ARC Reviews – June 2015

This month, half of my ARCs had a musician love interest, which is funny, but also says a lot about me personally.

  • Grunge Gods and Graveyards – Kimberly G. Giarratano: “I was intrigued by the cover, and I’m automatically drawn to books where the love interest is a musician (it was an bonus that he also happened to be a ghost), so I figured I’d give this one a shot. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would!” (4 interrobangs)
  • The Lady in Blue – Kimberly G. Giarratano: “..since I was intrigued by the Lady in Blue in [Grunge Gods and Graveyards], I was more than happy to find out a little bit more about Lana Bloom.This self-published sequel came out a couple of months ago and it does a fine job of filling in the gaps.” (5 interrobangs)
  • Devil’s Daughter – Hope Schenk-de Michele and Paul Marquez: “It had a great plot and some interesting moments but, while it had an open ending, I’m not tearing down the house in anticipating for the sequel. Definitely a good change from most of the other angel-based YA out there, though.” (3.5 interrobangs)
  • Fractured Dream – K.M. Randall: “It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read ever, but I couldn’t really get into it (despite finishing it!). I’m certain there are people who will devour this, but I just couldn’t connect with anyone enough to care what happened to them.” (2.5 interrobangs)
  • Date with a Rockstar – Sarah Gagnon: “This was one of those books where part of me was going “wow, this is cheesy/dramatic/over-the-top” and another part of me was going “I LOVE EVERYTHING THAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW”.” (4 interrobangs)
  • The Heartbreakers – Ali Novak: “If you’re in the mood for a fluffy fanfic, then this will be your jam. There are some serious moments (Cara does have cancer, after all), but it veers around truly emotional territories.” (2.5 interrobangs)

Overall, it was an interesting month for ARCs, with a nice mix of hits and misses. What have you read this month?

Fiction Friday Round-Up – June 5th, 2015

This was a pretty busy week; among other things, Jane and I launched our new pop culture website, Mind the Gap (which you should totally check out because we have a lot of great content!). But I also managed to completely catch up on the Flavia de Luce series, and finished a couple of ARCs. As always, please click the titles for the full review!

  • As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust – Alan Bradley: “The series is no longer simply a collection of unrelated mysteries; it started to hint at the bigger picture and Flavia’s role within that larger narrative.”
  • Devil’s Daughter – Hope Schenk de-Michele and Paul Marquez: “It had a great plot and some interesting moments but, while it had an open ending, I’m not tearing down the house in anticipating for the sequel. Definitely a good change from most of the other angel-based YA out there, though.”
  • Grunge Gods and Graveyards – Kimberly G. Giarratano: “If I was trying to pitch this book, I’d say it was a combination of Melissa Marr’s Made for You and Elizabeth Chandler’s Kissed by an Angel but with more ghosts and, well, grunge (those are all good things, by the way).”

Last week, I read a truly disappointing ARC:

  • Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas: “I’m sure there’s an audience for it, but this is one of those rare cases where I feel too old to read this and I think it would be better received by readers aged 12-14”.

But I also read a great female-centric comic book, so it sort of evened out!

  • Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass & Sorcery – Kurtis J. Wiebe: “There are also light, funny moments in between all the fighting; whether it’s Betty packing candy and drugs for dinner again or Dee being anti-social i.e. reading a book at a party, you get a good glimpse at the queens’ personalities.”

ARC Review: Devil’s Daughter – Hope Schenk-de Michele and Paul Marquez

Devil’s Daughter – Hope Schenk-de Michele and Paul Marquez

22980192Lucinda is as old as humanity itself, yet perpetually young, beautiful, and endowed with supernatural powers. She lives a double life human and immortal. In her human guise, she manages Lucinda’s Pawnshop & Antiquary, the doors of which can open to any street anywhere in the world at any time. Mortals who have arrived at a moral or spiritual crossroads are drawn into the mysterious shop. If they acquire one of its cursed artifacts, they may find themselves drafted into Lucifer’s service.

Born out of a betrayal of trust between the first woman, Eve, and father Lucifer, Lucinda has worked covertly and subtly for millennia to be true to her mother’s love by subverting her father’s schemes. She wins freedom for some; Lucifer keeps those who fail for eternity. She has to be careful, for Lucifer has placed her under the watchful eye of the fallen angel Nathaniel, whose real intentions are a mystery.Lucifer manipulates his army of corrupted souls to achieve his end game: to explode the tension between global powers, then create a charismatic anti-Christ to seemingly save the world with Lucinda as mother and a hand-picked human as father.

