Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wicked Little Secrets by Kara Taylor

Readers, I'm facing a real dilemma this week. I have time off! This means I have an ample amount of time to read. Why is this a problem, you might ask? Because it means I have to pick what to read - and I have lots to choose from!

Considering I have a ton of series and trilogies partially started and unfinished currently waiting in my TBR, I decided one of those would be a good place to start. Kara Taylor's Prep School Confidential was quite a pleasant surprise last year. It was well plotted and featured a cast of characters that I kind of adored. And yet, when Wicked Little Secrets and then Deadly Little Sins released in March and August (respectively) I didn't immediately devour them. Ugh. I hate when I do that.

Wicked Little Secrets picks up immediately after Prep School Confidential. Having solved the mystery of her roommate's murder, Anne finds herself now focused on that of Matt Weaver. He's a legend at Wheatley Prep and - before her murder - Isabella had been digging up dirt on his disappearance. Anne's discovery of a crew team picture with the words "they killed him" penned on the back is enough to pique her curiosity. Learning that her boyfriend's father could have been involved in the decades-old missing persons case causes tension in Anne's budding relationship and her tendency to poke her nose into sticky situations soon lands her in hot water... again.

While the relationship issues/love triangle do get a bit more heavy handed in this second of the trilogy, overall it's a perfect follow up to such a fabulously fun kick off!

I love these books because Anne is so feisty and stubborn. And I like that Anne's not a typical outsider looking in or unpopular girl, as one would probably expect with a boarding school setting. She's amongst her peers, she has good friends, and she's reasonably well adjusted. In other words, she's a pretty normal, average teen. She's just a bit of a troublemaker. Or it might be better stated that she's often caught getting in trouble.

These are also fun because the mysteries themselves are so well thought out and believable. Anne has to go to class. She has to pass tests. She does get caught sneaking out. She is limited by her age and she does have to rely on outside - adult - help (i.e. the cops). Taylor manages to do all of this without getting overly cheesy or contrived.

I'll be jumping into the third and final title shortly - both to avoid my usual procrastination in completing series and to see what's up with the big reveal Taylor dropped on her character at the end of Wicked Little Secrets.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books in my Winter TBR

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: top ten titles in my winter TBR. I'm going to limit this to books that I currently have on hand, just to make this a little easier on myself (so no wish list titles or books I plan to buy).

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Releases 11/25/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Betrayed by Lisa Scottline

Symbiont by Mira Grant

Wild Cards III: Jokers Wild ed by George R. R. Martin

Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne

The Whispering by Sarah Rayne

The Darkest Touch by Gena Showalter

Wicked Ways by Lisa Jackson & Nancy Bush

We All Go Down Together  by Gemma Files

Knife Fight and Other Stories by David Nickel

Hope to Die by James Patterson

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

Endsinger by Jay Kristoff

Captive by Aimée Carter

New on DVD:
What If
The Giver
The November Man
Expendables 3

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Merciless by Danielle Vega

Okey dokey! I realized I'm not doing as badly on the Debut Author Challenge as I'd thought! Here's the rundown of what I've read and when I read them:

Jan: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
Feb: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Feb: Fates by Lanie Brass
March: Red Rising by Pierce Brown
April: Sekret by Lindsay Smith
May: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (admittedly folks are on the fence about counting this one as it was an adult release cross marketed to teens)
July: The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco
August: Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
September: The Jewel by Amy Ewing
October: Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
November: Stone Cove Island by Suzanne Myers

So even though I didn't have a June book, my two Febs have me all caught up. And the actual accounting of the challenge did fall apart as it transitioned from one host to another, so those middle titles never made it to any link ups.

Before I put all that together I was rushing to squeeze in a few more books before the year rolls to an end and decided Danielle Vega's The Merciless would be my next read.

Sofia is used to being the new girl in town. Her mom is a military medical technician, which means they move around a lot. It makes it hard to have real friends, but Sofia has high hopes for their newest home. The town is called Friend, after all. 

