Review: “Heartless” by Marissa Meyer

A review by Amanda.

Lady Catherine Pinkerton is the only child of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove in the kingdom of Hearts. At seventeen years old, Cath know exactly what she wants to do with her life: open a bakery with her friend Mary Ann, where she can showcase her baking talents and indulge her love of creating delectable desserts. Unfortunately, the Marchioness has a much loftier goal in mind for her daughter. Cath has caught the eye of the king of Hearts and could be the next queen if she plays her cards right…

Strange things are afoot in Hearts, with attacks from a legendary creature frightening the citizens. The king is a short, pleasant fellow, if prone to giggles and lacking decisiveness. The king’s new fool, Jest, is handsome and mysterious and Cath finds herself drawn to him, much to her consternation. Cath must decide if she can risk everything her parents want for her in order to follow her own path.

Heartless was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland and it absolutely did it justice. The tone was as whimsical as the original, with familiar characters popping up in unexpected ways. It was meant to be an homage to Carroll’s Wonderland and the respect and admiration shine through clearly. Cath was clever, ambitious, and occasionally naive and single-minded. She is both relatable and likable. She was torn between wanting to please her parents and living the life of her dreams. While she was drawn to Jest immediately there wasn’t a feeling of instant love, which can cause some readers to lose interest in a story. The recognizable characters felt true to their original counterparts while adding more depth and history. Fans of fairy tale retellings will enjoy this story, as well as Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Cycle series and short stories. Heartless appears to be a standalone, although there is room for Cath’s story to continue.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Review of Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (Charley Davidson #11) by Darynda Jones”

Review of Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (Charley Davidson #11) by Darynda Jones

A review by Amanda.

This book is the eleventh in the Charley Davidson series, and contains spoilers from previous books. I received this ebook for free from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

New and shocking information about both Charley’s and Reyes’ origins came to light in book ten, The Curse of the Tenth Grave. But our snarky, caffeine-addicted heroine is still as plucky as ever. She is quick with the quips and sarcastic remarks, immensely loyal to her closest friends and family, and determined to save the world in her own, stubborn way. One of Reyes’ godly brothers has been trapped in the god glass, but that leaves one on the loose to hunt them down. With her infant daughter safely hidden away, Charley is free to focus on defeating her enemies, investigate for her PI clients, and sidestep the limitations her husband tries to place on her, for her safety. Oh, and dodge the angels sent to watch her after she threatened Jehovah.

With every new discovery regarding Charley’s distant past, I half expect that her personality will do an about-face. It is always a pleasant surprise when she retains everything that makes her Charley – her sassy, hilarious remarks, unwavering commitment to her loved ones, passion for Reyes, and her willingness to risk her own life to do what has to be done. That she manages to stay true to herself while also continuing to grow is a testament to the author’s talent in developing her characters in a realistic manner. The series is very much character driven, meaning readers will read book after book because of Charley herself, no matter what cases she is working on, or what is happening in the supernatural parts of her life. The supporting characters are just as integral, and exhibit just almost as much growth.

As much as I enjoyed this story, there was one aspect that disappointed. The main men in Charley’s life, namely Reyes and Ubie, continue to issue orders, even resorting to manipulation on occasion. They both hide their reasons for their demands, ostensibly for her safety, and get frustrated when she doesn’t listen. Aside from the fact that neither of these men seem to trust Charley with relevant information, it seems unlikely that two people who have known Charley for her entire life would actually expect her to comply without question. Reyes and Ubie should both know better, especially so late in the series. Reyes has fallen under the “protective male protagonist” stereotype several times before, as has Ubie, and it never works in their favor. This might be a more upsetting trend, were it not for Charley’s habit of calling them out on their behavior and her tendency to do what she wants anyway. This could be an intentional character flaw, especially for Reyes, since he is otherwise pretty close to perfect. Their banter and head-butting disagreements are still entertaining. Hopefully he will eventually grow past the need to protect Charley in this particular way.

