Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

Bad Girls Don't Die
Katie Alender
Published April 21st, 2009
by Hyperion

When Alexis's little sister Kasey becomes obsessed with an antique doll, Alexis thinks nothing of it. Kasey is a weird kid. Period. Alexis is considered weird, too, by the kids in her high school, by her parents, even by her own Goth friends. Things get weirder, though, when the old house they live in starts changing. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in. Kasey is changing, too. Her blue eyes go green and she speaks in old-fashioned language, then forgets chunks of time.

Most disturbing of all is the dangerous new chip on Kasey's shoulder. The formerly gentle, doll-loving child is gone, and the new Kasey is angry. Alexis is the only one who can stop her sister — but what if that green-eyed girl isn't even Kasey anymore?

The best definition of this book is Creepy. It's definitely a chilling read. Ghosts and strange happenings that made my hair stand on ends: it was off to a great start. However, it's so full of clich├ęs that it never develops into anything very intense or much interesting. The lack of originality is easily the biggest downfall of the novel and makes it extremely predictable. I've watched a lot of thriller/horror movies of this kind though, maybe I have just seen it all?

As expected, we have the outcast loner girl who, somehow, easily gets the hot guy. Not only has this been overly done in YA already, the whole romance aspect in Bad Girls Don't Die doesn't have a purpose in the book at all. It doesn't add any charm to the story and only amounts to getting you annoyed with it. The love interest; the awkward dialogue; the character's reactions: it all feels a bit too juvenile for modern day YA. I could see younger teens -12, 13 years old - enjoying this much more.

If you can get passed that and focus on the plot, the book is actually not so bad; I did enjoy getting spooked. Ghost stories are my weakness. They freak me out, but I can't help myself from wanting to hear them all. The writing is good, simple, and it's a fast read that wraps up quickly and nicely. All in all, I liked it well enough for it's creepy factor - it isn't a waste of time, but it's nothing to write home about either.

3 Hot Espressos

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In My Mailbox (7)

"In My Mailbox" is a meme, created by Kristi at The Story Siren, that features books I've 
received/ purchased/ borrowed during the current week. 

Happy Halloween my lovely readers! Sadly, I don't have a costume this year. But my 16 month old's is a dragon! And when we ask him what a dragon does, he goes "raaawwrrr". How could I beat that? 

So yeah... books... =)
Here's what I got this week. (Click on cover for Goodreads synopsis.)

For review:

I want to thank Random House, Delacorte Press, Entangled Publishing, Jessie Harrell and Elisa Ludwig for the review copies.

I won:

                                                          Click here for my review

As you can see I have already read and reviewed Smoke and Bone and it was fantastic! I've also finished Destined a couple of days ago - watch for my review on November 15th - but just a hint: really enjoyed it and perfect for greek myth fans!

What goodies did you get this week?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Dark Eden by Partick Carman

Dark Eden
Patrick Carman
Release date: November 1st, 2011
by HarperCollins Publishers

Fifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares—with the help of the group facilitator, Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night's experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains. . . . What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden?
*A copy was provided by HarperCollins Publishers for review purposes*

Holy freaking cow! Now this is a thriller! I often go into books believing them to be thrillers, when they end up being barely creepy with a romance -or something similarly annoying- taking over the story. Dark Eden was not the case. It had me almost piss my pants! Seriously! I was reading this at 2 in the afternoon in a very bright and cheerful environment, wrapped up in the book, when my husband gets home... He throws the door open and I practically jumped out of my skin! I thought my heart would beat out of my chest! It was so much fun!!

Will, a 17 year old with a crippling phobia (of unmentioned nature to avoid spoilers), gets sent to an institution, with 6 other kids, that can apparently cure fears. As soon as they arrive, Will escapes from the group and ends up hiding in what appears to be a panic room... A panic room with monitors that lets him see what's going on in the institution. Does this sound ominous enough for you? Prior to reading the book, visiting Dark Eden's website worked wonders on my mind's eye. It has videos, audio diaries, pictures, even a fun fear test, that really gets the imagination going. The teaser video is incredibly creepy and the freaky pictures sets the mood just right. This greatly added to my amazing experience with the book. I suggest you visit it beforehand.

Everyone is wary of the unknown to some degree. Patrick's Dark Eden makes a great example of this. He took an especially creepy premise full of questions and unexplained occurrences and gave us a spine-chilling novel. The big plot twist isn't completely impossible to deduce - I'm sure most will guess to a certain extent, but the whole ordeal behind it and sinister feeling throughout the book had me covered in goosebumps the whole way through. I never knew what's going to happen next and on top of that, I was made constantly afraid of Will's discovery.

