Thursday, February 28, 2013

Booking Through Thursday: Currently Reading?

My goodness, it has been a long time since I have participated in this meme, but I'm so glad to be back!

Here is this week's question: What are you reading right now? (And, is it good? Would you recommend it? How did you choose it?)

Right now, I am reading the Kindle edition of Untraceable by S.R. Johannes, an independent author. Here's the cover and blurb:

Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival. When her dad goes missing on a routine patrol, Grace refuses to believe he's dead and fights the town authorities, tribal officials, and nature to find him.

One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from danger by Mo, a hot guy with an intoxicating accent and a secret. As her feelings between him and her ex-boyfriend get muddled, Grace travels deep into the wilderness to escape and find her father.

Along the way, Grace learns terrible secrets that sever relationships and lives. Soon she's enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it's going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to save everything she loves.

I have to admit that I'm only about 10% of the way through this book, so I've barely just begun it and it may be a little too soon to recommend it one way or the other. However, what I can say is that I am really enjoying the way S.R. Johannes writes -- she is very descriptive and puts a lot of imagery in your head without being over the top. So in that respect, this book is off to a great start, but I just haven't gotten into the meat of the story to be able to tell you if I'm going to love or hate (or just feel "meh" about) the book. :-)

In fact, the story of how I chose this book is probably much more interesting than what I can say about it so far! I heard about an upcoming Indie Author event that is actually going to be in a town about 15 minutes from where I live. I live in a suburb well north of Atlanta, Georgia, and it seems author events just usually don't happen close by, or I don't know about them enough in advance to make plans to attend. So when I heard about this one, even though I'd only read books by one of the authors who was going to be there, Nichole Chase, I decided I wanted to familiarize myself with the rest before going. Johannes's book is the last one I'm reading in preparation for the Meet & Mingle, which is a two-day event March 9th - 10th. I can't wait! If you live anywhere within reasonable driving distance of Woodstock, Georgia, you should think about going! See all the details at Into The Night Reviews!

Thanks for stopping by today and happy reading!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: The Book of Lost Souls
by Michelle Muto

Genre: YA Paranormal
Release Date: March 2011, Dreamscapes Ink
Format: eBook (Kindle)
Source: Purchased from
When teen witch Ivy MacTavish changes a lizard into her date for a Halloween dance, everything turns to chaos. And when no one is powerful enough to transform him back except Ivy, it sparks the rumor: Like father, like daughter. Ivy has heard it all before - that her father, who left when she was seven - was involved with the darkest of magic.

Making the rumors worse, someone uses an evil spell book to bring back two of history's most nefarious killers. Ivy's got a simple plan to set things right: find the real dark spell caster, steal the book, and reverse the spell. No problem! But she'll have to deal with something more dangerous than murderous spirits that want her and her friends dead: the school's resident bad boy and hotter-than-brimstone demon, Nick Marcelli. Nick's offering Ivy more than his help with recovering the missing book - he's offering her a way to ditch her scaly reputation as a lizard-lover. Demons are about as hard to handle as black magic, and as Ivy soon discovers, it's going to take more than a lot of luck and a little charm if she wants to survive long enough to clear her status as a dark witch, get a warm-blooded boyfriend, and have her former date back to eating meal worms before the week's end. 


I was not familiar with Michelle Muto or The Book of Lost Souls until I heard about an Independent author event that is coming up in a town right near where I live. I had only read books by one of the authors who will be there (Nichole Chase), but I wanted to familiarize myself with the other authors who would be attending and hoped that in doing so, I'd find some new favorites!

Well, I can safely say that Michelle Muto is definitely one of the new favorites! I really enjoyed The Book of Lost Souls. Rather than writing strictly a dark paranormal book, Muto skillfully interjects humor into scenes that makes this story more reminiscent of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and some of L. J. Smith's earlier works (which I loved). One aspect even made me think of Harry Potter (you'd probably understand why if you've read it). Though mildly predictable (I'd be surprised if anyone reading this book didn't figure out who the "mystery man" was) and not without typos and phrasing issues that could be fixed with another round of editing, The Book of Lost Souls is overall a very imaginative, entertaining read with an intriguing premise and likeable characters. Not to mention, we get a little bit of everything when it comes to supernatural characters... witches, vampires, werewolves, and demons!

My hope is that in future books (this is the first in the series), the characters will be fleshed out a little more thoroughly, but for an independently published debut book, this is definitely one of my favorites! By the way, it's a steal of a deal on Amazon if you've got a Kindle or the Kindle App, so I encourage you to give The Book of Lost Souls a try if you enjoy YA Paranormals!

