Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: UNDERDOGS by Markus Zusak

Title/ Author: Underdogs (Wolfe Brothers #1,#2& #3) by Markus Zusak
Genre: YA, contemporary
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: From the bestselling author of THE BOOK THIEF

Before THE BOOK THIEF, Markus Zusak wrote a trilogy of novels about the Wolfe Brothers: THE UNDERDOG, FIGHTING RUBEN WOLFE, and GETTING THE GIRL. Cameron and Ruben Wolfe are champions at getting into fights, coming up with half-baked schemes, and generally disappointing girls, their parents, and their much more motivated older siblings. They're intensely loyal to each other, brothers at their best and at their very worst. But when Cameron falls head over heels for Ruben's girlfriend, the strength of their bond is tested to its breaking point.

We're proud to present these novels together for the first time, and to be introducing American readers to THE UNDERDOG, never before published in the United States. Fans of THE BOOK THIEF won't want to miss reading the novels that launched Markus Zusak's stellar career.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I decided to just review this addition so I can review all three books together in order to compare them. They were, of course, brother stories, and that always makes me enjoy things so much more and I really did love reading about the Wolfe brothers.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Meh, it's okay. Nothing really special, but I do like silhouettes as opposed to character impersonators.

Characters: These are definitely character driven stories, so having good characters is very important, and I ended up really liking Cameron and Ruben Wolfe. Their dynamic was so true to life between siblings and especially brothers that I couldn't help but love them. Just the way they interacted, and lovingly abused each other and always got into trouble together was so perfect. It's obvious that the author had lots of personal experience between siblings, so many writers can't get it correctly and I think it's because they either are only children or had a poor relationship with their siblings. These books were perfect though, and even the 'chick flick' moments between them were perfect, not too mushy, but enough to get the point across. I also liked reading about the rest of their family. Their overachieving older brother who originally thought they were losers and their older sister who they were protective of as they should be, which I thought was sweet. And their parents having to deal with it all and not going crazy, like the boys, I came to appreciate them as well. What I loved most though, was how the dynamic on the family only grew through the hardships they went through and became closer. None of the characters in this were static, they were all very dynamic and enjoyable to read about. Oh yes, and how could I forget Miffy the Pomeranian? I grew to love that dog as much as the boys did, even though they would never really admit it ;)

The Romance: No romance until book three Getting the Girl and that romance between Cam and Octavia was actually very sweet and enjoyable to read about. And don't worry, despite what it sounds like, it's really not a love triangle between her and the brothers, otherwise I would have hated it. I didn't totally understand the problems that ensued from Octavia's standpoint, but I liked how it was quietly reconciled. Book Three, however, really turned more into a story about the brothers reconciling than an actual romance which only got more points from me.

Writing Style: I think it's fair to point out that the first book The Underdog was the author's first novel and it tells, it really wasn't that good, and the writing style was a little jerky, but the second one is much better and the third even better than that. It's written in Cam's voice and Cam being a teenage boy, it is understandable that the thought process is a little disjointed and it actually made it easier for me to get into his head. I really liked how there was a little extra bit at the end of each chapter though; in the first book, it was a recounting of one of Cam's dreams, in the second, a conversation he had with Ruben, and in the third, one of his writings that he took up. I really like it when authors do stuff like that and it kind of helps to end the chapters and go to the next more smoothly.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not much you can mess up in contemporary, but I will say again that the relationship the brothers shared was very true to life.

Problems/What bothered me: Not really any major problems, I was afraid things would get messier than they did in the third book, but everything turned out right. Several times I wanted to shake my head at the boys for the choices they made, but they were very realistic characters and I can't hate them for being human.

Conclusion: The Underdog: 3 stars Fighting Ruben Wolfe: 4 stars Getting The Girl: 4 stars. I really enjoyed this series and I'm glad I decided to pick them up. I wanted brother stores and I was not disappointed. The brother feels at the end of Fighting Ruben Wolfe were lovely and I actually teared up during the 'he ain't heavy, he's my brother moment' in Getting The Girl Just lovely :)

Recommended Audience: Good guy read, ages 17 and up, if you love sibling stories, definitely check these out, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: THE VISCONTI HOUSE by Elsbeth Edgar

Title/ Author: The Visconti House by Elsbeth Edgar
Genre: YA, mystery, contemporary
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis:Fourteen-year-old Laura Horton doesn't quite fit in. She lives in a grand crumbling mansion on the edge of town that everyone calls "the haunted house," and she has more in common with her parents' eccentric artist friends than with the girls at school. So when loner Leon Murphy moves in next door, Laura avoids him at first; she doesn't need anything else different or weird in her life. But when Laura becomes obsessed with uncovering the history of her house--the Visconti House-- she finds that Leon understands her need to know what happened to the lonely Italian gentleman who built it. Together, Laura and Leon begin to unearth the mansion's history, a history of elegant dances, thwarted love, and secret rooms. In their quest for the truth, the unlikely pair forms a deep friendship. But will their friendship, sparked by a shared interest in the past, survive the present?


