Reviewer for The Novel Approach

I decided I would share the links to reviews I do for The Novel Approach on my blog, as the books I get a chance to read are great. I also post the reviews on Goodreads, but these links will redirect you to The Novel Approach. I will also keep a list through my review pages.

Keep in mind, unless otherwise noted, these books are for mature audiences, and as such readers should be warned.

The Sensualist and the Untouched by Susan Laine – 12/26/14

Green the Whole Year ‘Round by Rowan McAllister – 12/31/14

On Wings of Song by Anne Barwell – 1/4/15

A Spartan Love by Kayla Jameth – 1/7/15

Slave Eternal by Nasia Maksima – 1/10/15

#bookaday – Day 4: Least favorite book by favorite author

This is a hard one. I have books I don’t like, but when I like an author, I tend to like ALL of the things they write. It’s hard to say which one is the “least favorite,” especially if it’s a series, because that just seems…strange. So I’m sitting here trying to write this post, staring at my bookshelves and trying to ponder the answer to this one. And it’s hard.

I think I got it now. There was a romance series of eight books I read many years ago. The series deals with eight brothers, four sets of twins, and a prophecy surrounding them. I liked how each of the brothers was different and had different powers. I thought the women, for the most part, were really great for the men. I do remember being disappointed with the fourth book, The Song, by Jean Johnson. I just didn’t think the woman paired with that brother was right. I don’t know why. I didn’t care for her too much, though she was nice enough. I also was upset with what happened to him in regards to his voice, and I wasn’t satisfied with the resolution at all.

Maybe I should reread the series, though. It’s been awhile and I did truly enjoy the world building.

Plus it was the first ever romance book I read cover to cover without putting down. And the first romance series I actually finished. I ended up collecting all of the books as trade paperbacks because I liked them so much. And if that doesn’t say something, well…

Book Review: The Adorned by John Tristan

My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.

A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.

But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.

Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered—and Roberd and myself along with it…

Wow.

I am left speechless and breathless at the end of this book, and find myself mourning that there is not more of this world for me to dive into. A five star rating system is not enough, and I feel that this book deserves its own category.

Normally I would wait to write a review until some time had passed, but at 1:30 in the morning I just can’t wait. I need to share how wonderful this book is. For the last twenty-four hours I have lived in Kered with Etan and Tallisk, and now that the book is over and I have left it, I feel like I have lost dear friends.

The book is long, but it is a carefully crafted journey that takes readers from the initial plight of Etan being turned out of his former home, his flight to the city, and how he ends up becoming one of the Adorned – a beautiful, living piece of art. His body becomes the canvas of Roberd Tallisk, a master tattooist whose art comes to life with the blood of the Blooded. Readers will follow Etan’s rise in fame as one of the popular Adorned, and see how he is used by the elite members of society for beauty, entertainment, pleasure, and more.

His growing love for Roberd is carefully nuanced throughout the novel, as are the feelings of Roberd for Etan. Told through Etan’s perspective, we see glimpses of it in his actions, but it can only be suspected. And though the protagonists are both men, their love is beautiful. Those who normally shy away from gay romances (or m/m, whichever you prefer) would be missing out on a superbly crafted tale. That said, if you prefer a…spicier gay romance, you won’t find that here. The scenes are subdued and fitting with the rest of the book.

There are moments of discord for the protagonists, though. The city is swept up with chaos, riots break out, and your heart will break. I felt like this story built me up into a wonderful cocoon of beauty and then sharply cut me out and cut me open. I admit I cried.

The ending is bittersweet, but a perfect ending is not always possible, even in fiction, even if we want it. And I think if the ending had been perfect, then all the trials Etan and Roberd went through would have cheapened the story.

This is a well-crafted novel. I am not only deeply saddened that it is over, but I regret that – since it is an e-book with a company that does not offer print – I will not be able to add this fine piece to my collection on my shelves. I will be revisiting this world often, and I look forward to more from John Tristan.

You can purchase this book on its release August 12, 2013 from Amazon.

Book Review: Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Blurb: The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.

Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.

