Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Something I Need to Say AND a Giveaway!!

I just wanted to let all of you know something--- I greatly respect authors, writers, aspiring authors, aspiring writers, etc. As of right now, I have absolutely no intention of ever writing a book. I tell people all the time that I am definitely a reader-- not a writer. BUT, like I said, I have an enormous amount of respect for people who pour their whole heart and soul into what they write and give it to the whole world to see. I'm not that brave. Yes, there may be times when I don't give a book a stellar review, but I like to give honest reviews. I try not to be too harsh, but I know sometimes I come across that way. I just wanted to make it clear that even though I may not have cared for a book, I'm always willing to give authors second (or third or seventieth) chances because I admire what they do. If people stopped writing books, I would probably die. :D Anyway, that's my soapbox for today. Haven't done one of these posts in awhile and I was having withdrawls. On to the giveaway!!!

My friend Chantele over at My Writing Bug is doing a giveaway!!

She is giving away the book Entwined by Heather Dixon. It sounds like such an amazing book and has a GORGEOUS cover! It is definitely in my TBR pile-- hopefully I'll win it so it can be moved to the TOP of my TBR pile! This contest ends at midnight on April 4th, 2011-- so CLICK HERE RIGHT NOW to enter!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?
Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.
In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college—until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…

This is a book I've been wanting to read for a very long time. I figured since there is now a sequel to it, now would be a great time to read the first one!

I was hooked on Dreaming Anastasia from the moment Ethan showed up at the ballet--which is just a few pages in! I will admit that it was a bit slow, and a little less action packed than I expected, but I still really liked the story. I was also a little disappointed with the ending. The author's choices made sense to me, I just wished things could have been different. I am excited to read the sequel, Haunted, though and see where the story goes.

The Russian folk tale of Baba Yaga was intriguing to me. I've never heard it before, and I loved the tie in. If you are unfamiliar with the tale of Baba Yaga, particularly with Vasilisa the Brave, here it is:

In Russian tales, Baba Yaga is portrayed as a hag. She lives in a log cabin that moves around on a pair of dancing chicken legs and is surrounded by a palisade with a skull on each pole. The keyhole to her front door is a mouth filled with sharp teeth; the fence outside is made with human bones with skulls on top. The hut does not reveal the door until it is told a magical phrase: "Turn your back to the forest, your front to me".
In some tales, the hut is connected with three riders: one in white, riding a white horse with white harness, who is Day; a red rider, who is the Sun; and one in black, who is Night. In the folk tale Vasilisa the Brave, the young girl is given three impossible tasks that she solves using a magic doll given to her by her mother. In the Christianized version of the story, Vasilisa is sent to visit Baba Yaga on an errand and is enslaved by her, but the hag's servants — a cat, a dog, a gate, and a tree — help Vasilisa to escape because she has been kind to them. (From Wikipedia)

There are many similarities and references to this tale in Dreaming Anastasia. Although there were a few sub-plots, this was the main one throughout the entire book. I'm interested to see what the next book holds, since this particular storyline was pretty wrapped up. Some of the sub-plots weren't, which is why I am curious to see which one the author pursued. This one is definitely worth reading, but I would dedicate a few days to it. It is slow, but it's also really interesting!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

The blacksmith would marry her.
The woodcutter would run away with her.
The werewolf would turn her into one of its own.

Valerie's sister was beautiful, kind, and sweet. Now she is dead. Henry, the handsome son of the blacksmith, tries to console Valerie, but her wild heart beats fast for another: the outcast woodcutter, Peter, who offers Valerie another life far from home. After her sister's violent death, Valerie's world begins to spiral out of control. For generations, the Wolf has been kept at bay with a monthly sacrifice. But now no one is safe. When an expert Wolf hunter arrives, the villagers learn that the creature lives among them--it could be anyone in town.

It soon becomes clear that Valerie is the only one who can hear the voice of the creature. The
Wolf says she must surrender herself before the blood moon wanes...or everyone she loves will die.

 How many times have you seen "based on the book..." as the opening credits run at the movies? Lately, it seems like a lot. And how many times have you been severely disappointed by the movie version after reading the amazing book version? Well, this book is a twist on that concept. Red Riding Hood is a book based on a movie. Any ideas how this little endeavor turned out??

My entire life I have just never been one to "mince words". Which may upset some of you when I make my next statement. This was the worst book I've read all year. Actually probably ever. It was so incredibly slow that I truly thought that it would take less time to watch grass grow than to finish this book. Then, when I did finally reach the end, it didn't end!! I had to literally get on the computer, go to a website, and read the final chapter to find out who the Wolf was. I'm telling you--ridiculous.

