Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: The Faerie Guardian by Rachel Morgan

The Faerie Guardian (Creepy Hollow, #1)
by Rachel Morgan

Genre: Fantasy/Fae
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: November 5, 2012
Source: Kindle store
Age Rating: 13+

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until a cute human boy who can somehow see through her faerie glamour follows her into the fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the fae realm. Easy, right? Not when you factor in evil faeries, long-lost family members, and inconvenient feelings of the romantic kind. Vi is about to find herself tangled up in a dangerous plot—and it’ll take all her training to get out alive.

My Review
Did I find a super awesome YA read with amazing characters and believable romance? And romantic tension? Lots of romantic tension? Did I? Oh, yes... Yes, I did.

This is one of my new favorites going on my “epic” shelf! Sweet babies, I adored this thing. Violet, the protag, is a very strong and snarky faerie—truly funny, and not just occasionally so. She's a tough chick and even a bit of a tomboy to boot, which makes her physical prowess that much more believable. And, she's a teenage girl with so little experience with boys, so she does allow herself to get involved with the human boy, Nate. But, she is not dreaming of their wedding day, nor thinking the fate gods had anything to do with their meeting each other.

She's a Guardian-in-training who goes out and protects people and fae folk from evil stuff that has the tendency to wreak havoc on innocent people's lives. She has a really sassy guy rival in her Guild named Ryn, an old friend-turned-enemy. A frenemy. He's just yummy and fun. I love characters like that!

Then, there's Nate who is really funny, too, and I don't know how I feel about him after having read the entire story, plus the bonus stories. He's just a complex character, I suppose, like any real person, so I'm left perplexed and wanting to know why he chooses to go down the path he does in the story SO badly. Why did you do it? Why, Nate?

Back to Ryn—delicious Ryn. Where you have an instant attraction between Violet and Nate, leading to a very immediate relationship worthy of high-schoolers, you have something far slower-burning with Vi and Ryn. They hate each other, but do they really? It feels like that kind of relationship where the two get off on making each other angry. Ryn certainly derives actual pleasure from doing so with Vi, as I learned from reading his POV story at the end. The potential for future romance between the two is seething through the words on the page and I cannot wait to read more about them. I totally ship it!

I think what makes this story work is that it goes deep and does it right away in Book 1. We find out why Violet has literally NO friends and why she and Ryn had a falling out. She starts out not having a clue as to why he hates her, but he fesses up and it really allows for the kind of character insight missing in a whole lot of novels I read, YA and adult. Because I can understand what makes these characters tick, I relate to them better and can now get hooked into their emotions, just like how they get hooked into each other, emotionally, after their big blow-up. It's something usually saved for a Book 2 or Book 3, but, seriously, why wait to put in the good stuff? This is why readers read!

My score: 5/5 stars. (Easily.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Novella Reviews: Throne of Glass Novellas by Sarah J. Maass

Throne of Glass Novellas (#0.1 - 0.4)
by Sarah J. Maass

Genre: Fantasy
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: between Jan 2012 – July 2012
Source: Kindle store
Age Rating: 14+

A Throne of Glass novella (synopsis for #0.1).

On a remote island in a tropical sea, Celaena Sardothien, feared assassin, has come for retribution. She’s been sent by the Assassin’s Guild to collect on a debt they are owed by the Lord of the Pirates. But when Celaena learns that the agreed payment is not in money, but in slaves, her mission suddenly changes—and she will risk everything to right the wrong she’s been sent to bring about. 

My Review

I read these novellas during the summer and they are fantastic! These are all prequels to the novel series, Throne of Glass, which is already out now. As of writing and publishing this review, I have yet to read the first novel, but reading these novellas completely sold me on buying the novel, so I have it waiting on my shelf.

These are fully realized, complete stories about the trained assassin, Celaena Sardothien, who is the number one assassin in her country of residence. There are, like a lot of fantasy novels, neighboring kingdoms and she does get to travel to some of the nearby kingdoms during her adventures in assassinating people. She's a funny girl and very much a girly-girl, despite being so deadly. She loves to wear pretty dresses and play the pianoforte. She starts out really spoiled and bratty at age 16, but, through her trials of these novellas, she matures.

