01/23/13

Review: My Wolf’s Bane by Veronica Blade

My Wolf's BaneMy Wolf’s Bane by Veronica Blade

Paperback: 365 pages
Expected publication: February 1st 2013 by Crush Publishing, Inc
Genre: YA Paranormal
Series:  Book 1 in the ‘Shapes of Autumn Series’

NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: As with any Veronica Blade book, this is a ROMANCE NOVEL, meaning it’s romance FIRST and everything else is secondary. Rated PG-13 for sexual situations and mild profanity.

Different species. Mortal enemies. It’ll never work, but they’ll die trying.

Autumn Rossi thought she was a normal teenager. Suddenly, she can outrun every critter in the forest, making her wonder if she’s even human.

When the new guy at school, Zack de Luca, witnesses a questionable scene, he unfairly pins her as stuck-up. He acts like he hates her, yet he keeps bailing her out of trouble. Not only is Zack both insufferable and irresistible, he seems to sniff her anytime he gets close.

As passion flares between them, Autumn isn’t sure which is more dangerous: her psycho ex-boyfriend, or falling for Zack — who’s risking his life just by being near her.

 

My Review:

Un-freakin-believable!!  That is the first word that pops in my mind to sum up My Wolf’s Bane by Veronica Blade.  I will be honest, I absolutely loved her debut novel Something Witchy This Way Comes and have been dying for the follow-up to that one.  Well, My Wolf’s Bane – a completely new series – has completely blown that one out of the wooded forest.  This is truly one of the best YA Paranormal novels that I have ever read, and I have read several.

What makes My Wolf’s Bane stand out to others that I have read?  The story line is a fairly unique one – a young werewolf (yes, there are tons of werewolf stories out there, but not like this one) and a young girl who is discovering insane changes to her body, mind and life, come together in a flurry of dislike and distaste.  At least that is what they try so hard for – to dislike one another.  Zack is 18 and a senior.  He is a werewolf who is cherishing his final days with his dying mother.  Autumn is 18 and has always been sheltered to the point of being smothered by her parents.  When a sudden change in attitude occurs with her parents, Autumn finds herself trusted to be alone for a few weeks while her mother and father are off traveling for her father’s job.  This is nothing but a huge relief and shock for Autumn.  This also leaves the perfect opening for Autumn to try out the special abilities that she has recently obtained.

As antagonism turns to a truce of sorts between Zack and Autumn, they find themselves becoming what resembles friends.  This, however, is kicked up a few notches when Autumn’s ex becomes insanely jealous and threatening to Autumn.  Zack takes it upon himself to protect Autumn, as well as help her in her new-found discoveries and talents.  The chemistry between the two doesn’t take long to sizzle and the tension between several of the characters to go from steamy to boiling.  The story explodes into one that will not soon be forgotten and will long live in the hearts and minds of the reader.

From the very beginning I was hooked on Zack.  He is all male, but sensitive and caring – you know the type that every female yearns for – alpha male mixed with bad boy mixed with sensitivity – yep, that is Zack to a “T”.  I questioned my liking for Autumn in the very beginning, unsure if she was going to be the snobbish type or not.  That, opinion, however, was quickly rectified and I found myself adoring her.  She is sassy, intelligent, brave, stubborn and takes no guff from Zach – well, with the exception of the “does he, doesn’t he” conflict that she constantly goes through with him.  Their chemistry is pure fun laced with that yummy underlying steam that teases rather than pours itself out on the pages.

Veronica Blade has such an amazing ability to transform worlds, sucking the reader into the story, making them yearn and crave, fly through pages and take all the world’s troubles away.  Her characters are incredibly well developed and so true to life that the reader cannot help but feel as though they are right there in the story.  My Wolf’s Bane is the perfect mixture of paranormal, suspense, romance and just pure fun.  From scenes of “sniffing” to scenes of flying through the air with speed, there is never a dull moment in this story.  I absolutely loved Zack and Autumn and cannot wait for the next in the series to read more about them – yes, I am begging for a quick release, lol.  The ending was perfect – bringing contentment, yet leaving an ocean of questions rolling on the waves of uncertainty.  I cannot recommend this one enough and have added it to my favorite reads of 2013, hands down!

Favorite Quote:

As I moved forward to close the space between me and the person in front of me, I felt him move up as well.  He was so close, I could feel the warmth radiating from him.

I spun when he leaned into me and inhaled.  ”Did you just sniff my hair?”

