Monday, June 30, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Unwept: (The Nightbirds #1) by Tracy & Laura Hickman

**I received this book for free from NetGalley/Tor Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*My Thoughts*

Unwept follows the story of Ellis Harkington as she tries to remember her history, especially where she came from, where she's been, why she woke up on a train, why she can't remember the people in the town of Gamin who claim to know her, why she has knowledge of certain things while mostly blank about everything else, and above all, is she really dead, or alive?

This story truly takes a page from the long running TV series The Twilight Zone in that you are not really seeing what you are seeing, and if you truly do believe what you are seeing, then perhaps you have been swallowed up by the writers twisted imaginary, or need to go back and re-read the last chapters.

I do believe that the Hickman's leave the reader with just enough rope to hang themselves with by jumping to early conclusions. You absolutely must read the story to the very end to figure it all out for yourselves. There are subtle hints that are left like cookie crumbs for Jack and Jill to come tumbling down after. Then again, the characters themselves are a character study on how to pull off one of the most impressive catch-22's in a long time.

Ellis is stuck on a merry-go-round with no way to get off of the ride. She just needs to hope that the ride ends with mechanical failure so she can get off in time to save herself. She glimpses things that she believes could be the truth, while being told by those around her that she's experienced something unhealthy, and therefore, needs to rest. 

I absolutely took some chances with what I thought was happening in the story, and was admittedly sidetracked by the differences between Merrick and Jonas, which are as different from heaven and as it is to hell. As the mystery widens and expands, and the more people try to tell Ellis that everything she imagines has to be in her head, because it really never happened, you start to wonder even more if perhaps this setting wasn't something supernatural in nature.

I think readers really need to pay close attention to the opening and closing chapters for hints as to what is truly happening to Ellis, and why you will most likely need to pick pick up the second installment in order to figure out of she gets back to where she started before being thrown into a time period that apparently is straight out of an early 20th century magazine.

Props to the Hickmans for creating one of the creepiest settings for a story. Props for writing a character who doesn't necessary take everything she sees, or is told at face value, but let's her mind wonder, and sets out on her own to discover what truly caused her to end up in the strange little town of Gamin.

Author(s) - Tracy & Laura Hickman
Title - Unwept (The Nightbirds # 1)
Released by Tor Books
Published: July 1, 2014
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal
Format: E-Book 272 pages

Sunday, June 29, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Reckoning (Silver Blackthorn #1) by Kerry Wilkinson

**I received this book from NetGalley/St.Martin's Griffin in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*My Thoughts*

Silver Blackthorn lives in the northern village of Martindale with her mother and younger brother Colt in what was once England. She is a bit of a free spirit, who doesn't necessary lock herself into societies expectations for her, and that is perfectly fine with me. She loves to hang out with her best friend Colt, and pushes the limits of what she can, and shouldn't do including her love of tinkering with old discarded electronics which ultimately comes in handy.

Silver faces what's called the Reckoning where every Sixteen-year old is separated into four categories via a Divergent like test. The categories are Elite, Member, Intermediates, and Trog. The higher the position you are chosen for, the better off your family will be once you are assigned to your new duties.

After the Reckoning, some are chosen to become Offerings. Again, think The Hunger Games where teens from the four districts, North, South, East, and West (30 each year), are brought to the capital, Windsor, where they face even more dangerous challenges in order to survive the Kings machinations. It is a dog eat dog world where you really can't trust ANYONE, and one slip of the lip, will end up getting you killed.

I believe that readers will be interested in learning that Wilkinson mixes a bit of historical aspects, as well as present warfare into her story. The Windsor setting takes place in a castle, which is armed with state of the art electronics. The Kingsmen who protect the King and Minister Prime, are all armed with swords. It will be interesting to visit with the so called Rebellion and see what tools they have at their disposal.

Obviously, Silver can't carry the entire story alone without some secondary characters that stand out from the others. I'll start with Imrin, an Offering from the West, who is of Indian descent. People rage that there isn't enough diversity in young adult, and here is YET another example that it is right in front of your eyes were you to actually LOOK closer. Imrin is also the romantic interest of the story which brings an interesting question for Silver. Does she completely forget about Opie and her friendship with him? Does she move on with Imrin and forget about everything Opien and his family has done for her? Can she actually TRUST anyone else, including Imrin?

