Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Morning Star (The Katerina Trilogy Vol III) by Robin Bridges

Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to be known as a doctor, not as a necromancer. But Tsar Alexander III forbids women to attend medical school; his interest in Katrina extends only to her ability to raise the dead. Twice now, Katerina has helped him by using her power to thwart the forces of darkness—vampires bent on resurrecting the lich tsar Konstantin Pavlovich so that he can take what he sees as his rightful place on the throne. Katrina thought she had bound Konstantin to the Greylands, the realm of the dead, but he has found a way out. Now he is searching for the Morning Star, a sword that will allow him to command a legion of supernatural warriors.

Katerina must find the sword before Konstantin does—and she must travel to Egypt to do so.  Along the way, she puts up with unwanted attention from her former fianc├ę, the nefarious Prince Danilo, and struggles with her feelings for her true love, George Alexandrovich. But with the looming threat from Konstantin, Katerina’s focus remains on the sword. Russia’s fate will be determined by whoever wields the Morning Star—and delivers the final blow (summary courtesy of Goodreads).

The Morning Star is the third book in the Katrina Trilogy, which includes The Gathering Storm (Katerina #1 and The Unfailing Light (Katerina #2). I have absolutely loved each book in the series. Robin Bridges has managed to make this series one worth reading. This doesn’t always happen with a young adult trilogy. More often or not, the second or third book in a trilogy will be lacking in story or action. Not so with The Morning Star. Bridges was able to bring Katerina’s story full circle and write a satisfying conclusion to a very good story.

As in the first two books, Robin Bridges brings the world of the paranormal to life in 1890s Russia. It is such a seamless blending of two worlds that you might forget that vampires and werewolves didn't walk the streets alongside fairies and necromancers in the Imperial Court of St. Petersburg. That is one of my favorite things about this trilogy; how easy it is to believe that this was truly Katerina's world.  

I was worried about getting back into that world, but Bridges is such a fantastic writer that she eases you back into the world and you are engrossed before you know it.  I love Katerina; she is such a strong female character. I thoroughly enjoy watching her kick butt.  And she does plenty of that in this book.

Katerina must fight against enemies, both familiar and unfamiliar, while traveling through a country she knows very little about. Every minute is a struggle to survive and every second brings the lich tsar closer to taking over the throne. Katerina must use everything at her disposal to stop Konstantin from taking over her beloved Russia. Not only that, but she must avoid the unwanted attentions of her former fiance, Prince Danilo, deal with the changes her mother has gone through and fight for the love of George Alexandrovich. Katerina's plate is so full it's overflowing. 

If you are a fan of the Katerina trilogy, The Morning Star is a must read. And if you haven’t picked up this wonderful series, do it now! It is beautifully written, rich in history and overflowing with romance. I love this series and I hope others will enjoy it as much as I have.

My grade for The Morning Star by Robin Bridges:

Want to check out other reviews on The Morning Star blog tour? Check these out:

August 18thThe Hiding Spot
August 19thYA Bibliophile
August 19th
Bibliophile Support Group
August 21st
Candace’s Book Blog
August 22nd
Mom Reads My Books
August 23rd
Marmalade Libby
August 24th
My Life is a Notebook
August 26th
Imaginary Reads
August 26th
Reader Girls
August 27th
Kimba Caffeinated
August 28thPage Turners Blog
August 29thBook Rook Reviews


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

(book jacket photo courtesy of Goodreads)

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one...except the "thing" inside her. When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no "normal" Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch...

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of "them." The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits:  Emily, who has her own special abilities and unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help--and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griffin's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on--even if no one believes her (summary courtesy of Goodreads). 

I am just venturing into the world of Steampunk. I read the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare and LOVED it, but I never actually got the fact that it was considered Steampunk until just recently. I was too wrapped up in the Shadowhunter world. But I digress. Anyway, I honestly consider this my first "official" Steampunk novel. And unfortunately, I was disappointed.

I really wanted to love this novel. Just looking at the gorgeous cover makes you want it to be good, makes you want to devour every word.  But, The Girl in the Steel Corset fell short for me. 

Let's start by saying, I know I am reading a Steampunk novel. That's one of the reasons I'm reading it. Please don't remind me every few pages that not only is this Victorian England, but there are things here that are just not possible, like the automatons. I got the impression Ms. Cross felt the need to constantly remind her readers that this is a novel set in the past and filled with improbable gadgets. It got very tiring, very fast. Every time a new gadget was introduced, I was reminded that this was not probable during that time period. I know! Let me read the book and have the story be so amazing that I am drawn into the world you created. Don't tell me, show me.

