Monday, December 31, 2012

I Almost Forgot...

That's right folks! A Simple Love of Reading has turned THREE! Can you believe it? I'd like to thank all of my readers for your support!

Be sure to come on back to visit on January 6th, 2013 for my
12 Days of Christmas and Blogoversary Giveaway!

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland by Bill Willingham

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland:
Bigby Wolf embarks on a quest through the American Heartland to find a new location for Fabletown, a secret society of exiled fairy tale characters living among the "mundys." In his wanderings, Bigby stumbles across Story City, a small town that seems to be occupied solely by werewolves. Oddly enough, they seem to already know and revere Bigby, but at the same time they've captured and caged him.

FABLES: WEREWOLVES OF THE HEARTLAND tells an epic tale that began well before Bigby Wolf set foot in the bucolic plains of the Midwest. It began long ago when he served in World War II and became mired in a Nazi experiment that would change nations. It's soon evident that murder in Story City is the least of their sins, and unraveling the town's many mysteries may cost Bigby, the seventh son of the North Wind, much more than his own life.

I think I have decided that graphic novels are just not for me. The artwork was amazing but I just want more from a story when I read it, the story is too short and stilted for my taste. It’s said that this was a good starting point to jump into the Fables series by Bill Willingham, but I had way too many questions about what led Bigby to search for a new sanctuary for paranormal beings for me to really enjoy it. This graphic novel didn’t grab my attention enough for me to want to continue on with the series, but if you are a fan of the paranormal and graphic novels, then this series might be just right for you.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...

...Seven Authors I Read for the First Time in 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Afterlife by Claudia Gray

Destiny awaits Bianca and Lucas . . .

Bianca and Lucas have always believed they could endure anything to be together. When a twist of fate not only transforms Bianca into a wraith but also turns Lucas into a vampire--the very creature he spent his life hunting--they are left reeling.

Haunted by his powerful need to kill, Lucas can turn to only one place for help . . . Evernight Academy. Bianca is determined to remain with him. But with the vampire leader of Evernight waging a war against wraiths, her former home has become the most dangerous place she could be, despite the new powers her ghostly transformation has given her.

A battle between wraiths and vampires looms, and Bianca and Lucas face a terrifying new reality. They've overcome every obstacle life has thrown at them, but is their love strong enough to survive the challenges after life?

This was a very character driven series and Bianca and Lucas: their romance, heartaches and triumphs will stay with me long after I turn the final pages. As the final book in the Evernight series, Claudia Gray tied up all of the plot lines beautifully, and left no unanswered questions about Bianca and Lucas. To me, this book completed the series nicely. I’d also love to see more of the secondary characters we met throughout this series in the continuation of Balthazar’s story. The beginning of the book picks up right where Hourglass left off, but was a little slow to start. After you get through the first quarter though it really picks up with action and danger, and I was ecstatic to see Bianca and Lucas get their happily-ever-after.

Returning to Evernight Academy seems like their only real choice.  Bianca is learning about her new powers and what it truly means to be a wraith—one that comes from being born rather than made—while Lucas is dealing with his bloodlust and acceptance of his new life as a vampire. What was supposed to be a safe-haven quickly turns into a deadly nightmare.  Mrs. Bethany’s dangerous secrets are revealed, and it hits closer to home than Bianca and Lucas could have ever imagined. Mrs. Bethany has discovered a cure for vampirism, but the price is one Lucas is not willing to pay. Bianca and her parents overcome their troubled past, including their aversion to Lucas, and work together with the help of her friends to defeat Mrs. Bethany. 

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

...Six New Series I Want to Start in 2013

Omens by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Cainsville
Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancĂ©, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home, and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Series: Visions
Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.

What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode...and nine body bags in the snow.

The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.

In this riveting start to a gripping series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann, Jules has to act—and act fast—to keep her vision from becoming reality.

Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Series: Feral
When sexy, free-spirited werecat Yoshi tracks his sister, Ruby, to Austin, he discovers that she is not only MIA, but also the key suspect in a murder investigation. Meanwhile, werepossum Clyde and human Aimee have set out to do a little detective work of their own, sworn to avenge the brutal killing of werearmadillo pal Travis. When all three seekers are snared in an underground kidnapping ring, they end up on a remote island inhabited by an unusual (even by shifter standards) species and its cult of worshippers. Their hosts harbor a grim secret: staging high-profile safaris for wealthy patrons with evil pedigrees, which means that at least one newcomer to the island is about to be hunted. As both wereprey and werepredator fight to stay alive, it’s up to mild-mannered Clyde — a perennial sidekick — to summon the hero within. Can he surprise even himself?

