Book Review: The Quest of the Unaligned by A. L. Phillips

Title: The Quest of the Unaligned

Author: A. L. Phillips

Rating: ★ ★ ½

Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

Published: 2013 by BorderStone Press LLC

Format: E-book, 356 pages

Synopsis: “In the city of Tonzimmel, where hover-cars zip over anonymous crowds, contracts are king, and education is everything, Alaric has worked hard to make a decent life for himself. As a level nine security chief, he needs no one and nothing, and is in control of his fate. Or so he thinks. When a stranger from neighboring Cadaeren suddenly appears, however, babbling of magic, quests, and long-lost princes, Alaric finds himself contractually obligated to undertake a journey that his training hasn’t prepared him for: the Quest of the Unaligned. Accompanied by Laeshana, a Cadaerian native who has reasons of her own for helping him on his quest, Alaric is soon plunged into a perilous adventure that will force him to confront a seemingly impossible truth and embrace his destiny, even as the fate of Cadaeren hangs in the balance.” (Taken from Goodreads)

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I thought this book started off a little shaky, but definitely picked itself up in the middle. As the story opens, we meet Alaric, a level 9 security officer who has been raised all his life in Tonzimmel. Tonzimmel supports a Gesellschaft culture where each person fights for themselves in order to move up the social ladder. When we meet Alaric, he seems rigid and unimpressionable, similar to the masses in his black uniform and boots. He was extremely bland until he meets Ruahkini, an air mage from Cadaeren who declares he’s the missing prince and heir to Cadaeren. Hearing this news, Alaric is both disgusted and amused as Cadaeren is depicted as a crazy place outside the walls of Tonzimmel. While Tonzimmel boasts hard work and science, Cadaeren encapsulates the ideas of a Gemeinschaft culture where your birth determines your status. Not only that, but the mage declares that he has magic, which Alaric almost laughs himself unconscious at.

Ruahkini convinces Alaric to take on a wager with knife-throwing (Alaric’s best skill). If Alaric won, his bar tab would be pre-paid for a month, but if he lost, he has to attempt the Quest of the Unaligned. This is a quest that the prince of Cadaeren must go on before their coronation ceremony. Of course Alaric takes on the wager as he considers himself the best knife-thrower in Tonzimmel – and of course he loses. And from there, we follow him as he leaves Tonzimmel and journeys to Cadaeren to begin his quest. On his way to Cadaeren, he is accompanied by Laeshana, a friend who he had believed was a mechanic/engineer back in Tonzimmel, but was in fact an aesh (a mage aligned with fire).

At this point, Alaric’s personality was really annoying and rubbed at me in all the wrong places. He was condescending and ignorant, which I knew was intentional. Because of his ‘Tonzemmelian’ traits, he almost gets both he and Laeshana killed when he declares that he would take the mountain path, even after she warns him of a dragon lurking there. Of course, as a person of science, he scoffs at the idea (fair enough) and declares that will do whatever he wants even though Laeshana was there to be his guide. He’s a level 9 security officer, of course he knows best! (Sarcastic) Not surprisingly, they meet the dragon which made for a very exciting read. However, it was pretty unbelievable as I kept wondering why the dragon didn’t bother to use fire to incinerate them. And Alaric definitely defeated it too easily.

Following that encounter, we see a little bit of change within Alaric, he becomes less sceptical of magic and of Cadaeren being as insane as he first thought. While he still exhibits many Tonzimmelian traits, his character was changing. After a while, they arrive at the Temple where the King’s Crown is held, but alas, it’s stolen! The second half of the novel follows Alaric, Laeshana and the apprentice of the temple on their journey to retrieve the crown. This was where everything got much more interesting and where Alaric definitely grew as a character. What I found a little sceptical was how much he changed in just a few weeks – while it was definitely nice to see, 21 years of upbringing within one culture does not equate to immediate assimilation into a culture that is directly opposite to what you’re used to.