Also, a little research goes a long way. If you are going to set a novel in Victorian London, make sure you know what you are writing about. I got the impression that Ms. Cross didn't know that much about the time period she chose for her novel. One of the reasons I have been excited to read Steampunk is because of the time period it is set in. I really felt like the story was a modern story plunked down in the late 19th century, with little to no effort expended to help the reader feel as if they were in 1897. And in this supposed "proper" world where there is constant worry about anything inappropriate happening, a lot of "inappropriate" things happen. As a way to remind us that this is the 1890s in Victorian London, the author tosses in frequent references to improprieties and the inappropriateness of the characters' actions. Though she seems to ignore those improprieties just pages later. Not only that, but I felt like she didn't know that much about the country she chose as her setting. Most of what she wrote about London could have been read on Wikipedia. And the couple of references made about Queen Victoria could have been pulled from the episode of Doctor Who about her. "I am not amused" is perhaps the most over-used line for a non-fictional character ever. And it's used in this book. Very disappointing, considering the Queen is an oft-wrote about part of this book. 

Perhaps the biggest issue I had with this book was the lack of character development and character consistency. Now, I know this is a YA book, and they are notorious for character development issues, but I felt like the characters and relationships could have been better written. The various characters' back stories could have been an entire book themselves. I felt as if I walked into a story already in progress and I had missed a lot of what I needed to know. The most emphasis seemed to be placed on getting Sam's back story out. While it was important to the plot, so were other stories, in particular Griffin's. I felt as if he was glossed over and I was just supposed to like him because he was the male lead of the story. I liked Emily, but unfortunately we never learned much about her. Jack Dandy was another interesting character with little to no story, as was Griffin's Aunt Cordelia. Another character with a lot of potential was the American, Jasper. Unfortunately, he came off very stereotypical, with his "Howdies" and his cowboy boots and hat. Incidentally, my least favorite character was Sam, one of the characters the most time was spent on. I found him whiny and annoying. And don't get me started on the two, yes TWO, love triangles evident in The Girl in the Steel Corset. Both of which were very under-developed or downright unlikely. How exactly does one fall in love with a girl they have met once and talked to for 10 minutes? I guess when you need a love triangle (though I'm not sure exactly why there had to be one), the improbable will happen. As the reader, I was never shown that the characters were falling for each other, I was told they were. I was supposed to accept it based on being told it was happening, rather than watching it come to fruition on its own. 

Finally, this novel tries to throw too much in the pot at one time. It's Steampunk, it's paranormal, it's romance, it's science fiction. There are too many things overlapping and struggling to be included. Ms. Cross borrowed heavily from other books, in particular the Infernal Devices series (the use of runes on the body, the flesh on automatons) as well as comic books (superhero powers and super-healing).  

There was one thing that did stand out for me and that was Ms. Cross's knowledge of mechanics and various machinery. Perhaps the most well-written parts of the book were those written about the automatons, the velocycles, and the various other gadgets she created for this story. If only that effort had also gone into building the characters as well, this would have been a much better book.

My grade for The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross:


Friday, June 28, 2013

I'm Back! With Sincere Apologies and Lame Excuses.

I feel awful. I mean really awful. I have neglected this blog for nearly a year. But I do have my reasons.

What started out as a fun hobby and a place to showcase books I enjoyed rapidly turned into a very time-consuming job that I wasn't getting paid to do.  That is completely my fault. I took on far more than I could chew (so to speak).

First of all, I agreed to read and review more books than any sane person could read in a year, let alone the short amount of time I was giving myself (roughly six months).  Again, totally my fault. I can't say no. I get an email asking me to read and review a book, I say "Sure! Why not?"  I had my list of books to read at well over 150 books.  This included books I agreed to review and books I just wanted to read. That list of books would have required me to read roughly one or more books A DAY. Not going to happen. I do love to read, but I also have a life.

Second, I got a new job. In my previous job, I could read frequently during the day. I mean, I could read A LOT, sometimes for hours at a time. Unfortunately, it paid practically nothing. And I couldn't afford to keep working it. So, I found a new job with more hours and more pay. But, no more reading at work. I barely have time to take my lunch, let alone pick up a book to read. When I get home, I have to cook, clean, chauffeur my kids around and be a mom and a wife. I was only grabbing time to read for about a half an hour before bed and a lot of the time, I fell asleep while reading. Oops.

