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Monday, May 30, 2016

The Color of Fear (Once Upon a Zombie #1)

Release Date: October 1, 2015
Author: Billy Phillips and Jenny Nissenson
Publisher: The Toon Studio Press
Length: 368 pages
Source: eGalley via NetGalley

Unexplainablenews.com is reporting strange phenomena in cemeteries in Scotland, Germany, Italy, and America. Only one individual knows what's happening - and why! This person also knows the one girl who can prevent an unspeakable and imminent catastrophe from taking place. But will she?

When Caitlin Fletcher's mom disappeared (or left?) four years ago, Caitlin began suffering from breathless bouts of anxiety. Her new move to London, with her Dad and her brainiac sister, threatens to lead to more situations that will trigger panic. Now, she's having anxiety over the possibility of having anxiety! Caitlin's life takes a turn for the bizarre when she's tricked into climbing down a "rabbit hole", landing in a wondrous fairy tale universe - except it's crawling with savage, starving blood-eyed zombies. But what's scarier - a blood thirsty zombie, a panic attack....or the painful truth?

    

Review:

Protagonist: Caitlin Fletcher suffers from a near crippling fear. Her anxiety is off the charts, and that's before she gets sucked into an alternate dimension where characters from fairy-tales and other classic stories are real. Caitlin was an alright character I guess, though she was sort of one note. Her development sort of felt like that of a character in a children's story, where their development comes all at once when the plot needs it most and it never really feels like they earned it. I would have liked to see some more slow progression in her character, really feel her growing and changing as a person, learning from her mistakes and learning to take risks.

Romance: There really isn't that much romance in this book, in fact the two love interests are split up for the majority of this book. I felt the need to comment on it based on one thing. This romance was handled so well. Normally when Middle Grade stories, which this one technically isn't though I'd much rather classify this as MG than YA, when there's a love story it's either very subtle or it moves too fast and begins to feel like instalove, neither of which is all that satisfying. In this book however, the romance feels realistic, it's not a bunch of pining and brooding and drama and angst. It's two people who like each other who eventually need to face their feelings and it works so well.

World-Building: Have you ever read one of those stories where the world-building and the central plot have an overly obvious moral to the story? Well this story is exactly like that. It's this type of storytelling that makes me see this story as a more MG read than a YA one. Sure the characters are in high school, but the plot has too much of that writing where the character development and the central plot are too intertwined. I didn't mind seeing these characters zombiefied, but the fairy tale princesses didn't have much of a personality that tied them to the characters we know and love, and I understand that those characters don't have much personality either, I just wish there was something more recognizable in these fairy tale characters than just their names.

Predictability: In all honestly I'm not quite sure how predictable this book was. I mean sure there were moments where I totally saw something coming, but there weren't that many. Before you get too excited though, there weren't really any moments that shocked me or caught me by surprise. The story just sort of moves through the plot and doesn't really take any crazy twists and turns. The plot is still fast paced and full of tension, there just aren't really any surprises.

Ending: It's made abundantly clear by the end of this book that this is just the first in a series of books. There isn't a huge confrontation in this final climax. It is still full of tension and high stakes, but there wasn't really any sort of showdown, minus a minor scuffle and some running. The end of the book foreshadows things to come and then one of my favorite things happens, there's an epilogue. The epilogue is really what proves that this isn't a standalone, without it ti would be something that's not quite finished but if the next book never came out it probably wouldn't bather you, with the epilogue though there's a cliffhanger that is kind of crippling.

Rating:


This book is okay, it wasn't quite what I expected and I had hoped for a bit more substance to the book. The story really feels like the plot of a kids movie on TV and I was hoping for something a bit more complex.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Review: Midnight City (Conquered Earth #1)

Release Date: October 30, 2012
Author: J. Barton Mitchell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Length: 374 pages
Source: eGalley via NetGalley

Earth has been conquered by an alien race known as the Assembly. The human adult population is gone, having succumbed to the Tone---a powerful, telepathic super-signal broadcast across the planet that reduces them to a state of complete subservience. But the Tone has one critical flaw. It only affects the population once they reach their early twenties, which means that there is one group left to resist: Children.

Holt Hawkins is a bounty hunter, and his current target is Mira Toombs, an infamous treasure seeker with a price on her head. It’s not long before Holt bags his prey, but their instant connection isn’t something he bargained for. Neither is the Assembly ship that crash-lands near them shortly after. Venturing inside, Holt finds a young girl who remembers nothing except her name: Zoey.

As the three make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, they encounter young freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and the amazing powers that Zoey is beginning to exhibit. Powers that suggest she, as impossible as it seems, may just be the key to stopping the Assembly once and for all.

    

Review:

Protagonists: This book focuses one three characters, the first one we meet and the one whom this book focuses on the most is named Holt. Holt is a closely guarded person, he does everything on his own because the only person he can count on is himself. Then there's Mira, a smart and cunning girl who is faced with an impossible task, one which just got harder since being taken by bounty hunter Holt. Finally there's Zoey, a sweet young girl who doesn't remember who she is, just her name. She's strange and seems to always know things, where to go, who to trust, and what to do. As this book goes forward these characters grow closer and grow as individuals. I really enjoyed these characters, while they aren't as compelling as some of the characters I've read, I still enjoyed watching them grow and develop over the course of this book.

Romance: There is actually very little romance in this book. I almost feel bad for even adding this part in here, but since the romance was still very much present in the story I felt compelled to. The romance in this book is between Holt and Mira, it's fairly obvious right off the bat that they're going to have at least some sort of romance, however I really enjoyed that it wasn't grand or overshadowing. Instead there's just talk of feelings at first, innermost thoughts that we see through third person narration, but there's also chemistry and romantic tension there as well. There is a hint at a possible love triangle down the line so I'll be interested to see how that all turns out.

World-Building: In this post apocalyptic world where an alien invasion has invaded Earth, nothing is as it seems. We get a fairly vague overview of what's going on in this world, the fact that there is a weird Tone that forces most adults into a zombie-like state leaving only the children to survive with their free will. I kind of wish we got a better idea of what's going on in this world, though I expect that there is still a lot left to learn in future installments and I understand that giving away too much now will ruin things for the future. Overall, I enjoyed the world-building, there were a few things that don't really make all that much sense, but they're easily forgiven, and I can't wait to learn more about the mysteries of this world.

Predictability: Looking back over this book I'm trying to remember all of the twists that occurred and which ones I saw coming, and apart from a few obvious big picture ones there isn't all that much that I was able to see. There are quite a few twists in this book, some have very subtle foreshadowing and some have none at all. I was really surprised with how many things caught me off guard. Normally I'm very intuitive when it comes to twists, but since the author didn't want to give up too much information too early there weren't all that many times when I saw something coming.

Ending: Gah! The ending of this book is great, although it's highly reminiscent of the ending to the first season of a cult classic cartoon. I won't say which one, but I'm sure when the time comes you'll figure it out if you're familiar with that TV show. There are a lot of choices made in the final climax of this book, things that will indeed have insane repercussions to these characters. The final battle, and it is a battle, was intense action packed and everything I needed in this book. The cooldown period hinted at some possible plot points for the next book and led into the traditional first book plateaued ending where if you need to wait to read the second installment it won't be too tortuous.

Rating:


So, I thought about this rating a lot, I was on the fence between this and four stars and at the end of the day, while I really enjoyed this world and these characters, and like I said I can't wait to continue this trilogy, it just didn't grip me in a way that I felt merited more than three and a half stars.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: Mystic City (Mystic City #1)

Release Date: October 9, 2012
Author: Theo Lawrence
Publisher: Delacourte Books for Young Readers
Length: 397 pages
Source: eGalley via NetGalley

For fans of Matched, The Hunger Games, X-Men, and Blade Runner comes a tale of a magical city divided, a political rebellion ignited, and a love that was meant to last forever. Book One of the Mystic City Novels.

Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud - and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths.

But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place.

Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection - and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city - including herself.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Aria Rose daughter of one of the most influential families in Manhattan can't remember parts of her life. More specifically moments from the past few months. She's told about her relationship with the son of her family's biggest rivals, and about her impending wedding. At first Aria is naive, as most protagonists in a dystopian novel are, but in this case she's even more so, there's a spark of a rebel in her, something that's easy to see how squashed it is within her. As the story goes on and her eyes begin to open up to the world around her even more, she becomes a stronger character, someone who could incite change, who could lead her city, but the question is what kind of change is she willing to incite.