What I do applaud is Phillip’s ability to develop her characters. I think character development is one of the most important things within a good novel, right after plot, and she did it really well with Alaric. Throughout his quest, he is faced with the themes of duty, trust, morality and the continual issue of statuses depicting a persons’ worth. This was done extremely well with Alaric. What I had problems with was his parents, the king and queen of Cadaeren and their decision to send Alaric away to be brought up in Tonzimmel in the first place. This was only explained briefly, and not even enough for it to make sense. From what I could tell, they sent him away so he could be ‘unbalanced’ and not lean towards any one element. What they essentially did was send him to a MAGIC-LESS place which was not only idiotic but what kind of parents does that make you when you send your ONLY child away to be brought up parentless. How are they even fit to rule when your actions show you don’t even love your child, let alone your people. I’m surprised civil war did not start while Alaric was away.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read as the action picked up in the second part of the novel. I liked Alaric’s character development but I can’t say I was invested in any of the other characters enough, which is a shame. Especially Naruhan for his selfless sacrifice to buy Alaric time and save him from death. It would have been good to get some insight into the monarchy of Cadaeren as the two rulers seem quite … oblivious to everything. Very fairy-airy to be exact. But the book does have a nice ending, which was a good close to the story.

Thanks to A. L. Phillips for providing an e-copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti

Title: Other Systems

Author: Elizabeth Guizzetti

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Genre: Science-Fiction

Published: 1 April 2012 by 48Fourteen

Synopsis: “Without an influx of human DNA, the utopian colony on Kipos has eleven generations before it reaches failure. With Earth over ninety light-years away. Time is short.

On the over-crowded Earth, many see opportunity in Kipos’s need. After medical, intelligence, and physiological testing, Abby and her younger siblings, Jin and Orchid, are offered transportation. Along with 750,000 other strong young immigrants, they leave the safety of their family with the expectation of good jobs and the opportunity for higher education.

While these second-generation colonists travel to the new planet in stasis, the Kiposi, terrified that Earthlings will taint their paradise, pass a series of indenture and adoption laws in order to assimilate the savages.

When Abby wakes up on Kipos, Jin cannot be found. Orchid is ripped from her arms as Abby is sold to a dull-eyed man with a sterilized wife. Indentured to breed, she is drugged and systematically coerced. To survive, Abby learns the differences in culture and language using the only thing that is truly hers on this new world: her analytical mind. To escape, she joins a planetary survey team where she will discover yet another way of life. (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

The premise of this book is truly exciting, I took one look at it was immediately hooked! I haven’t read a lot of science-fiction novels before, but it’s a genre that continues to intrigue me. I was excited to dive straight into Abby’s story, which is why I was a little confused to be reading about someone named Cole, and his children. Although Cole’s story was fascinating, I did not really like the jumps between his perspective and Abby’s. I honestly found that while it was good background information, Cole’s chapters added nothing to the story once I look back at it. It could very easily have been incorporated later on.

A few chapters in, we finally get to the nut and ball of what was described in the synopsis. We are introduced to Abigail Boyd Lei, a mixed girl living on an overpopulated Earth with her family. We are shown what life is like on this futurist Earth, and it certainly doesn’t sound inviting. When Abby and her siblings are offered the chance to visit a colonised planet called Kipos, they jump straight at the opportunity. I mean, who wouldn’t when your life is so monotonous and dull on Earth? Of her three siblings, only the two youngest follow Abby and the Kiposi to a new life, leaving everyone else behind. I felt that while the farewells with her family was moving, it could have been a lot more emotional than it was. For people that Abby would never, ever see again, I had hoped that she would express a deeper understanding of loss, yet we never get to see that. All we were given were a prompt goodbye and then off the siblings go to the awaiting spaceship. I kept wondering why the rest of the family couldn’t follow them and farewell them from there.

