Blog Tour: Haze by Paula Weston

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Hello, friends! It’s been one year since I participated in the blog tour for Paula Weston’s Shadows, and now I’m excited to help kick off the tour for the next installment in the series, Haze. Check out my review below, see what character I got from the fun character quiz, follow the rest of the tour stops through the Tundra Books blog, and happy reading Haze!

Haze by Paula Weston Book Review: Haze by Paula Weston
Release Date: 09/09/14
Publisher: Tundra Books
Source: Received for review from publisher
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Gaby Winters’ life used to be pretty normal. She lived with her best friend. She worked in a library. She was slowly getting over the death of her twin brother, Jude. And then Rafa came looking for her.

With him, her blood-soaked nightmares stopped. But now they are reality. She is one of the Rephaim – a wingless half angel, descended from the Fallen. Demons exist and they are hunting her.

She knows she’s alive when she’s meant to be dead. And that means maybe Jude is too. So why isn’t she out there looking for him?

Review:
Paranormal books aren’t my thing at all anymore, but then something like this series comes along that makes me think, “Well, maybe you’re wrong.” There are many layers to enjoy in Paula Weston’s writing, but here are a few highlights from Haze for me:

• While Haze picks up right where the first book left off, Paula Weston allowed the reader a recap of the events from Shadows. Recaps are usually something that bug me, simply because it’s time to move the show along, but I think it really worked in this case. The story and mythology of The Rephaim is complex, and this catch up served as a reminder that Gaby, the main character, is also trying to get a grasp on everything. However, while Gaby is understandably overwhelmed at times, I felt that Paula Weston had me quickly wrapped in this world again and I was eager to find out where Gaby’s story would go next.

• Gaby is the kind of protagonist I love to read about. I enjoyed her a lot in the first book, but she was simply amazing here. Though she’s still trying to understand her own identity, come to terms with her past, and figure out the situation with her brother, she shows so much determination. Naturally, she does have her moments of uncertainty, but she always comes out a much stronger person. As the series continues, I am certain that Gaby will be a force to be reckoned with.

• I’m basically over the ~bad boys~, but Rafa grew on me in this book. He displayed different facets of his personality and I really enjoyed the tension between him and Gaby. Much more, though, I love that Paula Weston didn’t allow their relationship to overtake the story. Since Gaby’s past and identity is so important, I enjoyed how it continued to be the central focus of their relationship, with little extra good stuff here and there.

• Paula Weston has created a fantastic setting with rich characters. The leads are engaging, but the minor characters shine as well. Though this series is truly Gaby’s story, I feel that Paula Weston has managed to layer her writing to make every character be distinct, adding such an interesting dynamic to every point of the story.

Overall, this series continues to be a standout. There’s a certain energy to the atmosphere, characters, and writing that makes this so different from other paranormal series and I’m looking forward to seeing where the course of Gaby’s story goes next.

The character I am most like is…
ShadowsBadges-MAGGIE

Book Review: Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

a2a10662433Book Review: Ashes to Ashes (Burn for Burn #3) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Release Date: 16/09/14
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: ARC borrowed from Kim
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New Year’s Eve ended with a bang and Mary, Kat and Lillia may not be prepared for what is to come.
After Rennie’s death, Kat and Lillia try to put the pieces together of what happened to her. They both blame themselves. If Lillia hadn’t left with Reeve… If Kat had only stayed with Rennie… Things could have been different. Now they will never be the same.
Only Mary knows the truth about that night. About what she is. She also knows the truth about Lillia and Reeve falling in love, about Reeve being happy when all he deserves is misery, just like the misery he caused her. Now their childish attempts at revenge are a thing of the past and Mary is out for blood. Will she leave anything in her wake or will all that remain be ashes?

Ugh. I was into Ashes to Ashes in a BIG way, much more so than the previous two books, until the abrupt end-ish. I actually did that thing where you turn the page for more, only to find LE FIN. Fire with Fire ended with a couple of crazy twists but Ashes to Ashes just didn’t rise up.

Every once in a while, I watch/read a series that I’m not that into, really, but for whatever reason, have intense opinions on how it should all go down. The Burn for Burn trilogy is one of those. (PS: I thought the series was supposed to be four books? Did my brain make this up?)

The thing I did love about Ashes to Ashes was deviating from the revenge plot. Getting revenge on the mean kids by being doubly awful rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning. I know, so why’d I keep reading? Honestly, I’m a sucker for a good friendship story and I loved the progression of Kat and Lillia recovering their friendship that had been torn by Rennie.

