Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Arson by Estevan Vega

Title: Arson
Author: Estevan Vega
Genre: Paranormal
ISBN: 9781615666034

Premise: Arson Gable feels like a freak. He can create fire. He never asked for it. He never wanted it. But he can't shut it off. Before now, three things were true: he both loved and despised his grandmother; his life was going nowhere; and he was alone. But when a strange girl--who feels more normal behind a mask than inside her own skin--moves in next door, Arson hopes to find something he's never had: purpose. Using what he fears most about himself, Arson must face his consuming past and confront the nightmare that is his present as he walks the fine line between boy and monster. Dark, moody, and breathtakingly relevant, Arson, the chilling chronicle of an isolated boy with unimaginable ability, is sure to ignite the hearts and minds of a new generation.

So everyone knows, I received an e-copy of this book from Partners in Crime Tours, but the opinions about to be expressed are entirely my own. With that, let’s begin. First off, the cover of this book is sweet. The mask freaked me out a bit, but after reading the book I understand its significance. The book itself was a surprise to me. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was vastly different from what I got.  At first many of the characters confused and frustrated me. I couldn’t figure out why Arson loved his grandmother so much despite the blatant abuse she piled on him, and couldn’t get over just how crazy she is, going from one emotion to another in a matter of moments. There was also this elusive event that had taken place years ago that pegged Arson as a monster in his grandmother’s eyes, an event I got progressively more and more frustrated not knowing about. The beginning took a while to get going, setting up a lot of background information on the characters and their motivations, except of course that pesky event. Arson’s ability to start fires was actually used really well, never becoming overused or all-encompassing. It’s a very dark novel, showcasing human suffering in many different ways, from the pain of being a teenager who is very different from the norm, to living in a loveless marriage, to death. There were moments I had to take a break from reading due to the heaviness of the material, yet it was executed well. The characters were fairly well-developed, and their interactions, though frustrating at times, were realistic. The writing style felt a little juvenile at times, but it was outweighed by the insanity of the twists. My roommates kept asking me what was happening in my book, as I would often laugh or yell aloud while reading. I thought I had the ending pegged at least three times before the end, just to be dead wrong. My biggest frustration with the book was the end. I was so upset when I read the ending, as I felt it was more than unfinished. It wasn’t until I realized there is a sequel that my rage abated. The love story is adorable, and the next book is sure to make it even more interesting. But so far, all I can find on the new book is the cover, located here:

But I will definitely be grabbing the sequel to this atypical novel. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coming Soon! Review for Arson by Estevan Vega

Thanks to the good folks over at Partners in Crime Tours for including me in their blog tour of Estevan Vega's new book, Arson. My review for the book will be up August 24th, so make sure you stop by to take a look!

Book Details:
Genre: supernatural/YA/coming-of-age
Publisher: StoneGate Ink
Publication Date: May 2011 

Arson Gable feels like a freak. He can create fire. He never asked for it. He never wanted it. But he can't shut it off.
Before now, three things were true: he both loved and despised his grandmother; his life was going nowhere; and he was alone. But when a strange girl--who feels more normal behind a mask than inside her own skin--moves in next door, Arson hopes to find something he's never had: purpose. Using what he fears most about himself, Arson must face his consuming past and confront the nightmare that is his present as he walks the fine line between boy and monster. Dark, moody, and breathtakingly relevant, Arson, the chilling chronicle of an isolated boy with unimaginable ability, is sure to ignite the hearts and minds of a new generation.

Author Bio:
Estevan Vega published his first book when he was fifteen, and his second followed shortly after. His fascination for the supernatural ignited a desire to write his third and most praised work to date, Arson. For those just joining, Ashes continues the turbulent story. Vega currently resides in Connecticut, where he is feverishly plotting the next chapter in the series. Get stoked.

