Book 85 of 2015: Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer


Celebrate the tenth anniversary of Twilight! This special double-feature book includes the classic novel, Twilight, and a bold and surprising reimagining, Life and Death, by Stephenie Meyer.

Packaged as an oversize, jacketed hardcover “flip book,” this edition features nearly 400 pages of new content as well as exquisite new back cover art. Readers will relish experiencing the deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful love story of Bella and Edward through fresh eyes.

Twilight has enraptured millions of readers since its first publication in 2005 and has become a modern classic, redefining genres within young adult literature and inspiring a phenomenon that has had readers yearning for more. The novel was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a #1USA Today bestseller, a Time magazine Best Young Adult Book of All Time, an NPR Best-Ever Teen Novel, and a New York Times Editor’s Choice. The Twilight Saga, which also includes New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella, and The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide, has sold nearly 155 million copies worldwide.

I’m going to start this with an admission. I have a guilty pleasure for the Twilight series. I have all the books and all of the movies. I watch the movies fairly often (and I like the movies better than the books). Even though I do the Twihard thing, I don’t want to label myself as that. I don’t consider this the best form of young adult literature and there are days that I’m scratching my head wondering why I love the series. And so, I call it a love/hate relationship. I love the impact the series has been for its fans and the community of Forks. I love that a large group of people can come together and gush over literature. As a Potterhead, I can understand a Twihard. Le Sigh, let’s face it, I just may also be a quasi-twihard.

Now that that’s done. When I found out about the gender bending version of Twilight, I knew I had to grab it. I wanted to see what was different. I love speculating about books. I love trying to see if the book would have been better in some ways. Life and Death did that for me.

Yes, it’s basically a fanfiction written by the original author. The ending is different from the original and all of the genders have been switched (with the exception of Charlie, Renee’, and Phil). But, basically it is the same story. Beau is a tad bit different from Bella. He’s a little more OCD. Surprisingly, I liked him better than Bella. Which is amazing because I’ve read reviews with people saying he was worse than her.

Now, for the controversy that lies in Meyer’s work, I didn’t see Life and Death as a reinforcer of gender norms. However, I have come to realize how Edward could be seen as abusive or have abusive like qualities through reading Edythe. Strange, isn’t it? I think I had to see her demanding nature to see what people were talking about with Edward. I still don’t think it’s so bad, but I can get where they are coming from.

In all, the book was the same as the first. I liked that it ended and that was that. I also liked the change in the Volturi. But yeah, if you are a Twihard, you probably have already finished this book. If you aren’t and are thinking of reading the series, obviously go for the original and then work your way to this one.

That said, I only ask one thing… for the 15th or 20th anniversary, will we be seeing an LGBTQ version of Twilight? If so, I will be reading that. I actually hope so.

Book 84 of 2015: Haitian Graves by Vicki Delany


The vibrant color and sounds of Haiti hide dark secrets.

RCMP sergeant Ray Robertson is serving with the United Nations in Haiti, a land of brilliant color and vibrant life, Vodou and vast above-ground cemeteries. Ray’s job is to train the local police and assist investigations. One call comes in from the home of a wealthy American businessman. The man came home to find his beautiful, young Haitian wife floating face down in the swimming pool. The American embassy and the Haitian police immediately arrest the gardener, and the case is closed. But Ray isn’t so sure, and he keeps digging. Until one night he finds himself in a Vodou-saturated cemetery, surrounded by above-ground tombs and elaborate statuary, confronting a killer with nothing left to lose.

This is the second in a series featuring RCMP sergeant Ray Robertson on his various postings overseas.

I won Haitian Graves in a door prize at the Suffolk Mystery Festival. Which was an amazing time! If you’re a Hampton Roads local or are visiting some day in the future, check out if the festival is happening. I loved it!

Haitian Graves was a very quick read. Just shy of 160 pages, the book is quick. Because of that, this review will be short. The writing was easy to get into. For the mystery part, I wasn’t too surprised at who the killer was or the motives of the killer.

Mostly, the book had an exotic feel. I’ve never been to Haiti, but it felt like I was there. The main character, Ray Robertson, is a character I wouldn’t mind learning more about. I’m sure there is more to his character in the first book of his series, Juba Gold. However, I didn’t feel like I needed to have read that book to understand Haitian Graves.

 For Haitian Graves, it is the setting and the mystery that was the focus of the book. It is a decent read to break any monotony in your life or if you’re busy.