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Read this book...
- if you liked L.J. Smith's books written in the 1990's and re-released in recent years (particularly the Night World series and NOT the newer titles, ie. continuing The Vampire Diaries (even before the ghostwriting started) -- they simply aren't the same)
- Nichole Chase's The Dark Betrayal series

The Book of Lost Souls (Ivy MacTavish, #1)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: The Book of Lost Souls

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!

I'm trying to be proactive and schedule a few posts this week, so it is highly possible I will have finished this book by the time this post is up and will have already moved on to something else, but what can you do? :-)

The wooden casket in the grave had deteriorated. The top had caved in some time ago, allowing dirt inside. The skeleton inside was void of hair and only scraps of tattered grey clothing clung to the remains. He or she was also missing a leg bone.

"Well, on the bright side, it has been almost a month since Uncle Lucas dug up the last one," Bane said.

~ page 35 of 288 (Kindle Edition) of The Book of Lost Souls by Michelle Muto

Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: The Shadowy Horses

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I first stumbled across Susanna Kearsley last year, when I read The Winter Sea, quite some time after Sourcebooks re-released it. And I will freely admit it, I was totally drawn to that book by its cover and once I read it, I found myself saying "must read ALL the books by Susanna Kearsley!!!" But much to my shame, this is the first time I am actually writing a review of one of Kearsley's books and it is long overdue!

I love, love, LOVE Kearsley's works, whether they are time slip stories or simply tales that take a look back at a certain time and place in history. While not a true time slip novel, like The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, The Shadowy Horses almost had an almost magical quality to it. I found myself completely lost in the pages of this book and thanks to Kearsley's beautiful, descriptive writing style, I felt like I was right there, witnessing everything happen.

As is typical with Kearsley's stories, there is a lovely romance that builds throughout the book. And though she does not send a character back in time, instead we meet a centuries-old ghost and a boy who is part of a line of men with the second sight. I think because there is just a hint of the paranormal, it allows you to believe that maybe, just maybe this story could be real. I also loved the Scottish setting!

If you enjoy historical fiction, time slips, or even just fiction with a hint of romance, I think you would greatly enjoy The Shadowy Horses and any other of Kearsley's books.

*Read in January 2013 and originally reviewed at Goodreads. View all my reviews

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Sunday Salon: Review: Heiress

Heiress by Susan May Warren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Happy Sunday, fellow Saloners! I really must get back into the habit of writing a true Sunday Salon post, but this week I will test the waters with a simple book review...

I had a very difficult time deciding how to rate Heiress by Susan May Warren. I read it practically within one sitting and was desperate to know how it ended. But in reality, that desperation stemmed from just wanting to get it over with and be able to move on. I liked the story--sort of--but good lord, if not for the scattered references to God and the Bible, you almost wouldn't know Heiress is considered Christian fiction--it reads just like a soap opera and is filled with scandal!

Seriously, I was worn out by the time I finished this book. While certainly captivating, it was rather draining to read and the desire to finish it wasn't due to pure, unadulterated enjoyment on my part. Oh, there were aspects I liked and I did enjoy Esme's character... but I simply needed the drama to be over and really, I wasn't feeling terribly inspired by the end of it, like I do with most Christian/Inspirational Fiction. The fact that Warren had me hooked from the first page of the book is the only reason I feel I can rate this fairly at 3 stars. Certainly, her writing is good, as is her storytelling, but (at least, for me) that just couldn't make up for the way the story actually made me feel by the end of it... a little horrified, exhausted, and even rather down.

I expect that most readers who enjoy Christian fiction that is edgier and not so preachy will probably like this series, but I'm don't think I'm even going to be able to bring myself to read the second book, which I already happen to have because it was a great deal on Amazon for the Kindle. I hate to pass up reading a book I've bought -- it feels a bit like throwing away food that someone else could eat -- but at least I didn't spend a lot on it!

*Review originally posted at Goodreads. View all my reviews

Next week I'll try to write something more about my recent reading habits/trends, in general. Since I'm off to a pretty good start in 2013, having already finished 27 books (I'm pretty shocked by that number, myself, honestly), I ought to be able to come up with a little something! :-) Happy Reading!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Review: Through The Ever Night

Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Oh, look! It's another dystopian series I have fallen in love with! While I didn't post a review for Under The Never Sky, I can remember for some reason being very hesitant to read that book. I'm not sure if it was the cover or the title that put me off, but for whatever reason I just didn't find myself drawn to this series... until I finally just gave in (looking for something new in the dystopian world) and decided to read the first book last Fall. It's hard to believe that authors can keep the dystopia genre fresh, since it seems to be all the rage these days, but once again we have an original story,this time by Veronica Rossi.