The story was so....flat. The characters were flat. The "love triangle" was non-existent. I think the term "love triangle"--correct me if I'm wrong-- implies conflicted feelings. She was nowhere near conflicted. You could tell who she really wanted to be with (and by "be with" I mean get in his pants). I'm angry that I wasted so much time reading this. I actually am even more upset that I bought this book and it doesn't have the stupid ending.

 The movie trailer looked so amazing, and I loved the whole fractured fairy tale thing they had going on. Who ever thought that the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood was really a werewolf?? Brilliant. However, I really think they should have just made the movie and left it at that. At this point, I really don't even have any desire to see the movie. So, thanks for that, Sarah Blakley-Cartwright. You ruined what could have potentially been a decent movie.

On another note, I wanted to apologize for seeming like I've fallen off the face of the earth. Along with reading this, I have also been reading two other incredibly slow books. I'm trying to get through them as fast as I can. So, sorry! Bear with me!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Buy-Worthy Feature

We all know that not all books are created equal. Because of this simple fact, I am always wary when it comes to buying books. I rarely buy a book I haven't read unless one of my trusted bookish friends with the same taste in reading material (usually Chantele) HIGHLY recommends it. I hate feeling like I wasted my money. That said, you may have noticed a little change on Reading for Refuge. Now, on the right side of the screen, directly underneath my little picture and mini life story, you will find a new feature. It lists the "buy-worthy" books that I've read this year, including their release dates. If you click on the title of any of the books listed, it will take you to my review of that particular book. Then you will have the book cover, description, and my full review. I know it's hard to remember what books I read and loved, and especially hard to remember when you will have access to them, so I thought this would be helpful. They will always be in order by release date, not in how much I loved it. Although, if they made in on the list in the first place, then I absolutely loved it. I'm only going to add books to this list that I myself am actually going to buy, or already own. Hope it helps!!

Happy Reading!

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Release Date: May 31, 2011

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has always known she’s different from the other teens on tiny Nantucket, but it’s not until Lucas Delos moves to town that she realizes just how special she is. Facing Lucas in the halls of high school, Helen’s possessed by a powerful need to kill him--and she almost succeeds. But when their mutual hatred of each other transforms into desire, Helen and Lucas discover they are both Scions--descendants of Greek gods--and that their two families have for centuries been engaged in a deadly blood feud. As Lucas teaches Helen to use her powers, which include flying, controlling lightning, and an immunity to weapons (in addition to her gorgeous face, which she’s inherited from a certain namesake whose own face “launched a thousand ships”), the two grow ever closer--but can never be together until they find a way around the curse that’s destined to keep them apart.

Over the past few days, I have started reading three different books. The first one was boring so I put it down for awhile. The second I am still currently reading, but it is slow-paced and a lot to process, so I thought I would read something light to counteract it. I decided to go with this book, Starcrossed.

I have to say, this was not "light" reading. There wasn't any fluff to be found in these pages. And it's the only book I finished--because, quite frankly,  I couldn't put it down. I think the new trend in YA books is Greek mythology, and it's a trend I am loving! This particular book deals with demigods, the Furies, and the aftermath of the Trojan War. As I read, I was thinking that I really should have paid more attention during our studies of Homer and of Greek mythology. I'm certain that the reason I didn't pay more attention was because my teachers never made it as alluring as Ms. Angelini.

This book really stood out to me in that it wasn't a "boy-meets-girl, girl-swoons-over-devastatingly-handsome-mystery-boy, and-they-lived-happily-ever-after" type book. Honestly, the first time Helen sees Lucas, she trys to strangle him at school between classes. I kid you not. I loved it! (I'm morbid, I know.)
I thought the transition from pure hatred of each other to aching desire was done really well. It didn't feel forced or fake. As I read, I felt much the way Lucas and Helen felt-- in awe of the change.

This was another one of those forbidden romance stories that I just happen to adore. This one broke my heart though. I was so angry and hurt and confused by the abundance of betrayals and lies. There was a brief moment when my thought process went from "I love this book!" to "WTF?!?!?!" in about two seconds flat, but I promise that things get explained! If I could get past that one giant bombshell and still say that I completely loved this book (and can't wait for the second!), then you can too! Don't ask me what it is-- I'm not going to give anything away. This is one that you just have to read and experience for yourself.

Loved this book. So much. I really think I am going to be broke by the end of the year-- I keep reading these fantastic books and adding them to my "To Buy" list. Are you all doing that too??

Happy Reading!

**I am sorry that I seem to be half brain-dead lately. I need to get with it! Sheesh. Anyway, I received this from the publisher for the purpose of review. I forgot to mention that. :) Sorry!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cover Reveals!!

