Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Publisher: Walker Childrens

Genre: Children/YA Fiction, Paranormal

Series:  No

Pages: 368 (Hardcover)

Release Date: September 3rd, 2013

Rating: 071913_0709_ReviewThron2.png071913_0709_ReviewThron2.png071913_0709_ReviewThron2.png071913_0709_ReviewThron2.png

Summary from Goodreads:

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she’s in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

__________________________________

coffee to goCoffee To Go: Trippy, full of the “How did I not see that coming?!” plot twists, a sweet romance, and a very real, interesting and complex villain, Conjured kept my attention until the end. My biggest problem: I didn’t have a problem putting it down. I wasn’t at all bored throughout the book, but I also didn’t fall in love with the characters. I’ll be honest; I probably won’t purchase it for my personal bookshelf. However, I think this book NEEDS to be in middle and high school libraries. It’s fun fiction with a powerful message.

Thoughts—

I tried and tried to use my normal review format and, well, it just wasn’t working for Conjured. This book is much too trippy for that. Before I get into my actual review, let me say that I debated giving this book 3 cups based on my review policy, but the book’s overall message is what pushed it to the 3.5 cup mark. I loved the ending.

Where do I begin? Eve is a very unique protagonist, to say the least. I haven’t read many books in which the narrator struggles with huge amounts of memory loss, but Durst portrays Eve in a way that you really understand her frustration. The problem? Nobody will tell her why she can’t remember anything. As a reader, I got a glimpse into how terrible amnesia truly is. Imagine having to rely on everyone around you—including those in which you have zero trust—to tell you what has happened in your own life because you can’t remember weeks at a time. Yeah. It sucks. On another note, most of you probably know that I LOVE character growth, especially in the protagonist. Eve grows tremendously. The worst part? I can’t even tell you the true depth of her growth right now because I’d be giving away the biggest secret. Ugh. Let’s just say that Eve learns what humanity is made of.

Pretend that you’re part of a witness protection program and a chunk of your teenage years have been either lost in a memory-black-hole or spent inside of a hideous government building. Boom, you’re Eve. You know what you miss out on? BOYS. Until you get a job working at the local library and you meet a quirky, adorable boy that tells you that he wants to kiss you five minutes after you’ve met him. Enter Zach! You will fall in love with him. He’s easily one of my favorite parts of Conjured. He stands for normalcy and innocence. He’s silly and adores Eve and will put a smile on your face. Eve’s dreams act as foreshadowing devices and give the reader creepy circus imagery. If you like circus imagery, you will probably like Conjured. Durst’s use of dreams in the novel really complements her use of memory loss. Eve’s dreams give the reader (and herself) just enough glimpses into her past to stir intrigue.

Let’s talk about the villain(s). When I met them, I was flabbergasted. Yes, I used that word. Many villains have an identity throughout most of the story and appear strongly and briefly in the story’s climax, but these villains stay shrouded in mystery until late in the plot. When the villains appear, the reader gets to know them rather intimately. The ending pages of the novel were high on emotion and character self-discovery.

Oh, and the cover didn’t make sense until after I read it. I think it was more of an “Oh, duh” moment for me though.

Memorable Quotes—

“She thought about teasing him, saying the car was blushing in embarrassment at the gouge in its paint—that seemed like something he’d like her to say. But maybe she’d already made that joke.”

“’You said you’re enjoying kissing one of them?’ ‘Is that unusual?’ Eve asked. ‘I thought that was the point of kissing.’” (Such matter-of-factness!)

“His innocent fearlessness was beautiful, and she wanted suddenly to feel that fearlessness too.”

 ***This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

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On the topic of “growing up” in literature.

black espresso

Recently, I’ve started to hear more and more about writers of adult fiction asking writers of YA fiction when they will grow up. The problem? Readers experience the same phenomenon. I can’t tell you how many times someone who chooses to read the classics or someone who chooses to read endless strings of adult crime thriller novels, tells me that I should grow up and stop reading my “silly teenage fantasy romances.”

UM, EXCUSE ME?