The protagonist, Will, is smart, competent and brave. At times I was fearing this bravery, but I was also confident in his decisions. The other kids in the institution are not incredibly distinct, but their interactions aren't prominent outside of what Will sees on the monitors. There are little tiny specks of romance in the story as well, which is not incredibly necessary but adds a bit of fun to all the angst. The ending has bit of everything: despair, contentment and foreboding. It's not a cliffhanger ending, although it's left open for the possibility of a sequel.

Ultimately, Dark Eden fully exceeded my expectations. It's a very thrilling and interesting read that I think readers who like getting spooked will enjoy. Still not sure? If you take a look at the website you'll get an idea of the vibe of the book: Click here enter Dark Eden's website.

5 Hot Espressos

Fresh Batch (Oct 30th-Nov 5th)

This week's hot releases

Fresh Batch features some of the hottest releases this upcoming week. The books to feature are exclusively chosen by Giselle.

Flavour of the week:

Jus Accardo
When a strange boy tumbles down a river embankment and lands at her feet, seventeen-year-old adrenaline junkie Deznee Cross snatches the opportunity to piss off her father by bringing the mysterious hottie with ice blue eyes home.

Except there’s something off with Kale. He wears her shoes in the shower, is overly fascinated with things like DVDs and vases, and acts like she’ll turn to dust if he touches her. It’s not until Dez’s father shows up, wielding a gun and knowing more about Kale than he should, that Dez realizes there’s more to this boy—and her father’s “law firm”—than she realized.

Kale has been a prisoner of Denazen Corporation—an organization devoted to collecting “special” kids known as Sixes and using them as weapons—his entire life. And, oh yeah, his touch? It kills. The two team up with a group of rogue Sixes hellbent on taking down Denazen before they’re caught and her father discovers the biggest secret of all. A secret Dez has spent her life keeping safe.

A secret Kale will kill to protect.

Other  releases this week (click on cover for Goodreads synopsis): 

I'm aware that Touch has released early in the US, but for us Canadian folks, we're still waiting :)
Also, Xpresso Reads is part of the Pyxis blog tour, make sure to drop by on November 14th for my interview with K.C. and a chance to win a copy!

Any of these catching your attention?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Jennifer L. Armentrout
Release date: December 6th, 2011
by Entangled Publishing

Starting over sucks.
When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring…. until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.
Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something…unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.
You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

If I don’t kill him first, that is.
*A copy was provided by Entangled Publishing for review purposes*

Ok, I have to gather my thoughts now, because this book has blown my mind! I absolutely loved it! This is my first book by Jennifer, but it definitely won't be my last. I will now stalk all of her work - beware! There is no wonder she has been getting rave reviews so far.

Obsidian gets us acquainted with Katy, who has just moved to a boring small town in West Virginia, and with not-so-boring Daemon - the most arrogant human being she has ever met. And, lucky her (seriously! lucky her!), he lives right next door. At least his sister is great! When Katy finds out they're all aliens, though, her life kind of gets weird... a little.

I instantly clicked with Katy- and not just because she is a book blogger even though that was awesome -, I found her to be a lot like me. Her reactions, her emotions, her attitude were all very realistic and I could completely relate to her. I particularly appreciated her reaction to finding out Daemon was an alien. First of all, she actually HAD a reaction! Secondly, she questioned it. An improvement over the lame- "Oh you're a (insert paranormal being here)? That's neat! So…*awkward silence* wanna make out?"- reactions too often encountered in YA paranormal. As for the secondary characters, I loved Katy's friendship with Dee: She is a great friend and absolutely a lot of fun. And I was very happy with Katy's mom who is down to earth, funny and caring.

Daemon, yes, he needs his own paragraph. Daemon is very likely going to end up on the top of everyone's "most sexiest male character" list. He is definitely on mine! He is irritating, infuriating and downright bullheaded, but holy damn is he ever hot! Daemon is incredibly protective of his sister and others of his race, so even when he was being… difficult, it wasn't without reason. He did love to push Katy's buttons and I mostly found it hilarious (though if I was her I would have punched him in the face). What came out of his mouth actually made me gape with disbelief a few times. Despite his loveable personality, he is an incredible character who fits extremely well with the story, even more-so with Katy, and gives it a very attractive vibe.

Together, Daemon and Katy were fantastic. There was enough chemistry between them to give Marie Curie a run for her money! Their relationship was very love/hate. You never knew what Daemon's intentions were from one page to the next and it drove me crazy as much as it did Katy. However, you still couldn't help but adore them to pieces.

Now for the plot, I found it was very exciting and well thought out. I really enjoyed Jennifer's take on the aliens in Obsidian: how they got there, their powers, the villains. It reminded me a bit of Smallville but it was still original and incredibly exciting. The book definitely does not lack in action and the climactic ending was completely fulfilling.

