Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hex Hall

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Beth says 4 Stars...

I've wanted to read this book for a while and just hadn't had the chance. I'm glad I finally managed to have the time to pick it up. There was some serious cuteness going on, but in a slightly darker way if that makes any sense. The setting of the boarding school was familiar to me through both my own experiences and as a common setting of paranormal novels. I really appreciated that there were many different types of magical beings at the school, which made it a little different than all of the others I'd read about. Obviously there was the requisite high school drama, but just bumped up a few notches. The plot went along relatively well, though it moved slowly at some points. I thought the foreshadowing was well placed, and I didn't quite predict the ending. However, it wasn't quite out of nowhere. I got involved in the story and ended up caring about where it finished.

The characters were fine... but nothing that extraordinary. Sophie wasn't annoying at all, and really provided a good proxy for me as a reader because she didn't know everything. When things were explained to her (and me) it didn't feel forced or contrived, which is a huge problem that many books I've read recently have had. The supporting cast had all of the requisite members, from the outcast friend to the super hot guy who's off limits and cocky. The book definitely lacked a strong adult presence and suffered slightly from the lack of wisdom-giving.

Overall this was a really fun book. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of the second novel in the series. If you want something that's fun, light, and has a touch of magic without being overly saccharine sweet, this is one for you!
Book from Library

Friday, January 21, 2011


Finn has escaped Incarceron only to find that he must defend his right to the throne from another challenger. His life and Claudia's hang on Finn convincing the Court that he is the lost prince, even though he has his own doubts about being the true heir.

Beth says 5 Stars...

So I loved this book... so much. It was a very different book from Incarceron, which, although I adored the first novel as well, came as a welcome surprise. I always finding it irritating when authors simply sit on their laurels and make no attempt to improve the world that they already built. Again, the complexity of both worlds impressed me. I also found it fascinating to discover more of the prison's personality. Come on; it's totally awesome when a world has its own identity and can express it to the characters. Fisher managed to pull off some very layered interplay between the worlds effortlessly and even dropped a few hints about the ending. I found the plot compelling and thought that the different threads all came together satisfyingly. I didn't see one big part of the ending coming at all, but can see how it works when I think about it.

The characters remained likable (or not) and well created. Both Finn and Claudia irritated me every once in a while, but they were fine overall. Honestly, the characterization isn't the draw of the book for me. If they were absolutely terrible the book would be still worth reading because of the brilliant world building and plot. Since they reside of the realm of the non-spectacular (in either direction) I don't care terribly much. There's enough of a connection to make me care about the outcome, but not more than that.

Overall this was a great follow up to Incarceron. I don't think that there will be a third based on the ending, but if Fisher can come up with something I know that I'm game to read it. These books are fantastic and raise interesting questions about power and its use. If you haven't read these go buy them last week because they're fantastic.
Book from Library

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Humanity, like computers, can be upgraded. And old versions disappear. . . .

At some unspecified point in the future, when technology is as advanced as possible and we are a race of super beings, some old audio tapes are discovered. On the tapes is the story of fourteen-year-old Kyle Straker.

Hypnotized, Kyle missed the upgrade of humanity to 1.0. He isn't compatible with our new technology. And through the recording, he narrates what the upgrades really mean. And it's absolutely terrifying.

Beth says 3.5 Stars...

I'm rather divided about this novel. It had a really interesting premise, and once it got going was very good. The main issue was that it took about two thirds of the book to get going. The formatting was very fun with random little side notes throughout describing the world that the book is written in. The asides provided just as much insight as the text until late in the book and turned out to be helpful in the beginning. My personal favorite was one about reality television and it's ridiculousness. Some of the slang I didn't quite understand as this is a British novel, but the notes helped to explain some references that otherwise would have been lost on me. The pacing was the biggest problem because the ideas were definitely there and the writing was of a decent quality. I just didn't get sucked into it until the end.

Kyle was definitely a passable main character. He had enough depth to make him slightly intriguing, but because of the shortness of the novel he couldn't grow as much as I would have wished. I will say that there was some character development, but he was always relatively mature. The supporting cast of characters was very limited because of the very premise of the book. Lilly was mediocre and didn't really interest me very much; I found the main adults more fascinating. The chemistry between Kyle and Lilly fell flat and went nowhere.