My main issue with this does not lie in their obvious literary snobbery or even the fact that they don’t know what they’re talking about, since they don’t read YA fiction. My problem lies in the fact that they’re looking down on a genre that actually gets kids and teenagers to read. I can’t tell you how many of my friends growing up seriously disliked reading because of its association with school, and therefore things like “work” and “bad” and “for smart people only.” Yet when I begged them on my figurative hands and knees to read something (usually Harry Potter), they would inevitably give in and appease me. By doing so, they would fall in love with reading all over again and discern things about the world around them and the world within them that they’d never even glimpsed at before.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care if 99.9% of the books I read center around teenagers who discover a hidden magical/mythical world within their own while finding first love in the process, defy a totalitarian government against all odds, or find out that they are, in some way, very different than most people. Because all of these crazy plots are inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on the formulaic crime mystery. As a kid, I would constantly sneak into the study to read Catherine Coulter, Iris Johansen, etc. until the wee hours in the morning. Are these novels bad? No. Are they the only good ones? Definitely not. Are they the most inspiring? Depends on who you are. But in a world where teenagers would rather watch endless hours of TV, waste time reading the same tweets and Instagram photos over and over, and use SparkNotes on every English exam, books that intrigue teenagers are important.

Take Harry Potter, for instance. A scrawny eleven year old with a lightning bolt-shaped scar who, rather than choosing defeat, fights the most feared wizard in magical history and wins. What about Katniss? A half-starving girl from an unimportant district firmly under a horrific government’s control finds herself the face of a revolution. Tris—a small girl from an unassuming faction who chooses to be Dauntless in more ways than one, who begins to understand bravery, selflessness, and facing one’s fears, both in everyday life and in epic battles, and who glimpses her mother’s hidden strength. And Lena? The girl who follows all of the rules, who is perhaps the most afraid of love, who later becomes one of its biggest advocates, and who takes down her society’s walls built upon years of fear of the unknown. Don’t forget Meghan, the girl who risks everything to save her little brother, who finds herself at the center of the faery universe, and who changes from a self-conscious farm girl into a catalyst who changes the very fabric of the faery existence.

All of these stories, and much, much more, tell of teenagers who step up and change something. They find love and they lose it. They figure out what’s important to them in life and fight for it. They aren’t okay with being a part of the status quo. Now, I know that all of the stories I referred to were dystopian or fantasy, but the same goes for much of young adult literature. These authors are so full of imagination that these stories become more than words on a page. These characters are no longer caricatures; they take on a life of their own. Whether young adult fiction tells of transformation of an entire world or of transformation in a single person’s life, it makes a difference.

Camus’ The Stranger, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Shakespeare’s plays, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Jane Austen’s works, Catherine Coulter’s FBI Thriller series, etc. are all GOOD. The classics, the moderns, the fantastical, the realistic, the sci-fi, the paranormal, the romance (well, not Erotica, sorry), and many more are all GOOD.

My point is, just because something is written for a young adult, a middle grade, or a children’s literature-based audience doesn’t make it childish.

So, THANK YOU to every single young adult author, reader, blogger, or publisher who refuses to “grow up.”

 

Okay guys, what do you think about growing up in literature? I’d really love your feedback! 🙂

FAE Blog Tour!

Blog Tour 1

Hey everyone! Today I have the privilege of hosting a review and an interview with Colet and Jasmine Abedi, authors of FAE. Firstly, I get to tell you guys some stuff about this great book!

“Enchanting. Loveable. Forbidden. I had to stop.”

coffee to goCoffee To Go: Dreamy quote, isn’t it? Who doesn’t love stories about forbidden, star-crossed love? Fae is oh, so touching and sweet. It brings the fantasy realm into the normal realm rather than the other way around as most novels do. There’s an eerie prophecy, a hot guy, a really relatable and funny protagonist, and did I mention FAERIES?! Besides that, if you love covers as much as I do, just look at it!! It’s visually stunning. I literally just stared at it (again) for the last few minutes.

Gushing over, I promise. You can read my full review here. It’ll give you the plot synopsis, publication info, a feel for the characters, the setting, and some cool Fae quotes. Read the review–you won’t regret it!