As Abby and her siblings traverse through deep space, we are once again back with Cole and his kids. We get some more background information until we’re back again with Abby as she wakes up. It has been a hundred years since they left Earth, so everyone they have ever known is gone. I quite liked the fact that Abby was able to keep her composure in front of Orchid, in order to not scare her. I saw the inspiring older sister qualities in her character at that point. As we progress along, we learn that the Kiposi is extremely worried that the Earthlings would taint their paradise (even though they are Earthlings technically), so they introduced a set of indenture and adoption laws. Abby is ripped away from Orchid, and her younger brother is no where to be seen at all.

Abby is taken to a place where horrible things are done to her. She is alone, scared and have no idea what’s going on. As part of the indenture laws, she has to provide the Kiposi family who bought her ‘bond’ with three children or serve them for seven years. This part of the story is where things get a little confusing for me. Perhaps this was due to my erratic reading patterns for this novel, but I was continuously wondering how Cole’s story even fit in with Abby’s. We were given so much background information, but then we jump to Abby and it’s like he didn’t even exist. In fact, this part of the novel was probably the hardest to get through because I failed to see the link between the two characters and I was frustrated with Abby’s silly personality. She was continuously moaning about loving this person, or that person. I saw her as such a weak ‘Earthling’, which reflectively I now believe was the author’s intention in the first place. But honestly, I could not stand her at all during this section.

However, she does grow and becomes stronger as a person. Abby manages to escape from her bonded buyers and finds her way to a spacecraft docking area (FINALLY), where she happens upon the Alekos crew (Cole’s children). They generously take her on as an intern even with all the risks of losing their licences. I guess this is where the background information finally fits in – although I still think it was unnecessary. While I enjoyed this part of the novel a lot more – seeing Abby grow stronger, more independent and smarter – I felt it was quite lacking of a plot. I kept wondering if Abby would leave and embark on a journey to free all her indentured Earthlings but no such thing happened. We hear a little about the Earthlings back on Kipos revolting, but that’s as far as it goes. In Abby’s case however, she remains on the spaceship and explores new planets. I have to admit that that was pretty boring. I hoped she would at least lead a rebellion, fight to get her sister back, or take revenge on the people that killed her brother … but unfortunately, none of that happened. We see a lot of Abby adjusting to her new life, which is great and all, but not all that exciting.

I think I must commend Ms Guizzetti on creating some very believable and three dimensional characters. However, a novel that is 460 pages long needs to have a discernable and exciting plot. I found myself wondering more than once about where the story was heading, and kept waiting for that one scene where Abby turns into a hero and frees her fellow Earthlings.

Overall, a well written novel with some very interesting explanations of other systems in the universe.

THANKS TO: Elizabeth Guizzetti for providing an e-copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: The Dragon Carnivale (The Queen of the Realm of Faerie #3) by Heidi Garrett

TheDragonCarnivaleCoverFinalWhy Do I Write Fantasy? or You Never Know Who Might Show Up at Your Front Door

By Heidi Garrett

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As long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the truths that my physical senses cannot explain: the mystical things occurring on this planet. Writing fantastical stories is my testament to these other layers of reality.

There are many ways of looking at our world. Imagine sitting at home, perhaps in your living room. There’s a knock on the door. When you open it, a funny little woman is standing there. She is about half your height, and a plaid crimson kerchief—knotted under her hooked chin—covers her head. Her dress is sack-like over her square body. She’s wearing an apron that could use a good ironing and she’s carrying a battered brown suitcase that’s almost as big as she is.

“As long as you’re staring, a glass of water would be nice,” she says.

Despite her gruff manner, you sense something mysterious about this stranger, and to be honest, you’re dying to know more about her. When she crosses the threshold of your home, a strong wind slams the door behind her. You both jump. There hasn’t been a breeze all day. In fact, it’s sweltering and heat waves have been rising from the melting pavement for weeks.

When you offer it, she almost grabs the glass from your hand, and you can’t stop your staring—even though you know it’s rude—as she drinks in noisy gulps.