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I actually got this book because I thought it was a ghost story, but it's not, it's actually just a mystery. However, I was still not disappointed with it and found it to be a very nice charming little almost coming of age story.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I do like the cover, I am always rather fond of simple silhouette artwork.

Characters:Laura was a nice character to read about. She was very quiet and slightly unassuming, but at the same time I was instantly drawn to her. Maybe because I was a little bit like her, though when I was younger. By the time I was her age I was a firebrand. Still, she's the kind of character a lot of introverted, artistic people can relate to, shy, for the most part living in her own world, and pretty much misunderstood and outcast from "normal" people. Her struggles were very realistic with the need to fit in, even if she wasn't entirely sure that she wanted to fit in with the other kids, and struggling through being for the most part alone. I also really liked Leon. He too was quiet, but more for his own reasons than that he was actually shy. He was more like I was at that age, secluded by choice, and he saw in Laura a kindred spirit that eventually grew into a friendship. I also liked the supporting characters, they provided a colorful backdrop to the story, but it's really Laura and Leon's story. I actually find it interesting and enjoyable that so much characterization can be crammed into such a short book, but it was.

The Romance: There's a little romance between Laura and Leon, but it grows from friendship and I enjoyed seeing that a lot.

Writing Style: It's a very simple, yet descriptive style. I was instantly pulled into this book from the first chapter, and was able to relate to Laura. The characters made the book come alive, but the storyline itself was intriguing enough to make me keep reading. I love stories set in old houses, especially old houses with secrets and this one did not disappoint. While not necessarily sensational in any way, there was still the anticipation of finding out about Mr. Visconti and his house, and seeing the friendship between Laura and Leon grow. This book actually reminded me of The Secret Garden in many ways, it kind of had the same feel to it.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not really anything to be accurate about, it's just a simple contemporary mystery.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing, it was just a nice little story.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I had a feeling when I saw the cover of this book that I was going to like it, and even if it wasn't what I thought it was going to be, I really enjoyed it. The ending was nice and happy and this made for a good in-between book for months of heavy reading.

Recommended Audience: Girl read ages 13 and up.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Beta Readers Wanted!

Hey everyone! This is a call for beta readers! I'm publishing a new book this fall and I want some people to preview it and give me their opinion to see if everything is sound or needs to be changed, or really, just to get people's opinions on it, writers are nothing without readers.

Here's the goods:

Title: Blood Ties (Modern Tales of Na Fianna #1)

Genre: Urban fantasy, YA

Synopsis: In an Ireland that mixes high kings, faeries, and modern warriors who drive fast cars, Ciran, a descendant from the famous warrior Fionn Mac Cool, bands together with a company of young warriors to go on a quest to recover their missing family members who were captured on patrol by the Goblins during a shaky peace between the two kingdoms. Ciran and his companions must figure out not only how they are going to rescue the prisoners, but how they are going to complete their mission without killing each other. This first book in the new urban fantasy series by Hazel West is a story of brotherhood and friendship against all odds, that mixes the ancient Irish legends with a modern setting for an action-packed read.

If you're interested in being a beta reader for Blood Ties, please email me at I'm looking for about five to seven people so it's first come first serve. I'll need it back by the end of September, and everyone who participates will receive a copy of the book when it is released in thanks for your help =)

Hope everyone is having a good August!

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Title/ Author: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Genre: Historical fantasy, Paranormal
Rating:  4/5 stars
Synopsis: Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call "Milk Sickness."

"My baby boy..." she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, "henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose..." Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: This has been a book I have put off reading for a long time. I'll admit, on paper it sounds completely ridiculous and stupid, but in actuality, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit, and I think it worked in a strangely twisted way.

Cover--Yea or Nay: This is the one I have, but I like the original cover much better.

Characters: Abraham Lincoln is essentially the Abe you know and love, but he kills vampires. I don't necessarily see this as a downside. This is just such a weirdly quirky book you kind of just have to take it for what it is. I liked his portrayal, and I liked a lot of the supporting characters too. I really did like Henry, and I also liked Abe's friends and fellow hunters Jack and Speed and there were obviously a lot of historical characters and some nice pop-ups like Poe. Overall I enjoyed reading about this version on Lincoln.

