Review: Circle of Silence by Carol M Tanzman

Title: Circle of Silence
Author: Carol M Tanzman
Published: 25 July 2012
Source: HarlequinTEEN Australia
Reviewed: Sapphireddragon
SapphiredDragon Rating: *** 1/2

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THE BIGGEST STORY OF MY LIFE COULD BE HOW IT ENDS It’s my turn to run a “Campus News” crew, and I’ve put together a team that can break stories wide open. And Washington Irving High has a truly great one to cover, if only we can find a lead.

A secret society has formed in our school. It announced its presence with pranks: underwear on the flagpole, a toilet in the hallway, cryptic notes. A circle of silence keeps the society a mystery. No one knows its members, agenda or initiation secrets-until a student lands in the hospital under “strange” circumstances.

I “will” blow this story wide open and stop others from being hurt…or worse. And while my ex, Jagger, might want to help, I don’t trust him yet. (And, no, not because of our past together. That is “not” important to this story.)

But whether you find me, Valerie Gaines, reporting in front of the camera, or a victim in the top story of the newscast…be sure to watch “Campus News” at 9:00 a.m. this Friday.

Review: Circle of Silence is the second book in the WiHi series by Carol M. Tanzman and I must admit I haven’t actually read book number 1:Dancergirl. ;That being said, I still found Circle of Silence a very good read

The book itself was a fast, easy read and I managed to finish it in just a few hours. ;The story was clever, spun tight and well paced, dropping enough clues along the way to keep the reader guessing and continuing to read. ;While I did guess a part of the ending, it was still well thought out and surprising enough to be satisfying.

The only slightly disappointing part was that I didn’t become emotionally invested in the story. I am one of those people who likes to live the story along with the characters. With a great story, I am able to do that and come out the other side wrought with some strong emotion, be it a warm glow of a happily ever after, or a stunned disbelief at a cliff I’ve been hung from. ;While I read this story and kept reading because I wanted to know what happened next, I didn’t really connect to the main character Valerie, or even any of the characters really and in fact I kept forgetting Valerie’s ;name and even her nickname ‘ValGal’. Whilst her character was ambitious and focused, I guess I didn’t find her all that all that memorable or likable really. ;Its a shame really as I really did find the story very good and believable so that emotional connection would really have taken it to the next level.

Overall though, I did enjoy Circle of Silence and am planning to go back and read DancerGirl. ;Who knows, it may help with that emotional connection I so badly wanted.

Sapphired Dragon xx

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Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

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Title: Pushing The Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
Published: 25 July 2012
Source: HarlequinTEEN Australia
Reviewed: Sapphireddragon
SapphiredDragon Rating: *****

Synopsis (via Goodreads): “I won’t tell anyone, Echo. I promise.” Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. “You didn’t do that-did you? It was done to you?” No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Review: I don’t tend to read too much YA Contemporary as generally it is not one of my preferred genres but I had been hearing good things about Pushing the Limits so when given the opportunity to review it by HarlequinTEEN Australia, I took it curious to see it if it would live up to everything I had heard.

It did! And then some!

Pushing the Limits is easily one of the best reads of 2012. This is due to a combination of the writing, the story itself and the characters.

This novel is written is written in first person tense in alternating chapters by the two main characters Echo and Noah. This helps really get into the heads of the characters and become invested in the story from the first page. The writing itself flows really well, keeping you inside the story and connected to the characters.

The story itself is gritty and current and could easily take place in any high school in any town. Echo is trying to recover the memories of an attack that has scarred her in more ways than one and to recover her place in her life while Noah has his own scars due to the loss of his parents and trying to regain custody of his brothers which have caused him to become the stereotypical bad boy everyone expects of a foster kid. The story of these two finding their place together and back in their lives is riveting. No instalove here. Trust and then love is earned and such a vital part of the story despite all the obstacles and reasons why they shouldn’t be together.

However it’s the characters I think, that make this novel. Both Echo and Noah are such real, three dimensional characters, you can’t help but feel empathy for them and Katie McGarry has really filled out the peripheral characters also such as Lila the best friend and Grace the friend who is only a friend in private. One cannot help but relate to Echo as she is struggles with her relationships with her father, stepmother and feel for Noah, whose life seems to be in ashes around him.

