Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

Tin Star
Cecil Castellucci

There was a lot about Tin Star that I really enjoyed. It was a unique tale that didn’t always go in the cliché ways I predicted it would. There was so much about it that I really did like but alas I just needed more. So be prepared to hear that a lot in this review.

Tin Star begins with our amiable protagonist, Tula Bane, being beaten to near death just for being perceptive and daring to question Brother Blue. She is then left for dead on an out of the way space station where there are no other humans. She manages to survive with the help of a lovable yet mischievous alien, Heckleck. He not only helps her survive but he teaches her how to thrive in this alien environment. Everything is going relatively smoothly until three humans arrive on the space station.

I liked Tula but I had a hard time emotionally connecting to her. And everybody knows I am ultimately an emotional reader. She really became more alien-like after years being the only human and I really think that was why I had such a tough time connecting with her. It was fascinating to watch her struggle to connect with the other humans after being around aliens for so long but if you’re an emotional reader like me it may make it a struggle for you to fully invest in her.

I loved the aliens and the differences between each species’ behavior was well thought out. I was weary of Heckleck initially since he’s quite manipulative and cunning but he ended up being my favorite character of the entire book. I also enjoyed the other main alien character, Tourdar. He is a Loor and one of the leaders on the space station. He wasn’t the most forthcoming but I loved his protective nature.

The humans were a big disappointment for me. I didn’t feel like I got to know any of them very well and they were all rather bland. I just needed more depth from them so I could understand why they did the things they did.

Brother Blue was the big villain of the book but he wasn’t around enough for me to truly begin to understand him either. When he was around he was horrible but I needed to see more of him and his motivations to make him truly terrifying. I like the set-up with him but I’m really hoping that he gets fleshed out more in the next book.

The romance argh- where to even begin? The blurb is really misdirecting on this. There is a little romance but it’s very rushed and glossed over and not at all one of those that will give you a major case of the feels. Unless maybe “huh?” counts as a feel.

Life onboard the space station was really the most fascinating part of this book. There is an upstairs/downstairs class division between the aliens that was an awesome concept that I hope we get to see more of. The differences in the cultures and mannerisms of the various species definitely held my interest.

Ultimately, while I did like this book I didn’t love it. I think it’s definitely worth giving a shot and a lot of you may like it even more than I did. There was some interesting civil unrest and political intrigue elements toward the end that pretty much guarantee I will be reading the next one. Here’s to hoping it goes more in-depth and hooks me.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cover Reveal: Dissension by Katie Salidas

We are super excited to reveal the cover for Katie Salidas' new book Dissension.  I've read some of her adult books and really enjoyed them. Yes, I occasionally actually read my age.  This one sounds like it will be even better and I can't wait to get my hands on it.  Vampire gladiators?  Yes, please!  Be sure to keep scrolling as we have a couple  excerpts to share with you.

Dissension – Chronicles of the Uprising: Book 1

The great cataclysm wiped almost all life from the face of planet Earth, but tiny pockets of survivors crawled from the ashes, with only one thought: survival, at any cost.

But not all survivors were human.

In the dark, militant society that has risen in the aftermath, vampires, once thought to be mythical, have been assimilated and enslaved. Used for blood sport their lives are allowed to continue only for the entertainment of the masses. Reviled as savages, they are destined to serve out their immortal lives in the arena, as gladiators.

And there is no greater gladiator than Mira: undefeated, uncompromising...and seemingly unbreakable. When an escape attempt leads Mira into the path of Lucian Stavros, the city’s Regent, her destiny is changed forever.

Lucian, raised in a culture which both reviles and celebrates the savagery and inhumanity of vampires, finds Mira as intriguing as she is brash. An impulsive decision - to become Mira’s patron – changes more than just Lucian’s perception about vampire kind. The course of his life is altered in ways he could never have predicted – a life that is suddenly as expendable as hers.

Can Mira prove to Lucian that all is not as it seems? Can Lucian escape centuries of lies, bloodshed, and propaganda to see the truth? Or will the supreme power of the human overlords destroy them both?

