Friday, June 20, 2014

REVIEW: Fractured by Karen E. Hoover

Series: Newtimber (Book 1 of 5)
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Pub Date: June 21, 2014, Trifecta Books
Format: eBook (.mobi)
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
There was absolutely no way a black dragon hovered outside of Newtimber. Sianna rubbed her eyes, but the dragon was still there, clutching a round object that looked like a spotted egg. And then the egg fell, hitting the ground like an atomic bomb, sending out waves of a slow-moving fog that distorted everything it touched.

The citizens of Newtimber change. The old man down the street stretches into a screaming tree. Sianna’s skateboarding friend, Matt, transforms into a giant green dragon. Pegasus. Sirens. Griffins. Vampires. Zombies. Creatures from the myths of every culture come to life through the people.

Even Sianna changes, her skin becoming stone hard, and she gains the ability to travel from the human realm into the dimension of the fae, using it to free her father from prison and enlist his aid in battling the evil bent on taking over the world.

One person to heal a family, a town, and save the world. It seems an impossible task, but with the help of her new friends, it could happen.



Well, by now those of you who've been reading my blog over the years are probably aware of how much I enjoy Karen E. Hoover's books. I have a special place in my bookish heart for her ever since we connected after her publisher asked me to review The Sapphire Flute, which was Karen's first publication. (We can be on a first-name basis here, right, Karen?) Tomorrow is the official launch day of her latest book, Fractured, and since I'm too excited to wait, I am sharing my review today in celebration! For anyone interested, you can join the official Facebook Release Party that's happening on Wednesday the 25th! Ahhh... Look at that shiny cover up there, isn't it pretty?

Perhaps you've noticed that I haven't been writing reviews of any books I've read lately, much less taken on any official review books from authors or publishers. But I always like to make an exception for Karen and tend to jump at an early chance to read her books! Once again, with Fractured, Karen does not disappoint, delivering a fun, fast-paced read. I couldn't believe it when the story was over and naturally, I really wanted to know what came next. While this is the first book in the five-book Newtimber series, it does not end in dramatic cliffhanger fashion -- just enough to make you wish you could grab the next book, but it not enough to make you tear your hair out in frustration (for those of you who detest cliffhangers).

Though Fractured is similar to Karen's Wolfchild Saga in that it is a YA book dealing with elements of fantasy and mythical creatures, that is where the comparison ends. Fractured takes place during the present time, and as such, Sianna is very much a modern-day teenage heroine in a more familiar and perhaps more relatable setting. Sianna is spunky, but you will also see that she can be vulnerable and has a lot to learn about herself. Her supporting cast consists of some family and new friends she meets along the way, and they are made all the more interesting as they change into a HUGE variety of fantastical creatures that Sianna never dreamed actually existed. Truly, the premise behind the story is what helped to make it fresh, new, and above all, fun. I didn't feel like I was reading about the same old Fae world that you come across in YA books these days.

I only have two real "complaints" about this book. One, unless I missed something in the story, it appears that editing didn't catch a name change that must have been made for one of the characters. Natalia, one of the more prominent supporting characters in the book, actually began the story as Natasha. When all is said and done, it's a pretty minor complaint, I know, but since I was thrown for a bit of a loop when I came across it while reading, I thought it was worth mentioning. Perhaps it won't be in the final version of the book and was only in my copy.

What is my other complaint, you ask? The story was perhaps a wee bit too short! The Kindle page count estimates this book at 214 pages and I really think the story might have benefited from another 50-75 pages to flesh out some of the storyline and characters, as well as paint a more vivid picture of Newtimber and the Fae world. I love that Fractured was a fast-paced page-turner, but I felt like the character development and world-building weren't quite as strong as they were in Karen's Wolfchild Saga. Or perhaps the soft spot in my heart for that series has clouded my judgment -- it is certainly possible! :-)

The bottom line: Fractured is a fun, clean read and most importantly, a fresh take on YA Urban Fantasy. It's another of Karen's books that I'm saving for my daughter to read when she gets older!
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TEASER TUESDAYS: Fractured by Karen E. Hoover

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! (If you're on Goodreads, I've included a button to add the book to your list just below the teaser!)