Listen, I know it’s not an author’s job to make people (me) happy, but when you’re leading up to a certain thing (or many. this is just an example, NO SPOILERS HERE) for three books, then change course suddenly at the end of the series, THAT’S NOT COOL. I FEEL WHIPLASHY.

If you take out the epilogue and make a more…full ending, it could have been a really great end to the series. Like I said though, I wasn’t a huge fan of the series to begin with so I think real fans of the series will be relatively happy with the last book.

Book Review: Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

DangerousBoys CoverBook Review: Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas
Release Date: 8/14/14
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Source: eARC for review
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Three teens venture into the abandoned lake house one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense?

Or murder?

Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…

Review:
Dangerous Girls was one thrilling mindfrak of a book, but Dangerous Boys? There doesn’t seem to be quite the right words to describe it. It was horrifying? Shocking? MESSED UP, maybe? But in the best of ways. Allow us to break it down… without spoilers because half the fun of reading this was finding out what happens piece by piece. ;)

Chloe, the main character.

Steph: Chloe went through so many changes throughout the course of Dangerous Boys, but I wouldn’t call it growth. It was more of an…evolution. When she’s first introduced, she has ideas of how her life will change and it was so easy to understand that determination. Unfortunately, things get in the way and she has to quickly make a decision that shakes up her life plans. It’s from there that there’s a shift in her and Abigail Haas did a great job showing how various changes and influences can make a person’s darkness surface.
Lindsey: Unlike the main character(s) in Dangerous Girls, I could relate to Chloe. The challenges she faces in her life showcased her resilience and that definitely endeared her to me. Given that, it was almost scary reading the shift that she gradually goes through within the book, and how the introduction of the Reznik brothers changes her life (or more like, steers it). I felt like even though she would make bad decisions, especially with regards to Oliver, I could understand her choices, and I could see the conflict within her. It was kind of like watching a documentary on The Discovery Channel about ferocious felines hunting unsuspecting prey in the jungle. You don’t want to watch it happen because YOU KNOW how it ends, but holy mole, their careful calculation is mesmerizing to watch. (Um, that sounded kinda creepy. I’m not developing an admiration for watching animals get hunted, I swear).

The Reznik Brothers

Steph: I think the contrast between the Reznik brothers confirmed once and for all that I can’t do bad boys anymore. Granted, Oliver went beyond being a bad boy (UNDERSTATEMENT), but it’s quite disconcerting to know that individuals like this exist that have so much confidence, magnetism, and DANGER. Yes, I could definitely see his allure, and I know why Chloe felt a pull towards him, but Ethan was so sweet and loving. He definitely had the crappiest spot in this triangle.
Lindsey: Ethan was such a nice guy and therefore such a poor unfortunate soul in this book. Meanwhile, Oliver was just deranged. Every time he was present, I actually felt uncomfortable for Chloe and for myself because he was such an intimidating, provoking presence. The tension between the two brothers was intense, and just… Poor Ethan.

The Romance

Steph: Again: ETHAN. Okay, no, I actually couldn’t get too invested in any relationship in this story because I knew there would be no happy ending for anyone involved. Chloe and Ethan were cute, but I think Chloe’s unhappiness was apparent from the beginning; she was settling for now. Once Oliver showed up, Chloe’s connection with him was obvious, and while I may have been screaming “NO!” at her, Chloe’s mindset was clearly all, “YES!”
Lindsey: Chloe and Ethan started off quite adorably that I actually had to go back and read the beginning of the novel that has the confrontational pre-murder scene between the trio because I couldn’t see how he could go crazy and desperate. I knew that the chances of a happy ending for them was slimmer than slim which made me sad, but to be honest, by the end I didn’t even WANT romance to happen because everything was just next level hot mess.

The Murder

Steph: AHAHAHAHA. I loved that Abigail Haas kept us in the dark for a good portion of the book. I was surprised to discover who lived and who died because I thought I knew how it would all go down, but I was wrooooong. As I write this review, I’m realizing that it was all actually more twisted than I initially thought and I think a reread will have to be in order for me soon.
Lindsey: Throughout the novel, the reader is taken back and forth between the present and the past. Although you’re told who the murderer is, it’s still eerie and crazy to read why said murder(s) happen, and the path that leads to it. I liked that you don’t have to wait until the end to find out who the murderer is (and who is killed is actually revealed pretty early in the novel). Even though you know who does what, you don’t know WHY and finding out why is one hell of a ride. Somehow even though you know, you know nothing Jon Snow, it’s even creepier and more chilling than not knowing. And I think that is definitely saying a lot about Abigail Haas’ narrative ability.