Finally, I was trying too hard.  I was trying to write reviews that were earth-shattering. Ground-breaking. Amazing. And too much work. I realized I just needed to tell people what I thought about a book. Did I like it, love it or hate it? Was it just "meh?" I needed to stop trying so hard and just write the review. I'm not Shakespeare or Jane Austen or Emily Bronte. I'm Amie, a mom who reads the books her kids read and writes reviews about them. I need to embrace that and run with it.

I am re-dedicating myself to this blog. I can't promise a new book review every week or even every other week. But I am going to try to post reviews at least once or twice a month. I'm also not going to work so hard at posting a review. I am just going to write what I think about a book, instead of killing myself to write some masterpiece.

Hopefully I haven't lost too many of you. I apologize to those who were frequent visitors to my blog and I let you down. I hope I can regain your trust.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review and Interview: Robin Bridges' The Unfailing Light

**book cover courtesy of Goodreads**

I was given the privilege of interviewing Robin Bridges for a blog hop in support of her new book, The Unfailing Light, book two of the Katerina Trilogy. I didn’t want to ask Ms. Bridges the typical questions normally seen in author interviews, so I spent some time perusing her web site to get some ideas for questions. I also wanted to keep it short and sweet, as I am including a review with the interview. I don’t enjoy reading long drawn out blog posts that drain my brain. I want to get in, read what I came to read and move on to the next thing on my to-do list. I try to do this on my own blog; give them want they want and don’t go overboard!

First a little bit about Ms. Bridges.  She is a writer by day and a pediatric nurse by night. She lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband, a soon-to-be teenager and two Mastiffs. She enjoys playing video games and Jane Austen books (biography courtesy of

What is your favorite thing about being an author?

It’s kinda like playing with Barbies.  You dress them up and make them kiss.  And bring people back from the dead.

I saw on your web site that you like video games. I love to play the Lego video games. What is your favorite video game?

Dragon Age!  I’ve played and replayed both the first one and the sequel several times.  I am madly in love with Alistair.  And Fenris.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received about writing?

“Don’t give up your day job.”  And also “add more smooching!”

 I love the setting you have chosen for the Katerina Trilogy. It seems so grand and beautiful. Have you ever visited Russia?

Not yet, but I hope to once I learn to speak Russian!

In a genre filled with paranormal stories, you have managed to create
 an original, never-read-before world. What was the most challenging thing 
about creating Katerina’s world?

Making the setting as accurate as possible was challenging.  The one time I decided to 
be lazy and make up the name of a street, the copy editor told me I’d spelled
 the street name wrong!  It took some digging, but I finally found what the street 
had been called in the 1890’s.  (It had changed names several times since the Revolution.)

Finally, are you excited to bring Katerina’s story to a close or will 
you miss her and the world she lives in?

Both.  I’m excited about working with a new cast of characters in a new story, 
but I will definitely miss Katerina and George.  And Danilo!

    And now for the review:

Title:  The Katrina Trilogy, Volume II: The Unfailing Light    
Author:  Robin Bridges
Genre:  Young Adult Paranormal/Historical Fiction
Publisher:  Random House Children’s Books
Imprint:  Delacorte BFYR
Format:  NetGalley Digital Galley
Release Date:  October 9, 2012

Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers.  She’s about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia’s arch nemesis—that she thought she’d destroyed—is still alive.  So, on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She’ll be safe there, because the empress has cast a spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants that are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains.  But to Katerina’s horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any of the creatures trying to get in. (Summary courtesy of NetGalley)

The Unfailing Light is Robin Bridges’ second volume in the Katerina Trilogy (you can read my review of the first book, The Gathering Storm here). The second book picks up just a few months after the end of Volume I. Katerina has spent the summer resting with her mother, aunt and cousin, counting the minutes until she can begin her dream of attending medical school and trying to forget the night she discovered she was a necromancer and the danger she could put everyone around her in, especially the man she loves, Grand Duke George Alexandrovich.  But an unfortunate discovery in a dark cave forces the emperor to send Katerina back to the Smolny Institute for Young Noble Maidens, the finishing school she thought she was finally able to leave behind. Practically imprisoned for her own safety, Katerina must now deal with the constant scrutiny of the Montenegrin Princess Elena, the moody new girl—Princess Alix—and a strange presence threatening the safety of every girl at Smolny.

More often than not, I have found the second volume in a trilogy to be the weakest, disappointing me in more ways than I can count (best example—Crossed, the second book in the Matched trilogy). I am always hesitant to pick up the second book, (even though I almost always do). Well, Bridges doesn’t disappoint, instead she has written an engrossing novel that kept me flipping pages late into the night.  She does not disappoint, keeping Katerina’s story flowing and interesting, without that boring lull that often appears in a sophomore book. If anything, I enjoyed The Unfailing Light more than The Gathering Storm. Maybe it was because this time I didn’t have to muddle through the various houses of Russian royalty, trying to remember who was who. While there are still a lot of characters to keep straight in this book, it seemed much easier this time around. Bridges also keeps the action coming, throwing things out that aren’t expected and keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Katerina next.

