Book Review: Escape From Eden by Elisa Nader

Book Review: Escape From Eden by Elisa NaderEscape From Eden by Elisa Nader
Published by Merit Press on August 18, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 271
Format: eBook
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.

But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for ESCAPE FROM EDEN by Elisa Nader. From the second I read the summary for the book, I wanted to read the whole thing. I really liked it, so read on for my review as well as a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by YA Bound Book Tours, and you can check out all the stops here.

My Review:
The summary for ESCAPE FROM EDEN is originally what drew me to the book, and I’m happy to say that the book lives up to that compelling summary. Scratch that — the blurb barely covers the surface. ESCAPE FROM EDEN is a suspenseful, action-filled look into a religious cult. There’s twist after twist, and I was pleasantly surprised by many of those twists.

When a book starts off with poisoned cookies, there’s a lot of ways it can go. I want to keep from spoiling you, so all I’ll say is that the author takes ESCAPE FROM EDEN in some great directions, many of which made my stomach churn or had me saying, “WHAT?” There’s a lot of dark stuff in here, but I’m the type of reader that likes when Very Bad Stuff happens.

I don’t even know where to start talking about ESCAPE FROM EDEN. For me, it was one of those books I didn’t want to put down until I finished, and after I did read the last page, I just sat there for a bit and processed.

Edenton is a cult reminiscent of Jonestown, a religious community in the middle of a jungle. Most of the members have been brainwashed into following the Reverend’s every doctrine. But Mia, ESCAPE FROM EDEN‘s main character, isn’t a docile believer. She’s been in Edenton for six years, and at the beginning of the book, is starting to question spending the rest of her life there. With her quietly rebellious attitude, and desire to escape, it’s easy to root for her. She grows so much over the course of the book, and soon her rebellions grow too, until she’s the hope for the people of Edenton.

Gabriel, a newcomer to Edenton, is an interesting character. Almost as much as Mia. He’s a sort of bad boy, with a past including drugs and partying, and an even darker secret that brought him and his parents to the community. There’s an immediate spark between Gabriel and Mia, but their romance isn’t really the focus (which is my preference). Yeah, there’s some kissing and mutual attraction, but their focus is more on getting out of Edenton. But there IS romance there, for those of you that like it.

It’s hard for me to say what I didn’t like about the book, because to describe anything too deeply would give up a lot of spoilers. One was the ending, which was a bit too sudden after several gritty, difficult (in a good way) chapters. I just wanted … more. I was also left wanting to know more about Edenton and the Reverend. I wanted more details on how he “went bad,” for lack of a better description, and where Thaddeus, his left hand, came from.

Overall, ESCAPE FROM EDEN is a dark and thrilling book, one I am very happy I read. Definitely recommended, especially if you have any sort of interest in “utopian” communities or cults. The author does a good job of exploring the psychology in such places — you’ll be asking yourself why the Flock stays once you find out some of Edenton’s secrets.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
elisa naderHi. I’m Elisa. I like cheese and reading and TV show marathons. Writing is scary, but not as scary as, say, Civil War amputations. I’m an Aquarius. Uh… let’s see… I’m not very good at writing my own biography. Or autobiography. I guess this is reading more like a slightly incoherent personal ad.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest | Goodreads

Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Powell’s | IndieBound

– leeanna

Book Review: Deceived by Julie Anne Lindsey

Book Review: Deceived by Julie Anne LindseyDeceived by Julie Anne Lindsey
Published by Merit Press on September 18, 2013
Genres: Mythology, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
Ever since she could remember, Elle has had to hop from town to town to keep up with her dad's demanding career as a corporate insurance agent. Each time, a reoccurring nightmare followed her wherever she went--until the day that the frightening figures haunting her at night became all too real. When news of a serial killer spreads throughout her new school, Elle worries that the Reaper has been leaving her his calling card in the form of cigarette butts on her doormat and an unusual ribbon in her locker. With the help of Brian, a boy she meets at a flea market, she discovers that this isn't her first encounter with the murderer and that her father has been concealing her true identity for the past twelve years. But despite her father's desperate attempts to protect her, Elle still comes face to face with the darkness she has been running from her whole life. Trapped in the woods and with help hundreds of miles away, will Elle be able to confront the Reaper and reclaim the life she lost?

Hey, ya’ll. Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for DECEIVED by Julie Anne Lindsey. I’ve wanted to read something of hers since finding her blog a long time ago and learning she was a fellow Ohioan! Read on for my review and a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by YA Bound Book Tours and you can check out the rest of the stops here.

My Review:
“One handshake and they were friends for life, to hear Pixie tell it. The world was full of potential friends for her.