The other notable secondary characters are Hart, a boy from Silver's village of Martindale who was chosen two years ago. I don't think we've seen the last of the Prime Minister Bathix (Minister Prime) or King Victor. I'm also wondering if any of the so called survivors will make it to the end of the story, or will they be sacrificed to the writing gods for enjoyment purposes?

I think this series has some unique opportunities to keep readers entertained, while obviously expanding on what has already been written with the Reckoning. I didn't mind the darkness of the story, or the brutality. It was a bit bloody in certain parts, and yes, descriptive. When Silver goes through her series or trials and tribulations, you can actually feel your hand reading for your body and then holding back the visual of what these characters are experiencing.

Renegade (Silver Blackthorn, #2) releases January 6, 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Author - Kerry Wilkinson
Title - Reckoning (Silver Blackthorn # 1)
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Released: July 1, 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Format: E-Book 368 pages

Saturday, June 28, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

**I received this book from Edelweiss/Harper Teen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*My Thoughts*

"A key is buried under the front stairs of 208 Water Street. Scorched on one side, was it in a fire? Who lost it, and when?"

Am I the only one who finished The Vanishing Season, and is wondering if perhaps it would have been more enjoyable had I been smoking some major ganja while reading the book? Or, as I am just looking at things a bit too harshly and critical?

Would it be better NOT to read ANY reviews and just let my imagination wonder aimlessly around about what truly happened in the end? Curiosity is killing me!

Even though plenty of people have told me that I should have read Anderson's Tiger Lily first, I find myself struggling with real life, and a massive stack of review books that I really need to stop requesting! Perhaps I will give Tiger Lily a chance to see if Anderson's writing is as frustrating as it is interesting, as was my experience with The Vanishing Season.

The Vanishing Season is a story about love and relationships, and a mysterious killer who has wanders into the quiet setting of Gill Creek and shakes its citizens to the core for just a brief moment in time before vanishing into thin air. The story messes with your mind, and leaves you seriously considering going back and re-reading it so that you, even though you took copious notes while reading, didn't miss something important that might have hinted at the mysterious ending, the identity of the ghost, and the unknown killer.

The Vanishing Season has THREE distinctive characters; Maggie Larsen, Pauline Boden, and Liam Witter. There really isn't anything stellar to say about any of the above named characters because they are each written to have flaws and make plenty of their own bad choices, including allowing themselves to fall into a twisted romantic triangle. Perhaps that's a breath of fresh air in itself. We don't need to feel like we should fall all over ourselves to rant and rave about these characters. They live in a small town setting, where everyone knows everyone else. They do what they need to do to survive, even though clearly they aren't all made of money. They have dreams, desires, and life goals which are long shots at best.

If you tried to break down each character, we could write a psychology book that tells the story of three people who, although are far from the same social circles, somehow managed to tie themselves together through some rough, and enjoyable times. I could say that Maggie was the main character who was perhaps trying a little too hard to be perfect. She is the only one of the three who still has both of her supportive parents. She had her future laid out for her before her parents experienced a painful downsizing and were forced to move. Pauline is like a butterfly that floats into your life and all too quickly, tragedy strikes. She has her own unique story to tell, and even though she could probably afford to buy anything she wants, she still finds a way to appear grounded. Liam, as the love interest, is perhaps a bit on the too perfect side in that he's charming, quirky, and apparently, not necessarily a bad person even though his choice causes rifts.

Anderson links the ghost to the fates of both Pauline and Maggie but won't explain why, or whether or not the ghost actually has some sort of control over events that twist their way to an ending that left me with more questions than answers. Over the course of the story, the ghost is in the background trying to figure out ITS own reasoning for being attached to the house, and unable to have a conversation even with other ghosts. I really tried hard NOT to read any reviews for this book, hoping that I could figure out the puzzle on my own. Therefore, I choose not to spoil anything further by adding my commentary, or thoughts.

Author - Jodi Lynn Anderson
Title - The Vanishing Season
Published by HarperTeen
Released: July 1, 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Romance
Format: E-Book 256 pages

Friday, June 27, 2014

*Stacking the Shelves* Edition 114

Stacking the Shelves for the week of June 22 thru June 28, 2014

Stacking The Shelves is a fun way to show off the books we received over the past week in the hopes that you will find something that you will be interested in reading. As always, it is in no way, shape, or form to be considered bragging or sticking out our tongues at other bloggers. 

