Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reign Check [Rowen]

Book: Reign Check [Demon Princess #2]
Author: Michelle Rowen

Review: Nikki Donovan just found out she is a Demon Princess and her best friend could possibly be a demon slayer. She is looking forward going back to high school and acting like a regular human for awhile, when Rhys, the young king of faery, enrolls in her school as an 'exchange student.' He tells Nikki there is a dark prophecy about her and he is there to observe her for himself. Nikki starts to have conflicting feelings for Rhys as she spends time with him, which complicates her (forbidden) relationship with Michael. Meanwhile, she is summoned to the Otherworld to discuss the prophecy.

This book was much better than book 1 for one distinct reason: Rhys. He is the young, handsome faery king with quick wit and a snarky personality. He reminds me of Adrian (from Vampire Academy and Bloodlines fame) a little bit. He and Nikki actually made me chuckle out loud a few times and he really comes alive on the pages. Rowen has set up a love triangle now between Nikki, Michael and Rhys. I just cannot get behind Michael. Other than the fact that he protects Nikki, there is nothing to him. Zero personality. He isn't interesting. Rhys, on the other hand, is funny and charming! I cannot wait to read the next book to see how things play out **spoiler alert** considering Rhys has re-enrolled in school and may be dating Melinda now. Let the fun begin!

Grade: B

Reign or Shine [Rowen]

Book: Reign or Shine [Demon Princess #1]
Author: Michelle Rowen

Review: Life is going well for 16 year old Nikki Donovan. Although she recently moved to a new high school in Canada, she is best friends with the most popular girl in school (Melinda) and is going to the school dance with the guy of her dreams. Her life is quickly turned upside down when she finds out her deadbeat dad is actually a demon king of the Shadowlands, a world that protects humans from the Underworld. In addition to finding out out she is a demon princess, Nikki discovers her father is dying and she is developing feelings for Michael (a shadow servant) which is strictly forbidden. Add a trip to the faerie forest and a colorful cast of characters, this is a fun YA book by Rowen. 

Nikki is a fun main character and this was an enjoyable read however there were no laugh out loud moments like I had reading the 'Immortality Bites' series (I really think Sarah Dearly is funny). It was cute and I'll give the next book a try. 

Grade: C

The Gold Coast [Demille]

Book: The Gold Coast
Author: Nelson Demille

Review: John Whitman Sutter and his wife, Susan Stanhope Sutter, seem to have the perfect life in one of American's most exclusive areas, the Gold Coast (Long Island). John (a relative of Walt Whitman) is a tax attorney with offices on Wall Street and Long Island. Susan is a wealthy society wife (her parents own the 500+ room Stanhope Hall next door) and spends most of her time taking care of her horses. They have a daughter at Yale and a son away at boarding school. They epitomize the term WASP. Their lives are quickly turned upside down when American's most notorious mob boss, Frank Delarossa moves in next door. John tries to distance himself from Frank, but soon finds himself agreeing to represent Frank on a murder charge. John and Susan are soon seduced into Frank's life which has lasting consequences for all of them.

Often described as a cross between 'The Great Gatsby' and 'The Godfather,' 'The Gold Coast' is a good read. Narrated by John, I at times thought he was hilarious, annoying, rude and/or condescending. I loved the exploits he and Susan engaged in throughout much of the novel (a lot of role playing) and it was fascinating to see how Frank drew John in and then kept a hold on him. Susan, for her part, ended up being a crazy redhead just as John warned readers throughout the book. Overall, enjoyable read. 

Grade: B+

The Sixes [White]

Book: The Sixes
Author: Kate White

Review: Phoebe's fabulous life as a celebrity biographer has come to an end. Her long-term boyfriend suddenly broke up with her and she inadvertently plagiarized an article based on shoddy work from a researcher. Trying to regroup, her longtime friend, also president of a small private college in the north east, invites her to teach for a semester. Phoebe dives into her new job but the campus is shaken when a student disappears and is soon found murdered. Phoebe starts investigating a secret society on campus known as 'the sixes,' and tries to figure out if the murder is related. As she learns more about the society, Phoebe herself is targeted. Can she figure out the killer before it's too late?

This is my first book by Kate White and it was really good! Who doesn't love a good mystery and a secret society? White did a good job with misdirection (I did not suspect the killer until the individual was revealed) and I enjoyed Phoebe using her skills as a biographer to figure this out. Overall, a fun, enjoyable read. 