Sofia finds herself pretty quickly embraced by one of the school's cliques and is accepted and embraced for the first time that she can remember. But something isn't quite right with new pals Riley, Grace, and Alexis. They have a weird obsession with another girl in school and are seemingly convinced that the girl is evil. And not just mean girl evil, biblical evil. Riley convinces the group that this girl needs to be saved, but even Sofia couldn't guess how far Riley and her friends are willing to go. 

The Merciless released in June and I heard absolutely nothing about it. Which was weird because it falls right there in the teen horror category and I love horror of any kind. Anyway, it's a Razorbill release and part of Alloy Entertainment's growing list of titles. I discovered, too, that while this does fit the DAC challenge it actually isn't the author's debut. Danielle Rollins writes tweens as Ellie Robbins and horror as Danielle Vega - Merciless is the debut title for her Vega pseudonym.

The action kicks off a little too quickly in The Merciless for my taste - I would have liked a chance to get to know the girls a bit more, or at least feel like Sofia had a chance to get to know them more before diving so readily into their schemes. I didn't feel comfortable that I knew enough to believe that Sofia would so readily join in on Riley's or Brooklyn's plots. Not that I couldn't believe it, just that I didn't know her well enough as things started rolling along.

Once they get down to the real dirty plot, though, this book takes off!

I kind of liked that I knew little about the book going in because it made the story that much more shocking and surprising for me. And The Merciless is just that: shocking and surprising. So yeah, I'll let you be surprised as well and not give away anything more about the plot or the premise but this was definitely a dark and fun return to some of the 90s horror movies I remember from my teen years!

BTW - this has horror movie blockbuster written all over it and it looks to be possibly in development - according to Vega's Twitter.

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

Oh, yay! 2015 looks to be the year ALL of my favorites release new titles!

I had the great pleasure of discovering Camille DeAngelis's work back in 2010 with her release Petty Magic. It was really a phenomenal read and one I recommend to anyone looking for a witchy and witty tale. Since then I've been waiting for her to come out with something new and now the wait is finally almost over!

Bones & All is due out from St. Martins Press in March. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to tide you over until then:

Maren Yearly doesn’t just break hearts, she devours them. 

Since she was a baby, Maren has had what you might call "an issue" with affection. Anytime someone cares for her too much, she can’t seem to stop herself from eating them. Abandoned by her mother at the age of 16, Maren goes looking for the father she has never known, but finds more than she bargained for along the way. 

Faced with love, fellow eaters, and enemies for the first time in her life, Maren realizes she isn’t just looking for her father, she is looking for herself. The real question is, will she like the girl she finds?

Aren't you just dying to read it? I know I am!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: Two Orbs Prequels by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

I've been in the mood for a good alien invasion book for a while now - it's a result of my own attempt to make room for more traditional science fiction in my reading list AND the new Simon451 releases I've been delving into (which have only left me craving more). And given that I've still got Simon451's Nicholas Sansbury Smith releases releases to dive into ready to go on my ereader, I figured it was time.

But I read these backwards, starting with "White Sands" rather than "Solar Storms," something I have to consider a bit of a mistake. See, it's not until almost the end of "White Sands" that the story's timeframe becomes somewhat clearer, with a mention of the "solar storms of 2055." Anyway, that was my mistake but it certainly didn't make "White Sands" any less fun! I've since gone back and read "Solar Storms" though and am going to cover them in order here.

In "Solar Storms," Doctors Sophie Winston and Emanuel Rodriguez have been tasked to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for what they believe is a NASA operation. Upon arrival, they learn that recent sun activity suggests an anomalous event that could be catastrophic to Earth. Massive solar flares seem to be increasing in size and frequency and it seems to be just a matter of time before they hit our planet. Sophie and Emanuel have both studied varied effects of such an event but the CME hits before they can even begin to theorize what might be causing it. Now everything has changed and surviving the storm is just the beginning. 