Dissension – Excerpt 1
©Katie Salidas 2014
Rising Sign Books LLC

The roar of the crowd, all twenty-five-thousand people in attendance, rose to a thundering crescendo when Mira delivered a bone-crunching blow to her opponent’s ribs. Standing only five feet tall, she might not have appeared a formidable warrior, but the thin, spiky-haired waif of a vampire could hold her weight and more when put to the test. Amplified by the superb acoustics, the sound of bones cracking echoed through the Superdome arena. The defeated, a red-headed male vampire staggered, punch-drunk, and then dropped to his knees. Dirt and sweat coated his face but could not mask the fear in his icy blue eyes. His was a look Mira had seen so many times before. Her opponent’s immortal life had finally come to an end, and he was ready to take the final deadly blow.

Above her, Mira knew the fifty-foot mega screen showed her hapless victim in brilliant resolution, ensuring that all who were attending, and those watching from the comfort of their homes, could see these last gruesome moments in crystal clear high-definition.

Mira gazed down at her opponent’s blood-soaked face. Though he was her enemy for the moment, she did not relish having to end him. No one should be forced into the arena and told to kill or be killed. It wasn’t right. But it was what was demanded of her, and given the choice between her life and someone else’s… well, there really was no choice. No matter the cost, Mira was a survivor.

She glanced up to the large private box overlooking the arena. A well-dressed man in deep-purple robes sat, enjoying what appeared to be a dinner of filet mignon and roast potatoes. Even here, in the dusty arena below, Mira’s enhanced senses picked up the tantalizing scent of very rare, bloody steak. She could hardly believe that a human could not only watch the murder about to take place, but also sit and eat the dead flesh of a once-living being while doing it. From the smell of it, the poor beast was practically still bleeding on his plate. Who was truly the more savage creature?

Over the crowd’s roar, an announcer introduced the well-dressed man, Lucian Stavros, Regent of the Iron Gate. Lucian gently and purposefully slowly set down his knife and fork. He took another moment to wipe his face clean and then smiled, acknowledging the roaring crowd.

Chants of “Death, death, death,” rang out from the throng as a single unified demand.

The Regent listened for a moment, making a show of putting his hands to his ears to hear screaming hoard’s request, and then held a hand out, with his thumb pointed to the side.

As if the next moment were the most important, the anticipating mass hushed. Eerie silence filled the arena as everyone watched for the Regent to make his decision.

From her vantage point below, Mira saw the steely look of determination cross the Regent’s face. If she didn’t know better, she might have thought he took this decision seriously; but then, he was human, and they never cared much if her kind lived or died. Lucian Stavros took a cursory glance down at Mira. Their eyes met. It was only a brief moment, but in that short time, Mira saw him waver.

Could it be true, she wondered, or was it just a trick of the light? No human actually cared about the lives of vampires. The moment faded, and the fleeting thought left.

Mira saw the Regent’s decision. He turned his thumb down. Death!

The crowd went wild.

The last hope for her defeated opponent had vanished; Mira had to finish him. “Sorry,” she whispered to the half-dead vampire on his knees before her. Though her fangs tingled at the prospect of tasting his final dying moments—her reward, if you could call it that, for living through another battle— she did not enjoy what she was about to do. Like her, he was a slave, forced into servitude to the humans as they saw fit. He had not asked for this, and neither had she. But, despite what either of them wanted, it was the will of the crowd, the humans, that had to be served.

Aiming to sever the carotid artery with her fangs, Mira dove at her opponent’s neck. His death would be quick. At least she could afford him that luxury.

Dissension – Excerpt 2
©Katie Salidas 2014
Rising Sign Books LLC

the hair on the back of Mira's neck prickled. An uncomfortable weight of unseen eyes settled on her. Dread sank to the pit of her stomach. Busted...and so close to escaping. Someone else was there, watching her. She felt it, but what was more unsettling was the fact they had yet to announce themselves. Guards would shoot first and ask questions later. Someone lurking in the shadows… there was no telling what game they’d be playing.

Mira turned around and stood next to the guard she had just felled. It didn’t take much for her to find the source of her unease. A pair of mossy green eyes scrutinized her from the opposite end of the hall.

Heart pounding, she stared back at the man attached to those quizzical eyes. Human, no doubt. But he didn’t carry a weapon. Nor was there any fear in those green eyes of his. On the contrary, alone in a dark corridor, he stood his ground, lifting his head, and stared Mira down like an alpha from some long lost wolf pack.

