Saturday, December 21, 2013

House of Night Read A-Long Sign Ups + Giveaway!

I'm a huge fan of the House of Night series by P.C and Kristen Cast. I have been for years. In 2014, the final book of the series, REDEEMED, will be releasing. So I decided that I would host a year long read along for the series. I have two goals: (1) giving fans an opportunity to re-read the whole thing and talk about it, and (2) encouraging those who didn't start, or who haven't made it all the way through, to join us.

On the 15th of each month I will be posting a page with questions about the book we've. I will include a linky for people to put up their reviews and will give my answers to the questions in the comments, and hopefully you'll share yours as well. In this way, I'm hoping that we can get some real interesting discussions going. I would also like to see us get the hashtag #HoN2014 going on Twitter, and maybe even have monthly chats about how the series is progressing near the end of each month. There is a *lot* that goes on in this series and for YEARS I've wanted to really *talk* about it. I'm hoping I'm not the only one.
To get this event off the ground, I'm going to kick the sign ups for this thing off by giving away a copy of House of Night: The Beginning, which contains the first two books in the series--MARKED and BETRAYED. If you don't have the books now, or haven't read the series in a long time, this could be a great way to get started. :) Just fill out the Rafflecopter below! (Note: Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY provided The Book Depository ships to you.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
You can either do a start up post about the read-a-long, or you can just give a general link to your blog for now. Whatever works for you. :)

Twelve months, twelve books, and hopefully an awesome reading experience for all involved. Here's a list of the House of Night books, complete with links to their GoodReads pages.

January, February, and March:

April, May, and June:

July, August, and September:

October, November, and December: 

So, have I grabbed your interest? Are you looking for a fun, year long event that should be filled with interesting discussion about a fascinating series? I hope so, because the more people we have for this read-a-long, the more fun it should be. Thanks for taking a look and I hope you'll join us in the new year! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: Revealed by P.C. and Kristen Cast

It's no secret that I am a big fan of the House of Night series. These books were my introduction to YA and also played a role in a decision regarding world building in my own series. At the same time, the greatest challenges I face when reviewing a House of Night book are twofold: (1) Not being biased and automatically giving each book five hearts. and (2) not ruining the books for those who haven't read them, while still aiming to provide a review that is actually worth reading. With this being, to my knowledge, the second to last book? That challenge is harder than ever.

Was Revealed perfect? No. It did several things that surprised, irritated or confused me. But was it bad? Again, no. It did things that shocked, amazed and intrigued me. But I think I should quit with the introduction and start the review. Maybe it will all make more sense that way.
(Summary from GoodReads)
The spellbinding eleventh and penultimate installment in the #1 New York Times bestselling vampyre series

Drastically altered after her fall at the end of Hidden, Neferet is now more dangerous than ever—and her quest for vengeance will wreak havoc on humans, as well as Zoey and her friends. Chaos is loosed in Tulsa and the House of Night is blamed. Can Zoey stop Neferet in time to keep her anger from escalating to full-on war? Or will someone else have to step in to take the fall?

The House of Night series is an international phenomenon, reaching #1 on U.S., German, and UK bestseller lists, and remaining a fixture on The New York Times Children’s Series bestseller list for nearly 150 weeks and counting. With more than 12 million copies in print, rights sold in thirty–eight countries to date, and relatable, addictive characters, this series is unstoppable. Now, in the eleventh and penultimate installment of the series, the action is more intense and the stakes even higher as Zoey and her friends battle to protect their school and home from devastating evil—all while balancing romances, precarious friendships and the daily drama of the House of Night's halls.
I don't know whether the person who wrote the blurb for this read the book or not. If they did, they sure as hell didn't read the same book I just finished five minutes ago.

Did I enjoy my time with Revealed? Sure. There was lots of good stuff in here for fans who are deeply invested in the series. And I suppose one should be if they are reading the eleventh book of a series. But, and this is a big but, this book was what I would call an interlude. Did things happen? Yeah. But they were little things that escalated, things that might normally get woven through a book. They did not hold up strongly enough to actually warrant being the sole focus of an entire novel. 

Things I liked... *ponders*... The whole Stevie Rae / Rephaim / Dallas issue that went on, and how it was resolved. The scenes regarding Kalona / Nyx / Erebus. (Who is a total asshat, btw. Really don't like you, dude.) I liked the growth in Shaylin and Nicole's characters, but their sudden attraction to each other Probably because I thought Shaylin was interested in Erik and Nicole use to be with Dallas. It didn't *bother* me. It was just more like "Huh. That was tacked on." I liked Damien and Jack far better. 

