BOOK TOUR Review: “Freeks” by Amanda Hocking

A review by Amanda.

Mara has had an unusual upbringing. She and her mother travel the country as part of Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow. Mara’s mother, along with many of the other carnies, have special abilities that make the carnival life appealing, and even rewarding on occasion. Despite her heritage, Mara doesn’t have any supernatural powers. She helps out where she can and enjoys exploring whichever town or city they happen to be in, forming fleeting friendships that end as soon as the carnival moves on. When the sideshow receives an invitation from a former worker to set up in a small town called Caudry, promising an exorbitant payday, Mara and the rest of the carnival workers are happy to go.

Things in Caudry are odd from the start. Abilities falter, animal attacks ravage the camp, and people go missing. Local boy Gabe, who intrigues Mara immediately, is the only good thing about Caudry as far as she’s concerned. Mara and Gabe each have secrets that threaten their emerging feelings, and Mara will have to decide who to trust as she works to try and solve the mystery of who or what is plaguing the carnival.

Freeks is a new story by Amanda Hocking, author of the popular Trylle trilogies and the Watersong series. It is unclear at this time whether or not it is a standalone or the first in a new series. Mara is an interesting character with a lot of potential. She does things her own way, is loyal to her loved ones, and fights insecurities as much as any teenager does. Both her mother and learning their family history added layers to Mara’s character. The supporting characters, particularly the carnies like Roxie and Luka, were diverse, although I would have enjoyed seeing them developed more richly. The romance was predictable, an “instalove” situation that is so prevalent in YA novels. Gabe was a decent character, mysterious and protective, if a bit cliché. I had trouble feeling connected to any of the characters, even Mara. The mystery kept me intrigued and had me guessing until the end. The writing style is simplistic, which suits the plot. Fans of the Trylle books, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, and C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series may enjoy this book.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Wear White to Your Funeral” by Lisa Acerbo

Wear White to Your Funeral by Lisa Acerbo

A review by Domoni.

Rory just moved to Trumbull, a tiny slice of hell. Her mom took a job in Japan and sent her to live with her aunt. Used to a full life in Atlanta, this town with one movie theater and a mall does little to make her excited about her senior year of high school. No friends, no volleyball, no job and no car; what is there to do but be miserable? The first day of school brings Bowen, an attractive boy who convinces thier journalism teacher to pair them up for the big project. Rory and Bowen are going to write an article about the woman in white that haunts the local cemetery. Their first study date (or is it a real date?) has them sitting in the cemetery at night. When the woman in white appears, the teens flee. Unable to believe what they saw, Bowen convinces Rory to return on another night.  When Rory stumbles over a dead body before seeing the ghostly apparition again, things start to get complicated and terrifying.  Now the teens are trying to understand what they saw. Will they solve a murder mystery, a ghost story, or be victims themselves?

This was a great read for me. Well written and interesting, I liked that it wasn’t a classic ghost story. Rory is a rather typical 17 year old girl and Bowen an average 18 year old guy. They dig each other and romance develops. The romance aspect was not the central focus of the story and I liked that. The story mostly followed Rory’s story progression but occasionally we got the aspect of the mystery killer. I enjoyed the progression of the story and getting to know the inside thoughts of this character.  The story took interesting turns that kept things fresh and made the book an easy one-sitting read.

The author does a great job creating the scenes playing out in the story. The characters are fleshed out well and it is fairly easy to grasp who they are and their motivations. I liked the development of the recurring characters that kept this young couple living a normal life amid the unrealistic story that unfolds around them. Many times a book will focus so much on the mystery that you wonder how a couple of teenagers are able to just galavant around focused on being the Scooby Gang and not facing consequences; this story gave a more natural progression to the happenings experienced by Rory and Bowen. I enjoyed this book and would gladly read more by this author.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Wear White to Your Funeral by Lisa Acerbo tour banner

Wear White to Your Funeral
Lisa Acerbo
Publication date: October 28th 2016
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Young Adult

Rory is your average high school senior. Or she was, until her mother banishes her to hell, also known as Trumbull, Connecticut. The small suburb with only a mall and movie theater, sure feels like the netherworld until Rory’s first day at her new school. That’s the day she meets Bowen, who begs her to join him on a class project. But when Bowen drags her to a graveyard after dark for research purposes, Rory wants to fly back home to Atlanta, or at least return to her aunt’s house unharmed and unmolested.

Nothing could go wrong, right? They talk, they laugh, and they wander among the tombstones looking for information on the local ghostly legend known as the White Lady. Then they have to run, but they cannot outrun a ghost. In addition to the ghostly woman, a half buried dead body leads Rory and Bowen into a deadly game of cat and mouse, but who is the killer? Is it human or something long dead and otherworldly?

