Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal [Review]

My Last Kiss4 out of 5 Robots!

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal
Genre: YA Mystery/Paranormal
Release: June 10, 2014
Hardcover:  288 Pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
My Copy: Publisher
Reviewer: Shannon
Buy the Book: Amazon

Book Summary:
What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy?

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss--the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died--is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn't a suicide as everyone assumes. She can't remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she's worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend.

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she'll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made--good and bad--that led to her last kiss.

Bethany Neal's suspenseful debut novel is about the power of first love and the haunting lies that threaten to tear it apart.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
My Last Kiss is an kind of an odd book.  I felt parts of it worked really well.  But over parts seems a bit clunky.  In general, I enjoy this types of books that start at the end and jump all around as the mystery unfolds.  My Last Kiss does this type of story telling well.  How did Cassidy really die?  Who was really involved?  What really happened on the bridge?  I will admit I was actually thrown off a few times, which is rare for me. The mystery, in and of itself, is compelling.  I was anxious to find out the answer, but there were a few things that kept me from absolutely loving this book.

The first thing is the length.  It does drag a bit.  It would lose focus on the main mystery and then I would lose interest.  Secondly and most importantly, is the issue of Cassidy herself.  She's a fine character, but not the most likeable.  And depending on your tolerance for cheating characters, you may not like her at all.  I never quite bought into her reasons for the things she did.  Her reasoning always felt weak to me.  Mostly though, I felt Cassidy's ghostly presence to be very clunky.  First of all, she can be seen and felt by Ethan, but no one else.  I don't know why. It was especially awkward when Ethan starts playing "translator" for Cassidy. I think the book could have accomplished its goal without this aspect.  So while I liked the central mystery and the events that lead to Cassidy's demise, I wasn't too sure about having Cassidy and Ethan team up Scooby-Doo style to solve it. 

Overall, a good read.  If you like these kinds of mysteries like me, I recommend giving it a try!

Disclosure:  I reviewed a copy free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, July 18, 2014

On the Fence by Kasie West [Review]

On the Fence4.5 out of 5 Robots!

On the Fence by Kasie West
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Release: July 1, 2014
Hardcover:  304 Pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
My Copy: Publisher (Edelweiss)
Reviewer: Shannon
Buy the Book: Amazon

Book Summary:
She's a tomboy. He's the boy next door…

Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she's got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she's falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

Fun, original, and endearing, On the Fence is a romantic comedy about finding yourself and finding love where you least expect

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
Kasie West's books are the perfect sort of contemporary YA that isn't over the top or twee.  Her characters are funny and real and you can't help but root for them. On the Fence is no exception.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  It was neither too light or too heavy and felt grounded in all the right spots.  The characters are interesting and fun and don't veer too heavily into cliche territory.

I especially loved Charlie.  Having three older brothers (plus one older honorary one) and no mother means Charlie feels much more comfortable being "one of the guys".  She is a tomboy and mystified by all things she considers "girly".  But at the same time, there is a part of her that yearns to understand it even if she turns her nose up at the idea of dresses, makeup and shopping.  I loved Charlie's journey into the unknown world of femininity.  But what I liked most about it was this wasn't a ugly duckling kind of story.  Charlie's problems are not solved by wearing makeup.  Most of Charlie's insecurities come from within.  She worries how she will be perceived by her guy friends, but also by her new girl friends.  Mostly, she worried that becoming more of a "girly girl" will make her lose some of her sports cred and that she won't be able to really be herself if she is trying to be a typical girl.

The romance is also sweet, if not a tad bit bland.  It takes a long time for Charlie to figure out what to do about her feelings for Braden, but overall it was a decent romance.  But really I was more interested in everything else going on:  Charlie figuring herself out, making new friends, dealing with the death of her mother, and her relationship with her brothers.  Those things really drove the story for me.  The romance was just icing on the cake.

If you haven't checked out Kasie West's books, you should! If you like easy and fun romances, check out The Distance Between Us.  If you like paranormal-y type stories, check out her Pivot Point duology.

Disclosure:  I reviewed a copy free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness [Review]

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)4 out of 5 Robots!

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #3
Genre: Paranormal
Release: July 15, 2014
Hardcover:  576 Pages
Publisher: Viking Adult
My Copy: Publisher
Reviewer: Stefany
Buy the Book: Amazon

Book Summary:
The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

I was giving an opportunity to review this book and was pretty excited about it.  Until I remembered that my best friend, Stefany, was a big fan of this series and probably a much better person to review it anyways.  So, please welcome our guest reviewer, Stefany, who took reviewing this book very seriously (as you can see).  I think we are going to have her come back!  Or I need to up my game.  LOL!

Stefany's Thoughts:

First, I just wanted to say how incredible it was to get this opportunity.  My BFF, Shannon is the greatest friend ever!  We’ve been friends since 1994 and it never ceases to amaze me how thoughtful and wonderful she is. (Love you, Shan!).  So, when she told me that she got this chance to PREVIEW this book and wanted ME to review it, I was over the moon!   When I got the book I could hardly wait to crack the spine and dig in.  I read the whole thing (576 pages) in a day.  Please don’t hate me for the lengthy review, but I felt a lot of stuff had validity here.

I feel that everyone has a “side”.  Vampire, Witch or Daemon.  I’m very much a Witch person.  Don’t get me wrong, the whole gothic vampire thing is cool, 


but I can’t get into it after… well, this:

I Just Can’t Even.  That being said, I enjoyed the hell out of Shadow of Night. It was all sorts of witchy and book-y and nerdy all at the same time.  Going into this I was a little worried. (My complete denial for this series’ end might have had something to do with it.) This book was a little more vamp, (blood/ rules/ hierarchy/ history) but still had enough of the witch element to keep me interested.  I especially LOVED the Chapter Pages with the Astrological elements foreshadowing events in the following chapter.  Kudos.  