Book 83 of 2015: Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler


Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents’ wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls … opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he’s trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he’s in the spotlight—on everyone’s terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents’ disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she’s painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van’s life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she’ll have to choose between the one thing she’s always loved … and the person she never imagined she could.

I received an ARC from an employee of the publisher for an honest review. No compensation was given.

When I saw Under the Lights on a Goodreads giveaway, I got excited. There aren’t many LGBTQ books out there. At least from my experience. I love reading something that isn’t frequent, whether it is the story or characters. Under the Lights had those two qualities.

For instance, I’m not much of a Hollywood Contemporary reader. I’ve read more contemporary lately, but the genre is still rare enough for me. Under the Lights center on the lives of young adults who live under the limelight. They are celebrities, actors, and some are spoiled.

The first main character, Vanessa, actually lives with her parents despite years of TV success. Her parents value education over acting. Even though Vanessa is rich and is successful, none of it seems to go to her head. She seems fairly level-headed. The only celebrity thing that gets into her head is making her publicist happy (which in turn makes her image that much better and more sellable for future roles).

The second main character, Josh, is the spoiled rich guy. He mostly does modeling with the occasional spot on film. He drinks, parties, but is loyal to his friends.

The book is written in their separate point of views. Each of their storylines deal with their own personal issues and conjoin together at times. For the most part, I felt Vanessa took over the book. In a good way. She had a more emotional impact with me. Josh’s story wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as filled with emotion as Vanessa (for me).

Overall the book was good. I liked Vanessa’s story and did have an interest in her. The Hollywood element was new for me and I can’t imagine that life, but I realize that the book may not be that far off from reality. The writing is simple and easy to get into. In all, it was a nice break from other books I’ve read.

Book 82 of 2015: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski


Winning what you want may cost you everything you love… 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I love this book. I had a serious fangirl moment from the beginning to the end. So much so that I bought the sequel in audiobook to continue with the experience I had with this book. I should add that I checked out the audiobook of The Winner’s Curse from my library and finished it in a manner of days.

The narration is beautiful. The reader gives accents to the characters, giving them a lifelike quality to them. I could see Kestrel in all her Valorian awesomeness giving Arin a piece of her mind. I could see the horrors of the slave auction. I was chewing my nails hoping for a good outcome during certain events (I love this book so much I might actually spill the beans about it).

Kestrel is a strong young woman who wants to live her life her way. She doesn’t care for slavery, but has slaves. She doesn’t want to join the military or marry, but knows that her life is divided by those choices alone. Arin is a slave who hates it. He remembers the days of freedom and those memories stoke the passion within them. Add in strategy and amazing culture and you have a great trilogy.

The world is amazing. Each country has their own culture that is believeable and can be compared to cultures much like we have throughout history. So many fantasy books has the culture as a separate entity in the writing. The culture feels like exposition and doesn’t flow freely through the composition. Not in this book. I didn’t feel confused or pushed away from the scene just to get a history lesson.

I really don’t know what else I could say that wouldn’t give anything away. Oh wait! Yes, this is a young adult, but it’s not a typical young adult. There isn’t insta-love. There is something that makes the reader root for the characters. Half the time I was rooting for them, the other half I was rooting for their respective cultures. This IS a book you NEED. I am serious.

Now I just need to finish up my other books so that I can listen to the second book!

Book 81 of 2015: Famous Last Words by Katie Alender


Hollywood history, mystery, murder, mayhem, and delicious romance collide in this unputdownable thriller from master storyteller Katie Alender.

Willa is freaking out. It seems like she’s seeing things. Like a dead body in her swimming pool. Frantic messages on her walls. A reflection that is not her own. It’s almost as if someone — or something — is trying to send her a message.

Meanwhile, a killer is stalking Los Angeles — a killer who reenacts famous movie murder scenes. Could Willa’s strange visions have to do with these unsolved murders? Or is she going crazy? And who can she confide in? There’s Marnie, her new friend who may not be totally trustworthy. And there’s Reed, who’s ridiculously handsome and seems to get Willa. There’s also Wyatt, who’s super smart but unhealthily obsessed with the Hollywood Killer.

All Willa knows is, she has to confront the possible-ghost in her house, or she just might lose her mind . . . or her life.

Acclaimed author Katie Alender puts an unforgettable twist on this spine-chilling tale of murder, mystery, mayhem — and the movies.

I have read a few of Katie Alender books. I do like her writing style and her characters are fun to get into, but some books are hit and miss and almost kitchy (Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer can fall in that). That said, I still enjoy her work and have continued reading. Hence, Famous Last Words. 

