Guest Post: Meet Myrna from ODESSA by Rebecca Ryals Russell

Today we have a special guest on the blog: Myrna from the new Seraphym Wars series by Rebecca Ryals Russell. The first book, Odessa, is out now and looks like a unique YA dark fantasy. I am really looking forward to reading it! I am the last stop on the Odessa Blog Tour, so be sure to check out the Seraphym Wars page for PRIZES/GIVEAWAYS and more.

Let’s meet our young heroine, Myrna!

Can you imagine graduating from high school one day and waking on a horrendous foreign planet the next? My name is Myrna Ashlin Watts and that is what happened to me. I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. The sunshine state and gorgeous beaches. Then I wake one morning in my own house but NOT in my own city or even planet. But the biggest surprise I got was when I opened my door and saw who inhabited this new planet. They werenâ??t people, thatâ??s for sure.

Then I was told I had a job to do here before I could go home. And the part of it that really frosted my buns was who this order came from. I didnâ??t have a choice at all since He was the one whoâ??d brought me to this hellish place to begin with.

So now Iâ??m trekking across a monster infested strange planet looking for more teens like myself with â??special talentsâ?? like controlling weather or causing volcanic eruptions or speaking with animals. And one of the things I miss the most, besides my family, is the blue sky and sunshine. This planet may have two suns or a billion â?? youâ??d never know since the sky is constantly grey.

But itâ??s not all depressing. Iâ??ve met some awesome people and really cool animals who think almost like we do and have made conscious decisions to accompany and protect us on our quest. Iâ??ve also met some intriguing, sexy and handsome men who seem really interested in getting to know me better. Too bad this isnâ??t the time or place for romance. Besides, I have no idea who to trustâ??as evidenced by the two occasions Narciss has tricked me with demon-dragons.

Iâ??m really looking forward to the end of this leg of our journey when we reach the enchanted island because Iâ??ll meet real live elves, faeries, dwarfs and who knows what other magical creatures. Itâ??s just too bad the reason for our being there is to learn how to fight against the demons in a huge battle to end this war between good and evil.

Title: Odessa
Author: Rebecca Ryals Russell
Publisher: Muse It Up
Release Date: April 1, 2011
Series: Seraphym Wars #1

Summary: Myrna Ashlin Watts is a high school Senior in Jacksonville, Fl when she is transported to a bizarre and primal planet corrupted by demon-dragons. And they want her dead. Her problem is, she has been recruited to kill them, too.

Reluctantly, and knowing it is her only way to get back home, she agrees to lead an army of six teens called The Vigorios (demon-hunters) all the while battling dragons and monsters as they cross swamps and mountains, forests and seas. She wrangles with mental scars of a demon attack when she was fifteen and a vision of those same demons killing her brother two years later.

Three very different men join her questâ??a seasoned demon/dragon-slayer who irritates but beguiles her, a tender and sweet mentor in whom she trusts completely and a roguishly handsome Scientist who sets her senses aflame. How is she expected to lead the others and keep everyone safe with so much inner turmoil? Whom can she trust, if anyone, even herself? How can anyone expect her, a kid in high school to be a leader? Much less one who leads an army of kids in a Holy battle?

Will love and lust, jealousy, greed, deceit and distrust break the delicate tie that binds these teen warriors called The Vigorios? Can a troupe of teens help the Seraphym finally defeat the massive empire of evil dominated for eons by the demon-dragons of Dracwald?

Buy ODESSA at Amazon

About the Author:
Author of MG/YA Dark Fantasy among other things, Rebecca Ryals Russell has two series coming out next year: The Seraphym Wars Series for YA and Stardust Warriors for MG.

She lives in a Victorian house on five acres in North Central Florida with her family. She also runs a Vacation Rental Log House on the property (Florida Black Bear Cabin It was in this cabin she wrote Odessa within 6 months, after thinking about it for 30 years, but never having the time to commit it to paper.

A fourth generation Floridian, she has lived all over the state except the Panhandle.

The daughter of an Elementary school principal dad and school secretary mom, for fourteen years she taught Middle Grades, preferring English and Creative Writing. She had several studentsâ?? works published in anthologies as well as several of her own stories, poems and photographs.