I really have no negative aspect to mention in regards to this book. It was everything I was hoping for and more than I was expecting. No doubt that Jennifer is the up and coming author to watch out for! 

5 Hot Espressos

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Suspense by Jason Letts

Jason Letts
Released September 3rd, 2011
Format: Ebook

Spencer Nye can’t control the rage bubbling under her skin over the world around her. The trouble is, by the year 2102, the world has solved most of its great problems. Without hunger, war, greed, or even money, people obsess over the glamour of the Culture Industry and its mega-celebrity Idols, who vie for followers over the social networks of Connect.

But Spencer discovers there is plenty to fix within the Idols’ competition for more popularity. She becomes a diehard and promises to do anything to help her Idol, a dreamy movie star named Cleary Mintz, bring his vision of hope and purpose to the world. When she stumbles onto a threat against his life, she’ll have to fight harder than she ever thought possible or lose the man who means more to her than any other.
*A copy was provided by Jason Letts for review purposes*

Suspense takes us in a future setting where everything is at our fingertips; anything you have ever wanted can be easily gotten without having to lift a finger. And, not a far stretch from today, everyone constantly connected through a social network by nodes in your eyesight.

When I first started Suspense I was really intrigued by the world this book was set in. It started with sudden action and mystery. However, I found myself getting very confused. I didn't understand the bit about Idols and why society was treating them like their gods. I understand fame, but this felt very extreme. It was like the world was divided by who you were following. But could you follow more than one person? What if you didn't like any of these idols? It left a lot of questions unanswered. I also didn't truly believe that only 5 people in the world would be idols. It seems like a very small number when all you have to do is get followers through social networking. I can imagine a million ways a person could easily do what these idols have done to gain popularity.

In Suspense, there is a machine that creates anything and everything a person could want or need. No one needs to work, no one needs to fight, no need for jealousy or money. Now, I'm the kind of person who needs proof or logic to believe in something, I won't just accept that something exists "like magic", so I was immediately apprehensive about this "magic machine". It did, however, get an explanation towards the end, so if you're like me, just be patient with it. I'm still a bit uncertain about how society would go on when everything is available for nothing. All of this to say that the world building could definitely have been worked on to convince me that this futuristic setting would be plausible.

I did enjoy the characters. Spencer is strong and tough with a head on her shoulders. I also liked the side characters who all had fun personalities and distinct voices. I was also fascinated by the villain's technologically advanced building. Gravity from all sides and maze-like tricks. It was great and I really had fun with that part. I was bewildered by the actions of the villains, though. I wasn't sure why they wanted to kill Cleary. It was sort of mentioned in passing towards the end, but when you think about it he didn't have to take that route at all.

The pacing of the book was fairly quick, and that may have also affected the world building opportunities. I can't say I didn't like the book, I just had a lot of issues with the feasibility of several aspects in the world. if you read this purely for entertainment, then you will probably enjoy it quite a bit.
2 Hot Espressos

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WoW (7) - Halloween Edition, Week 4

Waiting on Wednesday
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 

With October upon us, my WoWs this month will feature books that would be perfect for a Halloween read.

My pick this week:
                                    Masque of the Red Death
                                    Bethany Griffin
                                    Release date: April 24, 2012

Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them. 

So what does Araby Worth have to live for? Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all. But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

This reimagining of the gothic horror story by Edgar Allan Poe could not be any more perfect for my last Halloween WoW edition. Firstly, I love gothic horror stories: They're fascinating, creepy and suspenseful - thus thoroughly enjoyable. Secondly, look at that COVER!! *faints*

This is apparently a three-book deal and I am incredibly excited for it's release.
Bethany Griffin is also the author of the book Handcuffs that was published in 2008.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Liesl & Po
Lauren Oliver
Released October 4th
by HarperCollins

Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable

Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

A truly magical story! Liesl & Po will open your hearts and make you reminisce on your childhood days when you believed in magic and anything was possible.

The first thing I noticed and fell in love with in this book was the wonderful illustrations inside it's pages:


Also, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found under the dust jacket:

These added greatly to the imagination and increased the charm of the story immensely. I loved the way the characters were defined in the images. They were exactly how I would have pictured them.

The story takes us on a journey with Liesl and her ghost friend, Po, to bring her father's ashes to the house in which they lived before her stepmother entered the picture. The same evil stepmother who locked Liesl in the attic since her father got sick - which was a year ago.

This book held extraordinary characters. Each and every one of them was fascinating and I couldn't help but be enthralled by them. When I met Liesl, I was immediately drawn to her innocence and devotion. I really enjoyed her trek to their old house and how all the characters came together in the most uncanny way. What I also found great was how every character had a big part in the novel. It didn't necessarily have one main character, it had many, and you get to understand and adore every one of them. The villains were also easily detestable.

