Monday, October 20, 2014

Reviews from the Vault: Pretty Dark Nothing by Heather L. Reid

Source: Netgalley (e-ARC)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars :star :star :star


It’s been twenty three days since Quinn has slept for more than minutes at a time. Demons have invaded her dreams, stalking her, and whispering of her death. The lack of sleep and crippling fear are ruining her life. Energy drinks and caffeine pills don’t make a dent. When Quinn dozes off in the school hallway, Aaron, an amnesiac with a psychic ability, accidentally enters her nightmare. The demons are determined to keep them apart, and Aaron from discovering the secret locked away in his memory. Together, they could banish the darkness back to the underworld for good. That is, unless the demons kill them first.
Thank you Month9Books for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

A copy of this was sitting on my ereader for months. By the time I finally got to it, all I remembered was it was about a girl who had crazy nightmares...and something with ghosts. Well, I don't know why I thought ghosts were involved. They're not. But the premise is a girl who is plagued by crazy creepy nightmares. When I say creepy, I mean creepy.

Immediately you're taken into horror-movie scary proportions as you find out about Quinn, high school cheerleader. She's definitely not normal; she's got some major issues. Not just daddy issues either. She does all sorts of things to keep herself awake for days and days. Caffeine pills, redbull, loud music, pinching. Are her dreams that bad. Why yes, they are. I was so bloody scared it was awesome. I love being scared while reading.

I was fascinated with the story, from the beginning. I did feel sort of detached from Quinn at times though. That was my biggest problem. I felt like because it jumped into the horror aspect so fast, it missed the initial bonding/softening up that usually occurs between myself and a MC. I did feel bad for her thorough out the book, that was consistent.

In steps Aaron. I really liked Aaron. He had a painful past, but he was strong. He kept going after Quinn and tried to help her time after time. Even when her behavior was so awful I felt like pushing her down the stairs. It's kind of explained in the end, but I was disappointed that they never really had a completely honest two way conversation in the entire book. It was frustrating, and  the way it ends make me feel like I should dash my hopes / not read the sequel.

I was bummed at the end. I don't really understand what happened. Even after rereading the end. I still am pretty confused. Also, a little bitter. The ending left me bitter and confused *sigh* but I read the whole book in one anxious sitting, and that says to me that I was riveted. Sure there were things I didn't like, but there were enough things I did like to make me eagerly read on. I'll probably read the sequel, too. Not positive that I will, I'm still so upset about that ending part (if you read it, you know!) but in fiction, anything can happen... 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Stormbringers (Order of Darkness #2) by Philippa Gregory

Stormbringers by Philippa Gregory
Source: Hardcover from My Collection
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars :star :star :star
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: June 4th, 2013
Italy, 1453. Luca and Isolde grow more and more attracted to each other as they continue their journey to unravel the mysteries throughout Christendom. But their travels are delayed by the uprising of an intense religious crusade that threatens the balance of the civilized world. Death lingers in the air as war ravages on, but this religious conflict is nothing compared to the arrival of an intense and deadly storm.

Caught in the midst of unimaginable chaos, Luca and Isolde must rely on one another in order to survive.

I am a fan of historical fiction, but it’s something that I feel I always forget about. I am also a big fan of paranormal and fantasy and theyre like the older and louder siblings in the genre family of my tastes. ;) 

So while in the past I have read a few of Philippa Gregory’s books, and really enjoyed them I might add, I don’t always get to delve deeper. When I saw she was writing a YA series of historical fiction with bits of magic in them, I leaped. I mean, I love that combination of genres! The first book in the Order of Darkness series, Changeling, was one I read last year. I’ve had the sequel and the third book sitting on my TBR for many months, and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. 

Stormbringers was definitely more interesting than its predecessor, Changeling. I think I gave Changeling 2-3 stars, not because it wasn’t good (it was) but because it had a bit of a “meh” factor going on. I knew the series had a lot of potential though, and sometimes first books have a hard time because they have so much to develop. I’m glad I went with my gut because it definitely paid off. Stormbringers was much better than Changeling, and had a lot more of everything I love. There was more action, more historical elements, more romantic tension, and definitely tons of character development.

Frieze was not really one of my favorite characters in the first book. In this book, we really learn more about him and I am surprised to say I completely changed my opinion on him. He’s hilarious and made me LOL several times. He’s also sweet and his way of animals is super endearing. There’s something about a man with a fondness for kittens that has me weak in the knees…*sigh*

Luca also developed a lot in this novel. We see more of his past, what happened to his parents, and ultimately what led him to live in a monastery and take up in the Order in the first place. Luca is definitely split between his duties. He really likes Isoldeand doesn’t really know why he’s pledged to become a monk. Like any young man, he’s got NEEDZ, YO. :k I found the sexual frustration hilarious and at the same time pretty realistic. 