I enjoyed this book just as much as the rest of the series and look forward to continuing with book twelve!

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “One Piece: Skypiea vol. 28-30” by Eiichiro Oda

One Piece: Skypiea vol. 28-30

A review by Hannah.

One Piece was started in 1997 and is continuing today. There are 81 volumes to date, which is why this series of reviews will be broken up into three volume books. From now on there will be spoilers for what happens in the rest of the series. You have been warned…

The battle for Upper Yard has started. There are 54 warriors (including himself) in the Kami Eneru’s army; there are 20 Shandian warriors and 7 Strawhats. How many will be standing in three hours? According to Eneru, who has the power of Mantra, there will be five warriors.

Luffy, Zoro, Chopper, and Robin are headed for the legendary city of El Dorado, which used to be part of Jaya. Sanji, Usopp, and Nami are sailing the Going Merry out of Upper Yard with the injured Ganfor. Luffy gets swallowed by a giant snake.

After meeting with the Going Merry, Conis learns of Eneru’s ultimate plan for Sky Island. She must warn the citizens and the Shandian to evacuate. No one wants to believe her, but with the help of the White Berets, the people start to leave.

These volumes honestly make a better anime than manga. There is a lot of fighting with a lot of different characters. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who is fighting who and how. It looks amazing, but it can get a little confusing.

My biggest pet peeve with these volumes is that Robin is not as big of a badass as she could be. When she was Ms. All Sunday, she incapacitated the Straw Hat crew single-handedly without moving. She was a partner to Sir Crocodile, a former Shichibukai. She reads a language that has been outlawed for goodness sake. Now, she can’t win a fight without taking a ton of damage. Admittedly that is the Straw Hat way, but I really wish her opponent was more impressive.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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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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Review: “Rise of the Chosen (Lifeblood #1)” by Anna Kopp

A review by Amanda.

Samantha Shields lives in a post-apocalyptic world, but it isn’t exactly the one we were expecting based on movies and books. Almost two decades ago, a mysterious blood disease began infecting every person on the planet. Called Lifeblood, it wakes the dead (no matter the cause of death), turning 99% of them into mindless creatures with enhanced strength and senses. Unlike traditional zombies, the Woken have no interest in devouring flesh or brains; they only want to kill as many people as quickly as they can. A small percentage of the infected become Chosen instead. These lucky few get the super strength and enhanced senses but retain their sense of self.

Some cities, like Savannah, Georgia, where Sam lives, are protected by the Watch, a military-like installment that exists to protect the living. Steel walls surround the city, with guarded gates to let people pass in and out. The Watch is made up of both humans and Chosen, sworn to protect the citizens from the Woken. At eighteen, Sam is about to be given her first official Watch assignment when a series of tragedies strike, changing the course of her future and bringing new information to light. She has to make one difficult decision after another, without knowing who she can truly trust.

Rise Of The Chosen took a unique approach to the post-apocalyptic genre. The city of Savannah is described as safe, clean, and comfortable. Technology did not cease when the world ended, it simply adapted to suit the world’s new needs. The use of tech in this world was both creative and logical, and the overall world-building was excellent. The characters, however, were lacking just enough depth that they did not feel complete. Perhaps this had to do with the Chosen’s emotional limitations, which could be expanded upon in the next book. Sam was likable, if naive and indecisive, as teenagers occasionally are. She was revealed early on to be bisexual, which was a nice change from the typical romantic storylines in the YA genre. Some of the writing felt disjointed, as though the author jumped from one scene to another without the necessary transitions, but otherwise this book had me intrigued. It ended on a curious note and I am interested in seeing how the story continues in book two.

Fans of Struck by Jennifer Bosworth, Amy Tintera’s Reboot series or Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris may enjoy this book.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “The Gathering Dark (The Newfoundland Vampire Book 3)” by Charles O’Keefe

BOOK TOUR Review:

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This story is the third in an ongoing series. I have not read the two books previous. Though they may add a small level of understanding to the world created by this author, this book is capable of being read as a standalone story.

