Saturday, June 30, 2012

Liebster Blog Award 2012!

Color me surprised - I never expected to be tagged for this award! I've been seeing dozens of posts about it all over the internet, but for some reason, it never struck me that I could (or would) actually be considered! So, first and foremost, a million thank you's to Sandy for suggesting this award to me. As a new blogger this truly means so much to me so I cannot thank you enough!

What is the Liebster Blog Award you may ask? Well, the Liebster Blog Award is an award given to bloggers who currently have under 200 followers. The award winners are to (a) share eleven facts about themselves (b) answer eleven questions asked by the blogger who tagged them (c) come up with their own set of eleven questions to ask bloggers and (d) tag eleven bloggers who they think are worthy of this award.

So, without further ado...

11 Facts About Me: 

1. I am a HUGE Potterhead!
2. My favorite book-to-movie adaptations are Gone With the Wind and Pride and Prejudice (2005).
3. The most exotic place I have ever lived in/visited is India.
4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is my favorite foreign film.
5. If I had lived during WWII, I would have joined Alice Paul's Women's Suffrage Movement.
6. I always eat popcorn in the movie theater (and tend to finish it so fast that no one else gets any).
7. I can't understand why people love Starbucks coffee so much. I prefer homemade.
8. My favorite ice cream flavors are chocolate chip cookie dough and rocky road.
9. I think peanut butter is far better than nutella.
10. I don't watch too much TV except for Doctor Who, Sherlock, Food Network and ESPN Tennis.
11. In case of a zombie apocalypse, my preferred weapon of choice would be machete.

11 Questions and 11 Answers: 

1. Do you read the acknowledgments written by the author in the back of the book? 

Funnily enough, I'm one of those few people who do, but really, it depends on the author. If it's an author I am familiar with or whose book I really enjoy, I definitely take the time to read through the acknowledgement section. However, if it was a novel I simply did not care for or an author who is rather unknown to me, then I generally just skip over it. The majority of the time though, I do read the acknowledgments. I like reading about the people in an author's life who have helped him/her get to that stage in their career where they were able to publish a book and it also gives a nice bit of insight into the author's life as well which I like to know about if I enjoyed their novel.

2. Did you start blogging because you love writing and perhaps want to be a writer or just because of a genuine love for books? 

To be perfectly honest, it's a little bit of both. I love to read - like love to read. I often find myself doing nothing else but reading all day and when I get really involved in a book, I more or less tune out the rest of the world. I have only recently discovered book bloggers and this bibliophile community is not only one that welcomes new comers with open arms, but it is also one that is a tremendous amount of fun to be apart of. I love discussing books with others, reading and responding to comments, and generally getting to know others who are as book-crazy as I am which was a large incentive for me to start my own blog. However, I also do love to write and would someday like very much to become a writer and what better way to practice than by analyzing the writing style and successes of other authors? Although my passion for reading has been my true motivation for starting my own blog, my love of writing has played a small role as well.

3. What is your favorite genre? 

For a question that is only five words long, it sure is a complicated one. If you had asked me this question a few years ago, I would have replied and said, "fantasy," with no hesitation. Recently however, there has been a dearth of fantasy novels published and although I still love fantasy, I wouldn't say it was my favorite genre. I find myself gravitating towards more contemporary reads lately although I tend to be very critical of them and only like very few - if any - of those. I used to adore paranormal fiction but that genre has sadly become filled with way too many love triangles to offer me any amount of comfort. I love dystopian novels, but even they seem to have been taken over by a new genre of dysto-romance in which the futuristic realm takes a back seat to the romantic interest. I love novels with originality, creativity, and spunk. I love stories with gut-wrenching romances, heart-breaking characters, and novels that inspire emotion from me. Off late, I've found that a variety of novels that don't quite fit into one genre have been able to bring about this kind of emotion for me. Thus, to answer this question, I don't have one favorite genre - instead, I have a favorite kind of book and whichever book that genre fits into, I am more than happy to read.

4. What's the first book you remember falling in love with? 

In all honesty, I can't remember the first book I ever fell in love with. I know that some of the first books I read as a child were Enid Blyton's Wishing Chair, Faraway Tree, Mallory Towers, St. Clair's, and Mystery Series; however, I don't remember falling in love with them. I remember liking them a lot, but I think the first book I ever truly fell in love with might have been Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke or Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene. I vividly remember my Nancy Drew phase in which I would devour all of Nancy's mysteries in weeks and sit up late in the night re-reading them as well. For me, Nancy was not only intelligent and smart - two things I aspired very hard to be - she was also thoughtful, fun, and really knew how to kick butt. I always remember being awed by the sheer number of items she could hold in her bags, the way her boyfriend Ned would instantly listen to her, and how completely woman-empowered she was. So I guess it's safe to say that those were the first books I was inspired by. Dragon Rider however, was most likely the first book I fell in love with and also successfully started my craze for fantasy novels at a young age. I fell in love with the idea of magic, mystery, and intrigue integrated into our world and furthermore, I grew to appreciate the fact that fantasy novels had resounding themes and messages to them if you only look deeper. I think books like Dragon Rider, Harry Potter, Inkheart, Fire, Cry of the Icemark, and other fantasies still remain the books I automatically fall in love with because they are not only able to transport me into a different world, but I can also learn something new and valuable from them with every re-read which makes them true gems.

5. What kind of music do you like? 

Like my favorite genre of books (or lack of rather), I don't think I can specifically pinpoint the type of music I like. I don't like country, but I don't mind a Taylor Swift song on my iPod every now and then. I don't like metal or any type of hard-core music, but I do love rock. Some of my favorite bands include The Script, Linkin Park, One Republic, Coldplay, Daughtry, The Fray, Green Day, Lifehouse, Nirvana, Snow Patrol, The Train, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles (saved the best for the last!). In terms of individual singers I tend to like a lot of single songs here and there, but I also love Vanessa Carlton, Bruce Springsteen, David Archuleta, Michelle Branch, and don't mind some Britney Spears here and there. I most definitely do not like Justin Bieber, Disney Channel Singers, or One Republic (although I like a few songs by The Wanted).

6. Do you create a playlist in your head for books you read? 

Unfortunately, I am quite unable to create a playlist in my head for the books I read. I don't always listen to music while I read but when I do, I always experiment until I find a song that I think fits the mood of the novel and that song is generally playing on repeat until I finish the book. Either than that though, I never think up playlists for the books I read. I have always been in awe of people who do do that though and I dearly wish I could. As much as I love music, I love hearing my own thoughts while I read and imagine the scene on paper slowly unfolding in my mind like a movie. Music simply detracts from that experience most of the time and I also struggle with finding the perfect songs to match the tone of a book. I am in constant admiration of readers who can do this though and am more than happy to listen to said playlists. (I fell in love with the playlist provided in the back of Saving June by Hannah Harrington and listen to those songs almost constantly!)