Personally, I called them all the opposite until proven otherwise. I’d had my share of treacherous friendships. As a general rule, people weren’t as nice as they should be.” (p. 14)

Elle has that one right! DECEIVED is a book where you’re never quite sure who to trust. A young adult thriller/mystery, the book is a good read.

DECEIVED starts off at the beginning of Elle’s senior year at a boarding school in Ohio. Usually shy, even paranoid, Elle is trying to turn over a new leaf this year, to get away from the nightmare that has haunted her for years. A nightmare she can barely remember, but one that has kept her from getting a good night’s sleep for longer than she can remember. The boarding school is also an opportunity for Elle to stay in one place for a while; she and her father have moved at least once a year since her mother’s death.

But the school year barely kicks off before mysterious things start happening to Elle. Paranoid because of the dream, where she’s always in danger of dying, simple things like finding a pile of cigarette butts outside of her door or hearing a faulty car every morning freak her out. And when Brian, the gorgeous guy she met before school, shows up and enrolls in all of her classes, all bets are off.

Brian is a real hot-cold kind of guy. He virtually ignores Elle at school, but then he does sweet things like cook her dinner and bring her coffee. I was bothered by Elle’s instant attraction to him. It was close to, if not outright, insta-love for me, and that’s never something I like. However, as the book went on, and I learned more of Brian’s secrets, I began rooting for their relationship.

The first half of DECEIVED is pretty slow. The action picks up after the first hundred or so pages, and after that, I read straight on until I finished the book. The beginning is full of developing Elle’s paranoia and fear, as well as the burgeoning relationship between Elle and Brian. Once I reached the end of DECEIVED, some of the odd things in the first half of the book made a lot more sense. No, I’m not going to spoil it, but I will say keep your eyes open as you read, and see what clues you find.

The mystery was my favorite part of DECEIVED. Near the start of the book, we learn about a serial killer, The Reaper, who brutally tortures and kills high school age girls. With almost two dozen victims to his name, he’s been on the run for a long, long time. When she reads about him online, Elle doesn’t think much about it, other than being grateful there’s no way he’d be interested in boring old her. Naturally, their stories tangle together, resulting in the question of who’s deceiving whom, and a great action scene. I can’t say much else than that without ruining the entire book, so go give DECEIVED a chance.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize package #1 (US only)
Signed hardcover of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
$10 iTunes gift card
Black satin makeup bag with: black blinged compact/mirror, blue sheen nail polish & 5 pack Frosted lip gloss & balms

Prize package #2 (US only)
Signed hardcover of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
Silver makeup bag with: silver sparkly compact/mirror, Pixie dust (in honor of my favorite YA roommate) & 4 pack Moshi Monsters flavored lip gloss tin

Prize package #3 (US only)
Signed ARC of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
4 pack Nerds flavored lip gloss tin

Prize package #4 (US only)
Signed ARC of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
Satin Pucker Up makeup bag

Prize package #5 (US only)
Signed ARC of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks

Prize package #6 (INT)
1-eARC PDF of DECEIVED

About the author:
julie anne lindseyJulie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. In 2013, Julie welcomes five new releases in three genres including her newest title, DECEIVED, a YA suspense from Merit Press, and her first cozy mystery, MURDER BY THE SEASIDE, book one in the Patience Price, Counselor at Large series from Carina Press (a digital imprint of Harlequin).

Julie is a self-proclaimed word nerd who would rather read than almost anything else. She started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world. Most days you’ll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book.
Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild.

Find her online:
Tweeting her crazy @JulieALindsey
Soothing her book obsession on GoodReads
Pinning the pretty on Pinterest
Tumbling lamely on Tumblr
Blogging about books and writing at Musings from the Slush Pile
Facebook
DECEIVED’S trailer

Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: Sniper Elite: One-Way Trip by Scott McEwen

sniper eliteInfo:
Title: Sniper Elite: One-Way Trip
Author: Scott McEwen
Release Date:
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Touchstone
Source: Publisher for review
Series? No
Genre: Military Thriller, Adult
Page Count: 386
Rating:

Summary:

rom the coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestselling American Sniper, this “inspired by true events” thriller follows one of America’s most lethal snipers as he leads the rescue of a downed female Special Ops pilot. The President of the United States can’t decide how to respond to a classified video showing the Taliban’s brutal treatment of their captive—a female helicopter pilot of the Army’s elite Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Afraid that a botched rescue will further destabilize foreign policy and end his presidency, the Commander-in-Chief falters. But when the Special Ops community learns that one of their own is being tortured and will almost certainly be killed, no executive order will stop them from attempting a rescue mission.

