Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Series: Hex Hall series, Book #1
Pages: 323 pp.
Genre: Paranormal YA
Published: Mar. 2010, Hyperion Books

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her. [GOODREADS]

 

After a particularly LONG (a near eternity, it seems like) reading hiatus, I was in the mood for something different than my usual romance-genre trope. Enter Hex Hall, an captivating read about a young witch sent to a magical boarding school that I gulped down in one evening.

The story’s first person point of view is its greatest appeal — Sophie is cheeky but flawed, just how I’d imagine a teenage girl coming into magical powers would act. She may only be 16, but her individuality and the way she doesn’t care what others think about her is truly commendable. My 16-year-old self definitely could have taken a page from Sophie’s book!

I’m a sucker for boarding school settings and Hex Hall makes an excellent backdrop to a unique cast of characters. From hot-headed werewolves to stuck-up faeries to ghosts roaming the halls (à la Hogwarts), the magical student body runs the gamut and I wanted to learn more about them and their backstories as well. Because this is the first book in the Hex Hall trilogy, the story did end on somewhat of a cliffhanger, but I guess that’s okay since I was pulled in enough to want to read the rest of the series (as evidenced by my next day trip to the library for books two and three).

In some ways, Hex Hall is your quintessential paranormal YA/magic school trope, but Sophie’s voice is really what makes this story stand out from other stories like it. The twist at the ending will convince readers to stick around for book two, which, if it’s anywhere near as engaging as Hex Hall, will be just as unputdownable!

Happy New Year & Happy Birthday (to me)!

happy new years

2013 has been quite the roller coaster, with both ecstatic highs and frustrating lows. While I’m thankful to have accomplished quite a lot, I must admit that this past year definitely paved the way for room for improvement. So sayonara, 2013, and HELLOOOOOO 2014! I’m excited for the next 365 days and am determined to make this year better than the last.

I’m still working on my list of resolutions, but of course I’ve got a few bookish ones sprinkled in there. Like I said, last year was quite the roller coaster, resulting in a neglected blog and a reading slump that lasted WAY too long. I refuse to let that happen again. Books are my life (she says dramatically) and I need to get back to what makes me happy. As for this blog, I need to write for myself and stop worrying what others think and whether or not they do(n’t) like it. As much as I LOVE the book blogging community (another resolution is to become more involved with commenting, social media, etc.), it’s easy to get caught up in comparing my blog/reading speed/ARC piles to other bloggers. My plan is to look to others for inspiration, NOT envy. Besides, the only person who can do RtR justice is moi!

Along with today being the start of a new year, today is also my birthday! Talk about a starting-fresh double whammy! While today was pretty low-key, I made sure to do two of my most favorite things: browse the bookstore and eat cupcakes. I also indulged in a personal birthday prezzie to myself, but I’m keeping it hush-hush until it arrives a few days from now. Needless to say I’ll be obsessively stalking the “track my package” until then…

…Starting now! Kidding (maybe). But I do hear a red velvet cupcake calling my name. Happy New Year, lovlies, and here’s to a healthy, prosperous, and BOOKISH 2014!

happy new year

My Thoughts on “Emo” Books & Why I Avoid Them

“There can be no knowledge without emotion.” — Arnold Bennett 

Yesterday while chatting about scary movies (and why I avoid them them) with the beau, I confessed my extreme aversion to not just scary movies but to tear-jerkers too. He didn’t seem to understand why I prefer movies/TV shows that are cheery, comical, and over-all lighthearted. Not surprisingly, the same goes for books as well.

I got to thinking about my indifference toward books that are more emotional and “heavier” than the typical lighthearted, fun books that fill the majority of my shelves. I’ll admit, I tend to gravitate toward books that are typically more upbeat, but I look at it this way: reading is — and always has been — my escape. If I’m going to live on my own Fantasy Island, I want it to be happy-go-lucky, cheerful, and filled with sexy times (just being honest!). I don’t want to get over-emotional and become a blubbering mess because something tragic happened to a character who I’ve fallen in love with. (Reason #1 why I don’t read Nicholas Sparks books.) I don’t want crying on Fantasy Island, I want laughter!

All the feels!That said, whenever I hear buzz about certain books that actually seem interesting, I feel as though I’m depriving myself and not giving them a chance simply because I KNOW they’re probably tear-jerkers. Sure, I’ve read books that have made me cry, but in those instances, they’ve all taken me by complete surprise! The books I tend to avoid are the ones whose plots scream “Bring tissue!”

