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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Novella Review: Before the Snow (Stealing Snow #0.1)

Release Date: July 26, 2016
Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Length: 81 pages
Source: Library eBook


Enter a world of elemental magic, forbidden romance, and betrayal in this prequel to New York Times bestselling author Danielle Paige's upcoming Stealing Snow.

Young Nepenthe is half-princess, half-mermaid. Though she longs for the sea, her father wants her to stay on land. But only love can make a mermaid give up the water, and Nepenthe doesn't love anyone the way her mother loves her human father. She wants to live as a mermaid and become the River Witch, like her mother.

Then Nepenthe meets Prince Lazar, the son of the all-powerful Snow King of Algid, and she can't help but fall for him. After a horrible tragedy strikes, Nepenthe joins forces with a young fire witch named Ora to save Lazar and protect the kingdom. But it soon becomes clear that Ora loves Lazar just as much as Nepenthe does... And now Nepenthe must decide: inherit the power of the River Witch, or betray her friend to be with the boy she loves.

And Nepenthe's role in the prophecy is only just beginning. . . In the future, she is destined to cross paths with a girl named Snow, who will have the power to change Algid forever - for better, or for worse.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Nepenthe has lived her whole life with a choice hanging over her head. Born of two different worlds Nepenthe can choose to either succeed her father as the ruler of her kingdom on land or live in the water and succeed her mother as The River Witch. Nepenthe lived on the line between land and river, but after tragedy strikes her choice seems to be made for her. That is until years later she meets Prince Lazar and develops feeling for him, feelings that her best friend Ora seems to share. Now her choices are confused and she's not sure where she'll belong. I really liked Nepenthe, she's not a character who has everything worked out, and she feels such strong pulls toward land and water, and yet doesn't know quite what to do. Even though her life spirals into a bit of a mess, she's still a strong character who won't compromise her morals to get what she wants.

Romance: To say this romance is complicated is a bit of an understatement. Since this is such a short story, at least compared to most novels, there isn't all that much time to properly develop a one on one romance, let alone a love triangle, but I have to say that Paige does a pretty good job. This is mostly due to the fact that Paige doesn't pretend that any of these feelings are pure, there's always something underneath that almost corrupts these romances, something that either one or the other values above the love they claim to have. It's really interesting to read it because even though things are going fast, it still, in some small way, makes sense.

World Building: This story takes place before the official first installment in this series. In it, we're introduced to a few really interesting plot points. First is a prophecy that I'm sure we'll see a lot more of in the main series, but it does give a taste of what's to come. Also, we're introduced to a character who will, supposedly, have a role to play in the main series and will come into contact and (maybe) give some guidance to our main heroine. I have to say it was interesting getting to know this world. I was pleased to see that The Snow Queen isn't the only fairy tale that exists and is referenced in this world. Nepenthe's mother is none other than "The Little Mermaid" who apparently got a much happier ending than the one in the original Hans Christian Anderson version. I loved the magic system and the role that magic plays, not only in this story but in this fantasy world at large.

Predictability: I have to say that this story isn't really predictable. I was expecting something that fit in much more with the fairy tale retellings and other YA stories that are out there today, and while I'm sure there are quite a few that would have similar parallels to this story, it's not something that's the norm. Since I didn't quite know where the story was going, there were a variety of different twists ranging from the surprising to the utterly shocking. I'm trying to figure out if there was anything that I was correctly able to guess ahead of time, but in all honesty there probably wasn't.

Ending: I love how self-aware this story is. The author writes it in such a way that it's no secret that this isn't your classic fairy tale and the ending shows that as well. There are steep prices these characters have to pay for the choices they make as this story comes to a close and sets in motion an ancient prophecy. The final climax of this story isn't so much an epic battle as it is something where we get answers to some burning questions. Then the story flows into an ending. there isn't really a cliffhanger and yet things aren't really tied up since this story is just a precursor to the main series.

Rating:


If you've been reading my reviews for a while now and couldn't tell, I'm a huge fan of fairy tale retellings and if the main novel is half as good as this novella seems to indicate it is I'm sure I'll love this fresh take on The Snow Queen.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Book Review: Dark Tide (Waterfire Saga #3)

Release Date: October 13, 2015
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 320 pages
Source: Library Book

Once a lost and confused princess, Serafina is now a confident leader of the Black Fin Resistance (BFR). While she works on sabotaging her enemy and enlisting allies for battle, her friends face challenges of their own.