I find Katerina to be a very strong female character, especially considering the time in history in which she lived, but she did seem a bit more vulnerable in this book.  I actually liked that; I felt that after all that happened to her in the first book, Katerina would be struggling to find her way. Watching her grow more and more confident in herself and her decisions just made the book better. Bridges manages to show that growth, along with the doubt and vulnerability Katerina experiences while never taking away what I liked about Katerina—her  willfulness and independence.  She just let those characteristics grow more pronounced as the book progressed.  Katerina continues to be a character that young adult readers can look up to and enjoy.

The Unfailing Light is a fantastic addition to the Katerina Trilogy. It keeps the story moving forward, it’s entertaining and it is beautifully written. Just as she did in the first book, Bridges weaves a beautiful world, one made even more fascinating by the fact that it is based on actual people and history. I loved this book and I cannot wait for the next (and sadly last) book. 

Please take a look at the other blogs in the hop!
October 2nd: The Book Review Club
October 3rd: The Book Review Club
October 4th: Kimba Caffeinated
October 4th: My Life is a Notebook
October 5th: My Life is a Notebook
October 6th: Candace’s Book Blog
October 7thReader Girls
October 8th: Bookish
October 8th: Peace, Love, Books
October 9th: YA Bibliophile
October 9thReader Girls
October 10th: Wastepaper Prose
October 10th: Imaginary Reads
October 11thImaginary Reads
October 12th: Well Read Wife
October 15thLibby Blog
October 16th: Cracking the Cover
October 17th: A Bookish Libraria
October 18th: A Novel Review
October 19thIn the Best Worlds
October 20thTripping Over Books

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

(photo courtesy of Goodreads)

Title:  Don’t You Wish    
Author:  Roxanne St. Claire
Genre:  Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher:  Random House Children’s House
Format:  Digital Galley via NetGalley
Release Date:  July 10, 2012

What if your mom had married someone else? Would you still be you?

When plain and unpopular Annie Nutter gets zapped by one of her dad’s whacked-out inventions, she lands in a parallel universe where her life becomes picture perfect.  Now she’s Ayla Monroe, daughter of the same mother but a different father—and she’s the gorgeous, rich queen bee of her high school.

In this universe, Ayla lives in glitzy Miami instead of dreary Pittsburgh and has beaucoup bucks, courtesy of her billionaire—if usually absent—father. Her friends hit the clubs, party backstage at concerts, and take risks that are exhilarating…and illegal. Here she’s got a date to lose her V-card with the hottest guy she’s ever seen.

But on the inside, Ayla is still Annie.

So when she’s offered the chance to leave the dream life and head home to Pittsburgh, will she take it?

The choice isn’t as simple as you think. (Summary courtesy of publisher and NetGalley)

I wasn’t too sure about this book at first. It seemed very predictable:  not-so-popular girl gets the chance to live the dream and become every thing she ever wanted—rich, beautiful, popular, and (unfortunately) mean. I decided I wasn’t going to like this book and I would read it just to finish it. But then it changed, it became something more than I ever thought. Have you ever read a book that took you totally by surprise and wasn’t what you expected at all? This was that book for me. Only one word came to mind when I finished Don’t You Wish and that word was “Wow!”   

After a somewhat terrible day, Annie gets a shock when one of her inventor-father’s gadgets sends her to a parallel universe. She wakes up not as Annie, but as Ayla—rich, beautiful and living in gorgeous Miami. But inside she is still Annie, and she discovers that she is nothing like Ayla. Annie becomes more and more frustrated as time goes on, but can she get back home? And does she really want to?

Roxanne St. Claire is an extremely good author, with a phenomenal gift for characterization and a strong voice that truly brings her books to life. I felt like I was in Miami with Ayla/Annie and I felt like I was living her life right there beside her. After finishing Don’t You Wish, I did something I had never done before, I emailed the author. I just couldn’t resist telling her how much I loved her book. I even told her I was going to force my girls to read her book because it was that good.

So, if you’re looking for a really good book, I highly recommend Don’t You Wish. You will not regret it. Pick it up, read it and pass it on to someone you know who loves to read. But a word of caution: don’t give up on this book, keep reading. It’s totally worth it!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #40

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View and Alison at Alison Can Read. It is a great way for bloggers to make new friends and find new blogs to follow. Go to either blog, follow ALL the instructions and then add your link to the list. It’s just that easy!