“What? You’ve never seen a spring faerie before?” she asks.

Before you can answer, she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. “Guess not, there aren’t many of us left. And I haven’t been to the Mortal World, since…”

She stops. Her deeply etched face softens. Something like sorrow pools in her dark brown eyes. She waves her hand. “That’s not what I’m here to talk about.”

Your heart tugs. You want to pull her from that sad place. “What’s in your suitcase?”

She points to the table. “I’ll show you.”

The suitcase is filled with eyeglasses. There are so many. Some have square black frames, others have round wire frames; there are a few speckled frames with octagonal lenses. You spy a pair of purple ones.

She shoves a pair of thick black glasses into your hand. “Put these on. Tell me what you see.”

With the eyeglasses settled on the bridge of your nose, you can’t see anything but yourself. You blink. You can see your hands and feet, your legs and toes. But the spring faerie—if that’s really what she is—is just a blur. You pull them off. She trades them for a pair of wire rims. With these glasses you can see her and your home.

“What’s your name?” you ask.

“Flora.”

“Like flowers blooming.”

She nods and looks away with that whiff of sadness.

Again, there is something about her that pulls at your heart. You think of the miracle of spring after a long hard winter, and that she shouldn’t be sad—if she really is a spring faerie.

“But…you don’t have any wings,” you say.

She smoothes the wrinkles in her apron. “Not all faeries do.”

“But—”

She almost jerks the wire-rim spectacles from your nose. You reach for that purple pair. She doesn’t stop you. Now, you can see down the street; your eyes travel the highway. Your view elevates, as if you are a bird. Soon you see the entire city you live in. With each pair of glasses, you see the bigger world.

When Flora tucks the temple arms of a pair of red frames behind your ears, perspective zooms around you. It’s like the lens pulls you into outer space, and you can see the entire world and all the billions of people who live on Earth.

Your heart flutters in your chest; it’s a lot to take in.

“Now—” Flora hands you a pair of fuchsia glasses with tiny rhinestones embedded in the frames. “Try on these.”

When you put them on, you’re able to see beyond the physical entirety of the world into the things that you’ve always known exist, but since you can’t see, touch, smell, or hear them, sometimes you’ve doubted. But you’ll never doubt again, because now—with these special glasses—you can actually see the bonds of love that death can never sever, the strings of fate that wrap the brown paper package of all our lives with twine, the tide of time that alters us, even as we never change…

But most importantly, you’ve seen that you belong here, on this planet. And you know—without a shadow of a doubt—that everything fits. Including you.

“I don’t ever want to take these glasses off,” you say.

Flora is already cramming the rest of them back into her bag. “Then don’t.”

__________

The Queen of the Realm of Faerie is a fairy tale fantasy series that bridges the Mortal and Enchanted worlds. The main character, Melia, is an eighteen-year-old half-faerie, half-mortal. She lives in Illialei, a country in the Enchanted World, with her two sisters and their mother. Melia’s father has been exiled to the Mortal World, and her best friend is a pixie.

When the story opens in the first book, Melia is troubled by her dark moon visions, gossip she overhears about her parents at the local market, and the trauma of living among full-blooded faeries with wings—she doesn’t have any.

As the series unfolds, the historic and mystical forces that shape Melia’s life are revealed. Each step of her journey—to find the place where she belongs—alters her perceptions about herself, deepens her relationships with others, and enlarges her world view.

In The Dragon Carnivale, book 3 of The Queen of the Realm of Faerie, energies in the Enchanted World are shifting and new alliances are forming; the Battle of Dark and Light has begun. Melia is desperate to make things right with Ryder, the young priest from Idonne, but first she must warn the half-bloods in the Mortal World that Umbra is coming for them, and face the powerful Dragonwitch and her spectacular Dragon Carnivale.

The first two books in the series: Nandana’s Mark and The Flower of Isbelline are currently available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords. Nandana’s Mark is free.