I really like Sam, her childhood friend and rival assassin in the Assassin's Guild who becomes her love interest. Definitely no insta-love-upon-meeting-her-soul-mate-nonsense going on here. She just learns to see him a different way because they're both maturing before each others' eyes and he's become pretty darn good-looking in his young adulthood, ahem. I also hate, hate, HATE their boss Arobynn, who really is a truly worthy villain character. My lord, this man is so heinous and Machiavellian, it's sick. What he does to Celaena and Sam is beyond. I've never been so in hate with a villain character. It's pretty awesome.

Celaena doesn't spend a whole lot of time killing people because the stories are more about what she goes through that makes her become who she is by the time you read Book 1, and by then, she has spent some time as a slave/prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier due to the king's punishment. It really sets things up for the novel and I figure I'll have a much firmer grasp on it than would somebody else who just jumps into it without batting an eyelash at the novellas. I love having so much of the story set up and extra material for this amazing series. Check these out, people!

Average score: 4.5/5 stars.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review: Velveteen by Daniel Marks

by Daniel Marks

Genre: Paranormal/Horror
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: October 9, 2012
Source: ARC from publisher
Age Rating: 16+

Velveteen Monroe is dead. At 16, she was kidnapped and murdered by a madman named Bonesaw. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is she landed in purgatory. And while it’s not a fiery inferno, it’s certainly no heaven. It’s gray, ashen, and crumbling more and more by the day, and everyone has a job to do. Which doesn’t leave Velveteen much time to do anything about what’s really on her mind.


Velveteen aches to deliver the bloody punishment her killer deserves. And she’s figured out just how to do it. She’ll haunt him for the rest of his days. It’ll be brutal... and awesome.

But crossing the divide between the living and the dead has devastating consequences. Velveteen’s obsessive haunting cracks the foundations of purgatory and jeopardizes her very soul. A risk she’s willing to take—except fate has just given her reason to stick around: an unreasonably hot and completely off-limits coworker.

Velveteen can’t help herself when it comes to breaking rules... or getting revenge. And she just might be angry enough to take everyone down with her. 

My Review

Velveteen is a book I've been waiting to read for about two years now because I found Danny Marks somehow through his YouTube vlogging. He's such a great personality and he'd vlog about editing Velveteen, getting it ready for his agent to go on out on sub with it, and then had a very quick sale of the manuscript to his publisher. Of course, I was really happy to have been approved for an ARC several months ago.

But, after reading Velveteen, it really wasn't a book that captured my attention for the right reasons. Sure, it's very different YA paranormal fiction from what you've likely encountered, and that is good. The world building is unique and well-detailed—it's interesting, and I had no trouble at all envisioning the world of purgatory and understanding the logic of how it operated. Still, this ends up not being enough to completely save this book for me.

First off, the writing is verbose—very verbose—so, it should have been pared down. It would have trimmed off 100+ pages, as this was a tad too long of a read. Velvet, being the protagonist, starts out with the goal to kill the serial killer, Bonesaw, who is her killer. I love that whole angle, but, weirdly, she doesn't do the most obvious thing and just grab one of his many precious knives and stab him to death in his sleep. As badly as she wants to kill him, I think her reason for not killing him doesn't work. She's too afraid, apparently. Meh....

She spends most of her time in purgatory because she's not even supposed to be in the world of the living at all. She is part of a Salvage team—a group of purgatory souls who go to 'daylight,' where living people live, and take care of problems caused by wayward purgatory souls messing up things and causing shadowquakes in purgatory. Apparently, doing anything in daylight causes shadowquakes in purgatory.

This is why Velvet feels guilty every time she haunts Bonesaw, or tries to free his victims. She has to do this all secretly. That's fine, hun, but could you just get your revenge over with already? It's kind of sucky having all these shadowquakes because you're so darn undetermined to kill your killer.