Connect With Estevan:

Tour Participants
August 3-Guest Post@Tributes Books Reviews
August 4-Guest Post@The Top Shelf
August 5-Review@Gelati's Scoop
August 8-Interview@Beyond The Books
August 9-Guest Post@The Calico Critic
August 10-Review@The Top Shelf
August 11-Guest Post@Stuff & Nonsense
August 12-Review&Guest Post@The Bookshelf
August 15-Review@Oodles Of Books
August 16-Guest Post@The Book Faery Reviews
August 16-Review@A Good Day To Read
August 17-Guest Post@Terri Forehand
August 18-Review@Coffee and a Keyboard
August 19-Spotlight@Suspense By Anne
August 23-Review@Hypnotically Entranced
August 24-Interview@Book Marketing Buzz
August 24th-Review@ Lady Lit Reviews
August 26-Interview@Coffee and a Keyboard
August 29-Review@Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger

The lake was quiet.
A lazy fog hovered over the surface of the gray water, whispering in the wake of currents and steady ripples. The world seemed dead to Arson Gable, silent anyway. Like the calm before a storm.
It waited.
Arson stepped off the porch onto the lawn; his mind was swimming. This was where he came most mornings while Grandma slept. He cut his gaze toward the lake, that black womb which rested beyond and beneath the rickety dock. It was as if the lake knew his name and his heartbeats, much like the streets and corners of this town knew his name, cold and faceless as they were. Whether he wanted to admit it, this place was home, and there was no going back.
A bright light burned in the sky, somewhere far enough for him to notice but close enough to nearly blind him. He breathed deeply and blinked, welcoming the dark rush of black behind his eyelids. From where he stood, he could see the towering oaks rooted deep in the ground. Their thick branches stretched upward into the clouds, some parts draping over the shady spots of the worn-out cabin. One final glance and he was reminded that these tortuous, beaten things seemed to swallow the world. Just thinking about them—how he’d watched them ruin—made him seem small, so worthless.
Arson made a fist and felt the heat swell in his grip. He wanted to run into the brush, to get lost deep in the small section of backwoods Grandma had forced him to avoid ever since they’d moved here. But he didn’t move.
This town seemed so close-knit and yet so separated. Less than a mile up the road were a country market, restaurants, and a bowling alley. There was even a liquor store, a cheap pharmacy, and some fast-food chains, and a few miles past that, a movie theater and a nightclub. But at the heart of this place was disunity, a fierce and futile fight to be known and accepted. Arson never understood why Grandpa had picked here to have the cabin built, right beside the lake.
As Arson slowly approached the dock, his mind returned to thoughts of Danny, the only childhood friend he’d ever had. Dim mornings somehow made each memory more real, hard to let go and even harder to erase. Was he always here, always watching? Odd how seven years could come and go without warning, as if the world blinked and somehow forgot to open its eyes again.
In all fairness, it had never been his grandparents’ intention to stay anywhere for too long, but it seemed East Hampton, Connecticut, had become a part of them now, a part of him. “One day we’ll be like the rest of them,” he recalled Grandpa saying—a man of ideals, empty dreams, and hopes Arson could never freely call his own.
Eventually, they had grown tired of running. This dull corner of the world seemed ordinary enough for them to believe starting over again as normal folks would be possible. “Forget what happened all those years ago in Cambridge,” Grandma said so many times that Arson imagined her screaming it to him while he slept. But it was always there—the memory—a splinter in the back of his mind. No going back. Ever.
Arson staggered across the dock, images of child play and stupid laughter pouring in all at once. Danny’s face stuck out the most, and behind that he glimpsed their old home in Cambridge and flashes of his first birthday. His mother wasn’t there, though, nor dear old Dad, but that day had been recounted to him only once by his grandfather, and it stuck.
Nevertheless, with every joyous memory, distilled regret was close behind. He sometimes imagined what it might be like to get thrown in jail by some nameless special agent and be forgotten, or to wake up and find strong hands squeezing the life out of him.
Arson was an unusual boy. A freak. He knew it. And he hated it. Whatever lingered inside his bones always left as quickly as it came, breathing out in short moments of fear or rage. Over the years, he’d asked to be examined to locate the source of his imperfection and if possible terminate it. After all, why did he sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a fever? How come his sweat sizzled when it hit the ground? What was he?
Grandma always argued there wasn’t much point in talking to no-good doctors or even finding out answers to questions he was better off not asking in the first place. Some people were just born with demons, she’d say.
Arson swallowed hard and threw a stone into the water. The splash shattered his reflection, and ripples spread across the dark surface. He wondered why he was the way he was, wondered why those little girl’s parents quit looking all of a sudden, why the investigation against two stupid boys evaporated. Perhaps they didn’t care about retribution, or maybe they were just sick of chasing shadows.
I want to be free, Arson thought, nausea creeping up into his gut. While boats raced along the surface of the lake, Arson stared in awe. They vanished so easily, like mist gliding across the water and dissolving into nothingness. What if men could do the same? There was a man once, he’d heard, who walked upon water and didn’t sink. Maybe he could too. Maybe one day there would be those who believed in him.
Arson’s gaze moved over the lake, across to the other side, where Mandy Kimball lived, and her neighbor, his science teacher from the ninth grade. Then his eyes drew back to the ripples spread out before him, to the dying cabin behind him, as he spit. Beads of sweat streamed down his bony frame, his ash-brown hair trapped inside the gritty creases of his forehead. Arson listened for the lake’s soothing melody but couldn’t hear it. He focused instead on the sound his feet made atop the splintering dock, kind of like the way swings sounded in cheap horror flicks—empty, rocking back and forth to no melody at all. Closer to the edge he came, lingering.
With shut eyes, he stepped out onto the water and began to sink. Peace soon abandoned him to the lake’s shallow world. In a blink, he was looking through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy.
“I don’t like fire,” he heard the boy say, so frightened, so na├»ve. “It’s dangerous.”
“Don’t be such a wimp,” came his older friend’s taunts. “Just light it already.”
With each shove and curse, the memory turned alive; it was as if it knew he was watching and didn’t like it. The pain still stung, images wilting and dying, only to come alive again and again.
I. Hate. Fire.
Arson could feel the cold, could even remember the way everything sounded or how there was no sound at all. Until the night shattered. The weight of remembering dragged him down while he sucked in a filthy drag of water, his coffined body jerking. The veins on his head began to swell. He was choking.
Time to return to the real world, to release the nightmare once more into the dark of the lake. The struggle eventually pulled him to the surface. Slinging his head back and forth, Arson fought to bring himself out of the bitter current, eventually falling upon dead grass. He tasted the grit of sandy dirt in his teeth. Panting, Arson stood up slowly and staggered toward the cabin, where Grandma Kay’s shadow guided him in.