Isolde reminded me of S1E1 BUFFY, the girl who was a slayer inside, she just didn't know it yet.

Ishraq was always more fascinating to me than Isolde. She’s well read, versed in many languages, she’s from the Middle East but is stuck around all these Christians who call her a Pagan or heretic and she still holds her head high. Not to mention, she’s got all the men respecting her including Father Peter which is no small feat. Her upbringing is unique, and I believe historically accurate which I found fascinating. 

My mother was a woman from Acre, where Jesus is honored as a prophet but they’re certain he is not a God. ..[They] called it Conviviencia—living alongside each other in harmony, whatever their beliefs. For the enemy is not another person who believes in a god. The enemy is ignorance, and people who believe in nothing and care for nothing. You should know that by now, Brother Peter. Page 89


Gregory spun a wonderful tale full of mystery and suspense. I have to say, it’s not often I see historical fiction that takes place in 1453. It’s a fascinating time period. I feel like Gregory did an impeccable job making it feel like it was 1453 but that things were basically the same as far as young love, fear, and religions clashing while prejudices reign. 

There were some things I didn’t really care for in the novel. The main thing was how long it took me to finish it. I’m not sure this is the novels fault, but it did seem to lag a bit in the beginning. Before the plot really started unfolding , it was hard for me to keep picking it up. Also I have to mention that I’m super busy working and studying nonstop and haven’t had much time for reading, this may be the reason it took me so long to finish. I’m not sure, but I do know that if it was a true five star read I would have foregone sleep, which I didn’t do here. Besides the pacing and the lagging in the beginning and the first part of the middle, I don’t’ have many other complaints. Isolde was annoying at times, in the way she prescribes to all the ideals that men have set upon women and how she let her jealousy goad her into a fight with Ishraq was disappointing. Nonetheless it was wonderful seeing a strong female sisterly bond throughout the novel.

I definitely recommend this book to people who like historical fiction with bits of magic tucked in. It’s a book that will keep you on your guard, and when you feel like you have it figured out you find out you know nothing. The ending was the best part, and I absolutely cannot wait to read the next book and discover more about the Order of Darkness that Luca is now partially sworn to

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

The Fall by Bethany Griffin
Source: eARC via Edelweiss | Greenwillow
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star 1/2
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Published: October 7th, 2014

Madeline Usher is doomed.

Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own.
  Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother.   In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18241263-the-fall

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Fall is a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's Fall of the House of Usher.
When I saw Bethany Griffin had a new release, I was intrigued. Then I saw it was another Poe retelling, based on the famous Fall of the House of Usher and I was shrieking and jumping up and down in my seat. :e I was overexcited to read this novel..because I just know Griffin can do a mean Poe retelling in YA format. She doesn’t try to lighten up Poe’s dark and moody work. She makes it work, and boy if she didn’t succeed once again in meeting my expectations.

Since I am obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe, I have read all his works. The Fall of the House of Usher is a very good short story. I have long since wanted to read a full novel exploring it from Madeline’s perspective. When I think of the story though, I don’t think of only the text. I also think of the movie starring Vincent Price made in the 1964. I grew up watching all of his movies and his Poe movies were my favorite. The Tomb of Ligeia, Fall of the House of Usher, and The Raven were my favorites. So as I started reading The Fall, I imagined the characters as they appeared in the Vincent Price movie, only a bit younger. I imagined the house as it was in the movie, and all the creepy portraits and coffins/vault and cobwebs quickly filled my imagination.

Thus, as I attempt to review this book I find I cannot review it without sharing some of the images that came to mind while reading Griffin’s gorgeous retelling.  

As in the original, the house is the main attraction. It's a living, sentient being who has manipulated controlled, and protected the Usher line for centuries.

Creepy, huh? The book certainly paints it as such. From the beginning its evident the house has something beyond most haunted houses. Even the Usher family seems to be haunted. Although these are both things one would know having read the original, you don't need to have read the original prior to reading this to understand it. Although I would highly suggest you read the original story before or after you read this, or even if you don't read it. ;)

"'Roderick, it's only a storm,' I whisper. His eyes accuse me of lying. This is not just a house. We have never simply been children. We are Ushers." -Loc 230 

It starts in the vault, with Madeline in a coffin.

One thing about this book is that it jumps through time. In the beginning we see Madline in a coffin, buried alive by her brother Roderick (unknowingly). This is in the first chapter, and the blurb so I don't think it counts as a spoiler ;) 

We right away discover Madeline has been buried alive

But before we can even find out why or HOW this crazy scary horrific thing comes to pass, we are taken back to when Madeline is a young girl. The chapters are labeled with the age Madeline is, thus taking us through the story of how she came to be in the vault stuck in a coffin, buried alive. Although for the most part this way of narration worked, sometimes it got a bit choppy. Note the 4.5 out of 5 stars, this half star that I took off was only due to the choppiness of some of the chapters in the timeline. She goes from 9 to 17, back to 9 then to 16, it varies. For the most part I could keep up. It was an effective way overall, because it kind of was fun to fill in the blanks as you read along and try to piece together the mystery. 