I'm going to extend my Blogging anniversary giveaway until July 5, to give more people a chance to comment on one of my reviews, or the last TWO Stacking the Shelves posts. Kind of an interesting book week for me. Hopefully, you will find something you like!

Thank you, St. Martin's Press, Flux, Harper Voyager, Harper Teen, Greenwillow Books, and of course, my local library for requesting several books for me!

Received via Netgalley & St. Martin's Press

Received via Netgalley & Flux

Received via Edelweiss & Harper Voyager

Received via Edelweiss & HarperTeen
Illusions of Fate

Received via Edelweiss & Greenwillow Books
The Fall

Borrowed from Library
The Lair (The Farm, #2)

Kinslayer (The Lotus War, #2)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Empower (The Embrace Series #5) by Jessica Shirvington

*My Thoughts*

Empower (The Violet Eden Chapters #5) closes out the series that started with Embrace. Violet was then a wet behind the ears Sixteen year old teenager dreading the arrival of her Seventeenth birthday, and hoping to get into art school. She had absolutely no clue about her destiny, or the Grigori, or Angel Makers, or the fact that she wasn't purely human, and neither was her mother. She had no clue how special she really was, or would become over the years, or that death was constantly on the horizon, and that she would face it head on along with a group of friends who have became more like family.

Empower picks up TWO years after Violet walked away from Lincoln and her friends at the end of Endless, and embraced living life as a Rogue Grigori hoping to put her soul and life back in one piece. Violet has been moving from from place to place, taking odd jobs, including the elimination of exiles for The Academy, all while blocking Lincoln from catching up to her, and getting several interesting visitors who both have played roles in Vi's life over the course of the last few books.

I enjoyed Violet's relationship with the Rogues Gary, Carter, Milo, and Turk. I was glad that they ended up not being just tertiary characters who briefly graced us with their presence and then disappeared into the great unknown. They became important allies when Violet stands up against the new threat that has been haunting her, and was the mystery character who took her blood while she fought Lilith to the death.

Even though Violet wanted to move on with her life, and away from the Grigori, she has a hard time doing so when the mysterious villain kidnaps Spencer, leaving his new partner in a coma, and giving Violet no choice but to return to New York, and try to get him back in one piece. I loved that Violet has grown as a character, and actually seems like someone who might be 20 years old. I liked that Lincoln has also grown to the point where he isn't useless, and pointless. He's a leader now who the Grigori look up to and follow into battle. I liked that there was some emotional upheaval between the two before any resolution took place.

I loved that Shirvington moved part of the story to New Orleans, and did a fairly decent job of understanding the culture that has seen French, Spanish, and American influences over the years. I truly do wish there had been more of Spencer and Griffin who have been fixtures in Violet's life since she embraced her Grigori side. I loved how awesome Steph has become as well. As the only human in the organization, she is still respected for her ability to put things together. Hell, I even enjoyed the change in Josephine, who has always been a thorn in Violet's side, but in the end, stands up to be counted when the time is grim.

Can I just say that I am going to miss Phoenix? I know, I know, I've come a very long way from the first time he appeared, and fought hard for Violet's heart against Lincoln, and ended up one of the reasons I dislike 3 way love triangles so much. I loved the way that Phoenix lays it all out on the line for Violet so that she can defeat the powerful villain. I would have loved to see him get a happy ending as well, but I think that there are enough hints and clues as to give readers hope that he will eventually find his soul mate and live happily ever after. Or, perhaps Shirvington would consider doing a spin off novella, or series featuring him. Huh? Huh?

The Violet Eden Chapters ends with Violet now a Twenty year old leader of the Grigori, fully embracing her Grigori side, and her devastating powers that can leave exiles without their powers, while also discovering who her Angel maker is, and making a final choice to whom to give her heart completely to. Violet's powers are above and beyond any other Grigori, and has also become one of the best ass kicking heroines you will read about today. I think Empower is the perfect blend of  suspense, romance, and ending that ties up the loose ends and questions admirably.

