Wednesday, August 28, 2013

ARC review CONJURED by Sarah Beth Durst


Summary from Goodreads:
Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.
At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

When I was just a few dozen pages into Conjured, I said to one of my reader/writer friends that the main character, Eve, felt emotionally blank, and was kind of hard to connect with. I felt badly for her, but I couldn't get a handle on her personality, who she was as a character.
And I knew...I KNEW...Durst was an experienced author and a dang good one, too.  I suspected she used a somewhat remote narrative voice on purpose.
 I just didn't know why.
And as it turns out, there's a really good reason for the sort of bland narration. But figuring out how to explain it without spoilers is impossible...
So, I'll say what I can, and it ain't much!

When Eve uses magic, she blacks out, leading to these  fascinating, creepy flashback scenes told in first person. As Eve begins to unlock more of her memories and make more connections with the people in her life, mainly Zach, her co-worker at the library and love interest, the POV switches entirely to first person (it starts in third person) and becomes more engaging. So hold on if the beginning is rocky for you, because you might enjoy the story more as it progresses.

That said, don't expect a crime drama or action packed thriller, although the book blurb could lead you to expect those things. Magical serial killers.
Paranormal witness protection program.
 Solving murders. Those sound pretty intense and actiony. But in reality, they aren't primary elements to the story. The main thing happening is Eve trying to figure out what the HECK is going on in her life since she loses her memory all the time, and has very little recollection of her past to work with when she has any at all.

 The payoff to the "What's going on here??" comes in the last third of the book, and it's a pretty big one. I can almost guarantee that any theory you come up with about Eve's past will be wrong. Super-duper wrong. If you called it from the start, I'm impressed.
And also scared of you.
 Because of all the many, many YA speculative fiction books I've read where a character was trying to figure out precisely WHAT they were (not who...but what, because clearly the answer wasn't "a regular average human person with nothing extraordinary  or unusual about her whatsoever")...well...the answer to this question for Eve in Conjured is probably the creepiest dang one I've ever come across. Ever.
( People who have read this: Tell me if you thought it was creepy. Is it just me??)

The carnival imagery and the macabre stuff Eve remembers, and later in the book encounters in person, are all pretty awesome. Durst's dark creativity in this area was outstanding, and the highlight of the book for me.

Overall, it was an interesting read, but not one of my recent favorites.

Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley. Thank you!


Friday, August 16, 2013

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron: Review Tour!

Y'all!!! Remember how I loved The Dark Unwinding? No??
Here's the review....

A spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance!

When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.

Everyone has certain items of interest that will make them sit up, take notice, and possibly start geeking out in a major way.
Case in point: Dwight K. Shrute can't resist discussions about the following:

(image courtesy of

And I will be all over any book with
 and madness.

Maybe it's from my fourth grade obsession with The Secret Garden. Or my junior high love of Jane Eyre (which continues to this day, because let's face it: if you want a strong female first-person YA narrative: Jane Eyre. You can't top that chick.)

You got a creepy old English manor house on the dark, windswept moors and someone off his or her rocker? Giddy up, I am IN!

Did Sharon Cameron get up one morning and say, "I think I'll write a book just for Sarah"? Probably not. But she might as well have.

Things I love about this book:
*Katharine's personal development. She starts out not-entirely-likable. She's kind of a hard case, and it's understandable. She's an orphan, she lives with an uncaring aunt (oh, hey shades of Jane Eyre...just now saw you there!) She is tasked with the distasteful job of declaring her Uncle Tulman mentally incompetent. This would cause him to be placed in an asylum, but would also secure her future means of income.
*How you're never really sure if Katharine is losing her mind or not. I like a little, "Am I going crazy or is there something sinister happening here?" in a book . And I didn't figure out what was really going on until the big reveal.
*It's a "clean" book. No profanity. There's a romance, but it's very sweet and doesn't overtake the main storyline.
*Speaking of romance: I enjoyed the dark broodiness of Lane, although I would've liked just a wee bit more interaction between him and Katharine. However, I do appreciate that they weren't declaring eternal love for one another by the last page. Speaking of which...
*The end! Man, I was trying to figure out how in the world Katharine was going to get out of the situation she found herself in. I couldn't have predicted it. And just like all good Gothic novels, people make choices that have drastic and irreparable consequences. Oh, I am still sad!
*There's a nice setup for a sequel, although it's not exactly a cliffhanger ending. You get closure and the feeling the story is complete, but enough is left unfinished to jump start another book.

Five stars, people!

Here's the deal: The Dark Unwinding releases in paperback this month 
There's a sequel!!! 
A Spark Unseen...It comes out September 24. 

Want to win a copy? Sharon Camerson is giving away 5 ARCs of A Spark Unseen. 

Enter for your chance to win one with the Rafflecopter below: a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm going to be partcipating in a blog tour for A Spark Unseen, hosted by Hannah at The Book Vortex. It's gonna be fun, and if you want in go HERE

this is a spoiler...look how cool!)

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