Isabel. Madeleine's new friend, but can she be trusted? 
After all, did she really come all this way just to be a governess!
Other characters do come into play. In the start it's just Madeline, her brother Roderick (she's the brave one) and her mother and father. Her mother is crazy. She has a ton of disdain for the poor girl, and her father is loopy because of the family illness/curse. There is a team of doctors who live in the house at all times. There's always someone sick, since whoever dies of the illness it passes to the next "favorite" of the house. Much to the Doctors' confusion, I might add. We even get a cute young doctor (hello love interest?) named Dr. Winston.

Madeline and her best friend: dog Cassandra.
I also really loved Cassandra. She's a huge dog, like a wolf. She's Madeline's best friend, and I really loved her. I was def most happy and most sad at the parts she was involved in. :O 

You'd go crazy too if you spent all day in a creepy house with dark portraits lining the walls.

The Fall was a haunted, dark, and fantastic book. It was the best horror book I've read all year. I really hope we continue to see Poe retellings from Bethany Griffin. She's proven (three times now) that she knows how to do Poe in a way that's stylistically true to the original master of horror literature. This is a title I will be purchasing for my bookshelf, and it's also one I plan on rereading anytime I feel like an atmospheric tale on a dreary day. I have to recommend this book to fans of gothic literature, Edgar Allen Poe, haunted stories with troubled heroines and those who don't mind getting a bit scared. 

*Please excuse some of the gifs are from other Poe movies, and all were found on http://www.giphy.com.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Let's Discuss: How do you blog when your schedule becomes packed?


I'd like to ask you fellow bloggers a question and thought I would open up a discussion about the fact that I have had very little free time lately. October is a crazy month with studying for a huge exams next week and working 6 days a week. Not to mention I'm kinda in a reading slump due to exhaustion. I'm just so damn tired. :| I don't know what to do! 
I want to read but I need sleep.  I want to post. 

Honestly though, I'm not finishing books every week like I always used to. 
I don't have reviews sprouting up as often, I'm at a loss on what I'm supposed to do. O_o

I thought about posting some old reviews. I feel like with my better reviews on more popular books this might just be a viable option for October. What do you guys think of that idea?
Of course, new reviews will still be coming, but only as fast as I can read with my schedule which is very limited. 

It's pretty frustrating bc I don't want to break from the blog, I want to keep posting, I just have way less material (ie: reviews). Which, tbh are the bread and butter for us Book Bloggin' Folk. ;) hopefully though this will change next month when exams are over (Im hoping!) I know I'll feel less pressure which should improve my reading, hence review ratio. 

How do you make time to review/post when you have a crazy schedule?



I need suggestions!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

An update on October and the GRE!


Soo as many of you know I recently started a new job where I'm working many hours stretched out 6 days a week. My reading time has been spliced in half, and I don't really know where I'm going to find the time to post. :c

But besides all of that, I am scheduled to take the GRE test in two weeks! For those of you outside the U.S., that is the test you take after getting your bachelors and get the masters degree. I'm trying to get my masters degree in MLIS, library and information science and the total application is due in December. It's daunting, to say the least.

Any one have any advice for a would be grad student? ^_^


So on the blog there won't be AS many posts for the next two weeks. I'm caught up on my EARCs and arcs for October, save for a few. So I'm gonna focus on studying and I will post reviews and a few others but not too many. I hope you all bear with me!

Because I don't really know what the hell I'm doing


I'd love to hear some feedback on what I can expect from getting a masters degree, in any field but if you're a librarian I'd love to hear specifics!

-Diamond

Friday, October 3, 2014

Orange County Children's Book Festival: Event Recap & Giveaway #OCCBF

Book Event Recap!

I had a great time this year attending the Orange County Children's Book Festival for the second year in a row. I got to meet Kiersten White ^_^ and Michelle Madow, and many others!  Mary @ Bookhounds has a beautiful recap and videos of the event! Check it out HERE on her youtube page. I didn't record or take more pics, bc my phone was low battery at the event, :c oops! But I'm including the pics I did take.


I got tons of books, bought three Kiersten White books, and Michelle Madow's The Secret Diamond Sisters. She said, this book is made for you! (Since my name is Diamond). She was eyeing my badge (see below) because I think she thought I was joking when I said my name was Diamond >.< I gotta say, it felt great to don my very own press pass as a Blogger! It was great meeting Mary @ Bookhounds, and I also met the blogger behind Pen and Musings, Joylene. I really hope to see these ladies more, now that I know we live pretty close to each other.

