Friday, February 28, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday #1

This week's topic:  Change the plot. If you could, what book would you change the ending or a plot thread? Go ahead and do it…change it.

Despite absolutely loving the series as a whole, I would change the end to the Harry Potter series.  I feel the last third of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a bit muddled, and maybe a little rushed, especially compared to the first half of the novel where almost nothing happens.  Could this just be a curse of high expectations?  Possibly.  I thought the last movie was better than the book, though.

Honorable mentions include the last books in the Twilight and Hunger Games series.  I kind of liked the end to Allegiant, though.

 This is my first Feature & Follow Friday since my blog is brand spankin' new.  Hi guys!

Click "read more" to check out and/or join the blog hop!

Review/Giveaway: Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle

After devouring this novel, I decided I would be doing a grave injustice to humanity if I did not immediately make an impromptu giveaway for it.  Enter my giveaway for a chance to win a retail ebook copy in the format of your choice (mobi/epub).

I just found out about this book yesterday, and I seriously felt like a seven year old kid on Christmas morning.  A horror romance based on the Donner party?  Is the author my soul mate?  Did I perhaps write this whilst I was sleeping?  I am obsessed with cannibalism in survival situations (I know, it's a weirdly specific niche to be obsessed with), but I love reading about the Donner party and the Andes plane crash survivors.

So this is what you need to know about the Donner party, if you don't already:
From In the spring of 1846, a group of nearly 90 emigrants left Springfield, Illinois, and headed west. Led by brothers Jacob and George Donner, the group attempted to take a new and supposedly shorter route to California. They soon encountered rough terrain and numerous delays, and they eventually became trapped by heavy snowfall high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Purportedly reduced to cannibalism to survive through the winter, only half of the original group reached California the following year. Their story quickly spread, and before long the term “Donner Party” became synonymous with one of humanity’s most ingrained taboos.
This is what you need to know about Donners of the Dead:  It's the authors take on the Donner party, but guess what?  They're zombies.  Really detailed, creepy, disgusting and foul zombies.  Really good zombies.

I honestly didn't even care about the romance aspect, and before I started reading, I thought I was going to hate it.  I couldn't imagine how romance and horror could be thrown together without one or both of them being cheesy.  I needn't have worried; Karina Halle pulls off this novel with aplomb.  The heroine is likeable, the hero is a big stud, and the zombies are truly terrifying.  And it works... it just works.

Donners of the Dead is a story about a young half-breed Indian girl that gets hired to help track members of a search party that disappeared when trying to locate the original Donner party.  After accepting a staggering sum of money for the job, Eve sets off with her chaperone, friend, and the group of men that hired her into the mountains. Eve finds herself drawn (adversely at first) to Jake, a cowboy helping with the mission.  They soon find themselves fighting for their lives, while still managing to discover a blossoming love in the face of tragedy and horror.

One qualm?  It was a bit short at 203 pages, but it didn't feel rushed, surprisingly.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway!

Want to try a Karina Halle book for free?  Check out the first in her Experiment in Terror series, Darkhouse, on!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Rant: DNF - Aloha Also Means Goodbye by Jessica Rosenberg

Jo and Jordan tied the knot five years ago in a mud hut in the middle of Zambia far from all their friends and family. Now they're in Hawaii for a big wedding vow renewal ceremony elaborately planned by Jo's mother. There's just one small issue, there’s something wrong with the wedding license issued in Africa and only Jo knows.

Little does she know that the wedding license will soon prove to be the least of her problems.

Her ex, the man she was running from when she met Jordan, is on the island and he's there with his two kids, both of whom are named after her.

Coming face to face with her past just as she's trying to brave her future forces Jo to make some big decisions. It might even force her to grow up. Luckily she doesn't have to do any of it on her own; her two best friends are there to hold her hand and help her down the right path.

Despite all the upheaval and complications Jo will eventually walk down the aisle to say “I do” to the man who completes her. But will the wedding that takes place be the one Jo's mother planned? Or will it be something much, much better?  @Goodreads

Did not finish -- yikes!
Nothing, and I mean nothing, pains me more than discarding a novel once I decided to read it.  Yet this one here, I gladly threw down in utter disgust.

Note: I received an advanced copy from Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher. 

