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Hereafter - Tara Hudson This book is basically a darker more teen-y version of the Disney TV movie Susie Q from the 90s. They share the same premise- teenage dead girl's ghost meets handsome teenage boy who's the only one who can see her, teenage boy helps her remember who she was, and find her family. Plus a little touch of young adult paranormal romance.

The dark elements in this book stem from a mysterious evil ghost, Eli, who "wants" Amelia to be his apprentice/evil side kick. Eli comes from some dark netherworld, hell pit, or whatever it is underneath the bridge where Susie, I mean Amelia, fell to her death. I didn't really understand that part, but this was the first in a series so maybe it gets clearer in the next book.

This book didn't really pull it off for me. The writing is kind of boring, the bad guys not really well explained, and all together just missing something to truly make it worth reading. If the story intrigues you- go find an old copy of Susie Q. It's funnier, cuter, much more entertaining, and has a better ending.

Stormbreaker - Anthony Horowitz This book is definitely James Bond for teens. This is the first in a series about 14 year old Alex Rider, who is chosen after his uncle's death to take up his failed mission as a spy for M16, Britain's intelligence agency. The story may not be deep enough to entice adult readers, but all of the action is sure to entertain young readers.
Once Upon a Tower - Eloisa James This book was ok, but not really what I expected. I had hoped for more of the fairy tale and less drama. The biggest conflict in the book is that she lies about an orgasm. Other than that the characters were great and the romance steamy, but the storyline was just blah.
The Host - Stephenie Meyer I did not have very high expectations for this book, although I will admit that I am a Twilight fan despite all of the criticism it has received. Even before reading, I expected this book to be a romancey, older version of Animorphs with the Yeerks taking over people's bodies and I was mostly right, except that it was nowhere near as exciting as the Animorph books. If one of my work friends hadn't told me how much she loved this book and that I needed to keep reading, I probably wouldn't have made it past the halfway point.

Because I did make it all the way to the end, I will say that things do happen, in contradiction to other reviews you may read, but it just takes a damn long time for them to occur. Literally, Stephenie Meyer packed all of the character and plot development that Twilight was lacking into this 600 page monster. There are whole pages like this:

"'Um...' I thought quickly. 'As long as I've been here, the ten minutes or so it took Ian to carry me here, and then maybe five more minutes before that?'
'At least twenty minutes, would you say?'
'Yes. Close to that.'" (page 346)

The minute details are annoying and then they become painful when you realize you're still only halfway through.

Don't get me wrong though, if the story had been shortened and cut down all of the pointlessness, it would have been terrific. Most of the story is written from the point of view of The Wanderer, an alien life form inhabiting the body of human girl Melanie. Wanderer is having a problem though, as Melanie doesn't seem to want to "go away" like she's supposed to and surrender her body to Wanderer. Instead they bond, share memories, become friends, and eventually leave the alien society to search for Melanie's, hopefully, still human family.

Even the love story exceeded my expectations for Stephenie Meyer. There were no generic cliches or love triangles and was actually very sweet, although predictable.

All in all, I would not recommend this book to people who simply loved Twilight and are hoping for more of the same blah blah blah, but instead to scifi readers or fans of YA dystopia novels.
Dead Man's Deal - Jocelynn Drake Dead Man's Deal was an excellent sequel to Angel's Ink filled with just as much adventure, action, romance, and magic. All of the fun main characters return with the addition of Gage's older brother Robert, who's gotten into some trouble working for the dark elf mob boss, a hobgoblin named Duff, a new friend of Gage, more rogue warlocks, and the queen of the elves. And, of course, more villainous evil warlocks from the Ivory Towers to rain down chaos on Gage's life once again.

All in all, The Asylum Tales are a dark gritty urban fantasy series that all fans of the genre should read!
Angel's Ink - Jocelynn Drake I purchased this Kindle book when it was free on Amazon per recommendation by Kim Harrison (author of The Hallows series) and I was not disappointed! I can't believe Amazon gave away such a great book for free. Angel's Ink follows the story of Gage Powell, tattoo artist and ex-warlock in a paranormal world where trolls, elves, werewolves, and many other mythical creatures co-exist. They are ruled by the evil warlocks who keep a close eye on Gage, one of their former students.

I love the concept that because Gage has magic, he uses potions in his tattoo ink to make magical tattoos. Therefore, the story begins when one of his magical tattoos goes terribly wrong and another has an expected side effect. So begins a chain of unfortunate events that lead Gage into some serious trouble with the warlocks, mafia elves, and even the Grim Reaper.

This is a great urban fantasy for anyone who loves the genre. I found the story unique and refreshing with tons of action and vivid characters. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
City of Masks - Mary Hoffman City of Masks is the story of fifteen year old cancer patient, Lucien who has the power to use his magical time traveling notebook to enter a parallel universe when he sleeps. There, he becomes Luciano in sixteenth century pseudo-Venice in a city called Bellazza where he finds adventures, new friends, political intrigue, and hope for a cancer free life. Laced into the story are also beautiful descriptions of the city and the lives of the people who live there. All in all, this is a great interesting read for young readers.
Zoo - Michael Ledwidge, James Patterson I wish I could give this book 3.5 stars. The plot was very intriguing until the end. I didn't really buy the explanation given for why animals are trying to kill people or how quickly they came up with the solutions when it took them 10 years to even figure out something was wrong. Maybe because I have a science background, I found Oz really dumb. Whenever he would explain things he would gloss over the complex parts and focus on the simple things that most science-ey people would know. Like that humans can't smell pheromones, for example.

I think readers that don't want to understand the complex biological details and would appreciate a quick summary of the science parts would really enjoy the story though. And the action parts were very thrilling so I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who likes to read action/adventure stories.

The Royal Rose of Alabama: The Gold Crown Pendant Affair (A Novel)

The Royal Rose of Alabama: The Gold Crown Pendant Affair (A Novel) - Marian Powell I received this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Because I won this book in a contest, I feel I should say in this review that I only made it a third of the way through before I couldn't take anymore. In fact, if I hadn't been stranded at work on a slow night shift with no other reading materials I probably wouldn't have kept reading past the prologue, free copy or not. It wasn't that the story wasn't interesting- because I was mildly entertained, but the writing style was just unbearable.

I don't think it would be fair to comment any more on the plot, themes, or characters, since I didn't get to the story's conclusion, but I will say this about the writing- this book is written like a children's book. The sentences are structured simply with little deviation or creativity. There are whole paragraphs that read roughly like- They danced. It was magical. Elisabeth is beautiful. Subject verb modifier. Blah blah blah. There was nothing about it that compelled me to keep reading so I didn't. Maybe one day I will try again.
Vixen - Jillian Larkin Vixen was a big ball of disappointment with a pretty cover. The story is split into three, as it is told from the three different view points of Gloria, Clara, and Lorraine. Oh, and it also takes place in 1920s Chicago. Without the slang, flapper dresses, gin, and gangsters the story basically could've been set in any time or place. I did enjoy the vivid descriptions of the dresses and parties, which was obviously very well researched, but in the end it became annoying how unrelated it really was to the plot.

As to the three main characters- I really wish there had only been one: Clara. Hers was the only part of the book worth reading. Both Gloria and Lorraine were selfish, immature, vapid, and predictable.
Gloria's chapters may have had the most action as hers is the tale of a forbidden love with a young black piano player. Despite endless descriptions of her feelings for Jerome, their romance was empty. Without any real reason for loving him besides his beautiful hands, I was given the impression that the only reason Gloria did love Jerome was that he was black and forbidden. If young adult authors are going to keep writing books about "forbidden love" I wish they would at least make them original or give the characters more substance.

Still, the book was a quick and easy read. I would recommend it for fans of young adult "romance" or readers who like historical fiction.
Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb Assassin's Apprentice is a typical epic fantasy, told almost auto-biographically in first person from Fitz, an orphaned prince's bastard who is trained to be a royal assassin. This is the first book in a trilogy and so focuses on Fitz's early years- his arrival at his grandfather's castle, his training and schoolwork, his days playing with children in town, and basically a detailed account of his life. At times the story feels very slow because there is so much detail, but the shady politics, court intrigue, and witness to Fitz's growth and maturity make the story worth the read.
Freud's Mistress - Karen    Mack, Jennifer Kaufman I received this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Freud is portrayed in exactly the way I imagined he would have been in real life- charismatic, brilliant, egotistical, and completely ignorant about women and relationships. It was very interesting to read about one of the world's most well known psychologists and witness him behave so predictably and stereotypically.

While Freud is one of the major characters, the protagonist of the story is Minna Bernays, Freud's sister-in-law. I found her easy to relate to- as a single unmarried woman struggling to find a purpose and socially acceptable niche in life, and therefore has to bounce back and forth between an unfortunate career as a lady's companion and mooching off her mother and sister. Despite being a sophisticated and well born lady, she has never wanted a husband due to her lifelong feelings for her brother-in-law. She remains a strong and admirable character until the very end.

All in all, this book was an excellent period piece with entertaining glimpses into the lives and times of the Freud household in the late nineteenth century. Even though the story is about Freud, the discussions of his scientific works are brief and easy to follow, making the story enjoyable for readers of all backgrounds.

The Rush (The Siren, #1)

The Rush (The Siren, #1) - Rachel Higginson This book may be a perfect description (and by that I mean lengthy and drawn out) of experiencing your first real crush. Ivy Pierce is a siren (oops sorry, that's supposed to be a surprise twist...except the title of the series is Siren and it's pretty obvious so I don't feel bad for ruining it for you). And she's also a sixteen year old girl trying to make it through high school and graduate so she can get out of dodge before her mother and super creepy godfather make her join their siren cult to destroy men's lives. Unlike the other modern day sirens, Ivy has a soul and feels bad about crushing the heart and soul of every boy she meets. Then she meets a boy who's immune to her powers and realizes she can have a chance at true love and pretty much throws all of her goals out the window...of course.

What I liked about this book
-Parts of the prose were actually very beautiful and really impressed me. The writing was way better than what I have come to expect from YA romance novels.
-Ryder's really hot
-The concept of a siren who wants to change is actually pretty cool.

What I didn't like about this book:
-OMG way too long. Even quick conversations took 3-4 pages because after every comment there's a paragraph about what Ivy thinks or feels about it. Dear Author, we're readers, not idiots. You can give us some credit.
-Repetition. Ivy's feelings and emotions rarely changed throughout the novel but we had to read about them multiple times.
-Plot holes. I'm still not convinced that Ivy couldn't escape. Besides Nix being evil (the word evil is literally stated every time Ivy thinks about or mentions him), I'm not sure what/if anything would have happened to her if she'd just run away every time she thought about running away/every time someone offered to help her run away...
-The ending. Come on. This book would have been immensely better if the conflict had been resolved and readers received a satisfying ending.

Who I would recommend this book for:
-People who like reading about high school drama.
-Anyone who actually enjoys their paranormal/fantasies watered down with high school romance.
Inferno - Dan Brown When I first read the DaVinci Code back in high school, I was so enthralled I fought carsickness on a nine hour drive from Detroit to Minneapolis because I simply could not stop reading it. Dan Brown's books are so interesting and captivating with their mingling of history, art, and science and this addition to the series did not disappoint.

As a student in the medical field, I was very much drawn to Dr. Sienna Brooks, Robert Langdon's "sidekick" in this story. And as I also have a degree in evolutionary biology, I was delighted that the science aspect of this book was related to topics I have studied and can relate to, such as virology, genetic engineering, and Earth's looming overpopulation crisis.

This book begins quite differently from the others as it starts off with Langdon waking up in a Florence hospital with amnesia after being shot in the head. He then has to work backwards to solve the mystery he has already been working on and escape the mysterious team of agents trying to kill him before he does so. There is the usual touring of famous cathedrals and museums, clues hidden in paintings and literature, and of course, multiple plot twists at the end to keep readers on their toes.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the DaVinci Code or Angels and Demons or anyone who enjoys mysteries in general.
City of Glass - Cassandra Clare I both liked and disliked this book. It was very entertaining, like all of the books in this series, and a very quick read. Similar to City of Bones, I found all of the plot twists completely and annoyingly obvious and the ending a disaster. Come on, how many times and ways can the author say "We're not brother and sister." I didn't count but it was definitely in the double digits. Clary is still the obnoxious teenager, who thinks only of herself and her feelings for Jace. Everything she does revolves around Jace. And at the end when the Angel Raziel grants her one wish, she debates wishing for world peace or and end to world hunger but decides that if those things could be wished for they would have already been wished…even though the author already said that the Angel hadn't been summoned since the first Shadowhunter…and instead she wishes to bring back her (not brother!) bf from the dead. Is it cheesy and romantic- sure. Is it the best message we want to send to young readers- maybe not. Therefore, if you prefer cheesy and romantic to generosity and morality go ahead and keep reading this series, maybe you'll get more out of it than I did.
City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare I enjoyed this book much more than the first. I think the author has shown much more creativity and is developing her own style rather than borrowing themes and plots from other best-sellers. I also didn't find the characters as whiny in this book, but maybe they're just growing on me. Although this book is written in 2nd person point of view, the perspective still shifts periodically between the characters, allowing readers insight into not only Clary's emotions but also Jace, Simon, and even Alec, which may help readers more closely identify with them. I like where the story is going (although before reading this one I did have to look up some of the plot surprises...sorry but I didn't want to keep reading a series about incest). So, even though I know parts of what will happen in the next book, I'm still excited to keep reading!