Ling is in the hold of Rafe Mfeme's giant trawler, on her way to a prison camp. Becca meets up with Astrid and learns why the Ondalinian mermaid is always so angry: she is hiding a shameful secret. Ava can't return home, because death riders await her arrival. And it is getting more and more difficult for Mahdi, Serafina's betrothed, to keep up the ruse that he is in love with Lucia Volerno.

If Lucia's parents become suspicious, his life--and all of Sera's hopes--will be extinguished. Political intrigue, dangerous liaisons, and spine-tingling suspense swirl like a maelstrom in this penultimate book in the WaterFire saga

    

Review:

Protagonists: Unlike the previous installments in this series, this book has a much wider range of perspectives. Whereas the previous installments mainly focused on Serafina and Neela, this installment has a focus on Ling and Astrid with smaller storylines focusing on Becca, Sera, and Ava. I was so glad to learn more about these other characters. Astrid has a very strong arc as she's hiding a secret that she believes makes her a liability to the other merls, and because of that she pulls away. Astrid's character development was so great, it wasn't just a quick fix, it's something that takes nearly the entire book to be resolved and it just felt so powerful. Ling's storyline has less to do with her character development, though she does face some growth, and has more to do with escaping Rafe Mfeme aka Orfeo, and finding her ancestor's talisman while on the way making more shocking discoveries. There are smaller arcs such as Sera preparing her rebellion to take back Miromara, Becca helping Astrid come to terms with who she is and finding her own talisman, Lucia (believe it or not) swimming some dark depths to try and discover if Mahdi's love for her is true, and Ava finding out that you can't go home again. I know it sounds like a lot, but it all flows together in a fantastic and strongly spun story.

Romance: Since Sera isn't a main POV in this book I didn't expect very much romance since before now the only real romance has been between Sera and Mahdi. That being said, there is some romance between Sera and Mahdi, but it really only takes up about a chapter, and there are some chapters that show Lucia's twisted "love" for Mahdi. Now for the new romances, I won't say too much about them but I will say that there are two, once for Astrid and one for Becca. Now Astrid's romance I was surprisingly delighted by. It's something that even by the end of the book is still so innocent and new and I felt like it was handled in a fantastic way. Becca's romance on the other hand, while for a while I was totally engrossed by it, it didn't take too long for things to get serious fast. Now there's a wrinkle of complication to her romance and I can see why the author might want to speed it up, but romances that move too fast still really bother me.

World Building: With our new POVs comes a wonder of world building. The most interesting I believe is seeing Ondalina and learning about their culture and how deeply it contrasts with that of Miromara. Ondalina is a very militant place where being different could be perceived as weakness. While I'm not saying I'd move to Ondalina I did find it a very interesting place. While we're there we learn more about Merfolk, such as the and the political situation between the various governing bodies. We do learn about other cultures such as Ava's people and their deep reverence for the Mer gods. There's still so much revealed and unfolded in this story that lends to the deep and fantastic world building that this series has.

Predictability: As much as this series can shock you at times, I have to say that this specific installment does seem to have a problem keeping things secret. There were a couple of things that I didn't quite predict, but for the most part, it was easy to see where this story was going to go for the most part once you have enough breadcrumbs. I think the most shocking thing that this book revealed was something that took me until maybe a page or two before to predict. That being said though the twists aren't annoyingly predictable, I was just missing some of the insane twists we've seen in the past installments.

Ending: This ending was a weird mix of ending too soon and ending too late. It's funny there was one chapter that was like second or third to last that I felt would have been the perfect end to this book, a bit of a cliffhanger with that sort of powerful sentence to leave off before the final installment. However it does go a bit further, it doesn't really start anything new but it just felt a bit... postmature? Is that even a word? That being said, as the story wraps up there are some fantastic scenes that really begin to set up how the final installment in this phenomenal series will unfold. Though I do have to say there are a lot of plot threads that I'll be very impressed if this author can tie them all up in a concise, but not too rushed way, by the end of the next and final installment.

Rating:


So I know it probably seems totally unfair that I'm knocking half a star off because a small romantic subplot went too fast, but it's a serious pet peeve of mine and all the chemistry in the world couldn't change it. That being said everything else in this book is just whar I wanted out of the previous isntallment. It felt like a complete story and that no one was really missing in action.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Book Review: Stealing Snow (Stealing Snow #1)

Release Date: September 20, 2016
Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Length: 384 pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she's not crazy and doesn't belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn't what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid--her true home--with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she's sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she's destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything...including Snow's return to the world she once knew.

