Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September Reads

Being that it's been two whole weeks since I've posted anything on the blog, I felt that, at the very least, a tbr pile announcement would be necessary. I started my new job on Sept. 4th, and while I love working everyday, I've been neglecting my book pile, so this month's book list is pretty short.

To Be Reviewed:

  • Settling (Book 2 of the "Solid" series) by Shelley Workinger. I'm really excited to be reading this one; the first book left me with so many questions! And the romance... it's good, people ;)
  • Bridgeworld (first book in the series) by Travis McBee.

  • Water Song: A Retelling of the Frog Prince by Suzanne Weyn. This one has mixed reviews throughout the blogosphere, but I've read a few other books in this "retelling" series and liked them, so I'm giving this one a chance.
  • Pyxis: The Discovery (Pyxis Series book 1)
  • The Soulkeepers (Soulkeepers Series book 1)
I'm planning on having at least one review, if not both, posted on the blog by the end of the month. (I'm still trying to adjust to my new schedule...hectic doesn't even begin to describe it!)    

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Release: Tiger's Destiny!

Tiger's Destiny (Tiger's Curse Series #4)

Tiger's Destiny by Colleen Houck (September 4th 2012): With three of the goddess Durga's quests behind them, only one prophecy now stands in the way of Kelsey, Ren, and Kishan breaking the tiger's curse. But the trio's greatest challenge awaits them: A life-endangering pursuit in search of Durga's final gift, the Rope of Fire, on the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

t's a race against time--and the evil sorcerer Lokesh--in this eagerly anticipated fourth volume in the bestselling Tiger's Curse series, which pits good against evil, tests the bonds of love and loyalty, and finally reveals the tigers' true destinies once and for all.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review of SOLID by Shelley Workinger (8/22/12)

(the first book in a series)
Shelley Workinger
235 Pages

*This is an author requested review. I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for this review.* (A huge thank you to Shelley for contacting me!!!)

Clio Kaid may be 17 and just beginning the last summer before her senior year, but her life is anything but typical.She's just discovered she was genetically altered before birth and is now headed to a top-secret Army campus to explore the surprising results of the experiment.Follow Clio and the other teens as they develop fantastic super-abilities, forge new friendships, find love, and uncover a conspiracy along the way.

Some pre-review notes: Like I said in my previous post, I'm (once again, hopefully for the last time) changing my rating system. No more stars or number "scores." Instead, I'll be describing the book with one of 5 phrases: Horrible/Did Not Finish, Okay Read, Liked It, Loved It, and Remarkable Read ;) I'm implementing this system as of now, cool? Cool. Also, as hard as it is for me, I'm determined to un-tl;dr my posts, starting with this one. Finally, I'm doing away with the "what I liked" and "what I didn't like" sections, and I'm just going to freestyle my review. Um, getting back to the actual book... love love loved the cover, and it doesn't hurt that these specific shades of purple are like, my favorite colors. The description was short and sweet, and told me everything I needed to know to make the decision to read this book, yay! Also, the prologue is available to read at solidnovel.com

Solid was a relatively short read, but within its 235 pages, Shelley Workinger managed to fit suspense, romance, and a whole bunch of sarcastic wit. I was laughing out loud at much of the banter between Clio and her friends. (There were a lot of retorts, though, and at some times I was a bit put off by it.) They seemed, at first, a bit cliched; you have an arrogant jock, a super-sweet gal, the cute and thoughtful love interest, and a snarky mean-girl who warms up to the rest of the gang. But I found that these characters became much more fleshed out and unique as the story progressed. The plot itself wasn't too intense, but it was enough to keep me interested and reading, and wanting to know so much more by the end of the book. The romance was very sweet, but not saccharine and unrealistic, and I was happy to find none of the careless L-word use that seems to run rampant in much of today's YA romance. Also (thankfully) missing was the constant barrage of thoughts about the physical appearance of a love interest that ALSO tends to run rampant in today's YA romance. (City of Lost Souls, anyone?) So yeah, I was definitely pleased with the romance in this book.