This week’s question:

Christmas in July! Someone gives you a gift card for two books (whatever that costs). What two books will you buy?

I would definitely buy Insurgent by Veronica Roth, because I still haven't bought it and I really need to get it.  And I would get Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn because I have heard it is amazing so I really want to read it.

What would you buy? Leave a link to your Feature and Follow Friday in the comment section and I will stop by and check it out!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Rapture by Lauren Kate

*cover photo courtesy of Goodreads*

Title:  Rapture  
Author:  Lauren Kate
Genre:  Young Adult Paranormal
Publisher:  Random House Children’s Books
Format:  Digital Galley from NetGalley
Release Date:  June 12, 2012

*Please note, Rapture is the fourth book in the Fallen series by Lauren Kate. If you have not read the previous books, this review may contain spoilers.*

The sky is dark with wings….Like sand in an hourglass, time is running out for Luce and Daniel. To stop Lucifer from erasing the past they must find the place where angels fell to earth. Dark forces are after them, and Daniel doesn’t know if he can do this—live only to lose Luce again and again. Yet together they will face an epic battle that will end with lifeless bodies…and angel dust. Great sacrifices are made. Hearts are destroyed. And suddenly Luce knows what must happen. For she was meant to be with someone other than Daniel. The curse they’ve borne has always and only been about her—and the love she cast aside. The choice she makes now will be the only one that truly matters. In the fight for Luce, who will win? The astonishing conclusion to the Fallen series. Heaven can’t wait any longer. (Summary courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley)

Oh, the Fallen series. I first fell in love with this series right after the first book came out. My oldest daughter was reading it and she suggested I read it. Well since mom reads their books, I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The first book in the series, Fallen, came out in December of 2009, the second, Torment in September 2010, followed by Passion in June 2011 and now, at last, the final book, Rapture, was released June 12, 2012.  Waiting two and a half years to finally read this entire series, felt like, well, an eternity. I was really glad to finally get to the bottom of Luce’s story and find out the truth behind her love for Daniel. Lauren Kate managed to deliver a book full of twists and turns and revelations the reader just didn’t see coming.

I was a bit worried about reading Rapture, because I really had a hard time with Passion. I didn’t love it like I had the previous two books and reading Passion felt like a chore. That may have been because the chemistry, love and honestly, the passion between present-day Daniel and Luce was missing. The flashbacks of their previous lives and their love just wasn’t working for me. I was worried that Rapture would fail to bring that chemistry back. Fortunately, it didn’t fail. I really enjoyed the relationship between Daniel and Luce in this book, mostly because I felt like it came full circle. Luce was no longer just going along loving Daniel with no concept of the consequences or the circumstances of their previous lives. She finally understands what it means to love Daniel and she is okay with it. They are actually on equal footing in this book, which is a refreshing change. Daniel doesn’t always seem to like it (mostly due to his concern for her safety), but he deals with it fairly well. Luce falls easily into the role of Daniel’s equal, a place I believe she was always meant to be.

I would like to point out that if you read the summary, you saw that Luce was meant to be with someone else. Say whhhaaaattttt? That’s right, someone else. Not Daniel. Umm, I cry foul, good author, because as far as I’m concerned, Luce belongs only with Daniel. But apparently, that is not the case. This little fact added a whole new dimension to the story and kind of threw a monkey wrench into the great mechanism of destiny. So Luce isn’t actually destined to be with Daniel? How is that even possible? Oh, and guess what? Luce’s other love is NOT who you think it is. It might surprise you who it is. It did me. Can you say serious plot twist boys and girls? 

Rapture takes us, the reader, on a crazy ride. Kate pulls no punches with this book and no one is safe. People and angels die. I won’t say who, but be forewarned, not everyone makes it out alive. Sad, but true. I will admit that I shed a few tears as I read this book. The end really pulls at your heartstrings and puts forth a final test that left my mouth hanging open. Be prepared, because the rollercoaster ride starts as soon as you open the book and goes non-stop all the way.

I enjoyed Rapture, but I am glad that it is over. So many books stretch their stories out over years and at times it can very frustrating waiting for the next book (ahem, Mortal Instruments, ahem).  Especially when you realize as you are reading that the books actually only span about a two week time span. A two week time span that took more than two years to read. It’s nice to get to the end of a series, and have it end satisfactorily. If you haven’t read the Fallen series, I recommend reading it, especially because you can read all four books straight through. So grab it, settle in and get ready for an amazing ride.

My grade for Rapture by Lauren Kate: