Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Beauty So Beastly (The Beastly Series Book 1) by Rashelle Workman

 In this somewhat strange remake of Beauty and the Beast, Beatrice Cavanaugh has everything she could ever want.  Everything that is except feelings and emotions.  She feels nothing.  And living in a world where everyone else does is difficult.  She tries to respond appropriately like her parents taught her, but she mostly acts like a spoiled, rich, brat.  And most people seem to think so.  Even the hired help disapproves of her behavior.  Beatrice's parents buy her whatever she wants, including million-dollar cars and diamond tiaras for her birthday.  Her close friends also buy her extravagant gifts to show her how much they care.  And if they don't, they are no longer her friends.  But on her birthday everything changes.  Greg, a guy who is seeing one of her friends, curses her for being so cruel and heartless, and then disappears. In another turn of events, the very good looking Adam comes to work for her in his mother's place and Beatrice suddenly develops emotions.  All of those emotions she should have felt the last 18 years have suddenly come upon her all at once and it is blinding pain for a full day.  The only relief she gets is from Adam touching her.  Not only does she have emotions now, but she is turning into something else, a beast.  She wants lots of rare, red meat and is acting kind of aggressive at times.  Turns out the world is a much different place than she could have ever imagined.  She is a werecat, along with her parents, and there are a lot more supernatural creatures out there besides her.  At her parents strange disappearance, she delves deeper into trying to find out more about what she is and the history behind it.  Along the way she meets some other supernatural friends and finds out some unsavory information about the guy she is falling for, Adam.  But the biggest problem of all is that her life is very much in danger, and she isn't sure who exactly she should trust.

   First things first, Beauty and the Beast is my favorite old school Disney movie.  It always has been.  This is not exactly like that.  It has its similarities, but doesn't exactly run right like the movie.  Which, to me, is good that it has some modifications to it.  Beatrice Cavanaugh seems like an absolutely awful person in the beginning.  But to be honest, if we didn't have emotions and were given everything we ever wanted, how would we act?  Probably the same.  How else was she supposed to gauge how much her friends cared for her than by the money they spent on her?  In her mind it probably seemed rational enough.  When those emotions did pop up, she realized just how awful she had been this whole time.  Her change is nothing short of miraculous.  What I don't understand is if Greg cursed her for being so horrible, how could he completely disappear without a trace and not contact Beatrice's friend again?  It seems pretty cold-hearted to me (the very thing he accused her of being).  And this curse doesn't really seem like a curse.  Not having feelings is more of a curse in my view.  Having feelings thrust upon you after 18 years of having none is what I call outright painful.  Now what is her attraction to Adam?  Why is she attracted to him?  Once you read the book you will understand why they aren't exactly supposed to be together.  Going any further than that would reveal too much though so I won't!  There were several questions I had after reading the book, but there will be more in the series.  Guess you can't give away everything the first book!

Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5    A pretty good read!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Liquid Gold by Caroline Swart

   For over 20 years the Smith family has been carrying a large secret, one that can change the world.  Her family has been growing sunflowers that can be pressed and the oil can be put directly into engines without adding chemicals or modifying it.  Such a cheap and easy crop to grow would surely put many large companies out of business.  Because of a certain contract Dirk Smit, who lives in South Africa, signed over 20 years ago, these sunflowers have not been able to be used for what Peter Smith and his family have been using it for.  A very few people know about these seeds and it needs to stay that way until the family can get the seeds analyzed and patented since the company who bought out Dirk's crop had not renewed the patent.  But a company called Secure Measures is keeping watch of everything going on and are prepared to go to great lengths to make sure those seeds never come to light.
   While all of this is happening, Jennifer Smith is getting acquainted with very handsome Ryan Edwards.  He is a student at the college she attends and a trustworthy guy.  Her uncle is one of Ryan's professors and Ryan frequently helps him with things.  Ryan has had a complicated past and doesn't trust others easily, but he really likes Jennifer.  Things get complicated when Jennifer's ex shows up in town again.  Things get downright dangerous when one of Ryan and Jennifer's friends is almost beaten to death by one of the men looking for the special sunflower seeds grown on her family's farm.

   This was a very fascinating book!  It seems like it would be mostly a romance, but it actually is not.  There is a lot of action and danger to this book and the romance part balances it out well.  The story line about sunflower seeds being genetically modified for use in regular car engines and such is very interesting!  It would be very dangerous indeed to hold the key to a world energy crisis.  Huge companies that produced oil and such would not want that type of competition and people could get hurt, which is what happens in the book.  I love the scientific element to it!

