Published October 1, 2012.

Author website.

“To you the idea to kidnap Chase Dobson might seem like a mistake. But to us… we were just trying to stop him from being so…evil. We just…we had to stop him. No one helps kids like us. Not at my school. We aren’t the important kids. We knew it wouldn’t stop unless we stopped it ourselves.” 

Katie, Nate, and Renata had no farther to fall down the social ladder. But when they hit bottom, they found each other. Together, they wanted to change things. To stop the torment. 

So they made a plan. One person seemed to have everyone’s secrets—and all the power. If they could stop him… 

But secrets are complicated, powerful things. They are hard to keep. And even a noble plan to stop a bully can go horribly wrong.  (

The most prominent issue I had with FOUR SECRETS was the age of the three protagonists and the talked-about antagonist.  They’re all supposed to be in eighth grade but I kept finding that I had to remind myself that these weren’t kids in high school.  Just the extent of the issues they were having, how they spoke about it, how they carried it out it, just seemed so far beyond someone still in middle school.

Granted have it set their freshman year in high school and I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye.  Not much of a difference age-wise in the slightest but the association is different.  In my mind there’s a pretty big gap between middle school and high school and the voices I kept reading, at least to me, were high school age.  I just wasn’t convinced they were middle school, especially when body sizes came into play.  All except Renata were described as large, either in stature or bulk (and by bulk I mean muscle).  It just didn’t fit for me and it was a point of contention throughout and every time I was reminded of their ages it wrenched me out of the story a little bit.

But other than that it was a really good, pretty fast, read told from the perspectives of four different people, Chase excluded.  I could wholly empathize with the feelings of the social worker whose job it was to get to the bottom of why these kids kidnapped their classmate.  Because they entered into some kind of pact they wouldn’t talk and she ended up getting the creative runaround from all three of them.

Nate told his view in story form, referring to the people involved by assigned fantastical names and set in a scene that only vaguely alludes to what actually happened.  Yeah you can get what he’s saying but his was the portion of the book I liked the least.  I was over his method of storytelling pretty quickly and while I’m sure it helped him to cope with the situation he was seeking solace in a fantasy world instead of coming to terms with what happened.  He frustrated me the most.

Renata you see very little of within her own viewpoint, told, or rather shown, through her drawings.  Otherwise you get a picture of who Renata is by the way Nate and Katie describe and talk about her.  That would have been annoying to me if it weren’t such a perfect way to get across Renata’s personality.  She is very much a background girl that doesn’t speak very often but when she does, whether it’s actually with her vocal chords or with her drawings, it’s so poignant you can’t help but listen.  She’s described as incredibly small and for most of the book that’s the image I had in my mind: someone who was frail, tiny and needed rescuing when in fact she was exactly the opposite.  Next to the social worker I think I liked Renata the most.

Katie is the most prominent voice in the story aside from the social worker and its through her you learn the most information in a manner that won’t have you trying to put puzzle pieces together.  Her method is very straight forward and when she started the second “rouse” journal I grunted in agitation.  I WANTED her to reveal what happened because I knew it wasn’t what the situation looked like.  I think that was pretty evident from the beginning.  But there wouldn’t be a story if that happened so I bided my time reading Katie’s story broken up by lunches and homework and recreation time.  She was the most readable in terms of figuring everything out.

All three were hard-set in their ways when it came to not breaking this pact.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why and while it worked out in the end I don’t feel there was proper punishment doled out for the responsible parties.  The story resolved itself nicely enough but it was a little on the abrupt side and lacking in satisfaction.  I wanted more.  Comeuppance, maybe.  A knock off one’s high horse, if you will.  The story resolved itself within one book which is a plus all around but there’s a little bit more there, even if it’s just ten or twenty pages.

While not my favorite Carolrhoda Lab book that’s not to say it wasn’t a good read.  FOUR SECRETS has points of view for every type of reader of a multitude of ages telling a story about bullying and how NOT to go about remedying it.  I don’t want to give away the ending but through the eyes of the social worker you can see just how hard the gears are grinding, what’s up against these kids and just how thin of a wire they’re all walking on.  Bullying sucks, sure, but there are ways to go about fixing it that won’t land someone in jail.  There’s an air of noble cause and valiance in the book as well that may sway towards, in my eyes, the wrong way of fixing things but there is a balance there and Willey does a good job of playing both sides of the game.  It also goes to show that everyone has secrets, even the most perfect of people, and sometimes they’re far darker than bad hair days.

Ban Factor: High – Kids taking matters into their own hands and being OKAY with going to juvenile detention?  Le gasp!