Grade: B

The Golden Lily [Mead]

Book: The Golden Lily [Bloodlines #2]
Author: Richelle Mead

Review: Our favorite alchemist is back! Sydney is back at school in Palm Springs with Jill, Eddie and Angeline. Angeline struggles to adjust to living with humans while learning fighting skills from Eddie. Eddie is trying to train Angeline while avoiding her romantic innuendos. Sydney continues to work on magic spells (much to her chagrin) during her independent study and she finds herself with a boyfriend for the first time ever. Meanwhile, Adrian is working with Sonya and Dimitri to try to figure out how to use spirit powers to prevent Strogoi transitions. While all this is going on, a group of humans with knowledge of Moroi and Strigoi kidnaps Sonja, believing she is still Strigoi.

It's rare when a sequel (or in this case, 2nd in a series) is better than it's predecessor but Mead accomplishes it with 'The Golden Lily.' Although the mystery was easy to figure out, the banter between Sydney and Adrian was fantastic. I am a huge Adrian fan and was happy that he took center stage in this book. I love how Sydney is super book smart with so few social skills or the ability to see relationships in front of her. I also like how Mead is slowly evolving her belief system from 'vampires are evil' to 'they are really just people.' Obviously, getting her and Adrian together will be the next step and I hope it happens in the next book. I can't wait! Great read. 

Grade: A-

Torn [Guerra]

Book: Torn
Author: Stephanie Guerra

Review: Stella is a straight A , good girl with the same group of friends since grade school. Ruby is the new girl at school, a seemingly bad girl who parties and lives on the wild side. The girls strike up an instant friendship which surprises the other students at school. When Ruby starts dating a much older man, Stella has to decide how to address the situation: support her friend's choice or report the situation to authorities? As Stella struggles with the situation, both girls become targets of jealously and bullying with classmates. 

An interesting look at small town high school dynamics, bullying and complexities within friendship. I really enjoyed this book, especially the different layers to Ruby. I can see why people would be quick to dismiss her as a problem teen (and many of her behaviors reinforce that opinion) but it was impressive that Stella, in many ways Ruby's opposite, was able to understand and be a true friend in the end. I was also impressed that Stella way able to maintain her friendship with Ruby while not engaging in most of Ruby's bad behaviors. If I had a high school daughter, I would read this book and recommend it she read it. 

Grade: B

Heist Society [Carter]

Book: Heist Society [Heist Society #1]
Author: Ally Carter

Review: 15 year-old Kat Bishop was trying to live like a normal teenager for the first time in her young life. Granted, she conned her way into boarding school, but she was trying to break free of her family, a family that had her casing museums and stealing prized jewels before she was 10. She was focused on living a clean life when her best friend and fellow co-conspirator, Hale, facilitated her removal from school to help with a problem. Some priceless paintings had been stolen from a notorious criminal and Kat's father was the main suspect. Kat knows her father didn't steal the paintings, but after meeting with criminal she knows she has to find out where the paintings are and steal them back to secure her father's safety.  

I downloaded this book from the library and knew nothing about the author. Nor did I read any book reviews. I am happy to report that I really enjoyed this book! Kat was a smart, spunky heroine and her band of teenager thieves was endearing. I got a good laugh at her cousin and her antics, and enjoyed watching all the pieces come together. I really like the relationship between Kat and Hale (her best friend, and there is some romantic tension of the teenager variety). I am waiting for the second book to be delivered to me via ebookfling.net and cannot wait to start it! A run, smart YA series for teens and adults. 

Grade: B

Trompe l'oeil [Bittner]

Book: Trompe l'oeil
Author: Russell Bittner

Review: 'Trompe l'oeil' is the story of Kit and Daneka. The story begins when they meet one afternoon in NYC and have a brief interlude. They meet up again ten plus years later when they get in a brief car accident and Daneka (a successful Danish editor in her 40s) decides to hire Kit (a photographer in his 30s) for a special project. They quickly commence an affair and travel from NY, Paris, Portugal, Italy, Denmark and finally back to NY. During their trip, Kit tries to figure out the layered personality of Daneka and determines if his love for her is enough to keep them together. 

After reading the Fifty Shades Trilogy and Bared To You, I read message forums to see what other readers recommended. Many people who detested the 'Fifty' books  lauded 'Trompe l'oeil' as erotica for an intelligent person, with an amazing story and layered characters. Well, as readers of this blog know, I'll read just about anything so I downloaded this (luckily a free download from amazon) and jumped in hoping to find a juicy read. This book is well written and it was unique to read a romance written mostly from the male's perspective. What I found challenging was that the book was incredibly boring. So boring that I had to force myself to read and finish it. While the main characters travel throughout Europe, there is a lot of commentary written in foreign languages. I didn't take the time to translate everything (I started to, but it was way too time consuming) and I was able to understand the gist of everything but it was annoying. However, I think the biggest flaw with this book was Daneka herself. She is initially introduced as a successful woman in her mid-40s who knows what she wants in life and goes for it. She is seemingly put together. As the novel progresses, we realize that is anything but the case. However, unlike Christian Grey and Gideon, she had no redeeming qualities that I could ascertain except that was she beautiful and good in bed. She treated Kit horribly almost immediately and it was shocking that he put up with her behavior for as long as he did. Although maybe that is one of the points of the book, that love is blind and we don't choose the people we love? Who knows, but I do know that I despised Daneka by the end of the novel and when we (and Kit) discover her background that lead her to behave as she did, I didn't even care. *spoiler alert* I was so annoyed with her that her committing suicide didn't register for me as a tragic event. 