I could go on and on about this novel as I really enjoyed it on so many levels and even after I had finished it, I was still thinking about days later.

If you want a current YA Contemporary novel with believable characters and engrossing storyline then I thoroughly recommend Pushing the Limits.

A five star read and most definitely one of the reads of 2012

Sapphired Dragon xx

Review: Before I Wake by Rachel Vincent

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Title: Before I Wake
Author: Rachel Vincent
Published: 26 June 2012
Source: HarlequinTEEN Australia
Reviewed: Sapphireddragon
SapphiredDragon Rating: *****

Synopsis (via Godreads): I died on a Thursday-killed by a monster intent on stealing my soul. The good news? He didn’t get it. The bad news? Turns out not even death will get you out of high school… Covering up her own murder was one thing, but faking life is much harder than Kaylee Cavanaugh expected. After weeks spent “recovering,” she’s back in school, fighting to stay visible to the human world, struggling to fit in with her friends and planning time alone with her new reaper boyfriend. But to earn her keep in the human world, Kaylee must reclaim stolen souls, and when her first assignment brings her face-to-face with an old foe, she knows the game has changed. Her immortal status won’t keep her safe. And this time Kaylee isn’t just gambling with her own life….

Review: When I received this book from HarlequinTEEN Australia last week, I hadn’t actually read the first 5 books. One week later and a trip to the library later, all I can say is WOW! Why didn’t I read this series sooner?

Before I wake is book 6 in the Soul Screamer series and easily the best so far. I didn’t think that was possible after reading If I Die (book 5) as that kept me spellbound but even with an impossibly busy week last week, I managed to devour it.

What I love most about it I think, is the characters. They are all so definite and consistent yet lalways developing with the main character Kaylee managing to grow in this novel (despite being dead). I especially Sabine. She is so snarky in such a brutally honest but perceptive way that I had to laugh out loud at some of her dialogue to the other characters. And that’s a big plus for this series is the characters stay true all the way through.

I also love the way that Ms Vincent weaves her story, with elements from as far back as book 1 coming to bear in this installment. It’s so cleverly done and the writing itself flows easily to sweep the reader along.

There is also a good balance of romance and action/story with neither outshining the other but still both being satisfying in their own right.

I loved Before I Wake. By itself it was an awesome and it also advanced the series to the point that April 2013 and book 7 With all My Soul cannot come quickly enough.

A five star read for a five star series!

Sapphired Dragon xx

Review: Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

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Title: Sweet Venom
Author: Tera Lynn Childs
Published: 6 September 2011
Source: Purchased Book Depository
Reviewed: Sapphireddragon
SapphiredDragon Rating: ****

Synopsis: Grace just moved to San Francisco and is excited to start over at a new school. The change is full of fresh possibilities, but it’s also a tiny bit scary. It gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door. And even more shocking when a girl who looks just like her shows up to fight the monster.

Gretchen is tired of monsters pulling her out into the wee hours, especially on a school night, but what can she do? Sending the minotaur back to his bleak home is just another notch on her combat belt. She never expected to run into this girl who could be her double, though.

Greer has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But that all tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they’re triplets, supernatural descendants of some hideous creature from Greek myth, destined to spend their lives hunting monsters.

These three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned by myth, must reunite and embrace their fates in this unique paranormal world where monsters lurk in plain sight.

Review: As a fan of stories based on Greek mythology and brought into the present, I was very much anticipating this read and I am pleased to say I was not disappointed. Sweet Venom is a fast fun read that gets you in and involved with the characters almost immediately.

Gretchen, Grace and Greer are triplets, descended from Medusa and separated at birth. Their destiny? To hunt Monsters.

Told from the point of view of all three main characters, you really start to get a view of the different worlds all three come from.

Whilst this first book is mostly an introduction of three three main characters and of the story as a whole, it really is a nice blend of Greek mythology and urban fantasy with a story that flows along smoothly and hinting at further layers to the story to look forward to in the next book.. The writing style is simple and straightforward so the reader is in amongst the action at all times and carried along quickly to the end of the novel in surprisingly quick period of time.