The book's pacing seemed pretty even to me, except for the end. All of a sudden, things just started moving really quickly. The reader finds out quite a bit of info, and then BAM, we encounter the climax. And then it was over with just as quickly. It was a little disappointing, but I have hope for the next book. (Series time, woot woot!) This was what I like to call an "informative style" book, which is just as engaging as an "action style" book; you just get to learn things alongside the characters (about themselves, their pasts, their settings, etc) instead of like, mentally fighting alongside the characters lol. I'm a fan of both "styles" and Solid was one of the better informative style books I've read in a while.

My only gripe is that the superpowers of the teens were introduced very vaguely. As the story progressed, their powers were described more specifically, but I was a little irritated at how long it took for me to figure out what, precisely, made the kids special. (Or maybe I was just having one of those "slow-to-comprehend" days. If you've never had one, you're lucky. They make you feel like quite the fool after a few forehead smacks of "Ohhhhh, I get it now!!!") I have a bunch of questions that I'm hoping will be answered in the next book(s); yes, there are two more! The third one, Sound, is being released this fall (I'm looking for the exact release date and I'll post it when I find it.) Now I must find Settling (book two) which sounds verrrry promising from the sounds of the excerpt at the end of Solid ;)

Again, a big thank you to Shelley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book. I definitely would recommend it to pretty much all middle school age readers and older. As cliched as this phrase is going to sound, "There's something in it for everyone."

My rating: Loved It!

Solid, The Indigo Spell Chapter 1 and 2, and some upcoming changes here at Remarkable Reads (8/19/12)

Hi everyone, hope you are all enjoying your week! I've read Solid by Shelley Workinger, and I will be posting my review either tomorrow or monday. I'm anxiously waiting for my library to get their copy of The Golden Lily, hopefully the wait won't be much longer! At this point, I have no other author or publisher requested books lined up to review, so I'll be looking through some of Sandra's old posts to see if there are any tbr's that grab my attention.

Richelle Mead has released the first chapter of The Indigo Spell online, woo! Click here to read it on Scribd (and admire the cover in giant-screen. So pretty!) I won't be reading it (...still waiting for TGL, hello) but if anyone is looking for some THS goodies, this is pretty big :) Of course, there was a leak online earlier, buuuut if I were one of the leaked copy readers, I would read it again, because obviously these books (*cough cough and their leaked chapters cough cough*) are WELL worth re-reading. And I don't say that about many books or series. *thumbs up of approval*

***UPDATE*** Chapter 2 is now available, click here to read it as well!

My final "announcement" is that I've decided to totally redo the blog. My main gripe is that the current URL is remarkablereads-sandra etc. Being that Sandra is no longer involved in the blog at all, I don't think that the URL properly reflects the blog or whatever. (And I don't want my name in it either!) When I tried to change the URL of the current RR blog, it was like RR had no followers. No page views for days, which was not normal at all. So, I reverted back to the original URL and have been working for hours at a time, for the past week or so, to create the layout for a brand new RR blog. Same blog, same post author, different URL + layout. (I've had so much fun designing, and invested so much time, and I'm not even halfway done! My detail-orientedness about this is not helping lol.) All of the posts on this blog will be moved over to the new one. I'll be leaving the old blog up for about a month after the new one goes live, and hopefully by then all of RR's followers will have followed the new blog. I'd like for the new blog to be up and running on september 1st. Of course, I'll be posting reminders for followers to make the switch every so often. Also, I will be changing my rating system (for the 100th time, I know.) Instead of number "scores" or stars, I will be using five different phrases to "rate" the books I read. I'll post more details when the new blog release date is closer.

Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for following Remarkable Reads!

Final Cover of the Indigo Spell! (8/2/12)

(This was released earlier, but I haven't been keeping up with my author stalking :P) Here's the final cover of Bloodlines #3, The Indigo Spell. The tattoos look pretty awesome to me. The February 12th release date seems so far away, but I'm sure that the book will be well worth the wait!