Anne Bonny is a vampire. Yes, the famed pirate of legend. She still lives her life on her terms and with eternity at her fingertips, she plans to continue to do so. When she receives the mental message of his impending death from her only vampire progeny, Anne decides to venture to Newfoundland and meet these vampires who killed her despised offspring.

Cassandra was sired by John, the cruel progeny of Anne. When she falls for and turns Joseph, she convinces him to help her kill the evil vampire. Joseph is having trouble letting go of his humanity and has decided to part ways with Cassandra. When Anne seeks them out to understand what transpired between them all the trio gets swept up into a battle. The evil vampires of the council plan to enslave many mortals creating brainwashed tools.  Can the figure out and thwart the plan that endangers humanity as well as defend themselves against their enemies?

This story is well written. It easily captured my attention and help it for the entire read. There were a few parts that I more than likely would have benefitted from reading the past novels, but it wasn’t a huge hindrance. Though it peaked my attention enough for me to want to purchase those and fill in the gaps. The scenes were crafted well enough to develop a clear image in the mind as I read along.

Though I would not class this book as erotica, there were a few well written sexy scenes between the characters. They were a nice addition to keep a little sexy touch to an interesting story, though not too often to change the genre of this story to what I call a bodice ripper. The author skillfully filled out the love scenes between the various couplings with enough material to entice those who enjoy intimate scenes between all sorts of couples.

The characters were well written and exciting. They had fleshed out histories and were individually exciting as well as carrying enough charisma in a group to add to the overall dynamic of the story. There was a small bit of cheese factor, which I enjoyed and added a touch of lightheartedness in the right spots. I would recommend this book to friends and plan to read more from this author in the future.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick

A review by Amanda.

Scrappy Little Nobody is Anna Kendrick’s first foray as a published author. Readers may recognize Kendrick from her roles in movies such as Pitch Perfect, Up In The Air, Trolls, the Twilight Saga, and so much more. She’s famous for her forthright manner and acerbic wit, in interviews and on social media alike. Her autobiography is a collection of unique experiences, amusing and awkward anecdotes, and sprinkled with pertinent life advice from which many young ladies could benefit. She includes childhood memories, the struggles of an aspiring actress new to Los Angeles, hilarity on film sets (complete with some light name dropping), and everything in between. Her stories are poignant, humorous, and mildly self-deprecating.

Kendrick’s writing highlights her vibrant personality. The stories flow well, beginning in her childhood, introducing us to her family and showing readers what life was like growing up in Portland, Maine. Love and respect for her family, and gratitude for their support and sacrifices are featured throughout. This keeps the book feeling grounded in reality amongst tales of her celebrity encounters and the surreal experience of attending the Oscars. Readers will find Kendrick relatable and open. Her honesty about her faults could easily have felt forced or sanctimonious but is instead completely genuine.

Full disclosure: I was fortunate enough to catch Kendrick’s book tour in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I received a copy of her book with my paid ticket to the event, as did everyone who attended. While I have been an admirer of her work in film for a few years, I did not know what to expect from her as an author. Her writing drew me in with her humor and approachability. I especially appreciated her candor about her love life and the serious advice that she imparts as a result of one such experience. Her frank talk about her anxiety and insecurities is invigorating and relatable. The timeline flows smoothly, with occasional jumps back to the present or an aside to the reader. She expertly tantalizes readers with a bit of celebrity gossip but handles it with great respect for those she names, and usually places herself in the more embarrassing light. I would recommend this book to anyone who is familiar with Kendrick from her movies or social media, and to those who are looking for an entertaining non-fiction read. Kendrick does not hold back in terms of strong language and does talk about some sexual encounters, although not explicitly. Mature teenagers should handle the content just fine.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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