I checked out Famous Last Words from my library’s audio book app. As you know, audio books are a great distraction to chores and push back the monotony of hearing Justing Bieber on the radio half a dozen times (seriously, I’ve heard one of his songs and the next song after that was him again). Since I like Alender and the blurb intrigued me, I went for it.

The narrator was easy to get into. She felt the part of the main character and sounded familiar (I wonder if I have heard her in other books). The MC, Willa, was a relateable character. She had a fish out of water feel with her move across country, but there was also a deep seeded anger that made her feel real. The other characters didn’t have as much depth, but they were enjoyable to read as well.

I can see how someone was able to pick out who the killer was, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t right off the bat. It took me a while. But, I can see how it would be easy for soemone else to see it. The mystery and the methods of solving it weren’t that exciting. Mostly, I loved the moments when Willa was experiencing the visions. Those were cool and creepy.

In all, it wasn’t a bad book. It got me wanting to read more of Alender. It was a fun release of monotony and it did help me get things done around the house.

Book 80 of 2015: Mind of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan


Moira is a powerful empath, a psychic graced with the ability to read emotions and memories. Her skill is as much a curse as a gift, for in the harshly stratified city of Braxton empaths are slaves. Clever and beautiful, Moira has learned to rely on no one but herself. Determined to escape life as a concubine, she kills her master, and is imprisoned for the crime.

This could be the end for Moira, but the government has need of her skills. A mysterious serial killer known as the Phoenix has been planting suggestions in his victims’ minds that drive them to murder and suicide. To gain her freedom, Moira partners with Keenan Edwards, a handsome young detective, to stop the killer.

Hunting the Phoenix will bring Moira on a more dangerous road than she imagined, forcing her to confront dark minds, twisted moralities, and her growing feelings for the detective.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley for an honest review.

Mind of the Phoenix is a fantasy (maybe slightly Steampunk, but not sure) mystery book. It is set in a world similar to early 1900’s our world. The technology and clothing are similar. However, the class structure is different. There are empaths, people who can feel and go into your mind, and regular humans. The regular humans are the “dominant” race. Empaths are slaves, given the last name of their owners, and classified into different groups in order to make the lives of the rich and normal people easier.

Moira is an empath who doesn’t follow the rules placed on her from before her birth. She is strong, cynical, and intelligent. I love her as a female lead. She was realistic with real human problems and supernatural awesomeness. The male lead, Detective Keenan Edwards is the male version of Moira. His quiet and reserved way made him both infuriating and intriguing.

The book has two mysteries within it. The first one is a series of murders that hint at a conspiracy or outside revolution. The second mystery is a series of rapes and murders. The first one is not resolved at the end of the book, but does keep you wanting more. I found the second mystery fairly easy to figure out.

Honestly, it is the world, characters, and the big mystery that has me going. I found Moira a great character and someone to root for. I will definitely read more of McLachlan’s books.

Book 79 of 2015: Nirvana by JR Stewart


When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?

Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized – even visits with Andrew.

Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.

Nirvana is a fast-paced, page-turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley for an honest review.

Nirvana is part post apocalyptic and part sci-fi thriller. Even though post apocalyptic is sci-fi, I am separating it from the thriller part because there is an Earth shattering event, but life doesn’t seem to be worse because of it. What is that event? The extinction of bees.

It’s hard to believe that one event like this could change the world so dramatically, but it works for this book. Basically, everyone is pampered with high end technology, robots, and the corporate world are now the rulers. Which isn’t much of a stretch in my opinion. Sure, the bee thing might be, but corporations taking over? Nah, it’s possible.

That said, the thriller part of the book revolves around Larissa Kenders and her attempts at understanding the circumstances surrounding her fiance’ (husband’s?) death. She is a young woman (it says 17, but I have a feeling she should be older) who was a punk rock star turned VR operator. Larissa seems interesting; she’s defiant, intelligent, and has conviction. I say she feels older because of her more worldly view of everything. I like to think I was rather humanitarian at seventeen, but I wasn’t like Kenders.

The book was interesting and did keep me on my toes. It left enough intrigue to keep my mind going about the world. I might have wanted more of an understanding of the minor characters, but that didn’t bother me so much that I couldn’t finish the book. It was short, easy to get into, and quick to finish. It had action, science, and enough intrigue to feel like a decent thriller movie.

In all, it wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t say I was too surprised about the ending though. I found this book more like a quick fun read that I didn’t need to think too hard over.