Romance: At first I expected there to be a love triangle in this book, and in some vague way I guess there is, however it's abundantly clear early on in this story that there is really only one romantic interest in this book. The relationship between Aria and her love interest was written pretty well, there was some great chemistry between them and the sweet and romantic moments they shared were just the right balance between sweet and grounded.

World-Building: Going into this book I expected it to be a fantasy since there is mention of the magic wielding Mystics, however this world is a mix between a dystopian future where global warming has decimated cities we know and love, and a paranormal series where magical beings have been integrated into our world and in this case our history. The story itself actual deals with some not so subtly veiled contemporary issues such as racism and classism. All of which I felt were handled very well, they weren't ever really shoehorned into the story, they were a part of it, it never felt too preachy and did a lot to add depth to this book.

Predictability: This author is not very good at leading up to a twist, or actually he can be, but I only saw evidence of it once or twice in this book. A lot of the main twists, or at least what I'm assuming were the main twists, were extremely predictable. I mean, almost everything I saw coming from a mile away. Like I said there were a few things that I couldn't but they were rather small, no matter the implications to the story, and while I enjoyed being caught off guard in those moments, they were nothing compared to the annoyance I felt at knowing some key pieces of information practically from the beginning. I kid you not, the prologue in this book did the overall story no favors it practically screamed the truth to the reader in just one page.

Ending: As this book drew to a close there was a lot on the line. I felt how high the stakes truly were, and then there was the final climax. Oh boy did it deliver. I just can't get over how crazy epic it was. There was a lot left in the air going into the epilogue, this is not an idealistic ending, it's not something where bad things seem to happen but there are no real repercussions. There's a lot of collateral damage and the story is deeply impacted because of it. I enjoyed the epilogue, it really helped tie this book, though not the story, up and bring it to a good close. The very end has one of those hybrid almost plateaued endings where depending on how you look at it it's either a cliffhanger or it's a traditional plateaued ending.

Rating:


So I really enjoyed this story, though I''m a bit worried as the third book in the series has yet to get a cover or release date, but hopefully the story isn't dead and by the time I get around to book 2 we'll know more information on what I expect is the last book in this series.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Review: Killer Instinct (The Naturals #2)

Release Date: November 4, 2014
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 375 pages
Source: eGalley via NetGalley

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Cassie went through a horrible ordeal in the previous book when she discovered that her mentor turned out to not only be her aunt, but the serial killer she and the other Naturals had been tracking. When we first see her in this book, she's not over that experience, but she's trying to move past it making the most out of her life as one of the Naturals and helping to solve cold cases. However once again the Naturals are sucked into an active serial murder case, and like the last time this case hits home with one of their own. Since it had been so long since I read the first installment I wondered if I would have the same connection I had with Cassie, if she would seem different and somehow less after so long a time. In fact, she may have been better than before. There's a lot to love about Cassie, she's flawed sure, but not egregiously so, she cares almost too much and that can get her into trouble, she's impulsive and strong and wants so badly to be there for the people she's come to love. Her development in this fairly subtle, there are moments when it's easily seen, but there's even more going on between the lines on the page and it'll be hard to recognize it until it's already happened.

Romance: I don't remember all that much from the first installment, in fact I felt the need to read a recap of the book before starting this one, but one the thing I did remember was that there wasn't all that much emphasis on the romance and that the love triangle was written very well. While there may be a bit more attention on the romance this time around it still doesn't distract from the main plot of the story, nor does it overshadow it. I'm still not completely sure how to feel about the love triangle, while I still felt it was handled well, there were some moments that bothered me. During the course of this book it becomes clearer where Cassie's heart lies, and that makes her other love interest do and say some douchey things, it's nothing to terrible, more pet peeves of mine, and it's not necessarily because Cassie has feelings for someone else, more about the existing relationship between the two boys.

