Category Archives: 2011 debut author challenge

Review: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: September 20, 2011
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Published format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Series: Stand alone
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
When her boyfriend, Danny, is killed in a car accident, Wren can’t imagine living without him. Wild with grief, she uses the untamed powers she’s inherited to bring him back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy she once loved.

Wren has spent four months keeping Danny hidden, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school and somehow, inexplicably, he can sense her secret. Wren finds herself drawn to Gabriel, who is so much more alive than the ghost of the boy she loved. But Wren can’t turn her back on Danny or the choice she made for him—and she realizes she must find a way to make things right, even if it means breaking her own heart.

Amy Garvey’s transcendent teen debut is perfect for fans of Shiver and Beautiful Creatures. Wren’s unforgettable voice and story will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.

This is a story about loss, and about dealing with loss. And while usually the idea of a love cut short almost always tugs at my heartstrings, Cold Kiss failed to so this time. I believe the only reason for that though is that we didn’t see Wren and Danny together before he died. We didn’t see Danny as he was alive. There were small flashbacks showing them together, but they still didn’t really connect me with Wren’s loss.
I honestly could have done without Gabriel too. Or at least less of him. There were some parts that felt kind of forced to me, and I also felt like he moved too fast sometimes. There wasn’t any real development between them. It seemed as though she had to have a guy in her life, and the only way she could get over Danny was to have a new guy to focus on, which is just not true.
My favorite parts of the book were Wren coming out of her grief enough to begin mending her friendships with Darcia and Jess. Friendship is incredibly important, and I’m glad to see that Wren was trying to reconnect, and that Darcia and Jess were trying to forgive Wren for just completely dumping them. Wren’s family on the other hand confused me. I liked her sister Robin, but I don’t understand why her mother would never talk about the magic. Or why the dad left. And these questions were never really answered.
All in all, I did like the story, though there were definitely flaws for me. People are saying this is a Paranormal book, but really it’s not. Sure, there’s a zombie, and some magic. But this deals more with loss, and letting go so you can move on. I would definitely recommend giving this book a try.

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder
Publisher: Razorbill
Release date: December 8, 2011
Source: Around the World Tours
Published format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Series: Stand-alone
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine – a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it’s undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingos in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe – in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

A debut novel from an immensely talented new writer, The Probability of Miracles crackles with wit, romance and humor and will leave readers laughing and crying with each turn of the page.

First of all, I loved the writing style. Wendy has an amazing ability to write descriptions perfectly, making them incredibly easy to imagine in my mind. It’s almost like a movie. This is one of those reads where I do notice the writing, because I like it so much. Wendy has a writing style that is her own.
Cam felt real to me. She had her own voice, genuinely cared about her family, went along with what they wanted because she loved them. She was more of a realist than her family was. I loved Asher as well. And while the romance between them was a bit sudden, it also kind of had to be, given the time frame of the novel. I won’t say anything about the ending though, because I don’t want to give away what happens.
This book had me thinking. It used to be I would avoid stories like this, because they always remind me of my mortality. But that is also why I read books like this, and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, or If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Because they help me, little by little, to confront what I’m afraid. I don’t want to die. I really don’t, and sometimes I have panic attacks about it. But reading these kinds of stories I think helps me accept it in bits and pieces.
This is a contemporary debut you don’t want to miss, it had me laughing and crying all the way to the end. I will most definitely be adding this to my collection when it hits shelves.

Review: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton

The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release date: September 27, 2011
Source: I Read Banned Books Tours
Published format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Series: The Faerie Ring #1
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
Debut novelist Kiki Hamilton takes readers from the gritty slums and glittering ballrooms of Victorian London to the beguiling but menacing Otherworld of the Fey in this spellbinding tale of romance, suspense, and danger.

The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.

Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist.

Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty…

The last few months I’ve really been into anything set in a period other than ours, whether it was a movie or a book. So when this showed up in my mailbox from I Read Banned Books tours, I was very pleased. Kiki Hamilton did an awesome job transporting the reader to Victorian London. It definitely had an atmosphere to it.
Tiki is truly one of the strongest main characters I’ve had the pleasure to read about in a very long time. You don’t often find one her age that is as selfless as she is. Everything she does is for her family of orphans. And then enter in Rieker. Given the bad boy image from the get go, there’s definitely more to this sexy leading man than just being a mysterious thief. We also meet two sons of Queen Victoria, one of which is responsible for the loss of the Faerie ring. It was fun reading all the intrigues this characters got themselves into.
The only thing I had an issue with was how long it takes Tiki to realize one of her options considering the ring. As soon as the posters asking for the return of the ring went up, with a reward included, Tiki should’ve realized right away that that was the only logical way to get the money she needed, instead of continually thinking about selling it. I also would’ve liked more information about the faeries and their world, though I assume some of that will be revealed in future sequels.
The flow of the writing and dialogue was nicely down, making this one of those books that was easy to rip through, especially when I wanted to know what would happen next. I’m am definitely eager to read the next in the series. If you like historical fiction with a twist, or love anything to do with faeries, you need to read this book.

Review: Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: October 4, 2011
Source: Publisher for an honest review
Published format: Paperback, 352 pages
Series: Carrier Trilogy #1
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
Their love was meant to be.

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she’s surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRís.

But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.

Now, before I really begin this review, let me just say that I did enjoy this book. Very much. I read this one weekend when I was driving over to Sandpoint, Idaho for a festival my brother’s band was playing in. And while in the car on the two to three hour drive we were also listening to Twilight on CD. Because of this, I recognized some similar plot points between these two books. Not to say that Twilight is the original for it’s kind of book, but it’s the most recognized. So I’m sorry if my comparison to Twilight turns you off this book, but honestly, while it is similiar (overprotective boyfriend, family who warns him initially to stay away from the girl, etc.) it still is its own story.
That is where the comparison ends though, because this is most definitely not a vampire book. It’s even better than vampires. I loved how the romance started out, with looks here and there. Then all of a sudden they were inseparable after only haven spoken a couple of times. That was a bit fast, but works out some later on. And then again doesn’t, not quite. It provides a problem near the end when decisions have to be made, and I was nearly tearing my hair out when they were being utterly selfish. I do though hope to see them find a way around their problem in the next book.
The writing was a dream. Leigh made her setting seem magical, and I had no trouble seeing any of it in my mind. I felt like I was there, and I love that about books. The only thing I had an issue with was the Carriers, Royal bloods, and the explanation of how the powers are passed down, who can or cannot receive them. I was never quite able to wrap my mind around the system for that, which is too bad since the idea is intriguing. I’m hoping it will somehow be better explained or shown in the next book.
Leigh’s debut book was a fun, magical read that definitely leaves you with questions about what comes next, and Adam is a swoon-worthy boy you don’t want miss!

Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: May 31, 2011
Source: Purchased
Published format: Hardcover, 514 pages
Series: Starcrossed #1
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

I was in the bookstore one evening when I snatched up about four books I’d eagerly been waiting for, and this was one of them. I was out shopping with my mom, so while she was still browsing I sat down to wait with one of the books, and chose Starcrossed. I’m not entirely sure why, but the first chapter was just a tad slow for me, but the story quickly picks up in the following chapters.
One thing I absolutely loved about Starcrossed was that though there was insta-attraction, it was quickly followed by hate for a while instead of just being intense love at first sight. Josephine built up the relationship throughout the story. And I loved the way she integrated Greek mythology into the story. Not a direct retelling, but using it in such a way that each generation has a person that is someone from the Illiad reborn. I definitely can’t wait to see how that plays out in the two sequels.
Supporting characts are awesome in this series, if a bit reminiscent of the Twilight family dynamic. I have to say though that as much as I love the Cullens, I loved Lucas’ family even more. Ariadne, Cassandra, Hector and Jason all felt like their own characters, no melding together and seeming the same. I think at one point I even almost wished Jason was the male protagonist instead of Lucas, though overall Lucas is the most swoon-worthy of the brothers. And the writing overall was very good. I was able to be engrossed in the story, and actually drew this out for nearly a week because I didn’t want it to end.
Starcrossed is a lovely debut by Josepehine Angelini that has a little bit of everything, mythology and romance, action and mystery. If you’re a fan of Greek mythology don’t pass up this unique twist on Helen of Troy! The sequel, Dreamless, will be out in 2012!

Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Hereafter by Tara Hudson
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: June 7, 2011
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover, 404 pages
Series: Hereafter #1
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won’t want to miss.

