Beginning January 1, 2013

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

January - March Book of the Month Poll Winner - Destined by PC and Kristin Cast

Destined by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (325 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

Zoey is finally home where she belongs, safe with her Guardian Warrior, Stark, by her side, and preparing to face off against Neferet – which would be a whole lot easier if the High Counsel saw the ex-High Priestess for what she really is. Kalona has released his hold on Rephaim, and, through Nyx's gift of a human form, Rephaim and Stevie Rae are finally able to be together – if he can truly walk the path of the Goddess and stay free of his father's shadow…

But there are new forces at work at the House of Night. An influx of humans, including Lenobia’s handsome horse whisperer, threatens their precarious stability. And then there’s the mysterious Aurox, a jaw-droppingly gorgeous teen boy who is actually more – or possibly less – than human. Only Neferet knows he was created to be her greatest weapon. But Zoey can sense the part of his soul that remains human, the compassion that wars with his Dark calling. And there’s something strangely familiar about him…

Will Neferet’s true nature be revealed before she succeeds in silencing them all? And will Zoey be able to touch Aurox’s humanity in time to protect him – and everyone – from his own fate? Find out what’s destined in the next thrilling chapter of the House of Night series.

Read the review here!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Stained Glass Summer by Mindy Hardwick

Stained Glass Summer by Mindy Hardwick
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (149 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Jasmine

Twelve-year-old Jasmine adores her photographer Father and wants to be an artist just like him. But when Dad abandons the family, Jasmine is sent to spend the summer with her Uncle on a Pacific Northwest Island. Soon, Jasmine is learning stained glass from island glass artist, Opal, mentoring five-year-old Sammy, and thinking she might just be developing a crush on Island boy, Cole. But, can Jasmine escape the shadow of her artistic Father to discover her own path as a glass artist?

Have you ever had a parent you tried so hard to impress, only to always seem to fall short of your goal?

Jasmine is a young girl, trying desperately to emulate her father. She wants his approval and his attention very badly but seems never able to achieve either. Her father is a very self-absorbed photographer who seems to think everyone's world should revolve around him. When he fails, once again, to keep a promise, Jasmine comes home to find him gone without a word. Not able to face spending the summer in the house without her father, she convinces her mother to send her to live with an uncle for the summer on an island off the coast of Washington. Feeling like everything would go back to “normal” if she could just win his approval, she enters a contest on the island making stained glass.

The author did a great job of making this story relatable, not only to children dealing with the emotions of their parents splitting up, but also to anyone that has dealt with feelings of inadequacy. Jasmine comes across loud and clear as a pre-teen on the brink of discovering all the turbulence that comes with the teen years.

As Jasmine deals with her feelings concerning her father, she is also faced with liking a boy for the first time – and having him like her back. She has this idea that if she can just repeat the same set of circumstances she witnessed with an older girl and her boyfriend, she can win the heart of the boy she likes. This made me laugh because it's so typical of young girls. I could remember feeling this way at one time, and it was a memory I would never have thought of if this book hadn't triggered it. The idea that if you could just make “this one thing” happen is a theme throughout the book and, to me, a symbol of the loss of some of her innocence of youth.

The secondary characters are quirky, with their own histories. You realize everybody is dealing with something, even if you don't know what it is. The little girl, Sammy, is a great character. She makes Jasmine focus on something other than her own thoughts and feelings whether she wants to or not and by the end, Jasmine realizes that Sammy is a kindred soul.

Though the pace of the book is a little slow and, I think, in danger of losing the attention of readers in the target age range here and there, it's a great coming of age story. This is one of those stories that, by the end, I was left wondering what happened to them later, as though they were real people. When that happens, you know you've just read something good. This is definitely worth checking out, especially if you have young children dealing with these issues. It's a good book to help them realize there are situations beyond their control and aren't usually their fault. And it may even inspire an interest in art!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Goddess Interrupted by Aimée Carter

Goddess Interrupted by Aimée Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Kate Winters has won immortality. But if she wants a life with Henry in the Underworld, she'll have to fight for it.

Becoming immortal wasn't supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she's as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he's becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate's coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.

As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future.

Henry's first wife, Persephone.

Kate thought that passing the tests to become Henry’s wife was the toughest challenge she’d have to face in her new life as Queen of the Underworld. When Henry’s abducted during her coronation ceremony and taken captive by Chronos, the King of the Titans, she comes to understand just how wrong she was. While the other gods are prepping and preparing for a war of epic proportions, Kate is forced to gain the aid of the one woman she had hoped to never come face-to-face with, in this life or any other. Persephone, Henry’s first wife.