For those who are too young to remember, or for those not yet born, September 11, 2001 might seem like some date in history. Maybe they know about it because their parents or older siblings talk about it sometimes. Or maybe they know about it because every year on that day their school does something to remember those who died. But for someone like me, who was just a year younger than the characters in the book, I remember all too vividly what happened on that terrible day. Reading this novel brought back every single emotion I felt on that day. Like Claire, I was mesmerized yet terrified by what happened. I may have been a state away in Connecticut, but it still shocked me to my core. In this book, author David Levithan has perfectly recreated those confusing days in the eyes of teenagers who experienced it.

The novel follows Claire, Peter, and Jasper. All three are loosely connected to each other. Claire and Peter go to school with each other, Peter and Jasper met at a party and were supposed to go on a date, and Jasper finds Claire on the street where she remembers him from that same party where he met Peter. Because of their shared experiences on 9/11, they form an unbreakable bond, and the book follows them in the days, weeks, months, and years after the events.
What I liked most about the book was how the characters always asked other people “where were you when it happened?” or “what were you doing?” For those that lived through this day, it’s a phrase that was heard often. I even tell my own students my story when they ask about it on September 11th every year: I was a junior in high school, gym class had just started, and we were getting ready to go outside to play tennis. We heard from someone who had heard from someone else who had heard it from a teacher, and of course we thought it was a joke. The teacher announced outside that a second plane had hit and we went back inside. I was in art class when the towers fell and I watched them on the television. I have never heard our school grow so quiet or felt more terror at one time in my entire life before or since.
Let Claire, Peter, and Jasper take you through that day, through their eyes, and from those around them. See how others grieved and started to move on. Like them, become a part of the history. Even if you weren’t there for it, even if you weren’t born yet, you can still get a taste of the horrors through this masterfully crafted novel from David Levithan.
You can purchase this book from Amazon.

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

The new zombie film Warm Bodies isn’t officially out until February 1st, however, because my friend is a Stubs member at AMC, I was able to get free advance screening passes for this past Wednesday.

For those who haven’t heard of the film, it is based on the book of the same title by Isaac Marion. After a former student shared a trailer for the film, I knew I had to see it. I didn’t know it was a book. When I stumbled upon the book at the store, I bought it and devoured it in a night. It was fantastic! (See my review here.)

When my friend mentioned she had the tickets, I jumped at the chance and was able to bring my two sisters, who also enjoyed the film.

If you’ve read the book and are expecting it to be the same, stop. It’s very different. However, despite the differences, I thought the film was just as good as the book, just in a different way. I loved the portrayal of R, and while I was annoyed that the actress chosen for Nora was not black (like she is in the book), I thought the actress was decent in the role.

But it’s R that really shines. The actor that plays him is fantastic. There’s very little dialogue from him. At least, words that come out of his mouth. Most of what we hear from him comes from his thoughts. And let me tell you, between him and M, I was laughing a lot. The whole theater was.

The film is well done, too. When R starts to change, it is subtle at first, but if viewers pay attention, you can definitely see as he starts to speak a little more clearly, becomes a little less pale, and walks a little more like a human.

Any fan of zombie films should check it out. Yes, it’s a romance, but it’s also a comedy. Check it out when it comes to theaters on February 1st!

Book Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

R is a young man with an existential crisis–he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, noidentity, and no pulse, but he has dreams.

After experiencing a teenage boy’s memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and stragely sweet relationship with the victim’s human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.

I had originally purchased this book thinking my students would enjoy it. I teach the seventh grade. However, this book is most definitely not appropriate for students or younger readers. Despite some reviews I’ve seen, it’s not for young adults. I also should state that I should not have purchased any books that day, and I limited myself to just the one, but it was well worth the purchase and it will be reread.

I did enjoy reading the novel. In fact, I fell in love with the zombie, R. This is the second zombie novel I’ve read for adults, and I enjoyed the perspective of the zombie. It’s very different from other zombie related novels, and for that I was grateful.

The change R makes as he starts to regain his humanity is fascinating. I enjoyed the world Marion built, and how the world of the zombies mirrored the world of the humans. And while R regains his humanity, Julie’s father loses his. It makes the reader begin to question what exactly makes one human, and what makes one a monster.

I did see the film (more on that in another post) and it is very different from the book.