A word from the author:

In the early eighties in South Africa, a reporter wrote an article about a farmer who used sunflower oil to power his farm vehicles. This was before biofuel became popular and there was a lot of excitement about the news. The article went on to say that South Africa's largest fuel company had expressed interest in the farmer's endeavours. Because of sanctions, fuel was difficult to obtain and there was a lot of excitement about a new energy source. Nothing was heard about the oil after that and the story evolved into a giant conspiracy theory. I was interested in biofuel  and wanted to find out about the process. While researching the subject, I remembered the story of the farmer and imagined what his life would be like if he’d been given the chance to market the oil and this led to the idea behind Liquid Gold. A lot of research went into the book and I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible by contacting universities and people actively involved in energy research. Hopefully readers will enjoy the romance and adventure that I’ve woven around this interesting story.

*The name Dirk Smit is not a typo.  In this story he is related to the Smiths.  Peter Smith changed his name from Peter Smit.

Here are some interesting links on alternative fuel for those of you interested:

-Mythbusters- Cooking Oil as Economical Diesel Fuel (video)

-Can I burn used vegetable oil in my car?

-Sunflower Oil Use in Biodiesel

Monday, July 21, 2014

Famine (Book One of the Apocalyptics) by Monica Enderle Pierce

 Bartholomew Etienne Pelletier has been looking for someone for the last 1,500 years.  After enduring centuries of pain, torture and suffering on and off again at the hands of Famine, one of the Four Horsemen who could destroy the world, he has finally found his source of salvation.  A young girl named Matilde will be the next Catcher.  She will help to keep the world safe from the horsemen.  Her parents and toddler brother are killed by some of Famine's soulless cadavers she keeps as company and Bartholomew saves Matilde.  He is determined to keep her safe while he trains her and gets her ready to be what she will most certainly become.  It is too much to ask of a child what she will have to endure, so he waits and watches.

"He would protect her and ready her for war.  But he would not sacrifice a child, no matter how many souls hung in the balance."

   This was a most fascinating read.  I have never read an apocalyptic book where the story was spun quite in this direction before.  It is totally new to me and different makes it very interesting!  First of all, Famine is
one of the horsemen and she likes to eat flesh.  In fact, she really likes to flay off pieces of Bartholomew's flesh and eat it.  This is part of the torture he has endured for so very long.  Famine can also make him do what she wants when she is in close proximity.  However, with the finding of Matilde, her hold lessens upon him.  The Catcher also has a certain hold on Bartholomew since he is also bound to her spirit as well.  Famine creates cadavers and keeps them as company.  They are much like zombies that can talk and have some small amount of brains.  They are equally as difficult to kill as zombies are.  Famine has taken their souls and now they are nothing but dry, clanking bones within leathery flesh.  In a way, it's kind of nasty really.  There are some grisly parts to the book no doubt.  But it also shows the resolve that Bartholomew has created to keep himself going after so many centuries.  This certain hardness has also put him in a spot to be rather alone until he finds the girl.  Although he struggles with it, he finds his harsh exterior being crushed slowly and systematically by the orphan now under his care.  And one of the most surprising parts of the book?  Finding out why he is called the Penumbra, or almost shadow.  But I am not going to tell you that little tidbit!  You will have to read it yourself to find out more!

Facts about Bartholomew:
Has many scars. 
Has endured much pain and suffering. 
Has a sword called a gladius.
Was a Roman soldier. 
Was married. 
Bound to Famine and the Catcher. 
Really old.  
Good looking for his age.
Not interested in long term relationships.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Hunters and the Queen Parts 1 and 2 by Virginia Vayna

Resurgence: The Queen Awakens (Part 1)

   The first book in the series is all about Jolan and her life.  She is a swimmer at the local military academy on a scholarship because her parents don't have much money.  Jolan lives at home with her parents and her older brother who also attends the academy.  While she is the swimmer, he is the brains.  Jolan is a rather humble person and doesn't like to speak ill of others.  She has two very close friends: Astrid and Eshe, and they occasionally go out to the local pub for drinks and hanging out.  Jolan is very beautiful and there are always men attracted to her.  However, she likes to debate and this doesn't always go over well.  Like the night she meets Alastair and Aidan, and unfortunately she also meets Aidan's ex, Alisha, who is basically stalking Aidan and happens to be a very jealous person.  Then Jolan meets Colemund.  He is a prince.  They don't run into each other again for a while, but when they do, their love blooms and Jolan has begun to change physically.  Her eyes are getting lighter, her frame is more slender and muscular, and she just looks different.  Even her older brother has noticed it.  When Colemund asks Jolan to go to Turkey with him, some surprising things come to light about who she truly is and why she is changing.  These changes have put Jolan in danger.

   The book was rather slow for the first half of it.  You get a good look at what Jolan's life is like on a day-to-day basis.  But there are so many mundane details it can be easy to get bogged down.  Some of the details bring out a wonderful picture of Jolan and her loving family.  Other details can be just a bit much.  But enduring is worth it in the book.  The end really starts to bring out the meat of the story.  Jolan's history is very necessary to understand this story, however.  Detail can make or break a story, and the strange thing in this book is that it seems to do a little of both.  At the beginning there is too much detail.  Then when you get closer to the end of the book, details are what make this part of the story so good.  I guess you could say it is balanced in that aspect, but precariously close to being almost too much.