I used to not really be a fan of ghost stories, just because obviously to be a ghost you have to have died, and I seriously am afraid of the concept of death. Then I read The Ghost and the Goth, which kind of turned me on to ghost stories. So I decided to try Hereafter, because it was a title anticipated by many, and many of the early reviews I read liked it. Another thing that drew me to this initially was that it was paranormal without the vampires. I’m sorry, but vampires are so over done.
Hereafter starts off with a bang, with Amelia meeting Joshua at a critical moment. I loved the way the relationship between them develops. Slowly and with wonder, almost like discovering the fact that you can feel something for someone else. Not really insta-love, but insta-connection which develops nicely into love. And the writing is beautiful. I love when I come across writing as good as Tara Hudson’s, because then I feel as though I’m a participant in the story, and not just an observer. It made me want to rip through the book, but also savor it at the same time.
And the story itself also did not disappoint. Watching Amelia develop even more as a ghost, becoming aware of what she can do, was fun. Especially when it came to confronting Eli. And that twist that explains everything that happened leading up to Amelia’s death, WOW. I was not expecting something like that. I’m really looking forward though to seeing how Tara deals with the fact that she’s a ghost and he’s not in following sequels. That’ll be very interesting to see.
This is one of those rare debut novels that doesn’t read like a debut, you would think Tara Hudson had published many other books. Hereafter is a great beginning to what I’m sure will be one of my favorite YA paranormal series for quite a while to come. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who reads YA in general.

Review: Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: June 28, 2011
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Paperback, 324 pages
Series: Spellbound #1
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death?

Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Connor, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

I always like a story with a past life that can somehow be remembered. That’s a good way of being immortal. You still die but you’re reborn. Not quite so lonely that way, since you can die with the people you care about, and start the process all over again. Except with Spellbound, Emma keeps gravitating towards Brendan in each life, and always dies. That kind of sucks.

Brendan is definitely a lovable male lead. He jumps in to help her out on her first day with a lie she’s telling, since she doesn’t want people knowing why she had to move. I also loved that he had green eyes, as green is my favorite color and would definitely be sexy on a guy. I could have done without the all-consuming love almost from the beginning, I almost always prefer a gradual build-up to that. Angelique was an awesome friend for her to make, although I didn’t really see any point in introducing her, and then pulling her away from the story for a while. She was there to help Emma, so why keep her out of half the book with the flu?

The danger that could have cost Emma her life surprised me, since I thought it would be something like what had happened in past lives, like a fire she couldn’t escape or something. I always like it when books can surprise me like this, although in hindsight I can definitely see that the author was pointing towards this outcome all along with certain events that happen throughout.

Spellbound is a light romantic read with plenty of otherworldly elements to keep you entertained throughout the story. There is a confirmed sequel, so I’ll be interested to see what Cara does with these characters, since Spellbound wrapped up Emma and Brendan’s storyline very nicely. I’m definitely hoping that Angelique may be the focus of the next book. I would love to see more of her.

Review: A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
Publisher: Candlewick
Release date: August 9, 2011
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Hardback, 352 pages
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
It should have been a short suspended-animation sleep. But this time Rose wakes up to find her past is long gone— and her future full of peril.

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose— hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire— is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes— or be left without any future at all.

A Long, Long Sleep is a heartbreaking story about abuse and loss, but also of finding yourself and finally fighting for yourself. I couldn’t put this book down, it took my breath away.
I’d read some reviews for this, and the general consensus seemed to be that people didn’t like Rose at the beginning. I liked her from the first page. She only acted the way she had in the beginning because of the way her parents raised her, there wasn’t anything she could do about it at the time. But throughout the book she wakes up to what had been happening and finally breaks free. I admired how strong she turned out to be.
What was hard to read about this book was the idea that you wake up and everyone you knew and loved is gone. Add the flashbacks to that, those glimpses of the people who are no longer alive, and that made it even harder. I was missing these people I couldn’t even have possibly ever known, since they weren’t real. And then the curve ball thrown in near the end, which was semi-predictable, changed things. That part of the storyline actually made me cry.
I know there were many who went into this expecting a good sci-fi story, but that was definitely not the primary genre for the book. It had only enough to help move the story along, and didn’t need more. I was blown away by A Long, Long Sleep and would definitely recommend it to anyone in need of a good story.