Now onto the part of this post where you get to learn about the brains behind the book.

Hello ladies, thanks so much taking the time to talk with me!

Our pleasure…thank you so much for giving us this amazing opportunity.

Of course! In Fae, we find out that Caroline has a pretty important lineage. Pulling the story of Roanoke into faerie lore is so creative! What inspired you to connect those concepts?

What happened to The Lost Colony is one of those great American stories that’s shrouded in mystery. You had this group of people that came here from a foreign land, hoping to start a new life and they just disappeared.  As a writer you can take so many creative liberties with this, you can play with this world and dream up your own version of what happened to them.  We both have always had a great love of mysticism and magic, we thought what would be better than bringing the world of the Tuatha de Danann (Fae) to the romantic setting of Roanoke and then add a real historical element with the Lost Colony.  It kind of lends itself to the perfect backdrop for an epic romance.

I completely agree, it’s the perfect backdrop. Let’s talk about Caroline. I love how honest and relatable she is. Even as she’s falling fast for Devilyn, she’s feisty and holds her ground. Is there a piece of Caroline in either of you?

Colet:

There’s a bit of Caroline in me for sure. I’m not a runner but I am a dreamer like Caroline. And I’ve always been told that I’m a bit of an old soul.

Jasmine:

I would certainly hope so. Caroline represents a character that we think any woman would/should truly aspire to be. So, if someone who knows us says that we have any similarity to her, it would be an honor. There is such an element of innocence that surrounds her, but beyond that she’s also an old soul, and wise beyond her years. She carries herself with such grace and dignity, she’s strong and intelligent and also incredibly giving and loyal. And as you said, she’s incredibly feisty and doesn’t let anyone bring her down, or at minimum doesn’t let anyone see her sweat.  

Devilyn *swoon* goes through a ton of character transformation in Fae. I had so much fun getting to see him grow into his potential. Did he surprise you at all when you were writing the book?

Devilyn was fun to write.  As women, it is an incredible opportunity to be able to create a character and watch him grow into what we believe will be the perfect man (or as close to that as possible). He really did change quite a bit in the first book from where his journey began and to where he stands in the end and it’s not the choice that we really want him to make.  His conflicts with Caroline lie with his strong desire to want to shield her from pain and sorrow.  So even though it may not seem that way, he comes from a good place and he’s deeply virtuous.  He’s also handsome, chivalrous and smart…  So an incredible combination.

I really felt that the quotes beginning each chapter helped cement the themes in Fae. If you could communicate one message to readers through this book, what would it be?

Thank you! We absolutely love those quotes as well.  There is definitely a strong message of fate and the role that destiny plays in ones life. The universe has a way of making things happen for you just the way it’s supposed to.  There is definitely a lot written in those stars we see in the sky, so we should let them guide us.

The book’s ending definitely leaves me asking questions; I am so curious to see what’s next for Caroline and Devilyn! Can you give a teaser of what we can expect in the next book?

There are definitely going to be some major challenges for Devilyn and Caroline in Book 2.  Devilyn chose to play with magik.  And when you play with fire, you inevitably get burned.

Amen to that! I’m so excited to see it all play out! Now, I want to hear about you guys!

 What’s your choice comfort food?

Colet: Pizza- mushroom & pepperoni. I’m easy.

Jasmine: I love my mother’s spaghetti Bolognese.  It is heavenly.

 What is your biggest pet peeve?

Colet: People who are not open minded and people who don’t like dogs. I’m a huge animal lover so I have a bit of a problem when there’s no love for our furry friends.

Jasmine: Messiness…I’m pretty much a neat freak and a little type A in that department.

Where is the easiest place for you to write?

Colet: On my balcony late at night. Love to look up at the sky.

Jasmine: My bedroom.  My office is in my bedroom, and I think it’s the most comfortable and tranquil room in our home.

What’s your all-time favorite book?

Colet: I know it’s an epic poem but mine really is Paradise Lost by John Milton.

Jasmine: I wish I could say it was something intellectually insightful, but if I’m being honest it is definitely Paradise by Judith McNaught.  I think I’ve read it over 100 times.