7. Do you prefer happy endings to books or not so much? 

Gosh, this is a tough question - the toughest yet IMO. In all honesty, it depends on the book. I like endings that stick to the true characterization of the characters, that make sense to the plot, wrap up all loose endings, and leave the reader with resounding themes and messages - at least of hope if nothing else. I don't like corny, sappy, or too-happy endings but I also don't like endings that are filled with broken people, sadness, death, and loneliness. To me, the best books are always the ones that make me think, imagine beyond the last page, and struggle to find depth in the messages the author inspires. When I think of endings, I always invariably think of Gone With the Wind because that was such a cruel, cruel ending to a 1000+ page novel; however, I love it because of the simple reason that it inspires hope. Even endings like The Great Gatsby that end in death, ultimately end in hope as well as can be seen in A Tale of Two Cities. Yet, that doesn't mean I don't like happy endings to novels such as Anna and the French Kiss or Harry Potter. It simply means that while I enjoy happy endings, I think I prefer meaningful endings better, even if they may potentially be sad or heart-breaking.

8. Do you prefer series or stand-alone books? 

I think if you had asked me this question a few years ago, I would have said, "series," without any hesitation, but now I hesitate. This is due to the simple reason that I have found series books to be exceedingly disappointing as time passes. There are always those few series which I love and I adore the anticipation in waiting for a sequel, speculating about possible scenarios, and getting to spend more time with your favorite characters, but that is always felt with an underlying sense of dread. Perhaps I should clarify - I like series but I don't like trilogies. I don't mind dualogies, or quartets, or even longer series, but I fear trilogies with a passion. In fact, the only trilogy I can think of liking is The Lord of the Rings and that's because Tolkien is a genius. I didn't like Mockingjay, Collin's conclusion to The Hunger Games, and while I loved The Mortal Instruments, I don't like Clare's continuation of this work. That being said, even some of my most beloved series, like Eragon, have ended on conclusions that I didn't find to be 100% satisfactory. Other series, such as Harry Potter, I have loved. Thus, I have found that while I absolutely positively love series, I fear them with an equal - if not greater - passion due the disappointment they may bring me. Stand-alone novels on the other hand, are a lot easier to handle as their story ends within a couple hundred pages, but they also afford me with the issue of not getting quite enough of the characters as I wanted. Thus, I am forced to admit that I prefer series against my better judgement. My only justification for this is that even if I disliked the ending to a series, I at least liked the books leading up to it!

9. Do you develop character crushes? If so, which characters have you developed crushes on? 

Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! I develop character crushes and quite a lot of them actually. I think this post is long enough already without providing you all with a giant list of all the fictional guys I'm crushing on, so I will share with you just a few of my favorite literary guys: Jonah Griggs (Jellicoe Road), Jericho Barrons (Fever Series), Wayland North (Brightly Woven), Brigan (Fire), Augustus Waters (The Fault in Our Stars), Etienne St.Clair (Anna and the French Kiss), Rhett Butler (Gone With the Wind), Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), Jake Tolan (Saving June), Will Trombal (Saving Francesca), Terrible (Downside Ghosts Series), Captain Wentworth (Persuasion), Aragorn (Lord of the Rings), Raffe (Angelfall), Perry (Under the Never Sky), Four/Tobias (Divergent), Sirius Black (Harry Potter), Rowan (Wanderlove), Tom Mackee (The Piper's Son), and Jericho Barrons (I already mentioned him you say? Well, he seemed worth repeating)! ;)

10. Do you partner with your local bookstore/library? 

Umm...I'm not sure what it means to partner with my local bookstore/library, but I definitely visit both of them a lot. I'm virtually always at the library, so the librarians know me almost as well as my own parents probably do. I can rather stingy with my money though, so the bookstore rarely sees me, but when they do, they end up seeing me for hours, having to usher me out of the store because of closing time, and usually wind up with a lot of money in their pockets from the books I buy. ;)

11. Is there a genre/theme/characteristic that you see repeated in your reading that's beginning to annoy you?

Love. Triangles. I. Hate. Them. I'm sure dozens of bloggers have said this before, but I genuinely detest love triangles. Not only do I think they are vastly unrealistic, but I also think that love triangles detract from the main plot. I have seen so many debut novels with a tremendous amount of potential go to waste simply because the romance takes over. In addition to love triangles, I am also extremely annoyed with the paranormal genre. This is a genre which I love because of its scope for creativity, but frankly speaking, the fallen angel, vampire, and fairy romances are beginning to bore me. I feel as if I've read so many of the same plots over and over again. This just brings me to the emerging genre of dysto-romance, a genre which takes a perfectly intriguing dysotpian setting and ruins it with - you guessed it - romance! I love romance novels and I read my fair share of contemporary novels and chick-flicks to get my romantic fill, so when I read a fantasy, paranormal, or dystopian novel, I expect an astounding plot with a romance that adds to the story, not detracts or takes over from it.

Phew! That was a wonderful set of eleven question and I hope my answers will be equally as pleasing!

11 Questions to ask Bloggers: 

1. If you could bring one book character to life, who would it be and why?
2. If you could pick one book to live in, what would it be and why?
3. What is your favorite classic novel and what makes it your favorite classic?
4. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
5. Do you usually read the book first or see the movie?
6. What was the motivational factor that pushed you to blog?
7. Do you listen to music while you read? If so, what kind of music?
8. If you like an author do you read all of his/her books? Why or why not?
9. Do you a judge a book based primarily on its cover, synopsis, author, or reviews before picking it up?
10. What qualities do you look for in a character for them to become one of your favorites?
11. In case of a zombie apocalypse or the end of the world, what book would you take with you if you could?

11 Tagged Bloggers:

1. Books Worth Cheering For 
2. Caffeine and Books 
3. Singing the Melody of My Life 
4. Finding Bliss in Books 
5. My Mad Love Affair With My Library 
6. Gabby Reads
7. City of Books 
8. A Novel Experience
9. Nerdy Book Reviews
10. The Reclusive Reader
11. Janina Reads 

Once again, a huge thank you to Sandy for awarding me with this phenomenal award. I had a tremendous amount of fun answering these questions and writing this post and I am so grateful to be part of such a wonderful blogging community. I hope you all have a terrific weekend! :D

Review: Faefever by Karen Marie Moning

Title: Faefever (Fever #3) 

Author: Karen Marie Moning 

Rating: 4/5 Stars 

I think I've said it before, but I simply have to say it again - this series keeps getting better and better. In Faefever, Mac's life takes on a darker and far more dangerous turn than before. The previously fun-filled, pink and rainbows narration is gone and replaced by a woman who has been forced to change to her surroundings, adapt to threats, and struggle to survive. Although Mac's narration still retains her classic persona and remains to be immensely fun to read, there is definitely a darker undercurrent to it. Furthermore, I find that it is hard to pinpoint an exact plot for the story arc of this novel. Mac's quest for the Sinsar Dubh continues and as she learns more about the book, the MacKeltars, and the other sidhe-seers in Dublin, she also accumulates an even larger store of questions. In many ways, Faefever is a gradual continuation of Mac's story from Darkfever and Bloodfever, but it is also the build-up to a far larger and more terrifying plot line than any could imagine.