Review: Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday

Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday
Publisher: Harper Teen 
Release date: October 11, 2011 
Source: Publisher 
Format: Paperback, 320 pages 
Series: Stand alone as far as I know 
Purchase: Book Depository 

Summary from Goodreads:
Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he’s pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren’t enough, now he’s depending on Hartley to clear his name. Seriously? Not cool. But as much as Hartley wouldn’t mind seeing him squirm, she knows he’s innocent, and she’s the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school’s resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer’s next victim.

I’ve never actually watched Veronica Mars, so the comparisons for these two is not what originally drew me to Deadly Cool. It was the comparison to Pretty Little Liars. I haven’t read those books yet, but I’ve seen the show and loved it, so I was excited when I received this book. The first sitting I read nonstop until I was 99 pages in, and the second sitting I finished the book, that’s how awesome it is.

Hartley. Where to begin with her. I need to start making a list of my favorite female protagonists that feel so real, definitely have their own personality. Hartley is one of those characters you’re going to remember long after you’ve finished the novel. Chase, the main male protagonist is also one to remember. He has that bad boy image of dressing all in black with even black hair, but he’s not actually bad. Sam is Hartley’s best friend, and she was an awesome supporting character. She helps out Hartley however she can during their own investigation of Josh, Hartley’s ex-boyfriend. There was one line in particular she said that had me laughing out loud. The following quote is from page 224 of the advance reading copy and is subject to changes for the finalized version.

“Caw! Caw, Hartley, caw!”
Chase narrowed his eyes again. “Sam?”
I nodded. Then crossed to the window again and called down to Sam. “You can quit squawking. He caught me.”
“He’s not murdering you or anything, is he?”

Sometimes books have blurbs that say laugh out loud funny, and most of time I end up not laughing out loud, though I might find something amusing. There were many times with this book that I did laugh though. Gemma has an awesome sense of humor. She was also excellent at keeping me guessing on what would happen next, and who the killer really was. I was surprised at who it turned out to be, but then again not so surprised just because once it was revealed it made so much sense. I kind of kicked myself for not seeing it before.

Gemma Halliday’s debut novel was definitely a fun read, and one of my favorites for 2011. She has pretty much guaranteed that I’ll be reading anything she publishes, especially if future novels have as much action and humor as this one.

Review: Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Release date: October 18, 2011
Source: Around the World Tours
Format: ARC paperback, 281 pages
Series: Covenant #1
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi-pure-bloods-have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals-well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures. Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1: Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden.Unfortunately, she’s crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn’t her biggest problem–staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

I’m having a streak of awesome reads lately. Half-Blood definitely continues that streak. At first I was afraid it was going to just be another vampire story, but it’s not. It’s more of an alternate history of the Greek gods and their descendants, which is awesome. I love anything to do with the Greek gods.
I so rarely find a main protoganist who stands out. But Alex is right up there with Evie from Paranormalcy, and Riley from The Demon Trapper’s Daugther. Snarky and sarcastic, awesome sense of humor, I couldn’t get enough of her. And incredibly strong, in the face of everything that’s happened to her, not just with her mother’s death. I could only hope I’d be as strong as her in situations like what she’s gone through. Aiden was a good male protagonist, and I loved watching how over the course of one summer grew to really care about each other. And then there’s Seth. And if you’re thinking love triangle, stop. Because it really isn’t. Alex doesn’t hate him, but she definitely dislikes him in the beginning. Near the end, almost by necessity, they almost become friends. I definitely can’t wait to see how this part of the storyline continues in Pure.
I love the mythology of this book. You have the Pures, who of course think they are above everyone, and arent allowed to associate romantically with any Half-Bloods. It does happen though occasionally, and when people are caught the consequences are not pretty. But they mostly dabble with mortals, which is the source for Half-Bloods. And then there’s the Apollyan, who is this badass Half-Blood, who theoretically could wipe the floor with Pures, that’s how powerful he is.
The story was sometimes predictable. One aspect was introduced early on and gives you a pretty big hint of what’s going to be revealed later on, and then of course Alex does make that mistake of going off to do something when you’re screaming at her NO! Go back! But for me, honestly, it didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the overall book. I sometimes like knowing ahead of time what might be.
If you like your Greek mythology with a hint of vampirism thrown in and a kickass main protoganist with her own mind this is definitely the book for you. I’m going to have a hard time waiting until next year for the sequel, so in the meantime I’ll read the short story prequel, Daimon.