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September 21, 2012

Pub date: September 25, 2012.

Author website.

Something has happened in Spokane. The military has evacuated the city and locked it down. Even so, disturbing rumors and images seep out, finding their way onto the Internet, spreading curiosity, skepticism, and panic. For what they show is-or should be-impossible: strange creatures that cannot exist, sudden disappearances that violate the laws of physics, human bodies fused with inanimate objects, trapped yet still half alive. . . . 

Dean Walker, an aspiring photographer, sneaks into the quarantined city in search of fame. What he finds will change him in unimaginable ways. Hooking up with a group of outcasts led by a beautiful young woman named Taylor, Dean embarks on a journey into the heart of a mystery whose philosophical implications are as terrifying as its physical manifestations. Even as he falls in love with Taylor-a woman as damaged and seductive as the city itself-his already tenuous hold on reality starts to come loose. Or perhaps it is Spokane’s grip on the world that is coming undone.  

Now, caught up in a web of interlacing secrets and betrayals, Dean, Taylor, and their friends must make their way through this ever-shifting maze of a city, a city that is actively hunting them down, herding them toward a shocking destiny.  (

BAD GLASS is something different.  In a good way.  It’s part horror, part apocalyptic, part science fiction and fantasy, hitting on every thread that each of those genres can unwind.  I had moments reading this book that actually made my stomach churn.  Of course I was eating lunch at the time and vomiting all over the lunch room table at a place I’ve worked at less than a week would certainly leave an impression.  Not a good one.  I really like where I work so I breathed through it.

In terms of character I felt it was a little thin.  I didn’t really have any motivation to care about any of the characters and when things really started to happen I felt more like I was watching the news than I was invested in reading a novel.  The emphasis of the story was on Spokane.  It was the antagonist here, as the blurb says, hunting them.  Literally.  I LOVED Spokane and I talk about it as if it were a fleshy type of character.  It was the most dynamic thing here, morphing itself to engulf the more static characters.

Taylor was your typical hard ass, stand-offish girl that leads by example.  Not unlikable but she wasn’t anything I warmed to.  Then her character took a major shift towards the end and I don’t think it quite fit.  It was too out of character and felt more like a contrivance to catapult the story forward than anything else.  I didn’t mind per se because I was still interested in the story but it was a point of contention.  I’m not a fan of characters deviating for the sake of plot.

Amanda is one character one day and then goes off the deep end the next without much segue, throwing another shock factor into the spokes of the plot.  Charlie was endearing, being the youngest of the group.  He was the techie, helping the rest of the gang keep in contact with the outside world all the while continuously searching for his parents whom he KNOWS are still in town.  Floyd is hung up on the death of his brother, Mac’s a clingy dick from the beginning and Dean himself wants to believe he dissolves into the town with the rest of them but I didn’t buy it.  He’s there for less than a week, put through all kinds of shit for the sake of his art but won’t simply walk away when things get really bad (and everything will gladly get out of his way to walk and once he gets out of Spokane all the craziness will stop but nooooooooo).  He sacrifices his life for Taylor, whom he’s known A WEEK but will not return the affection nor even much of a hint that it’s reciprocal, because he just can’t leave her.  No.  I don’t buy that either.

I don’t buy it as much as I don’t buy Taylor’s character shift.  Dean’s very presence beyond the first few days felt forced, his reasons for staying insubstantial at best.  Eventually it stopped being about his photography and started being about Taylor, again a stand-offish girl that would barely look at him.  I’m going to keep driving right past that tag sale and move on to the next one.

Spokane on the other hand was a living, breathing character consuming all the others, eventually literally.  The things that happen within the city, whether they just happen to the surroundings or to the people themselves, were so incredibly vivid that I could almost feel all of the panic and worry and wonder at what was going on.  From the weird bodily mutations to nature bucking it’s own trend, I believed it all.  It was the most vivid part of the story.  If it weren’t such an integral part, if the story focused more on the characters than on the surroundings, I would have lost interest pretty quickly.  But I kept reading for Spokane.  I wanted to see what the hell was going on with it.

I almost expected the ending to crap out.  I don’t know why but I was anticipating the whole thing ending up being a dream.  It was alluded to.  I’ll spoil it for you: it’s not.  Thank god.  I would have been so incredibly pissed off I don’t know what I would have done.  You get an answer but it leaves a lot of whys hanging out there and you still don’t REALLY know what’s going on by the time the story ends.  You have an idea and I think it’s enough to satisfy the curiosity that the plot brews but there’s definitely room for more.