Things that bored me, confused me or ticked me of: The Zoey / Heath / Stark thing. Multiple partners doesn't suddenly become appealing to me because it's M/F/M. Sorry, but no. The passively written chapters about Nefret's history, complete with her seeming delight in pain--both her own and others. Blech! The way the book ended. There was no real structure here. I get that this is a "great" way to create a big problem at the start of the final book, but... I don't know. It just didn't work for me. 

I will say this much: I'm dying to know what's up with Old Magick and whether Sgiach has any clue how much the Seer Stone is screwing with Zoey. Did she give it to Zoey with this in mind? Or was it an honest mistake? Has something screwed with it that I didn't catch? (I'll be paying more attention to that when I re-read the whole series in 2014!). It's definitely left me with food for thought. 
Here's the thing. If you are a fan of the House of Night series and love these characters as much as I do, you will probably enjoy Revealed and would likely be well rewarded by reading it. However, in my humble opinion Revealed is not structurally sound as a novel. There's way too much trying to go on, there is no central resolution to the problem posed at the beginning of the story, and it actually ends on an (annoying!) cliffhanger. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: Come Away With Me by Kristen Proby

*This is not YA

I thought the premise for Come Away With Me sounded cool and it was only a few dollars. With that in mind, it isn't surprising that 'onto the Kindle it went'. I needed something to read while at my grandma's chemo sesson, I needed to download it quick, and I had liked the sample. In a matter of seconds the deed was done.

Then grandma's appointment got rescheduled and I forgot I had this--until I was transferring things to my new Kindle Paperwhite. (Thanks, grandma!) I figured it had sat there long enough and that it would have the 'honour' of being the first book I read on the device. Read on to find out whether Come Away With Me lived up to that pressure, or whether it was just too much for this book to handle.
(Summary from GoodReads)
Being confronted on the beach by a sexy stranger wasn't part of Natalie Conner's plans for a peaceful morning taking photos. And why on earth would he think she's taking pictures of him, anyway? Who is he? One thing’s for sure, he’s hot, and incredibly romantic, feeding Natalie’s wounded soul.

Luke Williams just wants the world to give him a break, so seeing yet another camera aimed at his face has him ready to pounce on the beauty behind the lens. When he finds out she has no idea who he is, he's intrigued and more than a little tempted by her. Natalie has a body made for sex, a sassy mouth and Luke can’t get enough of her, but he’s not ready to tell her who he really his.

Natalie is a no nonsense girl who doesn’t do well with lies and secrets. What will happen to this new relationship when she discovers what Luke’s hiding?
I will start by giving credit where credit is due. There were three things I really liked about Come Away With Me

(1) Luke is my kinda hero. In other words, he's blond with blue eyes. I'm a sucker for blond male leads. Shallow, sure, but I won't lie and I'm really clutching at straws for positives. 

(2) The opening was strong enough that I felt compelled to buy the book. I read a LOT of samples and I'm finicky as hell. After reading all of this I'm surprised the first part worked for me, but the truth remains: it did. I bought the book. Despite anything I say below, Kristen Proby does have potential. 

(3) I really loved some of the gestures that Kristen had Luke do for Natalie. The roses, the dinner, the pearls and the coffee were all great. I'm always a fan for a swoony, romantic moment and this book did deliver in that regard. 

Alas, the very structure of this review has to tell you guys something, somewhere, went horribly wrong. I gave three reasons to hope this writer improves, right? Well, here are six reasons I think there's room for growth. 

(1) Where's the plot, man? This book just kinda wandered. I realize that, this being contemporary romance, that's okay to an extent. But this wasn't a case of someone trying to imitate real life. This was a mess. Plotlines were started and either resolved within one chapter or forgotten about. There was no real arc holding everything together outside of Natalie and Luke's romance. Which leads me to my next problem...

(2) Natalie and Luke's romance was boring because it did not contain real, important, plot driving conflict. These characters had no real goals within the story, and in no way lead me to believe that they had a life before it started. Anything that could have created conflict (i.e. plot!) was squandered. 

(3) Way too much *pointless* sex. It got to a point where I felt that anything outside of the sex was merely there to hold the sex together. I'm sorry, but within the context of a book there are only so many ways two people can sleep with each other before I start checking every 2% to see how close I am to having the book be over. That was very much the case here. (For what it's worth: a lack of plot in a novel of this type generally stems from a lack of connection between me and the characters. Since I'm being so blunt, though, I don't just wanna flat out say they sucked...I just wish we knew them, rather than just watching them get it on for 50% of the book...And that probably just came out all wrong. Crap.) 

