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Review: Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

6 Jun

Witches of East End

“It’s the beginning of summer in North Hampton, and beautiful Freya Beauchamp is celebrating her engagement to wealthy Bran Gardiner, the heir to Fair Haven and Gardiners Island. But Freya is drawn to Bran’s gorgeous but unreliable brother Liam, and sparks fly when the two decide to play a dangerous game of desire, following an ancient story of love, betrayal and tragedy that harks back to the days of Valhalla.

Witches of East End follows the Beauchamp family—the formidable matriarch Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid. Freya, a sexy bartender, has a potion to cure every kind of heartache, while Ingrid, the local librarian, solves complicated domestic problems with her ability to tie magical knots. Joanna is the witch to see when modern medicine has no more answers; her powers can wake the dead. Everything seems to be going smoothly until a young girl, Molly Lancaster, goes missing after taking one of Freya’s irresistible cocktails. As more of the town’s residents begin disappearing, everyone seems to have the same suspects in mind: the Beauchamp women.

Fraught with love affairs and witchcraft, Witches of East End will capture any reader who craves a page-turning, heart-stopping story of myth and magic from an author who knows how to deliver”.

Warning: due to this novel using elements of the author’s previous books in a different series, this review may be spoiler-y for some.

Witches of East End is Melissa de la Cruz’s first book for adults. Having been of fan of hers since her the days of her magazine journalism and the Au Pairs series, and also a huge lover of the Blue Bloods books, I have been eagerly awaiting Melissa’s first foray into adult fiction for ages.

It even made my 11 Must Reads of 2011 list!

Witches definitely does not disappoint. While the novel could have been a bit longer, the story by no means felt short, or unfinished. I found writing for an adult audience to be a nice change for Melissa. She has always catered to a more mature (if not in age, in mentality) audience, so writing an adult novel seems to be a natural progression for her.

After a slow first chapter or so, the story kicks off with a bang. Ummm, literally. It’s no secret that an adulterous tryst takes place very early on in the story. But it does not in any way overshadow the rest of the plot! I’ve seen a handful of reviewers on Goodreads saying the adultery ruined the book for them. When it comes to immortal fictional characters who have lived, lets just say much longer lives than most of us can expect to, I do not feel as if said characters should be held up to normal human morals and standards.

Even more importantly, for all the reviewers & readers spazzing out over Freya’s affair, especially those who DNF the book: reading about it doesn’t mean you have to condone it! And, fortunately it really does all makes sense in the end.

I feel that only truly great authors can write characters who do despicable things, yet make you still care about them. Along with the adultery, Freya, Ingrid, and Joanna make plenty of bad choices. They keep harmful secrets. They don’t heed potential omens and warnings. They begin practicing magic again, but solo, without telling each other. They make mistakes with vast consequences. Yet their love for each other holds them together, until once again luck is on their side. In many ways, Witches is as much a tale of the relationships between mothers and daughters as it is a story about three women practicing magic.


* Melissa’s world-building is always phenomenal. WOEE is no different! Mysteries and secrets are slowly exposed, without ever giving too much away at once. And the way MDLC incorporates historical details and facts into her stories is beyond comparison.

* Cameo appearances from Blue Bloods characters. It made me even more anxious for Lost In Time.

* The Norse mythology incorporated within the story. The way it fits together with the witchcraft= AWESOME.

* The huge variety of paranormal characters/beings included in the story.

* There is a cliffhanger, but not an “I want to throw this book across the room” when I’m finished cliffhanger. Thank you, Melissa, for not torturing your readers.

* Just the fact that Melissa wrote one adult novel makes me hopeful for more in the future!

Didn’t Love:
* Honestly, the cover. It just doesn’t do it for me. And I’m not sure what it has to do with the story contained inside. The cover screams “Fall!” to me, while the book takes place during the Summer.

* And of course, I am not a fan of having to wait over a year for Book #2 (Rumored to be entitled “The Serpent’s Kiss”!) 😉

I’d recommend Witches to new fans of Melissa de la Cruz looking for a delicious and quick reading experience. Note: You do not need to read the Blue Bloods series beforehand. But reading at least book #1 would lead to a much better understanding of events in this book.

Overall Witches of East End was a fast, fun, and sexy read. Perfect for both a day at the beach, or just lying around the house. It’s a total guilty pleasure read, without a dumbed down storyline, or cheesy writing.