BAD GLASS is, atmospherically, a great blend of horror and apocalyptic, the latter really just on the edge of the world about to go to hell in a Pinto.  There are some truly terrifying moments and the way Gropp wrote all of the changes it really plays with your mind and you won’t know what to think about everything that’s happening.  You’ll start to second-guess things and you’ll be trying to figure it out right from the moment Dean gets into the city and starts seeing these things first hand.  It’s light on character development but the city itself is such a huge personality in the book that it’ll just overwhelm everything else.  Really I don’t think there’s room for much else in terms of the other characters.  And I’m okay with that.

Ban Factor: High – Swearing, m/m sex, drug use and the world going to hell.  Not a good combination for the banners.

Published February 28, 2012.

Author website.

Hiding is Roo Fanshaw’s special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment’s notice. When her parents are murdered, it’s her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life. 

As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn’t believe in ghosts or fairy stories, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth. 

Despite the best efforts of her uncle’s assistants, Roo discovers the house’s hidden room–a garden with a tragic secret.  (

To start off with fairness this is an MG read, not my forte but if the story sounds intriguing enough I’ll snag it.  THE HUMMING ROOM fit this profile.  I keep a special place in my cockle area for things related to THE SECRET GARDEN so when I saw that this book was influenced by it I accepted it for review.  It was definitely a riveting story but the ending was abrupt, a blink and you miss it kind of thing that derailed the rest of the work for me perhaps a little more than what it should have.

Roo is an unfortunate case born to the wrong parents and as a result ends up in the care of her uncle who’s more absent than present and keeps his kid locked up in his room for his sake, apparently.  It’s a cyclical thing.  Phillip got depressed when his mother died and became bedridden but his father didn’t really know what to do with himself and became more withdrawn, making them both more reclusive and fostering an environment of neglect and anti-social behavior.  Crappy situation.

Roo’s a spunky little thing and doesn’t put up with the crap that’s been allowed to foster in this house and, as can probably be predicted, her presence riles things up, disrupts the otherwise fragile order of things.  THE HUMMING ROOM sticks pretty closely to THE SECRET GARDEN storyline so if you know the latter you’ll know the steps Phillip takes and ends up with a reintroduction to his father and all of that.

Really it’s a compelling story with the scene set magnificently.  The house, which is really an old children’s hospital, is given this incredibly creepy air that’ll give you the chills just reading it.  I mean how horrifying would it be to live in an old hospital where more children died than lived?  Seriously?  It may be Stephen King’s wet dream but I sincerely doubt it’s a child’s first choice at a play place.  But I think that was the best part of THE HUMMING ROOM, Potter’s ability to make Roo’s surrounding shine.  Or cake them in cobwebs, as it were.  The setting itself was it’s own character, from the personification of the river to the garden, everything was alive.

I felt Jack, the river boy, was ultimately irrelevant to the plot as a whole since the story really centered around Roo, Phillip and Roo’s uncle.  He was a means to draw Roo out of her shell which precipitated the events that moved the story forward but he didn’t have much else of a function.  Remove Jack from the story and I think it would have worked out just fine.

As for the end, like I said above, it was really abrupt and I felt it was resolved too easily, glossing over what could have been a really good healing period to see between Phillip and his father for a flash forward moment.  It plays into the nice resolution that I think a lot of MG novels have but as an outsider looking in it left me a bit unsatisfied.  I would have liked to have seen more.

Ultimately it’s a read with a lot of ambiance that follows pretty closely to THE SECRET GARDEN premise.  It’s a good story and you’ll end up feeling a lot for Roo, I think, since she really is an unfortunate character and the adults are a little less than understanding towards her (you can start a drinking game for how many times they threaten to send her back to foster care as a means of discipline, effing terrible).  But she’s a BIG character that, once she’s out of her own shell, will pull others out of theirs as well.  She’s goal-oriented and has an uncanny knack for hearing the earth thrive.  Kind of weird but it has it’s part in the story.  A good story at that.

Ban Factor: Medium – The banners would actually have to read it but there’s a lot of bucking adult instruction going on.  We wouldn’t want to give children any ideas that they shouldn’t always listen to adults, now would we?

Published September 27, 2011.

Author website.

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?  (

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE ended up being a mixed bag for us YAcks.  I personally went into it thinking I’d love it so hard I’d slather the book in drool.  I was mistaken.  For many the appearance of Akiva was a total buzzkill and Madrigal is something most of us could have done without.  While the consensus was that the writing was pretty and filled with WORDS there was a bit of distance, to one degree or another, but it was supplemented by lovely world-building and some intriguing characters that require more face time in the sequel.  Lucky for Angie she wasn’t the lone downer of this book, as she was totally expecting to be.