Faefever surprisingly took me the longest amount of time out of all of Fever books to finish. This is largely in part because I didn't have much time to read, but it is also because areas of this story begin to feel redundant. As a reader, we are accustomed to Mac, her habits, and her ways of gleaning new information, all while confusing herself further. Yet, in Faefever I found that her actions began to become predictable which slightly detracted from this story. However, looking back, I am able to see that this was a conscious - and brilliant - literary maneuver by Moning herself. Much like J.K.Rowling, Moning has sprinkled sets of clues within the pages of Faefever that give away the cliffhanger ending - if only you are smart enough to find them, piece them together, and figure them out. Somehow, all of the information that Mac has accumulated throughout the past weeks comes together at the end of this book and it is truly earth-shattering. It is also cruel though, but that is mostly because of the cliffhanger ending. Seriously, I'm beginning to wonder if the ones Moning leaves us with are even legal!

Scintillating plot aside, what always makes me fall head-over-heels for this series are its characters. If you've been reading my previous reviews, you'll know that I am completely in love with Jericho Barrons and nothing changes in this installment. Barrons is just as big, bad, and untrustworthy as before, but his relationship with Mac has changed ever-so-slightly. The sparks that readers have felt ever since the first time these two connected together on the page are now being felt and analyzed by Mac herself. Furthermore, Barrons proves to be all the more enigmatic by withdrawing from any form of humanizing himself. I think the tension, undercurrents, and overall development of their strange companionship is truly brought out in this novel more than the others. I can sense the barriers between these two breaking and I cannot wait to see how their relationship progresses in the sequel.

I've mentioned this before and I'll say it again: these cliffhangers are killer. However, what I love about Moning's work is that although she puts her characters through some of the most torturous, horrible, and cruel situations, she always finds a way for them to come back all the more stronger for it. Perhaps she lives by the saying, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," and even if she doesn't, she certainly writes by it. I'm a huge fan of the hope, messages, and themes that Moning conveys to the reader, despite writing an urban fantasy piece of fiction. That, more than anything else, makes her a writer to be admired IMO.

Overall, Faefever was a fantastic addition to this addictive series. I am thoroughly hooked onto these books and can't wait for more. Thus, I leave you, dear readers, with a quote that Moning herself wrote in Bloodfever in the hopes that it will lighten your heart as it did mine after realizing the terrible ordeal Mac had and was facing at the end of this novel. "Although it may not seem like it, this isn't a story about darkness. It's about light. Khalil Gibran says, 'Your joy can fill you only as deeply as your sorrow has carved you.' If you've never tasted bitterness, sweet is just another pleasant flavor on your tongue. One day I'm going to hold a lot of joy."

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee (Flashback Friday #2)

Flashback Friday was originally an idea came up with - or thought I came up with at any rate. Since I'm a new book blogger with dozens of reviews on GoodReads, I thought Flashback Friday would be a great way to feature some of my older reviews on my blog. However, it turns out that there are tons of different bloggers out there who feature a Flashback Friday of their own. So, I am taking ideas from two such bloggers - Clean Teen Fiction and Skyla11377 - and meshing them together to create my own version of Flashback Friday - a version which features some of my favorite books from the past year and provides a review for them. You don't have to be a new blogger to participate in Flashback Friday though. This is simply an opportunity to showcase novels we've read in the past and enjoyed, even if there is no written review for it, so feel free to grab my button or make your own and participate! :)

Today's Flashback Friday Pick: Angelfall by Susan Ee 

Title: Angelfall  

Author: Susan Ee

Rating: 5/5 Stars 

Susan Ee, I salute you. Please do mankind a favor and send a copy of your book to every author who has ever written a book about angels - maybe they'll finally understand that they're not going about it right. You are. 

This is how you write a book about angels.
This is how you write a post-apocalyptic book.
This is how you write a kick-ass heroine.  
This is how you write a gut-wrenching romance. 
This is how you write a torn family. 
This is how every book deserves to be written. 

Angelfall begins in a post-apocalyptic realm where angels have taken over the Earth and are ravaging and destroying everything. Penryn, caught up in a raging battle for survival, must take care of her crippled seven-year-old sister and her mother who is bordering on the verge of complete lunacy. When Penryn witnesses the cruel ripping apart of an angel's wings, in what she can only guess to be violent angel politics, she is thrust under the spotlight of these inhumane beings. Now, her sister has been kidnapped and her only hope of finding her is Raffe, the angel whose wings she just witnessed being brutally cut off. The two strike an unlikely compromise, but the world where Penryn lives is teeming with danger and finding her sister may put more on the line than Penryn originally believed...

From the moment you crack open the spine of Angelfall, Susan Ee doesn't give you a moment to breathe. This is a story that completely sucks you in, keeping you frantically flipping the pages for more. Ee's writing is beautiful, flowing with such talent that it is surprising this is a self-published novel. Furthermore, Penryn's voice is refreshing, strong, and driven. She has quickly become one of my favorite female protagonists of all time and I found myself warming up to her stubborn will, dedication to her family, loyalty to her friends, and vulnerability all at once. Penryn, like so many characters before her, must hold the weight of her family on her shoulders, but she does it in a way that makes you immediately sympathize and admire her. Her mother, who is single-handedly responsible for putting her seven-year-old sister in a wheelchair, is far from stable and my heart broke over just how quickly Penryn must have had to grow up and assume the role of adult. Their relationship is a rocky one at best, but it is original, unique, and I find myself hoping against hope that it improves.

Although Penryn was a completely kick-ass and self-reliant protagonist, she was no match for Raffe, the warrior angel. Raffe is self-assured, witty, and gorgeous - everything you can expect from a typical male protagonist right? Wrong. Raffe is a much deeper character than any usually featured in Young Adult novels and I fell for him - hard. Raffe has a long and mysterious past, which I am yearning to find out more about, but he is also compassionate, loyal, caring, trustworthy, and sweet beyond measure. His relationship with Penryn progresses slowly, steadily building up in a way that simply increased the passion between them. The romance in no way detracted from the pounding pace of the plot and took a glorious backseat, but it was present and subtle and beautiful all the same. It's the type of romance that leaves so much more imagination, for interpretation and for growth that I couldn't not envy Ee's easy way of incorporating it into the tale. 

Susan Ee honestly makes writing look flawless. I couldn't find a single complaint, a single plot hole, a single something I didn't like about this book - and I'm a picky reader. This is hands down one of the best books I've read this year. It has everything you could possibly want in it: an indomitable heroine, heart-pounding action, a swoon-worthy and slow romance that leaves you yearning for more, a well-fleshed out plot, and most importantly, a post-apocalyptic universe that keeps it real. Ee doesn't gloss over the ugly aspects of human nature and the desperate means people resort to live by - if anything, her descriptions of these events only add to increase my respect for her and my love for this story. 