I can’t wait to learn more about the Beauchamp family backstory in Book #2!

4/5 STARS.
Witches of East End will be released by Hyperion, June 21, 2011.

Disclosure: I received my copy of Witches of East End at BEA.

Meeting Author Elana Johnson

15 Apr

Possession by Elana Johnson

Yesterday, along with some fellow book bloggers, I had the pleasure of having lunch with visiting author Elana Johnson, and the ladies of Simon & Schuster’s marketing department. We met in midtown Manhattan at Bill’s Bar & Burger for lunch, and to chat about Elana’s upcoming dystopian YA novel, Possession

Possession has been on my Goodreads TBR list for ages, so I was totally excited to meet Elana and learn more about her book. The seven of us sampled milkshakes and appetizers (the toasted marshmallow milkshake is to die for! I’m not even a big milkshake fan, but I want another asap!) while we discussed Possession, Elana’s writing habits, upcoming events like BEA, and some of our favorite 2011 reads.

Everyone was so nice, and I’m so happy I was able to catch Elana while she was in town:
Eland Johnson
Elana and I with Possession!

Elana Johnson 2
Damaris from Good Choice Reading,  Me, Elana, and JL from An Avid Reader’s Musings.

When I left, I passed by ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. It was 60 degrees yesterday!
April Skaters!

We had talked about The Strand at lunch too, so that led to me stopping by once again on my way home.

I’m reading Possession
now, and am already totally sucked in to Vi’s world after just a few pages! Hopefully I’ll have a review up sometime next week. : )

Thanks again to Simon & Schuster and Elana for the amazing lunch, and Possession ARC!

In my Mailbox #3

27 Mar

Most of the new releases I’ve pre-ordered come out next week, so I didn’t end up with very many new books for my third edition of IMM (hosted by The Story Siren). No video this time! Just a bit of text, and one very exciting photo:

I’m getting an early glimpse at Wolfsbane (with the original, much prettier cover!) thanks to a fellow blogger’s ARC tour. I’ve only read a few pages so far, but I’m already anxious to find out what happens in book two with Calla, Shay, and Ren!

I also received Bumped by Megan McCafferty, via NetGalley.

I’ve been a Megan McCafferty fan since way back when the first Jessica Darling book was released, so I’ve been looking forward to reading Bumped for quite some time. I’ve heard some mixed things, but good reviews are highly outnumbering the bad.

This week’s IMM might be short and sweet, but I’m glad to be able to read two very highly anticipated books from my TBR list!

Review: Die For Me by Amy Plum

21 Mar

Die For Me: New US Cover

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life–and memories–behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant–an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again. –Via Amazon

Die for Me is what I like to call a smart girl’s paranormal love story. I’ve been fan-girling over this book since I first heard another author mention it on twitter last Fall. It was one of my 11 Must Reads for 2011. I am so so glad I finally got to read it, and that it has totally lived up to the hype!

Die For Me begins with Kate, who has just lost her parents in a terrible car accident, moving to Paris to live with her Grandparents. Kate is nearly drowning in her grief, and finding it hard to live a normal life again. Her older sister Georgia busies herself with parties and dancing to take her mind off of her parents’ death. But Kate hides indoors, behind the covers of her favorite books.

The real story begins when Kate finally decides to live again, and get out of her house. Time spent outside of the city helps bring Kate back to life, and inspires her to set out and explore Paris. After a near death experience, she meets Vincent, a mysterious Frenchman she has seen around her neighborhood, at a local cafe. What she doesn’t know, is that he’s been watching her. And that Vincent is not exactly human.

If you’ve read the book’s summary, you know that Vincent is a Revenant, a sort of French zombie. Luckily for us readers, that doesn’t involve him doing unromantic things like eating brains, or killing people. There is so much more to this story.

I’m not going to spoil what exactly Vincent is, or what his purpose is. But I will tell you a bit more about his relationship with Kate. Naturally, as she gets to know him, she senses something is a bit “off” about Vincent. She is drawn to the aura of danger that seems to surround him, but is smart enough to realize that might not be 100% wise.

Their relationship develops slowly and organically. Kate and Vincent start as friends, before blossoming into something more. I found that to be very refreshing. As the plot moves along, Kate and Vincent’s love is challenged in more ways than one.