The gamut of emotions Kate endures during this second Goddess Test novel almost killed me. Her relationship with Henry starts out strained and she fights so hard to set things to rights with him that I found myself cheering along with every outburst and crazy idea she had. During this time, she’s faced with self-doubt, insecurities galore, and the pressure to live up to Persephone’s memory. Throughout the course of her adventures, she's forced to reanalyze everything she’s ever known to be true and reorganize it to fit into an entirely new set of rules. It’s hard for her to come to grips with at the best of times, but she proves worthy enough to be Henry’s wife. Her love for Henry is set in stone and she’s prepared to do whatever is needed to prove it to him and to win him back to her side.

Goddess Interrupted is a thrilling and emotional sequel to the amazing first novel, The Goddess Test. As you delve farther into the Underworld and learn more about the history of both Kate and those surrounding her, the more entwined you become in their lives and their pasts. This second novel is a whirlwind adventure full of heartbreak, love, and self-discovery. With the shocking surprise at the end, I was left with my mouth open and tears in my eyes. I definitely am on pins and needles awaiting the next in this series!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Panty Raid @ Zombie High by Rusty Fischer

Panty Raid @ Zombie High by Rusty Fischer
Publisher: Decadent Publishing Company
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (116 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Toby’s best friend, and unrequited love, Molly Harper has gone missing. Molly’s boyfriend, “Spud,” thinks he knows where she’s been taken: the mysterious Zombie High, where Spud’s father just happens to be in charge of the top-secret medical facility famous for its work rehabilitating teenage zombies.

Armed with blueprints, passwords, keys and codes, Spud and Toby are ready to make an all-out assault on Zombie High and rescue their fair Molly. There’s just one problem: Toby and Spud are the biggest wimps at Cypress Cove High and need some muscle along for the ride in case any of the zombies get loose.

That’s where Boner and Zack come in. Two of the football team’s biggest players, the jocks are easily conned into joining Spud and Toby on their fictional “panty raid” the minute Spud calls them “chicken” for not accepting his challenge to spend the night at Zombie High.

When Zack and Boner show up to accept the challenge, however, they don’t come alone; they bring their two girlfriends, Lilac and Haley, along for the ride. With events spiraling out of control and zombies lurking around every corner, will Toby and Spud even survive their night at Zombie High, let alone rescue Molly?

While Zombie High’s not quite the higher level of learning you might think, it is a zombie rehabilitation center which has, surprisingly enough, had some success by way of Zombie Panties. When Toby’s best friend – and secret crush – disappears, it’s up to him and her boyfriend, Spud, to find her. Trouble is, they kind of already know where she is… at Zombie High. Even with backup, things don’t go quite as planned as there is more than just one plot afoot. Will any of them make it out alive? Or even undead?

Toby is your typical geeky teen. He’s awkward, he’s clueless, and he’s a little bit oblivious. He’s also awfully endearing in an annoying, hormone-infused, kind of way the more time you spend with him. Toby is nothing you’d expect once you get to know him better. As his internal struggles surface while dealing with lies, betrayal, and zombies, you really start to like the guy because he has real heart. I love the fact that, just when you think you have him – and his friends – figured out, they throw you for a complete loop and do something unexpected.

Fighting alongside Toby are two jocks and their girlfriends who are hoodwinked into thinking they are just going for a late-night panty raid over at Zombie High. Joke’s on them when they run into more than some electronic cattle-prod underwear, however. It’s a lot of fun to watch the BMOC go from being the in-crowd to being reduced to a puddle of quivering boy-man when faced with their worst nightmares. These sidekicks are having their shining moment one minute and an epic ‘doh’ moment shortly after. The jock half of these sidekicks, especially, bring some added comic relief to the mix.

Panty Raid @ Zombie High reads a lot like one of those old horror B-movies, but in a good way. It’s silly, it’s campy, and it’s a whole lot of fun wrapped into one adventurous zombie story. It combines the horror and disgustingness of a zombie attack with high school drama and lots of humor. Highly entertaining and a little more than a tad gross in parts, Panty Raid @ Zombie High is an enlightening twist on the newest zombie craze for sure.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My 18th Birthday by Patricia Lieb

My 18th Birthday by Patricia Lieb
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Historical (Recent)
Length: Full Length (165 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Life in the small tri-states town of Clover, AR-LA-TX, was wonderful until the year 1960; then heartaches of the worse kind led the young guitarist, Annie Jo, to catch a Greyhound bus headed to the city lights of Memphis, TN—there she might be discovered by a talent scout. While riding through Arkansas, she tries to ignore the handsome man giving her more attention than he should. And soon action starts to pop. Annie Jo joins with members of the Civil Rights movement, gets stalked by a drunk, jailed, and kidnapped—all on her 18th birthday.