The Ending

Steph: While I was surprised by the specifics of the murder, I was more surprised to see how it all played out in the end. The murder scene was different from what I imagined, yes, but how the surviving characters reacted after was so interesting to see. Even as the last page was turned, Abigail Haas kept the feeling of unease going and you just know there’s still so much to unravel for these characters. There was no strict moral code in this book and I loved that.
Lindsey: Dangerous Girls had me going “WHAT IN THE WORLD?” at the end. Dangerous Boys didn’t so much end in a shocking twist, but moreso left me feeling horrified, thinking, “Oh, Good Lord…” complete with a hand over my mouth in the way you’d react to watching a video of a horrific car crash or something. Once again, it was just wholly eerie and almost captivating to read. Just …dang.

The Deer

Steph: Dude…DUDE. I’ve read plenty of books in my twenty-something years of life, some with some pretty horrific material, but I have never felt physically sick until this scene. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I felt nausea building up and that I felt so unsettled. It’s a true testament to Abigail Haas’ writing that she was able to evoke this much.
Lindsey: So the reason why I used that little jungle predator and prey analogy above is because hunting actually did play a role in this book…and I can’t get it out of my heaaaaad. Yeah, that deer scene. It basically sums up the entire book and Chloe’s situation, I think! WHAT EVEN. Whenever I think of hunting deers, I kinda automatically think of Edward Cullen (lol whatever), but yeah, no longer shall I think of pacifist vegetarian vampires. NOW I WILL THINK OF BLOOD-THIRSTY HUNTERS.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Steph: Damn, Abigail Haas, how do you do it? I can’t say I’ve read too many YA thrillers, but the ones that I have read have been pretty lackluster. Sometimes I do want something complex and twisted, and now Abigail Haas has delivered a second book that speaks to the darker parts of my soul. AMAZING. PLEASE WRITE MORE.
Lindsey: I honestly didn’t know how Abigail Haas would spin this tale, or even if she could manage to shock me as much as she did with Dangerous Girls. But oh, she did. Although it takes a different route and it’s not so much a murder mystery, this is still a novel so worth reading. I LOVE that it was different and not what I expected, I am seriously crossing all crossables that there will be a third “Dangerous ______” book. My brain probably can’t handle any more stuff of this WTF calibre, but whatever. BRING IT ON. No, seriously. Please let there be more.

PROTECT THE FOREST. DON’T HUNT DEERS.
Or you might go all psycho-dangerous on the world.

Book Review: Prototype by M.D. Waters

waters-prototypeBook Review: Prototype (Archetype #2)
Release Date: 24/07/14
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Source: ARC provided by Penguin Canada
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Emma looks forward to the day when she can let go of her past—both of them. After more than a year on the run, with clues to her parents’ whereabouts within her grasp, she may finally find a place to settle down. Start a new life. Maybe even create new memories with a new family.

But the past rises to haunt her and to make sure there’s nowhere on the planet she can hide. Declan Burke wants his wife back, and with a little manipulation and a lot of reward money, he’s got the entire world on his side. Except for the one man she dreads confronting the most: Noah Tucker.

Emma returns to face what she’s done but finds that the past isn’t the problem. It’s the present—and the future it represents. Noah has moved on and another woman is raising their daughter.

In the shocking conclusion to M.D. Waters’s spectacular debut, Emma battles for her life and her freedom, tearing down walls and ripping off masks to reveal the truth. She’s decided to play their game and prove she isn’t the woman they thought she was. Even if it means she winds up dead. Or worse, reborn.

Review:

First off, this review is long overdue, I know. Summer was, in a word, insane. Anyway…

Archetype was the type of book that took me on a crazy ride and then ended with a cliffhanger that left me asking SO many damn questions. As part of a duology, it was up to Prototype to answers those questions and conclude Emma’s story with a hopefully solid ending. The good news is that the book totally accomplished this. And yet…  I feel myself somewhat conflicted? Not in a completely bad way, but well allow me to explain below. MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ARCHETYPE BELOW (so don’t read on if you haven’t read the first book yet), but only ~vague spoilers for Prototype.

In Prototype, Emma no longer hears that other voice. She knows the truth: She’s a clone. Physically, anyway. Although the real Emma Wade’s experiences didn’t actually happen to her, and although she doesn’t have concrete memories of said experiences, more or less, she is Emma… which was admittedly a little weird to grasp onto, but for the sake of the story, I did. The novel opens with Emma trying to live incognito while finding out who her real parents are, but then her once-kinda-swoony-husband Declan shows up alive. Proving once again to be a threat, she is forced to seek refuge with the resistance and… Noah, the original Emma’s husband. DRAMA? Yup.

