportunity and a big thank you for signing the book as well.

There is a lot of attempted humour in this book, and for me almost all of it fell flat. The characters often make “cheesy” one-liners and personally I didn’t find them funny. Because there was a lot of this throughout the book, I find it hard to really enjoy it.

I also had a problem with the pacing. It moved along very fast, going from one fast-pace action sequence to the next with no pauses for a rest. This caused a number of problems. Firstly, because it is all action, the characters are never really explored in depth and we never really get to know what they are really like, in the way slower more personal scenes would allow. Secondly, in a similar fashion, the story itself lacks depth and sophistication. Thirdly, we are given very little background on the characters and the groups. This hurts because it makes it hard to understand their motives and also made me feel less connected to them

Because it is all action, I also found myself suffering from “battle-fatigue,” where I began to get tired of all the action and it became boring.

Having said that some of the sequences were interesting and exciting, and there was enough there to keep me reading.

The characters were good, they were nothing special but also they were not badly written or annoying. The characters are never really developed, and are pretty much the same as when the started out.

The characters also put Sean Yeager, a child whom they are supposed to be protecting, in constant and increasing danger. There was never any reason given to why he had to go, and considering we are told it was important to keep him alive, it really didn’t make sense why they kept putting him in very dangerous and unpredictable situations.

There was a minor issue with the alignment with the page breaks, in this case a series of asterisks between paragraphs, which are used to signify a change of scene. In this edition they were all left aligned instead of the typical center alignment. It was a little distracting and gave the impression of a book that hadn’t had a final tidying up.

I think this book is probably aimed at the younger end of the middle-grade audience, where perhaps they wouldn’t have the same complaints that I had with this book.

Overall I thought this book was okay. I thought it was hurt by the almost constant action without the juxtaposition of slower more thoughtful scenes that would give the characters and story more depth, background and development. The action also gets tiring and boring after a while. For me the humour fell flat and that hurt the book for me as well. I would think this book would be aimed at the younger end of the middle-grade audience (8-10 year olds)

 Rating (3 stars)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (7)

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

This week on the Stacking the Shelves, I received a book I'd been waiting on since December 2012. An autographed ARC edition of Insomnia by J.R. Johansson. **note: I've already read it, it's friggen amazing and I'll be posting a review of it here soon!

I also received two Goodreads First Reads giveaway wins:

The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston **note: I'm currently reading this one. I'm thrilled that it's turning out to be amazingly good.

I also won/received an ARC edition of Phoenix by Elizabeth Richards ... good thing I was able to quickly procure a nicely matching ARC edition of book one in this series Black City by Elizabeth Richards **note: I will probably be reading these two next, so reviews to come soon.
I also ordered and received two other books that have been on my wishlist forever.

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson
and The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

needless to say, I can't wait to be able to read these!!

Oh! I can't forget the great titles I got for my ereaders this week!
on Kindle on PC:
Remembrance (Transcend Time #1) by Michelle Madow

for my Nook:
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger
The Silence of Bonadventure Arrow by Rita Leganski
A Dangerous Game (Capital Girls #2.5) by Ella Monroe

~ Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (6)

**Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga of Tynga's Reviews that spotlights the books we receive each week**
I was contacted on Goodreads by Magical Scrivener, who is the publisher and wife of J.S. Morin, the author of Firehurler. I had been in a giveaway for that book but I hadn't won it, she saw I had marked it as a "Giveaway Really Want" and offered to send me a free, signed copy of the paperback!
I was super excited by this as it looked to be the sort of book I love to read, and had a great concept. I'd also noticed the author's influences include some of my favourite authors (Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams).

Lynne also won THREE Doctor Who books, from Crown Publishing Group through a giveaway on their Facebook page. The three books are,

I am a HUGE Doctor Who fan, I had tried (and failed) to win the same books several times in Goodreads Giveaways. So I was really happy to find out my wonderful wife had won them for me.

So a total of four books I originally thought I had missed out on - but ended up getting after all!

**Lynne edited to include:

Two great books I recently won from a blog giveaway hosted by Jessica at

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison (review coming)
Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison (review coming)

Thank you SO MUCH Jessica and Kate Ellison for the wonderful opportunity to read these books!

Also, two ARC copies won through Goodreads First Reads giveaways

Imposter by Susanne Winnacker (currently reading)
Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge