Book 33 of 2015: Frist Contract by Frank Westworth

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FIRST CONTRACT: A decade ago, JJ Stoner was a soldier. He killed people for a living and made no bones about it. On a scorching day in the Iraqi desert, when British blood stained the sand, he over-stepped the mark. Men died in compromising circumstances; too many men for an easy explanation. Faced with a dishonourable discharge and accusations of murder, Stoner accepted an offer from a stranger who represented an intelligence agency. Suddenly, Stoner found himself half a world away and about to execute his first private contract…
FIRST CONTRACT, a short story, introduces the central character from the JJ Stoner / Killing Sisters series.
The first full-length book in that series, ‘A Last Act of Charity’, is published in September 2014.
As well as a complete, stand-alone story, First Contract includes an excerpt from ‘A Last Act of Charity’ and a sneak preview of the second book in the series, ‘The Corruption of Chastity.’

First Contract is a short story centering on the main character in the book A Last Act of Charity. The short story is set before the events of the book and show how J.J. Stoner got into the hitman business.

As a short story, it wasn’t bad. It was fairly easy to get into and was filled with action. I understood why J.J. didn’t want to know what the circumstances were for the hit, but I feel as a reader, it would have been interesting to know. Honestly, I didn’t feel much for J.J. as a character or person.

He seemed too complacent and you don’t really get to see him at his worse or his best. Though a mistake is made in the story, he pulls through it and suceeds in his mission. This is a story about his first hit, but he didn’t seem to have any of the mental or emotional moments you would think a person would have. Though you do find a bit of his history, I felt he lacked personality.

That said, this is a prequel short story. I would believe the full length novel has J.J.’s personality. Really, the short story shows how he became a hitman, not how he is as a person. I am interested enough to see his personality in future works. He does seem like a character that it would take time to understand.

Book 32 of 2015: Treasure, Darkly by Jordan Elizabeth

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Seventeen-year-old Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe… until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead.
A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army—or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged, mining tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he.
Sixteen-year-old Amethyst Treasure loathes the idea of spending the summer away from her bustling city life to rot on her father’s ranch, but when a handsome young man shows up claiming to be her secret half-brother, her curiosity is piqued. He’s clever, street smart, and has no qualms jumping into the brawl between the Treasures and Horans. Caught in the middle, Horan kidnaps Amethyst, and all she gets is this lousy bullet through her heart.
When Clark brings her back to life, however, the real action starts, and Amethyst joins him in his fight against the Horan clan—whatever the cost. Defeating the Horans may seem easy at first, but going up against men with the same fighting vengeance as Clark, and a Senator with power he’s obtained by brainwashing the masses?
Well, Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark.

First off, I want to tell you the cover and blurb is misleading. I was okay with this because the author specifically told me that before sending me a free copy for an honest review. How are they misleading? Well, for one, the cover makes you think a more city/apocalyptic like steampunk. With a woman in the cover, you think that the girl is the main focal character as well. However, the book is a Western Steampunk (cowboys with gears, love it!). The blurb also gives you an adventure feel. Whereas there is an adventure, it is the romance between Amethyst and Clark that is the main story.

Okay, that said, I liked this book. It had enough adventure to keep me interested. I like the idea of a western steampunk. I haven’t read most of those and it was a nice change into the world of steam that I know. Jordan Elizabeth did a great job of making it feel gritty and wild while still having some of the inventions that make steampunk an iconic pop culture. I did feel like I was in the west when I was reading.

The romance wasn’t half bad. I know, you’re probably wondering why both characters have the last name Treasure, right? Well, I feel that I do need to tell you that Clark is the supposed bastard son of Amethyst’s father. Yes, that is incest. HOWEVER, given that it is a romance, there’s a big chance that they aren’t related (think Mortal Instruments. And sorry for anyone I just spoiled that tidbit too). In fact, you learn Clark’s parentage about 30% in. If you can handle the awkward and disturbing “your hot, but your my sibling, but dang you like fine and I want to make you mine.” all the way to that point, you’re going to do well.

Yes, the characters do have that awkward and disturbing thought process. I feel that it was done often and maybe didn’t need to be done as often. It’s pretty obvious the readers know they have the hots for each other, we just don’t necessarily need all of that inner thought. That said, it didn’t complete deter me from the book.

Clark is an interesting fellow. I like that he stands on a moral ground, but is considered an outlaw in the world. He had that alpha male vibe. Amethyst, on the other hand, isn’t going to be every reader’s female lead. She starts off as a spoiled princess and is very self centered. You do get the impression that she comes by it honestly when you read her older brother Jeremiah, however, I know not many people would like that. I did.

I thought it was an interesting way to go about a female lead and rather ballsy. You would think a strong, but not spoiled young woman would be the better choice in a romance, but Jordan Elizabeth went for it. I like that and I like Amethyst because of that. Sure, there are some damsel in distress moments, but later on you do see Amethyst starting to change and be just a strong woman with slightly spoiled charm. This is the first book in the series and she has plenty of time showing the readers if that change is really her changing for her or just another acting moment to get what she wants. Personally, I like that too.

There is an adventure in the book. Clark is on the run from the army and there is something else going on with his parentage. Not to mention, there’s the main baddie and there is Clark’s special gift of seeing the dead. The dead part was awesome. I loved the paranormal aspect of it. However, I’d like to see more. Good thing this is the first book, huh?

So, yeah, Treasure, Darkly was a fun read and I feel it will become a better read in books to come. Would I crack open the second book? Yes. Jordan Elizabeth ended it with a bit of a cliff and I would like to see what happens. Besides, I want to see if Amethyst becomes the strong woman she wants to be seen as.

My Brain

My brain isn’t one of those things that turns off easily. I can sit in a quiet room and think up to a hundred different thoughts in the timespan of thirty minutes. That’s right, I think a lot.

They aren’t all normal thoughts either. Oh no. I have to think of things like possible ways that I would die. Sometimes I think about what I need to do if my husband died or if we had a divorce. I have plans for both scenerios. Note: there is a difference between planning for terrible events and actually planning terrible events. I don’t want any of those events to happen, but I do have plans in case they do.

If I was just a tad bit more paranoid, I’d probably have a bunker in some mountain hidden away from satelite view. It’d probably have stocked food, toiletries, and the capabilities to cultivate in the future. I’d also have weapons there. I’m thinking high powered bow and arrow for hunting. One, because it is quiet and won’t attract people and two, because I don’t want to waste bullets. Arrows you might be able to use again. Bullets you won’t.

See, that paragraph in itself tells you the amount of thinking I do. Note: I would also have a sword and whetstone to keep it clean. Various knives as well. You can never be too safe.

It’s a wonder I get anything done with a paranoid brain like mine.

Anyway, like I said, I have a brain that runs fast. It’s not even that I think of anything actually important. Do I think about dinner for the night? No. Do I think about my plans in case a zombie apocalypse happens? Yes (I used to have a hammer in the passenger seat for that purpose).

This becomes a big issue when I’m writing. I have a long list of ideas and stories I want to get thorugh, but I can’t seem to control my brain long enough to write those stories. When I do start writing, I have problems sticking to one story at a time. Like, right now, I have three to four things going on. I have two short stories and something that I have no idea what it is, but began writing.

It’s because of this problem, that I think I need to go back into yoga. My brain is much more helpful when I have meditated first. Yeah, despite all the crazy in my head, I’m actually able to meditate.

It’s official. I’m going back to meditating. And what was the point of this post? To show that I have many thoughts and only one outlet: this blog.

Sorry about that.

Book 31 of 2015: Wake by Amanda Hocking

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Fall under the spell of Wake—the first book in an achingly beautiful new series by celebrated author Amanda Hocking—and lose yourself to theWatersong.
Gorgeous. Fearless. Dangerous. They’re the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Lexi and Thea have caught everyone’s attention—but it’s Gemma who’s attracted theirs.  She’s the one they’ve chosen to be part of their group.
Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door.  He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back.  Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever.  She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove.  They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different.
Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price.  And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

I am a big fan of Amanda Hocking. I’ve read her vampire series, My Blood Approves, and the Trylle trilogy. I like her so much that I asked my grandparents to go to a book signing and get me a book. I wasn’t even expecting it being personalized, but it was. Granted, she doesn’t know me. However, it’s still nice to see my name with her autograph. Okay, now enough fanning out and time for the review.

Wake is the first book in the Wakesong quartet. The book is divided into two storylines that converge near the ending. There is a stronger connection than that though. Both the main characters are girls and they are sisters: Harper, the sensible and control freak, and Gemma, the free spirited younger sister. Both sisters find a love interest and get pulled into the dark world of the siren. One possibly more so than the other.

Siblings are important in Amanda Hocking’s books. In the other series that I mentioned, the main characters are motivated by the love they have for their siblings. This is no different in Wake. Much of what Harper does and goes through has to do with her devotion to her little sister. Gemma may not completely acknowledge her own familial loyalty, but it is there.

Both girls are interesting and I could relate to them easily. I’m the oldest in my family and I was very much the mother hen. I can say that Harper is the closest in personality to me. Gemma, the other sister, has a strong drive and determination. Though she seems to be more free than her sister, she is also very similar. This similarity between the two is different in what they do, but connects them and makes it easier for the reader to relate to both.

The main conflict is another family of sorts and are they dysfunctional. They are sirens, women who seduce men in song and consume them. Ewww, right? I love it. Hocking weaves a mythical world in a modern setting that doesn’t pull away from reality. No matter how crazy or disturbing Penn and posse’ are, I could believe they were real.

Yes, this series is written differently than Hocking’s Trylle trilogy. It isn’t in first person and there is quite the cast. However, it is a fun read.

Wake is only the first book. You don’t get much about the mythical part of Hocking’s world, but you get enough to wet your feet. Or tail. A definite read for Hocking fans. The second book is definitely going to be read this year.

Book 30 of 2015: The Paladin’s Choice by Launa Sorensen

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“I felt a cold chill spread throughout my body
and an empty ache settle in my heart. My friend was dead.”
A dark threat is sweeping across the nation, seeping into Aldeon, the forest of the Elves. Diane, newly-knighted Paladin of Areane, sets out to defend her kingdom’s allies and protect Jim’s young reign. When tragedy strikes, however, and the true nature of Aldeon’s threat becomes apparent, Diane is caught in a life-ordeath struggle to hold onto everything she has fought so desperately for.
A tale of friendship, bravery, honor, and love, The Paladin’s Choice is the second book in The Areane Journals, a new series chronicling the darkest time in Areane’s history, and the young woman fighting desperately to save her world from falling apart.

The Paladin’s Choice is the second book in the Areane Journals, a fantasy series about a family who travel into a mystic land. In the first book, The King’s First Journey, we are introduced to the world of Areane. This world has a dark magical history. It tells the story of a small family leaving their home and entering a world they never knew about. In this world, the oldest child Jim is crowned king. I likened the first book as a mix of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. It is a high fantasy written for children, but adults can love it as well.

The second book in the series, The Paladin’s Choice, the feeling is still there. It was filled with action and adventure all centering on King Jim’s younger sister, Diane. Set three years after the events of the first book, we learn that Diane has become one of the best fighters in Areane. Even though being a female is still a faux-pas, she stands on her own and proves herself to be a strong female. In this book, she learns important details on how to be the King’s Paladin and tries to protect her friends.

There is an ease in getting into the story. I love stories that center more on the characters than the world. Don’t get me wrong, world building is vital, but if your characters just look like paper dolls in an elaborate world, that’s no fun. In my opinion, the characters have to be more interesting at times. Launa Sorensen made her characters interesting while still showing the world. It was easy for me to get into the story and keep reading.

There are many action scenes to keep you going. One scene, in the end, is possibly the worst scene in the whole book. By worse, I mean that I was tearing up. Not many books can do that. It is because I really care about the characters that I feel terrible for Kila and her family in the end of the book.

A few words of advice before reading this book, you will want to have read the first book before this one. You need to know the background of the characters to understand their motivations in this one. I wouldn’t say the characters change too much, but the change is gradual and can be seen per book. It doesn’t necessarily happen as the book is being read. This is an adventure book geared more towards a younger audience. It has dark elements, but isn’t too dark to scare a child (hence the like HP statement).

And I will end this review with a gushing love for my shipping fandom of two characters: Diane and Ronan. No, the romance isn’t big and may be one sided . . . maybe . . . but I love them together.

Book 29 of 2015: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

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Although I had never seen him before, I recognized him immediately. I’d have known his voice anywhere. This was the guy I’d seen on my last journey back in time.
Or more precisely, the one who’d kissed my doppelganger while I was hiding behind the curtain in disbelief.
Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended – and rather eccentric – family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn’t been introduced to “the mysteries,” and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesly. It comes as an unwelcome surprise when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past.
She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any centrury . . . .

The cover is what first got me. Sure, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this is a beautiful cover. Look at it! Anyway, that with the blurb, I was hooked and I had to have it for my birthday. A year ago.

I finally got a chance to read it (Bug chose it out for me because of the red) two days ago and finished it yesterday.

Ruby Red is the first book in a time travel young adult trilogy. I’m big on time travel. It’s probably the one big science fiction thing I can handle the best. I loved a trilogy from Michelle Warren that had to do with time travel and I have high hopes with Kerstin Gier’s books as well.

The book is easy to get pulled into. The writing is similar to a person talking, but not an annoying person. It’s in first person narrative with Gwen being our narrator.

Gwen is a normal girl except that she sees and speaks with the dead. She’s also a member of a time traveling family. Except not everyone in the family can time travel. It seems only one person at a time is able to time travel. For now, everyone believes Gwen’s cousin Charlotte is the lottery winner. That is, until Gwen proves otherwise.

The imagery given for the time travel isn’t abrupt or ground shaking. Instead, it seems fairly painless. Well, except for the nauseating dizziness. Basically, you get dizzy and then everything you saw before disappears and changes to a new setting. You can’t travel from present point A and enter past point C. You have to arrive in past point A and work your way to past point C. Time travel also has time limitations.

I liked how’s Gier’s method of time traveling is different from others. Her world seems simple, except for the lingering mystery of “the secret in the secret”. I know, confusing as hell. Just wait until they start time traveling and see themselves doing things or you realize what you’ve read was an effect from something they caused even farther back. That’s going to get confusing.

Anyway, I’m ahead of myself. What I meant to say is that any book that has to do with time travel has a more elaborate story and world than you first preceive. I’m not currently in awe with the world building, but this is the first book and the world is going to end up surprising me. It’s almost inevitiable, being a time travel series.

I’m not entirely sure what the main conflict is in this book, aside from the mystery that spans through the series. I’m not saying that the book isn’t good or doesn’t pull you in; it does. I’m saying that, as a book, this one deals more with the characters and starting up the world. Gier wants fo make this believable for you and she takes the time by doing that with this book. I believe in this world. I want to see more.

No, the climax wasn’t very climatic. However, the world and the characters do excite me enough to want more.

Book 28 of 2015: The Witches of the Glass Castle by Gabriella Lepore

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Sixteen-year-old Mia’s life is turned upside down when she uncovers her family secret—that she and her brother Dino are witches.
Seeking refuge in an ancient castle, the siblings begin down a path that will change their lives forever. Suddenly thrust into a world where handsome warriors command the power of nature and peoples thoughts and actions can be manipulated at will, Mia and Dino struggle to navigate their own allegiances and do what they know to be right, even when everything around them seems beyond their control.

I came upon this book when I joined in the sequel’s Facebook book release party. I had no idea what to expect with this series, but I won the second book and realized I should read the first before going for the second. I was glad that I bought this.

The story is pretty clear cut with two teens being sent on a summer trip to a magically hidden castle to learn their craft. Evil then ensues. Naturally, you’d think Harry Potter; especially since it’s set in the English countryside (at least I think it is). However, I did not feel like I was reading Harry Potter.

The two main characters are siblings: Dino and Mia. Both have different powers and have different storylines. You have the star crossed budding romance story of Mia’s and then you have Dino’s darker story. They merge together in the end in a rather humorous and dangerous situation.

I liked both storylines for different reasons. The verbal foreplay between Mia and Colt made me giggle. The dark side of magic intrigued me in Dino’s storyline. I don’t think either one is more important than the other and I liked that they were fairly balanced.

What I loved about this book are the characters. They are wacky. You have moments where the characters will say something and get into an argument instead of being sullen and ready for the fight. I liked that. It felt real and yet, comedic at the same time. I don’t have a favorite character, but Colt and Aunt Madeline are definitely at odds with each other.

This is definitely a book that centers on the characters, but that doesn’t mean the world isn’t interesting. There is so much more left to learn about the world Lepore is making, but I can’t wait to learn.

This is a fun fantasy read. It’s quick, magical, and humorous. A fun read in a rainy day or on a car ride.