This breathtaking first volume begins the story of how Snow becomes a villain, a queen, and ultimately a hero.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Snow has lived most of her life in a mental institution. She's not crazy, though, not really but day after day she tries to stay out of trouble and not let the other patients get a rise out of her. She had a friend, or maybe more, in a boy named Bale, but after their first kiss something happened and he went violent and they were separated. Then a strange new orderly appears in the middle of the night telling her that she needs to escape and find Algid, her true home, and so after Bale gets pulled through a mirror she sets off for Algid hoping that once she gets there she can find and rescue Bale, but once there she discovers that she's smack dab in the middle of all this world's problems. I really liked Snow, even though she has power over ice and snow, she has a fiery spirit and sardonic wit that bring a sense of excitement in me while reading from her perspective. Her reaction to all this fantasy stuff was very well done and I felt the author did a fantastic job at creating a very compelling and realistic character in our heroine caught between the light and the dark.

Romance: Argh! I wanted to be on board with the romance(s) in this book, I really did, and for a time I was but three love interests all introduced in the first installment is more than I can handle. At first, I was on board with a possible love triangle. There was Bale the childhood friend and eventual romantic interest for Snow. We don't see much of Bale, but the little we do see makes it obvious that he's a love interest to take seriously. Then we have Kai, who we meet shortly after Snow makes it to Algid. Kai and Snow have a combative relationship at first, undercut by romantic and sexual tension, and again I'm all on board for this possible love triangle. Then we have Jagger who we meet early on in the story but isn't revealed to be a romantic interest until much later. By the time Jagger is revealed to be a love interest I've hit my breaking point, and it doesn't help that he embodies a romantic trope I hate, the alluring boy who is so annoyingly cocky. Since I have a feeling I'm supposed to take all these love interests seriously I'm really annoyed, two at a time I can handle, but three love interests, who are really the only guys in this book around Snow's age that we see and all have feelings for her is very annoying.

World Building: The saving grace of this book, the thing that pushed me forward even when my head was about to explode with how aggravating the romance is, is the world building. As I'm sure a lot of you have picked up on by now, I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. Especially when they are of lesser known fairy tales such as The Snow Queen, like this one is. What I found so interesting about this story is that while it seems to promise a prequel to The Snow Queen and her rise to power, it also serves as a retelling of the classic tale as well. Not only that but there are elements of many fairy tales spread throughout this story and this land. My one annoyance though comes from the fact that there are inconsistencies between the eARC that I read and the synopsis, inconsistencies so large that I'm wondering if it was shoddy synopsis work or if the finished copy has larger changes than there usually are between ARCs and finished copies. That wondering is really annoying because if there really are changes they could be very large and change my entire feeling of this story.

Predictability: Looking back on this story it was very hard to pinpoint where things were going to go. There were no easy paths that made sense and things shifted so smoothly from time to time that it was never easy to see what was coming next. That made for a very unpredictable story. I want to say that there were things I easily picked up on, things that the author wanted to leave a mystery but I can't. I have theories on certain things sure, but nothing that was revealed in this story was something I easily caught onto.

Ending: My God this ending was insane. I tried to find a better adjective for it, but I still haven't fully processed it yet. So going into the final climax there was a lot of book still left to cover, more than usual at least, and I was extremely pleased with this drawn out, beautifully and terrifyingly described final climax. What I didn't expect however was the twist, the giant twist that I did not see coming that lead to a huge snowball effect that either made this book all the more awesome or completely ruined everything. Again, I'm still processing this ending and since I don't think it'll be fully processed for a while, for the first time I'm actually happy for the wait between books and I'm glad I have some time before the next installment to fully process everything.

Rating:


For once I'm truly at a loss for what to rate this book, and so while it does say four stars up there that may just as easily change once I've fully processed this book. There's a lot to love about this story but even after I've fully processed it I don't see this book getting five stars, mainly because of the clusterf*** of a romance.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire (Untitled #1)

Release Date: September 27, 2016
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Length: 448 pages
Source: Edelweiss ARC

When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . .

    

Review:

Protagonists: What I found most interesting about this Fantasy Romeo and Juliet retelling is that Romeo and Juliet aren't our main protagonists, instead they find themselves accidentally bound to our main protagonists. Paris never expected the chance to be bound to the Juliet, but after his only and most fierce competition Tybalt is killed he has to step up and take his place. However, before the ritual to bind Paris and the Juliet together can take place, Juliet runs off with Romeo and when Paris finds them trying to bind each other something goes wrong, it seems Juliet dies, and Romeo and Paris somehow wind up bound together. Runajo (which I could find no way to pronounce that rolled off the tongue well) has devoted herself to the Sisters of Thorn, who work to fortify the city against the Ruining. Runajo wants to find a way to save her dying city and on her search for a solution accidently pulls Juliet out of the Mouth of Death and finds herself bound to a girl who's bitter and angry and ready to kill. I have to say I really liked these characters. They both had flaws, like deep noticeable ones. They weren't pure lights in a deep darkness that were meant to banish all darkness away. They completely moral, but they'll do what they can to save and avenge those they love and have come to care for which I find very admirable.