I really enjoyed Sweet Venom and can’t wait to read the next installment.

A definite 4 stars.

Sapphired Dragon xx

Review: Dark Visions by L J Smith

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Title: Dark Visions
Author: L J Smith
Publish Date: 3 September 2009 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Library
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Galaxy Bookshop
Sapphired Dragon Rating: ***

Synopsis: Kaitlyn Fairchild has always felt like an outsider. Her haunting eyes and prophetic drawings have earned her a reputation as a witch. But Kait’s not a witch: she’s psychic. Tired of being shunned, Kait accepts an invitation to attend the Zetes Institute, where she can study with other psychic teens and have a fresh start.

As Kaitlyn learns to hone her abilities with four other gifted students, she starts to discover the intensity of her power – and the joy of having true friends. But those friendships quickly become complicated when Kait finds herself torn between two irresistible guys.

Rob is a healer – kind and gentle, he’s surrounded by good energy, while Gabriel is aggressive and mysterious – a telepath concealing his true nature.

Together, Rob and Gabriel’s opposing forces start to threaten the group’s stability, and when an experiment traps the five teens in a psychic link – a link that threatens their sanity and their lives – Kaitlyn must decide who to trust and who to love…

Review: This book is a hard one to review. I mostly liked it, enough to give it 3 stars, but there was nothing particularly memorable about it. The plot line seemed unoriginal and I sure I have read similar plot lines before. The characters, 2 dimensional and somewhat stereotypical. There was the ‘golden boy’, the ‘bad boy’, the girl trying to choose between them along with peripheral characters whom in some cases I cared so little about, I kept forgetting whether they were male or female.

And yet I have given this book, which actually contains a trilogy: the strange power, the possessed and the passion, three stars so it must have some redeeming qualities right?

Let’s see…

Firstly I managed to finish it so that’s a start. The first story I flew through, the second and third took a wee bit of prodding but I persisted and got through them. The ending was a little bit predictable but I think still did enough to satisfy and complete the story. Even though the plot line has been done before, there were some things I liked. I liked the idea of psychic vampires as opposed to the run of the mill ones. I actually like the whole psychic angle and in general like stories about psychic powers so this definitely counted in its favour.

So would I recommend it? If you are an L J Smith fan or a fan of this genre then it’s probably worth a read. In terms of L J Smith’s books, it probably sits about half way between the night world series and vampire diaries however the story line does lean more to the vampire diaries.

Lastly, is it just me or does the girl on the front cover at first glance look like Elena from the vampire diaries tv series? Up close I think she actually has blond hair but when glancing quickly…

Anyhew I give this book 3 stars (just) on the Sapphired Dragon rating scale.

Sapphired Dragon xx

Review: Last Breath by Rachel Caine

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Title: Last Breath
Author: Rachel Caine
Publish Date: 1 November 2011
Source: Library
Sapphired Dragon Rating : *****
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Galaxy Bookshop

Synopsis: With her boss preoccupied researching the Founder Houses in Morganville, student Claire Danvers is left to her own devices when she learns that three vampires have vanished without a trace. She soon discovers that the last person seen with one of the missing vampires is someone new to town-a mysterious individual named Magnus. After an uneasy encounter with Morganville’s latest resident, Claire is certain Magnus isn’t merely human. But is he a vampire-or something else entirely?

Review: This series just gets better and better and Last Breath is easily the best so far and easily the mostly aptly titled. As far as breaths go, I think I was holding mine for the majority of the book.

Right from the word go, the action starts and I was right back in Morganville and along for the ride. I didnt leave until the last page. Ms Caine has differed in the writing format of this, number eleven in the series, in that we get to read from the point of view of a number of the main characters other than just Claire and this works brilliantly with the plot line giving the reader a better understanding of what is going on but still leaving enough suspense for the reader to continue on to see what happens next.

If you haven’t gotten into this series already, I very much recommend it. It’s made me laugh, it’s made me cry and now I am off to read book twelve, Black Dawn.

A very definite five star rating!