Today is the big day and Annie Jo is eagerly awaiting the arrival of six PM. Upon that magical hour, she’ll be officially eighteen. In celebration, she’s decided to pack up all that is important to her and hit the bus station – with a one way ticket out of her sleepy little town. Unfortunately, the universe has more in store for her than just a simple bus ride from Texarkana to Memphis. It’s never quite that easy though, is it? Welcome to adulthood, Annie Jo, better hold onto your hat!

Annie Jo is a pretty uncomplicated character and her simplicity makes her endearing and likable from the start. Even while nursing a broken heart and carrying around the weight of things she can’t change, she still manages to look life in the eye and see it for what it is – a rollercoaster ride of emotion and experience. Annie’s a small town girl and it shows. She does the right thing for no other reason than because it’s right. However, her small town outlook does lean towards naiveté at times, only reinforcing her innocence. Sometimes this makes her even more likable and sometimes it makes you shake your head. But she’s always true to herself and that’s a big part of why she’s so interesting.

I enjoyed the way the author told Annie Jo’s story leading up to her decision to leave Clover. She makes the flashbacks into instances of daydreaming while traveling on the bus. It was a creative and non-intrusive way to give us the back story we needed without slapping us in the face with it. I was also very impressed with the way she incorporated Annie Jo’s awakening social consciousness into the story without making it overtly obvious she was doing so. There were two issues I did have with the story. One was the sometimes simplistic sentence structure and the other being the too often repeated descriptions and phrasing. However, it wasn’t enough to completely distract you from the story, only slightly hindering your enjoyment for the moment.

My 18th Birthday is a great coming-of-age story set in the very turbulent times of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. It brings the trials of the times front and center and shows you how one courageous, if a bit naïve girl, might have handled the situation. So much is packed into the twenty-four hours of Annie Jo’s birthday, that you really have to read it to believe it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Big, Fat, Hairy Werewolf Intervention-A Love Story with Fur by Rusty Fischer

My Big, Fat, Hairy Werewolf Intervention-A Love Story with Fur by Rusty Fischer
Publisher: Noble Romance Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (172 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

It's Regan's seventeenth birthday, and her sister has just picked her up from school to take her to a "surprise" birthday dinner with their single father. Soon, however, Regan realizes she's been lured not to the Grouper Grille, but to a hotel conference room, where her best friend Ava, her Dad, and Freddy Fields, the hottie thug from her sixth period shop class, are all waiting.

Could it be? Why, yes, it is . . . an intervention!

Suddenly, Regan sees lights and cameras and . . . is that Hunter Hazard, host of the Scream Channel's top-rated reality show Monster-Vention?

But why are they here? Regan's family reminds her about the bloody clothes in the washing machine, the chewed up sneaker on their lawn, and the teenage girls who have gone missing in their sleepy little town of Crescent Cove, South Carolina. The clues are piling up, and they all point to a conclusion Regan doesn't want to accept. Could she really be a werewolf?

Is Regan really a werewolf, or is she being framed?

First, I have to give Mr. Fischer credit for coming up with such an attention grabbing title. My curiosity was instantly piqued. After reading the blurb, I expected the story to be full of werewolves and humor, and I certainly found those things within the pages of this book. However, I was surprised to discover that My Big, Fat, Hairy Werewolf Intervention is much more than a book about monsters. Beneath the paranormal trappings, is a story of a seemingly normal family falling apart at the seams.

Regan is a teenager spiraling out of control. Her home life is a wreck, school isn’t much better, and she’s even distancing herself from her best friend, Ava. I could tell she was hurting on the inside, but she covers it all up with a smart mouth and loads of attitude. I couldn’t help but shake my head and sigh. As I read, I certainly felt she needed some sort of intervention, but like Regan, I thought the notion that she could be a werewolf and not know it utterly ridiculous. I completely understood her frustration as she's forced to listen to her friends and family level preposterous accusations at her. Despite the absurdity of her situation, I think Regan handles it all very well. I found it especially entertaining when something completely serious would be going on and a thought about how hot Freddie was would flit through her mind.

