Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review - The Blemished by Sarah Dalton


Publication Date: August 7th 2012
Genre: Science Fiction/ Dystopian
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars 

  
Where to Buy:
Here's the Summary:
A beautiful world comes at a price...

In a world filled with stunning clones Mina Hart is Blemished. Her genes are worthless and that takes away her rights: her right to an Education, her right to a normal life and her right to have a child.

Mina keeps a dangerous secret which she never thought she could share until she meets Angela on her first day at St Jude's School. But their friendship is soon complicated by Angela’s adoptive brother Daniel. Mina finds herself drawn to his mysterious powers and impulsive nature. Then there is the gorgeous clone Sebastian who Mina is forbidden from even speaking to…

The Blemished is a frightening take on a fractured future where the Genetic Enhancement Ministry have taken control of Britain. It will take you on a ride filled with adventure, romance and rebellion.
My Review:

I stumbled across this book on Amazon as one of the top free Downloads in the YA Science Fiction/ Dystopian genre, and oh, how I wanted to love this book. I really did. The premise had me salivating to dive into it and the way the book opens instantly had me hooked:

"Once, my mum told me a story about a princess, and it began with her stuck in a castle. My story begins with my head stuck in a toilet."

We then learn the protagonist is a girl named Mina who is considered Blemished - someone the Ministry deems unworthy of procreating because her genes carry predispositions to illnesses and/ or deformities. But not only are the Blemished deemed  unworthy of procreating, the Ministry (the new government) ensures they don't by seeing that every Blemished girl has an Operation - basically giving them a hysterectomy - at the age of sixteen. Deplorable! And the way the Blemished are treated as dirty, second-class citizens and made to serve the GEMs (the genetically enhanced, test tube babies) who are given privileges such as an education and the opportunity to have good jobs and live in nice homes filled with nice things, is also pretty nauseating... but extremely brilliant, as far as world-building is concerned. This book has one of the strongest antagonists I've ever seen (the Ministry). Then, mix in a strong-willed, heart-of-gold heroine (Mina), a sweet, gap-toothed best friend (Angela), a bully GEM (Elena, the offending swirly-giver at the beginning of the book), a super bully in Mrs. Murgatroyd (affectionately named Murder-Troll by her Blemished students), a cute GEM boy who wants to win Mina's affection (Sebastian), only to be rivaled by Daniel (another Blemished boy), and you've got potential for an exceptional story.

And... AND... Mina has a gift - telekinesis. And we all know I have a fondness for dark-haired  heroines with telekinesis. *sheepish grin*

So, given all that, I had such high expectations, but somewhere along the way the story fell flat and I ended up forcing myself to finish. I'll try and dissect it all for you below.


The Good:

The premise - I covered that pretty thoroughly above. lol

Also, Mina is an excellent protagonist. I love a strong-willed, won't-take-crap-from-anyone kind of girl. She's tender when she needs to be, strong when she has to be, and values her friends and  family. Instant likeability factors. I also like that she takes a stand for what's right and isn't afraid to break the rules to do so, especially in a world where offending Blems get the electric chair for the smallest of crimes. (Another reason to despise the Ministry). Not that we need anymore reasons at this point!

Another plus is how the author has a way of creating moments that tears your heart out; I consider that an excellent storytelling trait. Regardless of how 'meh' I felt about the overall story at times, Ms Dalton had me glued to the pages and actively trying to hold myself together at others. *** SPOILER ALERT*** For instance, the scene where Mrs. Murgatroyd hacks at Mina's hair in front of the class as punishment. I was as horrified and humiliated as Mina, and man, after I recovered from my heartbreak, I was wishing I could jump into the book and strangle the Murder-Troll right then. I'm STILL seething. lol  ***END SPOILER*** More heartbreaking scenes were with Angela's (and Daniel's adoptive) mother, Theresa. As someone who's witnessed a family member suffering from dementia, the scenes really hit home and made my heart ache for her kids. And honestly, without these tear-my-heart-out moments, I'd probably rate this book a star lower, because these were rare moments in the storyline I actually felt something.

I also like how the characters aren't all one dimensional. Not everyone is all good or all bad (minus Murder-Troll lol) or have only one temperament all the time, and they each have their own unique characteristics/ interests and things that make them tick. That makes for a believable cast of characters.

