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Friday, November 27, 2015

ARC Review AUCTUMNALIS By Parandus Gold

The plantation wasn’t normal. 
Belvedere Rise should have been a safe haven against the gangs. Nestled in the deep woods of Louisiana, Izobel and DesdeMona found it abandoned and had claimed it as their own. What they assume to be a new beginning quickly becomes a prison when they unlock something ethereal, alive, and dangerous. 
Things begin to fall apart around them. The poverty-stricken people of the nearby town adapt in a way that keeps the girls constantly terrified, and forces them to do things they would have never imagined. As their time passes at the plantation, tensions rise. 
When captivating new strangers arrive at their front door, the hostile world they knew becomes something else entirely. 
Written through two separate points of view--that of sweet, hopeful Izobel, and strategic book worm DesdeMona--Auctumnalis is a dystopian-fantasy novel with smatterings of hope, violence, drama and romance spread throughout.

I received a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

First off let me say the dedication in this novel sets the tone for the whole book. 
We lovingly dedicate this book to our Heroes. J.K. Rowling, Quentin Tarantino, and last but not least, Tears for Fears. 

This story is told from the perspective of  Izobel, who is wild, strong and hopeful, mean when its needed and cares about others. Then the brave petite and smart Desdemona. The girls met while being raised by nuns in an orphanage. It takes place in New Orleans and Louisiana, first in the Orphanage and then in an abandoned plantation the girls find when they leave the orphanage.
The novel goes back an forth between the girl's shared past and present day.

The drama all starts when Izobel saves a boy, Hale, from being killed by a gang called lykos. Hale kind of got on my nerves. He stays with them to heal and of course Desdemona is suspicious if him, it's just been the two of them all this time and in comes a strange boy, who doesn't know their story or what they are hiding from, he could be nicer or more patient. Hale and Izobel fall in love, which I found unnecessary to the story line.

Izobel could be trying at times and while I didn't always understand Desdemona's anger I could see how Izobel would get on her nerves. There is a part when Izobel wants to save a woman and Desdemona says no. When you are already starving and have brought home another mouth to feed, adding ANOTHER person is a bad idea. In a dog-eat-dog type world like this one you HAVE to think about yourself and the ones you are already responsible for. It sucks but this novel captured that idea and the gruesomeness of that kind of world really well. I felt Izobel's character read much younger than Desdemona's.

There are some other very interesting characters like Radek and Prometheus, but writing too much about them might give some rather creepy and interesting plot lines away.
The writing was really good, as was the character building. The author makes it feel as if you are there, with them trying to get past these bad guys while starving and being afraid. The prose is good and at times lyrical, and at other times harsh so that the reader gets a good idea as to how the characters are feeling.

This novel is dark, which I enjoyed. It feels almost hopeless at times. I get a bit of twisted amusement when characters become dark twisted versions of themselves and give in to evil, even by manipulation. 

There are a few twists at the end....That I won't ruin for you.

So happy reading!!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

ARC Auburn: Outcasts and Underdogs by Valerie Thomas

We were the lost. We were the broken. We were the freaks, the losers and loners hiding in the corners of the world.
And then we weren’t. Every morning I had to pick up the jigsaw puzzle of my life and rebuild it into something vaguely resembling a person. A hazy shadow of the happiness I was faking.
And then I didn’t. I didn’t become whole. No, there was no glue that could bind me back together. No remedy to fix any of us. We weren’t lost anymore, but we remembered losing our way. We weren’t freaks, but we remembered living on the fringe. We weren’t losers or loners, but we still remembered hiding from the world.
We were Auburn. I was Auburn. And this is my story.

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing I noticed about this novel was that the main character has anxiety/depression pretty bad and the author does a great job of describing all those horrible thoughts that go through your mind, that you cannot stop during an extreme bout. Having anxiety myself I really liked that.

Ashley was a relate-able character, high school girl who has social problems and doesn't fit in anywhere. Though she had a bit more of a Mary Sue quality than I normally like: great writer, good singer, pretty, but feels like an outcast.

Her band mates are well written, from nice sweet Charlie to jerk Joey, who is only a jerk because it's a defense mechanism.