Romance: So actually there isn't a lot of romance in this book. Barely any in fact. Paris and Runajo have no love interests, at least none of which I could see, and since we don't really get major scenes from Romeo or Juliet's POV it's hard to call that a real romantic plotline. That being said, there are, for lack of a better term, chapters that are told from Juliet's third person POV before the start of the book, and each one goes further back in time and shows her and Romeo's relationship as it is tested, as it thrives, and as it blossoms. It seems to me that this is more than your average insta-love, in fact, while there may be an instant attraction between the two, I wholeheartedly believe that true love came after, even if it did come rather fast.

World Building: I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the world building of this book. First, let me say that the world building is so vast and expansive. I mean, this is a fantasy world, and the author did such a great job at crafting it, coming up with the lore and have so many variations on the beliefs of these characters. I mean to see so diverse a cast of characters, some believing one things, others something completely different, or only marginally the same, is fantastic. How the magic system works in this world and everything that goes into not only weaving spells but fortifying them is gruesomely fascinating Then we have the parallels with the source material. I have to say that I wouldn't quite call this a retelling. Most of the story is already complete by the time the story begins, but there is definitely more here than other "retellings" I've read. I loved seeing these characters in a whole new light, though I'm a bit upset that Rosaline's facsimile character has a name change while most of the other major player don't, plus again Runajo isn't the easiest word to pronounce. Now on to the stuff I didn't quite like. Actually, there's only one thing and that's the pacing. I'm not sure why I was expecting a faster-paced story but I was and I have to say this was a sluggishly paced book. Each chapter felt longer than it was and it wasn't until the end that things really started to pick up.

Predictability: I have to say, on the whole, this book was pretty unpredictable. There weren't a lot of huge twists or anything, but it wasn't all that easy to see where the story was going to go. I think a lot of that was tied to the pacing. Things took quite a while to get done and by the time there was a set plot it was already too late and things were happening. I'm looking over my reading experience and I don't think there was anything that I predicted, at least not exactly, and there were some devastatingly huge twists too.

Ending: Going into this book I knew that it was going to be a duology, or ar least a duology, but since we only knew about one other book, for whatever reason I thought maybe it'd be a companion series. Before too long in this book though it became very clear that this was just the beginning. I can barely comprehend this ending but I'll do the best I can. There wasn't really a final climax, I mean, there was but it was very well sustained throughout the entire end of this book. There was no real cooldown and as things were revealed, betrayals were made and devastating secrets come to light, I could only think that I need to get my hands on the next installment.

Rating:


Oh my, there was so much to love about this book. The world building was mind blowing and the characters were so richly balanced. That being said there was a price to pay for such a gorgeously crafted story and that was that the pacing was very slow. However, if you enjoy richly detailed fantasy retellings than this is the book for you!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book Review: The Portal to Kerberos (Elementals #4)

Release Date: September 10, 2016
Author: Michelle Madow
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing
Length: 141 pages
Source: Review Copy From Author

She will venture into hell to save the one she loves.

After being betrayed by one of their own, Nicole watches helplessly as Blake is snatched into the prison world of Kerberos—along with Medusa’s head, which is the one item they need to stop the Titans from rising again. Now Nicole and the other Elementals must enter the portal, find Blake, and bring him and Medusa’s head back to Earth before the deadly monster Typhon returns and wreaks havoc on the world. But there’s one catch—their elemental powers don’t work in Kerberos. In a dimension designed to make those within it lose touch with reality, and that’s filled with dangerous creatures who want to stop them from completing their task, will they make it out alive?

In this penultimate book of Nicole’s story, join the Elementals as they journey through hell to save the world… before it’s too late.

A thrilling fantasy adventure in a contemporary setting with Greek mythology and sweet romance, Elementals is a YA series that will keep you on the edge of your seat wanting more!

  

Review:

Protagonist: After watching the boy she loves get dragged into a hellish prison world, Nicole will do just about anything to get him back. With one member of their team already lost and the Head of Medusa on the line, the Elementals brave the world of Kerberos to try and set things right in order to save the world. Things in Kerberos aren't like Earth, this is a world designed for torture and difficulties and the quest to save Blake isn't going to be an easy grab and go mission. One of the interesting things about this story is seeing how, with Blake on the line, how impulsive Nicole becomes. She becomes more of a shoot first ask questions later type of girl which adds an interesting dynamic to this quest where Danielle becomes the more level headed one. Of course, all these characters have some sort of development over the course of this quest that strengthens them as heroes of this series.