Lastly... Mina's relationship with her father. I'm a daddy's girl, so 'nuff said. lol I adored their closeness.


The Meh:

I usually don't have a 'meh' category, but some of the things I have to harp on aren't necessarily bad. "Meh" fits a little better. lol

First, one of my complaints is the romance/ chemistry between Mina and both her love interests. (Yes, there's a love triangle). Good chemistry really is a hard thing to create, and when an author successfully does so it makes the book that much better. I give Ms Dalton points for trying, but this is one of the main reasons the book only gets two-and-a-half stars - it simply didn't deliver in that department. Not for me, anyway. I get that the book isn't necessarily billed as a romance, but when budding  romances are a pretty good chunk of the book, as the reader, we expect it to deliver. And honestly, it's hard to articulate why it didn't do much for me. Maybe it's because there were more physical reactions (skin tingling/ burning with touches, etc) than actual deep connections. There WAS a small amount with Daniel because he also has a gift and they spend a good amount of time together, BUT a lot of their time was glossed over (renovating the basement together) so we never really got a sense of how close their bond had become. We were only told that it had. Showing can make all the difference. If I were the author, I'd go back through and add some more one-on-one scenes during that timeframe. As a side note, I will say I liked that Daniel was protective of Mina, and when she was wronged, he couldn't rest until it was made right.

Next, dare I say it.... the writing. Believe me, I hate to talk about another author's writing. And please know, I'm not out to bash, because we all have room for improvement, but Ms. Dalton could benefit from going back through and tightening up her prose. There were a few places I felt like her writing got a bit lazy, and as both a reader and writer, it dampens my motivation to keep reading. For instance, my example above about glossing over key relationship-building opportunities; telling and not showing; a few too many typos for my liking; using some of the same descriptions over and over. I want to add, though, that there were times her talent shined through. For example:

"There was something about serving the GEMs at lunchtime which made my skin crawl. Everything else I could cope with: the uniform, the classes, and the way they looked at us. But to stand and serve them the food I had prepared always seemed the lowest of the low. I thought about the way Dad cooks for me and the intimate feeling you get from sharing food. It should be personal, and with love. Not forced."


The Bad:

Some of the seemingly contrived situations... to the point they induced eye rolls. For instance, ***SPOILER ALERT*** When the Enforcers come to take Mina and Daniel. Right before that, her uncle Matthew says they need to pack up and head out of town since it's a possibility they could come after Mina and Daniel for the vandalism, but then he suggests everyone needs to hang out a bit and take a nap to get some rest. Ummmmm.... WHAT? If there's a possibility you'll be captured and killed, why the hell wouldn't you go ahead and leave? Rest be damned. It came across to me that the author needed something to kill time to give the enforcers time to figure out who was responsible for said crime and get to Mina's house. I couldn't help but laugh. ***END SPOILER***

The repeated use of her telekinesis in public, yet she never seemed to worry all that hard that the Ministry/ Enforcers might be tipped off and come after her. And there were SEVERAL uses of it around the school she worked at. Like when she's trying to help another classmate escape. ***SPOLIER ALERT*** Like when after Murder-Troll cut Mina's hair, and the scissors flew out of her hand and the books flew off the shelves. ***END SPOILER*** You can't blame "a gust of wind" on those things. And yet, she never seems to worry much about her little telekinesis outbursts after having moved to Area 14 because of them in the first place because it needs to stay "secret."


 The Ugly:

The ending. ***SPOILER ALERT*** So right as Murder-Troll has a gun pointed at Mina, who comes in to save the day? Elena, the GEM bully turned friend. Not that I have a problem with who saved her, I have a problem with the way it was done - in a surprise attack against Murder-Troll from behind, knocking her out. Then it was, "Oh, it's Elena! You saved me! And you're in high heels? That's so you. How did you get here?" Elena's reasoning - "I heard all the noise and violence from my house, so I decided to traipse over here in my expensive high heels to see what's going on." Holy ridiculous, batman. Because, ya know... that's what every prissy, pampered girl would do - go haphazardly seek out a source of violence and mayem in the dark. In their pumps. Just because. And, surprise! She saved her. *hand slaps against forehead* This is painfully bad. ***END SPOILER***


In conclusion, I have NO idea how this book received so many five-star reviews. MAYBE I can see how it earned some threes. But because this story has such an interesting concept with decent world and character building, it has loads of potential with the right editor and a good amount of re-writing. Until then, I can only say it fell nothing short of blah for me, borderlining on "I can never get my time back." Or maybe it just wasn't my cup of tea.