His brows rose in innocence.  ”Why would I do that?”

Rating 5

Excerpt:

I tossed the makeup bag into my backpack, slung it over my shoulder and whipped open the door. Barreling out of the bathroom, I slammed into what felt like a walking boulder. I ricocheted off the human rock and my backpack hit the wall behind me, throwing me off balance and pitching me forward into the hard, linoleum tile.

My palms cushioned my fall, but I winced as pain spiked up my wrists. On all fours, I lifted my chin and peeked through my curtain of dark hair. He wore a black tee that molded to his wide, muscular shoulders and jeans that fit over powerful legs.

Wow. I’d thought my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend was cute, but this guy…

“You okay?”  The hottie asked in a sexy, gravelly voice, stretching a hand toward me. His hand wrapped around mine and effortlessly pulled me up, as if I weighed no more than my calculus book. Maybe it was the throbbing in my limbs or the warmth of his hands on my elbows. Or maybe it was his earthy scent invading my senses, but a wave of dizziness hit me and I tipped forward.

His hands shot to my hips to steady me. “Easy there.”

My palms rested on his hard biceps for support as I stared into his deep, green eyes. Lord, he smelled good, like the forest after rain.

My breath hitched.

About Veronica Blade:

Veronica Blade lives in Southern California with her husband and children. By day she runs the family business, but each night she slips away to spin her tales. She writes stories about young adults to relive her own childhood and to live vicariously through her characters. Except her heroes and heroines lead far more interesting lives — and they are always way hotter.

01/23/13

Review: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter, #1)The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (January 29, 2013)
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Suspense
*Book 1 in ‘Madman’s Daughter Trilogy’

About: Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

*Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

My Review:  Breathtaking and heart-pounding, The Madman’s Daughter is filled with twists, turns, blanket-gripping, page-flying and unstoppable chills that will keep you up long into the night.

Megan Shepherd has an amazing talent for bringing stories and characters to life – as is prominently displayed within the pages of The Madman’s Daughter.  The beginning has an incredible Gothic and dark feel to it that left me with near chills, and as the story progressed, this aspect only got better.  The story begins in London during the late 1800′s.  Juliet is left orphened after her mother passes away from consumption.  Juliet is forced to take on work as a cleaning girl at a local college to pay her way for room and board.  When she is attacked, all bets are off and she must decide what to do with herself if she doesn’t want to end up on the dirty streets, paying her way with her body.  It is when she comes across a childhood friend that her life changes forever.

After a treacherous trip across the ocean, Juliet is reunited with a father that she thought dead.  The reunion, however, is anything but pleasant and deep, dark and horrendous secrets are uncovered.  Juliet makes discoveries about her father, as well as herself, that will forever alter her life and those lives around her.

The Madman’s Daughter is truly a work of creative art.  I found the story line to be very unique and captivating, as well reveling in the detailing of the characters – enabling me to truly feel myself within the story.  Ms. Shephard brings the time period easily to life with the mannerisms, dialog and descriptions of the characters and their surroundings.  I loved Juliet – her bravery, intelligence and feistiness where refreshing and added an excellence to the story that would have otherwise been missing.  I have to say that I found myself detesting the father, questioning Edward and loving Montgomery.  There are light doses of romance throughout the story, which were very well written and added a bit of “push and pull” to the story – as well as a touch of “frenzy”, if you will.  A few of the twists and turns I did have figured out ahead of time, but many I did not and found myself gasping in surprise.  There were times I wanted to cry, times I wanted to scream and times that I wanted to slap someone as I read.  The ending is perfect for leaving the reader hanging (one of the times that I wanted to scream!! lol) and left me dying to read the next book to see what happens.

The Madman’s Daughter is the perfect story for readers looking for something unique, engrossing, puzzling, adventuresome and a story and characters that will not soon leave your mind.  I know that the age for this book says 13 and up, and while I am ok with that, I would shoot for readers a bit older than that – possibly 15+, simply for the sake of truly understanding what is going on within the story and the characters.  However, that is just my opinion.  I can say that adults will have a very easy time getting into this story and having their attention held until the very end.  I am giving The Madman’s Daughter a 4 1/2 out of 5 – though it truly is so close to perfect that it hurts, lol!!!  I can truly say that this is going on my list of favorite reads of 2013!

A few of my favorite quotes (taken from an uncorrected proof):

“As I said, I’m glad you came.”  His eyes held mine, leaving little doubt as to his meaning.  Montgomery wasn’t one for games.