Kate is well aware that life with Vincent will never be normal, and struggles with the impact his close ties with death and dying have on her emotional state. She also realizes that some of his behavior, like mild stalking, is abnormal. Luckily that stalking verges more towards being cute and inquisitive (please, we’ve all spied on hot boys or girls, whether it’s around town, or on Facebook), than creepy or abusive.

Miraculously, Kate actually has a mind of her own, and questions the people around her. She never sits back and lets things just happen to her. Once she breaks out of her depression, she actually lives her life.

Things I loved:

* A very well thought out, original mythology.

* Kate is a strong female main character. She stands up for herself, and refuses to take no for an answer.

* A good, logical, and totally un-creepy explanation for why an “old dead dude” would want to date a teenager.

*Jules, and Vincent’s entire paranormal “family”.

* Parts of the story were slow, but not bad slow. More like good, lingering slow… like the three hour French dinners described in the book. Sometimes everything being in your face gets old!

* The story made me want to run off to Paris asap. Amy (who lives in France) captures a sense of place incredibly well. You can tell she has actually been to, and loves Paris.

*Vincent: He’s a hot guy, with flaws. And he’s not afraid to admit them, or let Kate take the lead.

The only thing I didn’t like:

The average reader wouldn’t even notice, but since I read deleted scenes first, I thought the beginning chapter or two seemed a bit rushed. I’d HIGHLY recommend checking out the extras page on Amy’s site, and reading the deleted prologue, and the clip from Vincent’s point of view. I thought both added a lot to the story, helping to explain both Kate’s grief, and Vincent’s attraction to Kate quite a bit. (Note: both features can be read before or after Die For Me. If you’ve read the summary, they won’t spoil you.)

Die For Me is an intricately written, engrossing, and haunting story that transports you right into the center or Paris as if you were there. I think due to its deeper underlying themes (death, depression, loneliness), it will be taken more seriously than a lot of teen paranormal novels out in the world. And Amy’s Revenants are by far the coolest monster/paranormal creature I’ve encountered in years.

This novel offers a realistic look at depression after a tragedy like losing both of your parents. As well as featuring the most swoon-worthy, yet slightly “weird” romantic relationship I’ve read about in a long time. I am, of course, eagerly awaiting book two. I shall be adding Die For Me to my (very small) “to re-read pile”, something now that I’m a busy blogger, I rarely do.

4/5 STARS!

Learn more about Amy and the Revenants at her web site.

Die for Me is the first book in the Revenants trilogy, and will be released May 10th by Harper Teen.
E-galley provided for Review via Harper Teen and Net Galley.

Review Teaser: Pale Demon

13 Jan

Pale Demon

Last month, I received an e-galley of Pale Demon, and completely devoured it. I’ve been sitting on the review, waiting until it’s a bit closer to the release date. But the book was so good, I have to do some preliminary gushing about its amazingness.

Long time fans of the series should be pleased with the new plot developments. This is the most concise, quickly paced book in the series so far. No wonder it’s Harrison’s personal favorite. Old questions are answered, while even more intriguing new questions arise. Favorite characters are seen in a new light, and we finally get a sneak peak into the mind and motivations behind the mysterious Trent Kalamack. If you think you had him figured out before, you were probably wrong. Pale Demon is by far the best book in the series, and probably one of the funniest “road trip” novels I’ve ever read. It took all my self control not to instantly re-read it upon finishing. And left me wanting to shout from the rooftops how much I adore this series.

Stay tuned for my full review, coming soon!

Pale Demon will be released by Eos on February 22nd.

11 Must Reads of 2011, Part Six: Die For Me

7 Jan

Die For Me

Die For Me, by Amy Plum, is another book I first heard about a few months ago via excited chatter from authors I follow on Twitter. It sounds quite different from anything else currently available in the genre, which is so refreshing!

“In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life—and memories—behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant—an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.”