Overall I think that this book really had potential that it failed to live up to. If you can make it through the first part of the book it's definitely worthwhile for the questions it asks. This is a debut, so if Lancaster can solve his pacing problems I could see some stellar novels coming from him in the future. If you want some thought-provoking sci-fi grab this one when it hits shelves in March.
Book from Publisher

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fantasy Reading Challenge 2011!!!

So, we didn't quite make it to our 2010 goal (mainly because we started super late). However, this year we're going to do it again and WILL make it. We're going to shoot for the obsessed level again, and so that means 20 books. We've already read a few and are going to go ahead and include them. Here goes nothing!

Low Red Moon

The only thing Avery Hood can remember about the night her parents died is that she saw silver—deadly silver, moving inhumanly fast. As much as she wants to remember who killed them, she can't, and there's nothing left to do but try to piece her life back together. Then Avery meets the new boy in school—Ben, mysterious and beautiful, with whom she feels a connection like nothing she's ever experienced. When Ben reveals he's a werewolf, Avery still trusts him—at first. Then she sees that sometimes his eyes flash inhuman silver. And she learns that she's not the only one who can't remember the night her parents died.Part murder mystery, part grief narrative, and part heart-stopping, headlong romance, Low Red Moon is a must-read for teen paranormal fans. As breathless as Twilight and as spooky as Shiver, this is a book to be devoured in one sitting—by an acclaimed YA author making her paranormal debut under the pseudonym Ivy Devlin.

Beth says 3 Stars...

This book looked moderately interesting, so I decided to give it a whirl. Sadly to say, I've had many better ideas. It isn't to say the book was necessarily bad, but it wasn't really good either. It fell into the realm of mediocrity, which is just made worse by how much paranormal fiction is out there. If there wasn't really any available I might say to give it a try, but I'd suggest grabbing something else. The plot set off no fireworks in my imagination and ended up being rather predictable. The villain created some serious issues because, to put it bluntly, the "evil" was lame. I couldn't understand why it would happen and also there was no build up to the final reveal. After I read it, I had a "wait... something important just happened, but I missed it" moment. The plot also wasn't terribly thrilling or inventive. I just felt like reading another run of the mill paranormal romance.

The characters did absolutely nothing to make me enjoy the book more. One problem was that the book was extremely short and therefore character development had to be sacrificed to make room for the plot. Avery never grew in the entire novel. She had to change because of circumstances, but I didn't see any sort or internal progression forward. Devlin also almost refused to explain most of Ben's backstory, and despite the fact that he needed to be a dark and mysterious love interest he could have used a little beefing up. The chemistry between the two of them wasn't that bad and beat out more than a few other paranormal couples. The supporting cast never stood out for any reason and were obviously there to provide a backdrop for the emotional trauma of Avery. The most interesting of them was Renee, Avery's grandmother because she had a backstory (which I figured out 50 pages before it was revealed).

Overall this book was nothing special. If you have to have a paranormal fix and it's the only thing around go for it. However, don't go rushing out to buy it as soon as you can. I will say that the formatting of the book is really fantastic. I'm totally a sucker for having color inside, and the red worked really well with the story and cover. That's the only thing special about this book, unfortunately.
Book from Library

Friday, January 7, 2011


Ruby dreams of escaping the Congregation. Escape from slaver Darwin West and his cruel Overseers. Escape from struggling to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive--and Darwin rich. Escape from her certain, dreary existence, living as if it's still the early 1800s, when the Congregation was first enslaved. But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient to the Water: her blood. So she stays, and prays to their savior Otto, who first gave Water to the Congregants... and fathered Ruby before he vanished.

When the Congregants discover Ruby's forbidden romance with an Overseer, they beat Ford to stop her from running away with him. Ruby steals their store of Water to save Ford's life and is banished. Ruby has everything she's dreamed of: a modern life with Ford. But the modern world isn't what she thought it would be, and Ruby can't forsake the Congregation. Love and loyalty push Ruby to return and fight for her family's a terrible price.

Beth says 2 Stars...