In an effort to experience all spectrums of the emotional rainbow, I’m making a personal decision to pick up at least one book that I’m sure is likely to “give me the feels.”

A few titles that have caught my interest while floating around the book world are:

Feel free to suggest any others that you think I should check out! I will definitely make sure I’m fully stocked with Kleenex before venturing into Emo City (the opposite of Fantasy Land, obviously).

ROAMING QUESTION: Do you tend to avoid certain books for emotional reason? Or am I just crazy for depriving myself from a whole world of great literature simply because it’s “too emo”?

#RWA13 Author Signing!

RWA Literacy Autographing

What better way to revive RtR than by recapping one of the biggest romance reader events of the year! After struggling with my reading mojo for months, when I heard that this year’s Romance Writer’s Convention was being held in Atlanta — and that they were having an event for the public — I knew I had to go! With over 400 authors (and easily double that many attendees!), the #RWA13 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing was hands down the BEST bookish event I’ve ever been to!

I didn’t know what to expect, but I did do a bit of research the day before by making a list of which authors I had to meet. On the day of the event, in true Georgia summer fashion, the weather was erratic — rolling clouds, sticky, humid temps… it looked like it was going to open up and start pouring at any minute — but I wasn’t going to let that stop me! I made it to the hotel with ten minutes to spare and right before the thunderstorms began (whew!). When I arrived, I stopped dead in my tracks — literally. The line to get into the atrium was insane! Silly me for thinking that I was just going to waltz in, when in fact I should’ve arrived hours before as opposed to mere minutes. Luckily, once they opened the doors the line moved quickly and before I knew it I was in a room filled with people just like me — bookish, rom-loving fans. The air was electric!

Even though there were hundreds of people mingling about and standing in line to meet their favorite authors, I was able to make my way around and meet all the authors on my list! Talk about fangirling — I altered between squeeing my love, tumbling over my words, to being speechless. I can say, though, that there were a lot of “Oh my god!” and “It’s such an honor to meet you!”

The Authors

The best part is, every single author I talked to was SO NICE and genuinely happy to be there, interacting with fans! Then again, why wouldn’t they be? They write happily ever afters for a living! Everyone knows that romance lovers are nicer people ;) In addition to meeting all my favorites, I also scooped up copies of each of their books — complete with personalized autographs!

Book Haul + Autograph

When I finally made my way to the checkout line, my final haul was 8 books, including a reprint of the first romance book I ever read. A respectable amount, I’d say — especially considering how many I could have ended up with. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I hadn’t come prepared with an empty suitcase!

Despite the crappy weather, I’m so glad I went and got a chance to mingle with “my own kind.” Now that I’ve gotten my convention feet wet, I’m already planning how I can attend the next event… RT Con, anyone??

 

Review: Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter

Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls, #1)Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter

Shadow Falls #1 // 398 pp. // Paranormal YA // St. Martin’s Griffin // Mar. 2011

After a ridiculously long reading slump, I picked this up on a whim from my local Barnes & Nobles. To be honest, prior to this the only paranormal I’d ever read was the Twilight series, which I surprisingly enjoyed loved. Though this isn’t exactly like Twilight, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

SUMMARY: Born At Midnight is the first book in the Shadow Falls trilogy and tells the story of 16-year-old Kylie and how she’s shipped away to a camp for “troubled teens” after being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. There she discovers the camp is actually for teens who are supernatural, not delinquent, though she she’s convinced she still doesn’t fit in there, either.

As if trying to convince everyone she doesn’t have supernatural powers wasn’t enough, she also has to juggle a creepy ghost who keeps popping up, a narcissistic best friend, her parent’s divorce, AND two hot guys who both have supernatural powers and are both into her (oh, the agony!).

Kylie starts off stubborn and judgmental — albeit in a relatable, I-was-a-teen-once kind of way — but she does mature and progress as the story unfolds. Her refusal to accept the fact that she was supernatural was at times frustrating and borderline annoying, but she came through in the end — go girl!

What I found most interesting was the side characters (Kylie’s roommates were wittier than I was at that age!) as well as the explanation of supernaturals. I like the mix of traditional paranormal history with a twist, like when the author explains the origin of vampires or how shapeshifters turn.