You can read the rest of Richelle's livejournal post here.

Review of Masquerade (7/24/12)

I know that this review is super late (sorry Rivka!) but better late than never, eh? (Also, I've been looking back on my previous reviews and I think I need to stop with the tl;dr lengths! try to make them a little bit briefer. So we'll see how this review turns out! Hopefully no one will skip over paragraphs or anything :P )

Rivka Spicer
192 Pages

*This is an author-requested review. I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for this review.*


"Oceana is a hard-working, straight down the line indexer with an attitude. Tristan is the millennia old executioner for the vampire council. They meet when Tristan seeks her help on a case and she is unwillingly drawn into his twisted and violent world where nothing is as it seems on the surface. As she discovers through Tristan who and what she is, Oceana's life changes irrevocably and the only choice she believes she has left is whether or not to give her love to this charming, perplexing and dangerous man, but even that is twisted around her by the masquerade that is life amongst vampires..."

Some pre-review notes: Okay, I just want to say that I think the cover is absolutely gorgeous! I mean, I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but without even knowing the description of the book, I knew I would be reading it. I've always found masks and masquerade balls and such very intriguing. Also, I just finished reading a book with a female main character that really disappointed me, and Masquerade brought me back out of the semi-funk I was in. I expected to read about a (realistically) strong, independent female, and Oceana met those expectations. Finally, I'd like to mention to potential readers that there's, well, what many would call "mature" content in this book. Certainly not enough to detract from the plot, but descriptive enough that I would not recommend Masquerade to my little sister, if you know what I mean ;)

Pros/What I Liked: ~Oceana! Maybe I was just contrasting her with the female lead of the book I had just finished, but I felt that she was pretty awesome. I love love love a heroine who totally kicks butt, doesn't become twitterpated by a dashing lad, and still manages to seem relateable. (Obviously I'm describing Oceana here :D ) I hate reading about these mushy ladies who fall in love at first glance, mistaking lust for love. The ones who become obsessed with Mr. HunkyHunky and his perfect features, and how absolutely lucky they are that HunkyHunky loooooves them, and how they owe him their lives and their souls and their bodies blahblahblah. Oceana reacted to Tristan (Masquerade's Mr. HunkyHunky) in a way that I'd expect a normal young lady to react. Aka "wow, talk about eye-candy." ...Notice the lack of "liek OMG my soulmate!!!!!" She handled every obstacle with as much independence, dignity, and self-capability (ahem, not relying on Tristan like he's her oxygen) as anyone could have possibly had in her situation. At the same time, there were times she needed protection, help from someone, etc and these situations gave her that "real person" feeling. She may have made some mistakes or wrong decisions, but that's what makes people, well, human! We make mistakes, and we learn from them and try not to repeat them, and I saw examples of that human quality in Oceana. She didn't take crap from Tristan, and she didn't let his overbearing, controlling attitude turn her into a mindless slave like many would in her place. ~Genre is refreshed! I think that, in most cases, trying to write a vampire novel now is like beating a dead horse, or whatever the saying is. Rivka manages to give a used-and-abused story idea a fresh take, without taking away the essence of the classically dark, morally-corrupted vampire. ~The ending! That. was. crazy. I'm telling you, it changed everything. I can't spoil anything, but the entire book's plot is given a new perspective from the ending's startling revelation. Which brings me to the next half of my review...