Transcendence: The Allure of the Gypsy (Part 2)

   Jolan is still in Istanbul, Turkey with Colemund and has had her brother, Crispus, and her friend, Eshe, to join her.  They, along with a few others, join her as she once again becomes the long dead Queen Constanjii who was killed some 1700 years before.  The Hunters are now in hot pursuit of Jolan so that they can kill her again.  Because she is gaining power, she is also restoring power to the two other elements on the Earth, as well as taking power from the Hunters.  Hadrian is feeling himself lose power and control and wants it back.  The gypsy neighbor to Jolan and her family is in search of her too.  The gypsy doesn't want to hurt her.  She needs Jolan's help to keep from turning into a full hunter.

   This book leaves off right where the first book stopped so to fully understand book 2 in the series you must read book 1.  However, book 2 is a vast improvement and gets straight to the heart of the story.  You dive straight in and it holds your interest fully.  Of particular interest is who killed Queen Constanjii so long ago, as well as whether the gypsy neighbor to Jolan will be saved or not before turning into a full hunter.  There is a small amount of repetition, but only a little.  Book 2 is about half as long as the first one.  That in now way takes away from the story though.  There is a lot more action and watching Jolan's powers begin to grow.  In fact, it was such an improvement I would give this book a solid 4 stars out of five!  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cover Reveal for The Dragon and the Scholar: Dragon's Rival Book Three by H.L. Burke- Coming August 4th!!

Here is the cover reveal and blurb for the next book in The Dragon and the Scholar Series by H.L. Burke!!  It comes out August 4th and I can't wait!!

Having abandoned his friends and family and taken to the skies, Ewan hides himself in the Wilderlands, away from humans.  However, an unexpected attempt on his life and a warning from another dragon lead him to suspect that not all is right in Regone.

Ewan returns to his homeland to attend his brother's wedding and discover the source of the bounty on his head.  Once there the dragon prince finds that Ryan of Westshire has been using his absence to court the Lady Shannon.

With unknown forces working to undermine his brother's throne and his own heart torn between his love for Shannon and the desire to see her happy, Ewan must choose once and for all.  Is he a dragon or a man?


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Reveal (Cryptid Tales Book 1) by Brina Courtney

 I'm Shay Tafford.  Just a high school senior, trying to get through the last year of school and on to a good college.  I'm smart enough to get into one too and was planning on going to James Madison after I graduated.  That is until I met Hugh.  Tall, dark, and handsome Hugh.  After we met everything turned upside down.  You see, I can see and talk to ghosts.  I can even touch them.  I keep that side of myself a little secret from...well...everyone.  People would think I was crazy.  And then there is Hugh, who knows about my little gift and doesn't think I am crazy.  Why?  He kind of shares this gift too.  But he can only hear the whispers from the ghosts.  Turns out my gift is very strong.  It also turns out that Hugh and his family knew my dad who disappeared when I was six.  The day after he disappeared I started seeing ghosts.  It was when I met Jeremy, my best ghost friend.  Hugh is from a family of Cryptids.  They are humans who have some animal mixed in basically.  A few Cryptids have more prominent animal features, like me.  The Cryptid part of me gives me my abilities.  But it also shows in my hair and my eyes.  My eyes start turning more of a golden color after meeting Hugh, and my hair has always been very black and sleek, like a cat.  Things get complicated when I go down to meet Hugh's family.  They all live in a pretty tight little community.  Apparently there are a lot of things I don't know about Hugh and about the Cryptid community he used to live in before going to college.  It will be a real challenge for me to learn to accept what these strangers are telling me about myself, my dad, Hugh, and what they call The Darkness.  And unfortunately The Darkness is after me.  I am no longer safe.  I must learn to embrace the Cryptid in me and learn about my gifts so I can protect myself and those around me.  The Darkness already got my dad.  I'm not about to let him get me or those I love.

   I kind of decided to go a different way on writing this review.  This was a much easier way for me to show a little of what this book is about.  It has quite a bit going on, but it all ties in together.  And obviously Shay has a lot going on.  One thing I didn't mention is a ghost named Wendy who Shay is trying to help in the book.  I just found it hard to get a handle on what side Wendy was on for pretty much most of the book.  You get this weird trippy "I might be evil" vibe from her the entire time you are reading.  It's downright creepy.  And then there is the sense that there is definitely more going on with Shay's mom than what is being let on.  She isn't supposed to know what Shay is or about her abilities, but you still have to wonder a little.  Then there is the secret of being a Cryptid and what it means for Shay in particular.  It seems that her destiny is very complicated and will inevitably involve Hugh.  That is, if she can accept it all.  Well, I am definitely interested in seeing what happens next!
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