While I definitely enjoyed Under the Never Sky--I rated it 4 stars--I positively adored and devoured Through the Ever Night! I have to say that I basically love everything about these books: the premise, the characters, the story itself, the writing... I could go on and on. As with most dystopian books that I've read, there is a definite sci-fi edge, with a hint of the paranormal/fantasy element, as well. And I have to admit it's nice to have a romance that hasn't been turned into a love triangle with a potentially heartbreaking or shocking choice to be made at the end.

Sure, like all dystopians, this series is a bit post-apocalyptic and there is major conflict between groups/tribes of people, but there is so much about the story and premise that is fresh and original. Unfortunately, I can't really get into it in great detail because I think that would take away from some of the enjoyment if you haven't read the books -- I think it is better to know almost nothing about this series going in.

Read this if you liked The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins, Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth, or the dystopian genre, in general. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

*Read in January 2013 and review originally posted at Goodreads. View all my reviews

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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I'm kicking myself for not writing this review immediately after finishing The Darkest Minds because while I remember thinking this book was a whole lotta awesome, I don't remember all of the specifics that sparked that feeling! Of course, the fact that it's a dystopian is what drew me to the book, because so far I haven't met a dystopian novel or series I haven't liked! And this time, Bracken has put a fresh spin on dystopia that will keep you on the edge of your seat. There is also a hint of Sci-Fi thrown in.

I grew way too attached to the characters in this book. And because of that, I was VERY frustrated with Ruby for her actions at the end (not to spoil things too much). That said, boy does it make for a great cliffhanger leading into the second book. Too bad I will have to wait awhile on that one -- Never Fade isn't due out until the Fall, sigh...

There's a lot going on in this story and Bracken shows it all in vivid detail -- it is definitely action-packed and the pace moves along quickly. Despite its chunkier size, I still moved through TheDarkest Minds pretty quickly because I simply couldn't put it down.

Bottom line, read this book if you liked any of the following:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
Inside Out/Outside in by Maria V. Snyder

Read in January 2013. Review originally posted at Goodreads. View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Whoops! Missed My Own Blogoversary...

Hmm, a sign perhaps like no other that I still haven't fully re-integrated book-blogging back into my life... I forgot my own Blogoversary yesterday! Four years ago I made my way into the blogging scene, and through many ups and downs I've managed to hang around after all this time, albeit VERY sporadically.

Nothing flashy to celebrate (well, minus that glittery image), but a simple "Thank you!" to those of you who have kept up with Melissa's Bookshelf over the years and to those of you who are more recent friends. :-) Though I may not be as active as I once was, I still love to share my love of reading and hope you will continue to do the same.

In the coming weeks I'll be doing some Spring Cleaning on the site -- likely moving blog buttons and/or blog links to their own page, adding some buttons to help navigate my reviews, and other general sprucing up. And of course, when the mood strikes (my new "no pressure" blogging style, which  has actually caused me to increase the amount of reading I do), I'll share book reviews and more with you!

Happy Reading!

P.S. If anyone has suggestions on the best way to handle Blog Rolls / Blog Buttons, I'm all ears. I hate to move them from the prominence of my sidebars to a page with access from the top menu bar (particularly the link list, since I fear moving that will be very tedious), but quite frankly, these two features in particular are what is causing the cluttered look that I can no longer stand on my site!

EDITED TO ADD: So, it turns out moving everything to a page in the navigation menu was actually quite easy, and for now that's how it will be... Feel free to check out the blog buttons and my blogroll in their new home! (Yes, I'll do some editing to clean up the buttons in the future when I have the time and patience - ha!)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

REVIEW: Rugged and Relentless

Rugged and Relentless by Kelly Eileen Hake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I'm always on the hunt for new Christian Historical Fiction authors I enjoy, but because I do not care to be preached to, it is often hard to find books in this genre that I truly love. Rugged and Relentless is the first book I have read by Kelly Eileen Hake and it most definitely will not be my last! It's been a LONG time since I've discovered a "new-to-me" Christian Fiction author who made me want to immediately go and buy more of their books. Guess it's a good thing I primarily read eBooks these days, so it will be easy to do just that!

This book just worked for me on so many levels. I greatly enjoyed Hake's writing -- full of wit and amusing turns of phrase with fun, memorable characters to set the tone. One aspect that may seem minor but really hit home was the game the four ladies had of coming up with the "worst pun" at various times throughout the story. As someone who has a similar habit of making jokes with puns, that little trick really resonated with me. Additionally, Hake did a fantastic job of creating characters who were varied and full of life -- when I read this book I felt like I could see it all playing out right in front of me, which for me is always a sign of a great read.

Truth be told, my enjoyment of this story may also have been due to the fact that I found the main character, Evie, to be very relatable on a more personal level. Happily, there was no pretense of simpering perfection with her or any of the other women in the story; these were people you could probably picture in your own life. Thankfully, Hake also did not choose to employ any of the cliched themes that are SO overused in Christian romances--couples that completely (and to me, incomprehensibly) misinterpret one another's feelings and actions, which generally causes them to behave stupidly, or one half of the couple feels the need to convert the other in order to be together, etc.