"Solar Storms" honestly did clear up a few things for me. Some of the when and the what are revealed, and we're given a bit of a look into NTC's involvement at this early stage as well as the government's... response... (I've since started Orbs, so I know Sophie makes a return). There's a very menacing overtone to the whole story what with the questions surround the cause of the flares and Sophie's initial discoveries pertaining to that matter.

"White Sands" begins with brothers Jeff and David (and stepmom Paula) headed to meet their dad for their annual visit. Dad - Michael Fitz - is a guard working for the New Tech Corporation, based at their White Sands Missile Range location. 

The visit is off to a rocky start when Paula and the kids are redirected after witnessing what they believe is a test flight of one of NTC's new prototypes. Unbeknownst to Fitz's family - and much of the base staff - NTC has intel that indicates an alien landing is imminent. While some of the company's top scientists are boarding a shuttle that will take them off world to a new potential colony, Fitz and his sons are going to witness the beginnings of a hostile invasion firsthand. 

Hmmm. And things have now gotten much more interesting and much more complicated. The beings actually do make contact in "White Sands" and it is creepy as hell! But what I find even more chilling is the obvious way the powers that be have kept it all from everyone! Of course that begins in "Solar Storms" but it's much, much worse by the time "White Sands" takes place.

So far I'm finding Nicholas Sansbury Smith's work to be quite entertaining. These are sci fi tales that even I can wrap my brain around, so they're not terribly heavy on the actual science part. There is enough present, though, to set a nice tone and scene for the series.

"Solar Storms," "White Sands," Orbs and Orbs II: Stranded are out now. Orbs III: Redemption and another prequel short, "Red Sands," are due out next year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Want You Dead by Peter James

In spite of all the rage and abuse, Red believed that Bryce was the one. They met through an online dating site and were together for almost two years before she discovered that everything about him was a lie. With the help of the police, Red has moved on and has begun rebuilding her life. But getting away from Bryce is no easy task. 

When Red's new boyfriend is found dead, burnt to death in an apparent suicide, Red realizes that Bryce is still very much a part of her life. As his presence becomes more apparent, more incidents occur and it isn't long before the police begin to put the pieces together. But Bryce is a master in the art of concealment and catching him before it's too late for Red may be the ultimate challenge. 

Want You Dead is the tenth book in Peter James's Roy Grace series. Grace, a major crimes officer in Brighton, and his fellow characters do have a very clearly well-developed history in this series. While it is somewhat easy to slip into this latest, it's apparent very early on that this cast of characters has been through a lot together. It's this established backstory that I find always draws me into a series and I really felt like I was missing out by not being privy to that.

There's also a key subplot concerning Grace and his missing wife, an element that apparently traces all the way back to the series debut, Dead Simple. As an aside, I really wish I'd known the story concerning Sandy before reading this one. She comes out of left field for a newbie where she's apparently been haunting Grace for ten titles!    

There's nothing subtle in this story at all. In fact, that's my main complaint with the book. The criminal mastermind is kind of reminiscent of something you'd see in an old Bond movie - really over the top monstrous. The plot unfolds mostly as you would expect with the only real surprises coming in the form of über violent details.

That said, if you're looking for a fast-paced and pretty brutal police procedural, Peter James has a knack for just that. The story rips along at a frenetic pace with short (some super short) chapters and lots of action. The bad guy here is really bad, the danger to Red and those around her is undeniable, and the police efforts to find their culprit become almost frantic. 

Rating: 2.5/5

If you're like me and wary of beginning so far in, the full title list (in series order) is:

Dead Simple
Looking Good Dead
Not Dead Enough
Dead Man's Footsteps
Dead Tomorrow
Dead Like You
Dead Man's Grip
Not Dead Yet
Dead Man's Time
Want You Dead