World-Building: This is actually a very hard section to write because the only real world building is showing readers the world of Kerberos, and while it's definitely a terrifying place to be and our heroes don't go through it totally unscathed they do have a bit of help getting through which I feel sort of negates how terrifying this torturous prison world seem to the reader quite a bit. It is interesting to see the Greek Mythological influence of the world grow. We get to see some of the baddies in Kerberos and learn a bit more about the Second Rebellion and the forming of this prison world and its ultimate punishments. There is a tiny bit of romance to this book as well, though it's mostly seen in Nicole's constant urgency to get to Blake, there is a possible new romance blooming for one Elemental in particular.

Predictability: Looking back on this adventure I'd have to say that, on the whole, it wasn't that predictable. There are a few reasons for this, firstly is the length of the story and speed of the pacing. With this not only being such a short book, but a fast paced one as well it didn't give me a lot of time to speculate on what would happen next other than the vaguer big picture stuff, and even then I was sorely mistaken. Then there's the fact that this is an author gone rogue, for lack of a better term, she doesn't play by the rules and formulas and that leads to some great twists in this book.

Ending: I'm still not sure if I've properly digested this ending, but here's my unfiltered and spoiler-free thoughts. I heard a lot about this ending, all spoiler free other than the intense feelings, and going in I didn't quite know what to expect, I wasn't ready for another crazy dramatic ending like the previous one, and while the final climax of this book is pretty intense, the actual ending of this book is kind of idealistic. I mean it's not a solve every problem with the blink of an eye idealistic, but it's idealistic enough to make me a bit uncomfortable at what was going on. There is a bit of a cliffhanger but it's a lot less stressful than the one at the end of The Head of Medusa.

Rating:


So, I did really enjoy this book, but I have to say that even though our heroes do face some challenges and go through some really intense stuff, I felt like they could have worked harder and had a tougher time getting through this mess, and the ending was a little too idealistic for my taste.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Book Review: The Architect of Song (The Haunted Hearts Saga #1)

Release Date: August 15, 2016
Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Golden Orb Press
Length: 425 pages
Source: Review Copy from Author

A lady imprisoned by deafness, an architect imprisoned by his past, and a ghost imprisoned within the petals of a flower - intertwine in this love story that transcends life and death.

For most of her life, nineteen-year-old Juliet Emerline has subsisted – isolated by deafness – making hats in the solitude of her home. Now, she’s at risk to lose her sanctuary to Lord Nicolas Thornton, a twenty-seven-year-old mysterious and eccentric architect with designs on her humble estate. When she secretly witnesses him raging beside a grave, Juliet investigates, finding the name “Hawk” on the headstone and an unusual flower at the base. The moment Juliet touches the petals, a young English nobleman appears in ghostly form, singing a song only her deaf ears can hear. The ghost remembers nothing of his identity or death, other than the one name that haunts his afterlife: Thornton.

To avenge her ghostly companion and save her estate, Juliet pushes aside her fear of society and travels to Lord Thornton’s secluded holiday resort, posing as a hat maker in one of his boutiques. There, she finds herself questioning who to trust: the architect of flesh and bones who can relate to her through romantic gestures, heartfelt notes, and sensual touches … or the specter who serenades her with beautiful songs and ardent words, touching her mind and soul like no other man ever can. As sinister truths behind Lord Thornton’s interest in her estate and his tie to Hawk come to light, Juliet is lured into a web of secrets. But it’s too late for escape, and the tragic love taking seed in her heart will alter her silent world forever.

International and NYT bestselling author, A.G. Howard, brings her darkly magical and visual/visceral storytelling to Victorian England. The Architect of Song is the first installment in her lush and romantic Haunted Hearts Legacy series, a four book gothic saga following the generations of one family as - haunted by both literal and figurative ghosts - they search for self-acceptance, love, and happiness.

  

Review:

Protagonist: Juliet, who at a young age grew deaf after a terrible illness, now feels the fresh grief of losing her mother, and to make matters worse some viscount has his eyes set on her family home without any clear reason. Soon after her mother's funeral Juliet, overcome with grief and something unexplainable steals a flower from a grave simply marked "Hawk" upon returning home she finds that but touching the flowers petals she can see and, miraculously, hear the ghost of the man who's headstone is labeled "Hawk." Hawk remembers nothing of his life, only that he is in some way connected to Lord Nicholas Thornton, the man who seeks to by Juliet's home. In search of the truth of what happened to Hawk, Juliet grows closer to Lord Thornton and learns more about him and his connection with Hawk, her world, and her heart, will never be the same. I really, really liked Juliet as our narrator. She's a strong and intelligent girl and while she's a bit shy and reclusive at first as the story develops she comes out of her shell and grows into someone who's not afraid to show who she is to the world.