The police are of little help, Rory’s aunt just wants her to remain safe, and Bowen, who she can’t stay away from, keeps finding ways to get her into more trouble than she has ever known. Whether breaking into a suspected killer’s house, being followed by a menacing ghost, or being stalked at school, Rory hopes finding the killer will put an end to the supernatural haunting. Before Rory can discover the identity of the killer, she is drawn into the mystery of the White Lady, which opens the door for some very real danger.

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Author Bio:

Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and holds an EdD in Educational Leadership. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, three cats, and horse. She is the author of Apocalipstick and has contributed to local newspapers, news and travel blogs including The Patch and Hollywood Scriptwriter.

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Review: “The Legendary Saga” by L.H. Nicole

Review:

A review by Domoni.

The Legendary Saga is an ongoing series by L. H. Nicole that brings King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table into the present time to finish their battle with Mordrid and Morgana.  I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read the first three books in this series.

Legendary: Book One

Aliana is 18 years old and traveling the world for her photography and following her father’s interest in Arthurian Legend. In the two years since her parents died and Aliana discovered she was adopted, she has not stayed in one place for long. But a recurring dream has her seeking out the entrance to Avalon, even if it is just a fairy tale.  When she actually finds her dream image in reality, she stumbles into her destiny. She is The Destined One. Prophecy says she will be the one to awaken King Arthur, reunite the Knights of the Round Table, and help them find Excalibur and their lost relics in order to finally defeat Mordrid and Morgana and save the Realms.

Aliana meets the Lady of the Lake who starts her on her journey and within seven hours she is on her way home with Arthur and Galahad and her guardian, Lord Draggerhorne, her dragon protector. In the parking lot, Lancelot and Percival are waiting for them and fill them in on the reincarnation of most of the knights. The group sets off to find the rest of the knights together in London.

This was an interesting book though there were many things that annoyed me. Aliana was a rather privileged girl, raised with money and a rather pampered lifestyle; her constant victim role bothered me. One moment she was acting like a strong woman, annoyed by the men constantly thinking she was incapable because she was a woman, to acting like a princess who is incapable of anything but being the desired one. From the moment she saved Galahad, a spark of connection has Aliana falling hard for the knight, though she doesn’t realize he is falling for her as well. Nor does she notice how much the golden king admires her. She spends the majority of the first book pouting that the only thing anyone cares about is her fulfilling the prophesy and that she has no other worth. And when the group finally meets up with Mordrid, of course he wants her to be his queen as well.

I enjoyed Aliana learning to use her magic and learning more about her personal demons. Her friendly banter and interaction with Dragg and the knights as well as her best friend Lacy had depth and kept the story moving along.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Claiming Excalibur: Book Two

Claiming Excalibur by L.H. Nicole

As Aliana and the knights recover from their battle with Mordrid and Morgana, Aliana has another dream. She sees a book her father owned that could point to the location of Excalibur. So Aliana, Dragg, Lacy and the eight knights fly to North Carolina to the home Aliana grew up in to find her father’s book and continue the Destined One’s quest. Aliana fills her other best friend, Dawn, in on the truth about the group of men and Dawn joins the quest to defeat Mordrid and Morgana. Locating the book has the knights traveling to the Isle of the Blessed to locate the sword. Not only do they find Excalibur, but they locate the ruined Camelot.

In this story Aliana and Galahad’s relationship is in full swing. Lacy and Percival are also coupling and it appears Dawn and Wade, the reincarnated Gawain, are also falling for each other. So there is more romance in this book. The addition of another childhood friend does not really serve the story well though. The three girls together are flighty and superficial 18 year olds. Aside from the flirting, Lacy and Dawn’s main roles seem to be to say, you can’t stop me from coming.

Aliana continues to deny that Arthur is interested in her but the tension between the king and his knight mounts. Each appearance of Queen Titania escalates that tension. It seems when she created the spell that saved Arthur, she had plans for the Destined One. We learn that Aliana is a descendant of Titania and so she is half Fae. There also seems to be some sort of magic affecting Galahad that makes him go crazy when Aliana is threatened.

The group locates the sword and returns to the mortal realm. A confrontation between Aliana, Arthur, and Galahad has Aliana running and she ends up captured by Mordrid. He had captured two people she cares for and so to secure their release, she agrees to stay with him and even agrees to a kiss. The kiss adds further confusion to Aliana’s troubled relationship status. Queen Titania appears and saves Aliana from Mordrid and Morgana and sends her on to continue her quest to fulfill the prophecy by finding the lost relics.