(4) Insta-love even I didn't buy into. These characters got together way too easy, felt things way too fast, and didn't do anything to convince me that I should give a crap that this was happening to them. Put that together and it's a more potent sleep aid then Z-quil. 

(5) Luke was extremely moody and unconvincing. I can understand a man having issues and having his mood shift throughout a story. The problem is that Luke shifted moods about as easy as my new Furby Boom. (All you need to do is yank its tail about twelve times, or pet its head for five minutes. You get the idea.) If I met a guy who shifted gears like that in real life there's only one thing I'd be doing: running the heck away. 

(6) Lazy, repetitious writing / word choice. I usually don't ride people too hard about that because I understand that how people write their stories is a very personal choice. But really, if I had to hear the words baby or beautiful, or listen to one more description of Luke's eyes (psst: they don't cast magic or anything, okay...?) I think I might have gauged my own eyes out. 
I think it's pretty safe to say that Come Away With Me was not my book. But I know a lot of people have enjoyed this one, so your mileage may vary. As always, I'd suggest you pay attention to my particular gripes here and consider how they might effect you as a reader. We all have unique things that push our buttons. This book happened to be rather fond of pushing mine. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

If We Were Having Coffee...

Over the past few weeks, I've seen posts with this title popping up all over the blogosphere. Then I decided, "Hey, maybe I should write one for anyone who is curious what I would say." So, without any further stalling, here is what I might tell you if we were having coffee...


You would likely notice, right away, that I decided to get a cup of tea. I've just always preferred it. I find it soothing. According to my family, my grandfather use to put (cold) black tea in my baby bottle. No wonder I'm so damn hyper!


I'd tell you I'm having a heck of a time editing my novel, and that I know I'll need to push the release back again and I HATE that.

I'd also tell you that I can't tell whether it's that I honestly keep thinking up ways to improve the novel, or whether I'm just stalling. People I've spoken to tell me the ideas are solid, and that they will strengthen the book, but deep down inside I know there is a part of me that doesn't want to let go of this book and these characters just as much as there is part of me who is dying to find out what people will think of them.

I think my biggest concern, though, is that I know getting people to read this will be a challenge. I'm not an aggressive person, as you likely know from how much I promote what goes on here. I do need to remember that I'm writing first and foremost for me, and to prove to myself that I can do this. But it would be nice to have other people connect with this world and these characters that have eaten up three years of my life, y'know?


I'd probably poke fun at the fact that my organizational skills leave MUCH to be desired. I have tons of ideas for my blog, what books I want to read, and what I'm writing. But keeping track of them? Not my forte. This leads to a funky juggling act where if I'm blogging I feel like I should be reading, if I'm reading I feel like I should be writing, and when I'm writing I feel like I'm getting "behind" on my blog. And that leads to a paralyzing melt down where I get absolutely nothing done.

I'm working at this, and I think (hope?) I'm getting better at it. I think that the biggest breakthrough for me has been acknowledging the fact that I came here to be an author. I do love books, and I do love this community, but by owning up to the fact that my writing is my top priority, I don't have the problems I stated above nearly as much as I use to.


I'd tell you that I Write, I Read, I Review is going through some really big changes. I've been thinking about what I want to have on my blog and I am working toward making sure that the content that ends up here is what I'd want to see if I was reading it. I also want to try and get my blog to be a bit more social--I want to take part in events. I want to have more discussion posts. I want to be talking about books I really love and about topics that really matter. I don't feel I did enough of that in 2013 and I want that to change.


These are the three books I would totally be fangirling over. The ones I would be trying to devise schemes worthy of Wile E. Coyote to get you to read too.

Shadow and Bone has fantastic world building and the Darkling.

If You Stay has one of the most honest male POVs I've ever read, a bad boy who is truly, believably bad, and allows the reader actually see him redeem himself.

And The Collector has Dante Walker, who is one of the funniest, most enjoyable narrators I've ever followed through a story. It also has some pretty awesome world building which kept my interest from start to finish.


I'd tell you the three things I'm most excited about in 2014 are...

1) Releasing Sealer's Promise. Big surprise there. I've been working on the book for years. It's going to feel good getting it out there.

2) Jay coming to visit in April. Jay's visits are like vacations for me, even though he comes to my house. A visit from Jay is more important to me than most holidays.

3) Attending the next Ontario Blogger Meet Up. My parents have already said they'll take Marie and I again if there is one next year.


I'd talk about the books I'm most excited for next year:


Ignite Me: "I am 100% team Warner. This will probably bite me on the butt. Yet I really don't care." ;)

The One: "I really hope America and Maxon end up together, because I think Aspen is a jerk."