Left: Stacia Deutsch (Book of Life movie tie-in), Pranav Puttaparthi (Escape the Dimension), Dani Dixon (13)

Reading from Endlessly (3rd book Paranormalcy series)
Also showing her new release, Illusions of Fate.
*When asked (by me) about a possible sequel to Illusions of Fate, Kiersten said she is planning to do a spin off (I suggested one for Eleanor's!) She said she'd love to do it, after a she does her contracted books first, of course. Fingers crossed!*

Michelle Madow 
Reading from Secret Diamond Sisters
(This excerpt made me want to read the book!)

Authors Not Pictured: (due to phone battery death): Derek Taylor Kent (Scary School: The Northern Frights), Gretchen McNeil (Get Even, 3:59), Jessica Love (co-author of Push Girls), Rebecca Taylor,

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reviews from the Vault: The Beautiful & the Cursed by Page Morgan

The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan
Source: my collection- hardcover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star :tup

actual rating: 4.5 stars

This book is full of hot guys, badass ladies, and great gothic mystery. It's definitely one of my favorites of 2013.

There really is only one fault I found with this book. The first 10-15% of the book was good, not great. I was a bit confused by the mythology. I was just waiting for the inevitable moment when it all clicks into place and I can enjoy the story. It happened soon after the ten percent mark; and I dove right in. After that, I didn't come up for air once. (Translation: I read it in one day).

+ HOT GUYS. Pretty much every young male character was a total hottie, each in different ways. There were 4 of them. Yeah, you read that right-- 4 hotties (But I count the guy locked in hell as being a hottie..so that makes it 5) And they ALL flirt with either Ingrid OR Gabby. Ha, it was awesome! The guys are totally all vying for one of the girls, and I loved every bit of it. You go, girls. Werk.
It's funny because I was just recently thinking, why is there always only a 1:2 girl guy ratio? I mean...if she's that awesome or pretty or special...why not more? Oh I know it's YA, but still. Thank you Page Morgan for delivering up the cuties! And much, much more. (Think a 2:5)

Some of you may still call me a young adult (I'm 26).. BUT do the ya books all have to be so chaste?! I mean c'mon I want some make out sessions and hot and steamy ones, too! So to both of these things, Beautiful and the Cursed totally delivered. It's my perfect dreamy blend that doesn't go into the adult romance category. So get ready for some HAWT scenes.
And Luc? Aw, man...he's...*sighs*
*swoons*
*actually mimics girl on the cover*

Another one of the great things about this book are the main characters (sisters) Ingrid and Gabby. The girls are not helpless. And they're in 19th century Paris. You get Ingrid and Gabby who are both spoiled rich girls..except, they're not really spoiled rotten (in attitude, I mean). Ingrid has powers, Gabby does not-- yet Gabby is more of a fighter and can hold her own. Its exceedingly rare for a book with paranormal elements to have humans alongside the (in this case) gargoyles / demons and still look formidable. The fact that Gabby is a formidable opponent who doesn't need a guy to fight for her or rescue her? Totally gratifying. Each girl has a unique personality and I love them both! I am pretty partial to Ingrid, though. I identified with her. And, we see more of her because of the narration.

[Side note: yes, there are multiple points of view, but it won't give you a headache. It's just enough so that you care about characters that you may not have otherwise gave a flying flop about. (Seriously).]

I loved Ingrid because she reminded me of myself. She's strong and her sister described her as having a cold, iron exterior. As a reader you share Ingrid's hurt and confusion to this statement because you know her inner sadness and turmoil is anything but. However she's a strong woman; not to mention a total badass. And so is her sister, Gabby! I know, I'll give you a moment to recover from your shock that there's not only one strong female character; but two. Yup. Oh and don't worry, even though we're in 19th century France you still get some MAJOR Buffy-style fight scenes! And tons of lip locking and crazy flirtatiousness (just go with it) behind locked doors. *wink*
There's actually one part where a Gabby takes a knife and slides under a demon cutting his underbelly which she describes as being "soft as butter" while green blood sizzles on the ground where she just was. Aw man. I whooped so loud my cat got scared. I mean-- how awesome is that?!?

Finally, I have to remark upon the setting. The setting is perfect. Creepy, gothic, old world Paris. An old decrepit abbey. A missing brother. Girls going missing all over the city. I mean, it's amazing. Does it live up to all that it can be? Yes. The only reason I didn't rate it 5 stars was that first part where things that had to be established got a little choppy.

The badass heroines, steamy guys, unique mythology, and solid plot makes this novel one you do not want to miss.



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