Cons/What I didn't like: ~The ending! Okay, I loved the ending except for two parts. One creeped me out, and one broke my heart. (It's technically a small part of the ending that I found a little creepy.) I can't say exactly what...I'll just say that it's something that was done to Oceana while she was unconscious. Yeah, it was a great way to keep the vampire society from forcing her into doing something she was not ready to do, and it was done out of love, but it was freaky to me, and had it been done to me I would have been WAY pissed off, intentions be damned lol. The heart-breaking part didn't make the book a bad book or anything, but I was ready to sob. BE WARNED, READERS, come armed with tissues and some comfort food, this one is a tear-jerker. (I suppose some readers who support a different certain character won't be as sad as I was.) ~Tristan! He turns out to be a good guy, but it's getting there that was difficult for me. He was charming at first. Then he was a psychopathic control freak. And then he was cute and funny. And then he was back to being a psychopath. I was drained by his bipolarity. One minute I was rooting for the guy, sensing the return of his humanity, and the next minute I'd want to give him a swift kick to his nether regions. There were times where he was going to outright abuse Oceana, and they served as reminders of his vampiric nature. Of course, after reading the INSANE ENDING, I looked back on the entire story and just shook my head, feeling like I needed to re-read the book now that I knew this information. I just hope that other readers can be patient enough to get to the end of the book before making a final judgement on Tristan, his relationship with Oceana, etc. ~The editing! Honestly, people, I don't judge a book's quality based on how many grammatical and punctuation errors are in it. (It is kind of annoying, though.) I only mention it here because sometimes it's distracting, and although bad editing won't turn me away from a good book, some people refuse to read books with, you know, more than 5 errors. So if you happen to be one of those people, don't read Masquerade. I think a second edition, once the author gets enough funds, would be much appreciated by readers. But to do that, authors need money, aka books need to be sold! This is where readers need to do their part and support the author however they can.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to readers who can handle mature content, to readers looking for a "new" vampire book that still retains some of the classic vamp qualities, to those looking for a paranormal read with an adult romance (none of that silly "one look and my heart was his" stuff) and a strong female lead character. I can't wait for the sequel, because the book ended with the start of an entirely new story.

Lia's rating: 7.5/10

Review of Ugly to Start With (7/8/12)

Ugly to Start With
by John Michael Cummings

*This is an author-requested review. I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for this review.*

Description: "Jason Stevens is growing up in picturesque, historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars slower, the people more colorful, and Washington, D.C. is way across the mountains—a winding sixty-five miles away.

Jason dreams of going to art school in the city, but he must first survive his teenage years. He witnesses a street artist from Italy charm his mother from the backseat of the family car. He stands up to an abusive husband—and then feels sorry for the jerk. He puts up with his father’s hard-skulled backwoods ways, his grandfather’s showy younger wife, and the fist-throwing schoolmates and eccentric mountain characters that make up Harpers Ferry—all topped off by a basement art project with a girl from the poor side of town.

Ugly to Start With punctuates the exuberant highs, bewildering midpoints, and painful lows of growing up, and affirms that adolescent dreams and desires are often fulfilled in surprising ways."

This book was definitely a unique read for me. I don't often immerse myself in a realistic novel, although after reading Ugly to Start With, I'm inspired to read more! The way Jason's story is narrated...well, it's not like any other book I've read. He relates his teenage years to the reader in a format that almost resembles episodes. There are thirteen stories, and each one is distinct. Each story he tells has a different point to make, or lesson to be learned, or personal revelation to be discovered about Jason and/or his family. While reading, there were times where I laughed out loud, got a little teary eyed, or wanted to punch certain characters in the face. I think it's great when one book can make you experience a variety of emotions, and Ugly to Start With did just that.