Author - Jessica Shirvington
Title - Empower (The Embrace Series # 5)
Published in the US by Sourcebooks Fire
Released: May 6, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Format: Library book 496 pages

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Love Reborn (Dead Beautiful # 3) by Yvonne Woon

*Genre* Young Adult Paranormal
*Rating* 3.0

*My Thoughts*

Love Reborn is the swan song for the Dead Beautiful trilogy. The story picks up TEN days after the ending of Life Eternal which left readers with a major question as to the fate of Renee Winter's traveling companion Noah, a student from the Monitor school at St. Clement, and perhaps someone she could have cared about for were it not for her connection and obsession with Dante Berlin who shares her soul.

Renee's journey for answers to Descartes riddle about whether or not their really is an answer to the age old question of immortality and a second chance, takes her and Dante from the Northeastern US where we the story left off in Life Eternal, to France, and onward to the Netherlands.

Along the way, Renee and Dante accept help from fellow St. Clement student Anya Pinsky who deals with tarot card magic, and monitor Theo Healy who is as slippery as a downhill slope. Both have plenty of reasons for helping Renee on her journey which I shall not spoil, but they are important nonetheless. The arrival of the mysterious Monsieur, who apparently has his fingers in every single piece of the puzzle, along with his insights into the Nine Sisters, leads Renee & group on a race against the Liberum (brotherhood of the dead) and her own grandfather who heads the Monitors, a group dedicated to ending the undead.

Since Love Reborn is the last book of the trilogy, Woon tosses in a few new characters and surprises just to make things interesting. This includes the return of Clementine Laguerre who was Renee's nemesis at St. Clement, as well as a group calling themselves the Keepers. I think readers would have enjoyed a deeper personal connection between them and Renee's group, but that wasn't to be. After all, they had a whole lot invested in protecting the Netherworld from outside interference.

I will say this, I think the ending was a bit inconsequential after everything that has happened over the course of this trilogy. I think Renee isn't all that impressive as a lead character, and would have loved to see her a bit more like Clementine, or even Anya. Sure, she has talents, she can more than handle herself against a few undead. But, she's supposed to be this magnificent Monitor that her grandfather uses to do his bidding, and therefore I expected a whole lot more. I expected to stand up more for herself, instead of cowering like a little child who just got yelled at. It seemed to me that the other characters like Theo, Noah, and even the reemergence of Eleanor, Renee's friend at Gottfried Academy, ended up carrying the stories load while Renee was putzing along.

Author - Yvonne Moon
Title - Love Reborn (Dead Beautiful # 3)
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Released: January 7, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Format: Library book 368 pages

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Scorched (Scorched #1) by Mari Mancusi

*My Thoughts*

"Sacrifice one to save the world."

Sixteen year old Trinity Foxx's life is about to get a whole lot more exciting and dangerous than her obsession with her role playing game, or working at her Grandfathers struggling Fossil museum. She doesn't know it yet but her Grandfather's newest scheme, finding the apparent last Dragon egg in Antarctica, will have serious implications for future generations of the entire world.

It will take the arrival of two very different brothers from 200 years into the future to open Trinity's eyes to what is coming in a very short period of time and that she may be responsible for either a future that is filled with Dragons that decimate the surface of the world, or one in which she saves it from itself and dragons live in harmony with humans.

Struggling since her mother ended her own life two years ago, Trinity knows that she has to be the adult in the family in order to prevent her from returning to the foster homes she's been in and out of for years. When her grandfather's scheme becomes a reality that changes everything she's ever known, Trinity learns that she is something special with her ability to bond with and speak to dragons, and that people are divided into two camps. One camp wants her and the dragon dead to change the course of history, while the other wants to use Trinity and the dragon inside the egg to "save the world."

Brothers Connor and Caleb are on two very different paths, but with the same mission: find Trinity and the dragon egg. Who is right? Who is the villain? Is there another party driving the train, and will it reach its final destination, or be it derailed by Trinity and her dragon Emmy?

Connor knows that the only way to stop the Scorch (the year the dragons destroy the world), is to eliminate the dragon egg, and if necessary, Trinity herself. Connor believes that the history books are correct in saying that Trinity is the person most responsible for unleashing the Dragons into the world and causing the apocalypse. He also carries a heavy burden in feeling the responsibility for his own fathers death by a Dragon which has lead to his hatred of all dragons and becoming the dreaded Dragon Hunter.

Caleb, on the other hand, has fallen in with a group of dragon sympathizers known as the Dracken led by Darius who gave Caleb a reason for living, and sent him back in time for Trinity and the egg. The group was supposedly started by Trinity in the near future to save dragons from the government and those who wish them dead. He believes that it is his mission to find Trinity and the last dragon egg and bring it back to the group where it can be used to raise more dragons that will be able to save the world from itself.