If you haven't picked up Angelfall yet, then stop everything you're doing and go pick it up now. I surprised myself by finishing this in a matter of hours and I am more than tempted to order this online and read it again once it arrives at my doorstep. In fact, I probably will. I need more Raffe in my life ;) Either way, I will be amongst the first people to get my hands on this sequel when it comes...this was just so bloody brilliant I have no words to express its perfection. So what are you still doing reading this? Go! Go buy this book now and revel in its beauty!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Title: Masque of the Red Death 

Author: Bethany Griffin 

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars 

Masque of the Red Death is exactly that – a mask. From the outside, it looks beautiful. Its cover is gorgeous, its synopsis is unique, and even by reading a brief preview of this novel, the reader is immediately sucked into this atmospheric setting. However, when you look behind the mask, dig deeper, read further on, and discover the characters that hide behind this mask of beauty and originality, you are met with a formulaic plot, un-dynamic characters, a typical love triangle, and an overall lack of focus. In my opinion, Masque of the Red Death was a novel that had a lot of potential and is definitely a story I wouldn’t mind reading again, but only if it was written differently with a few major changes that could truly transform it into a unique work of dystopian fiction.

In the futuristic world where Araby lives, a dangerous disease plagues the nation and causes the population to dwindle every day. Araby has lost her own twin brother Finn to this deadly plague and she and her friend April immerse themselves in clubs, struggling to forget the danger that surrounds them. In the midst of this chaos, she meets the enigmatic Elliot, brother to April and nephew of Prince Prospero who controls the city and Will, a handsome young man who works at the Debauchery Club and struggles to take care of his younger siblings. The day Araby meets these two, she slowly begins to emerge from the numb stupor her life has been in and begins to realize the power she holds to change the world and save an immeasurable number of lives.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I was unable to see what it was about this novel that captured everyone’s attention. I have yet to come across many reviewers who didn’t enjoy this novel, but I unfortunately fall into the minority. Although I loved the atmospheric setting, creative dystopian outlook, and allusions to Edgar Allen Poe’s own short story that were very much prevalent throughout this novel, it’s ultimate downfall lay in the characters themselves.

I tend to love broken characters and Araby was no exception – she lost her twin brother to the plague that her father had ironically found the solution to, she struggled with survivor’s guilt from day to day, and she even took a vow to never experience anything in life that he didn’t experience either. Now, although I found Araby’s vow to be extremely strange, I didn’t have any major qualms with her until she met Will and Elliot. It seems that men bring out the silliest, stupidest, and ultimately the worst traits in female protagonists. Araby kisses both Elliot and Will throughout the course of the novel and never feels any guilt for it. Her vow, which had been emphasized very greatly in the beginning of the novel, simply disappeared and seemed not to matter during this defining moment in her life.

Araby’s vow aside, I also found that she simply threw herself headfirst into participating in Elliot’s political scheme for no reason at all. As far as the reader knows, Elliot is a complete strange whom Araby has only heard about from her best friend April; yet, she trusts him blindly and even betrays her parents for his sake. Thus, not only was I greatly confused by these actions, I slowly winded up hating Araby. I was expecting to see some type of momentous character growth that occurs throughout the course of the novel and changes her outlook on life, and although Araby grew, it was because of the presence of Will and Elliot. In my opinion, this book would have been much stronger if Araby had faced her inner struggles and overcome them through her own sheer will. Instead, she ended up being like every other unoriginal female protagonist to grace young adult fiction over the past few years.

Speaking of unoriginality, there is – you guessed it – a love triangle in this novel. For me, I found the biggest flaw in this love triangle was the fact that the author was unable to inspire in me any feeling towards her two male protagonists. In fact, that was an underlying current throughout the novel. Stories that cannot inspire any type of emotional investment from me are automatically discarded from my shelves, and this was no exception. Furthermore, I found myself to be jarred by the true genre of this novel. It had steampunk elements, but not enough. It was a creative dystopian take, but that was overshadowed by lousy characterization. It was a unique re-take on Poe’s story, but at the same time it had its marked differences that led to my dislike of it.

All in all, Masque of the Red Death is one book I’d recommend skipping. It doesn’t seem to have any specific faults to it, but its plot has been done before, its characters offer nothing original, and its unique realm is simply not enough to carry this story forward. That being said, many readers have fallen in love with this novel, so I’d recommend giving it a try yourself. However, for me, Nevermore was a novel that truly managed to capture the essence of Poe’s writing and Masque of the Red Death simply failed to live up to Poe’s famous legacy.

Review: Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning

Title: Bloodfever (Fever #2) 

Author: Karen Marie Moning 

Rating: 4/5 Stars

After reading yet another absolutely fantastic addition to this riveting sequel, I have come to the conclusion that Moning is a ninja. Yes, she is. She is so well versed in the skill of revealing what seems like absolutely everything while actually revealing nothing that I am in complete awe of her. With this excited sequel to Darkfever, Moning has amped up the action, the stakes, the danger, and - you guessed it - the attraction. Everything about Bloodfever is that much better, that much more addictive, and leaves you with that many more questions floating around in your mind as you read and finish this book.

Bloodfever picks up roughly a week or so after the events that ended Darkfever, leaving Mac with the knowledge of who murdered her sister. Now, Mac is more determined than ever to find the Sinsar Dubh, but a plethora of obstacles stand in her way. For one, Inspector O'Daffy is becoming increasingly curious about the Dark Zones and wondering why Mac hasn't returned home, Rocky O'Bannion's brother appears to investigate the true cause of his brother's death, Malluce's death is still vastly uncertain, a mysterious specter seems to following Mac wherever she goes, and Mac finds that she is still not even close to becoming a top player in the dangerous game that is quickly becoming her life.

I absolutely love the plot of these novels. Not only are they fast-paced page-turners, they also leave you in suspense and only increase the amount of questions you are left with. In most cases, I think I would find this extremely irritating, but Moning writes in such a manner that I think I am gleaning information, but really I am just taking one step forward and going two steps back - it's brilliant, edgy, and has me hooked onto this series. Furthermore, the characters take on a life of their own within these books. Although this remains to be a paranormal/urban fantasy genre, each and every one of Moning's characters behave realistically and have their own agenda's, needs, and inner demons to fight.

Most importantly though, I love what Moning has done with Mac's character. Despite the traumatic events that Mac was forced to face in Darkfever, she still retains much of her happy-go-lucky personality. However, as the novel progresses, we slowly see this begin to change Mac into someone who is tougher, stronger, and far more kick-ass than we imagined. I love that Mac's change is gradual and although she is forced to adapt to survive to the new predicaments she is forced to face, she also manages to retain some of her own individuality as well.

Bloodfever introduces us to a whole new world of Fae lore which is very cleverly crafted and conveyed to the reader. In addition, we see some of the old characters we have grown to love in Darkfever return as well. Seelie prince V'lane's intentions are still murkily unclear and Jericho Barrons remains as enigmatic as ever. However, despite the harsh and often brutal light that Barrons is portrayed in, there remains to be a quality about his character that not only makes him irresistible, but also makes him strangely trustworthy, dependent, and kind in his own way. The chemistry between Mac and Barrons is undeniable and completely off the charts and even when these two are simply arguing and flinging their flirty banter across the room, it is hard not to keep that crazy grin off my face. I love these two and I can't wait to see the direction their relationship is heading.