Fans of the novel Breathers by S.G. Browne should love this novel. It is available in multiple formats at bookstores everywhere, including Amazon. 

Book Review: Wonderland by David-Matthew Barnes

From Bold Strokes Books:

After her mother loses her battle to cancer, fifteen-year-old Destiny Moore moves from Chicago to Avalon Cove, a mysterious island in South Carolina. There, she starts a new life working part-time as a magician’s assistant and living with her eccentric uncle Fred and his hottie husband, Clark. Destiny is soon befriended by two outcasts, Tasha Gordon and Topher McGentry. She accepts their invitation to accompany them to a place called Wonderland, a former boarding house owned by the enigmatic Adrianna Marveaux. It’s there that Destiny meets and falls in love with Dominic, Tasha becomes enamored with Juliet, and Topher gives his heart to Pablo. When Destiny uncovers the reason she and her friends have really been brought to Wonderland, she’s faced with the most crucial choice of her life.

I have been waiting for this book since the author announced it would be coming out. I was intrigued by the concept and it did not disappoint. There are moments when there are Alice in Wonderland elements, however, it is not that at all. There is more romance and magic involved. Quite a few twists and turns as well.

The character I enjoyed the most was Topher. Not only is his name interesting, but I liked his character and how he begins to stand up for himself in the face of his bullies. I would have liked to have seen more of the story but from his point of view.

The only issue I had with the book was towards the end. I felt that it wrapped up so quickly! I wanted more! Adrianna tells Topher and Tasha what to expect, but I didn’t want that at all. I wanted to see, from their perspectives, what happens in order for them to save their soul mates. I wish it had been more difficult for Destiny, too. I felt that it was almost too easy for her at the end.

Aside from this, I did enjoy the novel. Perhaps a sequel with Topher in the lead roll?

This book will be release in February from Bold Strokes Books. You can purchase the book at Amazon or Bold Strokes Books.

Book Review: The Culling by Steven dos Santos

I love a lot of books, so when people ask me what my favorite is, it is incredibly difficult for me to come up with a title. However, I think now I might finally be able to come up with an easy answer.

In The Culling by Steven dos Santos:

Lucian “Lucky” Spark has been recruited for training by the totalitarian government known as The Establishment. According to Establishment rules, if a recruit fails any level of the violent training competitions, a family member is brutally killed . . . and the recruit has to choose which one.

 

As the five recruits form uneasy alliances in the hellish wasteland that is the training ground, an undeniable attraction develops between Lucky and the rebellious Digory Tycho. But the rules of the training ensure that only one will survive—the strongest recruits receive accolades, wealth, and power while the weakest receive death.

 

With Cole—Lucky’s four-year-old brother—being held as “incentive,” Lucky must marshal all his skills and use his wits to keep himself alive, no matter what the cost.

The Culling portrays a bleak future after an apocalypse that has covered what seems to remain of the world in an Ash that causes many to die at an early age from a terrible coughing disease.

It is clear that Lucian cares very deeply for his little brother, Cole. After losing both parents, Cole is all he has left. When Cassius returns from his training, Lucian is eager to reconnect with his old friend in the hopes the he will help them.

Digory and Lucian are amazing characters who are strongly motivated for their own reasons. Their connection was deep and nearly instant, though it might not be clear to all readers what the connection might be until much later.

Though it is never stated implicitly, Lucian is indeed gay and has feelings for Digory. Their attraction towards each other grows throughout the novel, and despite the horror around them and the bleak outlook for their lives, there are moments of such heart breaking tenderness that I stopped and reread the scenes over to myself many times before moving on. Their shared moment under the stars, the dancing before their graduation ceremony… my heart still aches at the beautiful way the author portrayed these scenes.

I am glad this is the first book in a series, because I am in love. I want more from this author, and my only regret is that I can’t have more right now.

The Culling will be available for purchase on March 8, 2013, but it can be preordered now from Amazon.

Book Review: Sometime Yesterday by Yvonne Heidt

About the book: Successful artist Natalie Chambers impulsively buys a Victorian house  overlooking the Pacific Ocean after her divorce. Immediately, her dreams  are haunted by Sarah and Beth, two lovers from the past and the Dark  Man who controlled their lives. When she begins to look for explanations  for the things going bump in the night, the only answer she can get  from the locals is that several previous owners had fled screaming into  the night.