In direct defiance of the President’s orders, Navy SEAL sniper Gil Shannon launches an audacious mission with the support of elite soldiers and an enigmatic government figure, to infiltrate the tribal faction holding the captured pilot. A pulse-pounding battle ensues, pitching the entire force of the Taliban against the fearless and heroic American sniper. Packed with blistering action and real-life combat scenes, Sniper Elite: One Way Trip will pin you to the edge of your seat until the very last sentence. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
A military thriller, SNIPER ELITE is not normally the type of book I read. But the story within its pages, of Sandra, a female pilot being held hostage and brutally mistreated by the Taliban, captured my attention.

From start to finish, SNIPER ELITE was an action packed book. Fans of military thrillers will surely appreciate the authenticity of it, from the lingo to the macho attitudes of the military men to the weapons used. Some of the descriptions and acronyms flew over my head — I know a little, but I’m not an expert — but I think readers that really get into that sort of thing will enjoy the level of detail in the book. I really felt like the author knew just what he was talking about.

Overall, Sandra herself plays little role in the book. She’s in captivity for most of it, and the scenes where she’s abused were hard to read, although they were integral to the plot and the reader developing sympathy for her.

Gil Shannon is the real hero of SNIPER ELITE, and I found his character quite interesting. A Navy SEAL, he’s one of the best snipers, yet he holds firm to his morals and refuses to complete a mission when he’s not told one of the targets is pregnant. Gil is one of the Special Forces men who eventually take on the impossibility of rescuing Sandra, disobeying the orders of his superiors and government. I found his drive to rescue Sandra, to do whatever it took, despite the consequences — even if they included his death — fascinating and inspiring.

There’s a tangle of politics in SNIPER ELITE, as the president and various agencies debate the positives and negatives of rescuing Sandra or simply paying the ransom the Taliban demands. It also makes you think about what happens when a president doesn’t really know the ins and outs of the military, but has to rely on advisors for advice. Advisors who have their own agendas. But like the book jacket says, once the special ops community realizes the government isn’t making enough of a move to rescue Sandra, they take the matter into their own hands.

As I said, the action almost never stops in SNIPER ELITE. I was sitting on the edge of my seat once the fighting started, and I could actually picture what was happening as it was described. I was rooting for everyone to make it out alive. This is one book that will grab you, and not let you go until you’ve finished it. I do have to make special note of the epilogue, because as hard as Sandra’s treatment was to read, and as exciting and heart-pounding as the rescue attempts were, the epilogue was chilling. There’s another story to be told, I think, and I hope the author will turn his expertise in writing this sort of book to telling it.

I found the book to be insightful and good in one other way — it prompted a discussion between myself and my father. He was in the Army Reserves for almost two decades, and I wanted his opinion on how realistic it would be for the special ops forces to do something like they did in SNIPER ELITE — buck rules and bureaucracy to rescue a comrade.

I recommend SNIPER ELITE if you’re a fan of the genre, looking to get into military thrillers, or just looking for a book full of action.

Let’s talk about it:
Do you often read books outside of your preferred genres?

– leeanna

Book Review: Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

don't turn aroundInfo:
Title: Don’t Turn Around
Author: Michelle Gagnon
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? PERSEF0NE #1
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Page Count: 320
Rating: [3/5 stars]

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her hacking skills to stay anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in a warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.

Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa’s talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation threatens his life in no uncertain terms. But what Noa and Peter don’t realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who’d stop at nothing to silence her for good. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
DON’T TURN AROUND is a difficult book to describe, let alone review without giving away too many spoilers. It’s an action-packed thriller, with barely a minute to breathe as you’re reading. The title is apt, because everytime Noa turns around, there is someone there trying to recapture or kill her.

The book starts off with one heck of a hook: Noa waking up in a mysterious glass cube inside a warehouse. There’s a scar on her chest, as if she’s just had surgery. Her survival instincts kick in, and Noa flees, escaping what seems like an army of bad guys. An orphan used to fending for herself, Noa is also a gifted hacker, and she puts those skills to use in trying to figure out just what the hell happened to her.

Enter Peter. When Noa needs quick cash to survive for a few days until she can get access to her bank accounts, he hires her to do research into a mysterious company that broke into his house to steal his laptop. Peter is the creator of /ALLIANCE/, a do-good hacking group named after the Alliance from World of Warcraft.

Noa and Peter eventually end up working together, for the organization that kidnapped Noa is the same one that broke into Peter’s house. The action in DON’T TURN AROUND is non-stop, but even though Noa and Peter got into some bad situations, I never truly felt like they were in danger. The author also tried to interject some romance between the two, but I wished she had just left them as wary acquaintances, because the romance fell flat for me. Fortunately there isn’t a lot of it.