Main interests include her four children, ages 22, 19, 16, 11 and Irish hubby of 35 years. She enjoys spending time writing, drawing, going to movies and reading. Her favorite pastimes are sitting on the wicker porch swing on a chilly Autumn evening with her husband and usually a kid or two, drinking a beer and eating mixed nuts while chatting about anything and everything, or discussing philosophy and religion with her 16-year-old son over pizza.

Over the course of the next few years she has several books being published.

Where to find the author:
Author Website
Series Facebook Page
Personal Facebook Page

April 2011-Odessa, Seraphym Wars YA Series-available at Amazon
July 2011-Zarena, Stardust Warriors MG Series
September 2011-Guardian, Seraphym Wars
October 2011-Donâ??t Make Marty Mad (adult Horror story)

November 2011-Jeremiah, Stardust Warriors
January 2012-Harpies, Seraphym Wars
February 2012-Laman, Stardust Warriors
April 2012-Mercy, Stardust Warriors
June 2012-Magaelbash, Stardust Warriors

Friday Five (3) and Weekly Recap

Welcome to Friday Five! This new meme is run by the writers at Paper Hangover. Each week they give us a blogging prompt where we make a list about five things related to books and/or writing.

This week’s topic is “FIVE book covers you’re currently lusting over.”

I first saw this over at Ruby’s Reads and I think it is so amazing. I love the little shot of purple and the way the center image seems to float above the black background. GORGEOUS.

The squeeeeequel! Otherwise known as GIMMEGIMMEGIMMEGIMME.

I don’t know or even care what this book is about. I seriously love this image so much I want to frame it and hang it on my wall.

I have a soft spot for underwater photography. I love the weightlessness of it – it’s so haunting and feels like you’ve captured this slow motion moment in time. Love. It.

The simplicity here wins. I love the deathly pallor to the model’s skin and the huge sugar-crusted lips, perfectly complemented by the funky font. Full of win!

What covers are you lusting over?

My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out. Also, have I mentioned how much I love Cool Text? They’re the folks that allow me to make these cool (and simple) text buttons – for FREE!

If you’re a first time visitor, or just didn’t get the chance to stop by this week, here’s what you missed:

Features and Memes
Writing Wednesday – Scholar v. Natural
It’s so hard to leave the day behind and just loosen up!

SILVER BORNE by Patricia Briggs
3/5 stars
Shifter Challenge

SKINWALKER by Faith Hunter
3/5 stars
Shifter Challenge


Our new button is here! Bask in all its glory! The heavens weep and the angels sing for topless male action. Come and get it!

Sunday marks the first day in the awesomely stupendous All Male Review Challenge! Check back here then for the opening day excitement, and I’ll also have a linky tool up for you to start posting your reviews.


It’s also the last few days of April, which means the end of this month’s giveaway. Click the covers to enter! The winner will be announced next week and I’ll have a new giveaway posted for May.

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

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Book: Skinwalker
Author: Faith Hunter
Publisher: Roc
Release date: May 22, 2009
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: Jane Yellowrock #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) As a freelance skinwalker, Jane Yellowrock spends most of her time hunting down snarling vampires. In her latest gig, however, this Cherokee stalker receives a call from an unexpected client: New Orleans vampire madam Katherine Fontaneau wants Jane’s help in “neutralizing” a rogue of her species who has been slaughtering other vampires.

First impressions: I was really looking forward to reading this book. My mom recommended it to me after I said how much I liked the Mercy Thompson books, and in this series Jane Yellowrock shapeshifts into a cougar. A cougar! For realsies. I was super psyched, and the opening sucked me in right away.

Lasting impressions: Disappointing. Maybe I hyped it up too much. Maybe it just wasn’t my kind of story. Either way, I ended up not enjoying this one as much as I had hoped.

Conflicting impressions: The major thing that didn’t work for me was the transition into Beast’s head. Jane shifts into a cougar she calls Beast, and when she does her mind becomes the actual cougar’s, which means lots of stilted phrasing and a limited vocabulary. I found this too distracting and I really struggled to get through those sections.

Overall impressions: There were plenty of things I liked about this book, too. New Orleans becomes almost a character itself. The supporting characters are well developed and Jane is an interesting and independent person who is pretty badass. She’s not sure how she and Beast came to be, well, melded (for lack of a better word), and she struggles to control her at times. She can feel Beast raging around and clawing her insides. It’s a pretty unique characterization that I enjoyed.