My corset felt even more constricting than usual.  I wanted to rip the stays and fill my burning lungs with air.  His touch was thrilling.  His whispered words, I’m glad you came, turned my insides molten.  Emotions were a puzzle, something to be studied and fitted together carefully.  But the edges of this puzzle didn’t fit within the lines I knew.

~~~~~~

A door slammed from within, making me jump, and a boy appeared, running in a strange skipping manner toward us.  He took hold of the horse’s bridle while Montgomery climbed down and ruffled the boy’s hair.  I couldn’t help but stare.  The child’s jaw protruded at an odd angle below a nearly nonexistent nose.  A dark, fine hair covered his bare arms.  A shiver ran over my skin.  It was as if my father had stumbled upon some collection of natives whom the theory of evolution – were Mr. Darwin to be believed – had skipped by.

~~~~~~~~~

This was madness.  This curiosity inside me was unnatural.  It had pushed me further from my mother, further from reason and rules and logic.  But there were times I still couldn’t resist.

I rested my forehead against the wall and closed my eyes.  It wasn’t just my curiosity, or my fascination with anatomy, or how I could unhesitatingly chop a rabbit’s head off with an ax when a roomful of boys couldn’t.  Those things were all symptoms of the same sickness – a kind of madness inherited from my father.  It was a dangerous pull in my guy drawing me toward the dark possibilities of science, toward the thin line between life and death, toward the animal impulses hidden behind a corset and a smile.

Rating 4 4 1/2

Image of Megan ShepherdAbout Megan Shepherd:  Megan Shepherd grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where her family has owned and operated an independent bookstore for over 35 years. Shepherd attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in international studies and went on to live and work in Costa Rica, Senegal, Scotland, Spain, and many other countries. Now, Shepherd has returned to Western North Carolina and is a full-time writer of young adult novels.

01/23/13

January Author of the Month Giveaway!!

At the end of each month, I will be doing a giveaway for one copy in, Kindle Format, to one lucky winner, for a copy of a book from the Author of the Month.  To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form and when the winner has been picked, I will email you for your info.  This month, I will give the winner their choice of the following books by Christopher Smith:

You Only Die Twice

A Rush to Violence

Running of the Bulls

From Manhattan with Love

The Fifth Avenue Series Box Set (includes the first 3 books in the Fifth Avenue Series: Fifth Avenue, Running of the Bulls and From Manhattan with Love)

Please help to spread the word about this giveaway!  Thanks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

01/19/13

Review: You Only Die Twice by Christopher Smith

You Only Die TwiceYou Only Die Twice by Christopher Smith

File Size: 582 KB
Print Length: 190 pages
Publisher: Fifth Avenue Productions, Inc. (December 23, 2012)
Genre: Horror, Thriller

About: In her past, Cheryl Dunning died once. A violent act killed her, but heroics brought her back. Now, if she can’t save herself from two serial killers hunting her in the Maine woods, she’s about to die again, this time from two men armed with a Bible, guns, a deep belief in God, and their twisted interpretation of his word.

Fueled by their righteous fury, they are determined to find Cheryl and murder her for what they perceive as her “life’s worth of sins.” What they don’t know is what Cheryl knows. She’s a Maine girl, born and raised–and she knows how to use these woods in ways that might, if she’s lucky, turn them against each man.

From the #1 international best-selling author of many thrillers, including “Fifth Avenue,” “You Only Die Twice” is a blistering page-turner first, and a comment on Biblical interpretation second. It’s Christopher Smith’s most controversial and gripping novel to date.

*Warning: “You Only Die Twice” is not for the faint of heart. This is a story of madness and the fight for survival, and it depicts realistic adult situations without hesitation.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

At first, all she was aware of was a cold wetness against her cheek and explosions of light along the periphery of her vision. She could hear someone talking to her–a man–but she couldn’t understand what he was saying.

She felt her body being jolted. Kicked. Punched.

Her head hurt.

There was blood in her mouth. And something else. Something thick and round, which made it difficult for her to breathe.

Her left leg began to twitch.

The flashes of light continued until the pain in her head became too much for her to bear.

Something was shoved into her right hand. She felt her fingers being closed around it and then, somehow, the object was attached to her hand.

She wondered what it was. She wondered where she was. Had she died again? Or was she about to die again?

She knew all about death.