Noa is a difficult character to get a grasp on at first. She’s independent, secretive, and doesn’t talk about herself. All for a good reason, and she does grow throughout the book, learning that she can’t rely on just herself. I did like that she wasn’t a character who went to emotional bits every time something bad happened, but stayed calm and thought through a situation or conflict. Peter was the softer one, more in touch with his emotions and indulging in a freak out or two. A guy used to every girl liking him, Noa keeps him on his toes.

I appreciate the touches of geekiness throughout DON’T TURN AROUND, only fitting as both Noa and Peter are hackers. However, as a geek, a few things stood out to me as false or not quite right. But I don’t think the average, non-gamer, non-geek will pick up on them.

Ultimately, though there’s a lot of action, not a lot happens in DON’T TURN AROUND. It’s mostly set-up. There are a lot of loose ends, but that’s because it’s the first in a trilogy. While I didn’t love the book, I did like it quite a bit, and I will be picking up the next book, DON’T LOOK NOW, set to come out August 2013. I want to get answers to all my questions, and find out what happens next to Noa, Peter, and the evil organization they’re fighting against.

Socialize with the author:
Michelle Gagnon:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Eternal Revelations by Candis Vargo

eternalrevelations-banner

Today I am the stop on the blog tour for ETERNAL REVELATIONS by Candis Vargo. The tour is hosted by Reading Addiction Blog Tours and you can check out the rest of the stops here. Check below for a guest post from the author.

eternal revelationsInfo:
Title: Eternal Revelations
Author: Candis Vargo
Release Date: August 12, 2012
Publisher: Self-Published
Source: Author for blog tour
Series? Eternal Series #1
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Thriller
Page Count: 282

Summary:

As Hell reins terror on the earth, can one child bring back humanity and defeat the Devil himself? After millions of people vanish and the dead rise to spread plague over the Earth, 23 year-old Evelyn and her brother join with a small group as they fight for survival. As the plague spreads and the number of the Reanimated rise in humans and animals alike, there isn’t anything man made that is strong enough to hold them off. When Evelyn and her group find one of the only children left on Earth—an Autistic child—the Devil begins lurking in the darkness, following their every move. The remaining children are the only chance the human race has at defying the plans the Anti-Christ holds. Of all the horrors the Earth now holds, none are comparable to how treacherous the living become once their humanity is thrown out the window. Evelyn realizes survival isn’t just fighting for your life but fighting for your humanity in a world of terror. Join the journey fight for survival against the undead and beasts released straight from the pits of Hell. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
ETERNAL REVELATIONS is a cross between a zombie novel and a post-apocalyptic novel. In a twist on the Rapture, those left behind on Earth have to deal with Reanimated — also known as zombies. ETERNAL REVELATIONS follows Ev and Jase, sister and brother, on a journey to safety. Along the way, they pick up others, including a team from the government.

The book is very fast paced, zipping along from event to event. It’s also very dark, fitting in with the subject matter. Ev is a kick-ass heroine, the best part of the book. I like how prepared she was, even before the apocalypse, and how she told the guys to shut up and what to do.

I do think the book needed stronger editing. The story is super creative, and reminded me of a video game, but some grammar/writing issues kept me from fully enjoying it.


Guest Post:
Why book covers are so important by Candis Vargo
Why are book covers so important?

Book covers are the first thing that tell you about that book. They’re the whole reason you picked up the book in the first place, right? Lets say you see a book on a shelf that pops out at you, the image on the cover is so vibrant that it draws you right in screaming, “Hey! Look at me!” Now, you pick up that book and admire that image for a whole five seconds before you flip the book over to read what it’s about. You’d expect it to have something…anything to do with what you saw on the cover. But it’s about the lovely kinds of toothpaste.

Bummer.

There aren’t any teeth on the cover. No toothpaste. Not so much as a sink. Unless the next book you were looking for was one on toothpaste, you’d get upset.

Look at it the other way. Say there’s an amazing book out there that’s the one story you’ve been waiting to read. The one story with that story line you’ve been looking for, that’s been keeping you buying several books at a time hoping each one was that ‘perfect’ story for you. But that amazing book has a cover just like every other out there. It’s the same thing you’ve seen several times. It’s the book with the kind of covers you used to pick up because you hoped it would deliver that breath taking story to you but never did. Would you pick that book up?

If you’re like me, probably not.

The book cover should give you some type of perspective into what the book is about, and it should deliver. I sure as heck wouldn’t put a picture of a fluffy kitten on one of my Apocalypse novels. It’s the first thing readers see and it’s something that has to grab them. I don’t know how many books I skip over in a book store just to walk to that one that popped out at me the moment I walked into the store. If the cover is one that doesn’t tell you anything about what’s in the pages beneath it, it should at least be that book that stands out and lures you in like you’re under its spell. Even with e-books. I, for one, am guilty of just scrolling and scrolling until I see one that looks like something I would be interested in. And in the day and age of the Internet and e-books, a cover that appeals to the audience you’re trying to reach is a must.