If you could meet any author, who would it be?

Colet: William Shakespeare. My sister and I can share a time travel machine and I’ll pick her up on my way back when I’m done.

Jasmine: I would love to go back in time and meet Jane Austen.

What literary character are you swooning over right now?

Colet: Ashton from K.A. Tucker’s One Tiny Lie. Love.  

Jasmine: I can’t seem to get Devilyn Reilly out of my head.  Not sure it gets any better.  To be fair, I did have a bit of a crush on Christian Grey until the playroom doors opened and then I got a little freaked out by his intensity.  That’s not to say that I didn’t finish reading all three books in three days.

Now I hope you’re ready to answer this last question—it’s a big one! What caffeinated beverage can we find in your hand most often?

Colet: English Breakfast Tea

Jasmine: I drink passion fruit iced tea pretty much every day.

I hope everyone had as much fun with this interview as I did! 

Here’s a quick bio on these sisters:

C. J. Abedi is made up of the sister writing team Colet and Jasmine Abedi who wrote the upcoming series Fae.  They have always had a love of writing and began collaborating on many projects when they were very young.  Their passion for all things creative led them to the world of the entertainment industry where they have worked since completing their education. You can learn more about each sister here. You can buy Fae (at a great price) at Diversion Books.

Below, you can check out the Abedi sisters’ social media, an excerpt of Fae, the book trailer, and a link to the publisher.

          

Tomorrow on the blog tour:  http://brandyjellum.blogspot.com/

Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen

Publisher: Harlequin TEEN

Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Teen & YA

Series:  None

Pages: 336

Release Date: September 24th, 2013

Rating: coffee cup iconcoffee cup iconcoffee cup iconcoffee cup icon

Summary from Goodreads:

3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped. 

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family’s murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira’s psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan’s secrets prove ever more deadly, Kira’s only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can’t escape.

GAME OVER

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coffee to go

Coffee To Go: If you want a quick, fun adrenaline shot, this book is for you. It’s gritty and doesn’t sugarcoat the deadliness of Countdown. Did I mention psychic powers and implants? How about having to trust a convicted murderer to survive? The story rushes through the plot a little too quickly for me, but there’s non-stop action, secrets, and sci-fi, all of which combine to make the perfect rainy day read.

Characters—

Kira: This girl is a hot mess. I’m not sure whether I like her or not. She doesn’t necessarily change over the course of the novel, but the reader does get to know her better. She’s a bit unrealistic and changes her mind a lot, but if you like spunk and attitude and fierceness she’s your girl! Oh, and sarcasm. Her sarcasm is hilarious!

Rogan: Definitely my favorite character. He will surprise you over and over again! He has such a crazy story. The best part? He’s not perfect. Thank goodness. He has some serious skeletons in his closet and feels tons of guilt. That said, it’s a really interesting journey to see the true Rogan come out. You will find some definite “squeal” and “swoon” moments with Rogan.

The World—

Full of rust and overcast skies. Odd, yes, but that’s my mental picture. The book cover gives you a pretty good taste of the setting. Kira’s city is one that nobody wants to live in, which is why she wants so badly to go to the Colony! The sci-fi technology is very creative. I remember putting my iPad down for a moment when I learned about the implants because my brain couldn’t handle all of the awesome-ness. YES, IMPLANTS. Let that sink in…okay, good. The world has a neatly tied up history and makes for a great setting, especially for the type of game Kira and Rogan play.

Final Thoughts—

I liked it well enough. It didn’t give me an “OMG I love this and I want to read it again every day” feeling, but it did keep me on my toes and interested in Kira and Rogan’s fates. Other minor characters come along, but they’re more plot device than dynamic character. That’s okay though—Rowen uses them effectively. Warning: if you want a story in which you can fall in love with the characters and the world, this probably isn’t for you. It could be, but usually that’s reserved for series. Countdown has a pretty rushed feel to it. But once again, if you like sci-fi, READ this book. I can’t tell you more about the sci-fi aspect without spoilers, but it gets CRAY. And it’s totally logical in Kira and Rogan’s world. LOVE THAT.