As bizarre as the monster-vention seemed, a lot of painful truths came out concerning Regan and her family. Regan has tons of issues concerning her mom’s abandonment, and she can hardly stand to be in the same room as her sister, Sara. I must admit I have serious issues concerning Regan’s parents. I cannot give much detail concerning that situation without spoiling the story. However, I will say something very sinister is happening in Regan’s small town, and Regan’s father has some well founded suspicions concerning the culprit. I found it extremely disturbing that Regan’s father would have such grave concerns and not take greater steps to protect his family. Rather than rallying to protect those he loves, he just lets things happen. I couldn’t help but wonder how many more years would go by and how many girls in town would have to go missing before he would do something about it.

The bulk of the book is spent discussing the broken dynamics of Regan’s family, and I began to wonder if the werewolves mentioned in the prologue were ever going to make an appearance. However, once the werewolves finally show up, the pacing of the story really picks up. The end of the story is filled with big revelations and intense battles. I must warn readers that the transformations of the werewolves as well as the wounds inflicted on the humans are described in graphic detail, and probably shouldn’t be read by someone who is squeamish.

My Big, Fat, Hairy Werewolf Intervention is a good read. The premise of the story is interesting, and Regan is an odd, but ultimately likable character. Readers looking for a young adult paranormal with a bite might want to give this story a try.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The First Time by Various Authors

The First Time by Cyn Balog, Lauren Bjorkman, Leigh Brescia, Jennifer Brown, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Janet Gurtler, Teri Hall, Cheryl Renee Herbsman, Stacey Jay, Heidi R Kling, C. Lee McKenzie, Saundra Mitchell, Jenny Moss, Jackson Pearce, Shani Petroff, Carrie Ryan, Sydney Salter, Kurtis Scaletta, Jon Skovron, Kristina Springer, Rhonda Stapleton, Charity Tahmaseb, Jessica Verday, J.A. Yang, and Lara Zielin
Publisher: Jessica Verday, Kindle Edition
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (560 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

You never forget your first...

In THE FIRST TIME, 25 young adult authors contribute 25 stories all about firsts: first loves, first kisses, first zombie slayings, and more. Featuring New York Times bestselling authors Carrie Ryan and Jessica Verday, plus a host of others. From humor to horror, and everything in between, these stories will make you laugh, cry, cheer, (and maybe even scream) as you experience something brand new from the authors that you love.

What do a zombie apocalypse, a cart princess and a goldfish have in common? They are three of the twenty-five themes represented in this intensely compelling anthology that delves into the experiences of The First Time.

There’s something here to satisfy almost anyone’s preference when these twenty-five super talented young adult writers collaborated on this seductive literary work. I say seductive because once you start reading you won’t want to put it down. The stories draw you in and bring your emotions to the forefront wither you’re laughing, cringing, crying or cheering. Some of the stories end on happy notes, others leave the reader suspended on a cliff hanger, still others give hope for the future and two or three simply end. It’s almost as if the writers gave us an extended story prompt with expectations we’ll finish the story our way. It’s both exciting and frustrating.

In particular, siblings Danny and Julie’s story left me in tears of the “what’s next?” in Carrie Ryan’s A Game of Firsts. As did Hope’s story in Sweet Truth by Stacey Jay. I NEED to know how the author envisioned these stories continuing and more importantly, how they end.

There are several funny stories where I was laughing out loud at the antics and the dialogue of the characters. Kristina Springer’s Cart Princess is a humorous take on a young girl’s first job working in a grocery store. Who ever imagined there was a dating hierarchy in the convenience shopping arena? Certainly not Veronica. You’ll love how she manages to break the ice with the hot produce guy.

In Romeo and What’s Her Name by Shani Petroff we meet Emily who agrees to be the understudy to the lead in her best friend’s play. Why not? Understudies almost never have to perform, right? Wrong! I could totally relate to Emily’s predicament which made the story all the more hilarious.

What if you were the only non-super born into a family of superheros? Jane knows first hand how it feels but don’t count her out…someone has to be the bait to draw out the baddies. Once Burned, Twice Shy by Jessica Verday is a very funny novella with a sweet romance in the end.

Next, step out of your comfort zone with Rhonda Stapleton’s Heart On. Matt’s first date with Jessica doesn’t go quite the way he imagined but the future is looking pretty bright.

If you tend to lean towards the young adult books that are sweet with happy endings you might enjoy Green Glass Reflection by Cheryl Renee Herbsman, Selling Mr. Peanut by Lara Zielin, Turn Here by Jackson Pearce, Evan and Penny by Jenny Moss or Against the World by Jennifer Brown. Each story is unique as it is sweet.