I kind of feel like a little kid at Christmas whenever new book covers are revealed. Is that weird?

Two books I am dying to read just had the cover images released in the past week. Any guesses on what books they might be??


Oh. My.
Love this.
For all of you that have read Matched, you'll understand the meaning of this cover. It's HUGE. I love the blue. I love her escaping the bubble. It just seems so perfect. I am ridiculously excited to get my copy come November. Yes, it's already pre-ordered and I. Can. Not. Wait. If you haven't read Matched yet, go buy it. It's definitely purchase-worthy. I actually have an ARC of it, and I'm going to buy another copy since the one I have doesn't have the real cover. I want them to match. Yes, I'm just that lame. :)

The second:

I really don't think this cover could be any more perfect. I think it's going to be beautiful on my bookshelf next to the amazing covers of the first two books in this series, The Demon King and The Exiled Queen. It's funny to me that when I first started reading this series, I wasn't in love with it. It was just okay for me. That was until I read The Exiled Queen. That book got me completely hooked on this series. I actually have been thinking that I really want to re-read these, but I may wait until August or so, since this book, The Gray Wolf Throne comes out in September. If you haven't read these yet, you have to pick them up! It is one of my very favorite series I've ever read. They are brilliantly written!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall #2)

*This book description has spoilers in it.*
Do not read any part of this review until you have read book one in the series, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins.

(And trust me, you WANT to read Hex Hall!!)

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.
That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.
Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world—the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will either destroy her powers for good--or kill her.

But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new housemates? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising demons in secret, with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Archer to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?

Wow. Where to begin??? I love this book just as much, if not more, than Hex Hall. Actually, probably more.

Oh, Sophie. You rock. The more I learn about you, the more I love you.
Sophie is such a great character. She's so funny, and she's so real-- and the way the entire book is written, I was either laughing hysterically or crying my eyes out. I am just so attached to Sophie, and her whole experience in London is a roller coaster ride of extreme highs and depressing lows. All I can say is it's going to get even more intense in the next book... if that's even possible.

There is not a single character in this book that I don't love. Even the villians are well written. You better believe that even someone who is a "nobody" character has amazing character development. I was totally blown away by Demonglass. Period.

I am not going to say much about this book, since it's a sequel and I don't want to give anything away. I can tell you that I was hooked on the story from the start and it almost killed me to put it down when I was done. There were tons of jaw-dropping shockers in this one-- be prepared. With tissues. A box of them. 

If you haven't read Hex Hall yet, read  it--so you can read this!! You are missing out! And trust me, you don't want to miss this series.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Timeless by Alexandra Monir

When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance.
Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.
  I have mixed feelings about this book. Most of me really wanted to love it, but a tiny part of me couldn't get past all the loose ends in the book.

The book description had me hooked-- obviously, since I bought the book. I have this thing for forbidden romances. I don't know why. But the thought of not just a forbidden romance, but a love separated by time? Count me in.

Timeless was slow from page one, so it took me quite a while to get into the story, but I liked it nonetheless. Michele and Philip (What is it with the one "l" spellings??) were believeable and real. I love characters like that. They both suffered tragic losses but survived them together. Their lives were interwoven long before they ever realized it.

The part that I am having such a difficult time with, like I said, is how many really loose ends there were. I'm not talking about cliffhanger loose, I'm talking about forgot-what-you-were-writing-about-and-where-the-story-is-going kind of loose. I realize that this is the first book in a series, but I am amazed that this made it through so many stages of being published without anyone picking up on some of the things I'm talking about.

That said, yes, I still liked this book. I loved the REAL cliffhanger at the end of the book. So much so, that I am dying to read the next book. This is definitely worth reading, and I plan on picking up the next book when it comes out to see if some things get clarified from this book. I can't wait to see where the story goes!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Goddess Test by Aimée Carter

Release Date: April 26, 2011

EVERY GIRL who has taken the test has DIED.

Now it's KATE'S TURN.

It’s always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate’s going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won’t live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he’ll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he’s crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she’ll become Henry’s future bride, and a goddess.

If she fails...

You have to buy this book. No, seriously.

The Goddess Test is, without a doubt, the BEST book I've read this year. I know I just said that a few posts ago about Hex Hall, but I hadn't read this yet.

Can I just tell you how sick I am of werewolf/vampire books?? The Goddess Test was like a breath of fresh air! It's based on the story of Hades and Persephone in Greek mythology, but you finally get to hear it from Hades' point of view. The story as it is told (in a nutshell) is that Hades kidnapped Persephone and tricked her into eating a few pomegranate seeds, thus making her immortal and forcing her to stay in the Underworld for six months of every year. This is how the seasons were explained. Fall and Winter were the seasons Persephone spent with Hades. The other six months, Persephone stayed with her mother, Demeter (Hades' sister). Persephone ended up falling in love with a human man and when the man died, Hades' allowed Persephone to die with him, leaving Hades to rule the Underworld alone.