Next, I must move on to Nick, Velvet's love interest who just doesn't really need to be in the story because he seems like he could have been excluded and it wouldn't have changed the story much. Although, he does do some heroic things with his inexplicable specialness. He's a golden boy, perfect jock guy whose pretty funny, but still, not really layered with any depth. Neither is anyone else. Although, I suppose Bonesaw is the lone character with any hint of depth, oddly enough.

My biggest problem with this novel is that the real rub of the story, the story itself, doesn't emerge until the very end. Get this: a group of wayward souls, revolutionists, want to escape purgatory and possess the living bodies of humans in order to have a second life. That would make a cool premise for a story, if only it had been used as the actual story for this novel. But, we don't find out that's the motive of the revolutionists until it's nearly over, so it is mostly just a story about an unremarkable teen girl living in purgatory trying not to jump on the hot new guy in front of everybody. She has no purpose, no goal until the end and it's too late to keep the story engaging.

It's not a bad read, but one that doesn't engage the emotions much because life is too easy for Velvet until the very, very end and it's just too late to cop a care for her, or anybody else, by then. Depending on taste, you may find this a really fun story, so go ahead and try it if it sounds like your cup o' tea.

My score: 3/5 stars.

*I received a copy of this book as an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel

Such Wicked Intent (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, #2)
by Kenneth Oppel

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Gothic/Horror
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: August 21, 2012
Source: hardcover purchase
Age Rating: 14+
Devotion turns deadly in this second Gothic thriller from Kenneth Oppel. When does obsession become madness? Tragedy has forced sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never dabble in the dark sciences again—just as he vows he will no longer covet Elizabeth, his brother’s betrothed.

If only these things were not so tempting.

When he and Elizabeth discover a portal into the spirit world, they cannot resist. Together with Victor’s twin, Konrad, and their friend Henry, the four venture into a place of infinite possibilities where power and passion reign. But as they search for the knowledge to raise the dead, they unknowingly unlock a darkness from which they may never return. 

My Review

This was another epic installment in The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series, arguably better than the first one. I really have no choice but to write spoilers, so don't read the MIDDLE of this review if you have any intention of reading the first book, This Dark Endeavor. The plot is centered around what takes place at the end of the first novel and, trust me, you don't want to ruin it for yourself!There are no significant spoilers for the second book.


Victor has found a way into the spirit world where his twin brother, Konrad, now resides because he died at the end of the first book. (See what I mean? I told you not to read the middle of this review!) Victor vowed to himself that he'd find a way to bring Konrad back because he just can't leave well enough alone. With a special elixir taken orally, he, Elizabeth and Henry all run amok in the spirit world, which is literally in the same location as Chateau Frankenstein. It's so cool how they simply take the elixir, close their eyes, open them again and they're in the spirit world where the spirits of those who once inhabited the chateau still linger until they can be 'gathered.'

Victor's dark library was burned down along with almost all its books, except one, and that surviving book gives him the key to discovering more secret attics and other secret passages. Once inside the spirit world, he finds that everything there is the spirit of what once existed, thus the dark library is fully intact there. He finds more answers to his questions about how to grow a body for Konrad in the world of the living and he sets out to accomplish it.

Of course, nothing Victor ever does goes according to plan and chaos ensues when he, Elizabeth and Henry tread down that path. Along the way, he faces his own inner demons, again, his continuing feelings for Elizabeth, and his new found jealously of Henry for Elizabeth's affections. Despite how much he says he wants Elizabeth for himself, he still has every intention of bringing Konrad, her fiance, back to life. Blood is thicker than water, I suppose.

There is another love triangle and, in fact, there are two! But, they are done exquisitely and shouldn't worry those who hate love triangles in YA fiction. No one strings anybody along just for the sake of it. Jealousies and rivalries arise organically and work just like how they do in real life. It's well done and adds so much good drama to the story and never overtakes the plot. The plot always remains centered around getting Konrad a body to inhabit in the living world again.