She passed out and went into a light of her own.

CHAPTER TWO

When she woke again, Cheryl Dunning blinked and though her head was still thick and her eyesight still cloudy, she was able to process that the darkness she now saw had nothing to do with death or being unconscious, but everything to do with that fact that it was night.

She was outside and she was alive, but where was she? How did she get here? She tried to make sense of it, tried to remember what events led her to this, but she couldn’t remember anything.

Her mind was blank.

She needed to leave, get home. But where was home?

She tried to raise her head, but the effort was excruciating and she realized that she couldn’t. She put her left hand beneath her breast and tried to push herself up, but she cried out in pain and slumped back onto the ground.

She wasn’t able to move. At least not now. Instinct kicked in. That part of her that could still reason realized that she might have broken a bone or, worse, bones. She needed to be careful. It felt as if someone had pummeled her.

As she lay there, it came to her that she was on a moist forest floor. She could smell damp timber, the rot of whatever lay beneath her, and she was aware that it was raining. Water tapped against the side of her cheek and soaked her clothes. It wasn’t a heavy rain, but it was steady, and she was alert enough to know that her situation was dire.

She was alone and exposed to the elements in some unknown woods. Her thoughts turned to the wild animals she knew were around her. Circling her. Smelling her. Wanting to tear her apart and eat her. The fear she felt at that moment made her want to get up and run, but her body wasn’t having it. Something was wrong with her head. It wouldn’t stop throbbing. She felt as if it had been kicked.

And so she lay there, a prisoner to whatever had happened to her. She listened to the night and occasionally heard rustling sounds in the woods. What would prey on her tonight? Something would. She felt utterly without hope and knew that she’d be dead before she had the chance to help herself.

She closed her eyes. She tried to remember her life, but there was no life to remember. It was as if someone had erased it from her mind and left in its place a pain she had never before experienced. It consumed her before and it did so again.

She slipped into unconsciousness.

CHAPTER THREE

Morning came and with it, the end of the rain.

Cheryl Dunning opened her eyes, and this time she could see clearly. There was no fog, no haze, just clarity. Her body still ached, but the pain wasn’t excruciating. For a moment, the idea that she’d made it through the night alive gave her back the hope she lost the night before.

With one side of her face planted on the wet ground, she looked around and saw that she was in a wooded area. A forest. Above her was a canopy of sunlit trees, from the fiery blaze of maples being seduced by autumn’s crisp touch to the evergreens that would challenge the pending winter, stare it down and see it through to spring. It was late September in Maine, pine needles were the carpet on which she lay, and she was chilled to her core.

She also was thirsty. Her mouth was caked with the coppery taste of dried blood and she wished she was near a water source, if only so she could rinse out her mouth.

How had she gotten here? She closed her eyes, thought back hard, and the pieces of a puzzle that was lost to her yesterday started to form.

Her last memory was spending time with her friend Patty at their favorite local bar, The Grind, doing shots to celebrate Patty’s thirtieth birthday, which she called a landmark event because she said she never thought she’d make it to twenty-seven. Not with her luck.

Cheryl rarely drank, but Patty coaxed her into joining her because it was her birthday. Not wanting to spoil her friend’s fun, Cheryl went along with the celebration because Patty was a lifelong friend and after all she had been through in this town, she deserved a fun night out. Together, they did several shots of tequila even though Cheryl knew she’d pay for it the next day.

But not like this. This didn’t make sense. Why was she here? Who brought her here?

She needed to get up. Needed to get out of here. She remained on her stomach and carefully lifted one of her legs behind her. It was fine. She moved her other leg, and though it hurt like hell, it was clear that nothing was broken. She went to lift up her right hand and it was at that moment that she saw the cell phone strapped to it with a rubber band.

Confused, she stared at it.

Then it buzzed to life.

Startled, she lifted her head off the forest floor and some of the pine needles that were stuck to her face tumbled off. With an effort, she sat up, swiped away the rest of the needles with her free hand, and the cell phone buzzed again.

She tore it off and tossed it away. She looked around the forest and could see steam rising up in those areas where the sun made its way through the trees to warm the cool, wet ground. She felt as if she was being watched. She listened and heard leaves falling from the maple trees. A light breeze touched her back.

And the phone buzzed again, vibrating just ahead of her on the ground. It seemed to tremble, not unlike she was now.