There was something strange that came over Grandma when she exacted punishment, like a part of her enjoyed it too much. She said fixing their leaky roof was a good and righteous way of killing the demons inside him. Nothing like hard work. She said there was no way a lake could cleanse a boy’s troubled mind anyway and that he was just plain stupid for thinking it could. To ease his frustration, Arson let himself believe that if he had been caught any other day, her scorn might have resulted in worse than fixing a leaky roof, which Arson would’ve had to do eventually anyway.
Grandma’s reasons for why she did things, why she treated him a certain way, seemed to get worse with time. It was no secret that she loathed the idea of him diving into the lake, especially if fully clothed. She even claimed there were toxins in the water from pollution that had supposedly killed a bunch of fish years back. But maybe it was a fair trade. He’d returned to the lake all the toxins he’d soaked up with every vile thought. When considered, Grandma’s logic didn’t seem all that twisted. She probably just didn’t want him bringing any of that evil back with him, infected or not. She was superstitious, so Arson made a promise he knew he couldn’t keep and said it wouldn’t happen again.
The muggy June morning caused his palms to sweat. Arson almost lost his grip on the bucket during the climb to the top but regained his balance before losing any supplies. Spiderman would have been proud. Reading comic books all his life came in handy now and then.
Grandpa took care of the cabin to the best of his ability, had even showed Arson how to repair the roof years back. “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself,” he recalled. But in spite of his grandfather’s hard work, it was clear that time eventually wore away all things, even hope.
Arson worked for about an hour before carelessness got the best of him. A loose, jagged shingle sliced through the palm of his hand. Blood gushed from the wound and onto his leg. He swore as the sting began to overwhelm him. He chucked the hammer and tried to keep pressure on the cut.
“What happened?” Grandma’s voice echoed from below. “I heard you cussin’ all the way in the kitchen. You know how I feel about that.”
“Sorry, Grandma.” Arson was glad she left it at that. Sitting on the roof, he turned slightly toward the sun. It’s a gusher, he thought. Then, as he stared in amazement, he watched the wound cauterize itself in seconds. It burned.
“Arson, are you all right up there?”
He looked down at the remaining scar, struggling to make sense of it, neglecting the mess on his clothes. “Just fine, Grandma,” he called down.
“That roof isn’t going to fix itself. If I have to spend another night with drops of water hitting my face, I promise you’ll regret it.”
“All right,” Arson said. “I’ll get back to work.”
By evening, the task was complete. He braced himself and watched the sunset from the rooftop as it melted against a fluorescent sky. Arson listened as Grandma concluded her tea conversation with the man she loved.
Moments later, their time together ended with laughter, and he knew it was safe to come down. Arson caught her while she was clearing away the silverware and china. 
“Did you finish the roof, love?” she asked in a pleasant voice. 
“Yes, Grandma. It’s healed…I mean, fixed.”
“Marvelous. Say, whatcha mean healed?”
Arson grabbed the ladder. “I’m really tired. I’m not thinking straight right now. Maybe I just need some rest.” 
“I think you’re right. You’re not making any sense at all. Say, do you want a piece of cake before I put it away? Grandpa didn’t eat much tonight. He’s never been much for carrot cake.”
“No thanks. Not hungry,” he said.
“Suit yourself. Put your tools away and get on up to bed, then. A growing boy like you needs his rest. I hope you learned your lesson, though. I don’t like you spending so much time in that miserable lake. The very idea doesn’t sit well with my soul.” 
Arson nodded with reluctant eyes and put away the ladder and the tools. Then he rushed inside the cabin and up to his room to read a comic book before dozing off. Maybe tonight his dreams would be different.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