Romance: I am very split on this romance. It doesn't start as a love triangle at first, though there are clear markers in the story that practically scream at you that one is on the way, and while Juliet and Hawk stay more or less sequestered from the world their romance is incredibly compelling. Their chemistry is very well written and described and because they aren't tied down by societal expectations, Hawk being a ghost and whatnot, their romance blooms quickly yet, gratefully, still believably. Then Juliet follows Lord Thornton to his holiday resort to gain more information about hawks past and things really start to blur. Lord Thornton, a man, who in Juliet's eyes, only wants her estate, is shown to be kind and caring, while her spectral lover grows more and more jealous and possessive. I won't say who Juliet ends up with, but I will say that, despite all of my aggravation over this love triangle, by the end, I actually came around to why certain things had to be the way they were.

World Building: Going into this story I was fairly blind to the plot. I knew that it had some paranormal aspect to it and that is was a New Adult story by A.G. Howard so, having enjoyed her Splintered series as much as I did, I was all in. First off I love the historical aspect of this story. A gothic Victorian love story filled with ghost, secrets, and vengeance is more than enough to entice most readers. I love how vividly Howard can bring a world to life and on top of that it's a world virtually without any sound. One thing I kind of have to bring up is that I kept forgetting that Juliet is deaf since she is so adept at reading lips and can hear her spectral visitor it doesn't come up as often as I expected so during the times it does I usually found myself forgetting her deafness. Finally, if I have one large complaint about this book it would be it's pacing. It's not that the book is boring or anything, it's more that there are stretches where things could have gone smoother or faster. Things that could have easily been condensed. I found it hard to read the book as quickly as I normally do spending nearly five days just getting through the first half and after that, it did pick up though if I wasn't trying to get this review up by today I may have taken longer breaks every six chapters or so.

Predictability: There are surprisingly so many mysteries in this story. First is the most obvious which is what happened to Hawk that led to his premature death and what is his connection with Lord Thornton? The latter question we actually get answered within the first third or so of the book, though there are unseen mysteries attached to various parts of the stories. It's funny though early on in the story I had a theory of sorts, one completely and overly complicated, that explained something that wasn't even a mystery, more a general wondering, and funnily enough I was right, though the answer was much more simplistic than my convoluted theory. There were things though that I never quite caught onto and that gave me a great and wonderful shock to discover.

Ending: While this is the first in a series, it's not a traditional series. This is a series of companion novels tied together with a similar thread. That means that this book, for the most part, wraps everything up by the end of the book. Whenever I come across a book that wraps the story up I often consider the idealism in the ending, or lack thereof. While this book doesn't exactly have the most idealistic ending, I'd say that there were a few things that I felt were just a little too idealistic for my tastes, though I will say since this is a paranormal novel nothing's really impossible.

Rating:


So, because of the slow pacing and slightly too idealistic ending I cannot in good faith give this book five stars, but that doesn't mean this story isn't awesome. If you're a fan of dark mysteries and with a Victorian setting I'd say this is the book for you!

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Book Review: An Author's Odyssey (The Land of Stories #5)

Release Date: July 12, 2016
Author: Chris Colfer
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 438 pages
Source: Purchased Audio Book

The fifth book in Chris Colfer's #1 New York Times bestselling series The Land of Stories!

In the highly anticipated continuation of the Land of Stories series, Conner learns that the only place to fight the Masked Man's literary army is inside his own short stories!

When the twins and their friends enter worlds crafted from Conner's imagination, finding allies no one else could have ever dreamed of, the race begins to put an end to the Masked Man's reign of terror.

Can the twins finally restore peace in the fairy tale world?

    

Review:

Protagonists: Alex and Conner Bailey once again face a great challenge. After their Uncle Lloyd, also known as the Masked Man, unleashes an army of literary villains and takes over the Land of Stories, the only and best chance the twins have to save the land is to recruit characters from Conner's stories that he wrote based around his adventures, but as they explore these stories to help take back the Fairy Tale Land they love, something far more sinister is going on back in the fairytale world and who knows if they'll be back in time to save everyone. One of the things that I loved about this book is how much is revealed about these characters, specifically Conner, as the twins traverse his stories. At first, the stories have a very shallow, although exciting premise, but as they continue their travels more about who Conner is, his experiences and feelings about his life reveal themselves in elements of his stories. There are many third-person perspectives in this story, each with great development and character building, but, as the title suggests, if this book belongs to one POV it's Conner Bailey.