Memorable Quotes—

“He eyed me as if I might do something else utterly unexpected—either kiss him or kill him.”

“But what I felt right now—it was real.  No drugs required.”

***This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

Review: IGNITE by Erica Crouch

Publisher: Patchwork Press

Genre: Young Adult, paranormal, romance

Series:  Ignite

Pages: 346

Release Date: June 11, 2013

Rating:coffee cup iconcoffee cup iconcoffee cup iconcoffee cup icon 

Summary from GoodReads:

Penemuel (Pen) fell from grace over a millennium ago, yet there are still times she questions her decision to follow her twin brother, Azael, to Hell. Now that the archangel Michael has returned, threatening Lucifer’s vie for the throne, she begins questioning everything she has always believed. 

As Hell prepares for war – spreading a demonic virus and pilfering innocent souls to build an army – the lines separating the worlds blur. Fates erase and the future is left unwritten. Azael is determined that he and his sister will continue to serve as demons together, but for the first time in her life, Pen is not ruled by destiny. She has the freedom of choice.

With choice comes sacrifice, and Pen must decide which side she’s willing to risk everything fighting for: the light, or the dark.

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coffee to goCoffee To Go: It’s really a lovely read. It’s not action packed or high energy, but you do get to see some of that. While Ignite may seem like a typical paranormal love story, don’t let that fool you. It’s deep. It’s different. You won’t be fangirling—it’s much too serious for that—but you most certainly will not be able to forget these characters!

Characters—

Pen: Boy, does this girl love poetry! I thought that Crouch’s interweaving of poetry into Pen’s daily life was exquisite. More than that, the way she connects poetry to different events in her life is really interesting. Her lengthy internal monologues tended to lose my interest, however. Never fear! Pen’s wit is incredible! If you like dry humor, she’s your gal. Her character transformation is…wow. Her light bulb moments brought a smile or two to my face.

Michael: Hmm…a little too good to be true. Don’t get me wrong, he has a beautiful soul (cheesy, but true). I just feel like he should have some flaws. Because of his perfection, I had a hard time finding his depth. I wish I felt like his character was a rounder character. I know that Crouch tells the story from Pen’s POV, but I didn’t get to see much of Michael’s existence outside of his moments with Pen. HOLD ON—I still loved his character!!  He thinks for himself; he’s not brainwashed by heaven or hell. He’s kind and wants to make a difference. He sees the good in people that others don’t. Angel-flavored brownie points.

Azael: Please don’t ever let him near me! Crouch definitely knows how to create a demon. His devotion to his sister is really interesting, however, since he is supposedly completely evil. *shifty eyes.*

The World—

I’ve never read a book from the demon’s perspective. Like, ever. And I’ve read a lot of books. Crouch made me really re-appreciate the earth’s beauty by showing it through Pen and Michael’s eyes. After I finished the book, I admit that I went outside and stared at the stars for a while. I will say that I didn’t find myself utterly immersed in the world Crouch created but it’s believable. The imaginative and original angel/demon history is perhaps my favorite part of Ignite’s back story.

The Themes—

These are the themes and messages that I personally found within the book, but literature is subjective!

Redemption

Good vs. Evil debate

Star-crossed Love

Final Thoughts—

Something I have to gush on—Erica Crouch goes down in my book as writing one of THE BEST, most beautifully described first kisses EVER. It’s taking all that I have to stop here. I recommend that you go read this book JUST to read that scene. I’ll give you a hint: I’ve included a snippet of it in my Memorable Quotes section. Now, on a more serious note, this book will make you think about profound ideas, whether you realize it or not. And that, my friends, is what sets this book apart from many other romantic reads. If that’s not enough to intrigue you, the cover is gorgeous! It reflects the entirety of the story perfectly!

Memorable Quotes—

“Light burns through the darkness.”

“There are no fireworks, no music. I only see light, white and pure, and hear beautiful, complicated lines of poetry.”

“Maybe the road to redemption can be marred with a few mistakes?”

“His beauty is so severe that the longer you look at him, the more grotesque he becomes.”

***This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

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