All in all, Bloodfever was a phenomenal addition to Moning's Fever Series. I've already begun Faefever and I can tell you that this series keeps getting better and better with each installment. The crucial lessons that Mac learns from her endeavors in this novel are carried over and change her in the sequel and I'm in awe of the effortless manner in which Moning develops her complex cast. I would highly recommend this series to any urban fantasy lover and if nothing else, I'd encourage you to never go to Ireland without a handy pack of flashlights! ;)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5/5 Stars

I feel as if there are very few instances in life when a book or movie that has been hyped up to a large extent still manages to deliver. I have been an avid fantasy fan ever since I was young and there was a time period in my life when I would steadfastly refuse to read anything that wasn’t fantasy. Thus, I had very high hopes and expectations for Shadow and Bone and I was attempting to prepare myself for a downfall or some type of eventual disappointment. I am glad to admit however, that it never came. Shadow and Bone is one of those novels that you don’t realize you’re even reading and before you know it, you’re well past half-way through the book. It is a dark, rich, and provocative adventure and I am already excited to pre-order its sequel.

The premises of Shadow and Bone is seemingly unoriginal – Alina and Mal are orphans who have grown up to be best friends. While Mal is a remarkable tracker and fits in perfectly with the members of the First Army, Alina has never quite felt as if she has belonged. She is thin, scrawny, unattractive, and hopelessly in love with her gorgeous best friend. Yet, when she inadvertently discovers a hidden power within her, she is whisked away to learn to hone her skills with the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha, or possessor of magic, in the realm. However, Alina quickly realizes that all is not as it seems and she must struggle to accept her destiny, own up to her power, and find the strength within her to do what is right.

Leigh Bardugo, much like J.K. Rowling, is a masterful storyteller. Her pacing is impeccable, her characters are vivid, her world comes alive through the pages, and she clearly must be some type of secret agent because she took me completely by surprise. I pride myself on being well-versed within the fantasy realm, but just when I thought I knew the direction this book was going in, there appeared to be a fork in the road and Bardugo went down a path I never suspected. Furthermore, I admire her immensely for being able to craftily weave in so many intricate details of her realm and manage to world-build in a way that never made the plot seem boring or the pace of the novel slacken. Not only was I able to enjoy her amazing story, but I was also able to glean a tremendous amount of information about the world she created – a feat that, I can assure, not many debut fantasy writers are able to achieve.

Bardugo’s oh-so-wonderful skills aside, what really made her novel phenomenal were the characters. Alina is a complex heroine – one who wishes to fit in and move forward in life all while remembering and maintaining her past friendships. I found her growth as a character to not only be remarkable realistic, but also portrayed in a unique light. Bardugo never tries to brush off Alina’s mistakes or her short-comings as an individual, but instead she enables us to see Alina’s inner goodness and her purity despite her flaws. In addition, I enjoyed the themes that surrounded Alina of trust, beauty, friendship, and loyalty. Her relationships with the Grisha, the Darkling, her mentors, and Mal were all very multi-dimensional and only served to improve this story beyond its surface awesomeness.

Speaking of relationships, I found that Alina’s relationship with the Darkling took me completely by surprise. Just when I would begin to like (and lust) after the Darkling, something would happen to make me hate him immediately, but then, just when I was thinking he was some evil Lord Voldemort type, I would inadvertently find myself liking him a little bit again only to return back to hatred! Thus, I found the Darkling’s character to be far more well developed, complicated, and intriguing than Mal’s character.

Yet, I fell in love with Mal for different reasons. I often find that when authors introduce a best-friends-from-childhood romance they make the egregiously obvious error of assuming that the reader knows all about their friendship and hence it is alright for them to hook up randomly and out of nowhere. Thankfully, Bardugo steered clear of this recurring error and introduced Mal and Alina’s friendship to us in a manner that was sweet, touching, and completely believable. I loved the manner in which their relationship developed and I can’t wait to see more of them in the next novel.

If this review hasn’t already convinced you, Shadow and Bone is a novel you must read. It is teeming with action, an intricately woven plot, and characters so complex you won’t know what to think. I fell in love not only with the rich world Bardugo has created, but with her writing style and seamlessly flowing characters as well. Their personalities, difficulties, and endeavors are ones that will stick with you long past the last page and I will definitely be spending more than one sleepless night trying to figure out what will happen next. Leigh Bardugo is a talented, phenomenal, and unexpected debut author who I can’t wait to read more of. I’m not sure of a lot of things regarding the ending of this novel and it’s obvious cliffhanger-like epilogue, but I do know this: I will be one of the first people to pre-order Bardugo’s sequel when it releases. It’s just that good. 

Waiting on Wednesday (#2)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This meme highlights some of the books whose releases bloggers are most anticipating this year.

The book whose release I am most excited for this week is...

Title: Seraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman 
Release Date: July 10th, 2012
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.
Young Adult Fiction has been flooded with a stream of everything from contemporary to paranormal to dystopian over the past few years. In fact, there's been a rather large death of pure fantasy novels written these days for teens which is why I am so excited for the release of Seraphina. First and foremost, this novel contains dragons in it! Yes, dragons! When was the last time you read a really good dragon book? I think my last one might have been Eragon, so it has definitely been awhile. Furthermore, the premises of this story is centered around a court. Court = Politics = Political Intrigue = Me + Happy! :D I love a good novel wraught with politics and fantasy and Seraphina certainly seems to be living up. In other words, I don't see how Seraphina can possibly go wrong. Not only does the heroine seem to be mysterious and complexly crafted, there is only one love interest which means no love triangles! If that isn't a cause for celebration then I don't know what is! Thus, I think it's safe to say that when July 10th rolls around in just two weeks I'll feel no shame at all in beating people to the check-out counter in my bookstore to finally get my hands on this phenomenal read! ;)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Title: Darkfever (Fever #1) 

Author: Karen Marie Moning

Rating: 4/5 Stars

About three things I was absolutely positive…
First, Darkfever was incredibly awesome beyond all my wildest expectations.
Second, there was a part of me – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that had immediately caught the fever.
And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with Jericho Barrons.

In life you stumble upon those series that have been so hyped up, so often spoken about, and so wildly fantasized over that you feel as if you know that series yourself without ever having read a word from the actual book itself. At times like that, readers tend to get lazy and let that book coat dust in their attics, waiting until they have finally hit rock bottom to pick it up. Well, I faced a similar situation with Darkfever and boy am I frogging pissed that I didn’t pick it up sooner! Darkfever is everything you could possibly hope for in an excellent urban fantasy novel – heart pounding action, a romantic interest to die for, a plot line that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and a narrator that was in equal parts funny, kick-ass, and intelligent.

Darkfever starts out in a small town in the Deep South where our narrator, Mac, lays sunbathing in her bright pink bikini. However, Mac’s happy-go-lucky lifestyle is overturned the day she finds out that her sister has been murdered on the streets of Dublin. Now, Mac finds herself in the dark, dank, and damp streets of Ireland, trying to find her sister’s killer. Instead of discovering a murderer however, Mac discovers that she is a sidhe-seer, or one who can see the faeries that walk amidst us. With the help of the dangerous Jericho Barrons, Mac now begins not only a race to find a killer, but also one to hunt down a powerful book her sister mentioned moments before she died. Yet, not all is what it seems on the streets of Dublin and Mac will needs her wits about her if she is to find out about her mysterious abilities, her true lineage, and struggle to survive.