Steph (one of Sya’s minions) was Keeper of the Book this month but seeing as how the YAcks have spawned their own website, we’re all congregating over there now.  LOOK!  And just for visiting you get a bonus YAcked book, inadvertently slaughtered by us.  Sorry, THRONE OF GLASS.  You lose.

Ban Factor: High – Anything that bastardizes Christianity is an automatic fire starter.

July 23, 2012

Pub date: August 1, 2012.

Author website.

Kit Colbana—half breed, assassin, thief, jack of all trades—has a new job: track down the missing ward of one of the local alpha shapeshifters. It should be a piece of cake.

So why is she so nervous? It probably has something to do with the insanity that happens when you deal with shifters—especially sexy ones who come bearing promises of easy jobs and easier money.

Or maybe it’s all the other missing kids that Kit discovers while working the case, or the way her gut keeps screaming she’s gotten in over her head. Or maybe it’s because if she fails—she’s dead.
If she can stay just one step ahead, she should be okay. Maybe she’ll even live long to collect her fee…  (

BLADE SONG is a bit out of my normal reading repertoire but at the moment I’m all about branching out and I’ve been following Shiloh  since she unabashedly spoke her mind about the Sirengate debacle.  So throw all of that together and I wanted to read something by her and see what she was all about author-wise because I already thought she was pretty cool as a person.

JC Daniels is the pseudonym for Shiloh Walker who writes romances, among a bunch of other books.  It looks like she writes PNR under her Walker name as well as her Daniels name and I just don’t know enough about her to know why she pseudonymously writes.  But needless to say my first Walker book was a Daniels book simply because the blurb appealed to me and it’s right up my alley for some adult PNR (because the YA stuff makes me a touch homicidal).

Kit is your kick ass heroine that smarts off right from the get-go and at least has the know-how to realize she should really keep her mouth shut most of the time she allows it to open.  She’s part Amazon that allows her to call her sword at a moment’s notice even if it’s not in the area and it also gives her some other heightened senses that help her out in tough times.  Her childhood was total crap and I really liked the way Daniels interspersed Kit’s PTSD with her current job, sending her reeling into her past.  Not that PTSD is a good thing but it’s authentic to the character.  For instance Kit spent a lot of time starving and injured in a pit at the hands of her grandmother.  When her and Damon come upon similar pits in the Everglades Kit starts flashing back.  I just felt those flashbacks were authentic.  I bought them and it added a new vulnerable depth to Kit that gave reason to her kick ass attitude.

I was a little less than thrilled with her speech.  I felt that her dialogue and slang was, at times, reaching and it grated on me a little bit but not enough to stop reading.  The story was fast-paced and entertaining enough that it carried me through what I didn’t care for and let me just enjoy the story for it’s entertainment value.  I’m finding I can do this more with adult books than YA, probably because I’m starting to burn out on YA, I think.

The writing itself was on the simple side in terms of words on the page and at times redundant but I still felt Kit was a fully fleshed out character.  I found her as real as could be, right along with all of the secondary characters that Daniels introduced, from the witches to the cats and even to the humans that she ended up interacting with.  They were barely there and when they were they were serving a purpose but they were fully realized.  I didn’t feel like they were puppets in a show, merely there to serve Kit.  They helped her, as much as she needed it, but they all were ultimately their own entity.

I was less than thrilled with the romance.  There was a bit by the way of sexy times but it was an antagonistic relationship that you could see coming from the beginning.  And the way Damon kept referring to Kit as baby girl made me want to strangle something.  From what I got Kit wasn’t all on board with that pet name either.  The progression of the romance was exceedingly fast for what ended up coming to fruition but ultimately I think the two actually work together.  They both antagonize and compliment each other in equal measure; neither are dependent on the other, both are a bit possessive (Damon a bit more so which I found off-putting) and both could hold their own.  So I was less than thrilled with it but I didn’t wholly not like it either.

You know it’s a good foray into adult PNR.  It satisfied a craving that I had for something different yet similar (how . . . vague of me) and not nearly as angsty as I’ve been getting with the YA crowd.  It was a good deviation from my otherwise norm.  It’s definitely gritty and doesn’t shy away from the themes it presents so if you’re a bit weaker in the will area BLADE SONG might not be for you.  But if you’re keen on some violence, a kick ass chick with some issues, a nominal amount of sexy times and a good set-up for the next book, BLADE SONG is your bag.  I didn’t love it but I’ll keep my eye our for more, that’s for sure.

Ban Factor: High – Is that a joke?  Did you read the last paragraph?