I actually liked this story less than the first. There was a lot more superficial content that was rather boring. I was hoping for more depth of characters in the second book but was left wanting.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Relics of Camelot: Book Three

Relics of Camelot by L.H. Nicole

Aliana has been missing for two weeks. The knights finally discover that Queen Titania sent her to the past and to Camelot. So Aliana is in Camelot with her knights, but they do not know her. She has to search out the way to find the Holy Grail and how to get home. The knights, left behind, devise a plan to find Aliana and continue on their quest. They split up, some going to Avalon, some to the Isle of the Blessed. Since Merlin and Lancelot are still banished from those realms, they will seek out Olympus and any further information on the grail.

This story fills in depth to the characters by showing us their past. I enjoyed Morgana’s story especially. Learning more about who the knights were before the spell that froze them was interesting. I still wasn’t thrilled with Aliana’s inability to chose between the men who loved her. Though I do feel as though Aliana is growing as a character, she is still young and entitled with a tendency to play the victim.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review of “Vampire Girl” by Karpov Kinrade

A review by Amanda.

Arianna Spero spends her eighteenth birthday worrying about her mother’s decreasing health and working at a diner to make sure the two of them don’t get evicted. An odd exchange with a mysteriously handsome customer flusters Ari, but she shakes it off and makes it through her graveyard shift with no issues. When she arrives home and finds her mother unconscious and unresponsive everything goes to Hell.

Her mother is in a coma and the prognosis is, sadly, death. An encounter with another handsome man gives her a brief distraction until the man from the diner shows up with an unbelievable story and a chance to save her mother. Ari is shocked to discover that her mother sold her soul to Hell many years ago. Now she has to decide if she can believe in things that reason and logic tell her do not exist; things like vampires and Princes of Hell. Can she trade her freedom for someone she loves? To save her mother Ari will have to travel to Hell as a Princess, and choose between one of the seven Princes to marry and rule alongside as Queen.

I was not sure if I would like this book or not based on the cover and description. Ari quickly won my favor with her can-do, no-nonsense attitude, and her obvious love for her friends and her mother. She is skeptical, unlike heroines in other supernatural stories, and takes quite a bit of convincing before accepting the unbelievable things she’s been told. Ari does not accept the status quo. She is intelligent, reasonable, likable and compassionate. She sticks up for herself and doesn’t take any crap from anyone, but she also knows her weaknesses and learns to trust others to help her when she needs it. Romance is integral to the story but not in any way that I expected. Ari’s friends, human and otherwise, are all unique and lovable. I definitely hope to see more of Es and Pete in future books. The princes are interesting. All handsome in different ways, their personalities range from rugged warrior, genius inventor, cruel manipulator, and everything in between, and not all of them are happy with Ari’s presence. I am rooting for Ari to succeed as she pieces together the truth of why she’s been chosen to be a Princess of Hell, and as she tries to follow her heart when she makes her own choice.

The plot has several twists that I did not expect which is always a pleasant surprise. Ari does get physically attacked several times, and while she isn’t a stereotypical damsel in distress it does feel repetitive. There are some sexual components, both positive and negative, and I would not recommend this book to younger teens. Book two, Midnight Star, was released in the spring and I will definitely be picking it up.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review of “Frightfully Ever After” by Nick Dewolf

Review of "Frightfully Ever After" by Nick DeWolf

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

The world can be a dark and scary place, especially when all the fairytales are true. Trolls, goblins, witches and princesses: all real. Fairy godmothers, and the Woodsman, and even the Big Bad Wolf are very real as Anastasia is about to learn. It is hard enough for a normal person to survive a world full of normal evils. How are they supposed to survive when what they thought was just fantasy is true? Luckily for Ana, she isn’t normal either.

Grimm Inc. is a modern day company that keeps fairytale creatures productive. The world is running out of princesses to save, so Gayle and Mary, two fairy godmothers who need to keep working, are assigned to help Anastasia. However, Woods (The Woodsman and big boss at Grimm Inc) and Fee (an actual fairy just doing his part to help the good fight) have some pretty big concerns.

Anastasia is a tough, street smart woman who has no problem using her sexuality to get her through sticky spots. She was essentially sold to Saber, a ruthless gang leader, to pay her parent’s debt. When Ana sees a chance to get away from Saber, she plans it out carefully. She will steal a huge shipment of drugs Saber is going to receive from the Turks and fence it herself. Then she will use the money to pay off Saber and make her escape before he realizes she paid him with his own money. Ana’s best laid plans are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of two little old ladies who insist they are there to help her get her dreams. When their interruption almost costs Ana everything, she has no choice but to let them help her. What none of them realize is the power that resides inside of Ana can make good men bad and bad men worse.