Title: Falling Under
Author: Gwen Hayes
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9780451232687

Premise: Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams. As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear. And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul. 

I am so happy I decided to read this book! I was back and forth for a few days about it, afraid it was another vampire romance novel full of cliches and vomit-worthy professions of undying eternal love, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out otherwise! Haden was not in fact the dreamy vampire I thought he was going to be. He was in a word, completely un-Edward. He was mean to Theia, though he had the whole, "I really don't want to hurt you" thing going on, there was also a realistic inner struggle with him, because he wants her so bad. His character was a totally believable paranormal entity. Anytime he said something that betrayed the fact that he was not seventeen years old, Theia called him out on it. It was used as a plot-driving device, not an annoying additive. Each of the characters, even those who weren't that important were developed very well, and their interactions were completely realistic. My favorite character was definitely Haden, as the two versions of him, the one in real life, and the one of Theia's dreams, interacted so differently with Theia. I also really liked Theia, as she wasn't a pushover like say, Bella Swan. She reacted genueninely when Haden did things to upset her, and she would call him out on it instead of thinking she deserved it. When he was mean to her and flirted with other girls in front of her in waking, and then tell her how amazing she was in sleeping, she got angry, and demanded to know from both Hadens what was going on. The plot of the book was totally captivating also. I brought the book to work with me so I could read it on break because I couldn't go more than a few hours without needing to know what happened next. Every time the book threatened to go into the "I've read this before" zone, something crazy would happen that made it completely unique. Theia actually does things that shows her love for Haden instead of just talking about it, and when the crazy plot twist at the end occurs, it is swoon worthy. My only disappointment with this book was that it ended, and I was unsatisfied. This of course was before I realized there was a sequel, and that it wasn't actually the end yet. I cannot wait to read the next installment of this series. I would seriously recommend this book to anyone who loves paranormal romances, but is sick of all the books being the same. This one is unlike any other I have read. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Giveaway: Ordinary Beauty by Laura Weiss

The giveaway has ended! Congratulations to Evie for winning!

Title: Ordinary Beauty
Author: Laura Weiss
Genre: Realistic Fiction
ISBN: 978-1439193969

How can you make someone love you when they won’t?
And what if that person happens to be your mother?
Sayre Bellavia grew up knowing she was a mistake: unplanned and unwanted. At five months shy of eighteen, she’s become an expert in loneliness, heartache, and neglect. Her whole life she’s been cursed, used, and left behind. Swallowed a thousand tears and ignored a thousand deliberate cruelties. Sayre’s stuck by her mother through hell, tried to help her, be near her, be important to her even as her mother slipped away into a violent haze of addiction, destroying the only chance Sayre ever had for a real family.