I love that Mari Mancusi went from a quirky human desperately hoping to become a vampire, to dragons! I think that there should be more dragons. In fact, I hereby demand that all authors start now by coming up with unique and different stories that feature awesome dragons. I think Scorched has a similair feel to Talker 25 which was filled with dragons, but left me more questions that answers.

Knowing that Scorched is the first book in the new series, I am truly hoping for a broader look into the future and how humans ended up living underground in order to survive. I would also hope that Mancusi settles on either one or the other brother for Trinity's love interest, and doesn't drag it on forever. I get that both brothers have their negatives and positives, but dragging on this triangle will just drive me to drink an entire bottle of Sambuca.

Author - Mari Mancusi
Title - Scorched (Scorched # 1)
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Released: September 3, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Library Book 352 pages

*Gizmos Book Reviews* The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett

**I received this book from NetGalley/Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*My Thoughts*

"What was true and what was story blended until nobody could say where one ended and the other began."

The Stepsister's Tale takes an entirely different look into one of the most popular fairy tales of all time; Cinderella. Admit it. When you were little, and you read Cinderella, you were entranced by the story of a young girl who grew up with evil stepsisters (Anastasia and Drizella) and a stepmother Lady Tremaine who was cold, and cruel to her after she lost her father. We know that Cinderella ends up meeting Prince Charming, marrying him, and living happily ever after.  But, what if that wasn't the case?

This time around, the story is told from the POV of the so called evil older stepsister Jane Montjoy-Halsey, and it's not all lollipops and sugar plums. I think readers of this story will be surprised at how emotional you can get towards the characters after being spoiled by numerous retellings which all end basically the same way. In the original Cinderella, the stepsisters treated Cinderella (Isabella) like crap, and made her do all the work, while they sat around and had a grand ole time. In this edition, we get a entirely different view of all characters involved, and it is a surprisingly entertaining story with some definite flip flopping of emotions.

Jane and her sister Maude have lived within the shadows of what was once one of the oldest families around. They had money, they had stature, and they had loads of friends until their father died, and their world came apart at the seams. Jane and Maude now find themselves without maids, or servants, and end up doing all the major work themselves. They do all the cleaning, sewing, creation of their own clothes, chopping wood, milking cows, feeding chickens and doing their own laundry while their mother throws fits about what proper ladies should, or should not do. Then their world is quickly changed by the arrival of an interloper/new stepsister Isabella.

I had some interesting emotions towards Isabella when she suddenly shows up out of the blue and becomes a new sister to Jane and Maude. I don't truly blame Isabella for being such a pain in the ass at first. I would say it has to do with nurture, and the fact that her stepfather tried really hard to spoil her and give her anything she wants, while Jane and Maude struggling mightily to put food on their table.

In The Stepsister's Tale, Isabella is ONLY Thirteen years old, with a whole lot of learning about the real world yet to come. In the end, it is hard to imagine that Isabella is the one that Cinderella was written about because Barrett really twists the story in such different and surprising ways that you are left impressed by the chances she takes with the story. I was impressed with the fact that Jane changes her attitude towards Isabella in ways that will surprise you.

We all know that the stepsisters have always been equated with being evil. The Stepsister's Tale gives readers an entirely different view of Jane and Maude, and leaves a whole lot to be discussed. I liked that Barrett eventually gives Jane a romantic connection, as well as allowing her to speak for herself when everyone else has tossed her aside. I liked how the characters like Jane and Will are so used to hating and believing in the worst about the society they came from, that in the end, all that really matters is that they are both human, and are lonely, and looking for changes.

Author - Tracy Barrett
Title - The Stepsister's Tale
Published by Harlequin Teen
Released: June 24, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling
Format: E-book 272 pages

Monday, June 23, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper

**I received this book via NetGalley/Pocket Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*My Thoughts*

Molly Harper's Better Homes and Hauntings is a standalone novel that centers around a group of individuals who are hired by software mogul Deacon Whitney to renovate a dilapidated supposed "haunted estate" that has been in his family for more than a century. The estate, called Crane’s Nest, lies on a private island near the New England Coast. In the process of renovating the estate, the group comes together to also dig into the hundred year old mystery into the death of Catherine Whitney, and the curse that apparently follows Catherine's descendants around like a noose.