The Dragon Carnivale is scheduled for a June 18, 2013, release.

Sign-up for Heidi Garrett’s new release email List and receive a lavender and gold Half-Faerie bracelet while supplies last…because you’re half faerie, too, right?

Half-FaerieBracelet

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Author Bio

Heidi Garrett is the author of The Queen of the Realm of Faerie series. Her personal message to all her readers is:

Once upon a time, you lived in an enchanted world, too…

There is magic in all our lives; sometimes we need to look through different eyes to see it.

The Queen of the Realm of Faerie includes many strong female characters within an intricate fantasy land. It is also a fairy tale fantasy.

The first book, Nandana’s Mark, is one of those free ebooks; the second book, The Flower of Isbelline, is now available; and the third book, The Dragon Carnivale, will be released in June 2013.

The series was inspired by the 15th century French fairy tale, Melusine.

Heidi’s hope is that when you read her books, you will rediscover the enchantment in your own life.

She currently resides in eastern Washington with her husband and their two cats. So far, she loves the snow. Being from the South, she finds it magical.

Learn more about Heidi and enjoy her stream-of-consciousness reading journal, Eating Magic, at: www.heidigwrites.blogspot.com.

If you want to say hello, give her a shout out on Twitter at @heidigwrites or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/heidigwrites.

Book Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Heidi-Garrett/e/B008Y61UYM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nandanas-mark-heidi-garrett/1112474235?ean=2940014866026

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/heidi-garrett/id554801992?mt=11

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=%22Heidi+Garrett%22&t=none&f=author&p=1&s=none&g=both

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/HeidiG

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For your chance to win a $25 Amazon Express Giftcard, just follow the link below. Good luck! 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8f3d921/

Book Review: CyberStorm by Matthew Mather

Title: CyberStorm

Author: Matthew Mather

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Genre: Techno-Thriller, Science-Fiction

Publication Date: 15 March 2013

Synopsis: “Sometimes the worst storms aren’t caused by Mother Nature, and sometimes the worst nightmares aren’t in the ones in our heads…” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into when I started reading CyberStorm — but it honestly blew my mind away. It is a story about survival, relationships and most of all, a terrifyingly real depiction of an event that may be plausible enough to actually occur in our present world.

Set in present-day New York City during a whole city snow-storm that has seemingly wiped out all forms of technological connectivity, CyberStorm presents to its readers a realistic account of one man’s perseverance through what was thought to be a foreign attack on a country governed by technology. When you are so incompletely connected via these networks, it is definitely viable that cyber attacks on those systems would eventually occur. While the loss of such connectivity was a tremendous blow, when partnered with a snow-storm only Mother Nature could conjure up, CyberStorm truly shows its readers a masterfully crafted tale of survival at the most detrimental of times.

I cannot praise this book as well as its author enough. Having had a little taste of Mathers’ work (read my review on Atopia Skies here) already, I knew this was a must-read as soon as I heard about it. Mather has a way of writing that pulls you completely into the story. His characters, environment and plots are so well drawn out that you feel completely immersed in the story as if you were right beside the characters. If you are looking for good books under the science-fiction category, then you can’t do wrong with picking up one of Mathers’ works!

Feature and Follow Friday #1

I know I’m like two days late with this (eep!) but I’ve been super busy, haven’t been able to read much (sadface) so I thought this would be a good way to let everyone know that I’m not in fact – M.I.A.

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers — but you have to know — the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me. (You can subscribe to my blog via email!) 

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee’s View and Alison of Alison Can Read

This week’s feature blogs are: Elemillia @ Gone Bookserk and Florentine @ Readiculously Peachy

– – – –

This week’s question:

Q: What’s a book YOU loved but one that wasn’t so popular?  Or what’s a book you DIDN’T like, but your friends raved about?