What makes Darkfever such a phenomenal novel is its narration. I’ve recently been trying out multiple paranormal/urban fantasy adult reads, but none of them have quite stuck with me the way this novel has. Mac is sarcastic, funny, quirky, and down-to-earth. In many ways, her narration reads like a Ruby Oliver novel and is easy to fly through, understand, and empathize with. Furthermore, Mac is guilt-ridden and covered from pink fingernail to pink toenail in flaws but is portrayed in such a manner than you cannot help but love her despite her short-comings. In addition, this only serves to make her more realistic and often times, reading this novel is like reading your own mind, your own thoughts, and your own fears. Mac is not particularly intelligent, kick-ass, or strong when she starts out, but her development and growth throughout the novel is steady, set at a good pace, and rewarding. Plus, Mac is not immediately taken by the love interest which, although proves to be rather frustrating because of how perfect they are for each other, is refreshing and shines the limelight on the murder mystery at hand opposed to any romantic angle.

Speaking of romance, Jericho Barrons is my new perfect-literary-soul-mate. I’m joking. In real life, I’d probably run as far as I could and as fast as I could if I ever met Barrons. Not only is he tall, muscular, and strong, he is also devastatingly deadly, a killer, and gives the word “mysterious” a whole new meaning. Thus, it should come to no surprise that Mac doesn’t trust Barrons one bit and the only reason they are even working together is due to an unlikely compromise. These two are at each others throats constantly and while there is absolutely no undercurrent of flirting to their banter, you can see the sparks flying between them. I love the fact that Mac and Barrons hate each other – actually hate each other. It makes this romance all the more unlikely, slow, unique, and rewarding when it eventually comes (which it better). Barrons is an enigma for much of this novel and is clearly not a man to be trifled with, but the reader cannot help but love him for the sexy darkness that surrounds him and his unlikely deeds of heroism. It is evident that Barrons has an extremely complicated and multi-dimensional personality and I cannot wait to uncover the rest of it. Plus, this guy owns a car collection to rival the Cullens and he’s the owner of a bookstore. Yes, that’s right, a bookstore. Do people really get any hotter than that? ;)

Darkfever is primarily a character driven novel and with a cast of characters like these, you can’t go wrong. Mac’s journey, her heart-pounding adventures, and the mysteries she slowly begins to unravel will keep you on the edge of your seat and frantically flipping the pages for more. If there are any shortcomings at all about this book then it is only that there isn’t as much Barrons as I would have liked (but then again, you could write a 1000 page book on Barrons and I still wouldn’t get enough). If you’re looking for a dark, intriguing, urban fantasy page-turner, look no longer – simply wait to catch the fever! ;)

Warning: This review comes with a heavy emphasis on having the sequel next to you. It is not necessary, but highly recommended. You have been thus forewarned about any unjust cliffhanger endings about this deliciously addictive series. :D

Top Ten Tuesday (#2)

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where they post a new top ten list every week and ask bloggers to share their picks as well. 

Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic: Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life 

pic name

pic name

pic name

1. Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Jo is a budding author, a loyal sister, and a faithful daughter - all qualities that drew me to her as I recognized them in myself. Yet, she is also a woman who fails to fit in with the norms of society, who doesn't enjoy parties or balls, and hates to dress up or wear fancy clothes. In addition, she can be vile, cruel, and has a temper that is not to be trifled with. She often feels jealous quickly, resolves to take revenge even quicker, and loses patience even quicker than that, but underneath all that, she is the most kind and honorable friend you can find. In other words, she is exactly like me. Although I would have NEVER rejected Teddy (I still don't understand how she could possibly do this!), Jo remains to be one of the few characters in literature whom I can relate the most to. 

2. Hermione Granger from The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Hermione is definitely one of the main reasons I fell in love with the Harry Potter books. As a child who always had my nose buried in a book, I knew exactly what it felt like to be her and want to fit in. Although I am by no means as smart as Hermione (even though I wish I was), I definitely share her thirst for knowledge and love of learning. 

3. Francesca from Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta 
For me, Saving Francesca became my favorite Marchetta novel simply because of how quickly I was able to relate to Francesca. Like Francesca, I came to realize that I had been living much of my life in the shadows of my other friends who weren't even my true friends to begin with. Furthermore, Francesca's smart wit, quick-to-jump-to conclusions, and the mistakes she made before finally finding who her real friends were reminded me of myself completely. Even her relationship with her brother seemed to mirror that of my own with my younger brother! If only I had a Will Trombal in my life to complete the comparisons... ;) 

4. Anna from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins 
I think all of us have felt like Anna has at some point in our lives and find ourselves making the same mistakes she did. I loved Anna because of how closely her feelings about fitting in and moving to a new place mirrored my own whenever I have moved. I can't count the number of times I've had misunderstandings make the worst of me and force me into dramatic situations or times when I've waited for the other person to do the right thing instead of taking the initiative myself and although Anna represents some of my most common mistakes in life, her quirky humor, shyness at making new friends, and love for old movies is all so similar to myself as well. (It Happened One Night - Best. Movie. Ever. I think I could watch this movie forever and never get tired of it. If you haven't already seen it, SEE IT NOW! Plus, if you need any more motivation, Clarke Gable is in it! If he isn't eye-candy, then I don't know who is! =D )

5. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Ever since I first read this novel a couple years back, I've always felt as if I could relate so easily to Lizzie. Not only do we both share a love for books, we also have absolutely incorrigible mothers. I don't even enough fingers to count the number of times my mother has ended up publicly embarrassing me. Thankfully, it was never in pursuit of "suitors" and nor is she a "gold-digger," but I've experienced a fair share of situations when I've wondered if the Earth would be kind enough to swallow me up so I could pretend my mom wasn't quite my mom. Nevertheless, like Lizzy, I love my mother very deeply. Even though I don't have blood-sisters like Lizzie does, I do have a best friend who could be my sister-by-blood just as Jane is to Lizzie. Thus, I was so surprised and excited to find so many aspects of myself and my life reflected in Lizzie Bennet. 

6. Kim from The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart 
We all have a Kim in our lives or have known one. In this absolutely hilarious series, Kim is Ruby's best friend who steals the show from her and ends up being a total back-stabber. I think it's safe to say that everyone has or has had at least one friend who is like this in their lives and I am no different. I can still remember the "Kim" in my life...that girl who used to be my best friend and who I trusted more than anything else only to end up being betrayed by her and losing her friendship no matter what I did to salvage it. 

7. Laney from Saving June by Hannah Harrington 
Speaking of best friends, sometimes we get lucky enough to have some truly amazing best friends in our lives. Laney was loyal, supportive, and always there for Harper whenever she needed her, just like one of my own closest best friends. Yet, Laney has her secrets even from Harper and despite being so close, they do get into arguments and Harper fails to understand many aspects of Laney's life. Although my own best friend doesn't sleep around and has never become pregnant like Laney, she does have her own secrets and issues that I don't even pretend to understand, yet despite that, we remain the closest of friends because we know that we will always be there for each other to rely on, just like Harper and Laney. 