 I could not get into this book at all. Far-fetched and contrived. I abandoned ship very early on, because I didn't like the characters, and I had zero interest in finding out what happens. The protagonist is about to renew her wedding vows (yes, she's already married) with her husband in Hawaii. A remote area of Hawaii. And guess who is there? Her ex-boyfriend that broke her heart. With his young daughter from another woman. How does any of that sound desirable? If my ex just so happened to magically book a vacation in the same exact remote island at the same exact time I did, and he had broken my heart in the past and then had a KID, and not to mention I myself was already married, this is what I'd do: NOTHING. Bad plot.

 If anyone out there finished it -- did it get better?

Expected publication date:  N/A

Rave: I love technology!

I have switched exclusively to an ereader as of 2011, and I haven’t looked back. At first I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having a collection of intangible objects, but there are definite perks to consider. For instance, books are heavy. If you’ve amassed the collection I had, that is a major downfall when you’re moving. With my divorce and relocation from Ohio to North Carolina in 2011, I am saddened to report that my book collection did not make it. I donated it to charity**. Similarly to being heavy, books can take up a lot of space. You’ll have to dust them, if they’re on display. Unless you’re a hillbilly like me and you don‘t dust. But I digress.

I have about 150 books on my Kindle, and it is nowhere near its capacity. E-ink screens are incredibly easy on the eyes, so it feels like I am reading a real book, except with a back light so you can read it everywhere. The battery lasts forever – through several books. And books are cheaper! I stalk Amazon’s Kindle Deals of the Day on a daily basis, and I have gotten some tasty bargains. Now that I’m reviewing books for this blog, I have been sent fifteen free ebooks this month alone from publishers. Free books that don’t come from the library or your white trash neighbor’s yard sale! Last but not least, you can buy books at any time! You don’t have to go to the book store or library again. You don’t have to even spend two long, grueling days waiting on Amazon Prime. To quote Kanye West, “Jesus wept.”

 I miss books sometimes, though, I do. I miss the smell of a new book. (Yankee Candle needs to make a New Book scent, am I right?) I love the crispness and freshness of a book no one has read before me. (I know it sounds like I have some sort of weird book perversion. I do.) I also miss just simply browsing the book store. I have absolutely no need to do so anymore; I get book news from blogs I read and Goodreads, and I’m never going to purchase an actual book again, so it’s pointless.

 I’ve used the nook 1st gen, nook Simple Touch 1st gen, Kindle Paperwhite 1st gen. I’m currently using the Kindle Paperwhite (pictured), which is hands down the best device I've tried.

I <3 technology.

**By donating it (my book collection) to charity, I really mean that I left it in boxes in my ex-husband’s basement.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

For fans of Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell, a dark, gripping debut novel of literary suspense about two mysterious disappearances, a generation apart, and the meaning of family-the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.

The Dane family's roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn't keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy's few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn't protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri's necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri's death could be linked to her mother's disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.  @Goodreads

The Weight of Blood is a novel about two girls, Lila and Cheri, that disappear a generation apart, in the same small town in the Ozarks of Missouri.  The story is told largely in the narrative of Lila (before her disappearance), and Lila’s daughter, Lucy, who was friends with Cheri.  Lucy inadvertently stumbles upon a clue that may help her find out about her friend, and it isn’t long before she suspects both disappearances may be related. 

The Weight of Blood is a powerful and haunting literary thriller that tests the very limits of family loyalty, or the weight of blood, so to speak. The Ozark landscape is absolutely perfect, and I am typically not a fan of small town mysteries.  Before reading this book, I knew almost nothing about the customs and way of life for those living in the Ozarks, and truth be told, I felt transported to this very different world.  Only a masterful writer can transport you to places you’ve never been and would never want to go to.  Especially now.  Travel agent, Laura McHugh is not. 

The characters were all wonderfully developed, with unique voices.  I absolutely loved Lila’s story from the beginning, with its creepy sense of dread throughout. 

Unfortunately, the ending felt a bit rushed to me, although I think this was the author’s intent; she clearly wants the reader to draw their own conclusion about something, and I wasn’t fully satisfied with that.  Despite the end, though, The Weight of Blood was a great read, and highly recommended.

It should be noted that this is Laura McHugh’s literary debut, and that excites me more than anything.  Once she hones her skills, which are already well-developed, she could be a master of this genre.

Please note:  I received a free copy of this novel courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher, Random House, in exchange for my honest review.

Expected publication date:  March 11, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rave: I love literary quote tattoos!

Does anyone else out there have any literary quote tattoos (or any literary tattoos, for that matter?) I have one, from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as spoken by Dumbledore to Harry: Time is making fools of us again.

 It was so hard for me to pick just one quote to tattoo on my body from the Harry Potter series. I chose the one that I related to the most; as I get older, it feels that time is flying by, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I got the tattoo after my divorce to my first husband (yes, I am on husband number two of two, for those of you that don't know), and it hit home in all sorts of ways. I spent seven years of my life with my ex, and in retrospect, it got me nowhere. Time made a fool of me. Hence the tattoo.

 The quote reminds me to not take life for granted, and to try and make the most of the time I have.

I also wanted a quote that could stand alone from Harry Potter, and in fact, most people don't recognize it until I tell them.

I have seven other tattoos (none literary/quote related), and would love about a dozen more, but my husband doesn't love tattoos, and marriage is all about compromise, right?

I got this tattoo in July 2011 at Arkham Tattoo in Akron, Ohio.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review: The Fever: A Novel by Megan Abbott

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hocky star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.

One and a half stars, rounded up for mercy.

This book is absolutely nothing like I expected.  From the cover and blurb above (from Goodreads), I was expecting (or at the very least, hoping for) a fast-paced medical thriller.   The Fever didn't quite make it... at all.    It is told from the perspective of three characters, Deenie, her brother Eli, and their father, Tom, all of whom have the same voice; the characterization is not very good at all. The book centers around a sudden serious illness that a handful of girls encounter.  Could it be from the HPV vaccine they received at the recommendation of the school board?  Or is it from the disgusting lake in town, the one that smells like wet animal fur and is glowing green, yet attract a bunch of high school girls?

My first gripe with this book is that no high school girl would go in that foul lake.  It sounds absolutely repulsive, yet is a swimming hotspot for a bunch of girls that are becoming aware of their sexuality.  Right.

My second gripe about this book is the crooked tampon incident.  Referenced as something that happened in the recent past, Lise apparently required her friend, Deenie’s help to remove a crooked tampon.  As a woman that has been using tampons for about twenty years now (ugh I’m old), I can say that it’s never once occurred to me to drop my panties and have my friends assist me with removing them.  I wouldn’t even have my husband help me with something like that, and he is regularly all up in my business, if you know what I’m sayin’.  WINK WINK. 

The crooked tampon incident™ has nothing to do with anything, but had me thinking the author was a weirdo for probably far longer than she intended.  It’s something a guy would write about, or perhaps a non-human, non-menstruating woman.  (Alien?)

My third gripe are the ridiculously dramatic secondary characters that pop in at random times with cryptic messages.  YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.  Completely unnecessary once you get to the ending and realize that those characters were put in just to keep you reading!  Without them, you would have thrown the book down in utter boredom.  Almost nothing happens.

Several times throughout the book characters mentioned that they didn't feel like themselves, or that they thought their friends looked different for no explicable reason to try to lure you in to thinking there might be something supernatural about something that really isn't all that out of the ordinary.

I almost abandoned this book several times, but felt that I invested too much time into it to discard.  Also, I had to discuss the crooked tampon.  So terrible.  Gah.

Skip this one, friends.

Note:  A copy of this book was provided to me for free by the publisher (Little, Brown and Company), and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Expected publication date:  June 17, 2014

Giveaway #1 - The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Enter now to win a copy of Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings in .MOBI format (will come with instructions on how to easily convert to .EPUB or other formats for your convenience.)

Since I am just getting started with and want to increase traffic to my blog, the rules are simple:  just follow my blog with Bloglovin' and/or Google Friend Connect. Enter up to 20 times, quickly and easily!  Giveaway hosted by Rafflecopter.  Winners will be randomly chosen.

Raffle ends on March 9th at 12:00am EST.

Questions/comments/suggestions?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rave: Archetype by M.D. Waters & Upcoming Giveaway

Introducing a breathtakingly inventive futuristic suspense novel about one woman who rebels against everything she is told to believe.

Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories, showing her a past life she can’t believe possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself.

Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters.

In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men—one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which. . . .

The first novel in a two-part series, Archetype heralds the arrival of a truly memorable character—and the talented author who created her.  Published February 6, 2014
Another memory loss book?  I told you I couldn’t get enough!

Fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Delirium rejoice – another addicting dystopic adventure awaits you.

Set in the future, Emma wakes up in a hospital with no knowledge as to why she’s there, or who she even is.  Only her husband can fill in the gaps, as well as her dreams… but her dreams seem to contradict the past that her husband has painted for her.  

Suspenseful, tense, and hard to put down, Archetype is the beginning of a new trilogy.  Unlike most dystopian thrillers of late, however, this novel is not young adult.  Although it’s not terribly inventive, the plot and pacing are satisfying, and I absolutely cannot wait for book two. 

I will be holding a giveaway in March for this novel (ebook format), so come back soon!

Review: Then and Always by Dani Atkins

This novel seems to have two names/covers, possibly for different countries; it has not yet been released.  Note: I received a free ARC edition of this novel from NetGalley, and the publisher, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, in exchange for an honest review.

Note:  The version I read is Then and Always, but I prefer the other title and cover art much better.

For fans of One Day, What Alice Forgot, and the hit film , comes an absorbing and surprising debut novel about a young woman who, after an accident, gets a second chance at life . . . just not in one she remembers.

Rachel Wiltshire has everything she’s ever wanted: a close group of friends, a handsome boyfriend, and acceptance to the journalism program at her top-choice college. But one fateful evening, tragedy tears her world apart.

Five years later, Rachel returns home for the first time to celebrate her best friend’s wedding. Still coping with her grief, she can’t stop thinking about the bright future she almost had, if only that one night had gone differently. But when a sudden fall lands her in the hospital, Rachel wakes to find that her life has completely changed. Now she has her dream job as a writer and a stylish apartment, but the people she loves most are not the way she remembers them. Unable to trust her own recollections, Rachel tries to piece together what really happened, and not even she can predict the astonishing truth.

I am an absolute sucker for memory loss stories, and when I saw that fans of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty would enjoy this novel, I knew it had to be next on my reading list.  Surprisingly, I liked it even more than What Alice Forgot.  

Then and Always is chick-lit at its best:  easy and light to read, with a story that hooks the reader right from the beginning.  The ending is what sets this novel apart, however.  Unlike what you'd expect from chick-lit, the final chapters reveal an unexpected, yet very profound and meaningful ending.  It's only February, but I'd be surprised if this doesn't make my top ten list for 2014.  A stunning debut novel.  Dani Atkins is one to look out for!

Expected publication date:  May 20, 2014

Review: Before I Wake by C.L. Taylor

A mother risks everything to uncover the truth behind her daughter's botched suicide attempt

To the outside world, Susan Jackson has it all-a loving family, successful husband, and beautiful home-but when Charlotte, her teenage daughter, steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma, she is forced to question all of it.

Desperate to find out what caused Charlotte's suicide attempt, she discovers a horrifying entry in her diary: "keeping this secret is killing me." As Sue spins in desperate circles, she finds herself immersed in a dark world she didn't know existed-and the closer she comes to the truth, the more dangerous things become.

 This novel begins six weeks after Sue’s daughter, Charlotte, stepped in front of a bus in a desperate attempt to end her life.  With just her daughter’s diary to answer questions, Sue finds a very troubled entry written shortly before the accident that left her daughter in a coma:  “This secret is killing me."

Although the reader sympathizes greatly with Sue, it eventually becomes apparent in her quest to find the truth that she may not be mentally stable; she had an abusive boyfriend in the past, and suffered from paranoid delusions years later because of it.

Before I Wake is a satisfying psychological thriller that has the reader on the edge of their seat wondering why Charlotte tried to kill herself, and if her mother is the cause of it, either directly or indirectly.  Could Sue’s past be coming back to haunt her literally, or is she losing her grip on reality... again?