It was the plot that gave me troubles, along with Beast’s voice. I found the story overly complex and the mystery confusing. I still couldn’t tell you what happened or who the bad guy was, other than that Jane and Beast ran around a lot, talked to a lot of people, and were hired by vampires to hunt down a rogue. Then stuff happens and her hunt is thwarted and eventually (I think) she figures out whodunit.

It’s been a while since I finished reading it, so in the interest of full disclosure, it could just be my aging memory that’s tripping me up. Overall, though, I didn’t find the story clear or compelling enough to keep my interest for long, particularly when Beast was roaming. I encourage you to give it a try if you like urban fantasy, just beware the cougar.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Writing Wednesday – Scholar v. Natural

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Welcome to Writing Wednesday, my weekly feature where I discuss my works in progress, project ideas, editing struggles, or anything else related to the world of writing. Feel free to grab my button and post your own thoughts on writing! Leave a link to your post in the comments and I’ll stop by.

As I’ve mentioned on here 1,043,972 times, I’m in my last quarter of grad school. You know what that means, right? Thesis writing! (Or in my case, capstone project writing!)

I’ve been in school part-time since January 2009, which means for the last 2.5 years I’ve spent a good portion of my writing life trying to sound very scholarly and proper. I try to avoid terms like “snooty” and “smartypants” but sometimes it all feels very much like in my efforts to write a quality paper I’m really just trying to sound smart.

Don’t get me wrong. My GPA is thanking me for those efforts. My snoot-tastic writing self is really paying off when it comes to school. But how is that translating into my other writing?

It’s hard for me, between school and work, to shut off that professional/business writing self and open up to my creative side sometimes. I sit down to try and write a review here and it feels so stiff and formulaic. Most of the time I want to delete the whole post and just write, “Four stars. Pretty awesome. You should read it. I’m tired.”

The perfectionist control freak side of me (read: all of me) will never let that happen. What’s the point of writing a review if you’re just going to say, “Meh. It was okay.” What would I do with all of these opinions?

The stiff side also struggles to really let go in my fiction. My sluggish, stress-addled brain slumps down against my skull, shakily pours itself a shot of espresso, and starts rambling about research methods and literature reviews and grant applications. I end up staring at the blank word processing document for about 12.3 seconds before clicking open Safari and checking Facebook again.

Le sigh.

I need to find a way to get in the zone and shrug off the business suit mentality. Nobody wants to read boring, scholarly Logan. They want to read fun, casual Logan! And if they don’t, I do, so I vow to try and be more fun in my reviews and in my fiction.

Somewhere in here is a funny, lively, non-Eeyore-sounding person. I promise.

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

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Book: Silver Borne
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace
Release date: March 30, 2010
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: Mercy Thompson #5

Summary: (from Goodreads) When mechanic and shapeshifter Mercy Thompson attempts to return a powerful Fae book she’d previously borrowed in an act of desperation, she finds the bookstore locked up and closed down. It seems the book contains secret knowledge-and the Fae will do just about anything to keep it out of the wrong hands. And if that doesn’t take enough of Mercy’s attention, her friend Samuel is struggling with his wolf side-leaving Mercy to cover for him, lest his own father declare Sam’s life forfeit. All in all, Mercy has had better days. And if she isn’t careful, she might not have many more to live.

First impressions: I love when we start these books in Mercy’s garage. I still think having a heroine who is a car mechanic is the coolest thing ever. I wish I knew how to work on cars!

Lasting impressions: Though a bit slower and less exciting than past installments, it was still an enjoyable read.

Conflicting impressions: The Adam-Mercy tension feels a bit contrived at this point. Really? They still can’t figure out how to just love each other? After all this time? With everything Mercy’s been through I’m ready for her happy phase any time now.

Overall impressions: I love this series, and I’ll stick with it until the bitter end, although I hope the end is anything but bitter. It’s been a really long time since I read book 4, so it took me a minute sometimes to process what had happened and where these characters should be. Still, I relaxed into the world easily and comfortably.

The action felt a bit distant somehow. Even though things happened, particularly things I should have been concerned about, Mercy’s reactions to the events around her seemed muted which made me not as worrisome. This is always kind of an issue in the series, since Mercedes doesn’t always think through her actions before realizing she’s in peril. Still, in this book I actively noticed how much Mercy didn’t seem to worry that Sam was stuck as a wolf or that the bookseller was missing.