I know they say don’t judge a book by the cover but that saying was created when book covers were all the same…a black cover with some writing on it. This day and age, a good book cover can make or break you.


Socialize with the author:
Candis Vargo:
Website
Facebook

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon (and giveaway!)

Today I am one of the stops on the blog tour for STRANGELETS by Michelle Gagnon. The tour is hosted by Shane @ Itching for Books and you can check out the rest of the stops here.

strangeletsInfo:
Title: Strangelets
Author: Michelle Gagnon
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: Soho Teen
Source: Publisher for review/blog tour
Series? No
Genre: YA, Thriller, Mystery, Supernatural
Page Count: 272
Rating: [3/5 stars]

Summary:

17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer…
17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland…
17-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt…

All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awaken together in an abandoned hospital—only to discover that they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving.

Soon they discover that they’ve been trapped in a future that isn’t of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Each teen harbors a secret, but only one holds the key that could get them home. As the truth comes to light through the eyes of Sophie, Declan, and Anat, the reader is taken on a dark and unforgettable journey into the hearts of teens who must decide what to do with a second chance at life. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
STRANGELETS is one of those books that’s incredibly hard to describe or summarize. If I say too much about the story, it will spoil the whole thing for you, and this is one I don’t want to spoil. I think it’s best if you go in without any knowledge of what will happen.

Sophie, Declan, and Anat, three teens on the edge of death, get sucked into mysterious vortexes. They wake up trapped in a hospital-like building, with three other teens, Nico, Zain, and Yosh. All of the teens have different cultural backgrounds: Irish, Japanese, American, etc. Sophie describes them: “They were a random group of kids, that was for sure. Kind of like a post- apocalyptic model UN (p. 67, ARC).” It’s an eclectic bunch, with Declan probably being my favorite. I liked his sarcasm and wise-cracking in the face of danger.

STRANGELETS is told from the viewpoints of Sophie, Declan, and Anat. I would have liked to read it from the viewpoints of all six, but it became clear later why Nico, Zain, and Yosh didn’t get to share in the narrating spotlight.

As I said, the plot of STRANGELETS is hard to describe without spoiling, so I’m not going to try. What I will say is that it’s a crazy ride, and I read most of the book in one sitting so I could find out how everything would come together. I did have a couple of “Really, guys?” moments when the characters ignored obvious clues staring them in the face, but for the most part, I was swept up in the story.

Aside from the action and suspense, there’s a romance in this book. Usually I don’t like insta-love, but I actually didn’t mind it in this case. I liked that Sophie, who thought she would never have a relationship with a guy, or even kiss one, because she was dying of lymphoma, took a chance and went for it with Declan.

What let me down with STRANGELETS was the ending. After putting her characters through some truly horrible experiences and lots of twists and turns, the author rushed from the climax to the ending in a couple of pages. I thought the ending was too happy, too upbeat, and it took the book down a notch for me. I would have liked to see the climax have more of an impact on the characters’ lives.

Overall, I did enjoy STRANGELETS, and reading the book made me curious about Michelle Gagnon’s other YA novel, DON’T TURN AROUND. I’d recommend it if you like thrillers and suspense.

Favorite Quote:

“Honestly, I haven’t a clue,” Declan said. “But when we leave tomorrow, I’d like to be holding something more lethal than a can of beans (p. 81, ARC).”

Gviveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway is not hosted by me.

Socialize with the author:
Michelle Gagnon:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Rogue Oracle (Delphic Oracle #2) by Alayna Williams

Today I have two posts for you as part of the blog tour for the Delphic Oracle Series. by Alayna Williams. This is the second, a review of ROGUE ORACLE and a guest post by the author. The first post, a review of DARK ORACLE, is here. This tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours. You can check out the rest of the stops here.

rogue oracleInfo:
Title: Rogue Oracle
Author: Alayna Williams
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Publisher: Pocket Books
Source: Blog Tour
Series? Delphic Oracle #2
Series Reviews:
Delphic Oracle #1: Dark Oracle
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Thriller, Mystery
Page Count: 360
Rating: [3/5 stars]

Summary:

THE MORE YOU KNOW ABOUT THE FUTURE, THE MORE THERE MAY BE TO FEAR.

Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around—and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn’t need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.

Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards—and Tara’s increasingly ominous dreams—suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationship with the mysterious order known as Delphi’s Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen. . . (summary from goodreads)

My Review:

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK ONE, DARK ORACLE.

