Mini-Review: Last Night I Swam with a Mermaid

My mermaid fetish continues. This time, it's being fueled by someone on the outside. :)

I recieved this lovely book for my birthday from a co-worker. She saw it mentioned in a magazine and instantly thought of me and my mermaid obsessions. Bless her, even if she thinks I need an intervention.


Look at this beautiful cover:

 
 
Stunning, isn't it? Now, add these amazing photographs to a simple, but cute story of preservation, and you have Last Night I Swam with a Mermaid. The writing didn't blow me away, but the images sure did. They were gorgeous. I am in awe. I also loved the premise of the story itself: protect our oceans.
 
Just look at some of the pictures in the book:
 
 
 
 
 
You can find out more about this unique book and the story behind the pictures at the author's blog. You can also buy a copy of the book there. A portion of each sale goes to EarthEcho International to help preserve our beautiful planet.
 



Review: Beautiful Darkness (Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl)

The Deets:

reading level: YA
pages: 503
Publisher: October 12th 2010 by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9780316077057
genre: paranormal romance, mystery
source: my own copy


Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles, #2)Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen.

Sometimes life-ending.

Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.

 

Earlier, I posed my mid-book review on Beautiful Darkness. You can see it HERE.

If you are familiar with this series, then you know it is told from Ethan's point of view. I am almost always a fan of YA books with a male narrator, since there doesn't seem to be enough of them out there. The Caster Chronicles is unique because it's a paranormal romance/mystery that is told from the boy's perspective. Not your typical teen boy book, in my opinion.

This time around in book 2, Ethan actually sounds like a boy. He does digress from time to time and starts sounding like an over emotional girl when he pines away for Lena, but at least he is showing typical boy emotions now. He ran the spectrum from anger to jealousy to lust. That is much more believable than a boy describing how hair smells and his feelings.

The plot continues to develop in this series. It's rather complicated at times and a bit drawn out. Each of these books come in at just over 500 pages. That's a lot of words! The size of the books may scare off a few readers, but know that around page 300 or so the story does start to move rather quickly. You just have to make it that far.

Also along the way are new characters and repeats from Beautiful Creatures. New super villians are introduced and some are redeemed. Or are they? (dun dun dun) I have to admit, Link's interesting situation has me intrigued, but that will have to wait until book 3 (Beautiful Chaos) to be confirmed. Ethan continues to grow, and now has a new understanding of his place in The Order. Good for him. Lena is still Lena: confused, stubborn, overly dramatic. She wasn't in the majority of the book--except as glimpses in Ethan's visions-- so it seemed rather rushed that her outcome developed the way it did and had so much emphasis in the final 30 pages. Whatever. I knew what was going to happen there long before I reached the end of the book.

Finally, I want to mention that the southern characters didn't seem as ignorant this time around. The small town folks were limited, with the main emphasis being on Ethan and his motley crew of Dark Caster fighters. That helps with the level of stupid for sure. I also want to go ahead and mention my thoughts on the upcoming movie since that's why I'm reading these now. I am not happy with the casting and the cheesy Southern accents. Am I the only one that pictured Ethan differently and didn't think Lena or Macon had southern accents? I also didn't imagine Ethan with one either. Tacky. And what is up with Lena's eyes? With all the emphasis on green and gold (and her ever changing colors), why does she have brown eyes? Hmm??

Anyhow, if you enjoy this series, have a go at book 2: Beautiful Darkness. I'm one of those people that has to read the entire series before a movie adaptation hits the big screens because I want to know how badly they muck things up (or not) in the movie. So, I will be continuing with Beautiful Chaos.  


Review: The Darkest Minds (Alexandra Bracken)

The Deets:
reading level: YA
pages: 496
Publisher: December 18th 2012 by Disney Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423157373
genre: dystopian/sci-fi
source: e-arc from Netgalley


The Darkest MindsWhen Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.


I thought my heart would only beat for Tris and Four, but now I have met Ruby and Liam. Ohmysweetgoodness. What a wonderful combination in The Darkest Minds.

There is no crazy love triangle (*cough Hunger Games *cough) to pull at your head and cloud your judgement. There is no lover's quarrel (Tris and Four) to confuse the emotions. There is simply Ruby and Liam.

I do believe that Liam is one of my new favorite protagonists. He is loyal, determined, and 100% honest. He loves Ruby regardless of her powers. They are the new Romeo and Juliet. I am SO glad to see this will be a series because I need more Liam pronto. as much gushing as I do for Liam, I should note that the other characters aren't half bad either. Ruby is pretty cool in that I-really-can't-do-anything-right kind of way. She grows on you. She also gets better with her powers, which makes for a pretty interesting conclusion in this book. But one of my other favorites in this story is Chubs. The legally blind book nerd. How can you not love a character that makes references to Watership Down and Lord of the Flies? He's witty and full of all sorts of dry humor. He makes such a great addition to this motley crew of X-men quality superkids.