Series: N/A
In a vastly different and darker Philadelphia of 1844, steam power has been repressed, war threatens from deep, dark waters, and one young lady of high social standing is expecting a surprise at her seventeenth birthday party–but certainly not the one she gets!

Jordan Astraea, who has lived out all of her life in Philadelphia’s most exclusive neighborhood, is preparing to celebrate her birthday with friends, family and all the extravagance they might muster. The young man who is most often her dashing companion, Rowen Burchette, has told her a surprise awaits her and her best friend, Catrina Hollindale, wouldn’t miss this night for all the world!

But storm clouds are gathering and threatening to do far more than dampen her party plans because someone in the Astraea household has committed the greatest of social sins by Harboring a Weather Witch.

Rush by Eve Silver
Series: The Game
So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?

When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game—her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos. In the game, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures. There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.

Series: Just One Day
When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Never To Sleep by Rachel Vincent

Never To Sleep:
Don't Close Your Eyes.

Sophie Cavanaugh is not going to let her freak of a cousin's strange psychiatric condition ruin high school for them both. Not after all the work she's put into cultivating the right look, and friends, and reputation. But then, Sophie sees something so frightening she lets out a blood-curdling scream--and finds herself stuck in a bizarre parallel world where nothing is safe and deadly creatures lurk just out of sight, waiting for her to close her eyes and sleep...forever.

Could this world be real? Or does insanity run in the family...?

Never To Sleep is a novella within the Soul Screamers series that comes between If I Die and Before I Wake.  It is the story of how Sophie and Luca meet for the first time, and Sophie's first foray into the Netherworld.  In the beginning I couldn’t stand Sophie and her overwhelming bouts of selfishness, but by the end of this novella I’m able to look at her differently.  Sophie still doesn’t understand Kaylee’s world, or Kaylee for that matter, but she is beginning to learn that there is more to the world than high school popularity contests.

Rachel Vincent has an incredible talent for grabbing your attention and pulling you right into her books, no matter what length they may be.  This might have been a short story, but it was action-packed, filled with danger and had the added bonus foreshadowing of a new romantic relationship.  I can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment of the Soul Screamers series.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas...

...Five Books to Film I Want to See in 2013

Friday, December 28, 2012

On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

...Four Favorite Characters of 2012

Tod Hudson
Series: Soul Screamers by Rachel Vincent
Quotes: Before I Wake

He's a Reaper with the looks of an angel; blond curly hair, bright blue eyes, sexy thick boy-lashes, a strong, square jaw sporting a small goatee and perfect full lips always ready to quirk up into a lopsided grin. He can materialize wherever and whenever he wants, appearing only to those he chooses to see and hear him. He's practically immortal, so he'll never look older than the age of seventeen. Personality wise he's mischievous, clever, witty, sarcastic, passionate, kind and loyal. He'll do anything to protect those he loves, even if that entails telling harsh truths. He has died twice for the people that he loves, and he's completely willing to do it again if need be.

“What if you get tired of me? Forever’s a long time.”

“I’m well aware.” Tod sat up and pulled me up with him until we faced each other on my bed. “Forever used to feel like a curse. Now it feels like a promise,” he said, and my chest ached, and I loved that feeling—that rare pain that came from feeling too much, so different from the emptiness I’d almost gotten used to. “All you have to do is stay here with me.”

“Sorry. But I’ll be fine. I’ll be with Tod. He’s a good guy, you know.” He just hides it under all the sarcasm and curls.

“I know. I also know that he would do anything to be with you, and that kind of limitless devotion tends to snub caution in favor of action, and that is enough to scare a poor father to death.”

“I don’t get it.” How could devotion to each other be bad?

“Kaylee, I know what I would be willing to do to protect you, and I see the same kind of commitment in him when he looks at you. There is nothing—no one—he wouldn’t be willing to go through for you.”