8. Ashley Wilkes from Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 
How I wish I could have claimed to know a Rhett Butler in my life, but I'm just not that lucky am I? I think every woman has their own "Ashley Wilkes" and perhaps I'm too young to have truly met mine, but Scarlet was ridiculously young when she met hers, so who's to say my Ashley isn't the real deal? Ashley Wilkes is the man in your life who you have been hung over since about forever and you've made him out to be this perfect, idealistic, knight-in-shining armor, but he isn't. He isn't the man who understands you, who compliments you, who is your perfect other half - he is none of those, but he has led you on for so long that you believe he is until it is almost too late. Although I don't have an Ashley Wilkes in my own life, there were times when I felt as if I did and I think every woman has felt that way when they've realized that a certain someone was not their certain someone. Quite unfortunately though, I didn't have a Rhett Butler by my side, but there's always the hope that he will join this list sometime in the future! ;) 

9. Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne 
In all honesty, I just needed to throw Hester in here because I effing love this woman. These are the people in our lives who keep their heads held high despite having done wrong and don't let the world bring them down. I am lucky enough to know a woman like this and had the fortune of meeting her this year itself - my very own Literature Professor. I won't go too much in depth of her story, but there are more than a few petty rumors about her in my classes. A few years ago, she hooked up with another English Professor in the building who was going through a nasty divorce during that time and she became pregnant before they got married. To this day there are still horrible stories told about her and students constantly hate her, but she became more than a teacher to me, she became a close friend, because of how much I admired her passion to her work. She is one of the happiest married women alive and despite the rumors that surround her, she never lets that stop her from being one of the toughest professors amongst them all. She truly is a great source of inspiration to me and I love the fact that I know a "Hester Prynne" in my own life as she is one of my all-time favorite characters. 

10. Boromir from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 
Of all the people to chose from this classic trilogy, I chose Boromir. I contemplated choosing Sam Gamgee, but I don't think any of my friends are that loyal, and then I contemplated choosing Gandalf, but I don't know anyone that wise, and then I thought about choosing Pip, but I don't know anyone who perfectly fits his description and although I wish I knew a Legolas (wouldn't it be nice to know Orlando Bloom?) or an Aragorn (or Viggo Mortenstern?) I don't. BUT, I do know a Boromir and I think everyone else does too. "Boromir" is that guy (or gal) who tries to do what they think is best and unfortunately ends up doing the wrong thing without realizing it. Yet, underneath that all, they truly are good people are try to rectify their mistakes. Most often than not, these are unfortunately people whose mistakes we don't forgive and we don't often understand that their acts were not committed with the intent they served. I feel as if Boromir is an over-looked and often forgotten character in this fantastic series but I know so many people like this in life and I myself have probably been a "Boromir" at one point in my life too. 

There you have it folks! The Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me of Myself Or Someone I Know in Real Life. Now, as a quick bonus, I'll give you the Top Three Characters I Wish Were People I Knew In Real Life: 
1. Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta 
Jonah is the sweetest, most sincere and honorable guy ever. He knows you for all your faults and shortcomings and loves you despite it. He knows your every mistake, your every weakness, and your darkest moments, but he wants to be there beside you. If I had a Jonah Griggs in my life, it's safe to say I wouldn't have to face life alone. 

2. Gandalf from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
As much as I love Dumbledore, Gandalf was the original Dumledore. I think if I knew a "Gandalf" I would essentially be knowing a very wise, very knowledgeable person who was strong, perseverant, stubborn, and a survivor. While Dumbledore remains to be a powerful wizard and wise headmaster, Gandalf stands to be not only powerful, but he also goes into action and never gives up. Like Frodo, he is a beacon of shining hope and I think during dark times, we all need that to cling onto. 
I. Love. Peter. And not just because William Mosley plays him in the movies. I love the fact that he is a caring older brother and I've always wished I had an older sibling like Peter myself. Furthermore, if I knew a Peter in Real Life, I'd always know that there was someone I could count on, trust, and who would have my back no matter what. I only hope that I am a Peter to my younger sibling just as Peter is to Lucy, Susan, and Edmund. 

Who are some of the characters that remind you of yourself or people you know in life? Who are some of the characters you wish were people you knew in real life? Tell me in the comments below! =] 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: The Passion by L.J. Smith

Title: The Passion (Dark Visions #3) 

Author: L.J. Smith 

Rating: 4/5 Stars 

The Passion is such a fitting name for this last novel in L.J. Smith's Dark Visions Trilogy. In this installment, Kaitlyn is forced to travel to the Institute, take advantage of Gabriel's feelings for her, and destroy Mr. Z's evil plans. Having convinced Gabriel, Joyce, and most of the warped up members of the Institute of her loyalty, Kaitlyn must somehow plan to destroy the crystal and keep the shard of the Fellowship's pure crystal from falling into Mr. Z's power. However, little does Kaitlyn realize that it isn't just Gabriel's feelings she's playing with, it could be her own as well...

I absolutely loved this stunning conclusion to this brilliant trilogy. Although I definitely enjoyed The Forbidden Game more than this trilogy and appreciate the horror, despair, and creepiness of that series, I also found myself enjoying the wit, snarkiness, and complex relationships within this trilogy. Dark Visions is a lighter mix of paranormal, with more emphasis given on the blooming romances between Gabriel and Kaitlyn (I can hardly call what Kaitlyn and Rob had a romance) and the budding friendships between these five unlikely psychics. The Passion really puts this all to the test, strengthening the bonds between these friends and making them realize what they have.

Yet, what I loved the most about this installment was the romance. I have been a loyal Team Gabriel shipper since the first novel and although I hated that Kaitlyn was taking advantage of his feelings, I was thrilled seeing her changes in character as well. Furthermore, I think the relationship Kaitlyn formed with the other members of the Institute this time around were not only important, but they were also imperative to her growth and their development as characters as well. In addition, although we didn't see Rob, Anna, and Lewis as much in this installment, I think the changes that Rob and Anna went through were also remarkable and I was glad to see so much character development in this one. As with the previous two novels however, Gabriel steals the show in terms of personality growth. I loved his complex personality and only wished we could see even more of him.

Nevertheless, although I enjoyed this conclusion, I have to admit that I was expecting a little more of an earth-shattering finale. I felt as if the manner in which this situation was solved was a little too easy and I only wish it could have been dragged on a little longer to add an element of suspense to it. Yet, as far as last-books-of-a-trilogy go, this was a pretty darn good one. Thus, I would heartily recommend this series to fans of L.J. Smith, but I'd recommend starting with The Forbidden Game first. It may increase your expectations of this series to unnatural highs, but it'll definitely force you to keep reading to find the excellent writing quality that Smith's novels possess.

Review: Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Title: Kiss of Midnight 

Author: Lara Adrian 

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

I'll admit that I was more than a little skeptical about reading Kiss of Midnight. After having just finished Dark Lover by J.R. Ward and not liking it, I was wary of the hype surrounding this novel as well. In addition, the more I read of it, the more similar it seemed to be to Dark Lover. However, although these two series share a lot of similarities, I found myself liking Kiss of Midnight infinitely more than I liked Ward's introduction into the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series and I'm glad I gave this a try.