Into The Still Blue: "I really like Perry and Aria and I hope they get a satisfying ending."

New (To Me) Authors: 

Cruel Beauty: "A retelling of Beauty and the Beast where the 'beauty' has trained her whole life, plotting to assassinate him? This should be interesting."

Alienated: "Between the gorgeous cover and the alien / human love premise--complete with a potential threat that these aliens didn't come to Earth to pal around, Alienated is way up there on my must read list for 2014."

The Break Up Artist: "This looks like it could be massively funny, and I'm pretty sure our "artist" will learn something along the way. In today's world, with the internet giving us moral invisibility and the divorce rate through the ceiling, a premise like this is something I could actually buy into."


I'd tell you that I am so glad that there are people who take the time to come here and check out my blog, even though I'm not the most organized, and don't post the most often. I've made some great friends, both readers and writers, since I started I Write, I Read, I Review. And I wouldn't trade that for anything.
So, now that I've said all that, it's your turn. What would you want to say if we were having coffee? I'd love to know, so feel free to leave a comment!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: If You Leave by Courtney Cole

*This is not YA

After reading and loving If You Stay, the first book in the Beautifully Broken series, I ended up buying If You Leave the day it launched. But I was really busy with writing and editing at the time, and I had finished the first book recently, so I decided to let it sit.

Then this week I read two books that totally didn't work for me, and I basically went, "That's it. I'm done reading stuff that I'm not sure I'll like. It's time to stack the odds in my favor.". I'm kinda obsessed with reading books that are on my beautiful new Kindle, so when I noticed If You Leave there it seemed like just the thing. I was still in the mood for something contemporary and romantic, even though the other book I'd just finished in the genre didn't end up being my cup of tea.

So...did I prejudge If You Leave? Were my hopes fulfilled or totally dashed? Read on and find out!
(Summary from GoodReads)
26-year old Gabriel Vincent is a badass hero. Or he used to be, anyway. As an ex-Army Ranger, Gabe never thought he needed anyone. But after one horrible night in Afghanistan scars him in a way that he can't get past, he needs someone who can help him heal...even if he doesn't realize it.

25-year old Madison Hill doesn't need anybody...or so she thinks. She grew up watching her parents' messed-up abusive relationship and she knows there's no way in hell that she's ever letting that happen to her.

They don't know it in the beginning, but Gabriel and Madison will soon develop a weakness: Each other.

But Gabriel's got a secret, a hidden monster that he's afraid Maddy could never overcome... And Maddy's got issues that she's afraid Gabe will never understand. They quickly realize that they need each other to be whole, but at the same time they know that they've got demons to fight.

And the problem with demons is that they never die quietly.
I really loved If You Stay. And if you'd like a quick verdict without all the technical details for this book, let me say this: I loved If You Leave even more. 

Everything that was great about If You Stay is back: a kickass, albeit broken, hero; a likable heroine; a terrific supporting cast; zippy writing (with especially great, funny and honest / real dialog) that keeps those pages turning. If you liked If You Stay, you will likely enjoy If You Leave

The connection and chemistry between Madison and Gabriel is hot, instant and undeniable. Yet the emotional impact these two will have on each other has a delicious slow burn and by the time they actually get to do anything real with the attraction they show in the beginning, you'll pretty much be begging them. And the wait totally pays off. A lot of times I feel that people might misunderstand my view regarding sex scenes in novels and think I just don't like them. That's not true. I like well written scenes that move the characters--and their story--forward. And again, just like she did in If You Stay, Courtney Cole beyond delivers. 

But wait. It gets better...

...Every criticism I had against the first book in this series has been addressed and (mostly) dealt with. Unlike Mila, Madison has a real spine and has problems of her own which are actually addressed in the story. The habit I noticed Courtney Cole had of summarizing things that might need more detail only cropped up once, and in all fairness it was information the reader already knew. 

In parting, my one request would be this: I want to know what happens to Brand. I really, really, like Brand. <3 
As far as I'm concerned, If You Leave is a must read, and it secures Courtney Cole as an auto buy author for me. On top of all the good things I said above, I will also add that Gabriel is one of, if not my favorite, contemporary heroes ever. I don't think I can give much higher praise than that. If you haven't checked out the Beautifully Broken series yet, and you like contemporary or NA, I would highly recommend that you do. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Review: North of Need by Laura Kaye

*This is not YA

I took one look at the premise of this book and started squeeing like a lovesick fangirl. A Snow God using a snowman as a means to come to life and attempt to comfort a young, grieving widow? Sounded too freaking cool, if you ask me--or perhaps ASKED me a couple days ago...