I cannot stress enough, though, how much I love this world. I love Mercy as a coyote shifter in a world of werewolves. I love that the fae are complex and surprising. I did miss the vampires, notably absent in this book. Patricia Briggs really fleshes out the setting (in the Tri-Cities area of Washington state) to seem bold, yet real. I believe that these creatures could exist in tandem with humans. I accept the magic involved.

If you love urban fantasy, you should be reading this series.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Introducing the All Male Review Challenge!

Dear Readers,

Ever feel like you don’t read enough YA by male authors or with male protagonists? Then we have the reading challenge for you!

Introducing the All Male Revue Review Challenge!

This reading and reviewing challenge, hosted by Missie at The Unread Reader and myself, will run the entire month of May.

Beginning on May 1st, any book you read and review by a male author or containing a male protagonist is eligible to be entered into our Mr. Linky collection. At the end of the month, Missie and I will chose a winner for our Mega Hot Prize Pack of books!

Throughout the month of May, we will also have spotlight reviews, special guest posts, author interviews, and mini giveaways!

We are still pulling together prize packs and confirming our guest authors, but so far we have features and giveaways planned with authors Charles Benoit, Jon Skovron, R.A. Nelson, Antony John, Joshua C. Cohen, James Kennedy and Hannah Moskowitz!

Are you excited? I know I am! More details are coming soon, but we wanted to prepare you for the fun and also ask for your help.

Readers/Reviewers: To motivate people to take part in the challenge, we are trying to make our Mega Hot Prize Pack as epic as possible. If you’d like to contribute in any way, we’d certainly appreciate it. Books by your favorite male author or containing your favorite male protag, bookmarks, swag, your life sized cut out of Edward Cullen, we’ll take it!

Authors: We want to hear from you too! Are you a male author who writes YA? Or do you write a male protag who could put a RL Alpha male to shame? Would you like to be featured, interviewed, or spotlighted? Please contact us!

Bloggers: Are you a male blogger who feels lost in a sea of estrogen? Contact me for information on how you can be interviewed and featured on the blog!

We are hoping to make this a fun challenge for anyone and everyone to participate in. If you got any ideas that you think would add motivation or flare to this challenge, please e-mail us: missie at or loganeturnerblog at gmail dot com.

Friday Five (2) and Weekly Recap

Welcome to Friday Five! This new meme is run by the writers at Paper Hangover. Each week they give us a blogging prompt where we make a list about five things related to books and/or writing.

This week’s topic is “What are five things you wish to see more of in fiction?”

1. Horror. I don’t think there’s enough truly scary fiction.

2. Honest friendships. My best friends and I have messy, complicated, full relationships, and I feel this is rarely portrayed well in fiction.

3. Boy-girl friendships. Why is it that every boy and girl who are friends have to fall in love? So not true. Can I get a little platonic up in here?

4. Sex in YA. There. I said it. I knew a lot of people who were having sex well before college. Why isn’t this represented in YA fiction?

5. College settings. This is the black hole of fiction. Everything is split between high school and younger or mid-twenties/first job age. Where’s the college love?

What do you wish you saw more in fiction?

My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out. Also, have I mentioned how much I love Cool Text? They’re the folks that allow me to make these cool (and simple) text buttons – for FREE!

If you’re a first time visitor, or just didn’t get the chance to stop by this week, here’s what you missed:

Features and Memes
Writing Wednesday – Making It (Too) Personal
I discuss how much of my inner psyche transfers into my fiction.

A GAME OF THRONES by George R. R. Martin
Book and TV Show Review
3/5 stars
2011 Fantasy Reading Challenge

BUMPED by Megan McCafferty
3/5 stars
2011 Debut Author Challenge

THE GODDESS TEST by Aimee Carter
4/5 stars
2011 Debut Author Challenge

There won’t be a Silly Sunday post this week due to the holiday. Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

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Book: Bumped
Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: April 26, 2011
Source: NetGalley ARC
Series: Bumped #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melodyâ??s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girlsâ?? lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

First impressions: I love the language in this book. Right away, Megan McCafferty sets us up in a new time with new slang. Personally, I tend to say “for serious” a LOT in real life, so it tickled me every time I saw it here. McCafferty does a great job of grounding us in this alternate time so we feel comfortable right away.

Lasting impressions: That’s it? It’s just going to stop there? I kept looking for the rest of the story. Needless to say, there’s a cliffhanger at the end, and it’s quite abrupt.

Conflicting impressions: I found Harmony to be quite grating. I didn’t really care for her, so found it really hard to care about what was happening to her.