As a daughter and a mother I could empathize with the generation gap between Alex and her mom in Turn Here. In this story they take an impromptu road trip across Georgia when Alex comes upon a pre-programed GPS meant for someone else. Their story proves it’s both the journey as well as the destination that matters. For this mother/daughter duo the roads they travel emotionally are more important than the ones lead by the GPS.

Evan and Penny was another of this group where I had no trouble connecting with the heroine. Penny is average. Actually, her word is “mediocre”. Really, she’s simply normal in a family where you’re not celebrated unless you do something to stand out. I liked that Penny met someone like Evan and was given a fun day. No judging. No pressure. A very sweet beginning.

I was inspired to consider possibilities and other points of view in The First Goldfish of McKinley High by Sydney Salter, The First Time I Got Stranded in the Really Big Empty by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Two of a Kind by Janet Gurtler, When Skies are Gray by Leigh Brescia, The Trouble With Firsts by Charity Tahmaseb, Azalea by Kurtis Scaletta, Kissing The Dog-Faced Boy by Saudra Mitchell, Freedom by Cyn Balog and Perfect Firsts by J.A. Yang. There are few cliffhangers among this set and several surprises.

Two of a Kind and The Trouble with Firsts were two of my favorites. Ms Gurtler does an amazing job of painting her hero, anti-hero really, Fab, as a jaded drug using son of a famous rocker. He’s seventeen and pretty much on his own. Fab has lived so hard and seen so much in his young life he’s forgotten what it feels like to be innocent…until he met Molly. The premise is clever and the ending…hopeful.

In The Trouble with Firsts by Charity Tahmaseb, friends Mattie and Ian learn a timely lesson about realizing the value of loving what’s right in front of you rather than what you think you might want. Ms. Tahmaseb is a terrific writing voice that truly brought this story to life. There is some pretty funny dialogue in this one that kept it from being overly serious. Considering the tension surrounding stories that come just before and just after, it was refreshing.

There are several paranormal and/or futuristic stories included in this book including Looking Through One Eye by Jon Skovron, Premeditated Cat by C. Lee McKenzie, The Corridor by Teri Hall, Fly to Me by Heidi Kling and The Shark King by Lauren Bjorkman. I saved these for last because I think these may have been my favorite genre explored within the anthology. It’s hard to say which one or ones I liked best because they’re all so different and entertaining. I will say I would love to read an extended version of The Shark King and The Corridor. So many unanswered questions and so much room to expand on these stories.

Fly to Me both stole my breath and left me with hope for the future. Told in first person it begins in a turbulent future set in Paris, France. The young people of the world are being taken and transformed against their will. Though a few seem to welcome the change when it comes other less fortunate few do not accept the change well and become hideous hybrids; not man and not quite beast. I cried for much of the beginning and breathed a sigh of hopeful relief when the story came to a close. I won’t say it’s a happily-ever-after but it’s the best these characters can hope for. It was enough.

You might think with twenty-five different authors there might be one or more stories that weren’t up to par with the others. That wasn’t my experience at all with The First Time. These talented and creative storytellers cover a wide variety of genres and writing styles and yet they complement one another. If the anthology had been structured to only include contemporaries or only comedies it wouldn’t have been the same emotional ride for the readers. If you try to read this whole book in one sitting it will certainly feel like you’ve been on a roller coaster. For that reason, I would suggest reading two or three stories at a time. Simply enjoy the beauty and creativity of each writer’s voice and the direction they take on the “First Time” theme. I for one have added a boat load of new writers to my TBR list to check out. Pick up your copy today and be prepared to take one more amazing adventure after another.

Friday, March 16, 2012

True North by Christy Trujillo

True North by Christy Trujillo
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Length: Full Length (199 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Trying to make it out of high school alive – Difficult.

Being the only human in a town of Shape Shifters – Challenging.

Figuring out where you really belong (with the help of the hottest guy you’ve ever laid eyes on) - Priceless.