While I've come across some relatively enjoyable Christian romances in the last year, I haven't found one this captivating since I read Julie Lessman's first books. I was awake until the wee hours of the morning because I just had to know how the story was going to end.

Originally posted at Goodreads. View all my reviews

Friday, February 8, 2013

REVIEW: Stained

Stained by Ella James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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I've been interested in discovering more independent authors lately and was hoping to find a new favorite. Unfortunately, that is not the case with Ella James and her Stained series.

THE GOOD: With more than its fair share of originality in its presentation of Nephilim, the story has a lot of potential. I was a little worried that the book would come across as dull and too cliched because -- let's face it -- a lot all of these supernatural beings are just overdone in today's YA world. (Not that this stops me from reading about them, mind you.) Without a doubt, it takes some talent to make paranormal YA feel fresh and make you feel like you are actually reading a new story.

THE BAD: The writing. Okay, I know I am not a writer and though I would dearly love to write a book or several, that's just not who I am and I am coming to accept that. However, I have read enough over the years to be able to come to a reasonable conclusion about the quality of writing in a story. Many times I found myself cringing at the author's choice of phrasing and the voice of Julia's character and consequently, the entire story. I understand wanting to paint a picture with vivid words and analogies, but it was as if James chose to use overly dramatic descriptors for practically everything in the story. It became ridiculous pretty early on. Not to mention some additional editing would have helped to uncover and correct some easy-to-spot grammatical/spelling errors, which seem to be all too common in independent publications.

THE UGLY (UGH-LY?): A toss-up between the supposed budding romance between Julia and Cayne/Cayuzul and the ridiculously juvenile voice in which the story is told. Take your pick. Somehow, the vernacular/slang of the modern teen just sounds utterly ridiculous when immortalized in the pages of a book. Cringe-worthy, indeed.

For me, the writing was enough of a turn-off that I simply can't see myself continuing the series, unless someone out there can convince me that it will get better. It's a shame, because at those rare times when I could look beyond James's annoying choices of phraseology, I really felt like I was getting a glimpse of the makings of an original paranormal series. But in reading other reviews of this book here and on, I would say I am in the minority, so you can just take my review for what it is -- my opinion and just one of many.

Originally posted at Goodreads. View all my reviews

Friday, February 1, 2013

REVIEW: Scent of Triumph

Scent of TriumphScent of Triumph by Jan Moran
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Wow! I came across Scent of Triumph through the Goodreads grapevine. I enjoy historical fiction and have recently been branching out into more types, but I will admit that I wasn't too keen about a book set during WWII. However, the premise of the book was intriguing, given the way scents and smells play a large role in the story and how they affect our memories. And I will admit, the 99-cent sale caught my eye so I thought I would give it a go. I was not prepared to be as blown away by the story as I was. Jan Moran's ability to weave scents and smells into the fabric of the story is masterful! I was afraid that it would seem stilted or forced, but there is nothing more natural -- I even began to feel like I could smell some of the scents myself. I don't know about the rest of you, but there are definitely smells that instantly take me back to memories from my childhood or even just a few years ago. I have often thought that much we observe with our senses really can shape and tie into our memories.

But back to the story... All of this praise is not to say there weren't a couple of things that bothered me. One, there were a few spelling/grammatical errors that I hope will be caught and corrected in a later edition. When I find those kinds of errors, I normally want to deduct a star from my rating on that principle alone. However, Moran's overall brilliant writing style won me over and given that I didn't want to put the book down, I decided that I probably ought to be a bit more forgiving. Related to the story, I did find myself frustrated with Danielle's actions and reactions, at times, but ultimately I reminded myself that I have never been in any situation remotely like hers, so I shouldn't be so judgmental of how she opted to deal with certain events in her life or not see things that I felt should be obvious. How often are we all oblivious to what is going on in our own lives?!

Truly, I was captivated from the first page. I wanted to stay up late reading it two nights in a row, but had to restrain myself and ultimately decided to finish it before getting to work this morning. (I guess it's a good thing I work from home and to some extent can set my own hours!) I was surprised to find that I enjoy reading a story set in the WWII era, and though there is more to the story than the war and it is not the focus, it certainly plays an important part in the tale.

WHO SHOULD READ SCENT OF TRIUMPH: General historical fiction lovers, anyone for whom scents and smells play a strong role in their life and memories, and anyone who simply enjoys a powerful story of a woman struggling to overcome adversity and regain her life.

Additional note: There is some sex in the story, but it is by no means graphic. However, in fairness to those who may not want to read about it, I felt that a mention should be made.

*Originally posted at Goodreads. View all my reviews