I am shocked at the high reviews on Amazon for this book. Yes, it's well written (I'm giving it a C/3 stars for that purpose and it had it's moments). But I prefer a trashy romance that keeps my interest any day of the week! Okay to skip this one. 

Grade: C

Bared To You [Day]

Book: Bared To You [Crossfire #1]
Author: Sylvia Day

Review: When Eva, a recent college graduate moves to NY for a new job, she quickly begins a steamy relationship with her sexy, successful boss, Gideon. Their relationship is passionate but not without problems. Eva and Gideon are both victims of abuse and they struggle to find a healthy balance. 

This book is an obvious rip off of the Fifty Shades books (it is book 1 in a planned trilogy). Eva = Ana. Both are around the same age and have mothers who have been married several times. Gideon = Christian.  Rich, successful, possessive, seems to come from a good family but has a secret past. What made this book still a fun read though is that Day is a good writer and she made enough changes to keep it interesting. Most importantly, while Ana is an innocent, Eva is a more in depth character. She suffered **spoiler alert** sexual abuse at the hands of a family member and struggles with emotional trauma. Most importantly, she understands her triggers and is up front an honest with Gideon. Gideon remains more of a mystery and I look forward to the next installment to see where the story goes. A lot of this book was Eva running out on Gideon but mostly, the book established the bond between the two.

Grade: B+

Fifty Shades Freed [James]

Book: Fifty Shades Freed [Fifty Shades Trilogy #3]
Author: E.L. James

Review: Life is moving forward for Ana and Christian. They have grown a lot in the few short months they have been together, but Ana still struggles with the wealth surrounding her lifestyle with Christian while Christian still struggles with his possessive tendencies. Unfortunately, it appears that someone has set their sinister sights on the couple.

The majority of this book was...eh, okay. Throughout the first two books Christian rides a fine line between a sexy, mysterious guy and obsessive control freak, somehow coming out on top in the sexy territory (for me anyway, although I 100% realize his relationship with Ana is in no way, shape or form healthy). In this book, he almost seemed like a caricature of his former self and just boring. I also found the "mystery" element in this book completely ridiculous (yes, the whole series is ridiculous, but one of those "it's so ridiculous I love it!").   What saved this book for me was the ending. Readers get a glimpse into the early days of Christian with his adoptive family and then a first person account of the first time he met Ana. 

Overall, super fun series! 

Grade: B

Fifty Shades Darker [James]

Book: Fifty Shades Darker [Fifty Shades Trilogy #2]
Author: E.L. James

Review: After breaking off her relationship with Christian, Ana tries to settle into her new job at a Seattle publishing house. Unable to stay away, Christian proposes a new arrangement that Ana cannot resist. They quickly rekindle their relationship but problems arise when one of Christina's exes re-enters the picture. Ana tries to navigate Christian's sexual tastes, his ex, while also trying to figure out Christian's mysterious past.

Another delicious read, I devoured this in a nonstop reading session. While not as strong as book 1, I loved the emails between Ana and Christian (absolutely hilarious) and I love how James peeled back the layers that make Christian Grey 'Fifty.' 

Grade: B+

Fifty Shades of Grey [James]

Book: Fifty Shades of Grey [Fifty Shades Trilogy #1]
Author: E.L. James

Review: When college senior Anastasia Steele interviews the young (and very successful) entrepreneur Christian Grey, she is surprised at how young and good looking he is. In turn, he is intrigued by Ana's beauty. They quickly find they cannot stay away from each other, but Ana is surprised to find dating Christian means entering a lifestyle she didn't even know existed. 

As I was reading this I thought this book seemed like a sexier version of Twilight. Both are set in the pacific midwest, Ana is a sweet, innocent dark haired young woman (just like Bella) while Christian is a wealthy and overly possessive (and also copper haired, just like Edward). I discovered after a little research that this series did start as Twilight fan fiction. I admit this book is not well written, extremely repetitive (Ana bites her bottom lip, A LOT) but I literally could not put it down! I loved every repetitive word and could not get enough. In fact, I read all 3 books (they are each over 500 pages) in just over 3 days. In this particular book, my favorite scene was toward the beginning while Ana drunk dialed Christian at the bar and he showed up-absolutely hilarious! I will also note that while this is classified as erotic, I found it more "kinky" than explicit. Overall, a purely delicious read. 

Grade: A-