(Okay, now you can read this review again.) Does Victor obtain his goal? Well, you'll just have to read the book and find out for yourself. It's so beautifully written and such a well-told story with amazing characters, I can't see anybody not liking this unless you just don't like good storytelling and great drama. It's exhilarating and adventurous, although not adventurous in the same way as the first book, since they never really leave the chateau. But, I think I might have liked this book better because they journey, in a manner of speaking, so much farther away, despite never leaving home. Really cool little paradox there.

This is possibly the last book in the series, meaning it's a duology. Which is fine with me, if that's all the author has to say about the characters and the story. As much as I'd love another book, I'm all for authors writing only what really needs to be written and avoiding filler fluff as best as possible. At any rate, even if this truly is the end of this series, the story most definitely continues in the original classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

My score: 5/5 stars. (Total fave!)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sulan Blog Tour: Author Camille Picott Guest Post

Today is Day 2 of Camille Picott's Sulan, Episode 1: The League Book Tour and we have a special guest post by her. Her post is about the evolution of her very intriguing book cover and how the process of creating it developed....

Evolution of a Book Cover

For me, cover creation is the most exciting and most terrifying part of publishing a book. I know from my own shopping habits that readers do judge books by their covers. I spend a lot of time thinking about my book covers and working with Joey Manfre, an amazing illustrator and graphic artist. 

Before Joey begins a cover design, we sit down and discuss concepts. We talk about main characters, setting, target audience, and the overall feel the cover needs to have.

For Sulan, Episode 1: The League, I wanted the cover to target a YA audience with a potential crossover into adult. The story has a strong blend of cyberpunk and fantasy, both of which I wanted to be conveyed in the final piece of art. It was also important for the name SULAN to be prominent. SULAN is the central brand for this book, so it needed to stand out on the cover and catch the eye of readers.

1st Draft:
I really love the strong font Joey chose for SULAN. It really stands out and draws the reader’s eye. For a branding image, it’s hard to miss. I also love the way he worked in the cyberpunk theme with the stylized circuit board in the background. The central image of Riska (the winged tiger) also brings in the fantasy element I wanted to convey.

2nd Draft:
I have to admit, I freaked out just a little when I saw the bright green wing. LOL. But, I also saw what Joey was trying to accomplish. Giving Riska a black wing, which he has in the book, really caused him to disappear into the circuit board background. The green wing helps him visually pop. Once I saw the image of Sulan the character in full cover, I also wasn’t sure she was the right image for the front cover, either. The overall feel was too adolescent with an anime sensibility, which is not the audience I wanted to target.

3rd & Final Draft:

In the end, we decided to move the image of Sulan and Riska to the back cover. For the front, we opted for a simpler, more streamlined image of a blue sea serpent, which maintains the fantasy element that I wanted to include. You can see that Joey tied the serpent to the circuit board theme. If you look at the back cover, you can see he also used the serpent image on the background. Thematically, this really tied the front and back covers together.

Another thing to note is the purple border that surrounds the entire cover. Joey did this for a technical reason. In print-on-demand, there is a certain amount of drift tolerance with every print run; the paper moves on the press as it shoots through. In other words, your graphics will shift. No book cover produced on a POD press will ever be perfectly centered. Joey compensates for this by implementing the border, which helps disguise the tolerance. If the art went all the way to the edge, the shift would be much more obvious.

It is very common for Joey and I to do lots of tweaking as we work toward a final piece of art. (We actually had a lot more drafts, but this guest post would be WAAAAY too long if I included all of them!) We toss ideas back and forth and try different things as we work toward the ideal cover. For us, it’s all part of the creative process, which is very engaging and a lot of fun. It always yields a cover that I love.

Thanks, Cathy, for hosting me at Abnormally Paranormal! 

Author Bio

Camille Picott is a mom, wife and writer. She writes and self-publishes speculative fiction with Asian-inspired settings and Asian main characters. She is the author of the Asian inspired middle grade book series, Chinese Heritage Tales, Raggedy Chan and Nine Tail Fox as well as a short story "Warming Demon" and the first in her latest YA dystopian series, Sulan, Episode 1: The League. Visit her website at

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