The Romance: Some romance but not really overwrought.

Writing Style: The writing style is what I feel ultimately saved this book. It's written in a biography style, which I don't always care for overmuch, depending on how it's done. This one, it worked with, because of the weird factor. In fact, I really liked it, and I don't think I would have liked this book half as much if it hadn't been written as such. The biographical narrative and the journal excerpts put together form an interesting feel to this historical paranormal story, and I approve. Not sure if I felt the prologue was a little cheesy or cliche. It wasn't terrible, but a little overdone. Of course, that might have been the intention as well.

Accuracy/ Believability: This period is not my division, so I'm no expert on it, and certainly no expert on Lincoln but from what I do know it seems that the historical parts of this story were definitely well-researched. And as for the vampires, I think the author did a really good job working them in and making them seem like a plausible addition to the historical setting. I don't find it completely hard to believe that if there were vampires in the south at this time period, that the rich landowners would be using them to make a little extra money. And also how some of the historical characters were vampires or vampire hunters ;)

Problems/What bothered me: Not much, really. This is one of those books that's either hit or miss, and once I realized I liked where it was going, I just went along for the ride.

Conclusion: 4 stars. An enjoyable if not a little wacky, summer read.

Recommended Audience: History buffs who want something alternate or paranormal, check this out. If you can't take a joke, don't bother.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

July Wrap Up and Book Haul

Hey everyone, back again with my monthly reading wrap up and book haul. I tried to fix the lighting for the videos so hopefully they won't be as dark as last time. And if you haven't checked out my Youtube channel yet, please do, I'm still working on things, but hopefully I'll be getting some different videos up too. And if you're a BookTuber, I'm doing follows for follows to get to know people =)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Review: GILDED by Christina Farley

Title/ Author: Gilded (Gilded #1) by Christina Farley
Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, mythology
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting in to a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she's next.

But that’s not Jae’s only problem.

There's also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae's heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own—one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae's been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she's always been looking for.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I love any book about mythology of any kind and since I knew next to nothing about Korean mythology this was a really fun book to read, and besides that it had a likable cast and was a good adventure. I was actually lucky enough to meet Christina Farley at an author event so I was doubly excited to read this book.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I love the covers for these books. It's what attracted me to them in the first place :)

Characters: Jae was a likable heroine. She was tough and smart but didn't really come across as having an attitude. I think she took herself a little too seriously on occasion, but that is just a human flaw that made her relatable. At the end of the day, she stepped up to do what she had to do and was willing to protect those she cared about. Marc was probably my favorite character in the book, he was a really nice guy and likable and even better, he allowed Jae to sort of accept help and made her, not vulnerable, but realize that she wasn't alone in her mission. I also really liked her grandfather, he was an interesting character, and I actually would have liked to have seen more of him. Same with her Aunt, but hopefully in later books. Haemosu was also a pretty awesome villain. He was classy and suave but obviously dangerous. He also made good on his threats which made him all the more realistic.

The Romance: Inevitably, there is a little romance between Jae and Marc, but it doesn't interrupt the storyline and I actually really liked them together :)

Writing Style: First person present tense from Jae's perspective. I didn't mind being in her head, and I think it was a good way to tell this story, with her finding out all about the strange things that are going on. The descriptions of the gods and mythological creatures was really cool, and I could easily picture what it is like to live in Korea, the descriptions of it were very vibrant. My favorite descriptions of it were of the Spirit World. They were really vivid and almost like a dream sequence which fit really well in my opinion. I also loved the build up of the story here. There were a lot of little twists and turns and all come together in the end and I liked seeing how things all fit together to end in an awesome climax and a cliffie. Overall a well crafted adventure story that made me want to read more. I also want to say that while Jae is joining the ranks of heroine archers, her skills actually have a place in the folklore so it's cool and not just cliche.

Accuracy/ Believability: As I said before I know nothing of Korean mythology and very little of the culture itself, but I do know the author lived in Korea for a while and did expensive research so I trust that she got it right! Reading this book definitely made me want to explore it more, though.

Problems/What bothered me: No real problems here. I really enjoyed this book.

Conclusion: 4 stars. A fun and interesting adventure novel. I really look forward to continuing the series!

Recommended Audience: Girl read ages 14 and up, Fans of urban mythology and fantasy would enjoy this one. Probably would appeal to Percy Jackson fans as well.