I very much enjoyed this book. It took twists and turns that I never expected it to take. I enjoy all manner of fairy tales and this was a unique take. Gayle and Mary were hilarious and then terrifying; I thought they would be my favorite part of the book and at many times they were. I actually did not much like Anastasia, however. I feel like the book has a kind of noir feeling to it, very much the gangster and the bombshell, but Ana was a bit too much of the trollop for me. So though the author wrote her as strong and fearless, her actions and behaviors often didn’t make sense to me.

The flashback scenes to Mary, Gayle and Wood’s pasts were fantastic and help the reader understand the evolution of the story to the present time. I wish there had been more scenes giving a glimpse inside of Grimm Inc. And I would love to know more about Fee’s backstory. Perhaps the author will write another book around this world.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Fray” by Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, and Andy Owens

Fray by Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, and Andy Owens

A review by Courtney.

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy was the first Joss Whedon show that had me falling down the rabbit hole that is the Joss Whedon fandom. So when I found out that he had written another comic book about a slayer that wasn’t Buffy, I was little hesitant. I had previously started Buffy Season 8, which is in comic book form and is fantastic, but I was still just a little worried that maybe this would be too much slayer or not different enough or just not something enough. But it was written by Joss and one of my missions in life is to consume everything he’s been apart of because it’s amazing; so I finally picked Fray up and gave it a chance.

Fray starts 200 years in the future after the last slayer has disappeared with the rest of the demons, after an epic battle upon which they also disappeared into another dimension never to be seen again. We meet Melaka Fray, known as “Mel” or “Fray” throughout most of the book. Mel believes that she is just very strong and that she knows how take falls and position her body to take the least amount of pain and that that is how she survives everything that happens to her. She works as a thief for a fish monster, who is as creepy as you would imagine. The thing that haunts Mel the most is losing her twin brother to a vampire while on job from her boss. The vampire threw Mel off of a roof and proceeded to kill her brother. Her sister holds her responsible for their brother’s death and that may be why Mel goes out of her way to protect and stand up for her tiny neighbor girl. A demon comes into Mel’s life and forces her to face the facts that she is a slayer and she needs to embrace her destiny in the coming war.

This comic book definitely has a Joss Whedon feel; there are surprising deaths and twists that I didn’t expect and had me gasping for breath at times. I appreciated that Joss went out of his way to make his leading female character look like an actual human girl. Fray’s curves are not exaggerated and neither are anyone else’s; it was refreshing to see actual people in a comic book. As a Whedon fan, I was not disappointed in this comic.

 I would recommend this comic book to people who like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and those who like strong female leads in their literature. I rate it five out of five stars, but I do add the following disclaimer that after you finish reading this, you will want more and at the moment Whedon has not written anything that follows this.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review of “These Vicious Masks” by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

Review of “These Vicious Masks” by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas A review by Amanda.

Miss Evelyn Wyndham and her sister, Rose, are from a respectable family, expected to marry well and live as society dictates. Rose would rather continue her nursing and try to achieve her impossible dream of becoming a doctor. Evelyn wants her sister to be happy, while avoiding the subject of marriage altogether. Not even her trusted, clever friend Mr.Kent can change her mind. The sisters encounter the mysterious, brooding Sebastian Braddock at a party and everything starts to fall apart. Rose vanishes from home that very night and the evidence suggests that she left unwillingly. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian knows more than he’s admitting. After confronting Mr. Braddock, Evelyn initially dismisses his insane theory that Rose was taken because her skills as a nurse come from a supernatural ability to heal. She enlists Mr. Kent’s help and leaves her home on Rose’s trail, where she only finds more questions and unlikely answers.

Evelyn is headstrong, clever, witty, and sarcastic, all of which made me adore her from the first page. Her repartee with Mr. Kent had me laughing out loud, and her obvious love for Rose added more depth to form a well-rounded heroine. She flouted society’s standards for women of her station, but without the naivete that tends to go along with it. Romance had its place in this story, but it was woven into the story at natural places. The search for Rose and the supernatural elements took priority and kept me on my toes the entire time. The authors did a wonderful job of making me care about Evelyn and Rose above all else. There were plot twists that I saw coming, and several that I didn’t. The ending was a complete surprise and set up a sequel quite nicely! I am looking forward to reading more from these authors and I hope to read more of Evelyn’s adventures soon.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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