Nina Linden is probably the most interesting character in the group with her background, struggles, and attempts to finally take her fledgling landscaping business, Demeter Designs, into prominence, and out of the shadows of her former boss Rick who has done everything in his powers to destroy her reputation. Having been chosen for a massive renovation of the estates landscaping by Deacon over Rick, Nina finally sees the light at the end of the dark tunnel. If only she can survive through hauntings that apparently plague the estate and have chased previous workers away. If only her heart can survive the emotions that bring her and Deacon on a collision course.

I won't hesitate to say that the story wouldn't have been the same or enjoyable were it not for the presence of Deacons best friend and architect Jake Rumson, Cinderella Cleaning Service owner Cindy Ellis who has her own unique and heart warming story, and Dotty Whitney, Deacon's wayward cousin who truly believes in the families curse and has every intention of ensuring that it ends with the discovery of what really happened to Catherine, Gerald, her diaries, and the family jewels that nobody can find.

Better Homes and Hauntings is a typical Molly Harper novel. The characters are fun to read about, they have a whole lot snark, and humor, while also coming together as friends, and yes, much more. The mystery behind Catherine's death was actually not that hard to guess once you start piecing the puzzle together and getting a glimpse into Catherine's diaries that show a different side to her, and puts the so called conspiracy theorists to rest once and for-all.

One of the best things about this story is that it really doesn't stick to one character with hopes that she alone will be the one to solve the mystery. Nope. It takes everyone involved which makes for a much better story. You also see the group coming together to be a bit more than friends, and of course, what would a story by Molly Harper be without a bit of smexy action on the side?

Author - Molly Harper
Title - Better Homes and Hauntings
Published by Pocket Books
Release date: June 24, 2014
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Format: Paperback 384 pages

*Gizmos Reviews* Pre-Release Excerpt of Enslaved by the Others by Jess Haines

Coming July 1st, 2014 from Jess Haines: ENSLAVED BY THE OTHERS

If I hadn’t already been so stunned by the contents of the room, I quite possibly would’ve been shocked immobile by the palpable interest of over a dozen—old—no, ancient—vampires locked on me. This included Max, whose steely grey eyes had widened as he sat up in the oxblood leather chair he had been lounging upon, clearly taken aback by my spectacular entrance. The weight of age in this tiny room was crushing; a football stadium would be too small to contain the power they were unconsciously radiating. It only took a few seconds for me to figure out that, whatever the hell they were doing here, obviously they now considered me part of the menu. I hastily backed up, using my arms to cover as much of myself as I could, while Max schooled his own features into a passably blank expression.
“Of course,” Max said, his smooth voice carrying only the tiniest hint of irritation as he eased back in his seat and nodded in my direction, “I had not intended to showcase her so soon, though I don’t suppose there’s any harm in it. She is newly arrived, and has not been groomed properly for servitude yet. I doubt you would be interested in one so fresh, Kyle.”
I skittered back, but a guard who had been standing to one side of the door barred my escape and I backed right into him. He laughed at how I jumped at the unexpected contact before giving me a little shove in Max’s direction. I pivoted and darted to the side so I could press against the wall instead.
No weapons, no way out, and surrounded by vampires. I was on the verge of hyperventilating, and Max didn’t seem keen on stopping the guy he’d addressed as Kyle from approaching me.
This new vampire was well dressed in a tailored “I make a thousand dollar suit look like cheap trash” way. He set aside a cane with a freaky demon-looking thing crouching on top with what I would swear were real diamonds for eyes before approaching me. The power of his mien paled to the invasive metaphysical touch that brushed over my skin, tasting some intangible part of me and making me want a piece of sandpaper, a pumice stone, and the world’s hottest shower to scrub the feel of it off of me. His manicured nails were blunt, shining as brightly as that whiter-than-white smile when he ran a smooth fingertip over my cheek, the other hand lifting to toy with one of my bra straps. I flinched and batted his hands away before twisting aside and putting some much-needed distance between us.
“Mm, perhaps you’re right. Aside from being fresh, she’s got facial scars. I do hope you weren’t intending on offering damaged goods.”
Though I wasn’t often hung up about my looks, his comment sent my hand flying to my lower lip in reflex. I often did my best to forget about the scar left behind when Peter bit me, nearly tearing my lip in half in the process of assaulting me.
Another vampire spoke up, his tone dripping disdain. “Look how scrawny she is. No meat on her where there should be. And that skin of hers is a wreck—the mark on her face is not the only one I see.”
And another. “This one is disappointing, Euphron. Very disappointing.”
Scowling, I dropped my hand away and balled my fingers into tight fists of rage at my side, finding the condescending laughter of the others in the room too much to bear. Max started speaking but I cut him off, shouting loudly enough for most everyone to flinch.
“I’m not a fucking pet, I’m not your fucking plaything, and who gives a flying fuck if I’m scarred? Ask Max how it happened. I got it while I was busy killing one of your own, you fucking leeches.”
Stunned silence followed my pronouncement, and I took advantage of the moment to dive for the door again, shoving the surprised guard out of my way.
The word was quiet but forceful. Every muscle in my body went rigid and I found I couldn’t move.
“Come here.”
The other vampires watched with interest as I turned around, breaking out in a cold sweat as I fought the command. I managed to hold out until I made the mistake of meeting Max’s eyes. Though I didn’t want to do it, one foot lifted, then the other, bringing me closer to him. After three steps, I was back in the room—and found at that point that I could stop, though I couldn’t withstand the power of his spell enough to run again.
“Extraordinary,” commented another vampire that had been quiet up until now, his fangs glinting as he favored me with a wolfish grin. “I do believe this one doesn’t care for you, Euphron.”
A few of the others seemed to find this funny, smirking or making wry comments of their own. Catty bastards. 