ROGUE ORACLE is the second book in the Delphic Oracle Series by Alayna Williams. It picks up a couple of months after the conclusion of DARK ORACLE. Mostly healed from the emotional wounds she suffered before the first book, Tara has returned to work as a profiler. She and Harry haven’t made much progress on their burgeoning relationship, and Tara’s main priority these days is protecting Cassie from the Pythia.

Tara is plunged right back into working for the government when Harry asks for help with a case. Tara’s not thrilled about being part of “The Little Shop of Horrors” again, but she is happy that she can try to do something for Harry. The case itself is intriguing — several ex Cold War intelligence operatives have gone missing. Their knowledge of uranium stockpiles is being sold, and there’s enough to lead to another Chernobyl.

There’s an interesting fusion of science and urban fantasy in ROGUE ORACLE. After reading it, I feel like I learned a lot about Chernobyl, and I liked that the author didn’t rely just on magic to flesh out her story. The bad guy in ROGUE ORACLE is a result of that blend of science and urban fantasy, and elements from both are used to catch him.

ROGUE ORACLE smooths out some of the rough spots I had with DARK ORACLE. The writing has matured. There’s not as many extraneous descriptions, and there’s less of a focus on the tarot card readings. As Tara relies on tarot cards to interpret events, they are a vital part. However, in the first book of the series, I felt like there was a lot of space devoted to describing each card and its significance. There isn’t as much of that in ROGUE ORACLE, yet the tarot cards remain just as important.

There are some scenes from Cassie’s viewpoint, which I really enjoyed. The scenes with Cassie and the Pythia expose more of the secret world of Delphi’s Daughters, and it’s a world I’d like to see even more of. There’s a moment near the end where I went, “Ohhh. That would be a big burden to handle.” Having characters that can see the future lets the reader consider if that future is set in stone, or if it can be changed. And if it can, should it be changed.

Yet again, there are some great characters in ROGUE ORACLE. My favorites this book were the Steves, a pair of federal marshals. They are quite the colorful duo, nicknamed the Kahuna and the Cowboy by Tara. They provide some comic relief, but they also shine in serious moments, and they help Cassie recover from a traumatic experience.

The main story of ROGUE ORACLE is tied up neatly at the end of the book. Currently, there isn’t a third book in the series, but I would like to read another.


Guest Post:
Writing Destiny and Free Will
By Alayna Williams

There’s something odd about writing about free will and destiny. When I’m building a story, I’m conscious that my characters really shouldn’t have much free will. After all, I’m the gal behind the curtain, directing a story and pulling the strings of my characters. They do what I want them to do…most of the time.

Sometimes, they surprise me. I think I know where I want to take them, and they rebel. They deliberately ignore the destiny I’ve scribbled down for them in my outline and decide to go on a road trip without me. Sometimes those scenes work, and sometimes they don’t. Trying to keep my characters harnessed to complete their mission is somewhat like herding cats. If I can get them from point A in chapter one to point Z in the final chapter, I feel like I’ve got things under control.

Weird things happen when I’m writing about characters who are grappling with destiny and free will in the plot line. It’s as if my internal processes become part of the external product. I have the sense that my characters are critters on an ant farm who have just become aware of a human tapping on the glass, and they’re not happy about being trapped and manipulated.

Tara Sheridan is the heroine of my ORACLE books. She’s a criminal profiler who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes, and also a former member of a secret society of mystics, Delphi’s Daughters. Delphi’s Daughters work behind the scenes to nudge world events, for good or ill, and Tara wants out of the game. When she’s teamed with her skeptical partner, federal agent Harry Li, Tara is forced to figure out where destiny ends in her world and free will begins.

It was an exciting concept to play with. Do Tara’s cards tell of possibilities, or a fixed destiny that can’t be changed? Is free will an illusion, and Tara and Harry are simply pawns in a larger pattern? Can they break free and restore order to their world?

These are questions my characters ask each other. Some of the answers are not what they want to hear. But they are questions the characters have muttered to me as I’m shoving them along their adventures with pen and paper…and it was a lot of fun to show the readers that process.

Socialize with the author:
Alayna Williams:
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– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Dark Oracle (Delphic Oracle #1) by Alayna Williams

Today I have two posts for you as part of the blog tour for the Delphic Oracle Series. by Alayna Williams. This, the first, is a review of DARK ORACLE. The second will be a review of ROGUE ORACLE and a guest post by the author. This tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours. You can check out the rest of the stops here.

dark oracleInfo:
Title: Dark Oracle
Author: Alayna Williams
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Publisher: Pocket Books
Source: Blog tour
Series? Delphic Oracle #1
Series Reviews:
Delphic Oracle #2: Rogue Oracle
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Thriller, Mystery
Page Count: 336
Rating: [3/5 stars]

Summary:

TARA SHERIDAN HAS A GIFT . . . AND IT ALMOST KILLED HER.