Favorite Quote: "His eyes were deep pools of suffering and I wanted nothing more than to take it away."


About the Author:


Sarah grew up in the middle of nowhere in the countryside of Derbyshire and as a result has an over-active imagination. She has been an avid reader for most of her life, taking inspiration from the stories she read as a child, and the novels she devoured as an adult.

Sarah mainly writes speculative fiction for a Young Adult audience and has had pieces of short fiction published in the Medulla Literary Review, PANK magazine, Apex Magazine and the British Fantasy Society publication Dark Horizons. Her short story ‘Vampires Wear Chanel’ is featured in the Wyvern Publication Fangtales.

She is the author of the popular YA dystopia series 'Blemished' and the gothic novella 'My Daylight Monsters'. She is currently working on a YA Fantasy series titled 'White Hart'.

Sarah's Website

Monday, December 22, 2014

Music Crush Monday - Christmas Edition!!!

Morning, Angels!!! I'm feeling in the holiday spirit this morning, so for my Music Crush Monday I'll be sharing some nontraditional songs I LOVE. The first is called "Mary" by Patty Griffin. I originally heard this song on the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack, and the words are so poetic and beautiful I fell in love with them immediately. As you can guess by the title, it's of course about Jesus' mother, and really, it would be better suited for Easter since it's ultimately about her losing him, but I can't wait that long so I've decided to share it now. lol

For the second song, we're all (hopefully) familiar with the song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen (my favorite rendition is Jeff Buckley's). Well... there's a Christmas version out by a band called Cloverton and it's nothing short of amazing. Gave me chills!!!

Lastly, there's a song by Kevin Ross called "This is My Wish." You've probably heard a snippet of it on the Glade commercials, as in Glade candles. I liked it so much I looked up the entire song and wasn't disappointed!!! Once you get past the first few seconds of cheesy product hawking in the beginning, it's so worth it. He has a beautiful voice.

Hope you all enjoy these songs, and may everyone have a wonderful, love-filled Christmas. Love to all!!!

xoxo
SJ


Mary by Patty Griffin




Hallelujah by Cloverton




This is My Wish by Kevin Ross


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Review - Float by Roni O'Connell




Publication Date: December 20th 2013
Genre: Paranormal Romance
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
 
Where to buy:
 
 
I stumbled across this book on a Book Sends email ad and, man... I'm glad I did! As much as I love to read, there are very few books I sacrifice my oh-so-precious sleep for. This was one of them!!!

 
Here's the Summary:
 
What if your only memory is of who you aren’t, not who you are? Seventeen-year-old Rashelle Santos fights her way out of a coma to find she doesn't remember her life, except for her parents and dog. Brain damage doctors tell her, but Rashelle knows with absolute certainty that Shellie (her nickname) died at the bottom of Kaweah Lake, bequeathing her death memories to Rashelle. Rashelle leaps into a relationship with Shellie's boyfriend, Aiden Brody, because he stirs her feelings and fills the void within her. As their relationship becomes serious, she questions whom he really loves. When threats appear in the form of notes stuffed into her locker and calls in the night, Rashelle wonders if she can stay alive long enough to discover who wants her dead, because somewhere out there Shellie's attacker watches and waits to finish what he started. And what the hell, she wonders, is she deranged or could dead Shellie be lingering to keep her alive?
 
 
 
My Review:
 
 
The Good:
 
First... that. cover. Gorgeous. It caught my eye immediately. And the summary, while it almost reveals a bit too much, it had me wanting to read more. I'm a sucker for anything paranormal, and it also hints at a dash of complicated romance and mystery. It had me at "hello."
 
When I cracked the book open, my first impression was, wow... Ms. O'Connell can write. Then it was, oh my gawd, what happened to this poor girl Rashelle and will they ever catch the guy who did this to her? And is continuing to stalk and harass her? Not to mention, she can't remember who she is, but she does know one thing for certain - she's NOT the same girl who used to inhabit this body.
 
Holy cow. What?
 
