Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review of Lightning Rider by Jen Greyson

*A copy of this book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.*
Click here for the full description.
For Evy Rivera, thunderstorms have always caused her physical pain, but she's never known why. When a record-setting storm arrives on the same night her father finds ancient ancestral documents, Evy is set aglow with mysterious tiny lightnings she can command.
Even worse, she alerts some people in the universe who've been looking for her family for a very long time.

Evy must sort through the lies and find the truth behind her family's time-traveling past before the wrong history obliterates the future. She’s spent her whole life fighting for her place. Now, as the first female lightning rider, she'll dedicate her existence to fighting to save the world.

But will Evy learn to manage her lightning and find the truth before it's too late?

WOW... yes, the capitals are necessary. Lightning Rider was an absolute thrill to read, and I couldn't be more satisfied after finishing it. I'll start with a quick summary: Evy, the main character, finds out she has the power to time travel using lightning. This ability has been in her family for generations, and only men have wielded it in the past. She's the first female "Lightning Rider" as these time travelers are called, and she also has the power to use lightning as a weapon. Ilif is the man who has guided the past generations of Rivera lightning riders through their journeys and travels, and once Evy and her father travel for the first time, he shows up to "train" her father. He's either a male chauvanist, or he has some other issues with women, and he refuses to acknowledge Evy's obvious potential. Evy does some time traveling on her own and gets involved in a battle that happened approximately 2000 years ago. It's during this battle that she meets Constantine, the warrior soldier with a tragic past. Evy and Constantine must work together to win the battle not just for the era in the past, but for the sake of the future as well.

I really liked that the plot was complicated enough to keep me curious, but still easy to understand. Just when I thought that I'd (mostly) figured things out, the author would introduce a new obstacle or piece of information that would shake things up for all of the characters. Evy was kept in the dark about many things related to her time traveling, but as the story progressed she kept fighting for more information, and she got it. This made for an even-paced book, and there was no point where I felt uninterested in what was happening.

Evy was an awesome narrator/main character. She didn't take crap from anyone, and she refused to let people control or manipulate her. (Except for her scumbag ex-boyfriend. Apparently, she was terrible at picking the "right" guys, but that really wasn't visible during Lightning Rider except for the very beginning. Unless you have something against broken-hearted, muscular Roman warriors...more on that later :D)  Her biggest flaw was her hot-headedness. She not only recognized her personal obstacle, she tried to work on fixing it as the book progressed, and it was clear by the end of the story that she had really improved and gained more control over her actions and words. There were no cliched supporting characters; even sexist Ilif didn't act in a ridiculously unreasonable manner. I mean, he was unreasonable, but not manically-cackling-evil-professor unreasonable. Each character, even the minor ones, had real strengths and flaws. (Honestly, my biggest pet peeve with many of the books I've recently read is the stereotypical characters.)

Finally, I HAVE to talk about the romance. I was really happy that the romance didn't overpower the book, and that the author didn't use dozens of love scenes. I think that they would have cheapened the book (I can't really think of a better phrase) and I was able to stay focused on the plot of the story. Constantine is the love interest, but he's much more than that. He's in charge of training Evy for the battle. More specifically, he helps her learn to control her lightning powers and use them as a weapon. By training with Constantine, Evy was able to focus on her inner self and use her emotions to her advantage with the lightning. (I have some theories about his importance to her that I'm hoping will be confirmed in the future ;D ) From the moment Evy first sees him, there's an obvious attraction, but while she definitely acknowledges it, she doesn't let it cloud her judgement. Constantine is what you might call "perfect" physically. Lean, muscular, in shape, luscious locks, etc but his personality is far from perfect. He's damaged from events in his past and he uses his warrior status to help numb the pain, to turn off his emotions. He, too, was hot-headed, but he had a bit more control over his tongue. Their romance was real, with arguments and disagreements and heated moments of passion ;) No insta-love...yay! They really improved each other, which is the best kind of relationship in my opinion.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking to read a series with action, realistic fantasy, a strong female lead, and a bit of romance. Anyone, that is, who doesn't mind a sprinkling of adult content ;)

Lia's rating: a Remarkable Read!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Beauty Review: Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser

 I recently ran out of what had been my favorite cleanser, Biore 4-in-1 detoxifying, and needed to find a new "good ol' reliable" product. Either my skin became way more sensitive between the "old" version and the "new" version, or they also changed the formula when they changed the look and bottle style, but my skin became severely dried out after using it. Damn you, sodium laureth sulfate, and your dehydrating foam power! Anyway, I needed something new. I didn't bother reading reviews, just went to my local drugstore and picked up whatever sounded good... yes I know bad bad idea, I'm not sure WHAT I was thinking. The Neutrogena purifying cleanser sounded harmless enough, with those lovely words I look for in a cleanser: "gentle" "natural" "improves complexion." And more importantly, it cost under $10 which made my wallet me very happy :) Unfortunately, I learned that hard way that a) reading cleanser reviews is really important, and b) I might need to spend more than $10 on a facial cleanser if I want positive results.
The first time I used this cleanser, it felt nice on my skin. It's a gel, with a smell that I call "soapy coconut." I used a small amount, maybe a dime-sized pump of it, and it created a decent lather. My skin felt tingly, even more after I rinsed my face. About a minute after I dried my face, it started to feel really tight and dry, and I had to apply more moisturizer than usual to quench my parched skin's thirst. No immediate "complexion improvement" but I hadn't expected any yet. The next night, I used the cleanser, and again my face felt tight and dry. Also, I didn't get that "clean" feeling after using it; my pores were NOT deep-cleaned like the bottle said they would be. Then I looked in the mirror, and a concerned, tomato-colored face looked back at me.

To put it mildly, I was unhappy with the product. But I hadn't faced the full wrath of Purifying Cleanser yet. No, the worst was yet to come, and it arrived the next morning. A patch of cystic acne greeted me when I woke up, and it stubbornly clung to life for the next TWO WEEKS. I read some reviews, and it looks like I'm definitely not the only one to have a bad reaction to this product. Luckily, I have a sample of Fresh Soy Face Cleanser to test out, and hopefully my skin won't go haywire after using it :)
Lia's Rating: Horrible! It turned my face red and dry, and exacerbated my acne. WILL NOT PURCHASE AGAIN.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Beauty Review: Caudalie Divine Oil

 (to defeeaattt DRY SKIN!!! :D)
     Okay, so I was very excited to buy this because it's supposed to be some super oil that has grape seed oil, sesame oil, sunflower seed oil, & hibiscus oil in it and you can use on your skin, hair, & nails.  I ran out of my crappy drugstore face cream, and with the unforgiving winter weather reducing my skin to a dry, flaky mess, I decided to give the oil a try. The size I purchased was 1 fl oz and only $12.00, so I figured it wouldn't break my bank if it was a dud.
     When I first took the bottle out of the package, I was surprised to see the size of it. It seemed like alot for only twelve bucks!  I wouldn't suggest buying the full size (which is $49.00) unless you plan on using it on your entire body daily.
     When I put it on, I was happy to see that the solution came out of the bottle in a pump (no mess!)  I wouldn't say it came out in a mist, but more of a concentrated stream.  Anyways, the feeling wasn't sticky or greasy, and it absorbed rather quickly!  Not only did I use it on my hands and around my nails, but on my face. I have combination skin, and so far there have been no angry outbreaks. :D
     My one gripe would probably be the smell; it's nice, but after a few whiffs it can get pretty strong, almost to the point of being nauseating.  The description I read before I purchased it said it had notes of rose, vanilla, grapefruit, and white musk, but all I kept smelling was the grape seed oil.
     All in all, it's a great oil for a great price, but it's not for me.  It worked nicely on my skin, but I was disappointed in the smell, and the strong fragrance was a turn off.  I will most likely not be buying this again, thus, the search for the perfect moisturizer continues...
Alli's Rating: Okay


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cover Reveal of The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Unbeknownst to me, the cover of The Fiery Heart (book 4 in the Bloodlines series) was revealed two weeks ago! If you haven't seen it yet, check it out here at Bookish. Now, I haven't gotten to read The Indigo Spell yet, but apparently some awesome things happen, Sydney makes A Big Decision, and the flames of Sydrian's romance grow ever hotter ;) I feel like I'm missing out on some big secret! In the meantime, let's look at the cover ...I'm not really feeling this one. The colors are quite appropriate, and Adrian is...well, he's Adrian :D Buuuut something about the look on Sydney's face is just off. She doesn't have that confident, focused appearance that I'm used to. I don't even know what to call the expression in her face. Of course it's just a cover, but I have a feeling that I'm not the only one bothered by it! 