But Lucinda has her own plans. After centuries of seeming distance from humanity, she falls in love with a mortal man, which threatens to derail Lucifer’s plans to trigger Armageddon. This book follows Lucinda’s torturous relationship with her supernatural father, as she strives to secretly undermine his crusade to destroy mankind. How deep does Lucinda’s humanity go? Where do her true loyalties lie? Is she her father’s ally, or her mother’s child? And if the Devil’s daughter will not love a man he can control, can Lucifer control the man she loves?

Release Date: July 14th, 2015

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

That’s like the longest summary in the world, but it gives a good idea of what the book was about.

I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it as much as I hoped.

What I liked:

-the cover is beautiful. There are FLAMES in that eye. FLAMES!

-it was a great angel-devil story that DIDN’T make Nephilim the main focus (in fact, they were only mentioned briefly and that was in reference to something else).

-the female characters weren’t helpless damsels; they had agency and their own powers – either literally, in the case of Lucinda and Janine, but also in a figurative way, like how Brittany’s ethical convictions won over her need to have a high-paying job.

-there were some surprisingly dark moments. You’d think I’d have been prepared, since I was reading a book about the (literal) spawn of Satan, but I was still shocked when someone’s head got chopped off. I was not expecting it, but I liked how the story took a dark turn.

-I liked this portrayal of Lucifer – imitating men with his physical appearance, but still being a bringer of chaos. I thought it was interesting that he was so calculating and devious and just not straight-up “I’m going to destroy everyone!”. I also liked how – in this one, at least – he wasn’t trying to make up for causing the Fall, which is what usually happens when Lucifer shows up in a YA novel. It sounds horrible to be rooting for the bad guy, but it’s almost nice to read about evil-Lucifer instead of repentant-Lucifer.

What I didn’t like:

-the chapters seemed long. It didn’t actually take me a long time to read, but I felt like it lasted ages. I think the pacing might have been a bit too slow for my personal taste.

-there was a lot of build-up, a lot of pieces of the puzzle which only sort of came together at the end. As far as I know, there will be a sequel, and this book was all about the set up without any real actions until the last few chapters. Admittedly, this is a good way to get people interested in the rest of the series (so many loose ends!), but I wasn’t expecting it to end so abruptly.

-there were some characters I didn’t particularly care for so their parts slowed down my reading. It didn’t help that their story lines were usually the ones that required some thought (I don’t understand the military or legal sectors at all).

It had a great plot and some interesting moments but, while it had an open ending, I’m not tearing down the house in anticipating for the sequel. Definitely a good change from most of the other angel-based YA out there, though.


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ARC Reviews – May 2015

This month, I’ve read four ARCs – one of which was for a blog tour – and just started a fifth. Here’s a round-up of what I read! (please click the titles for a full review)

  • Sing for Me – Gracie Madison: “I have complicated feelings about this book. It wasn’t bad per se, I just didn’t really enjoy it. I read the whole thing, though admittedly I started skimming at about 30%.” (2 interrobangs)
  • The Rearranged Life – Annika Sharma: “This book read like a cross between Bend it Like Beckham and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it was definitely interesting to read the descriptions and think about the differences between cultures…a cute summer read.” (3.5 interrobangs)
  • The Blooming Goddess Trilogy – Tellulah Darling: “I really enjoyed this series: it was fluffy at times but still had a strong plot. The writing was funny and compelling, and if you like contemporary takes on Greek mythology, you’ll love Sophie’s world.” (4.5 interrobangs)
  • Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas: “I’m sure there’s an audience for it, but this is one of those rare cases where I feel too old to read this and I think it would be better received by readers aged 12-14.” (2 interobangs)

I just started reading Devil’s Daughter and it’s interesting so far – hopefully I’ll have a review for it up next week!

What ARCs have you read this month? Anything I should look forward to?

ARC Review: Sing For Me – Gracie Madison

Sing For Me – Gracie Madison

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00007]Madeline Noel fled war-torn Heaven to hide within the mortal world, but the blessing that could protect her from evil is the holy realm’s forbidden power.

As a talented soprano for the Eden Theatre Company, Madeline hides among prima donnas and tone-deaf flutists. Her perfect voice may entertain audiences, but a careless laugh may shatter glass, and her greatest scream can kill. To control her unrestrained voice, the angels forbid Madeline from embracing the emotions that strengthen her song. Anger. Fear.


The demon-hunter Damascus vows to defend Madeline from Hell’s relentless evil, but he cannot protect her from her own feelings. Though they deny their dangerous attraction, her guardian becomes her greatest temptation.

Surrendering to desire may awaken the gift suppressed within Madeline’s soul, and neither Heaven nor Hell will allow such absolute power to exist.

Release Date: January 21st, 2015

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

This is one of the first NA (new adult) books I’ve read and, frankly, my thoughts on “NA” as a category could take up an entire post (hey, that’s a good idea…), but I wasn’t sure what to expect going in.

I have complicated feelings about this book. It wasn’t bad per se, I just didn’t really enjoy it. I read the whole thing, though admittedly I started skimming at about 30%. I considered abandoning it, but sheer stubbornness compelled me to read to the very end.

What I liked:

-the cover!! And the title!! It made me think of The Phantom of the Opera (which I love), and I kept singing “Think of Me” every time Madeline was on stage, so that was nice.

-the premise. A powerful voice that could literally destroy things/people? She’s like Operetta from Monster High (yeah, I know that’s a really odd reference, but Operetta is the best)!

-of all the characters, I liked Shiloh the most, but since his every other sentence was winked or smirked at someone, he started to grate on my nerves as the book went on.

-I loved that the angels were named after cities (or rather, the cities were named after the angels): Damascus, Shiloh, Tyre, Philippi, Corinth – that’s pretty cool.

What I didn’t like:

-I can’t pinpoint exactly what I didn’t like. I was just bored. I couldn’t connect to any of the characters so I didn’t really care whether they lived or died (I kinda wanted someone to die so that the story would devolve into chaos).

-it was somewhat predictable i.e. I totally saw the thing with Natalie coming (and Madeline being “named” – I mean, it was pretty obvious).

-Danielle was beyond annoying and I couldn’t even feel sorry for her poor relationship.

-that strange “even though I love her, I’m gonna say it was rape so they don’t kill her” plot point. I feel that’s problematic but I don’t have the words to explain why.

-I was very confused with the Veil. Maybe I skipped the part where it explained exactly what the Veil was, but first I thought it was her mortal shell (but then was Damascus attracted to her mortal appearance but not her real Choir appearance??), then I thought it was like an invisible protective shield (to hide her, I guess, from Corinth), and now I’m at a complete loss.

Overall, it felt a lot longer than it was. The writing was great and there were some really lyrical sentences (although it was the type of book where everything “damned” everything else ex. his love damned them all, her voice damned the world, etc). I just could not get into it though I’m positive there’s an audience out there who will love this book. Unfortunately, that audience doesn’t include me.


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Fiction Friday Round-Up – March 13, 2015

This week saw me FINALLY FINISH a series I’ve been reading for at least 4-5 years. But I only read one other book, so did I really win this week? I don’t think so.

  • The Fallen Series – Thomas E. Sniegoski: “It has a pretty good story line, though as Ro pointed out, just ONCE it would be nice if the Powers weren’t trying to kill Nephilim and were actually trying to be helpful.”
  • Playlist for the Dead – Michelle Falkoff: “Each chapter title is a song off of Hayden’s playlist[…]later, I was sobbing over “Adam’s Song” (blink-182), so it all evened out.”

The Fallen Series – Thomas E. Sniegoski

The Fallen and Leviathan
Aaron Corbet isn’t a bad kid—he’s just a little different. And starting on the eve of his eighteenth birthday, Aaron begins to discover supernatural talents. Then he learns the truth about his destiny: He must unite angels, mortals, and Powers both good and evil, some of whom are hell-bent on his destruction….

Aerie and Reckoning

Aaron’s senior year has been anything but typical. Half-angel and half-human, he has been charged to reunite the Fallen with Heaven. But the leader of the Dark Powers is determined to destroy Aaron—and all hope of angelic reconciliation.
Struggling to harness the incredible force within him, Aaron trains for the ultimate battle. With the Dark Powers building in strength and numbers, their clash may come sooner than he expects. And everyone who’s ever mattered to Aaron is now in grave danger.
Aaron must protect the girl he loves and rescue the only family he’s ever known. Because if he can’t save them from the Dark Powers, how can he hope to save the Fallen?

End of Days
The war between Heaven and Hell rages on. Aaron, half-angel and half-human, commands the Fallen in their quest to protect humanity. But evil forces gain strength at every turn. And lurking somewhere in the shadows is Archangel Gabriel’s instrument with the power to call down the End of Days.
Aaron draws confidence from the girl he loves as he struggles to make peace with his legacy as Lucifer’s son. These are desperate times, and Aaron knows the Fallen will need to forge new, unlikely alliances to survive.
With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Aaron will stop at nothing to defend civilization—and the girl who holds his heart.  Even if it means facing Hell’s darkest demons.

The war between Heaven and Hell rages on. The devil has possessed Lucifer’s body and is intent on unleashing unfathomable chaos in the world. But no matter the cost, Aaron and the other Nephilim are determined to protect humanity.
As the casualties mount around them, Aaron and his beloved Vilma’s loyalty and faith will be tested. And in this next installment of the The Fallen series, they’re out to prove that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….

Satan is determined to create his own Hell on Earth and has unleashed unfathomable chaos into the world. Cut off from Heaven, humanity’s only hope for salvation rests with eighteen-year-old Aaron and the other Nephilim who fight by his side. These angelic warriors will protect civilization and restore God’s favor no matter the cost. But there can be only one champion—and defeat is eternal.
The battle lines have been drawn. Armageddon is here.

I’ve been reading this series for several years. The last book, Armageddon came out in 2012 but it took me a while to buy it and then I had to re-read the first four volumes because I honestly couldn’t remember much.

There will be SPOILERS here, just so you know.

It has a pretty good story line, though as Ro pointed out, just ONCE it would be nice if the Powers weren’t trying to kill Nephilim and were actually trying to be helpful.

AARON IS THE SON OF LUCIFER!! When I first read it, was a pretty shocking moment, but it was also spectacular. I think Lucifer was actually my favourite character in the series – he was so misunderstood, but really had a heart of gold.

It’s also interesting that there were a LOT of other “creatures”, not just angels. Which was amazing when they first started popping up but then honestly got a little tiresome because I felt like he was just throwing them in for funsies, so that you ended up feeling like this:


Because what the heck was even happening? Also, why are dragons always evil? Why can’t they be good? And the yetis weren’t as fabulous as I hoped they’d be (but props for including yetis in the first place!).

Stylistically, I had two issues:

1) His use of the word “upon” when “on” could have worked just as well (I remember noticing this when I read them the first time and it still grates on my nerves). It just comes across as sounding more hoity-toity than the subject matter would suggest.

2) Multiple viewpoints. I don’t mind multiple viewpoints, but I generally like them more if it’s limited to 2-3 people. When you have seven different story lines going on, it gets tedious, especially if you don’t like one (or more!) of the “main” characters. Like when what’s-his-face and the other guy were looking for the Metatron’s powers? Yeah, didn’t need their point of view. Because then I knew they had found the powers, so there wasn’t a “WOW, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!” moment at the end.bored-clapping-hermione

I felt more like this.

That’s the worst part about multiple POVs: you have the potential to create a shocking moment, but if you’ve already told me it’s going to happen, then I feel nothing when it actually does. See also: Cassandra Clare.

Plot-wise, I had three issues (well, four, if you count the thing I said earlier about the other creatures):

1) Gabriel. Maybe it’s just because I’m not an “animal lover”, but Gabe often annoyed me. And the thing near the end when he was the “receptacle” for God…that moment reminded me of the “Harry and Dumbledore at King’s Cross” scene near the end of Deathly Hallows (minus the creepy baby thing).


“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

2) I didn’t fully believe in the Vilma/Aaron relationship (actually, all of the relationships fell flat for me). The attempt at a love triangle was awkward at best and, while romance wasn’t at the forefront of the plot, let’s keep in mind that Lucifer basically re-invented himself after meeting a woman (and knocking her up) (also all the other fallen angels who got busy with human women). So yeah, I’d say that love is a pretty big deal in their world, but you wouldn’t know it from the mediocre relationships portrayed in this book.

My favourite relationship was Lorelei and Lucifer, and they weren’t even a couple! I sort of wish they had been, though I guess that would have changed the whole last book.

3) Verchiel. Were there really no other angels that could have shown up? I get that he was helping them so that he would redeem himself for his past errors, but it doesn’t even end with him being pardoned and going back to Heaven, so what was even the point?