The strangeness of his manner caught Mira by surprise. For a few moments too long, she stood dumbfounded, trying to process who he was and what her next move should be. His face seemed oddly familiar, though at the moment she couldn’t place where she’d seen him before.

The strange man was tall and well built, but that really didn’t matter much. Mira could take down vampires larger than she with no problem. But that wasn’t the thing stopping her from making a move. Judging by the deep plum of his suit, he was a man of some power. Only the Elite – those in the ruling class – were ever permitted to wear such an audacious color. As desperate as Mira was at that moment, she needed to tread carefully. Being caught escaping—again—would earn her more time in the light box, but injuring an Elite could have her staked out in the middle of town square awaiting the dawn.

“Aren't you going to finish him?” the man asked, his tone calm, soothing, as if he genuinely wanted to know the answer.

“Why don’t I finish you instead?” She hoped the warning in her voice would be enough to deter him, but still the man remained unfazed, like some stoic statue across the hallway. What was he playing at? And why was he just standing there, calmly, giving her every opportunity to strike? Did he really place so little value on his life?

“You could kill me, sure, but ask yourself how that is going to help your situation.” Spoken like a true Elite. He had to be up to something.

She didn’t like the smugness in tone, but felt at a loss as to how to continue. She could be on him in a fraction of a second. Crush his windpipe, and maybe buy herself a few more minutes to find the exit, but she was lost and had already wasted too much time. However, her inaction was almost certain to earn her some additional reprisal as well.

The corner of his lip quirked up. “I take it by your lack of response, that you’ve decided against harming me?”

Damn him! He knew she couldn’t take the risk. “For the moment, I guess.” Mira did not let her own uncertainty leach out into her voice. She attempted to sound self-assured, as if she were the one in charge at that moment.

“Well.” He let out a little sigh. “I’m pleased to hear that.” The strange man smiled congenially. “But, we will have to sort out what to do with you. It appears you’re out of bounds here.”


Katie Salidas is a Super Woman! Endowed with special powers and abilities, beyond those of mortal women, She can get the munchkins off to gymnastics, cheerleading, Girl Scouts, and swim lessons.  She can put hot food on the table for dinner while assisting with homework, baths, and bedtime… And, She still finds the time to keep the hubby happy (nudge nudge wink wink). She can do all of this and still have time to write.
 And if you can believe all of those lies, there is some beautiful swamp land in Florida for sale…
Katie Salidas resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mother, wife, and author, she does try to do it all, often causing sleep deprivation and many nights passed out at the computer. Writing books is her passion, and she hopes that her passion will bring you hours of entertainment.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: Being Sloane Jacobs

Being Sloane Jacobs
Lauren Morrill
3.0/5.0 stars

My overall impression after reading Being Sloane Jacobs was something like "eh, it was cute". The pacing was steady and the writing was fluid and sometimes it even charmed me a little but  I never fell in love with it. In fairness, I never felt the need to toss it aside either.  I think it lands in that dreaded middle zone where I don't regret reading it but I won't remember it in a couple of months either.

The story is about two girls both named Sloane Jacobs.  Hailing from DC we have Sloane Emily Jacobs who is the daughter of a U.S. senator.  She comes from a well to do family and never has to want for anything but her family lacks the closeness and affection that she craves.  She is a former competitive figure skater who had a bad and very public fall a few years prior and gave up skating.  She has come back to it now but is still having trouble landing her jumps and enjoying it like she used to.  From the other side of the tracks we have Sloane Devon Jacobs.  She is from Philadelphia and a longtime hockey player who is now having problems freezing up during games.  Her mother is away in rehab for alcoholism and though her father is loving they both seem to be having a hard time coping with her absence.  The two Sloanes end up staying in the same hotel while on their way to summer camps for their chosen sport.  The hotel mixes up their bags and the two girls are shocked to find out they have the same name.  Since they are both unhappy with their lives and dreading going to their camps they decide to switch places for the summer.

The plot was definitely a stretch.  I had some trouble in the beginning accepting that these girls could go play a totally different sport that they had never done before convincingly enough to pass for someone who had been doing it for years.  I have legs and the ability to run and kick but if you throw me on a soccer field with people that actually play soccer it's going to be pretty obvious that I'm not one of them.  The plot was also fairly predictable.