Although the ending was decent, it felt a bit rushed.  I wasn’t disappointed with how the novel ended, don’t get me wrong:  it was satisfying in that all loose ends were tied, just a bit brief.  It feels almost like a chapter is missing.  I wanted more details after the scene in the hospital at the end.

All in all, Before I Wake is a stunning debut by C.L. Taylor, and I can’t wait to read his or her (I’m guessing her) future works.

Please note that I received a free ARC edition of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, in exchange for my honest review. 

Expected publication date:  June 1, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rave: Top 10 Novels of 2013

For my first post, I decided to do a quick recap of my favorite novels published in 2013.

  Eleanor & Park is a story of two star-crossed high school lovers. It’s cute, nostalgic, funny, and tragic. Set in the 1980’s, Eleanor & Park will transport you back to a different time, and unless you’re a heartless ogre, will make you vividly recall how you felt the first time you ever fell in love. A must read even for those that are not typically fans of the young adult genre.

Tangled is… smoking hot. This is chick-lit at its best, and the fact that it is told in the perspective of a man (a rich, extremely handsome, and hilarious man), makes it all the more appealing. The author does a great job with the main character, and the dialogue was witty and just perfect. Tangled is the first book in a series by the author. Twisted, the follow-up, comes out in March 2014

Me Before You is yet another tale of star-crossed lovers – Lou, a girl with not much going on in her life, frankly, and Will, a man she was hired to take care of. Will is a quadriplegic, having suffered an accident a few years before, and Lou slowly grows close to him day by day as she takes care of his basic needs. I don’t want to give too much away, but this is a beautiful story of love and self-discovery.

The Husband’s Secret is told in the perspective of three different women, Cecilia, Rachel, and Tess, all of whom are influenced by something terrible that happened in the past by Cecilia’s husband. The writing is fantastic, and I literally could not put this novel down. I wanted – needed – to know what the secret was, and I was not at all disappointed when I found out what it was.

The Rosie Project is another chick-lit book written in the perspective of a man, but instead of the typical rich, debonair playboy you would expect from a chick-lit novel, a super-intelligent *insert geek adjective here* that is eerily similar to Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the popular sitcom, The Big Bang Theory.   Don Tillman is a professor of genetics, and he has devised a questionnaire to find a mate, called The Wife Project. I loved how awkward Don was. The Rosie Project is quirky, cute, and romantic.

Calling Me Home is a story of friendship, forbidden love, heartbreak, and triumph. Beautifully written with a rather unforgettable ending, the story opens with Miss Isabelle, an elderly woman, asking her African American hairstylist and friend of sorts, Dorrie, to drive her across country for a funeral. The story alternates between 1939 and present day under the narrative of both women, and tackles some sensitive race issues that sadly still exist today.

 The last in a stunning trilogy, Dust wraps up the dystopian sci-fi adventure that Hugh Howey began with Wool. I cannot recommend these books more to anyone. In a ruined world, a large community exists underground in a silo, hundreds of stories deep. I cannot say more, because to review this book would be to spoil the first two. You can read part one of Wool for free on Amazon Kindle. Click here to download Wool for FREE. If you enjoy the story, you’ll want to then read the next four parts of Wool, available separately or in the Wool Omnibus. The next novel is Shift – Omnibus Edition, and lastly, Dust.

 The Storyteller is the story of Sage, a woman with a disfiguring facial scar that befriends Josef, an elderly man that visits her regularly in the bakery where she works. As the unlikely friendship blooms, Josef confides in Sage that he was a Nazi in WWII, and asks Sage, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, to kill him. The Storyteller is an amazing historical fiction novel that gives a great accounting of the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Necessary Lies is a powerful historical fiction novel set in 1960’s North Carolina told in the narrative of two women – one, a poor teenaged girl living with her family on a tobacco farm in rural North Carolina, and the other, the teenager girl’s social worker. Compelling, haunting, and impossible to put down, Necessary Lies makes you see two different sides to a necessary evil.

The Goldfinch tells the story of Theo Decker, a young boy that tragically loses his mother in a terrible accident at a NYC art museum. Theo escapes with his life and also the painting that his mother loved so much. He keeps the painting as a symbol of grief and tragic loss, and we follow Theo through his life of danger and addition. Captivating but long, The Goldfinch is not short on details, and paints a beautiful picture of a troubled boy's life.