Sapphired Dragon xx

Review: Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon

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Title: Fantasy Lover
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Release Date: 31 January 2002
Source: Library
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Galaxy Bookshop
SapphiredDragon Rating: *** 1/2

Synopsis:

Dear Reader,

Being trapped in a bedroom with a woman is a grand thing. Being trapped in hundreds of bedrooms over two thousand years isn’t. And being cursed into a book as a love-slave for eternity can ruin even a Spartan warrior’s day.

As a love slave, I know everything about women. How to touch them, how to savor them, and most of all, how to pleasure them. But when I was summoned to fulfill Grace Alexander’s sexual fantasies, I found the first woman in history who saw me as a man with a tormented past. She alone bothered to take me out of the bedroom and into the world. She taught me to love again.

But I was not born to know love. I was cursed to walk eternity alone. As a general, I had long ago accepted my sentence. Yet now I have found Grace – the one thing my wounded heart cannot survive without. Sure, love can heal all wounds, but can it break a two-thousand-year-old curse?

Julian of Macedon

Review: I knew within 2 pages of this book that I was going to enjoy it and immediately went online to my library’s site to reserve the next few in the series. What I immediately liked was the tone which was fun and not too serious and I knew I would be in for an enjoyable read.

I was not to be disappointed.

While yes, the story is a little contrived at times so as to ensure things flow as they are supposed to, it was relatively easy to over look as the writing was straightforward and the story fun and enjoyable.

The title of the book is Fantasy Lover and that is the key I think to enjoying this book; Remembering it is a fantasy, not getting hung up on story issues and letting go to just let the story wash over you and take you where it will.

A fast, fun read and yes I will be reading the rest of the series.

3 1/2 stars on the SapphiredDragon rating scale.

SapphiredDragon xx

Review: Stray by Rachel Vincent

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Title: Stray
Author: Rachel Vincent
Published: 1 June 2007
Source: Library
Reviewed by: Sapphired Dragon
Sapphired Dragon Rating:

****

Synopsis (via Goodreads): There are only eight breeding female werecats left . . .
And I’m one of them.
I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds.

Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked.

I’d been warned about Strays — werecats without a Pride, constantly on the lookout for someone like me: attractive, female, and fertile. I fought him off, but then learned two of my fellow tabbies had disappeared.

This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back . . . for my own protection. Yeah, right. But I’m no meek kitty. I’ll take on whatever — and whoever — I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays — ’cause I got claws, and I’m not afraid to use them . . .

Review: I nearly didn’t read this. I had been over shifter type novels for a while, there was only a couple of days till it was due back to the library and it was only due to the fact that Rachel Vincent had been recommended to me by a number of people that I decided to give it a go rather than returning it unread. Let me just say I am so glad I decided to give this book a go as I was pleasantly surprised.

My biggest issue with most shifter type books I have read both in YA and adult genres (and bear in mind this might possibly be because i read a whole heap of them one after the other) has always been that the stories all kind of blurred into one so I couldn’t always remember which characters or slightly different circumstances went with which book. What I liked about this book was that

A) The story while geographically taking place in Texas and surrounding states mostly took place in the pride

B) Yes there was romance etc but the main plot of the female shifters going missing and Faythe’s struggle for independence from the pride was front and centre and an interesting and engrossing story

C) The characters and the character interactions, particularly between Faythe and her father/alpha and Faythe and her brothers was compelling and believable. Both Faythe’s disbelief and frustration when her father and brothers didn’t see things the same way she did and by the same token wanting to tell her to be quiet when opening her mouth in a conversation with her father.

I very much look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series and indeed have already borrowed the next two from the library.

If you are into an adult shifter tale that is a cut above the rest, i would definitely recommend Stray.

Most certainly earns a four star Sapphired Dragon Rating.

Sapphired Dragon XX

Review: Thyla by Kate Gordon

Title: Thyla
Author: Kate Gordon
Released: 1 April 2011
Source: Boomerang Books Critics Club
Reviewed by: Sapphired Dragon
Sapphired Dragon rating : ***** 

Synopsis via Goodreads  
My name is Tessa. I am strong. I am brave. I do not cry. These are the only things I know for certain. 