If there is one author who can get me out of a blogging drought, it is Karen E. Hoover. I can't promise that I will get back to totally regular blogging, yet, but I enjoy her books so much and always want to support her when she has a new release. She asked me if I'd be willing to read and review her upcoming release, Fractured (Newtimber Book #1), and I just couldn't say no! The official launch is coming up on June 21st, but I thought I would have a little fun and share a teaser today! And since I rarely can stick to the two-sentence rule, you are getting the opening paragraph from me...

The cold wall pressed against my back, sucking away the warmth, the sleeping bag beneath me the only padding between my butt and the broken concrete floor as I loaded my paint guns with special balls I’d made with an oil-based color. This wouldn’t come off as easily as the regular toy ammunition, and I had decent capacity with these guns. Between the two of them, I could shoot five hundred paintballs with machine-gun-like speed. Well, almost.

~ Kindle Locations 70-73 of Fractured by Karen E. Hoover

Seriously, Karen's books are always a fun read. Not to mention I am really digging this cover! Be on the look-out for my review of Fractured, coming up on release day! If you're curious, you can check out my past reviews of a couple of her other books:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

REVIEW: The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pub Date: January 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased at FoxTale Book Shoppe
A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there's a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge's wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge's bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband's recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster, Owney "The Killer" Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.


Once again, I am reviewing a book that is slightly outside my "comfort zone." Thanks to that wonderful book signing at the FoxTale Book Shoppe that I mentioned in my last review, I also had the pleasure of meeting Ariel Lawhon and learning more about her debut novel, The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress, which was just released yesterday! Confession time: Before sitting through the event, I did not intend to purchase this book. I was wholly unfamiliar with this bit of history about Joseph Crater, I've never read anything set in the U.S. during this time period, nor did I have much interest in the 1930's New York political scene, gangsters, or Broadway. But during the panel discussion, Ms. Lawhon mentioned her great love of Agatha Christie and Christie's ability to subtly lay out all of the pieces you need to solve a mystery yet still make it nearly impossible to do so, and as she discussed a little about her book, I knew I had to pick up a copy.

While a work of fiction, this novel was certainly an eye-opener as to what life was probably like for some back in 1930's New York. The corruption, lies, and deceit of the political crowd, while clearly not the most savory of subject matter, certainly made for a fascinating and sometimes disturbing read. While there is not really any explicitly-depicted racy subject matter, much is implied, but thankfully in a manner that is not offensive. Truly, you can't help but get swept up in the lives of these three women who knew Joseph Crater the best. Each was very different, from Stella, Crater's carefully molded and groomed wife, to Maria, the seemingly unassuming maid and seamstress of some reknown, and lastly Ritzi, the mistress you want to hate but can't quite bring yourself to. (Admittedly, her story was probably the most fascinating of the three of them.) In bringing their stories and relationships with Crater to life, Lawhon's writing is vivid without being overly prosy and I could see the book playing out in my head almost like a movie. Quite honestly, I never would have thought that this was Lawhon's first book, as her storytelling and writing are far beyond many other debut authors I've had the pleasure to read over the years.

In the end, I only had one problem with the story and that was the way that Lawhon tended to jump back and forth in time from the various women's perspectives. The vast majority of the book is written during the period leading up to Crater's disappearance and the investigation that followed. However, Lawhon would occasionally take us back to events a few months prior to Crater's disappearance and it was often difficult to distinguish when the story moved back into the "present" time. While these flashbacks were absolutely necessary to the story (and in the end are quite crucial), I found the transitions jarring and sometimes difficult to follow. Perhaps had the flashbacks been their own chapters or scenes, I could have handled them better within the story.

When I reached the culminating chapters and realized what Lawhon had done, I was kicking myself for not piecing it all together on my own! While her mystery (as she imagined it, let me remind you -- this is purely speculation on her part) is not quite as complex as Agatha Christie's were, there were subtle clues sprinkled throughout the story so that if you paid close attention, you might realize where things were heading...though there are certainly plenty of attempts to throw you off the scent along the way! All-in-all, I thought this was a wonderful debut from Ariel Lawhon and I sincerely hope to read more books from her in the future!