For the fans of drama, there is plenty between these pages. Each chapter layers the complicated plot a little more. The action begins almost instantly with a pretty shocking and gruesome scene, and it doesn't stop. There are twists and turns to keep you guessing (even if some were pretty obvious). Best of all, there is a cliffhanger ending that actually works, even if it leaves you feeling that your heart has suddenly jumped into your throat. Side note: I strongly dislike cliffhangers that leave you asking a million questions about the entire plot or saying WTH to yourself. The Darkest Minds doesn't do that. The ending truly works, even if it's not a fairy tale inspired outcome (this is a dystopian afterall).

I encouraged everyone to read this one. It is wonderful. Refreshing even. Like all trends, things start to feel stale after a while. I mean, there are only so many ways you can write the end of the world/civilization without repeating someone's ideas, right? That seems to be the case with the majority of the newer novels hitting the market. They feel familiar. Too familiar. But, alas, The Darkest Minds did not conjure up any old memories or comparisons as I read, which was delightful. So, if you've read this one, I would love to discuss it! I think there could be some great conversations to spring from this gem.  


Review: Shadowlands (Kate Brian)

The Deets:
Reading level: YA
Pages: 336
Publisher: January 8th 2013 by Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423164838
Genre: mystery
Source: eARC from Netgalley


ShadowlandsRory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived… and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection with her father and sister, Darcy, leaving their friends and family without so much as a goodbye.

Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children, but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. But just as they’re starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again?

 

 Oh man. I am so conflicted with this one. I don't know whether I loved it or hated it. So, this review will be a bit different.

First off, why I did not like the book: the ending. Normally, I am a huge fan of plot twists and surprise endings, but this time it did not work for me. I was infuriated when I read the last sentence. Majorly pissed off. Seriously. I felt like I read this whole thing for nothing because the ending did not make sense. I was left with a looooong list of questions. I don't even think I could re-read this and find answers to those questions. It was just too much.

Now, that being said, let's talk about why I might actually love this book. I heard a rumor that it was the beginning of a series. IF that is true, then we are in for some kind of awesome. IF this is book one of a new series, then I am certain the next book would answer those lingering questions in my mind. (At least I hope.) Not to mention how awesome this series might end up being.

I went into Shadowlands thinking it would be a murder mystery. What I ended up with was something completely different! I can't even tell you without ruining the entire storyline. Let's just say there is a lot of suspense that will having you turning the pages until the bitter end.

But when you do reach that end, you must let me know what you think about it. As I've said, I have mixed feelings.

Review: Broken (A. E. Rought)

The Deets:
Reading level: YA
Pages: 384
Publisher: January 8th 2013 by Strange Chemistry
ISBN: 9781908844316
Source: eARC from Netgalley



BrokenImagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.

A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry's boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.

When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she's intrigued despite herself. He's an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely... familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel's.

The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there's something very wrong with Alex Franks. And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks' estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.

 

 This was one part Frankenstein and one part Romeo and Juliet. I fully expected to be slightly creeped out by one or more characters in the book, but what I didn't expect was such a hot and steamy romance.

There are many interesting characters in Broken. Emma is a great depiction of a broken heart. He desire to try to heal from the loss of her true love--but inability to do so-- is both believable and heartbreaking. I thought the author shared Emma's despair in an almost poetic way. The supporting characters are also pretty great. Josh is as vile as they come. At first you think he's just jealous, but then you realize there is a lot more driving that jealousy. Bree is hilarious. She's a typical flighty teenager, but the perfect counterpart to Emma's highly depressed character. We also can't forget that Emma and Alex are hot. Super, super hot. It is instant sparks (both literally and figuratively) the moment the meet. I should have been creeped out by the fact that Alex is a "made man" but it didn't bother me. He felt real, even if it was very clear that he was the modern Frankenstein. He was this mysterious, brooding shadow constantly watching over Emma, and he had me turning every page as quickly as I could.

If you couldn't already tell that this is a modern twist on an old classic, I'm going to reiterate that point now. This is Frankenstein.... sort of. The obvious key elements of the story are there, except concerning the monster himself. I would hardly consider Alex a monster. You'll see how that twist plays out in Broken. If you are familiar with the original horror tale, you'll enjoy seeing the new angle Broken brings. I also enjoyed the modern aspect of science lending a hand to the twisted Dr. Franks' (Frankenstein) creation.

Cover Appeal: Caster Chronicles

I have been reading the Caster Chronicles lately... trying to read them all before the movie comes out in February for Beautiful Creatures. I thought I might try something a bit different this week, and come up with different covers for the series.

While I do enjoy the original covers, I would like to see some of the actual characters on them-- or at least just Lena and her eyes.




Here's the original covers:
Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)Dream Dark (Caster Chronicles, #2.5)  Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles, #2) Beautiful Chaos (Caster Chronicles, #3) Beautiful Redemption (Caster Chronicles, #4)


And here is what I would like to see:

.
 
Gothic Girl
 
Gothic Girl
 
 
I think they would need a little tweaking, but it could work. What do you think?

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