When Gabrielle Maxwell witnesses a brutal murder outside a club one night, no one will believe what she saw. Her cell phone pictures are grainy, there mysteriously seems to be no evidence left of the crime, and the police are under the impression that Gabrielle is crazy, drunk, or a lunatic - but Lucan Thorne knows better. Lucan is a Breed warrior, a vampire who is sworn to protect other vampires like him and humans from the dangerous Rogue vampires. Upon finding Gabrielle involved at the scene of crime, he has no choice but to pose as Detective Thorne and use her pictures to track down the Rogues responsible for the murder. Yet, Lucan doesn't expect to be attracted to Gabrielle, a female who also happens to be a Breedmate - one who can give birth to a new generation of vampires - and for Lucan, whose tortured past haunts him, she is not only the only one he has ever wanted, but also the last person he can ever be with.

Kiss of Midnight was far more engaging than Dark Lover ever was. First and foremost, we are thrown into this dangerous world and adventure from the first chapter itself and the heart-pounding action never ends. I found the twist on vampire lore to be far more interesting and realistic than Ward's portrayal of them and I absolutely loved the romance between Gabrielle and Lucan. Although I have to admit that these two also ended up having sex ridiculously fast for two people who had just met, I think their love story played out more realistically. Furthermore, Lucan had a legitimate reason for not being able to be with Gabrielle and I loved seeing how these two were able to overcome that hurdle and manage to be together despite it. Gabrielle too was an intelligent, kick-ass, and refreshing heroine who reacted realistically to the crazy situations she was thrown in. In addition, I loved getting to know the other Breed Warriors. I was able to form a relationship with them - something I never felt towards the other vampires in the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

Nevertheless, this book was far from perfect. I found Gabrielle's history of cutting herself to be strange and quite unnecessary and I also felt as if the plot was redundant from that of Dark Lover. In both, a vampire leader falls in love with a woman who is different - and rightly so - for she is connected to a coven of vampires in some way or the other. Furthermore, I felt as if the ending of this novel was slightly rushed and wished we could have had just a tad bit longer epilogue. That being said, I think I enjoyed everything else about this book and especially Gabrielle's mixed feelings for Lucan and her slow understanding of what it meant to be someone like him. I think the relationship between these two was truly very sweet, sizzling, and made this novel that much more engaging than Dark Lover ever was.

Although I can't see myself continuing this series simply because the plots of its sequels seem to be formulaic and similar to that of J.R. Ward's, I would definitely recommend this one opposed to Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. I think both of these novels have the tendency to be confused because of their similarities and their series offer nothing new or interesting to the genre of paranormal/urban fantasy fiction, but they do provide mindless entertainment and make for excellent light reading.

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 

Author: J.K. Rowling 

Rating: 5/5 Stars 

I can still remember the first time I held a Harry Potter book in my hands. In fact, the cover of my paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has a small crease on it from the time I flipped it open in too much of a rush to read it. It has my favorite quotes underlined, witty passages starred, and is covered with post-it notes on nearly every page from the amount of times I've re-read it. Now, reading it again so many years later, I am taken back to all that magic, all that wonder, and all that amazement that I first had when I laid my eyes on these books.

In all honesty, this is a series that needs no review - avid fans will re-read it without hesitation, new book lovers will pick it up without even consulting a friend for approval, and it will live on in our world as a classic. Yet, as one for whom Harry Potter was a life-changing experience, I feel the need to justify, or at least explain, what this book has done for me and why it stands the test of time as a remarkable story, even today.

I am not the first one to begin analyzing the Harry Potter Series. Since the release of Deathly Hallows, there have been numerous authors who have attempted to make sense of a greater meaning within Rowling's work. Some have even claimed that there are Biblical references of Christianity within her pages, but not being a Christian, I have never found them. Still others, like me, prefer to keep this book out of the scope for analytical reading and simply enjoy the story within its pages. I, by no means, think that J.K. Rowling is a brilliant writer. If anything, I think her writing is slow in some parts, lacks figurative language, and contains a dearth of descriptive passages. To me, good writers are people like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, J.R.R. Tolkien - or even more recently - Laini Taylor, Megan Whalen Turner, Cath Crowley, Melina Marchetta, and John Green. These are people whose ever word, every phrase, and every sentence is a beauty to behold and read. Rowling's work is not like that, but what makes her stand out from all others is her imagination, creativity, and her art of storytelling. No one else can quite tell a story like Rowling can and she does a splendid job tying up all the loose ends and fitting together every small clue to make a bigger puzzle piece. In fact, I was astonished yet again while reading The Sorcerer's Stone this past weekend for seeing names such as "Sirius Black" "Peter Pettigrew" and "Grindlewald" come up even in the first installment of this series. It is clear that Rowling not only puts forth a lot of thought into her writing and plot outlining, but her manner of telling a story and uncovering the small pieces is unrivaled. 

Rowling's talent aside, what strikes me the most about the series is the fact that I am able to glean something new from it every time. When I was younger and first read this, I learned that it is okay to be smart and intelligent and a know-it-all, but it is even better to be brave and courageous and strong. The second time I re-read this while waiting for Order of the Phoenix to release I took strength from the fact that if Harry could survive without his parents for so long, even I could spend a summer without them in India. Much later while waiting for Deathly Hallows to release I began to realize how truly dark and forbidding even this first installment of the series was. I was struck by the horror of the Forbidden Forest and found myself thinking long and deep about what it meant to live a cursed life. I also finally found myself appreciating Dumbledore's cleverness in using the Mirror of Erised to ensure that only one who wishes to find the stone and not possess it would be the one to come in possession of it.

Over the years, my parents have become resigned to the fact that this is a series that I will eventually be forced to re-buy at some point in my life because eventually, the spine will break from over-use. Yet, while they have become resigned to this fact, I have come to marvel at the magic within its pages even more for every time I re-read this series, not only am I transported into happiness, joy, and the feelings of wonder I felt when I first read this, I am also able to glean something new from it every single time. That, in my opinion, is the true reason that the Harry Potter Series will live on forever. It isn't something you can ever get tired of reading, of living, of breathing. Furthermore, Rowling is able to integrate larger themes within younger novels with such ease that even the wisest of us can have it in ourselves to learn something from her books, her characters, and their experiences. 

Thus, having read this book again this year for what seems to be the umpteenth time, I find myself once again stumped by the great and wise Albus Dumbledore. What I took from the series this time around is that Dumbledore is a liar. Now knowing about Dumbledore's less-than-honorable past, it is safe to say that Dumbledore most certainly did not see himself holding a pair of socks in the Mirror of Erised. If anything, he saw his family, just like Harry did. So, despite being ten years older, ten years wiser, and ten years more mature than when I first started these books, I have learned once again that even the noblest amongst us lie and although falsehood is not condoned, sometimes it is necessary in our lives. It is times like now that I find myself in awe of Rowling and wish to thank her for all she has ever given me, because no matter what is taken away from the world in war, famine, and poverty, magic and imagination are two things that can never be taken away from us. 

If you would like to join the Harry Potter Summer 2012 Re-Read, you can join on GoodReads and feel free to comment on my blog, link back, and join in on a summer of wonderment that will keep the magic alive for years to come!