This book picks up after the Persephone drama, when Hades is searching for a new Queen to help him rule the dead. However, not just any girl will do. She must first pass seven tests. I have to say that from the book description, I thought it would talk about the tests more in depth while they were happening, but by the end of the story it all made sense to me and I was completely head over heels for this book.

I really felt for Kate. She missed out on all four years of high school while she voluntarily took care of her sick mother. She never went on dates, never hung out with friends, and even dropped out of high school her senior year to take care of her mom full-time. You might be thinking, What an irresponsible mother--letting her daughter drop out of school!?? I thought that at first, but I think it was am important part of Kate's character development.

I also loved Henry (Hades). Go figure, right? When I started reading this, all I could picture in my head was the Hades from Disney's Hercules, with the James Woods voice-over and blue flame hair. But as I read more, I fell in love with this sad, lonely, misunderstood character. It made me think that maybe all these years, Hades has just gotten a bad rap. Maybe he's really not as bad as everyone wants to make him out to be. Maybe he just needs someone to share his burden with. Really? Do you want to rule over a bunch of dead people?? No! But someone has to do it. So, thank you Hades for being the Waste Management of the gods-- the job no one else wanted.

I seriously loved, loved, loved this book. Can it be April NOW please, so I can go buy my copy??

Happy Reading!

**I received this egalley from the publisher for the purpose of review.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Shadow of the Moon by Rachel Hawthorne

Hayden was born a werewolf, a Dark Guardian. But her ability to sense the feelings of fellow werewolves has made her life unbearable. She runs away, only to be tracked by charming, mysterious Daniel, a newcomer to the pack and the one Shifter immune to her powers. As she reluctantly follows him home, Hayden finds herself falling dangerously in love. . . .

But even as her feelings for Daniel deepen, Hayden begins to wonder if he is who he claims to be. Where did he come from and why has no one ever seen him transform? When they stumble upon the body of a Shifter still in wolf form, her worries grow. Someone is killing her kind. Is her handsome tracker really a hunter? And is Hayden now his prey?
There have been three Dark Guardian novels before this one. I read all three of them last year. I have to say, in the nicest way possible--Rachel Hawthorne, I think you have beat this horse to death. It's time to move on.
I think each book has gotten more and more cheesy. Any more cheese, and you could feed a small country. Seriously. The villain in this book was so far-fetched. The romance felt lacking and the character development was just sad. I know these books aren't known for their depth, but c'mon. This wasn't even a puddle. It makes me wonder if Ms. Hawthorne is getting as tired of writing them as I am of reading them? Don't get me wrong, I liked the other three--obviously, or I wouldn't have read this one--but three was definitely the charm. She should have stopped there.
Alright then--I'm done with the cheesy (Get it?? haha I had to throw in more in for good measure) lines. It's all just fluff. Read if you want some REALLY light, you-could-read-it-if-you-were-braindead material.
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

On her 12th birthday, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Three bumpy years later, after a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, she's exiled to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Then when a mysterious predator begins attacking students, and Sophie's only friend is the number-one suspect, a horrifying plot begins to surface. Soon, Sophie is preparing for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

I loved Hex Hall. Period. The end. 

Sophie Mercer is very likely my favorite female main character I've read all year. She's funny and sassy and confident and independent. Not in an obnoxious way, but in a way that girls always wish they really were. Not only does Sophie hold her own though, but she's kind. She roots for the underdog. Really, she is the underdog in this book. One of them, anyway.

I have two words for you--Archer Cross. Not familiar with them? If you look up the word "yummy" in the Dictionary, the definition would be Archer Cross. He has to be in my top ten favorite male characters ever. (Honestly, I told you this book was amazing.) At first he's such a jerk, which, sadly, is still hot. But then he does little things to work his way into your heart. You really can't help but love him.

Hex Hall is such a well-written book that you'll feel right at home in it's pages, and it'll tug on every emotion you have before it ends. There were times when I wanted to do a happy dance, times when I wanted to throw something, times when I wanted to cry, and times when I wanted to climb into story and witness the happy and the sad alike. Trust me, there is plenty of both in this book.

This is a must read. If you haven't picked it up already, do so ASAP. Especially since the sequel, Demonglass, was released today!  (And don't go searching for book descriptions for Demonglass-- there are spoilers in the description and it'll ruin this book for you!!)

Experience Hex Hall. Right now! There has to be a 24-hour bookstore somewhere, right?? :D

Happy Reading!