Pros/What I Liked: The unique narration was enjoyable. I was suprised to find that I was glad that the chapters were spaced out, time-wise. It was almost as though Jason was figuratively fast-forwarding past points of his life, stopping at memorable times, and "pressing play" to get a story across to the reader. If something important happened between stories, the author made sure to mention it during the next chapter. I think Jason was a realistic narrator, and I found that I could relate to him at times. He isn't a goody-goody or a "bad boy"...he's just Jason, a young guy who hopes and dreams of becoming something greater than what he is, wanting to fully take advantage of what life can offer him. In that sense, I understood how he felt, and I think many young adult readers will connect with him for this reason. It was interesting to see his interactions with his family and neighbors evolve during the course of the book. Another thing I liked about this book is that none of the stories reached a point where I felt emotionally overwhelmed. Many of the YA books I read do, at some time or another, contain an event or relationship that simply overwhelms me with how deeply emotional it becomes. I'm talking about romance, tragedy, drama, etc. While I did feel emotionally connected to and affected by Ugly to Start With, I never felt like I was having a heart attack at any point. (Maybe it's because this book wasn't narrated by a hormonal female? Haha, whatever the cause, it was a much appreciated break from what I normally read.) Finally, I felt that the ending left me with something to think about. Jason wonders what kind of man his father really is, and that makes the reader look back on the events of the book and wonder as well. It also made me think about my childhood and parents, and how my thoughts on some of their actions have changed as well.

Cons/What I Didn't Like: Ugly to Start With is different than my normal book picks, but not necessarily in a bad way. At some points, I was confused about when the chapter was taking place, time-wise. Because the chapters were individual stories, it was hard for me to stay interested in continuing my reading at times. I never got that "gotta keep reading, I can't put the book down" feeling with Ugly to Start With. There were two stories that I'd like to mention in this section. "Ugly to Start With" was a very, very, very sad story for me to read. I am a crazy-cat-lady-in-training, and what happened to Skinny Minnie made me want to sob. (Fellow cat lovers who want to read this book, consider yourselves warned.) But I realize that the story had a more important reason for being told besides "we didn't want the cat inside." It was more indicative of the state of affairs in the Stevens household, and the way things worked when the family was run by Mr. Stevens. The other story I had issues with was "Carter." I had read, from another reviewer, that this chapter would be "challenging" to readers, but I was not prepared for the level of "challenging" that was reached in that story. *Possibly spoiler alert* I felt really uncomfortable reading about what happened between Jason and Carter Randolph. I mean, an adult touching an underage boy specifically in a sexual way, whether it was done by a man or woman, and especially when the adult was clearly aware of the young boy's submissive attitude, was not something I imagined I'd be reading about. (At least, I think Jason was underage...I'm not sure exactly how old he was at the time, but I felt that his mental state indicated that he was still a young teen, a minor.) That story was very emotionally affective to me, and while it was certainly an important event in his life, I think it added a sort of strangeness to the book that I didn't feel from any of the other stories. "Very uncomfortable" would definitely be the way I describe my experience with that chapter. Finally, the book felt very slow-paced to me. I understand that the individual chapters aren't closely connected to each other, which gives the author very little opportunity to "speed things up" but at times, I felt a little bored and ended up skipping some paragraphs. Not often enough to make me dislike the book, but often enough to bother me a bit.

Overall, I would recommend this book to older readers looking for a story and narrator that they can relate to and believe in, a story that remains "real" while still surprising the reader at times. (Especially with a setting in the 1970's, with some defined racial divisions...it's a setting that's foreign, but still imaginable to most readers. I certainly appreciated it, rather than having it take place in the 21st century.) I think readers will enjoy the narrative style of Ugly to Start With, and the experiences that Jason had growing up will remind readers, like they reminded me, of the "highs and lows" of adolescence, of some tough situations, of awkward moments, and of some very happy times as well.

Lia's Rating: 7/10

The Indigo Spell Cover Revealed! (7/5/12)

This post is for all of the Bloodlines series fans! Many of you may have already seen it, but I'm posting about it anyway :) A little over a week ago, the cover of The Indigo Spell (book #3 of the Bloodlines series) was released!

As usual, I'm behind on my books, so I haven't even had a chance to read The Golden Lily yet! *sobs* Richelle said, in her post on LiveJournal, that the tattoos haven't been added to the characters yet, but when they are, the final cover will be released. Apparently, the guy on the left is a mystery to many readers... theories are floating around the internets. "It's Marcus!" (...a GL character, I'm guessing -__-) "It's Trey!" What are YOUR theories?