I was found in the bush, ragged as a wild thing. I have no memory – not even of how I got the long, striping slashes across my back. They make me frightened of what I might remember. 

The policewoman, Connolly, found me a place in a boarding school and told me about her daughter, Cat, who went missing in the bush. 

I think there is a connection between Cat, me, and the strange things going on at this school. If I can learn Cat’s story, I might discover my own – and stop it happening again.(less)

Review:

This novel’s mystery had me hooked from the first page. Actually I think I was hooked from the moment I read the back of the book and the acknowledgements at the beginning and the story did not disappoint. In fact I was so hooked that I finished this story in less than a day and after reading some during my lunch break, seriously thought about not going back to work and finishing the story there and then instead. 

I had some theories of what I thought it would be about but it became clear quite quickly that was way of the mark and that this was not a bad thing.  

Set in Tasmania in the present day, the author Kate Gordon weaves colonial history and the supernatural in to a tale that exquisitely balances giving the reader enough information to move the story along at a good pace whilst simultaneously keep turning the pages in an effort to find out who Tess is and how it ties with the rest of the story.   It has an uniquely Australian feel to it and Gordon uses legends of the area to make this more authentic. 

Written in the first person, I loved reading through the perspective of a girl who can remember her name, how to read and much of the history of her city but doesn’t remember things like cars, or television  or waffles. I felt her bewilderment as she struggled through situations where she just didn’t remember how she was supposed to act or what something was and felt her frustration as the things she knew just didn’t add up. 

I also loved the supernatural aspect of this tale. It starts off subtle and so surprises as you read more. I won’t say more than that as I think not knowing too much about the story really added to the enjoyment of it. 

Long story short, if you a a fan of a good Australian speculative  or YA story or even just a good speculative or YA  from any country, then I thoroughly recommend this novel. 

I have no hesitation giving this book 5 stars. 

Buy this book: Boomerang Books | The Book Depository

Sapphired Dragon xx

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Title: The Gathering (A Darkness Rising Book)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Released: 12 April 2011
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Sapphired Dragon

Sapphired Dragon rating : *****
Purchase: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis ( back of the book):
Maya Delaney has always felt a close bond with nature. The woods around her home are a much-loved sanctuary – and the pawprint birthmark on her hip feels like a sign that she belongs.

But then strange things begin to happen in the tiny medical-research town of Salmon Creek. A young girl drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Mountain lions appear around Maya’s home, and won’t go away. her best friend Daniel starts experiencing bad vibes about certain people and things. One of those people is Rafe – the new bad boy in town. What is he hiding – and why is he suddenly so interested in Maya…?

Review:

I loved this book. I literally devoured it from start to finish in just a couple of sittings (well one sitting broken up only by having to work and get just a little sleep). Its set in the same world as most of Kelley Armstrong’s books and having read both the women of the Otherworld series and Darkest Powers series, entering May’s world, a little medical research town in a larger world where names like St Cloud and Dr Davidoff (among others) have some significance from previous novels, was like visiting one of those favourite vacation spots that you like to go to once in a while, forget about the where you normally live and catch up on what been happening since youlast visited and discover some new places there to explore.

In The Gathering, the first novel of the Darkness Rising series, we meet Maya, a regular teenager living in a small town, adopted but happy with her lot and not overly curious about where she came from. From the beginning I connected with Maya. She is strong and comfortable in who she is and her place in the world. She is still getting over the drowning of her best friend but this hasn’t stopped her from continuing to tackle the world arond her and get on with life.

Now any veteran of Armstrong’s books will have a fair idea of at least part of what Maya’s birthmark means but Armstrong, who is using this book also a a set up for a new trilogy (series?) creates a story that leaves even the veterans with more questions than answers. While part fo the mystery might be solved in this book, that also gives the reader more questions than answers and the ending leavves the reader gasping for more.

I most definitely recommend this book to both the avid Kelley Armstrong fan and those who are newer to her books as while there are titbits there for the veterans, they are not necessary to know to still enjoy the story being told and as always its an awesome story.

I have no hesitation giving this book 5 stars.

Sapphired Dragon xx