I couldn't rest until I knew the answers. Literally. And just when I thought I knew who did it, or had a clue as to who Rashelle really was, I was second guessing myself by the next chapter. And that, dear readers, is the mark of a good storyteller.
 
Next, Ms. Connell's characters are believable, not only because they talk and act and think like kids that age, but they're flawed and relatable. They don't always make the best choices and they think they know it all - I had many flashbacks to my teen years - but they also have that care-free way about them and are open to new love in a way only teenagers can be... because they haven't been scarred enough by life to be jaded or wary about it yet. lol I was also quite taken with Aiden, Rashelle's love interest. He's the perfect male lead - supportive. encouraging. patient. kind. The type of man every girl should be attracted to. I can't stand this new wave of asshole-boyfriends that's in every other novel these days. The worse they treat them, the more the female leads are attracted to them.
 
What?
 
I don't get it. Kudos to O'Connell for steering clear of that.
 
Lastly, the ending was phenomenal and quite satisfying. In a million years, I never would have guessed who Rashelle's attacker was. I also never would have guessed why Rashelle felt like she was transplanted into the body she's in. The explanation makes perfect sense and was so overwhelmingly poignant and perfect, I found myself smiling and tearing up as I read. This story is heartbreaking, sweet, funny and riveting all rolled into one hell of a captivating read. If you don't have this one on your "to be read" list, do so immediately!
 
The Bad:
 
To be honest, I don't have anything negative to say!
 
  
The Ugly:
 
Nothing to say in the category, either.
 
 
Favorite Quote:
 
"I get it now, how the sheer physicality of kissing can feel pretty darn good even when you're not in love. But I also get how much more that pleasure intensifies when you are."
 
 
About the Author:
 
 
 
Roni O’Connell lives with her husband and two dogs high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She finds inspiration in the forest, wildlife, and lakes around her home. A former English teacher, Roni enjoys the company of young adults, their spirited opinions, great enthusiasm, and outrageous humor. When Roni isn’t writing novels, you can find her hiking in the forest or contemplating the wonders of nature.

 
 Follow her on Twitter!!!
 


Friday, December 12, 2014

Author Spotlight - Justice K. Chambers

Morning, angels!!! Today is a very special day because I'm introducing the work of a debut author and my dear friend, Justice K. Chambers. Sometime in the early spring (specific date to come) her book of poetry titled Shattered Living will grace eBook sites across the intewebs and will feature a variety of poems about her experience living with anxiety and depression. As someone who is personally afflicted with chronic anxiety, I relate to her work on many levels, and my hope is that, whether you live with one of these diseases or not, you take something away from this poem after reading it... even if it's only a better understanding of what it's like.

Love to all xoxo


The Closet, by Justice K. Chambers


Chewed me up and swallowed me to the pit of darkness,
The unknown abyss.
It greeted me with an unwanted kiss.
Seemed to suck me from where once all was normal,
To chaos and feeling uncontrollable.
Take back your kiss!
Take back your rage!
Give back my life, so I’m not writing this page!

Is it the devil who has done this to me?
If so, the battle is on, you see.

My mind obsesses with explanations unknown;
Every day the search is on.
Could this be an attack of the devil?
A chemical imbalance? Trauma?
Answers still not shown.
Will I ever reach them?
I need them now!

Yesterday gone,
Tomorrow too far,
My brain already scarred.
How much will you take?
I am ready to break.

Made of glass, I have just shattered,
Emotions jumbled and scattered.
I am on my knees.
I have hit the floor,
Beating my head on the closet door.

Hiding in the darkness,
Tucked away behind clothes.
In the corner, so no one knows,
The thoughts that overtake,
The venom inside me boiling like the bite of a snake.

“I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!” to my mind I scream.
I hate this affliction,
Doomed forever, it seems.

Tick, tick, tick,
The time so slow,
Begging for the night to pop some pills so this will leave,
Just go.

If just for those few hours of sleep -
For it is my only peace,
I think I will just lie here on the floor.