Overall impressions: I don’t like it when things go awry, especially when the characters seem so content with the status quo. I need to be shown, fairly explicitly, how a character comes to accept his or her change in circumstance, otherwise I get a bit cranky.

Here’s an example. Have you seen the movie Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon? I wanted her to end up with Patrick Dempsey. She had a good, full life with him. Why should she give that up to be with Josh Lucas? Apparently, for love, but I couldn’t for the life of me find the reasons as to why she didn’t love Patrick Dempsey enough. It irked me that she gave up a good man and a life she worked so hard to build just to throw it all away for an old love she hadn’t seen in years.

This book similarly irritated me. Melody has spent her entire life doing everything she can to make a good match. She is a good student, a star athlete, active in school clubs, and an all-around good person. Because of this, she signed a lucrative contract that will fund her future, which she seems incredibly happy with.

When her secret twin sister shows up on her doorstep, having run away from a strict Christian cult, everything gets all messy. Harmony is mistaken for Melody and ends up running off with Melody’s match, Jondoe. He’s the prize bull everyone has been waiting for to “bump” (impregnate) Melody, and over the course of one day Harmony manages to screw everything up.

What most bothered me was the ease with which both characters seemed to completely flip-flop their views. Harmony starts out as a repressed Christian and Melody is this pro-pregg, pro-bump leader of her school. Somehow over the course of a day or two, they wind up miles from where they started. They not only don’t seem to care that their views have changed, but they also seem happy about it. Neither of them seem to fully think through anything and when the tides turn they just sort of go with it in this hard to believe, impulsive manner. McCafferty does give us hints that these girls aren’t all that comfortable with the things they were taught to believe, but the climax of the story doesn’t do enough to justify how easily they leave behind their world views.

I did very much like the world McCafferty created, however, and the story itself is fascinating. I would have liked some more conflict between the sisters after the dust settles on Harmony’s mis-steps, but the build between best friend Zen and Melody is perfectly done. Melody is believably clueless about Zen’s feelings for her, and yet it’s easy to see why she could fall in love with him without even realizing it.

Although we don’t get a lot of background on this virus that prevents reproductivity after age 18, I felt like the scenario seemed valid for that circumstance. If women couldn’t have babies, wouldn’t the free market lead to teens selling their babies? Harmony’s cult/faith represents the opposite view, where people are rejecting this practice and instead opting to marry and have children at an early age. I’m not sure if I’m more comfortable with teen mother-wives or with teen baby-sellers. I wish we’d had a view of the middle ground in this debate.

This book is certainly a conversation starter. Although for me the characters were frustratingly nonsensical with their choices at times, it was still an interesting story. I would recommend it to dystopian lovers or anyone who wants a thought-provoking perspective on teen pregnancy.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this rave review by girl loves books.

Writing Wednesday – Making It (Too) Personal

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Welcome to Writing Wednesday, my weekly feature where I discuss my works in progress, project ideas, editing struggles, or anything else related to the world of writing. Feel free to grab my button and post your own thoughts on writing! Leave a link to your post in the comments and I’ll stop by.

As the saying goes, “Write what you know.” Inevitably, writers transfer some of their own experiences onto the page. What we know may become the basis of the setting, the plot, a line of dialogue, or maybe even just a character’s gesture, but it’s probably in there somewhere.

How far is too far? At what point does that mantra become a crutch, giving us the freedom to pull from ourselves instead of making it up? Does it even matter?

I struggle sometimes with how much “me” to allow into a novel. Is that my subconscious poking around on my pages? I will sometimes write something really dark and messy and scary and think “Whoa. What’s going on there?” I’d like to think it’s just my imagination going someplace interesting, but perhaps I’m really just a sick and twisted person.

(I’m not. I don’t think.)

On the flip side, what if what you know is a story that needs to be told? What if real life presents a situation so absurd, so fantastically unbelievable, so incredibly poignant, that it would be a shame not to use it? I think sometimes that it’s not fair to share those bits of myself in my fiction. Those are the things I should treasure and hold on to as my own, yet the story aches to be written.

I think that’s why journaling has always held an appeal for me. It’s a chance to write those stories and get them out, even if they never see a vast audience. In acting, pulling from experience to get to real emotion can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you’re able to access real, honest feelings. On the other hand, with time those memories will lose their emotional gravity. In writing, however, it seems like emotions can find deeper resonance the more you explore them.