World Building: I was a bit apprehensive going into this book. The charm and hook of the previous installments of this book relied on two characters traversing classic stories and interacting with this author's versions of the classic characters that inhabit them. However, this book, on a whole, deals with new characters that were created in the mind of Conner Bailey, one of the main characters of this book. Keeping that in mind I was anxious to see how I would like traversing into unknown territory in a series as connected to classic characters as this one is. It turns out... I LOVED IT! Don't get me wrong, there were some trippy moments in the stories, but that had more to do with the fact that many of the characters in these stories are based on the fairy tale characters we already know, such as Goldilocks, Jack, Queen Red, and more. There are also moments with other characters, continuing Bree's storyline from the previous book, seeing (Not-Yet-King) Arthur again, and even learning what the royals and rebels have been up to since the hostile takeover.

Predictability: Normally these books have a good balance of the predictable and the unpredictable. However, I was almost pleased to see that this book had far more twists than I was expecting and many of them were very unpredictable. I love how this author mixes foreshadowing and cliches and still manages to have so many things be as unpredictable as they are. There are many times when I knew that something was meant to always be a surprise, and others when once the twist had come that you could almost follow a trail of breadcrumbs back to where it was first foreshadowed. I loved every twisty moment of this book but there were predictable moments that I know weren't meant to be a surprise that found a way to impact me in a similar, though not the same, way as even the most shocking twist.

Ending: As this story got closer and closer to the end it became perfectly apparent that while this book was at one point meant to be the finale of this series, it isn't so anymore. Granted I'm sure there was probably a tweet or blog post that announced that this was not the end, but I never saw it, so I have a very mixed feel on this ending. On the one hand I'm a bit upset that I thought going into this book that it was going to be the end, however, I'm overjoyed that we're going to get more books in this fantastic series. The final climax of this book was awesome and provided some much-needed information and closure for one character in particular and then we have an ending that if you hadn't gotten the memo by then surely told you that this isn't the final book due to the tremendous cliffhanger at the end.

Rating:


It's funny looking back how similar this book is with the previous installment, however, that book felt almost like filler whereas this book definitely had the feeling of getting ready for one last battle that will decide the fate of all realms.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Script Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8)

Release Date: July 31, 2016
Authors: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Length: 320 pages
Source: Library eBook

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne, is the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. It will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on 30th July 2016 

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.

    

Review:

Characters: Albus Severus Potter is about to attend his first year at Hogwarts. As we all know by now he's worried about the chance he's sorted into Slytherin House. After being soothed by his father, the famous Harry Potter, Albus is calmer, but he can't quite shake his nerves. As the years go by and father and son become more and more estranged, it'll take something big to bring them back together once more. Can I just say that Albus and Scorpius (Draco Malfoy's son) are so precious? That's not quite the word I wanted to use, but it'll have to do. I mean there are many times throughout this play that I wanted to just give them a hug and tell them that everything would be okay. I also really enjoyed that, without a ton of exposition as an ordinary novel would have, that we were able to get such a good sense of these characters' various traits and personalities. Then we have the legacy characters, namely Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco. It was such a treat to see these characters that we really only saw as kids and teens all grown up. These characters aren't perfect, they have flaws, harry especially isn't quite the best father, but he tries and his development with Albus is pretty enjoyable to read.

World Building: Part of me wants to say that coming back into the wizarding world would feel natural, like I never left and that this book fits in perfectly with the rest of the series despite it being a screenplay while the rest are novels, however, if I'm being honest there is a bit of a disconnect for me. I think it has to do with the fact that, one there's a lot of fan service, I mean much more than I expected by far, but also that there's a part of this story that feels a bit too much like I was reading fan fiction. I believe that since this is a screenplay and that we cannot actually experience Rowling's addictive writing style coupled with the fact that there's a ton of fan service that this story almost feels as though it's written by someone else entirely and not actually canon, even though it is. That being said, though, as a huge fan of this series I was delighted to see these fan service elements and there were some extremely emotional scenes that I won't get into because of spoilers, and it's fantastic to return to Hogwarts and the Wizarding World after all this time.

Predictability: I have to say that the predictability is really well done here. I don't know if it's because of the screenplay writing style or what but there was quite a lot that was hard to predict about this story. As with most stories, there were a few things that were actually fairly predictable, but on the whole, I was surprised at nearly every turn. There's a lot that goes down in this two part story and there are some rather mind-blowing moments, but I was happy to see that even the most shocking twist had some sort of rational or foreshadowing connection to it.