Please, no one open the door.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Book Review - "Divergent" by Veronica Roth




Released: May 3rd, 2011
Genre: Dystopian
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars



I’ve put this review off for a while, one of the reasons being I wanted to let the story marinate before I put my thoughts on paper. I’m someone who needs to process before I speak my thoughts or write them out. I want to make sure I do my efforts justice. Sometimes that can be a good thing because by the time I’m ready to talk about it, I have all my thoughts in order. Sometimes it can be a bad thing because I’ll forget some of the details. And seeing as to how I read this book a few months ago, I’m sure I’ll forget a few things. Lol Anyhow… here they are, and I'll try and be as non-spoilery as possible:


The Good:

There’s plenty good to say about this book, so I’ll start with the author’s writing style. Some have criticized it for being too simplistic, but that’s why I loved it. Veronica Roth is straightforward and doesn’t bog down the prose with a ton of colorful, fruity adjectives, but yet she’s descriptive where she needs to be. I consider this smart writing; it makes for an easy to read (in a good way) and your readers don’t have to wade through the fluff to get to the meat of the story. Not to knock writers who fluff, though. I suppose it’s a matter of taste.

Another ‘good’ for me was the POV character, Tris. I like that she’s tough and isn’t afraid to go after what her heart is calling her to do (choosing Dauntless). Some would see the choice as a hard one to make since it means leaving her parents behind, but in Divergent, the author captures the truth about making such decisions. Sometimes the ‘easy thing’ (in this case, staying in Abnegation) isn’t any less hard, because it would be going against who Tris is and what she desires. I think this is a great message for Ms. Roth's readers. Every decision has drawbacks. Every decision has its rewards. Either way, follow your heart.

I also like that Tris isn’t the typical boy-crazy teen. Sure, it could be partly her upbringing since she’s taught to not self-indulge, but I think it’s also a part of who she is. It’s not something she fights. As a matter of fact, when she meets her love interest about halfway through the book, she berates herself for even looking at him too much. And that’s another thing – the love story doesn’t dominate the bigger story. That’s a good lesson, as well. Love is a part of life, but it doesn’t need to be your whole life.

Another ‘good’ for me was how the system is set up within this society. Not that I believe it's a good thing; quite the opposite. It rings true for me how others sometimes try to compartmentalize or pigeon hole us as being one thing. I’ve seen it (and experienced it to some degree) within the corporate world. If you don’t fit a mold, you don’t belong. Can you say, “narrow minded?” The truth of it is, all of us are multifaceted. We can be selfless and brave. We can be kind and smart. It should be celebrated and encouraged, not considered a bad thing (Divergent). Well… it’s bad for the people who want control, but nobody should feel they’re forced into being a certain way for the sake of pleasing someone else or saving their own butt. I see it as a form of oppression.

Lastly, speaking of multifaceted, I love the way Roth's characters have flaws (physical and otherwise). There's nothing more boring to me than a character who's perpetually perfect, always the prettiest, always the most fawned over, always knowing the right thing to do. When is that realistic? As readers, we want someone we can relate to, and Tris was someone I connected with from the first chapter.


The Bad:

Not much bad to say about this book. I did find the scenes where boys were paired with girls to spar a bit hard to stomach. Especially when the boy beats the living crap out of the girl. I didn’t see why that was necessary. But I suppose in this world, an initiate is an initiate, regardless of gender. You’re expected to perform and do what’s asked of you if you don’t want to become Factionless. I guess if anything, it just shows how corrupt and heartless the leadership has become at Dauntless. So at least one could argue it serves a purpose within the story.


The Ugly:

I have nothing to say in this category.



Favorite Quote:

“Politeness is deception in pretty packaging.”


In closing, while this wasn't one I gushed over, it still earned 5 stars from me for being riveting, captivating, and keeping me up until all hours of the night just so I could see how it would end. It was very well written with believable characters and an engaging plot line. I will most definitely read the next books in the series!!!

xoxo
SJ




Music Crush Monday.... on Tuesday lol

Morning, my lovelies! Sorry I've been out of touch for a month. Bad, Susan... bad!!! In all honesty, I've been knee deep in my newest project (something I'll reveal soon :D) and working on promoting my first two books of the Captivated Series. Not to mention holiday stuff, kid stuff, and other kinds of "stuff" I'm sure you all can relate to. lol It never ends!

Anyhow, speaking of Captivate Me, I heard this song on the radio this morning and instantly thought of Kat and her friends. Love it!!!

Enjoy :)


God Made Girls
Raelynn


"He needed something soft and loud and sweet and proud,
but tough enough to break a heart.
Something beautiful and breakable
that lights up in the dark."