Author Bio: Jess Haines writes about furred and fanged things that go bump in the night. Best known for the H&W Investigations urban fantasy series, she's been writing since she was a teenager and was first published in 2010. Visit her at for the latest news and updates.

Follow Jess Haines on the web:

Enslaved by the Others Book Description:

Vampires, werewolves, magi and worse—the Others have joined the mortal world, and there's no turning back now…
As a New York P.I. and Other specialist, Shiarra Waynest has been in plenty of trouble before. But waking up in a windowless room the prisoner of a vampire slave trader is a shock for anyone. Shia has her wits, her bravado, and a couple of used staples, so maybe she can take on a mansion full of serious evil.
But although she's desperate to escape, Shia needs some answers too. Her friends are in danger. There are betrayers and spies among them. And even if she can figure out what's going on and somehow get a message out, she's still a captive of the worst kind…

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Rain (Paper Gods, #2) by Amanda Sun

**I received this book from NetGalley/Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*My Thoughts*

Rain, the sequel to Ink, picks up approximately 2 weeks after "gaijin" Katie Greene decided against traveling to Canada where her grandparents live, to remain in Japan with her Aunt Diane, and to be with Yuu Tomohiro, a Kami descendant who is able to make ink come alive on paper, and who Katie has a major crush on.

Katie has a whole lot on her plate this time out. She's not exactly wowing her teachers at her school because she can't get the kanji correct, she continues to use the wrong pronunciations, and the possibility of Katie transferring to an International school is definitely on the horizon. Katie also finds herself the target of blackmail, and jealously, as well as hatred because of who she is with. Thankfully, she does have two really good friends in Yuki & Tanaka who seem intent on teaching the ignorant gaijin about their ways before she falls flat on her face.

There are also secrets about Katie's past (mother & father) that finally come into the light of day explaining why she and Tomo seem to be connected. I am happy that Amanda Sun gave readers the answer to the major question this time out, instead of waiting until the final book. It truly does explain why Katie seems to be so affected by the Ink, and why she's connected with Tomo. It will be interesting to see where Amanda takes Katie with her finale.

Meanwhile, Tomohiro is having is own issues. He's having nightmares, and losing control of the ink which puts Katie at risk from being hurt, or worse. Tomohiro is also a piece of the puzzle for Takahashi Jun who wants to use Tomo as a weapon against the Yakuza whom he blames for his own fathers death. I'm thankful that the author also digs deeper into the Kami history, and enlightens readers to the different elements and factors that play important roles in all of the characters actions.

I will try to remain calm and not go all snarkfest with my review. Rain is an interesting story. I won't complain about the setting, or the fact that Amanda uses a whole lot of  Japanese terminology to tell her story. Luckily, you are able to turn to the back of the book, and get your answers to your questions on what exactly the characters are trying to say to each other. If you can't find a world that Amanda uses, try using a Japanese to English free translator like I did.