And Cheryl Dunning of Bangor, Maine, who for ten years worked as an underpaid secretary in the English Department at the University of Maine and who never made it out of college for reasons only few people knew because of the deep shame that had crippled her for years, knew she was in worse trouble than she ever imagined.

My Review:  Edgy, gripping and timely, You Only Die Twice is a story that will hold you in its clutches from the first word to the very last.

I always love when I can find and delve into a great psychological tale.  I have always been curious about how the mind works and why people act and do what they do.  With You Only Die Twice, author Christopher Smith takes the reader deep into the mind of a religious fanatic with a huge God complex.  Kenneth has always been a bit different – with that “bit” turning into a lot as he got older.  Always standing out from others with eyes that could only be described as “dead”.  Always a loner until he finds a soul mate, if you will, in fellow religious fanatic Ted.  Together, the two embark on a journey of cleansing the world of whores and fulfilling what God has called upon them to do.

Cheryl Dunning has had an anything-but-easy time of life.  After a nightmare experience in College where she died for the very first time, she has always basically kept to herself – working and more or less secluding herself from dating and the social scene.  On a lark, she goes out one evening to celebrate her friend’s birthday and her life takes a terrible and lethal turn.

Christopher Smith takes the reader on a cat-and-mouse, life threatening spiral the entire way through You Only Die Twice.  He gets into the mind of the psychotic and allows the reader into the psyche of the hunted, as well as the hunter.  As I read, the descriptions of the surroundings, the feelings of the characters and the actions of what was taking place was so well written that I truly felt as though I was there.  Mr. Smith seamlessly intertwined pieces of the characters’ past into the story as well and this allowed me to really feel as though I was able to get to know them – the “push” behind their actions as well as their thought process.  These facts allowed the story to come alive for me and had me racing through the pages to see what was going to happen next.  I also love the short chapters.  For me, short chapters add an intensity that keeps me reading longer and makes it harder for me to put the story aside.

Another aspect of this author’s writing of this story was the apparent research that he did to achieve this level of believability of the story.  The majority of You Only Die Twice takes place in the secluded and deadly woods.  Throughout, Cheryl must rely on what her father and grandfather have taught her about survival in the woods.  The idea that Mr. Smith did his research on the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” of such a scenario adds a wonderful depth to the story and truly adds a terrifying aspect.

This was the first book by Christopher Smith that I have read and I greatly look forward to reading more of his work in the very near future.  This is an author that definitely has a talent for bringing intense stories to life and dragging the reader right into the pages.  There were a few grammar/mechanical errors that I found throughout, but those did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the story.

I highly recommend You Only Die Twice to anyone who is a fan of a great thriller that will make you toss aside the idea of sleep to see what happens next!

Favorite Quote:

Since then, they had murdered sixty-eight women, all deemed worthless whores by two men who believed in their souls that cleansing the world of these women was their divine right and purpose.

Rating 4

Image of Christopher SmithAbout Christopher Smith:

Christopher Smith is the #1 international best-selling author of “Fifth Avenue,” its sequels “Running of the Bulls” and “From Manhattan with Love,” as well as “Bullied,” “Revenge,” “Witch” and “War,” all four of which deal with the subject of bullying. His newest thriller is “A Rush to Violence,” which will be a three-book series. “Park Avenue” hits at the end of 2012. For fourteen years, Smith was the film critic for a major newspaper in the Northeast. For eight years, he appeared weekly on NBC affiliates, and two years nationally on the E! network. He has written over 4,000 reviews and he has been named Best Critic for 2010 by the MPA. He has published two previous books in his Netflix “Queued” series, which are compilations of hundreds of his film reviews. He lives in Maine.

Visit the following links for more info and connect with Christopher Smith:

Facebook ~ Amazon ~ Website ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Barnes and Noble

01/16/13

Suggestions for Feb. Author of the Month

Wow, I cannot believe that January is half over already! I have finished reading You Only Die Twice by the wonderful Christopher Smith, this month’s author of the month. I will have a review for that shortly and will also be starting on Fifth Avenue, which I have heard such amazing things about!

What I would love some help with is a pick for Feb’s author of the month.  Remember I will be picking an author that I have not yet read.  I am open to all genres, so please leave your ideas in the comment section. If we have several, I will put up a poll where everyone can vote and the winning author will be chosen by you awesome readers!  Please feel free to pass this along!

Thanks!

Also, as an added bonus, I will be giving away a copy of one of Christopher Smith’s book – so be on the lookout for that post soon!