World-Building: I'm a huge fan of procedural dramas and I love how in many ways these books take inspiration from them. I get the same whodunnit feeling when I'm reading these books as I do when I'm watching shows like Bones and Criminal Minds. My favorite chapters are the "You" chapters where we go into the mind of the killer and learn small things about them, what their doing, and a bit about their mindset. There's actually quite a bit introduced in this book. Obviously we learn more about Dean and his past with his father. We learn about the horrors of his childhood and the things he had to do to survive. We are introduced to key new characters that expand this world and open up new doors we haven't seen before. I cannot stress enough how much I loved seeing these characters interact, learning about them, and watching their development through Cassie's eyes.

Predictability: The big twist in this story of course is about the UNSUB, the person who is committing these gruesome murders and I'll get to them in a bit. First however, I want to talk about the other surprises this book has in store. With all the information we learn comes a great slew of twists. Some of them there is foreshadowing for, however it's no where near enough to actually grasp what the twist is. There are also things that come out of the blue, things that there is no preparation for and seem added for shock value in addition to their other purpose in the story. Finally, there's the killer. I won't say too much but I have to say that I had trouble not trying to psychoanalyze and profile them as I read more about them in the story.

Ending: The ending for this book is a game changer in many ways. As the book comes to a close there is a crazy and tension filled final climax followed by and interesting cooling down period where everything for this case is wrapped up nice and neat. However, there are quite a few cliffhangers. It's nothing that would make readers wait in agony until they got their hands on the next installment, and actually most things have come to a sort of plateaued period. There are still many questions to be answered, and like I said there are game changing things in the end, none of which are all that shocking.

Rating:


Like I said before I was unsure if I would still love this series after so long away from the series. I know my tastes in books has changed and I've become more discerning in what I like and don't like in stories, plus there's also the dreaded sophomore slump where the second book doesn't measure up to the first, but I ended up loving this book and can't wait for the next heart pounding and intense installment.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Book Review: Return to the Isle of the Lost (Descendants #2)

Release Date: May 24, 2016
Author: Melissa De La Cruz
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 320 pages
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

There’s no place like home. Especially if home is the infamous Isle of the Lost. Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay haven’t exactly turned their villainous noses up at the comforts of Auradon after spending their childhoods banished on the Isle. After all, meeting princes and starring on the Tourney team aren’t nearly as terrible as Mal and her friends once thought they would be.

But when they receive a mysterious invitation to return to the Isle, Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay can’t help feeling comfortable in their old hood—and their old ways. Not everything is how they left it, though, and when they discover a dark mystery at the Isle’s core, they’ll have to combine all of their talents in order to save the kingdom.

    

Review:

Characters: Since the end of the Descendants movie, our heroes are doing pretty well, they've acclimated into Auradon Prep rather well and have found that being good isn't so bad. However there's something brewing back home, they can't seem to find their parents with Evie's magic mirror, and while by all appearances Maleficent is still a tiny lizard, there are rumors of a purple dragon flying about and causing havoc near Camelot. As the four villain kids head off the the Isle of the Lost to check up with the weird messages they received, Ben does his best to hold his kingdom together and be the fair and just ruler he so desires to be. While there isn't a ton of character development in this book, there are defining moments where each of these characters has to face something about themselves and move past it in order to succeed.

World-Building: As with these Descendants novels, we learn way more about this world than we do in the movie. In this book we once again return to the Isle of the Lost, where the majority of the first book took place, but this time it's changed since the downfall of Maleficent, we don't see too many new villain kids, but there are a few things going on on the Isle that seem to have a large impact on this world. Since Ben has a larger role in this book, we see through his perspective more of the United States of Auradon, we see new kingdoms, that are of course united under the Auradon flag, and meet new characters while catching up with old ones as well. My biggest criticism of this book is something I mentioned in my review of The Isle of the Lost, the really cheesy replacements for things such as brands, slang, and seemingly anything else that could be changed to "fit" with this world. I don't mind the replaced words so much, especially with things like brands, it's just how cheesy and lazy it seems sometimes. I don't know if the author came up with the majority of these or if it was someone at Disney but this type of thing needs to stop in modern/fantasy crossovers. Sometimes it works out well and things seem a lot more thought out and then there are things like calling apps on your phone zapps, while texting is still referred to as texting. Lastly, I'm not sure how canonical these novels are, there were a few plot inconsistencies between this book and the movie, and there was some vague glossing over of certain details from the Wicked World shorts.