Overall, it was a good book that was interesting enough to hold my attention and make me curious to read book two while at the same time still being a quick, lighthearted read.

Conquering A Case of the Mean Reds

Hello, darlings! Miss me? Today’s post is all about getting over a case of the blahs and digging myself out of a reading rut. Now that I think about it, those two things sort of go hand-in-hand since books make me happy… Anyway, I digress.

Confession: I haven’t read anything for pleasure in nearly TWO months! That’s the equivalent of a year in bookworm time! In that time, I’ve found myself bouncing between apathy, indecisiveness, and paralyzing fear that when I finally choose a book it won’t live up to my expectations. If you’re a book nerd like I am, I’m sure you’ve experienced this before and understand where I’m coming from. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, believe me when I say it S-U-C-K-S!

Between the cold, gloomy weather and a perpetual case of the Mean Reds, it’s been a blah couple of weeks. The only things I had the energy for were scanning through TV reruns on Netflix, mindless internet surfing and scarfing down Oreos. Pathetic, I know.

After a particularly melancholy weekend involving sweatpants and one too many cookies, I finally decided to get off my ass, take charge and tackle my to do list, which includes reading a damn book already (and hit up the grocery store, but that’s a given)! So, I’m doing just that. After a pick-me-up latte and an uplifting 90s playlist — Spice Girls and N*Sync will always have my heart! — I’ve already crossed off numerous things on the list, plus scheduled fun and exciting plans for me to look forward to the rest of the month. On the book front, I downloaded a handful of sample previews on my Kindle and tuned in to my first #TeaTime (hosted by the gals at Epic Reads) today. I’m happy to report that I’m more pumped than ever to dive in and tackle ALL THE BOOKS!

ROAMING QUESTION: Have you ever been in a reading rut or stuck with a case of the Mean Reds? What did you do to get over it?

Happy Release Day — Thrill Ride by Julie Ann Walker

happy release day - green

"Thrill Ride" by Julie Ann WalkerToday marks the release of Thrill Ride, the fourth book in Julie Ann Walker’s Black Knights Inc. series and by far my favorite so far. If you haven’t read it yet, run to your computer/local bookstore and buy it NOW! If you’re still on the fence (though why would you be?) hopefully my RT review will help sway you, and if you’re unfamiliar with the series, check out my review of the first, second, and third book. Oh, and FYI, even though characters reappear in each story, the series doesn’t necessarily need to be read in order.

So cheers, Ms. Walker. Here’s to happy sales and more sexy, brooding, bad-boy Black Knights to come!

Waiting For The Veronica Mars Movie? Try These Series!

Veronica Mars is one of my all-time favorite TV shows and when it was (unjustly) cancelled, the world weeped. Okay, a bit overdramatic, but I was seriously bummed. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about a high school/college girl named Veronica who has a penchant for sarcasm and solving crimes. Adding to the mix are awesome side characters, which include smouldering bad boy Logan, faithful sidekick Wallace (who was always my favorite) and Veronica’s dad, a sheriff-turned-detective who I always thought was one of the most laid-back parental units on TV at the time.

Talks of a movie have been circulating around for years and thanks to a Kickstarter project spearheaded by the show’s creator, fans finally got their wish. In less than 24 hours the $2M goal was met surpassed, ensuring a movie to be made sometime later this year. Talk about a SQUEE moment! With more than 40k backers and counting (including myself!), this trumped the news of a new Pope (sorry, Francis), making it the most talked-about topic around the interwebs yesterday.

That said, now comes the waiting game. Even though the WB has made all three seasons available online, that still leaves a lot of downtime before the movie’s release. So to pass the time — and keep excitement levels at a steady high — I’ve listed a few series that encompass similar traits to the show for those moments after you’ve exhausted all the episodes (which I realize may hard to do). I chose series because not only am I a sucker for ’em but also because that means there’s more to gobble up while you wait — and more characters to become emotionally invested in, mwahaha!

On the off chance you’re in the minority and are not a fan (don’t even tell me if that’s true) or have never seen the show (which, if that’s the case I demand you click on the link above, STAT!), you can still enjoy these books on their own for the following qualities.