All in all, it was a decent series. The first couple of books were better;  the “original quartet” (The FallenLeviathanAerie, and Reckoning) were all written in the early 2000’s (2003-2004), while the last half of the series was released from 2010 onwards. I liked the way Reckoning ended, he could have stopped there, but alas, he continued. Forsaken felt like a filler book and if it had been combined (and obviously condensed) with End of Days, I think it would have avoided that mid-series slump where you’re not actually learning anything new and you’re just prolonging the inevitable. Plus Armageddon could have moved a smidge faster.

Sure, it ended well anyway with everything all nicely tied up, but again, the lackluster relationships up until that point meant I didn’t gush over it the way I would have if I had actually believed in the couples.

P.S. Enoch as a baby reminded me of this (and I’ve only seen like 2 episodes of Family Guy) only less foul-mouthed:

giphyP.P.S. These covers are soooooo much better than the originals (scroll all the way down). Yes, I’m superficial.

P.P.P.S. Kudos to him for being literally years ahead of the “diversity debate” and having a Portuguese heroine (Vilma).

Even though pretty much everyone else was white (as far as I could tell).

Shadows // Haze – Paula Weston

It’s almost a year since Gaby Winters watched her twin brother die. In the sunshine of a new town her body has healed, but her grief is raw and constant. It doesn’t help that every night in her dreams she fights and kills hell-beasts. And then Rafa comes to town. Not only does he look exactly like the guy who’s been appearing in Gaby’s dreams, he tells her things about her brother and her life that cannot be true, things that are dangerous. Who is Rafa? Who are the Rephaim? And who is Gaby? The truth lies in the shadows of her nightmares.


Gaby Winters’ life used to be pretty normal. She lived with her best friend. She worked in a library. She was slowly getting over the death of her twin brother, Jude. And then Rafa came looking for her.
With him, her blood-soaked nightmares stopped. But now they are reality. She is one of the Rephaim – a wingless half angel, descended from the Fallen. Demons exist and they are hunting her.

She knows she’s alive when she’s meant to be dead. And that means maybe Jude is too. So why isn’t she out there looking for him?

FAIR WARNING: There are probably going to be spoilers here. Consider yourself warned.

Remember when fallen angels were all the rage? I know I’ve read a handful of series about Nephilim (half-angel, half-human), but I hadn’t picked up a new series about angelic offspring in a while and these books sounded great.

I liked them…I just didn’t love them.

For one, I had a hard time connecting with the characters. Gaby is that girl you expect to die quickly in any book/movie/TV show because she often makes stupid decisions. For example:

Gaby: Hey, let’s return to that place where we saw the bad guys yesterday. They won’t think to check back there, right?
Literally everyone else: No, Gaby, that’s not the best ide-
Gaby: Too late, I’m here. Wow, this really is dangerous, isn’t it? *people die/get stabbed/are ambushed/kidnapped, etc*

In her defense, she always had to go back for the humans (i.e. non-Nephilim/Rephaim). But I did not like the human characters. Well, Maggie was fine, but the rednecks – are they called rednecks in Australia? – were annoying, and Simon was so Simon-from-The Mortal Instruments (who I can’t stand) in that “I love the protagonist, but when she shuns me for the hottie from “her world”, I’m gonna rebound with this random chick who may or may not endanger my life”.

Replace “Sean” with “Simon” and that’s exactly how I feel.

My favourite character was Jude, and he didn’t even show up until 320+ pages into the sequel. I wish he had shown up earlier, he almost made the wait worthwhile.

On a related note: this is a series where a lot happens in the span of a week, but it takes so long to describe, it feels like it’s taking years. It took 300 pages before Gaby gets it together enough to go look for her TWIN BROTHER who she THOUGHT WAS DEAD because she was too busy proving herself to the rebellious Mya and/or making out with Rafa. I mean, I like Rafa as much as the next girl, but honestly, Gaby.

You tell her, Ron.

Also, Gaby’s lack of memories is SO FRUSTRATING. I realize that it’s frustrating for her, and it’s not her fault she can’t remember, but what about the other 7 Rephaim who know things about her but refuse to tell her? This, I think, is part of the reason why I feel like the pacing was too slow. Stop torturing me and just spill the beans already!

But then there was a “what the frick-frack?!” moment at the end that basically forces you into wanting to read the next book. Kudos, Paula Weston, just when I’d given up, you managed to hook me along for the rest of the ride. I’m impressed. Bring on Shimmer!