I liked both Sloanes pretty equally and the dual POV was handled well.  The side character "friends" served their purpose but I felt like we only got to know them at a surface level.  The love interests did nothing for me.  I didn't dislike them but I didn't feel any attachement to either of the relationships either.  I was also pretty disappointed in the lack of attention paid to the family issues.  It was mentioned but never really covered then all just kind of wrapped up with no real development.

Being Sloane Jacobs is a cute book and it's a quick and easy read.  For me it was just a little too much syrup and not enough substance.  I would recommend it but probably only for younger readers or someone looking for a clean, more disney-fied young adult book.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review: Division of the Marked by March McCarron

Division of the Marked
March McCarron

For all of written history, on the day of Da Un Marcu, fifty boys and girls across the three kingdoms are marked. They become a class apart from society. Taken to join their brothers and sisters, the Chisanta, they enter a culture of knowledge-keepers, martial artists, and possessors of strange and wonderful abilities.

When Yarrow discovers himself marked, he feels lost and lonely; until he meets Bray, a spirited and curious girl with whom he feels uncommonly connected. As the two of them become familiar with their new lives, unaccountable events unsettle the peace. A mysterious murder leaves the Chisanta in confusion. Odder still, one of the fifty children never arrives. In the years that follow, more and more children of the Chisanta go missing.

Ten years later, the devastating truth comes to light. The death of a young marked girl is uncovered. Yarrow and Bray—separated for a decade and grown apart—are thrust back together to investigate the crime. Can they overcome their differences to save the fate of their kind and the peace of the nation?

Overall, this is a really good book.  It took me a minute to get into it, but once I did, it kind of grew on me. 

It starts out kind of slow.  However (to be fair) it is an epic fantasy, and they do tend to be heavy on detail and take a little longer to really take off.

 In the end though, it was all worth it, because once it gets going, it gains momentum pretty quickly.

Things get really interesting once the two opposing groups come together to work towards a common goal.  It was rather amusing watching them have to learn to live and work together to figure out the mystery of the missing children. 

Those were probably some of my favorite moments.  Those are the moments that pushed me to not just like the characters, but *love* the characters.  Not only did I really love Bray and Yarrow, I absolutely adored the supporting characters as well. 

There are some seriously heart-wrenching moments in the book too.  I can't talk about them without spoiling something, but we'll just say there were times where I looked like this:

Also, I love how the mystery unfolds.  It is honestly what kept me going through some of the slower parts.  I was so intrigued to know how all of it would play out, and McCarron does a good job of building it up.
Oh, and the cliffhanger ending... we all know how I feel about a good cliffhanger!

Overall, I think the book was a little detail heavy (for me) and I would have liked for the pacing to be a bit quicker.  However, despite all of that, McCarron still created a mystery and characters that I was able to feel invested in and fall in love with.  I'm really excited to see what happens in book two!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Review: The Almost Girl

The Almost Girl
Amalie Howard

I'm not going to lie.  I generally am really leery of sci-fi.  It's just one of the genres that I don't generally connect well with.  I don't know why, I just don't.  I was hesitant to grab this one, and flipped past it probably 10 times before I caved and requested it.  

I'm so glad I have zero willpower when it comes to books with pretty covers and a remotely interesting blurb, because I really, really enjoyed this book.  

I really appreciated how strong all of the female characters in this book were.  Riven, her sister, the guardians.  They weren't meek and waiting for Prince Charming to save them.  Quite the opposite actually.  Additionally, the characters were complex and flawed.  They made mistakes, they got confused, they struggled internally with each decision.  I love to see this in books, because it makes the characters more relatable and realistic.  

The action scenes were very well done, and each one of them left me frantically flipping pages trying to figure out exactly how they were going to get themselves out of whatever crazy situation they were in at the moment.  It was intense, stressful, anxiety ridden goodness.  I love when a book has action scenes that literally make me panic.  

The only thing better than the action scenes were the numerous plot twist.  Even though I caught on to many of them before the "big reveal" I still got like oober "OMG" every single time.  The ones I didn't suspect were even better.  I have no idea how ridiculous I must have looked, sitting there, with my kindle, just staring at it, dumbfounded, going "Did that REALLY just happen???"  Like if I just stared at it long enough it wouldn't be quite so shocking.  