Yet, it has a bunch of other nonsense as well, including Katie being the villain to several girls who lust after Tomo and Jun, and blame her for almost everything that vindictive teenagers with severe angst do. Can you say soap opera for young adults? We continue to see the annoying 3 way love triangles in young adult novels even though I am not totally sure that was Amanda's intent. Since I loathe them as much as eating liver, in the end it does affect my overall rating, as well as the silliness of blackmailing someone you want to get rid of because you are perhaps a bit on the churlish side.

The final novel in the Paper Gods trilogy releases during the summer of 2015. Since I have read this far into the trilogy, there is no way I won't read the finale. I really want to see how Amanda handles Katie's connection to the ink. Although Katie is the protagonist of this trilogy, she is often times more of an observer than an actual participant. I really wish that would change. I wish she would finally take charge of her own actions, and stop allowing others to drag her behind them while she wags her tail.

Author - Amanda Sun
Title - Rain (Paper Gods # 2)
Published by Harlequin Teen
Released: June 24, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Format: Ebook 304 pages

Saturday, June 21, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Deadly Curiosities (Deadly Curiosities) by Gail Z. Martin

**I received this book for NetGalley/Solaris in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*My Thoughts*

I am a true fan of Urban Fantasy series that are filled with action, danger, adventure, kick ass action, awesome world building, and characters that can hold their own without falling into the Mary Sue category we all loathe. So, I eagerly requested Deadly Curiosities via NetGalley hoping to see if there was any hope for the genre itself.

Cassidy Kincaide is the protagonist and POV for Deadly Curiosities. She runs Trifles & Folly, a real estate auction and antiques store in the heart of historical Charleston, South Carolina. Cassidy is carrying on the family tradition that started in 1670. Along with her Assistant Manager Teag, and her silent partner, the nearly 600 year old vampire Sorren, they collect supernatural items called Spookies that contain dark malevolence that often times find their way into innocent hands.

Cassidy also has psychometric abilities which allow her to gleam strong emotions, memories, and images from the antiques that come into her store. Although psychometry has been used in previous series, I liked the uniqueness of her abilities to not only gleam the history from an object, but she can use powerful artifacts to fight against the evil that rears their ugly heads, and tries to take over Charleston for their master.

Cassidy, Teag, Sorren, along with voodoo practitioner Lucinda, work for a shadowy organization called the Alliance. The Alliance is a group of powerful magic users and immortals who stand against the darkness and ensure that their nemesis The Family, doesn't get their hands on dark artifacts that can cause tremendous problems as we see in Deadly Curiosities.

I loved that Gail uses Charleston as her setting for this story. Even though she, like every other author out there, takes artistic allowances with the characters, and the setting itself, you can't help but appreciate Charleston's history which is very long, and filled with historical events, and lots, and lots of ghosts. She does a good job of putting you in the setting and the people who are true southerners in that they do know each other, and they do help each other out in times of need.

I especially liked the fact that the action is right there in front of you. While there are some lags and lulls, it is expected when you are trying to track down the villains, and put together a team to end the threat to the citizens of Charleston. I liked that the ending didn't feel rushed to me, or that the characters like Cassidy didn't shy away or run from trouble. There was a pretty decent final battle, and all things are not black and white, or even happy when its all said and done.

It is also refreshing to me that Cassidy didn't find herself deep into a romantic situation that took her attention away from the matter at hand. All too often, I roll my eyes at the unnecessary romance thrown into stories for the entertainment purposes. Again, if you want romance, then stay with PNR. If you like kick ass action at every turn, and the unknown whether the characters will all survive or not, then please read Deadly Curiosities and give the finger to publishers who say that UF is dead and gone.

Apparently, publishers are more interested now in Paranormal Romance series, or Urban Fantasy Romance, than UF because that is where THEY believe the female readers are more likely to be. I absolutely call shenanigans, and bullcrap on any publisher who cancels a series without giving them a chance to get going, or at least allow it to end gracefully. There are more than enough readers out there who STILL love UF and we won't go away silently or without a fight.

Author - Gail Z. Martin
Title - Deadly Curiosities (Deady Curiosities # 1)
Published by Solaris
Released: June 24, 2014
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: E-Book 464 pages