Here we go!  Warning:  I’m going to have spoilers in here but I’ll try not to give the whole thing away.  No promises.  So, if you’re a sick puppy and looove surprises, this review isn’t for you.  Sorry. I’m also going to assume that you all have read the previous two books, and if you haven’t…. DO!  You don’t just pick up the last book in a trilogy and expect to know what’s going on.  It’s just all wrong .


The book pretty much catches up right where Shadow of Night ends.  It opens with a conversation among ghosts… Not the house ghosts at the Bishop house, but at Sept Tours.  It’s Phillippe and….wait for it….. Emily!  (Bombshell opening, right?) But how you ask?  You’ll figure it out pretty quick.  


They have made it back to current times and Diana is still pregnant with twins. (Do these two ever do things halfway?).  Diana doesn’t take the news very well and Sarah’s holding up as well as 1-ply toilet paper.  Hugh’s widowed mate, Fernando a new addition and is a veritable Jiminy Cricket and soothsayer throughout the book.  

He’s pretty cool when you get down to it.  Like a super sweet, counselor/ uncle figure.   They’ve also added another character from Shadow, Phoebe, the adorable curator from Sotheby’s when Marcus bought the miniatures.  Ahhh Continuity. 

Okay, I won’t blow this nugget of information, but forget about Matthew for a minute.  I’m still madly in love with Gallowglass.  He is by far my favorite characters in this whole trilogy. Seriously.  He’s just… but he’s….and then he…. *swoon*   


HE. IS. AWESOME!  He’s so loyal, swarthy, sarcastic, pragmatic and a great comic relief sometimes when things are getting intense.
Enter Baldwin.  The Big Bad Wolf.  He comes in all bluster and “head of the family” this and that.  Baldwin declares that Diana is NOT an accepted member of the family by Philippe’s blood vow until a year and a day after, pending acceptance from one of his full blood children acknowledges it.  GASP! 


We then spiral into an alluded (read: never thoroughly explained) Vampire Law of honor and hierarchy.  Basically, it leads to believe that things are more political than the previously mentioned wolf pack mentality.  He swings around his authority and the only way out of his antiquated patriarchy is to establish their branch of the family as a scion.  This requires acquiescence of all of Matthews heirs which proves easier said than done. 

Then, there’s Benjamin.  This guy is apparently Matthew’s son who is more than batshit crazy. 


 He knows about Diana’s pregnancy and inherently hates Matthew because he disavowed him ages ago. He stages a live internet video feed (think Untraceable) where he… ah… conducts crude attempts to… duplicate a live heir… via traditional style….of conception.  He’s the worst kind of psycho.  He’s smart, patient and ruthless.  More on this madman later. 

One of the largest issues is the vampire blood rage that is part of Matthew’s bloodline.  This is a trait that apparently came from Ysabeau’s side. There is much discussion regarding the blood rage, its origin, transmission to whom and why. Oh, and did I mention that mating makes it worse? Of course they go all CSI on the whole thing and you just can’t help but wonder where they’re going with it. Hint Hint…  Top that off with the fact that the Congregation doesn’t know about it, and they’re already up to their neck in hot water. 


Speaking of blood rage, a very dear character shows up and I couldn’t help but tear up a little when he did.  Jack.  Their darling little boy who was tortured by nightmares is all grown up and lo, a vampire!  I suspected Father Hubbard, the lowdown weasel, but then I find out that Father Hubbard was made a vampire by Benjamin


Yes, folks, this means that Father Hubbard is Matthew’s grandson and Jack is his great-grandson by vampire standards.  Jack’s blood rage was uncontrolled and set off by traumatic events.  Being in the hands of Benjamin for a time didn’t help matters.  Poor thing. (PS: Apparently, now that Hubbard is family, he’s forgiven for being a douchebag in London.)  After a slight incident (Jack attacked Baldwin) Baldwin orders Matthew to kill Jack.  

You know Matthew, this doesn’t sit well.  Matthew needs to round up Marcus’ children to form the scion, so he takes Jack and heads out.  This means that Matthew and Diana separate for more than a couple of hours.  Shocker!  This co-dependent couple (due to Matthew being a mated vampire) can barely breathe and only communicate via texting photos to each other so that the Congregation won’t catch word of what’s going on. Matthew teaches Jack how to work on controlling the triggers of his blood rage while Diana finds the last pages of Ashmole 782 in an unlikely source.  Now that she has the lost pages, they work on getting the book itself.  What happens next is weird, witchy and awesome. This also provides me with my favorite quote in the book.  “I’m about to become a book thief!” haahhaha

Just when you think things are wrapping up, that crap-bag Benjamin shows up again.  Things get worse when he calls out Diana and Matthew and all hell breaks loose.  I shouldn’t tell you what happens, but in a broad sense he’s teamed up with one of Diana’s enemies and things get really bad when he freaking kidnaps Matthew!  A convoluted rescue effort ensues.  It’s now time to pay the piper, as discussions (and actions) regarding the Congregation heat up.  Baldwin sends Diana into the congregation as the single De Clermont representative of the Congregation.  (I was crapping my pants when Gerbert and Satu are sitting there.)  


She goes to seek the Congregation’s approval for assistance in his rescue.  Okay I really can’t say more.. OMG though.  


I know I promised you spoilers, but if you think for one second I’m going to tell you anything about Diana & Matthew’s babies, you’re crazy. 

I’ve said too much.  All in all I really really enjoyed the book.  It had some twist, turns, exciting moment, shockers and DUH moments. For the most part, it was what we were waiting for, but I’m really hoping that some of the minor loose ends get a follow up book.  A spinoff? Gallowglass based?

Disclosure:  I reviewed a copy free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.


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