Book Review: Clear by Jessica Park

park-clearBook Review: Clear: A Death Trippers Novel
Release Date: 2/15/15
Publisher: Flat Finn, Inc.
Source: Purchased for Kindle
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Stella Ford’s grasp on reality is already loose, and it’s about to come undone.

When the college junior flees Chicago and leaves her toxic family behind, she heads for coastal Maine to find the one person who brought her peace years ago: Sam Bishop. But the Sam she once knew now has painful secrets.

Stella is determined to heal them both. Healing, however, is a challenge when the walls of her everyday existence collapse. And when Sam’s best friend is his worst enemy.

When the line between life and death blurs.

When an end is just a beginning.

When lust and rage rule.

Yet during extraordinary chaos, there can be extraordinary love, even if that love comes with a twist.

Welcome to death tripping.

Review:
Having enjoyed Jessica Park’s contemporary novels, I was pretty interested in her first paranormal story since I knew she had the ability to create these really complex and likeable characters (ex: Julie, Matt… Celeste, FLAT FINN). Although I’d read the synopsis of Clear plenty of times before the book had made its way to my Kindle, I have to admit that I still didn’t have a clear (HA HA) concept on what exactly the story was about. This only made the reading experience 10x better because I legit had no idea what was happening or where it was going the entire time.

Right off the bat, I was invested in Stella’s story. Her strained relationship with her family made me feel for her, and then there’s this nice guy Sam who shows up and without any hesitation just lifts her spirits. So precious! Then you get the chapters that follow when her life hasn’t exactly improved, but she meets up with Sam again and he’s completely different as in ultra broody and all rugged. But then he’s actually still really nice? And then you everything is just coasting alone nicely and romantically and you’re like “Hey, isn’t this a paranormal novel? Oh well, this is pretty great, I’ll just keep rea–” BAM. The plot takes such a turn. And holy mole, yeah, this story is definitely a paranormal one.

Kiiinda spoilery, but basically Sam has the ability to bypass death (hence the death tripper title). He can fully die–and has died many times–but then he always comes back. There are plenty of ~side-effects~ upon his return, but I think it’s much more fun if you discover those on your own since they’re pretty entertaining/shocking/CRAZY so I won’t go into detail. In a word: Whoa.

What I probably liked the most about this novel was that it was so unique to anything I’ve ever read. Jessica Park totally created this whole death tripper mythology (??) out of nowhere and basically ANYTHING goes. Plot twist after revelation after OMG steaminess after another plot twist. However, while their ultimate goal was perhaps a tad too easily solved, I don’t think I would’ve minded that as much if I didn’t sorta dislike Costa, Sam’s best friend. I mean, dude’s got his issues and I feel like even though his heart was in the right place, he just never grew on me? Which is sad because I liked the dynamics of their friendship pre-death tripping.

Stella and Sam, on the other hand, didn’t have to grow on me because I liked them both throughout the novel, both as individual characters and as a duo. Let me tell you that there is A LOT that goes down in this novel (seriously, every few chapters I was texting fellow bevy member Steph with vague, yet manic capslocky freak-outs). Overall, it was insane and confusing because I didn’t know what to expect and at one point there are like three people making out with each other and I’m just like WAIT WHAT! But in a strange way, I kind of liked that the novel kept me constantly alert and surprised. Added with the fact that Jessica Park’s prose and dialogue just ~snaps together so well, I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for something different from the norm.

Clear was certainly quite the unique novel. It was… dare I say it? … SUCH A TRIP.

Is it Winter yet? (Game of Thrones recap 5×05: “Kill the Boy”)

GoTtitlescreen
In this week’s episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” we get a break from all of the drama in King’s Landing and focus on the gritty stuff happening outside the royal core.

5×05: Kill the Boy

First things first: Grey Worm is ALIVE. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Ser Barristan Selmy. Like Daenerys, I’m freaking upset that he died in an alleyway killed by rebels and not in some epic, sacrificial blaze of glory that he deserved. Alas, that’s what this show is all about—dreams turned into devastation and crushed hopes. In response for what the Sons of the Harpy have done, Dany rounds up all of the leaders of the ancient families and introduces them to kids who are starving for flesh. Viserion and Rhaegal’s buffet includes one of Dany’s recent informants Hizdahr, and perhaps moved by his super dramatic utterance of “Valar Morghulis,” she decides to postpone the feeding session. …And I guess Dany is really moved by his ~bravery (or is it that fancy robe of his? I don’t know…) because she kinda proposes to him. Yep, alert the presses! Dany is getting married …and it’s not to her current confidant/boyfriend Daario Naharis. Ohhhhh myyyyy. Meanwhile, legit romance seems to be blooming for Grey Worm and Missandei as they share a kiss. Okay, then.

Not too far away are Jorah and Tyrion still sailing towards Dany and whomever is left of her council. They take a shortcut through the ruins of Valyria, a city that was once the city. To Tyrion’s complete surprise, a wild Drogon is spotted, just cruising along the skies. Chills! I mean, Westerosi don’t really ~believe in dragons anymore and are more interested in thrones and crowns and politics, so Tyrion’s reaction is pretty great. He doesn’t really get time to absorb the sight in front of him, however, as he and Jorah are suddenly attacked by a bunch of stone-faced dudes with the same disease Shireen Baratheon had as a baby. Tyrion is able to make it onto shore untouched, but the same can’t be said for Jorah who has secretly caught the stone plague. I guess now he can really forget about expecting Dany to welcome him home with open arms.

Up north, Sansa is back home except it’s not exactly the home she remembers since her entire family is dead or “dead” or a bastard/Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Cue all of the sad-related emotions of the world as she gazes upon the broken tower Bran once climbed before it all went downhill (literally, in his case). Although Sansa is secretly informed that “the north remembers” and there are still secret Stark supports who’ve got her back, she’s still engaged to Ramsey Bolton. Yuck. Then she “meets” Reek, a.k.a. the poor unfortunate soul who used to be Theon Greyjoy but is now Ramsey’s slave boy. She hates him since he supposedly killed Bran and Rickon, but she obviously hates Ramsey even more. Dude is straight-up deranged and perhaps the most unstable person in Westeros. One day he’s chopping off people’s essential body parts and the next he’s playing the model host serving everyone wind at family supper. His dad Roose Bolton is totally not here for his son’s crap, but he lets Ramsey parade around like an idiot anyway. Then he drops the bombshell that his wife is preggo and it looks like it’s going to be a boy, i.e. a legitimate heir to the Bolton name. That puts a damper on Ramsey’s party, but the slightest of smirks on Sansa’s face. After dinner in what’s probably the worst father-son bonding moment ever, Roose tells Ramsey a disturbing story about his mom, then assures him that he doesn’t have to worry about all of that official bloodline stuff. Instead, they have to focus on Stannis’ incoming party.

Further up north, Jon Snow asks Aemon Targaryen for advice on how to dole out orders to his men that he knows they are going to hate. Aemon’s all “LOL most of them hate you anyway, so who cares?” and you can’t help laugh at his old man logic. You also can’t help but feel bad for him as he’s the last Targ in Westeros (well, that we know of………….). And is it just me or is everything Aemon says just so on point in this episode? His final piece of advice to Jon is that he has to “kill the boy” because it’s time to be as swift as a coursing river, with all the strength of a great typhoon be a man. Later, Jon has a meeting with Ygritte’s bff/fellow ginger Tormund Giantsbane. Jon asks the same question he asked Mance Rayder: for the wildings’ help. Tormund reluctantly agrees to go round up his friends, but only if Jon comes with him. Road trip! Well, more like boat trip. Jon delivers the news to his men, and as expected they aren’t happy. Then there’s Dolorous Edd who is just straight up sad because even though he’s loyal to Jon, he can’t forget that it was the  wildings who killed Pyp and Grenn :(

Stannis, meanwhile, also makes plans to get the hell out of Castle Black. It’s time to continue on their journey, he decides. He also decides to bring along his wife and daughter even though they’re basically heading into war. Maybe he just wants to get his daughter away from Gilly before she can ask more (understandably) ignorant questions. “Is this every book there is?” she asks Sam in the library. Yeah… she’s definitely a keeper, Tarly.

Winter still isn’t here, but I think it’s getting a closer? Maybe? Just a little? Whatever is happening, a northern chill is definitely making its way southbound.

(Cross posted to Up and Comers)

Hey Mama (A List of Memorable Mothers in Books and on Screen)

Fact: It is Mother’s Day.
Fact: I love making lists.
I think you know where this is going…

It goes without saying that mothers, in all forms and variants, are influential. I mean, I could quote a line from a John Mayer song right now about the important cycle of mothers once being daughters or maybe I could fill this post with capslock lyrics from Taylor Swift’s “The Best Day,” to make you all cry… but instead I’ll just highlight these 10 memorable mothers in books and on screen!

Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)
mrsbennet
Let’s start this list off with a bang–a super loud, boisterous, rowdy bang. Mrs Bennet. She be cray and husband-hungry for her daughters, but you know it’s all out of love. Okay, maybe it’s a liiitle bit about the money as well, but she just wants what’s best for her children. And in the Regency Era, that meant a husband who lived on a massive property and had a salary of at least 10000 pounds. (5000 would suffice, too.)