And that’s the basis before it all starts coming towards you like a snowball accumulating more snow as it rolls down a steep hill. Mildly put, there are SO many things happening in this book: Emma’s continued life questioning, her growing relationship with Noah, re-meeting old friends and comrades, looking for her parents, figuring out why the clones are suddenly dying, various undercover operations, hiding from Declan, and much more …And I think I just felt very overwhelmed by it all. Yes, questions were being answered. We get to meet the members of the resistance and get a glimpse of Emma before she died and was cloned. We also find out more about the WTC and its connection with cloning, as well as the identity of Emma’s parents. But maybe it’s just me (most likely), but I found it challenging to keep track of who did what and who was evil or good or an ally. In a way this reflects what Emma is going through because she also isn’t too sure who to trust, but as the reader, it was a little confusing. Because of that I felt like I could never get my bare hands into the innards of Emma’s story (graphic analogy, I’m sorry).

What I most enjoyed about Prototype (because don’t get me wrong, this was still a worthwhile read for me!) was the major Alias-vibes it gave me. Like I loveee when people go undercover, especially when they are spies, and there is a lot of that here with the secret resistance. My only regret is that I didn’t get to know these characters sooner. Of course Emma doesn’t meet the members of the resistance until she finds out that this group exists (and that she used to be one of them), but I think the reason why I didn’t feel completely attached to Emma’s friends is because I didn’t get much time to know them. I loved that Emma had all of these new friends to chill with and that they clearly had awesome friendships with her, but I am kind of sad that I didn’t get to dive deep into those relationships. Same goes for Noah. With Archetype, I very much was able to relate to Emma in what she goes through (i.e. questioning her life), but in Prototype, I didn’t learn to trust her old friends as easily as she did. I also have to admit I didn’t completely fall for Noah which is absurd because he was definitely swoony and I think this is the first time a love interest had a KID and still achieved swoony-ness (because usually I’m like OMG YOU HAVE A KID? YOU ARE OLD, NO THX).  In that respect, I think the two-book series didn’t work out for me which is a shame because I like the idea of a two-book story. Trilogies can drag. But in this case, I actually wanted the characters to go through more just so I could spend more time with them.

Now onto Declan because naturally he gets his own section since he was an…interesting character. Although I didn’t want to be, I did find myself pretty ~intrigued about him in Archetype. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be rooting for him but a little part of me did, and a huge part of me was glad that he survived. But now I definitely know now that he was not the character to root for, in fact he’s pretty much THE ENEMY as he was much more cray and calculating and controlling in Prototype. I think this may be why I was slightly conflicted while reading this book because I thought he would somehow redeem himself, but instead he went in the complete opposite direction. Not that I didn’t like Noah, because I did… But I guess I was just surprised and thought Emma would have more of a “oh no, I love them both!” but haha no, she absolutely loathed Declan. Which I suppose is a refresher from the whole love triangle and falling for your captor thing (ew). But still. STILL! In my review for Archetype, I mentioned how the novel reminded me of Lauren DeStefano’s Wither, and I def got Linden vibes from Declan… but I guess in this case there was any pity to be felt for the jerkface a-hole. Because that’s what he turned out to be.

Despite all of this, Emma continued to be a solid character who I admired. Even though she had more than enough reasons to go all basket-case on everyone, she was strong and loyal. I also very much enjoyed reading her go from the Stepford Wife to badass agent for the resistance. Again, the characters, I really liked them! I just wanted mooooore.

So in the end, Prototype didn’t dazzle me as much as Archetype did (to be fair, it was a lot to live up to!), but I did enjoy M.D. Waters’ writing, the world she built, and the characters who inhabited it. Her writing and story-telling continued to compel me, and I will definitely read what she comes up with next.

Prototype answered all of my burning questions left by Archetype’s cliffhanger, but it left me wanting more from the characters.

Shelf Sitters

Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant is acquainted with “campers.” These are the people who come, eat their meal, and then sit at table, taking up needed seats– for HOURS. Their allotted time is over. Hostesses and servers need those seats, dammit!

I have books like this– ones that take up space on my shelf, long after I should have finished them. I call them ‘Shelf Sitters.’ And these are my biggest culprits at the moment.

shelf sitters

Which books are your ‘Shelf Sitters?’