If you like Veronica Mars for the…

Mystery-solving:

Witty banter:

Kickass heroine:

Smouldering bad boy:

Now, excuse me while I shut the world out and have a VM marathon attempt to be productive for the rest of the day…

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I’d Like To Start But Haven’t Yet

top ten tues

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started by the lovely (and creative!) Jamie of The Broke and the Bookish. After following along since TTT’s inception and because list-making is a die-hard hobby of mine, I figured it was high time I made a Top Ten list of my very own! So I present to you:

Top Ten Series I’d Like To Start But Haven’t Yet

top ten new series

  1. The Hathaways series by Lisa Kleypas — Confession: I don’t read historicals but I’ve been eager to fall in love with them like many of my friends have. I’ve been told Lisa Kleypas is the perfect intro to historical romance and after reading the premise of this series it seems like a great place to start.
  2. Delirium series by Lauren Oliver — After hearing the buzz about this series on Twitter, I bought book 1 when it was a $2.99 Kindle Daily Deal. Now I’ve just got to actually read it!
  3. Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward — A dark paranormal series that is sensual and brooding. As a fan of The Vampire Diaries and True Blood (the TV shows) I think I’d really enjoy these.
  4. Play by Play series by Jaci Burton — I admit, the only reason this series even made it to my radar was because of the HOT covers! Of course, after reading the blurbs and finding them interesting, now I’ve got even more of a reason to give ’em a shot.
  5. Marriage to a Billionaire series by Jennifer Probst — The Marriage Bargain was a hit from Day 1 and after hearing the success story of the author (and how it’s been optioned for film), it’s high time I see what all the hoopla is about.
  6. Adrenaline series by Vivian Arend — After reading Falling, Freestyle, I became hooked on Vivian Arend’s sexy action romances. I’m sure this new series will not disappoint!
  7. Animal Magnetism series by Jill Shalvis — I love Jill Shalvis’ voice and when combined with cute animals that are part of the story, I’m betting I can’t go wrong with this series.
  8. Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa — Another Kindle Daily Deal that I gave into. The fantasy YA genre has piqued my interest in the last few months and I really want to read these to get a taste of what fey life is all about.
  9. Psy-Changling series by Nalini Singh — After witnessing all the crazed reactions to the recent cover reveal of the upcoming book in this series (#12, Heart of Obsidian), I knew I had to give in to peer pressure and see for myself what everyone was getting all worked up about (starting from book 1, obviously).
  10. Because You Are Mine series by Beth Kery — After the Fifty Shades of Grey craze, the Because You Are Mine serial became a hit. So much, in fact, that it’s been combined and turned into a full-length print book. So while technically it’s no longer a series, I’m still counting it as one since it started off that way.

And there you have it — my first Top Ten Tuesday and a list of series I need to read ASAP. Now it’s your turn!

ROAMING QUESTION: What do you think of my list? What series would you like to dive into?

Roaming Around the Web (4)

Time for another R.A.W. roundup!

  • Planning for Love by Christi Barth is currently free on Amazon. A contemporary romance that is the first book in the Aisle Bound series, it’s a must-download! Look out for the next book in the series, A Fine Romance, which will be released March 13.
  • Kristie (aka Kindle Gal) from Kindles and Wine posted a Q&A where she answers questions from bloggers (including myself!) and gives readers a behind-the-scenes peek at her personal/blogging life.
  • I’m sure you’re familiar with those awesome old-school pulp fiction posters —  you know, the ones that were on the covers of hard-boiled stories from the ’50s. Well, now you can make your own with the Pulp-O-Mizer tool! Totally free and completely customizable, the Pulp-O-Mizer will make a pulp fiction cover for your blog, book or Facebook page. I’m planning on making one & maybe even ordering a notebook or coffee mug with my print on it.
  • I come across random web videos all the time, but this one in  particular was SO awesome that I just had to share it: Soldiers imitating a “Call Me Maybe” video originally performed by the Dolphin Cheerleaders. The way those guys get into it totally. Makes. My. Day. If there’s one video you watch it’s this one, trust me!
  • And lastly, an app recommendation from me to you: Songza, a music site that plays songs based on your mood/setting/etc. For instance, right now it is Friday morning and the “Concierge” suggests playlists for: Working (no lyrics), Brand New Music, Working (with lyrics), Easing into the Day, and Enjoying the Morning. Cool, right? Best part: it’s free & ad-free! (PS: it’s also available on your computer if you don’t want to download the phone app)

ROAMING QUESTION: Have you come across anything interesting (romance/book-related or not) in the World Wide Web? If so, please share! I’m especially keen to links that feature cute animals doing even cuter — and quirkier — things.