Lorelai Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)
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Ummm so I stopped watching Gilmore Girls halfway through because of stuff like school and life, but I’m adding Lorelai to the list because 1) She’s not like a regular mom, she’s a cool mom, and 2) I know KT will appreciate this one because Lorelai is one of her faves 😀

Molly Weasley (Harry Potter)
mrsweasley
Idk about you, but hand-knitted gifts for every Christmas ever would be the ultimate gift because Canadian winters are harsh, yo. Plus there’s the fact that Mrs. Weasley seems like she’s always be yelling at her kids, but it’s just because she loves them and would do anything for them. Even kids who aren’t her kids, like Harry and Hermione. Hell, she’d probably take care of Draco if he’d abandoned his Death Eater roots and sought refuge at the Burrow.

Niki Sanders (Heroes)
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Heroes used to be my LIFE, and it makes me sad that it’s not a regular thing I think about or watch anymore. With that said, there were a lot of sketchy mother characters on this show. Then there was Niki (a.k.a. Jessica, Tracy, etc etc) who lived a sketchy life, but cared SO much for her son Micah. Everything she did was for her little boy genius and it was super endearing.

Cersei Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones)
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LOL Cersei. MOTHER OF THE YEAR, yeah? Let’s ignore the fact that her children’s father is actually her brother. Cersei is the definition of UNCONDITIONAL MOTHERLY LOVE. I mean, Joffrey was an absolute monster, and she still loved him.

Catelyn Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones)
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On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have Lady Cat. She totally doesn’t want her son Robb to get caught up in a war, keep Jaime Lannister hostage, or marry Talisa (Jeyne in the books), but she supports him anyway. SHE SUPPORTS HIM ALL THE WAY TO THE VERY BLOODY END T_T

Mrs. S (Orphan Black)
mrss
Mrs. S may not be Sarah Manning’s birth mother, but holy crap, does she look out for the birds in her nest. Don’t let the tea set on the kitchen table fool you because I think this woman has a shotgun within reach 95% of the time. She won’t hesitate to shoot if you mess with her family.

Catherine de Medici (Reign)
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Megan Follows’ portrayal of Queen Catherine on this show is absolutely entertaining. As a queen is apt to do, she cares immensely for her kids a.k.a. the heirs to the royal throne. She has murdered, schemed, blackmailed, and God knows what else to keep her kids safe. Okay yeah there was that whole business with Clarissa, her daughter who wore a potato sack on her head or whatever, but with that exception Catherine is the ultimate Mama Bird.

Shmi Skywalker (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
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To quote Han Solo in Return of the Jedi, “Hey, it’s me!” so you know I have to include a Star Wars madre on this list. Little Ani’s mom it is! Although Shmi is a major factor in Anakin’s descent towards the dark side, she’s also the one who teaches him the major life lessons that I think paired with Luke’s whole speech brings him back to a ~good in the end. As a kid, Anakin was fearless and wanted to help a bunch of strangers he’d just met–because of Shmi’s teachings. Plus, she raised Anakin on her own. BEING A SINGLE MOM IN TATTOOINE AIN’T EASY OKAY.

Janine Hathaway (Vampire Academy)
(no gif for Janine because she doesn’t exist in non-book form…)
 Rose Hathaway’s badass guardian mother may not have been present while she was growing up, but at least she’s only an eloquent and heartfelt telegram away. Example: “I’m glad you’re back. What you did was inexcusable.” LOVE YOU TOO, MOM.

And because I can’t think of anything clever or amusing to end this post with, I’ll just end with this totally appropriate Spice Girls video.

Book Review: Marked by Sarah Fine

fine-markedBook Review: Marked (Servants of Fate #1)
Release Date: 1/1/15
Publisher: 47North
Source: Purchased for Kindle
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In a broken landscape carved by environmental collapse, Boston paramedic Cacia Ferry risks life and limb on the front lines of a fragile and dangerous city. What most don’t know—including her sexy new partner, Eli Margolis—is that while Cacy works to save lives, she has another job ferrying the dead to the Afterlife. Once humans are “Marked” by Fate, the powerful Ferrys are called to escort the vulnerable souls to either eternal bliss or unending fire and pain.

Unaware of Cacy’s other life, Eli finds himself as mesmerized by his fierce and beautiful partner as he is mistrustful of the influential Ferry clan led by the Charon—who happens to be Cacy’s father. Cacy, in turn, can no longer deny her intense attraction to the mysterious ex-Ranger with a haunted past. But just as their relationship heats up, an apparent hit takes the Charon before his time. Shaken to the core, Cacy pursues the rogue element who has seized the reins of Fate, only to discover that Eli has a devastating secret of his own. Not knowing whom to trust, what will Cacy have to sacrifice to protect Eli—and to make sure humanity’s future is secure?