Ending: So I don't want to talk about this ending too much and risk spoiling it, but it's really awesome. The things that lead up to the final climax of the story were really entertaining and really well plotted out. It's interesting to see where, both emotionally and physically these characters end up, but the final battle I have to say is a stroke of pure genius. It's really easy to feel how action packed it is, and when the dust settles there's this really powerful scene that will give you feels. the story itself wraps up rather nicely there are still things I'd like to know, but they're all on a more big picture stage whereas all the things directly relating to this story are tied up really well.

Rating:


I know what you may be thinking, "Four stars, FOUR STARS!? How can you give a Harry Potter story four stars!?" Let me explain, with this not being your typical Potter story, and with, I repeat, the MASSIVE amounts of fan service, there was a relatively big part of this story that didn't feel real, that didn't feel canon. The story is great, and there's a part of me that loves the fan service bits, but the unreal feeling isn't something I can easily ignore.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Book Review: Nevermore (Nevermore #1)

Release Date: August 31, 2010
Author: Kelly Creagh
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Length: 543 pages
Source: Purchased Book

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

His life depends on it.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Isobel is part of a higher social circle than most of her school. She has her own crew of friends and a boyfriend on the football team. She's nearly the complete opposite of goth boy Varen Nethers, but after they're assigned to collaborate on a school project they find they might have more in common than they thought. Soon Isobel actually wants to spend more time with Varen, and, after she starts having some freaky dreams, he might be the only person who can help her make sense of what's going on. On the whole, I actually really like Isobel as the main protagonist. She's a very realistic character and sure she has flaws and does things that annoy me as a reader, but as the story goes on she becomes a stranger character without losing what makes her so realistic and relatable. Her development and growth throughout this monster of a book feels natural and never feels too rushed or like it's being drawn out too much.

Romance: Going into this book I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the romance. I've seen "opposites attract" love stories before and there's usually something disingenuous about them or they feel rushed, but I actually really enjoyed this romance. There isn't a love triangle in this book but we do have to suffer through Isobel's huge tool of a boyfriend Brad for a while before the romance between Varen and Isobel starts. The main romance is a fairly slow burning one and yet it also feels very realistic. I was actually really surprised at how soon in the story I found myself rooting for this couple and while there were a couple of times when the romance gets a bit too cliched, it was always something I could easily shrug off.

World Building: If I had to talk about one thing about this book that bothered me, it would probably have to be how this book is so large and yet it takes so long to get to the exciting paranormal stuff and to get any sort of straight answer as to what's going on and why. Don't get me wrong I found the first eighty or so percent of this book oddly compelling, before a lot of the exciting paranormal stuff started, I liked the connections with Poe's writing, how there were samples of the writing straight in the text of the book, and the contemporary style romance and drama stuff was compelling as well, but for so long I just wanted some sort of straight answer as to what's going on in this world, what the paranormal stuff is and what it means, we do finally get some straight answers towards the end, but even the straight answers didn't satisfy me enough, or maybe just the answer itself wasn't all that satisfying.

Predictability: Looking back on this book I have to say that a lot of it is really predictable. Not in a bad way necessarily, but there is a lot that I was able to guess. I wasn't able to fully guess what was going on in the story obviously, but there were a lot of cliche contemporary drama moments, some even exaggerated from the cliche to explosive results. Now I will say that there are things, other than the large answers, that I wasn't able to predict, but there wasn't all that much.

Ending: One of the things that was fairly easy for me to predict was how this story was going to end, or well certain parts of how this story was going to end. Before that, though, the last hurrah of this book that leads up to the final climax was pretty epic. It really brings to life some of the Poe stories referenced in this book and makes for a terribly frightening stage for the final climax. The final climax itself was both enlightening and pretty awesome. It wasn't some battle or fight, but nevertheless, I was fully enthralled as the final climax came to a blazing end. The cooldown period was a lot longer than I anticipated and almost felt like it bled into the second installment almost. There's definitely some foreshadowing for what's going to happen next.

Rating:


So I debated with this rating a lot, before writing this review I thought I was going to give this book 3.5 stars, the world building stuff really bugged me and for a while I thought that's what it would get, but in actuality, now that "the cat's out of the bag" so to speak I'm anticipating a very interesting couple of sequels. However, it does still bug me that it took so long in this beast of a book to find out what's going on, especially when there were so many points where I thought, yes here it is I'm going to finally figure this thing out, only to be sorely disappointed.

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