So far, Die For Me seems to be flying under the radar of a lot of book bloggers. I have a feeling once it’s published, it’s going to be huge. You can’t beat the combination of supernatural mystery, a cute boy, and PARIS! And as for that supernatural element I mentioned? It’s ZOMBIES. Revenant is French for “one who comes back”. Creepy! But these aren’t your traditional zombies:

“I was drawn by the undead angle because, as a historian, I loved the thought of giving my characters backgrounds based in recorded history. But how could a zombie be attractive? How could a teenage girl fall for one without being worried that he would gnaw her face off during their first kiss? And what about that ultimate turn-off-y odor of decomposing flesh? I laughed my way through scenario after scenario before deciding I would have to come up with my own monster. And that is how my revenants were born.
I started writing the book with only a general idea of what my monsters were. As the story progressed, I honed the concept until the mythology began to come together and make sense. When I got stuck on a question like “why do they do this certain thing over and over again?” I would put on my tennis shoes and walk a few miles until it came to me. And it always came. It felt like I was uncovering something that already existed. I just had to be open to “receiving” it.” Via Amy’s Author FAQ

It’s like Anna and the French Kiss, meets Night of the Living Dead!

In this jealousy inspiring video (check out that library!) Amy tells us a little bit more about the book:

Not only does Die for Me sound like the perfect story to get me out of my “so many YA paranormal novels have become repetitive” funk, it comes out the week of my birthday. I know at least one present I’ll be asking for!

Die For Me is the first in the Revenants trilogy, and will be released May 10th by Harper Teen.

Pre-oder the book at Amazon.
Learn more about Amy and Die for Me here.
Or follow her on Twitter.

2011 Debut Author Challenge

7 Jan

I’ve decided to participate in The Story Siren’s 2011 Debut Author Challenge. Since a lot of the books were already on my “must read” list, it’s only natural to join in the fun!


To “win” you need to read 12 YA or MG debut author’s books this year. That’s only 1 per month! I’ve made a DAC Goodreads list with (most of) the books I plan on reading. Which you can see here. There are a LOT of great titles on the full DAC list. I’ve already started my first—Across the Universe by Beth Revis! One of my 11 must reads of 2011. It’s set in space, and so far, it’s so creepy, and desolate, and GOOD.

You can join the DAC until November 2011. So no worries, you still have plenty of time to sign up!

I’ll be posting about my progress as the months go by. Anyone else taking part of the challenge? If so what are you most excited to read?

11 Must Reads of 2011, Part Five: Beauty Queens

30 Dec

Beauty Queens
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

“From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.
Teen beauty queens. A “Lost”-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to emall. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.”
Via Goodreads

Not much is known about this novel, other than it’s brief description, and a few snippets Libba has posted on her livejournal:

“I’m writing a book about a bunch of teen beauty queens whose plane crashes on a deserted island. It’s Lord of the Flies meets Lost but with a bitchin’ talent portion and lots of sequins. Stay tuned.”

In the hands of some writers, this could be a total disaster. But I’m confident if anyone can pull this Lord of the Flies/LOST/Miss America mashup, it’s the talented and hilarious Libba Bray. It sounds unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

Beauty Queens will be released May 24th 2011, by Scholastic.

11 Must Reads of 2011, Part Four: Across the Universe

29 Dec

Across the Universe

“Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone–one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship–tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.”
Via Goodreads.

Chronologically, with a release less than two weeks away,Across the Universe is one of the first books on my 2011 must reads list. Even if it wasn’t one of the first books of the year, it would still rank high on my most anticipated list. I haven’t read a single negative thing about this story on goodreads, or review blogs. From what I’ve read, it sounds unlike anything else currently available for the YA market. I’m eager to read something a little more focused on science fiction, a genre I feel has been significantly absent from both my reading and tv watching life since Battlestar Galactica went off the air. ATU is author Beth Revis’ literary debut, which makes it all the more exciting to read. And it’s part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge!

The book trailer:

I’ve already pre-ordered my copy from Amazon, who *claims* it will arrive on the day of release! I’m so curious to find out if Across the Universe lives up to all the hype.

You can read the first chapter online, and learn more about Beth at her blog.

Across the Universe will be published by Razorbill, January 11, 2011.

Book to Movie: Water for Elephants

17 Dec

Yesterday, the official trailer for Water for Elephants was released to the world. The story of a young man who joins a Depression-era circus after the death of his parents in a car crash, “Water…” is another of my all time favorite books. It’s been passed back and forth between various members of my family for the last few years. We’re all very excited to see it come to life on the silver screen next Spring.

Water for Elephants hits theaters April 15, 2011.