Review:
I adored Sarah Fine’s YA novels Sanctum and Fractured soooo much that I couldn’t not automatically 1-click pre-order Marked. In her YA paranormal series, she built such amazing and unique world and wrote about such strong, endearing characters. YOU CAN ONLY IMAGINE MY DELIGHT IN FINDING OUT SHE WAS WRITING AN URBAN FANTASY SERIES for surely it would feature said wonderful things as well as more,shall we say, mature content. Marked did not disappoint.

First, there’s the mythology. Cacy, one of the MCs, is a member of the Ferry family, and their duty is to guide the dead to the afterlife. Right away, I loved the unique twist on the Greek myths of Charon and all that jazz. I mean, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test were great modern day adaptation of Greek myths, and Servants of Fate definitely joins that club. Cacy’s entire family (you know how much I like when stories feature a crew of people) is in the business, but they also live every day normal lives in this damaged, futuristic city.

I really loved Cacy, the female protagonist. I enjoyed that she’s a paramedic–it’s so clever! Flawed, but also resilient, caring, and smart. It was pretty tough not to like her. Same goes for Eli, the other half of this novel’s duo. Even though he had the dark moments of his past, ultimately he cares so much for his sister, Galena, and cares about doing the right thing, that I couldn’t help but sympathize. With that said, the huge spoiler that occurs midway through the book had me HEARTBROKEN. You know in television shows when the couple just keeps missing each other because of whatever obstacles get thrown in the way? Ughhhh! But I actually didn’t get annoyed or frustrated about this. If anything, it just made me root for Cacy and Eli more, and it made their moments and exchanges together more meaningful.

That leads me to the romance. Yaaasssssssss. Let me tell you that I’ve read a lot of NA novels with ~steaminess in the past year and sadly, I feel like I’m starting to become somewhat jaded with the typical set-out that you can always predict. Even though I knew that Cacy and Eli wouldn’t be able to resist each other forever, ahh it was just so great how they came to fall for each other. Sure, much of it was physical, but with their jobs as paramedics and how they legit had to work together and save lives… I fell for their emotional connection just as much.

The overall plot of this novel was also super interesting. At its core, I guess it’s pretty straightforward. The Kers (supernatural beings who ‘mark’ people for death) want to kill Eli’s sister because she’s this super smart scientist who found a way to cure a bunch of sicknesses and will therefore ruin business for them. But I definitely think mixed in with the Ferry’s family drama and Eli’s secret(s…), it makes for a suspenseful ride with a lot of “ahhhh omg!” and teeth-gritting. Again, I just really liked the whole set-up! I’m not really one for medical-related TV dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy,” just because Idk, I’m just not into doctor drama, lol. But mixed in with the paranormal? IT’S PERFECT. Sarah Fine basically took a slice of every day life and turned it into a fantastically addictive story with high stakes and captivating characters.

It was Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan series that reeled me into the genre of urban fantasy, and I state with 100% certainty it is Sarah Fine’s Marked that makes me SO glad I discovered this genre because it would have been a damn shame for me to miss out on this.

I’m putting my ~mark~ on the rest of the books in this series and all other urban fantasies Sarah Fine writes in the future.

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Riot of Storm and Smoke by Jennifer Ellision

Hey y’all!

Some of you may know that when I’m not blogging, reading, or Day Jobbing, I work as a self-published YA author under the pen name Jennifer Ellision. I keep a lot of that stuff off of this blog, but I’m SUPER jazzed about the cover to my next novel: Riot of Storm and Smoke, Book #2 in the Threats of Sky and Sea series, and want to scream my joy about it from the rooftops, so well… here I am!

About Riot of Storm and Smoke:

War draws closer, like a tide to the shore.

Bree and her friends have escaped the clutches of the Egrian King, but their troubles are far from over. Still reeling from the secrets that drew new breath when her father took his last, Bree sets off for the safety of Nereidium– the kingdom she’s just learned is hers.

But with the King’s ire at its peak and war a certainty, Nereidium is no longer safe. As Prince Caden rallies the Egrian people against his tyrant father, Bree, Princess Aleta, and Tregle race to the Nereid shore to warn them of the incoming danger—and to put the Nereid Princess on the throne.

The only trouble there: Bree can’t bring herself to reveal that the Princess is her.

It’s not a dilemma she can waste time pondering. With a new weapon in his arsenal, the King’s strikes are sure to be bolder than ever before. And Bree may not be ready to wear a crown… but she won’t let her kingdom down without a fight.

And here’s the cover!

Riot of Storm and Smoke cover

You can add Riot of Storm and Smoke on Goodreads here

AND, if you’re interested in RIOT, you can enter to win e-books of all the stories in the Threats of Sky and Sea series (international) and/or paperbacks of Threats of Sky and Sea and Riot of Storm and Smoke (US/CA)Just enter to win below!

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