As a criminal profiler, Tara used science and her intuitive skill at Tarot card divination to track down the dangerous and depraved, including the serial killer who left her scarred from head to toe. Since that savage attack, Tara has been a recluse. But now an ancient secret society known as Delphi’s Daughters has asked for her help in locating missing scientist Lowell Magnusson. And Tara, armed with her Tarot deck, her .38, and a stack of misgivings, agrees to try.

Tara immediately senses there is far more at stake than one man’s life. At his government lab in the New Mexico desert, Magnusson had developed groundbreaking technology with terrifying potential. Working alongside the brusque but charismatic agent Harry Li, Tara discovers that Magnusson’s daughter, Cassie, has knowledge that makes her a target too. The more Tara sees into the future, the more there is to fear. She knows she has to protect Cassie. But there may be no way to protect herself—from the enemies circling around her, or from the long-buried powers stirring to life within. . . . (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
DARK ORACLE is the start to an intriguing urban fantasy series. Instead of the usual vampires, werewolves, or fae, author Alayna Williams brings in a new inspiration: the oracles of Delphi. In modern day, they are known as Delphi’s Daughters and led by the Pythia. They’re a secret society of women who can read the future, but they’re not all powerful. They’re soccer moms and bikers.

Tara is the only woman to leave Delphi’s Daughters. Skilled in the art of cartomancy (using tarot cards to read the future), she used to work for the government as a profiler. After she got chewed up and spit out by a bad case, she left the Feds and the Daughters behind, wanting solitude and to live her own life. But when a scientist working on a deadly project disappears, Tara gets dragged back into the worlds she left.

Clues to Tara’s past are sprinkled throughout the book, and build her character. She’s not the usual up-in-your-face, brash, kick-butt type of urban fantasy heroine. Tara is cautious. Well, more cautious than most, but she does charge headfirst into some situations. I liked Tara’s cautiousness and hesitance to get involved. The clues of her past hint at something dark and horrible, so I found it believable that it took her time to get over that. She goes from almost having a claustrophobia-induced panic attack at a crime scene to charging into danger to save her man.

DARK ORACLE doesn’t read like your typical urban fantasy. It has more of a mystery or detective story feel. The everyday crime story combined with some hints of magic. I liked that the paranormal world in this series isn’t always upfront. You know it’s there, and that the oracles have some influence over the events of the world, but there’s still the possibility that choice and free will can change the forecasted future. There’s also quite a bit of focus on science, which isn’t usually something you find in urban fantasy.

The writing in DARK ORACLE does get bogged down at times by the extensive descriptions of tarot reading. I both liked and disliked the use of tarot cards. I thought it was a neat way to foreshadow, but I could have done without the extended descriptions of each card and its significance. I’ll admit, I ended up skimming some of those passages. But if tarot reading is something you have an interest in, you’ll probably find those parts more interesting than I did.

Aside from Tara, the rest of the characters are pretty well done. The author makes an effort to give even the animals personality. Maggie the dog and Oscar the cat were actually some of my favorite characters, along with Cassie, the daughter of the missing scientist. The one rub for me was Harry, Tara’s love interest. I would have liked to see more development of their relationship.

The main story of this novel concludes at the end of DARK ORACLE, which is nice. No frustrating cliffhanger, but there is room for more, and I’ll be reading the sequel, ROGUE ORACLE, to see what happens to Tara, Harry, and Cassie. And the animals!

Socialize with the author:
Alayna Williams:
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– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: The Murmurings by Carly Anne West

Today I am one of the stops for Carly Anne West’s new book, THE MURMURINGS, hosted by Shane @ Itching for Books. Check out the other stops here. Also, check below my review for a dream cast and giveaway!

the murmuringsInfo:
Title: The Murmurings
Author: Carly Anne West
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Publisher for blog tour
Series? No
Genre: YA, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Page Count: 384
Rating:

Summary:

Everyone thinks Sophie’s sister, Nell, went crazy. After all, she heard strange voices that drove her to commit suicide. But Sophie doesn’t believe that Nell would take her own life, and she’s convinced that Nell’s doctor knows more than he’s letting on.

As Sophie starts to piece together Nell’s last days, every lead ends in a web of lies. And the deeper Sophie digs, the more danger she’s in—because now she’s hearing the same haunting whispers. Sophie’s starting to think she’s going crazy too. Or worse, that maybe she’s not…. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
I don’t usually read horror — I don’t like being scared! — but the summary for THE MURMURINGS caught my attention. Immediately I wanted to know why Nell committed suicide, what the voices said, and why Sophie was hearing them too. I also think the cover’s intense, with the girl staring right into my eyes.