We’ve all heard them, the never-ending comparisons our parents make of us to our siblings and those around us. Why can’t you be more ambitious, Sahar? Why can’t you be more like your uncle, Sahar? Why can’t you flip into animal form like everyone else, Sahar? The small town of True North, Colorado is a serene and tranquil place if you happen to be a shapeshifter, which as it turns out, Sahar North is not. Though she’s the daughter of one of the most prominent families in town, she just doesn’t seem to fit in. Thanks to Dana, the Wicked Witch of the North, her junior year is sure to be one of utter misery and she’s counting the days to graduation when she can finally put this small town in her rearview mirror. When out of the blue, the alpha of the wolf pack, and her crush for like…ever, Cameron, starts to pay more attention to her and she manages to befriend the witch’s human cousin, Dean, Sahar doesn’t feel so alone and thinks she may just make it out of high school alive.

Of course, nothing is as it seems and when dead bodies start showing up in the woods, Sahar and her family partner with the pack to solve the mystery and will stumble upon a secret the town has kept for hundreds of years. Armed with this new knowledge, Sahar will fight for her family, fight for her town, and fight for her people because when you realize what you’re fighting for nothing can stop you…right?

Sahar is a typical teenage girl, and that is a huge problem.

Sahar is so easy to like. She’s a classic teenage girl in many respects. She has a loyal best friend, a wicked enemy, and a crush on the most popular boy in town. On top of the usual challenges of being a teenager, Sahar’s life is further complicated by the fact that her town is full of shape shifters and it doesn’t seem like she's ever going to “flip” into an animal form. I found it interesting that being a human was odd and being a shape shifter was normal. In many of the other books I’ve read about shifters it is usually the other way around. I think Ms. Trujillo’s approach is unique and a great addition to the paranormal genre.

As if worrying about her lack of shape shifting abilities wasn’t enough, Sahar’s life is further complicated when people start dying in the woods. It becomes clear her small home town is full of secrets that will change her life forever. As the story progresses, Sahar comes face to face with a lot of big revelations concerning not just her town, but also her family and herself. I think she handles everything very well. She has a few melt downs and lashes occasionally, but she never fought against or denied the truth when it was right in front of her.

Cameron is Sahar’s hero. I think they make a very cute couple, but their relationship became serious very quickly. One day Cameron doesn’t know she exists and the next he can’t take his eyes off her. Before long, they are professing their love for each other. While I believe their connection is genuine, I would have liked to have seen them spend a little more time together doing something normal like going on a date.

True North has some interesting secondary characters including Sahar’s Uncle Luke, and Dean, the new guy at school. These characters really help move the plot along, especially Dean. There are some big surprises concerning his character revealed near the end of the story. However, even after finishing the book, I still don’t feel like I really know Luke, Dean, or any of the other secondary characters very well. I would have liked to get to know them in greater depth.

The pacing of True North really picks up toward the end. I had one piece of the puzzle figured out, but the master mind behind it all was a surprise. There are not one, but two very intense battles that had me racing to the end of the book. The ending is neat and satisfying, but again, I was left wanting a bit more detail especially concerning the antagonist’s motivations. Despite this issue, I had a smile on my face when I finished the book.

True North is a fun, fast paced story with an interesting take on shape shifters. I enjoyed every minute spent reading it. Fans of paranormal romance looking for a quick read with a happy ending should give True North a try.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Farsighted by Emlyn Chand

Farsighted by Emlyn Chand
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length Full Length (206 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Alex Kosmitoras's life has never been easy. The only other student who will talk to him is the school bully, his parents are dead broke and insanely overprotective, and to complicate matters even more, he's blind. Just when he thinks he'll never have a shot at a normal life, an enticing new girl comes to their small Midwest town all the way from India. Simmi is smart, nice, and actually wants to be friends with Alex. Plus she smells like an Almond Joy bar. Sophomore year might not be so bad after all.

Unfortunately, Alex is in store for another new arrival--an unexpected and often embarrassing ability to "see" the future. Try as he may, Alex is unable to ignore his visions, especially when they suggest Simmi is in mortal danger. With the help of the mysterious psychic next door and friends who come bearing gifts of their own, Alex embarks on a journey to change his future and save the woman of his dreams.

Alex Kosmitoras has enough problems in his life without the weird visions which appear out of nowhere.

His father interferes too much in his life. When a psychic opens the shop next to his mother's flower shop, this seems to upset his father even more. Shapri, the psychic's daughter, and Simmi who are young girls from India, attend the same school as Alex and the three become friends. Simmi helps him to understand his own psychic powers but Shapri doesn't believe such things exist.

Alex's visions center on Dax, a strange boy his own age, who appears to be intent on killing Simmi. Determined to stop this from happening, Alex vows to save Simmi from this terrible fate, despite the fact he's blind.