It didn't have the most unpredictable plot. It was actually pretty foreseeable from an adult standpoint. But keep in mind that this is a story written for children (9-12). Of course adults can enjoy this as well, much like the well loved Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Coraline and lots of other fantastic novels. The predictability of the plot never affected my appreciation of the book for one minute. The characters, the magic, the heartfelt moments were sufficient. It gave me the same feelings as when I curl up during the holidays to watch my favorite movies that I've seen hundreds of times but still never fails to make me laugh and smile.

Liesl & Po is a an enchanting tale that will bring tears to your eyes and smiles to your faces. I look forward to reading this to my son in a few years.

5 Hot Espressos

Dusty Reads (5)

Dusty Reads is a weekly meme, hosted here, featuring a book that has been sitting unread on our home shelf for some time. To participate, add your link at the bottom. 
If you wish, you can grab the button and find more information here.

My pick this week:

The Truth About Forever
Sarah Dessen
Released May 1st, 2004

Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She's stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she'll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father's recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother's open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it.

I received this for my birthday back in February and haven't gotten into it yet. I haven't actually read any books by Sarah Dessen. I have heard she was amazing and all her books have fantastic reviews - which is why I had this one and a few others on my wishlist. I should really pick it up I actually need a good pick-me-up book and this one could do the trick.

What do you think of Sarah Dessen?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Interview & Giveaway with Belle Whittington

Belle Whittington, author of Cicada, is stopping by Xpresso Reads today to answer a few questions about her debut novel, the first in a planned trilogy. She has also generously offered an ecopy of her book for giveaway.

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & The Diary of A Bookworm are hosting a huge giveaway hop. Over 400 blogs are participating which gives you an extremely good chance of winning some books! Xpresso Reads is excited to be a part it. Thanks for hopping on by!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (6)

"In My Mailbox" is a meme, created by Kristi at The Story Siren, that features books I've 
received/ purchased/ borrowed during the current week. 

How are you all doing this week? I had a pretty uneventful one, really. It's getting cold and steady rain is kind of boring, but great for reading (glass half full, right?). So this week I suddenly got a bunch of ARCs that I had requested as well as a few author review requests, so the list is a little crazy. I'm glad the release dates are scattered or I'd never be able to get them all posted in time. 

What I got for review (click on cover for Goodreads synopsis):

I want to thank Random House, Harlequin, Walker Chilren's Book, Entangled Publishing, Taryn Browning, Jodi Lamm and Ali Cross for the review copies.

I have won
 Thanks to Mari of Escape In A Book & Avery of Avery's Book Nook.

I have bought:

So I think I'm all set for a little while (or until next week at least). I'm currently reading Liesl & Po and so far it's incredible I love it. I'm also really excited about Hunting Lila and Witch Song I have been looking forward to them for months and I only got them now. 

What have you all gotten? Make sure to leave me a link so I can drop by.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy
(Vampire Academy, #1)
Richelle Mead
Released August 16th, 2007
by Penguin Group

St. Vladimir's Academy isn't just any boarding school it's a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They've been on the run, but now they're being dragged back to St. Vladimir's the very place where they're most in danger. . .

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy's ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi the world's fiercest and most dangerous vampires make Lissa one of them forever.

This was actually better than I expected. When I read vampire or other paranormal books, I feel like a lot of them lack originality and I just end up being frustrated with it. Vampire Academy was not so.

The vampire lore is different than any other. There are undead and living vampires, half vampires, guardians, etc. It's certainly unusual, but really interesting and very creative. The lore is not all explained right away, though, so at first I was a bit confused with the titles and politics. Basically, Lissa is a Vampire and Rose (narrator) is her guardian. I did like the way it was presented; you aren't told everything right away so you want to keep reading to find out what the deal is. The plot itself was not really unpredictable, but it was never boring and some of the minor twists were not expected.

The characters were easily likeable. Rose is a very strong protagonist. She's feisty and she doesn't hold back. It makes it fun to see her reactions and you're not left wishing she had taken a stand or retorted. It's also a good change from the often too whiny "damsel in distress" heroines you see in a lot of YA novels. As for Lissa, I didn't really click with her much. I found she was more of a secondary character and I didn't get her at first, nor Rose's over-protectiveness of her. She did grow on me towards the end where I realized she's not just a wuss. She does have a bit of steel in her after all. The side characters were enjoyable and I sure loved to hate Mia!

So overall, it's not an "out of this world" awesome book, but in my opinion it deserves the 4 Espressos that I rated it. I will definitely read the rest of the series and would recommend it to anyone who likes YA paranormal.
*note: review originally written in February, 2011*
4 Hot Espressos