One of the best series that I’ve read (and remains a huge part of the reason why I love reading today) is the Stravaganza books by Mary Hoffman. While they’re not as underrated and unknown as other books I love but others don’t, these are not as popular as a lot of books today. And I think these books would have been great on screen, unlike Twilight.

What are yours?

Book Haul #1 – January & February 2013

Hi everyone! You may have noticed that I’ve stopped blogging for a week or so now – and that’s because I’ve been super busy! No excuse, I know, but that also means I’ve barely had the time to read. However, I’d like to keep up with blogging though, so it doesn’t feel like I’m only posting reviews time after time.

Because of this, I’ve decided to do my first Book Haul! I know it’s like March, and most of the books that will be appearing was obtained during the earlier months … but whatever! I’ve been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to read a lot of new ARCS and published novels through Netgalley and Edelweiss lately, as well as having a few lovely authors contact me. Because I’ve got a HUGE to-be-read pile lined up, I will only post the most recently obtained books today.

Author Requested Reviews

Title: Other Systems

Author: Elizabeth Guizzetti

Synopsis: Ten large ships race toward Earth, broadcasting in every language: “Brothers and sisters, we come in peace and in need. We have found our way home.” The fear of a coming invasion begins the worldwide riots of 3062.

Yet, not all Earthlings fear attack. The newcomers, long lost descendants of Earth, speak of a paradise ninety-four light years away. Kipos is a land of plenty where there has never been hunger, murder, or war. However, they need more healthy young immigrants for the colony to thrive.

Many accept their offer to be tested. After assessment, Abby Boyd Lei is among the chosen. She leaves the protection of her family with dreams of higher education, a good job, and a kind-hearted spouse.

Will Kipos be everything she imagined? Abby is about to discover the cost of utopia.”

– – –

Title: Matt Archer (#2) – Blades Edge

Author: Kendra C. Highley

Synopsis: When Matt Archer was fourteen, he discovered monsters are real. As if that wasn’t enough to go on for a few decades, Matt also found out that he’d been chosen to hunt those monsters–with a sentient, supernatural knife. Now fifteen, Matt has spent the last year working with a clandestine military unit, trying to rid the world of monsters, demons and other vicious creatures, all while keeping it a secret from nearly everyone he knows back home in Billings.

Including his mom.

Add in a new girlfriend, family secrets, sibling drama and enough homework to sink an aircraft carrier, and Matt’s life has become more complicated than he ever imagined. Worse, the knife has developed some very definite opinions about Matt’s personal life and it interferes in his business whenever it wants. More and more, Matt’s coming to realize that sharing brain-space with a spirit kind of sucks.

When stories of decimated towns and hordes of zombies start pouring into the Pentagon from Afghanistan, Matt knows he’ll be called up soon. Between the new mission and the knife’s increasing control over his mind, Matt wonders if he’ll survive long enough to take his driver’s exam.”

– – –

Title: The Torturer’s Daughter

Author: Zoe Cannon

Synopsis:When her best friend Heather calls in the middle of the night, Becca assumes it’s the usual drama. Wrong. Heather’s parents have been arrested as dissidents – and Becca’s mother, the dystopian regime’s most infamous torturer, has already executed them for their crimes against the state.

To stop Heather from getting herself killed trying to prove her parents’ innocence, Becca hunts for proof of their guilt. She doesn’t expect to find evidence that leaves her questioning everything she thought she knew about the dissidents… and about her mother.

When she risks her life to save a dissident, she learns her mother isn’t the only one with secrets – and the plot she uncovers will threaten the lives of the people she loves most. For Becca, it’s no longer just a choice between risking execution and ignoring the regime’s crimes; she has to decide whose life to save and whose to sacrifice.

It’s easy to be a hero when you can save the world, but what about when all you can do is choose how you live in it? THE TORTURER’S DAUGHTER is a story about ordinary teenage life amidst the realities of living under an oppressive regime… and the extraordinary courage it takes to do what’s right in a world gone wrong.”