The bottom line for me is whether the story is benefiting from the pieces I use. If something seems off, it’s probably because there is too much “me” bleeding through and not enough of the character. As much as I want the story to be personal and meaningful, it has to remain the character’s story, and not mine. Still, if an experience of mine makes a perfect plot element, I feel like I should use it.

Am I the only one that struggles with this? How much fiction needs to be in our fiction? How much of ourselves can we get away with incorporating into our stories?

If you’re not a writer, what about as a reader? Do you find that you put your own personal experiences upon the character? I definitely do this as a reader as well. My experiences will color my perceptions of the books I read, for better or for worse. I can’t help it.

What about you?

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: The Goddess Test
Author: Aimee Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: April 19, 2011
Source: NetGalley ARC
Series: Goddess Test #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) It’s always been just Kate and her mom â?? and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate’s going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won’t live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld â?? and if she accepts his bargain, he’ll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he’s crazy â?? until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she’ll become Henry’s future bride, and a goddess.

First impressions: I loved the relationship between Kate and her mom. The book opens with Kate driving her mom from their home in New York to the mom’s childhood home in Eden, Michigan. Her mom is dying from cancer and wants nothing more but to be at peace. Kate is really struggling with this, and it broke my heart. I liked Kate instantly.

Lasting impressions: It’s a fun take on the Greek gods and goddesses. It’s hard to say if I would have gotten some deeper meaning from it if I was more familiar with the gods (since the last time I studied them was in 8th grade), but overall my lack of knowledge didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the book. I was really caught up in the story and flew through this book.

Conflicting impressions: It was kind of a bummer that Kate didn’t know what the 7 tests are until the end, because it meant that we didn’t know either. This wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but kind of made me wonder when the end was coming. We had no frame of reference for when the final tests would take place, so I ended up not really caring about them since I also knew we wouldn’t get clues as to what the tests were.

Overall impressions: Kate is kind of a pushover, which made some of the scenes ring a little false. As soon as she gets to Eden, she is forced to accept an invitation to a bonfire party by the head cheerleader, Ava. Kate doesn’t want to go, because she wants to spend as much time with her mother as possible, but ultimately accepts.

Ava ends up trying to teach Kate a lesson about who exactly is Top Dog in Eden, but the plan goes sour. When Kate is given the opportunity to rectify the situation by striking an odd deal with Henry, she jumps at the chance. I didn’t really have a problem with Kate trying to save Ava. Just because someone is a bitch to you doesn’t mean you want to see them suffer, even if they are a stranger. I thought this spoke volumes about Kate’s compassion and desire to do the right thing.

Meeting Henry, however, is when things get weird. Good weird, but still weird. This mysterious guy asks her to devote 6 months of the year to live with him at his secluded estate and she agrees? Okay, suspension of disbelief, blah blah blah. When push comes to shove, though, Kate backs out and Henry flexes his karmic muscle and then she really has to agree or things are going to get scary weird.

The only thing that ends up spurring Kate through this twisted reality is the thought that Henry could save her mother. Since I found this relationship so believable, I also believed that she would do anything for her mom. I decided to just go with the flow and accept that Kate would do all of these things she didn’t want to do, just for her mom. Sure there are lots of lingering questions – Why would her friends let her go? Why wouldn’t anyone in Eden wonder what happened to her? – but mostly I could forget my doubts.

After Kate moves in to Henry’s house, however, things slowed down. There’s no real timeline pushing the story forward. There is a vague threat on Kate’s life that I found a bit unclear, so it didn’t suffice for me in creating much tension. Mostly I just wanted to know more about the tests.

When the end finally happens, though, the resolution worked for me. I found myself quite satisfied with how they chose to reveal the tests and how Kate had done on each of them, though it could have been expanded just a bit more. I liked how everything wrapped up at the end, and overall I found the story sweet and kind of magical. I think Small Review nailed it with her comparison to Beauty and the Beast because it definitely had the same elements. Girl sacrifices own freedom to save a parent, girl likes overbearing freedom denier despite herself, girl ends up with Stockholm Syndrome.

No? That’s not it?

I still found the book to be fun, exciting, interesting, and quite a page-turner. I gobbled this book up in two sittings because I liked Kate and wanted to know what would happen to her. If you like fantastical tales or even fairy tale retellings, I think this book will appeal to you. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this review by Rabid Reads.