The author of "Farsighted" is not a teenager, but she has reached into the world of young adults and written a book from their point of view. Alex's blindness is referred to in a matter-of-fact manner which is good. On the other hand I could feel his fear when he admitted he had psychic capabilities and to protect Simmi he must go after Dax.

Alex's interaction with the two girls worked well. I smiled when this typical teenage boy tried to understand where he'd gone wrong and why were the girls angry with him? The three friends are the main plot of the book. Despite their different backgrounds they work well together.

The story is well written but I found it to be a little flat. There were no real highs or lows to whet the appetite. The promise of excitement and action were there, but unfortunately the promise was not entirely fulfilled. Despite this I enjoyed the book. I found it wonderful to look at the world through the eyes of a teenager who wasn't a rebel, merely a young man who tried to do what was best for him and his family. It was interesting to see how the Alex dealt with the extra stress his new abilities placed on him.

I believe this is the first of at least two books. I'd be happy to read the sequel because Emlyn Chand clearly has talent.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Trouble with Nightingale by Amaleen Ison

The Trouble with Nightingale by Amaleen Ison
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (38 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Eighteen-year-old Millie Scrubbings must decide if she can stomach her responsibilities as Hell's new Gatekeeper, or risk the denizens of Hell defiling her home turf.

When eighteen year old Millie Scrubbings moves to new digs on East London’s Nightingale Estate, she believes she’s finally closed the door on a childhood dictated by strangers. But overnight, her peaceful high-rise turns bonkers, and a series of grisly murders leaves Millie frightened and more helpless than ever.

Millie must accept her lead role in rescuing Nightingale from its descent into anarchy, or risk all Hell breaking loose.

Millie knows something funny is going on in the building she lives in. They keep finding tenants murdered…

Ms. Ison does an excellent job of creating a fast-paced amusing fantasy tale filled with danger. It stars a clueless young woman who is supposed to be the new gatekeeper. Once I sat down and started reading this story, I didn’t get back up again until I finished it. Ms. Ison grabs your attention on the first page and keeps the story moving along at a good pace until the end.

Millie’s parents have died and she moved through various foster homes until she became emancipated. This apartment house was part of her dreams of having her own place, but she didn’t expect it to be a dangerous place to live. After all her bad luck in her earlier life, it’s easy to empathize with Millie and hope she can learn what she needs to know fast enough to stay alive.

My favorite character is Millie’s familiar. He’s a handsome hunk in her presence but transforms into a pet when other people are around. You’ll never guess what he transforms into. Trust me, you won’t. I laughed when I found out... it's so fun!

The Trouble with Nightingale is written for young adults, but this adult-reader really enjoyed it as well. No character is overdone. Millie acts like everyone else. The few powers she discovers actually help round out her character and give her the ability to fight back against demons.

Why not join Millie in her quest to save her apartment house (and maybe the world) from demon danger? You’ll find yourself rooting for the familiar, even if he’s not what you’d call a dangerous animal. I know I did.

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (284 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Sunflower

Kayla McHenry's sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla's secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin' do.

Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year's supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla's wishes-past appear, they take her on a wild ride . . . but they MUST STOP. Because when she was fifteen? She wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her. And Ben is her best friend's boyfriend.

Sweet sixteenth birthdays are supposed to be special, memorable. Most girls start daydreaming about their sixteenth birthday long before they even become a teen. Do you remember your sixteenth? Didn't you want all of your wishes to come true? To have just a few magical moments before reality hits and everything is normal again? Sure, who doesn't, right? The heroine in You Wish is turning sixteen, and let me tell you, her wishes don't go quite as planned.

For Kayla McHenry, high school isn't all that great. She's beginning to have a a sarcastic and cynical attitude towards life. She doesn't try hard to fit in and be popular, in fact, she snubs the popular crowd. I felt a lot of Kayla's pain. High school can be tough, especially when you don't know where you belong. There are so many cliques and if you're not quite there in any of them, it's going to be a long four years.

One little harmless birthday wish changes things in a big way. Strange things are occurring, beyond Kayla's understanding. Until it dawns on her what's actually happening.

You Wish is a comical, lighthearted book about typical teen issues. Looking for love, falling for someone you can't have, trying to belong, and needing to be noticed by family. With each passing day, a new birthday wish from Kayla's past comes true, and between juggling with those real life wishes, new complications arise. Kayla all of a sudden has a lot to balance.