The book starts out creepy, with Sophie seeing something in the mirror. I think everyone’s seen things, then really looked and nothing’s there, so it’s an easy way for the reader to relate to what’s happening to Sophie. THE MURMURINGS is also sad, a look into a family broken by grief. I really felt for Sophie, trying to cope with Nell’s death without the help of her mother.

Nell’s death has also made Sophie an outcast at school, and I liked that she wasn’t the popular girl. I did have a bit of trouble believing the relationship that sprang up between Sophie and Evan, but Evan is one of the few male characters I’ve liked lately. He’s awkward, and unsure of himself in an endearing sort of way. Refreshingly, he’s not one of the bad boys that are so trendy in YA. Ethan reads like a real guy.

The basic story of THE MURMURINGS, without giving too much away, is that Sophie is trying to find out why Nell died, and why she heard voices. The scariness for me wasn’t actually in the voices or the things in mirrors, but in the mental institution. Now, Oakside put the eep in creepy. Dr. Keller and the rest of the staff made my skin crawl.

Spread throughout the book are passages from Nell’s diary and blog posts from Adam, an orderly at the institution. Adam’s blog posts were some of my favorite parts. They were of the “crazy dude in a tinfoil hat” variety, and I didn’t know if I could trust him or not, which added to the twists in the book. But in the end, THE MURMURINGS wasn’t as full of horror as the summary implied. It’s hard to explain why without spoiling too much, but I felt like there was a lot of focus on a supernatural element that wasn’t very scary.

I’d recommend THE MURMURINGS to other readers like me, who may not like horror stories. It would be a good way to get into the genre.

Socialize with the author:
Carly Anne West:
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Dream Cast!

Sophie played by Sophie Turner. I wasn’t sure who to pick for Sophie, but when I went looking for faces, I stumbled over this picture. The hair is a bit light, but I like the combination of vulnerability and “leave me alone” on her face. Plus, the actress’s name is Sophie, so it’s like it was meant to be.


Evan played by Michael Trevino. Again, I wasn’t sure who to pick, but I found this picture and I knew it was Evan. He’s got a perfect geeky, sort of awkward expression.


Dr. Keller by Cillian Murphy. I knew immediately who I wanted to pick for Dr. Keller. Cillian Murphy does a good “I’m creepy, but you can trust me” expression.


Adam played by Colin O’Donoghue. This is inspiration from my recent infatuation with Once Upon a Time.

Giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway is not hosted by me. I am not responsible for prizes.

– leeanna

Book Review: Mind Games by Kiersten White

mind gamesInfo:
Title: Mind Games
Author: Kiersten White
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? Mind Games #1
Genre: YA, Thriller, Fantasy, Mystery
Page Count: 256
Rating:

Summary:

Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
I wish I did gif reviews, because I’m having a hard time describing the experience of reading Mind Games, and how I feel about it. I think it’s a book most people are either going to love or hate. Me, I loved it.

Here was my reaction the minute I finished reading (copied from my Twitter): I just finished MIND GAMES. I have to say … WOW. In the best, craziest way possible. I’m feeling all the things!

Mind Games is exactly that — one gigantic mind game. I’d also call it a mind frack, or perhaps a mind puzzle. The characters play mental gymnastics with each other, and the reader gets to figure out how everything fits together, or doesn’t.

It’s told from the alternating viewpoints of two sisters, Fia and Annie. The sisters have distinctive voices, so it’s easy to tell them apart, as well see the story unfolding from both sides. Fia’s narration got a little annoying at times, but I understand what the author was trying to do. Because many of the women at the school Fia and Annie attend can read minds, one of the tricks Fia uses to keep them out is repeating the same words over and over again. For the most part, the author was successful with using repetition, but it still got on my nerves every so often.

The story isn’t told in chronological order either, but it’s easy to keep track of what’s going on, and when it’s happening. I rarely had to flip back to the beginning of a chapter to see if I was in the present or the past.

Mind Games is fast, short, and action-packed. There’s not a word (even repeated words) wasted. Lately I’ve been complaining about books that are stretched out and need editing, but that’s not the case here. Quite the opposite. I wanted to find out more about Fia and Annie, about the school for “gifted” students (I’m a sucker for a boarding school setting), and more about the mysterious Keane and what his motives were.

The reason I’m giving Mind Games 4 stars instead of 5 is because the ending let me down. All the action and build-up had me expecting more … oomph. However, the ending wasn’t enough to take away from my overall enjoyment of Mind Games, and I can’t wait for book two.

Socialize with the author:
Kiersten White:
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– leeanna