His gaze burned into mine, like he could see past my eyes into parts of me no one had ever seen, and I knew I was seeing the same in him. No one had ever seen him so vulnerable before, like if I pushed him away, he might crumble into pieces that could never be put together again. Yet there was strength, too. He was strong beneath that fragile need, and I knew that I could never fall with him next to me. If I tripped, he would catch me. If I lost my balance, he would find it.

Katniss Everdeen
Series: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Quotes: The Hunger Games

She’s naturally small and thin, but strong. Years of hunting to provide for her family have given her a healthy body. Her long hair is kept in a traditional braid down the center of her back.  When her sister is chosen as tribute, she thinks of nothing other than protecting her sister when she takes her place.  She sparks a rebellion without even knowing it, and will fight for what is right against the Capitol.

“Prim, let go,” I say harshly, because this is upsetting me and I don’t want to cry. When they televise the replay of the reapings tonight, everyone will make note of my tears and I’ll be marked as an easy target. A weakling. I will give no one the satisfaction. “Let go!”

It’s excellent shooting. I turn to the Gamemakers. A few are nodding in approval, but the majority are fixated on a roast pig that has just arrived at their banquet table.

Suddenly I am furious, that with my life on the line, they don’t even have the decency to pay attention to me. That I’m being upstaged by a dead pig. My heart starts to pound, I can feel my face burning. Without thinking, I pull an arrow from my quiver and send it straight at the Gamemakers’ table. I hear shouts of alarm as people stumble back. The arrow skewers the apple in the pig’s mouth and pins it to the wall behind it. Everyone stares t me in disbelief.

“Thank you for your consideration,” I say. Then I give a slight bow and walk straight toward the exit without being dismissed.

I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do or force us to do there is a part of every tribute they can’t own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I.

A few steps into the woods grows a bank of wildflowers. Perhaps they are really weeds of some sort, but they have blossoms in beautiful shades of violet and yellow and white. I gather up an armful and come back to Rue’s side. Slowly, one stem at a time, I decorate her body in the flowers. Covering the ugly wound. Wreathing her face. Weaving her hair with bright colors.

Menolly D’Artigo
Series: Sisters of the Moon by Yasmine Galenorn
Quotes: Darkling

Half-human and half-fae, she was captured and made into a vampire against her will. Her eyes were a frosty blue and turning frosty grey as she grows as a vampire, eventually they will be silver. She wears her hair in braids with beads on them that click together gently as she moves, because as a vampire her movements carry no sound. Her body is completely scarred from the torture of her sire. She will always fight to protect her sisters and for the side of good.

“No, let me show you what women are good for,” I said softly as I leapt over the bar. His eyes went wide as I landed silently beside him. I could smell his pulse, and the beat of his heart echoed in the back of my mind. Even though you couldn’t pay me to touch goblin blood unless I was starving, my fangs extended and I gave him a slow smile.

I groaned. “You want me to play Buffy? Give me one good reason why I should go staking my own kind.”

Chase gave a rough laugh. “Because you’re part of the OIA. Because you’re on the right side. Because you know what they did was wrong. Hell, you can dress up in drag and call yourself Angel, for all I care. Just help us.”

“Nope. It won’t happen. I watched you take down those two vamps. You’re a survivor, Menolly. That’s how you managed to break away from Dredge when he’d stripped everything he could from you. That’s how you managed to fight your way back from the madness he inflicted on you.”

Deacon Chalk
Series: Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter by James R. Tuck
Quotes: Blood and Bullets

His family was brutally murdered by supernatural beings, introducing him to the life of an Occult Bounty Hunter.  After saving the life of an honest-to-God angel and near death, she infused him with her healing power; now he's faster and stronger than a regular human, with near perfect night-vision, and he has a sense about magick and other things supernatural. Six foot-four inches tall, and topping the scales at 320lbs. of pure muscle, he towers over practically everyone. He's covered in tattoos. All kinds of tattoos, both arms are sleeved, including his hands and knuckles. Tattoos cover his chest, throat and the back of his head, which he keeps shaved. To sum up, he is a big, bald, tattooed, scary-looking dude with a goatee.

Why would a vampire even think that I would work for them? I'm a vampire hunter. I don't seek them out, but I've killed every one of the evil bastards I've run into. Most people have a romantic view of vampires. They picture them as the eternal lover full of longing and dark passion. Thank you very much Hollywood, but that is not the way it is in real life.

Vampires never sparkle unless they just ate a stripper.