Written in the first person, Ms. Hubbard has created a charming character in Kayla. It was fascinating to read her journey towards being a better person and understanding life. The witty dialogue and funny situations had me laughing out loud and made for a pleasant read. Even though I wanted to know how the story ended, I was sad to see it go. Readers young and old can easily enjoy this wonderful book. If you like to read contemporary young adult novels, I recommend putting You Wish on your list of books to read!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (443 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Rose Hathaway knows it is forbidden to love another guardian. Her best friend, Lissa – the last Dragomir princess – must always come first. Unfortunately, when it comes to gorgeous Dimitri Belikov, some rules are meant to be broken . . .

But since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn't been feeling right. Something dark has begun to grow in her mind, and ghostly shadows warn of a terrible evil drawing nearer to the Academy's iron gates. And now that Lissa and Rose's sworn enemy, Victor Dashkov, is on trial for his freedom, tensions in the Moroi world are higher than ever.

Lying to Lissa about Dimitri is one thing, but suddenly there's way more than friendship at stake. The immortal undead are on the prowl, and they want vengeance for the lives that Rose has stolen. In a heart-stopping battle to rival her worst nightmares, Rose will have to choose between life, love, and the two people who matter most . . . but will her choice mean that only one can survive?

Life’s never been simple for dhampir Rose Hathaway. Now, while mourning the loss of her long-time friend, Mason, and contemplating her upcoming graduation, things are more complicated than ever before. And when you add in her undeniable love for fellow guardian and instructor, Dimitri Belikov, Rose’s life at St. Vladimir’s is just downright insane. And about to get much, much worse…

I wasn’t sure I was going to care much for Rose when I first started this series. She’s headstrong, she’s crabby, and she has the tendency to blow off anyone who doesn’t agree with her. Even more so when she knows they’re right. However, these are the traits that, if developed and used properly, will make her into an exceptional guardian in the future. I have to admit, although she’s still a bit headstrong and inflexible, she’s learned a lot and has grown even more over these first three novels. In Shadow Kiss, she’s forced to face reality on more than one occasion and learn to deal with – and even accept – the kind of horrible things that happen in her world. Not an easy road for a seventeen-year-old, even if she is half-vampire.

Dimitri, despite himself, really starts to loosen up around Rose and lets more of the real him show. I really enjoyed getting to know Dimitri better and learning just a touch about his non-guardian side. He's the quintessential guardian – he’s strong, dedicated, and he’s learned to put all else second to his charge, no matter how tempting that distraction might be. To allow Rose into his life like he has, even knowing that it’s the last thing any sane guardian would do, takes a lot of courage – and trust in Rose’s abilities. I know he's the major reason for her successful progression as a guardian. His belief that she can do and be all they expect of her forces her to focus and prove Dimitri right. They make a great team when they work together.

Shadow Kiss is an excellent follow up to Frostbite, carrying on the story and pulling the reader deeper into the world of the Moroi and dhampir. You learn a little bit about everyone in this third installment and you can definitely find growth across the board with all the major characters. I loved how the author took time to focus some on Lissa’s use and development of her spirit magic as well. I am very excited to move on to the next book in the series, especially after the shocking ending of this one!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (363 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Sweet Sixteen - one of the most special birthdays in a young girl’s life. But for Meghan Chase, her sixteenth birthday is going to turn her world on its ear. From discovering her best friend is really the faery Puck to learning the truth of her own lineage, Meghan’s birthday and the days that follow it, are full of frightening and wonderful revelations. Although she’s fairly certain she can come to grips with all this new information, the hard part is going to be adjusting to, and surviving, it all.

Meghan never really fit in anywhere in their little Louisiana town, and now she knows why. Invisible at school and nearly so at home, she yearns to be noticed, to be special. When she discovers just how special she really is, it all starts to make sense. Meghan is probably one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in awhile. She’s equal parts hot-headed human and calculating fey. The way she embraces her fey side and makes it work with her emotional, human side is amazing. It shows you really can take conflicting parts of a person and make them work in harmony. She’s a fast learner, too, and adapts to her new environment – and its tricky rules – quickly. Her flexibility and her passion for her friends, family, and justice makes her a heroine worth reading.

Tales of the land of faery have long been a favorite of mine. There’s something about the mystery and beauty of the fey that draws me in and holds me tightly. In The Iron King, the author weaves a magical story with both very contemporary elements and ideas and lush details and themes classic to the Summer and Winter Courts. With the intense journey, the lovable and exotic companions, and imaginative scenery, it’s hard not to get lost in the Nevernever, home of the fey. If this first Iron Fey novel is any indication, Meghan and her companions are in for some pretty wild adventures in the future.