Landscaper Van Easton hasn’t had a serious  relationship since her partner died. Content to let women and alcohol  distract her from her pain, she is surprised at the intensity of emotion  that bubbles to the surface after she meets Natalie. Contracted to  restore the gardens at Natalie’s house, she refuses to believe that the  mansion is haunted. Until the ghostly Dark Man follows her home.

It  appears he will stop at nothing to keep the new lovers apart, and the  violence continues to escalate. Can they solve the mystery that will set  Beth and Sarah free and banish the evil presence in the house? Or will  the evil echoes of the past destroy them as well?

This book has quite the emotional ride and a lot of twists and turns to satisfy just about all readers. It’s a mystery just as much as it is paranormal and horror. I really enjoyed all of the characters, from the two main women – Natalie and Van – to Mary, Natalie’s mother (ESPECIALLY her mother), and Van’s father.

Though the love blossoming between Natalie and Van is beautiful, it is not without its hitches, and I liked that about it. There were moments when I wanted to smack Van upside the head for jumping to conclusions. Likewise, I wanted to do the same to Natalie sometimes! Without the paranormal elements, the story and romance was very believable. I could feel the desire between the women through the pages of the book.

With the paranormal elements, it’s a fantastic read. I was on the edge of my seat, especially towards the end, when the haunting starts to escalate. And when the “key” and other secrets are revealed a literally gasped, “Oh, shit!” because I did not see them coming! I don’t want to say to much because I want readers to have the same reaction.

As a final note, though he is a minor character, I loved Van’s grandfather. It saddened me that he has Alzheimer’s, but his way of describing it moved me to tears and I had to pause. It really puts the disease in another perspective if you think of it as your loved one visiting moments in life that they loved so much they wanted to visit them twice.

You can purchase Sometime Yesterday by Yvonne Heidt from Bold Strokes Books or Amazon.

Book Review: The Pyramid Waltz by Barbara Ann Wright

I hope you have some time to read, because you’re not going to want to put this one down.

About the book: To most, Princess Katya Nar Umbriel is a rogue and a layabout; she parties, she hunts and she breaks women’s hearts. But when the festival lights go down and the palace slumbers, Katya chases traitors to the crown and protects the kingdom’s greatest secret: the royal Umbriels are part Fiend. When Katya thwarts an attempt to expose the king’s monstrous side, she uncovers a plot to let the Fiends out to play.
Starbride has no interest in being a courtier. Ignoring her mother’s order to snare an influential spouse, she comes to court only to study law. But a flirtatious rake of a princess proves hard to resist, and Starbride is pulled into a world of secrets that leaves little room for honesty or love, a world neither woman may survive.

I can only say that this book was incredible. The characters were complex and well-written. The dialogue was fantastic and often humorous. Each character brought something new to the book and was very distinct. Not a single one felt forced or unreal to me. By the end of the book I was so caught up in their world that I found myself wish I lived in it.

It’s not just the main characters, Katya and Starbride, that are well-written, though. Each secondary character became larger than life and had a huge stake in the book as well. I could easily see each one having his or her own book because I wanted to know that much more about them.

Wright creates an interesting world where magic is harnessed through pyramids, and Fiends lie sleeping just below the kingdom, controlled only by the humans in charge. In this world, love knows no bounds, be it gender or ethnicity. Starbride is from Allusia, another country, and it is visible in her looks. While some of the other courtiers scorn her, she does find some friends. And, of course, the Princess.

I loved Brother Brutal. I want to know more about his chapterhouse and how he seeks enlightenment through fighting. And Pennynail is such an intriguing character! Communicating only through gestures, he does not talk, and it seems the only person who knows his true identity is Crowe. It makes me wonder just who or what Pennynail is. I also have to admit a fondness for Lord Hugo and Countess Nadia.

If you enjoy fantasy with romantic elements, this is one book you will not want to miss out on. Finding the identity of the true enemy will leave you guessing until the last page. Wright weaves together a wonderful tale full of peril, intrigue, romance, and magic.

This book will be released on September 18, 2012. You can preorder the book from Bold Strokes Books or Amazon.