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

REVIEW: The River Witch by Kimberly Brock

Genre: Fiction (Southern Fiction)
Pub Date: April 2012, Bell Bridge Books
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased at FoxTale Book Shoppe
Can the river heal her?

Roslyn Byrne is twenty-four years old, broken in body, heart and soul. Her career as a professional ballet dancer ended with a car wreck and a miscarriage, leaving her lost and grieving. She needs a new path, but she doesn't have the least idea how or where to start. With some shoving from her very Southern mama, she immures herself for the summer on Manny's Island, Georgia, one of the Sea Isles, to recover.

There Roslyn finds a ten-year-old girl, Damascus, who brings alligators, pumpkins and hoodoo into her sorry life.

Roslyn rents a house from Damascus's family, the Trezevants, a strange bunch. One of the cousins, Nonnie, who works in the family's market, sees things Roslyn is pretty sure she shouldn't, and knows things regular people don't. Between the Trezevant secrets and Damascus's blatant snooping and meddling, Roslyn finds herself caught in a mysterious stew of the past and present, the music of the river, the dead and the dying who haunt the riverbank, and a passion for living her new life.


No, your eyes do not deceive you -- there is actually a review posted on my blog! Don't take this to be any kind of promise that I am back with regularity and frequency, but I am trying to see if I can bring this little review site back to some semblance of life. And what better time to start than after just attending the best book signing to which I have ever had the fortune to go! Our local indie bookstore one town to the south of us, the FoxTale Book Shoppe, welcomed the Susanna Kearsley & Friends tour this past Monday evening. If you've followed my blog or know me elsewhere online, then you probably realize I love, love, LOVE Susanna Kearsley. Well, I hadn't actually heard of any of the other authors at the event, so naturally, I purchased books by each. I just finished reading The River Witch by Kimberly Brock this evening and felt compelled to share my thoughts with you. Nothing long and prosy and honestly, not much else to dress it up, but here we go...

I'll admit when the story began, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it or how I would feel by the time the book ended. And then I was swept away into a richly woven tale that was at times sad, humorous, heartwarming, and bittersweet. Along with all of that is a quirkiness to the characters and remote Southern setting that make it very unique and truly impressive for a debut book. As I fully confess to being a girl who prefers a happily-ever-after, I was surprised to feel so satisfied when I closed the book following those breathtakingly poignant final pages. The River Witch is a bit outside the norm for me, and the closest I can come to fitting it in its place among my history of reading is right alongside Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Now, it has been many, many years since I read that book, but that comparison is what first popped into my head as I started settling into Brock's story set in south Georgia along the Atlantic coast. Perhaps it is their shared locale of the Deep South that ties them together for me, but I also think it might be the quirky, memorable characters. And then again, perhaps you can't have one without the other. Add to the mix a writing style that calls to mind vivid images full of color, sound, smells, and even tastes while you read, and you have a remarkable debut. At times I felt the story wander and slow down, but Brock was usually quick to recapture my interest with an unexpected twist or witty insight from one of her characters. I definitely hope we see more from Brock in the future!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I Think I'm Taking a Break...

Yes, you probably figured that out given that I've been pretty silent lately.

Even after a friend gave me a great suggestion on how to change my review format in such a way that would probably simplify my blogging life, I simply can't seem to find my review-writing mojo. It's so strange, particularly since I'm still reading books like crazy... 70 towards my goal of 100!

So, as I've already stopped posting in general the last few weeks, I think it's a sign that perhaps I just need to take a summer vacation from the blog. I can't bring myself to give it up all together, so with any luck, you'll hear from me again in two to three months and hopefully I'll be refreshed and ready to go (and with a new review format I plan to try out)!

Please be sure to keep up with me on Goodreads -- I'm still actively cataloging my books, so you can see what I'm currently reading, adding to my TBR mountain, and I'll probably go ahead and rate my books over there, too, even though I'm not writing reviews right now.

Happy Reading and Happy Summer!