I guess I'd be lying if I didn't admit up front that I had HUGE hopes for this one. Stories about Gods falling in love with mortals are something I tend to really love--or really hate. I'm always looking for the love, I swear! But alas, they don't always deliver.

I also came across this book because I'm mixing in some festive reads with the Get Read-y thing I'm taking part in next month. And this just seemed like it would be the perfect fit. Read on and I'll tell you where North of Need melted my heart...and where it left me totally cold.
(Summary from GoodReads)
While attempting to escape the agonizing memories she associates with Christmas, twenty-nine-year-old widow Megan Snow builds a snow family outside the mountain cabin she once shared with her husband-and collapses in tears against the snowman at the sight of what she'll never have.

Called to life by the power of Megan's tears, snow god Owen Winters appears unconscious on her doorstep in the midst of a raging blizzard. As she nurses him to health, Owen finds unexpected solace in her company and unimagined pleasure in the warmth of her body, and vows to win her heart for a chance at humanity.

Megan is drawn to Owen's mismatched eyes, otherworldly masculinity, and enthusiasm for the littlest things, and her heart opens enough to believe he's a Christmas miracle. But this miracle comes with an expiration-before the snow melts and the temperature rises, Megan must let go of her widow's grief and learn to trust love again, or she'll lose Owen forever.
I often feel like I am a black sheep in the blogging and writing community, because I'm often the devil's advocate, the defender of things that make many people seem to want to wall toss their Kindles. Take insta-love, for example. When it comes to paranormal and fantasy stories, I'm normally totally game for it. I usually find it cute, because I liken those stories, more often to not, as myths or fairytales for grown ups.

But even I have my limit, and North of Need seemed ready and willing to do everything it could to push my buttons and make me look like a total holiday Scrooge. The book actually spells it out for readers that the heroine will have FOUR DAYS to fall in love with the hero. Oh, and did you catch the part in the summary where we learned she lost her husband two years ago in a car crash? Alright-y, then. I can so buy that she'll be ready to give someone--even an Immortal Snow God--her heart in that time frame. NOT. 

But wait, it gets better. Surely, you're asking me, there must be some great and crucially life threatening reason that could throw them over the edge. Some terrible evil chasing them? Some great catastrophe that must be thwarted? NOPE. Another God, who controls the onset of spring, is doing things (that do not relate to our couple--this character isn't out to get them or a villain / antagonist--he's purely an elemental force within the context of this book) that are going to make the hero melt. And he can only avoid melting if the heroine can get past her dead husband and declare her love for him...within four days.

And just how will these two fine souls become acquainted? Why, through food, sex, an igloo, more food, more sex, skiing, and sex, sex, and did I mention SEX. Sweet mother of Zeus, I think this book had more sex scenes than Backstage Pass! (Only those were GOOD sex scenes, just to keep things clear.) There were two really big problems with the sex in North of Need. (1) It was sex for sex's sake. It didn't really do anything but pad the book out. (2) and when we're talking six to eight scenes in 230 pages that's way too much boring, generic sex. It got to a point where I would skim the sex scenes because ab-so-freaking-lutely nothing was going on there. (Might make a good sleep aid?)

The hero and heroine were okay at best. The hero, Owen, was perfect to the point of being as tasteless as--you guessed it--snow. Laura Kaye gave him some pretty cool powers here and there, and I did like the lore that surrounded his background...but he was too damn nice. As for Megan, I think I've found a new way to use TSTL. You've heard of "too stupid to live", right? Well...Megan was "Too Stupid To Love"--a condition where our heroine is too stupid to act on her feelings when it's vital and then, in turn, is so stupid we don't feel she should even get her happily ever after. >.< 

Aside from the mythology I just mentioned, the only other saving grace this book had was the Supreme Snow God, Boreas. I really wish we'd gotten to see him as a younger character and that he'd been the lead, because he was freakin' hilarious. He showed up a couple times and totally had me laughing by the end of the story. 
I'm honestly at a loss on this one. The best I can say is to take a look at the things I complained about: (1) super, duper, OMFG Kat thought it was insta-love and didn't like it; (2) Where's the plot, man! (3) Sex-o-palooza (boring, generic sex at that...) and (4) a hero who is pretty much as bland as the snow that sustains him. I don't want to write this series off completely because Laura Kaye's writing was good, I've heard the series gets a bit more momentum as it progresses, and I loved the mythology. But I'm not going to be racing to get book two like my butt's on fire. 

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