Edelweiss Approved Reviews

Title: September Girls

Author: Bennett Madison

Synopsis: “When Sam’s dad whisks him and his brother off to a remote beach town for the summer, he’s all for it– at first. Sam soon realizes, though, that this place is anything but ordinary. Time seems to slow down around here, and everywhere he looks, there are beautiful blond girls. Girls who seem inexplicably drawn to him. 

Then Sam meets DeeDee, one of the Girls, and she’s different from the others. Just as he starts to fall for her, she pulls away, leaving him more confused than ever. He knows that if he’s going to get her back, he’ll have to uncover the secret of this beach and the girls who live here.”

– – –

Title: The End Games

Author: T. Michael Martin

Synopsis: “It happened on Halloween.

The world ended.

And a dangerous Game brought it back to life.

Seventeen-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have been battling monsters in The Game for weeks.

In the rural mountains of West Virginia, armed with only their rifle and their love for each other, the brothers follow Instructions from the mysterious Game Master. They spend their days searching for survivors, their nights fighting endless hordes of “Bellows”—creatures that roam the dark, roaring for flesh. And at this Game, Michael and Patrick are very good.

But The Game is changing.

The Bellows are evolving.

The Game Master is leading Michael and Patrick to other survivors—survivors who don’t play by the rules.

And the brothers will never be the same.

T. Michael Martin’s debut novel is a transcendent thriller filled with electrifying action, searing emotional insight, and unexpected romance.”

– – –

Title: Parallel

Author: Lauren Miller

Synopsis: “Abby Barnes had a plan. Get into a great college, major in journalism, and land her dream job at a major newspaper. But on the eve of her 18th birthday, she’s stuck on a Hollywood movie set instead, wishing she could rewind her life. But the next morning, she’s in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. A collision of parallel worlds has left Abby living a new reality every time her younger parallel self makes a new decision. Forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn’t choose, Abby must let go on her plans for the future and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that’s finally in reach.

Advance praise for Parallel:

“A fun, twisty novel about the paths you choose and the paths you don’t…to follow your heart’s desire. Deeply romantic and entertaining!“ (Melissa de la Cruz, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of BLUE BLOODS and WITCHES OF EAST END)

“Penetrating, jaw–dropping, and so real, PARALLEL had me turning pages at warp speed, hoping for the best tomorrow. Read this book.” (Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of MY LIFE NEXT DOOR)

“Best. Debut. Novel. Ever.” (Lauren Barnholdt, author of TWO-WAY STREET)

“PARALLEL beautifully tackles the universal themes of fate, destiny, and the search for a soulmate, proving that there are no wrong turns. Your heart will soar and you’ll be cheering at the end.” (Jordanna Fraiberg, author of IN YOUR ROOM)

“Wildly inventive and wonderfully romantic, PARALLEL takes readers on a journey that will open their minds and their hearts.” (Jennifer E. Smith, author of THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT)”

Netgalley Approved Reviews

Title: Game board of the Gods

Author: Richelle Mead

Synopsis: In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

Gameboard of the Gods, the first installment of Richelle Mead’s Age of X series, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.”

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Title: The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines #3)

Author: Richelle Mead

Synopsis: “In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch–a former Alchemist who escaped against all odds, and is now on the run. Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the Alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood–or else she might be next.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, the Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive—this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone’s out for blood.”

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These are just my most recent hauls. They all sound super interesting, and I’ve started reading Other Systems today. It’s amazing so far! What’s your book haul like for the first few months of 2013?