My face grew swollen and tight around my eyes. I felt the tears fill up and spill down my cheeks. They ran hot and salty down my face. I always miss my wife and children, but this stranger's kindness and sympathy had touched a knot of the sorrow I held deep inside and let it loose. My throat thickened and my heart felt like a stone as I let the sorrow and loss roll through me. Small hands smoothed along my head, cool and soft against the flush of my pain. The weight of her in my arms was a comfort.

I said a prayer of safety for Larson’s family. Yes, I pray. For all the blood I shed, I do pray. I firmly believe in God, I am a good Catholic. If you had seen a demon face-to-face, you would believe too. I’ve watched crosses turn away vampires, I’ve seen holy water drive away demons, and I have rescued an Angel of the Lord. Hell yes, I believe. So I prayed for their safety and their lives. I don’t pray nearly often enough. Truthfully, I pretty much rely on Father Mulcahy to cover that department.

Prayer doesn’t result in thunder and lightning. There haven’t been any burning bushes. Sometimes there is nothing at all. But occasionally, I get this feeling, kind of like a weightless weight, and it causes a shiver down my spine. I believe this is an acknowledgement of my prayer. Not an answer, just an acknowledgement.

It’s enough because it has to be. That’s the deal.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On the Third Day of Christmas...

...Three Debut Authors I Want to Read in 2013

Splintered by A.G. Howard
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

What if all you knew about fairy tales was wrong?

Sixteen year old Loki Blackstar is no Prince Charming. His mother is a ghost. His only friend is a red Cadillac that talks to him through the radio. He looks like an Angel but acts like jerk. No wonder he has been banned from Heaven, which is the least of his troubles. Loki needs a job to pay for school and support himself.

Still, Loki has a rare gift: He is a Dreamhunter. One of the few in the world who can hunt and kill immortal demons in their dreams so they never wake up again.

When Loki is sent to kill a sixteen-year-old vampire girl the locals call Snow White Sorrow, he is pulled into a magical but dangerous world. The locals believe the monster to be Snow White.

The real Snow White... living in the ruins of an ancient castle in a small town. She is described as horribly beautiful, terrifyingly enchanting, and wickedly lovely.

What he finds instead is a beautiful monster girl filled with rage and hurt, who has an epic untold story to tell of things such like why the Brothers Grimm altered the fairy tale, who the Evil Queen really is, where the mirror came from, and who possessed it.

Snow White has killed every person who has dared come near the castle where she once lived with the queen. Mysteriously, she lets Loki live.

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey's younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the "normal" life of school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won't let her go ... a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn't spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hourglass by Claudia Gray

Bianca will risk everything to be with Lucas.

After escaping from Evernight Academy, the vampire boarding school where they met, Bianca and Lucas take refuge with Black Cross, a fanatical group of vampire hunters. Bianca must hide her supernatural heritage or risk certain death at its hands. But when Black Cross captures her friend—the vampire Balthazar—hiding is no longer an option. Soon Bianca and Lucas are on the run again, pursued not only by Black Cross, but by the powerful leaders of Evernight. Yet no matter how far they travel, Bianca can't escape her destiny. Bianca has always believed their love could survive anything... but can it survive what's to come?

Hourglass is the third book in the Evernight series by Claudia Gray, and I think it just may be my favorite (of course, there is still the final book: Afterlife). Fast-paced and action-packed, it was filled with nail-biting danger, tension and romance. I became emotionally attached to Bianca and Lucas, and for the first time in the series Claudia made me cry. With so many twists and turns I was kept at the edge of my seat and up reading long into the night. With an ending that left me stunned and overwhelmed with a desire for more, this series just keeps getting better.

Bianca and Lucas are cornered into living with the Black Cross, and even though they plan on escaping they must bide their time while hiding Bianca’s secret. When Bianca and Lucas are betrayed and forced to leave the protection of the Black Cross, they turn to old friends in order to survive. While in hiding their relationship is taken to the next level, and shortly after something strange begins to happen to Bianca. She slowly starts to lose her hunger for human food as well as blood. In desperation, Lucas contacts everyone he thinks might be able to help, even if that means putting them in danger of being captured. Grief and loss over come Lucas, clouding his judgement and following Balthazar into a dangerous situation will change his life forever.

On the Second Day of Christmas...

...Two Favorite Reviews of 2012