My only complaints were fairly minor.  I could have done without the high school adventure.  I feel like its overplayed and boring, but it wasn't unbearable.  I also found Riven contradicted herself a lot throughout the book.  One page she'd be all "I'm never going to do this" and then the next she'd be all "nothing can stop me from doing this".  It didn't really take away from the story, and I took it as the author just trying to show how divided and unsure Riven was of her actions and decisions.  However, there were points were it kind of confused me and I had to go back to make sure I hadn't read something wrong.  

Overall, its a fantastic book, and it gets my seal of approval.  I highly recommend!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Release Day Launch - Forced Autonomy by Lila Felix


The United States has collapsed. Those citizens who are left are in one of two classes. One: Citizens who have undergone forced lobotomies, as mandated by the United Nations. Two: Those who fight against their tyranny.

Petra Kingsley falls under both classes. She falls in line with the drones, pretending her procedure worked. Four years she’s existed among their ranks, hiding in plain sight, being worked to the bone and starved almost to death.

Lawson is a bounty hunter of sorts. His target isn’t the guilty, it’s those who are lost in the folds of a broken society.

When he spots Petra working in the masses, he stops at nothing to help her escape.

But he has no idea who exactly he’s helping—and who will now be hunting them both?


Year 2031
Subject 99856691
This is how I’m gonna die. Not by machine or a shot to the head. I wouldn’t be lucky enough to just get thrown into the furnace. No, this effing hangnail—well, used to be hangnail, would be the end of me. A throbbing, pustule filled toe cavity would evolve into a full blown infection and then sepsis. Yes, death by sepsis. Now that sounds like my luck. Fever and a bum toe, so damned classy.
I would’ve dug into myself, pulled out a lung and happily traded it for a dollar store first aid kit and some toe nail clippers at that point—I really would’ve. I’d picked the object of my malcontent from my toe with a sliver of metal I’d found on the ground in the factory. I didn’t often find metal in my factory, so I scooped it up at once, hoping the cameras didn’t detect my movement. That night by the light of a flashlight I’d stolen from one of the maintenance drones, I fashioned a rudimentary pair of tweezers out of the sharp, ragged metal. They didn’t work very well. Jerking and pulling, it took me nearly a damned hour to release the painful, jagged hangnail from its solitary confinement on the side of my toe. And I used the same tool to break through the bubble which had taken residence in its place. Hissing through my teeth at the sea sick green globule emerging from my toe, I wished for hydrogen peroxide—or that new skin stuff that burned like glowing brimstone itself. It released its prisoner of infection and throbbed in protest. I washed it the best I could with grime water courtesy of the hyper-recycled water bottle I’d once found behind the building. I used it to steal water from the bathroom in the factory.
I’d never stolen in my life before the collapse.
I’d once perfected the good girl routine, at least superficially. I dressed the part, cutesy vintage dresses that showed just the peep of a knee and nothing more. I kept my hair at that length, below shoulder—so that I could be accused of neither having short hair nor long. I certainly didn’t want to anger anyone with the length of my hair. My shoes were not flats which registered goody two shoes, but they weren’t too high, because that registered whore. I made straight A’s, I smiled when prompted and I never—ever moved an inch out of my little square. That’s what was expected of me. And I didn’t let anyone down.
But that time of my life and my family were long gone.
I tore a strip of cloth from my blanket and tied the wound up in a makeshift bandage. It would have to do until the next day. Then I’d have to take it off, letting the open, gaping hole exposed to the elements, the filth of the streets and the dirt of my work. It would get infected for sure. A wound that before could be cured with a hefty co-pay and five minutes of the good doctor’s time. But all the doctors, nurses and anyone else who had the knowledge or knowhow theyneeded had been swept away to other countries.
Robots didn’t need medical care.

ABOUT Lila Felix:

Lila Felix made the decision to write a book after being encouraged by friends. She is a stay at home mom to three wild children and three boisterous dogs and her high school sweetheart husband encourages her daily. Between writing books, she loves to read and watch sappy 80's movies. Favorite things: ice cream, anything purple, roller derby and any kind of music she can get her hands on. If you're looking for her, try looking in the swamp, she's probably duct taping something under the shade of a Cypress tree.


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