Now her mother is lying in a hospital bed, near death, ravaged by her own destructive behavior. And as Sayre fights her way to her mother’s bedside, she is terrified but determined to get the answer to a question no one should ever have to ask: Did my mother ever really love me? And what will Sayre do if the answer is yes?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon

Title: The Twisted Thread
Author: Charlotte Bacon
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense
ISBN: 978-1401341503

Premise: When beautiful but aloof Claire Harkness is found dead in her dorm room one spring morning, prestigious Armitage Academy is shaken to its core. Everyone connected to school, and to Claire, finds their lives upended, from the local police detective who has a personal history with the academy, to the various faculty and staff whose lives are immersed in the daily rituals associated with it. Everyone wants to know how Claire died, at whose hands, and more importantly, where the baby that she recently gave birth to is a baby that almost no one, except her small innermost circle, knew she was carrying.

I haven't read a good murder mystery in a while, so this was definitely intriguing reading. Bacon does a fantastic job of creating believable characters, both within Armitage Academy, and in the surrounding area. Prestige is a recurring theme throughout, and the idea of being privileged allows for some very interesting twists. Bacon was able to create teenage characters seen through the point of view of adults that actually made sense. The difference in dialogue between the young characters and the older ones is very noticeable, and that's something I respect in an author. She also did a wonderful job of keeping the reader guessing as to who the killer was. I was sure it was at least four different people before you actually find out who the murderer is. Unfortunately, the ending isn't as fulfilling as I would've liked, and the actual murderer and motive seems tame once your
brain has been spinning with all these other possible reasons. Other than that, it was a very engaging novel that I would recommend to anyone who doesn't feel like sleeping for a few days.

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-fi/ Dystopian
ISBN: 978-0439023511

Premise: Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Katniss, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12. The thrill-packed final installment of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy will keep young hearts pounding.

Sadly, the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy was not as great as I had expected, given the excellence of the first two installments. Don't get me wrong, it was just as intense and captivating as the other two, but the actual ending seemed to be hurried and left a lot of unanswered questions. I was even confused after I finished the book, as I felt that at least one chapter had been removed from my copy, because there was no way Suzanne Collins would have left her book unfinished. But after talking with others who read it, it seems that all the copies were missing this chapter. Before this book, I was amazed at Collins' ability to do what needed to be done to her characters, but in this novel, I felt that she took it a little too far, disposing of characters in ways that didn't necessarily add to the story. One fatality in particular stood out to me as being entirely unnecessary. The ending of the love triangle doesn't seem like Katniss actually made a choice, but that it was made for her, of which I do not approve. Ultimately, I was just disappointed that it didn't seem as well done as the first two. That's not to say I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Though it had problems, it is still the only available conclusion for an overall wonderful series, and I think that the series as a whole is great enough to merit this book be read. 

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-fi/ Dystopian
ISBN: 978-0439023498

Premise: The second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire resumes the story of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. All the old characters reappear in this continuation, such as Effie, Haymitch, Prim, and Cinna. Katniss and Peeta won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol.

 Can I just say wow? The first book in this series was amazing, but knowing that sequels are almost never as good as the original, I was afraid this book wouldn't keep up with the greatness of the first, but happily, I was wrong. I might even go as far as saying this book was better than the first. All my favorite characters come back and are just as well-developed as ever. What makes this book better? The intensity. My god, my heart was literally racing through the entire novel. I finished this one in one day also because it was so captivating, I couldn't think of anything else. I didn't even want to pause to eat because I was so entrenched. I didn't think it was possible for the story to get any more piercing and engaging, but it did. Each chapter left me screaming literally out loud because I was so overcome with such a wide variety of emotions. Something else that made this story wonderful is the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale gets oh so much more interesting. And the ending! I felt that I was about to have a heart-attack when I finished the book. Talk about cliffhanger! I've never been so excited to buy the next book in the series as I was with this. I would recommend this book to anyone, lover of sci-fi or not, because it is simply just that good.