Then there is Jessica, who is the villain...Though the first time she is introduced her first interaction is funny and accurate. She is talking about the song Ashley is currently writing. (Later Jessica because such a horrible B, that you hate her.)
“Honey, the best band in the world could perform it, and it would still be a boring song about how no one likes you.”  I kind of agree, while beautifully written, Ashley's songs DO feel like emo poetry.  This moment is important for the end however, in an interesting twist by the author.

The author seems to either know what she is talking about music wise or did research which I appreciated. She also made sure the band, Auburn, isn't a hit right away...They don't just get together and go "Wow we are Awesome!" They practice and get better over time.

This novel had a very 90's feel (aside from the facebook references) to it that I enjoyed, made me think about being a Freshman in High-school again. There is a romance between Charlie and Ashley, while props for the no insta love I don't think the plot needed it, the story and writing could have stood on its own.

There is a bit where the principal shows up to serve what's basically a truancy notice to Ashley, which was the most unbelievable part of the whole novel and the reason this is getting 3.5 instead of 4 stars. Not only would the principal not make a house call but three unexcused absences is not a reason to be recommend to the truancy department. I have kids in school, takes way more than this. Also she would contact Ashley's mom directly and not Ashley herself. I get why the author put this in, but it would have been better through a social worker or the school counselor. Though their conversation DOES lead into a good segue about the issue of online bullying in schools right now.

The book ends as if there is going to be a sequel, I don't think it needs one. I think the author did a good job wrapping everything up at the end, Ashley didn't grow as much as I thought she would, but she did grow and made some good and bad choices, just like normal teenagers.

This is a slightly emo "coming-of-age" type story that has bullying trigger warnings.  Not quite what I am normally into, but a good read and one that puts some of the harsher realities of being a teen into perspective.

ARC The Boy Genius Detective Agency by Robert Grey

When happy-go-lucky Phidias Isaac Newman opens a detective agency in the sleepy Highland Falls ward of the M├ęgapolis he isn't sure what to expect.
The Case of the Vanishing Bones? Sounds like a promising start.
Then, seemingly from nowhere, disaster strikes! Together with his partner, Agent Bubble Gum, the Boy Genius is plunged into the recovery of a mysterious (and deadly) stolen artifact--the Afterthought Resonator.
But then something wonderful happens.
Or does it?
Bubble Gum has always known the Boy Genius is ill mannered, uncouth and never listens to others. (Not that she keeps a list or anything.) But now she learns Phidias is harboring a dark secret.
Of forbidden knowledge that unlocks a terrible power... no one even suspected existed.

I received a copy of this novel from the author in return for an honest review

This is a fun middle grade book. It is well written and the characters are engaging.  This story takes place in the future, the MC lives in a well described district called Highland Falls and underneath it all is an area called The Pell Mell which is described as, "A constantly shi ning sea of shops, stores, hovercarts, street mongers, sky peddlers, vending machines, sunken gardens, ying zoos, passerby's, belongers, commuters, gawkers and much, much more. It was an art show, a freak show, a horror show, a side show. It was the big time, the big top and the main event. It was a carnival, a casino, a bazaar, a food court, another ying zoo!"

The MC, Phidias is a slightly annoying, sarcastic smart aleck boy who works for the Boy Genius Agency full of delightful characters like Lollipop and Bubble Gum, also agents.  All the characters are very vibrant.

They investigate, not really crimes so much...I mean some guys bones vanish, so more like mysterious circumstances. Each chapter has a delightful headline like, "THE WORST GO-FAST CYCLE PILOT IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE" and there are villains like The Sinister Brain.  There are also aliens like the Krell Empire, "a space faring race of slime-tentacle aliens who feed on the brains of humans."  Quite creatively written.

This is volume one, so it ends with the obvious intention of there being a volume two. I liked how there was a major story arc, but there was also other little tidbits that didn't pertain to the main plot..  The book was very fast paced, the ending perhaps a bit rushed.  There is a deleted scene at the end, which was interesting and gives you a little more time with the well developed characters.

My favorite part? The meta, there is a second epilogue which discusses the "Purple Prose Princess" who writes fan fiction about Boy Genius , and it adds a bit of a surprise to the characters personality.

This was a clever and fun read, I had a few issues with the formatting, but it didn't matter much. Plus I am not a big Sci Fi fan and this is very much hover boards, advanced tech, Mass Effect for little kids.  So give it a try, or buy it for a funny kid in your life.