Book Review: Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman

Title: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ½

Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Mystery

Publication Date: 2 July 2012 by Random House Children’s Books

Synopsis: “An new vision of knights, dragons, and the fair maiden caught in between…

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 the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisite 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.” (Taken from Goodreads)

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I took a glimpse through the ratings for this book on goodreads prior to picking it off my book shelf, and was amazed by the number of 5-stars littered throughout the page. Everyone seemed to love this book and it’s even won a few prizes. I tried not to get my hopes up too high in case the book did not meet my expectations, but unfortunately, I did fall to the hype and was expecting a wondrous story with epic dragon battles akin to other high fantasy novels. It didn’t even have to be filled with battles, I loved The Hobbit for its characters, journey and wit – even though Bilbo blacked out during the final epic battle and basically missed the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong though, I did thoroughly enjoy this story as a whole when I look back on it. It was probably due to my own tastes as a reader that lowered the overall score. This is really a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

Seraphina starts off so strongly. I was dazzled by the first chapter in which we learn that she remembers being born. How trippy is that? With a knowledge like that, I was instantly interested in her character. And she doesn’t disappoint. Like every other review out there on this book, I agree that Seraphina meets all the expectations of being a brave, smart and loyal heroine. It wasn’t all words and no action. Hartman has truly created a character that could stand up for herself during hard times, and she’s become one of the best heroines I’ve had the pleasure to meet in a book. She will have a spot on my ‘Top 5 kick ass girls'” list for a long time.

When I think about it, Seraphina’s world is full of fantastic female characters. The royal family is ruled by Queen Lavonda, and the first and second heirs are also female. I love that Hartman has created a world that doesn’t spit upon the idea of females being in power – it is so refreshing to read about female characters that don’t need to be continuously rescued by men.

I would also like to praise Hartman on the beautiful world she has created. While I cannot say that Goredd is a city that I can picture in my mind, its characters are as vivid as they come. They all feel so real, it’s almost as if I’ve known them all my life. My favourite would definitely have to be Orma. His eccentric dragon personality is so quirky and loveable that you can’t help but wish he really existed. Then there is Fruit Bat, Loud Lad and Miss Fusspots – the grotesques of Serphina’s mind who are all so unique and wonderful. And the dragons – the saarantras – definitely a very refreshingly new take on them. If I had to praise Miss Hartman on one thing, it would be on her characterisations and development.

However, and here comes the bad part, I did rate Seraphina a 3.5 star novel for a reason. A part of it was because of me, and I found that half the novel was so slow and boring that I almost gave up on finishing it. If it wasn’t for the lovely characters that I rooted for, I don’t think I could have continued. Miss Hartman’s Goredd is extremely religious, and we learn this through the many religious teachings Seraphina throws at us. There are seriously way too many Saints to even keep with, and if it weren’t for the glossary at the back, I wouldn’t even understand what half of them stood for. While I don’t mind reading about a religious city, there are limits to the amount I’m willing to endure when all these teachings have no relation to the overall plot of the story. Aside from St Ogdo, whose faction hates dragons and despises the treaty of peace made between the dragons and Goredd, all the other Saints play little to no role in the story.

And the plot – my god was it slow! I am someone that loves a fast placed plot with lots of action. While I understand that this is a fantasy story of mystery and politics, it has dragons too. Who can really say that they don’t expect lots of action and adventure when dealing with a story that has dragons? What we get instead is a small mystery about a rogue dragon being sighted, with the main focus on the celebration of 40-years of peace. Seriously, half the story is really about Seraphina organising the music for the celebration of the treaty. Make that around 80% of the story … and the only fight we see is at the end of the novel, which probably lasted two or so pages and was resolved much too easily.

What I really wanted to read about was Seraphina’s ‘mind garden’, which holds these grotesques that end up being other half-dragons like herself. This was the most intriguing thing brought about by this novel, and I wanted to learn so much more about it, but sadly it was barely touched upon, overshadowed by the need to talk excessively about the different Saints being worshipped in Goredd. However, Seraphina is setting out to find her grotesques in the next book so I may just pick up the sequel to find out how that goes. It sounds like a much more promising story with an actual war brewing and potential action. Hopefully that rings true or I would be more let down than I am right now.

Overall, a very well written story that lacks the oomph I was so looking forward to.