Review of The Soulkeepers (Book One) by G.P. Ching


"When fifteen-year-old Jacob Lau is pulled from the crumpled remains of his mother's car, no one can explain why he was driving or why the police can't find his mother's body. Made a ward of his uncle and thousands of miles from home, a beautiful and mysterious neighbor offers to use her unique abilities to help him find his mom. In exchange, she requires Jacob to train as a Soulkeeper, a warrior charged with protecting human souls.

He agrees to her demands, desperate for any clue to the mystery of his mother's disappearance. But soon Jacob finds himself trapped in a web of half-truths, and questions her motives for helping him.

I picked this book on an amazon e-book search, and I'm glad I did. I like to pick a few random books once in a while, from authors I've never heard of, and sort of test them out. (Like when I go to the library and pull a random book off of the shelf.) It's a hit-or-miss kinda thing! Anyway, I enjoyed this book, but my complaint is that many characters were really clich├ęd, enough to make me "like, not love" the book. The main character, Jacob, was basically cynical and determined: cynical when it came to God, love, and family; determined when it came to finding out the truth about what happened to his mom. I found my inner skeptic related well to him :D His biggest obstacles were overcoming his skepticism, letting go of his guilt, and learning how to open up to the people around him. The plot and action in the book all tied in to these themes. (I can't say how, because ahem ahem spoilers ya know.)

 Jacob's aunt, cousin, and schoolmates seemed like they were copy-pasted out of a bad made-for-tv movie. The aunt and cousin (he moves in with his uncle and family) were just ridiculously mean about him staying with them. Like, glaring at him at almost any given time mean. He had no friends at school. NO FRIENDS. Except for the conveniently-also-friendless-and-transferred-in-plus-smart-and-cute girl, Malini. There were some big bad jocks and pretty, sassy airheads, and you had "typical" school faculty. If, by typical, you mean teachers and secretaries who are incompetent and dumbed down.

Soulkeepers had suspense, mystery, and action. The story would move really quickly, and then slow down for a bit sometimes, but there was always some info you were learning when the characters were taking a break from traveling across the globe or KO-ing in the grocery store parking lot. In this story, there are three types of beings: humans, just living normal lives; Watchers, who are like fallen angels with bad attitudes and worse plans for humans (it's a little more complicated than that); and Soulkeepers (Jacob is one of them) who are in charge of protecting humans from the merciless Watchers. Soulkeepers are humans who're given some sort of power, like manipulating elements or healing or super skills with weapons, in the fight against evil. Watching Jacob grow into his power was pretty cool, and the action in this book was much more exciting after Jacob learned to control it.

 Unfortunately for me, the book also had cutesy puppy eyes young love. You know, the "we're 15 and destined to be together forever" romance. Even if I was still 15, I'd have been sighing with frustration. Malini is the love interest in this story, of course. (Remember, literally no one else Jacob's age wanted anything to do with him.) She's an isolated bookworm who can't really defend herself, and Jacob's like her knight in shining armor. For example, at one point Malini is grabbed by a guy. Jacob punches the attacker, and instead of Malini working with him to annihilate the scumbag, she runs and hides behind Jacob. Honestly, if the two are so destined to be together, a love woven in fate, protectors of humans, blahblahblah shouldn't they be a team, whether they're reading together or fighting together?

Finally, I was happy to see that faith in God and the bible were brought in to the story. Not because I'm Christian (I'm not) but because most of today's YA work that I've read is completely devoid of any religious talk. Soulkeepers brings in faith without shoving it down the reader's throat or selling bible verses like lemonade on a hot day. It's mentioned, tied in to the plot, while keeping a comfortable distance. It was refreshing. (again, like lemonade on a hot day. ...I like similes, and I really like lemonade :D)

Overall, I liked the concept of Watchers and earthly protecters enough that I want to continue the series, and I think that the copy-paste characters might become more realistic as the story gets deeper.

Lia's rating: Liked It