I wanted to like this one because it has such an interesting summary. However, I couldn't connect with the book. First, there was the plot that seemed to go nowhere. Yes there was conflict and the story moved forward, but it didn't seem to serve a purpose. In addition, I never connected enough with anything to actually care about what happened. The situation in the camp is disturbing, but doesn't make much sense. In order to understand the background it needed to be explained, which it wasn't. The book also feels like the start of a series, so perhaps Bachorz plans on using subsequent novels to build the world. I found the setting to be an intensely strange combination of current and old fashioned that just didn't work. The blend was too uneven to create a unified style and intensity to the book.

I must say, the characters were highly disappointing. Ruby didn't capture my attention or connect with me at all. I wanted to like her and feel her pain, but couldn't. Her willingness to accept things as they were and then disregard for almost everyone else did nothing to endear her to me. The other supporting characters were very flat and only occasionally had something interesting revealed about them. The main focus of the book was Ruby, and if the reader loved her it would be fantastic.

Overall this book was just really disappointing. I thought that it would be an interesting change of pace, and something that I hadn't read before. The concept is still fascinating, but somehow it managed to morph from cool to downright disturbing and creepy. I wouldn't recommend this one, but the cover is awesome.
Book from Publisher

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 Debut Author Challenge!

So, we loved doing the 2010 Challenge and are pumped for 2011! Our first debut review was just posted and the book was delightful! Here we go. As always, the books we read and review are going to be posted in the sidebar.

The False Princess

Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks. But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.

A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.

Beth says 4.5 Stars...

This book was absolutely adorable. I needed a fix of a delightful princesses story filled with independent women which this filled nicely. The plot wasn't too complicated to where it became confusing but managed to remain unexpected. Just when I thought that I had everything figured out I managed to miss the mark completely as the plot turned in a different direction. Of course there were some predictable aspects, but they honestly were more minor things instead of gigantic portions of the plot. One of the only real problems with the book was that it had the tendency to jump from one thing to another. Although the action needed that to move forward, it did interrupt the flow. I read the book in one sitting and didn't want to pull myself away from it. O'Neal's writing was easy to read and created a lovely world, made more impressive by the fact this is her debut novel.

Sinda was just what I wanted in a heroine. She definitely had her flaws, particularly when her situation changed in the beginning. However, instead of spending half of the book brooding and feeling sorry for herself, she adjusted to whatever happened within a reasonable amount of time. Her strength and intelligence weren't too much and made sense in context. Keirnan was just tons of fun as a character. He made a nice counter to the seriousness that almost overwhelmed Sinda at times. They also had some delightful chemistry in more ways than just one. The supporting cast was just as interesting, although I would have liked to see a little more of them. Honestly, that's not an uncommon problem, particularly in debuts.

This is for fans of books like Princess Ben and those of Shannon Hale. A nice change from the flood of paranormal romances, I can't think of a better word to describe this novel than fun. With enough heart and brain to make it engrossing this book hit the spot for me. It's a perfect girly fantasy, and look at that cover... so lovely. This is a good kick off for the 2011 debut authors!
Book from Publisher

Monday, January 3, 2011

Beautiful Darkness

Together Ethan and Lena can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.

Beth says 4.5 Stars...

Finally a sequel does what it's supposed to! This novel built upon everything established in the first book while revealing even more information. The plot moved along nicely and took some unexpected turns. I thought the new spin to the visions kept reasonably withing the established framework, but provided a good change of pace. I had no real idea as to the importance of the visions until the authors decided to reveal it. I also enjoyed how much they elaborated on the Caster lore and filled in some of the gaps. It was fun to see how even more of the characters were brought into the supposedly secret world, which appears to actually not be terribly secret. It also leaves the story at the perfect place for the next book, and, as much as I hate cliffhangers, this one was very well done. Not too much, but more than enough to make me want to come back for more.

Speaking of characters, they remained delightful. I'm still amazed at how well done Ethan's voice is written since both of the authors are women. Lena became more complex as Ethan started to look at her more realistically because of her behavior. At times what she did made no sense to me at the time, but by the end of the novel it fit together seamlessly. The additional characters enhanced the story, but didn't take away from the development of the old ones. I don't want to say that much, because quite a few little things I'd like to mention are rather spoiler-ish.

This is one of the better sequels I've read in a while. It kept the intensity of the first novel without becoming over the top and therefore laughable. The lush and dark world of a rural southern town with some interesting history. This is a great series for lovers of paranormal romance who want some brain and independent characters. If you loved the first book then grab this one!
Book from Library