Predictability: Since this is a Middle Grade level book, there wasn't all that much that surprised me in this book. For the most part there wasn't all that much foreshadowing and if you aren't familiar with some of Disney's lesser known works there are a few things you may not see coming. In fact with one twist I though I knew exactly what was going on only to figure out I was partially right, but there was more going on than I knew. I do have to say though that one of the biggest twists of this book, the stuff going on on the Isle of the Lost, was kept pretty well under wraps, I had my suspicions but in the end was still surprised with what was exactly going on.

Ending: Going into this book I kept thinking about how it might end, would it leave the world largely unchanged, giving the creators of the next movie more freedom? Would it end leaving a few things unresolved so that either there could be another novel before the next movie, or would it leave readers with an idea of what to expect in the next movie? Well, while I will tell you it's one of those I won't say which one. The ending itself was actually pretty great. There wasn't you typical final battle before the book ended, but there was some pretty awesome stuff that went down.

Rating:


So I was looking back at my review of the first installment and was wondering why I gave it such a lukewarm review compared to this one when there's a lot of similarities in content, and I realized it was most likely due to the fact that I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew how Middle Grade this was, I was more familiar with the world and characters after reading the first book and seeing the movie, and being as big a fan as I ma of the movie, I was just so happy to go on another adventure with these characters and I can't wait for the next one!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book Review: Bloodmoon (Bloodmark Saga #3)

Release Date: March 21, 2016
Author: Aurora Whittet
Publisher: Wise Ink
Length: 400 pages
Source: Review Copy from Author

Just months shy of her claiming at Carrowmore and fulfilling a centuries-old prophecy, werewolf Ashling Boru has stepped into her role as the Crimson Queen. She finally has the support of her pack and her love for Grey is stronger than ever.

But it's not easy being queen. Ashling's guardian, Baran, has been captured by the Dvergars, a family of evil wolves who will stop at nothing to possess Ashling's power and destroy everything--and everyone--she loves. Ashling must unite the clans and build an army to stand against the Dvergars before it's too late. Unfortunately, the Dvergars also have armies of the darkest creatures the world has ever known.

Shadows loom, growing ever larger as generations of pack secrets begin to unfold. Ashling's people, the humans they protect, and Old Mother Earth herself all hang in the balance of Ashling's choices. Will Ashling have to forsake her true love to save the world? And will she have the strength to do it?

Bloodmoon is the thrilling conclusion to the Bloodmark Saga.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Ashling Boru has come a long way since the beginning of the Bloodmark Saga. She's encountered many perilous journeys, suffered grave hardships, and found true love. In this book she isn't taking anything from anybody. She's not afraid to speak her mind and let people know when they're being stupid. Most of the time I really loved Ashling, the only times she ever got on my nerves I'll get to in a bit, but she's a strong character not afraid to do what needs to be done to protect her pack and those she loves, and if she can find a way to save everyone, she will.

Romance: So, the romance in this book annoyed me to no end. It's not like I don't root for Ashling and Grey to end up together, I really do, but they could be really exhausting in this book. First off there's the constant reassurances that they love each other and how they'll be there for each other. There were actually quite a few things in this book that felt constantly repeated, but their constant grandiose declarations of love were by far the worst. Then there's how sexual their relationship has become since consummating their relationship. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a heat in a YA romance, however when that heat sort of plays jump-rope with the boundaries between YA and Adult books that's when I get a bit uncomfortable. Not only that but it felt like Ashling and Grey couldn't control themselves around each other making their love seem more like lust most of the time.

World-Building: After I finished Bloodrealms I assumed there was at least two more books in this series left to go. However when it came out that this book would be the last in the series, I din't quite know how the author would finish the series in a way that didn't feel like she stitched two book plots together, but that's what she did. This book is all about the preparation for Ashling's eighteenth birthday, where she'll be claimed at Carrowmore and truly become the Crimson Queen. In this book we learn even more about the prophecy that foretells Ashling uniting the packs of the world and the events that will transpire at Carrowmore. There was so much to this book that I loved, new characters, old characters that haven't gotten the time to shine coming back to play a larger role, and of course seeing how Ashling's pack continues to grow!

Predictability: So, part of me feels like I really should have reread the first two books before starting this final installment. Honestly I forgot so many things between books that I don't know what was truly unexpected and unpredictable and what I would have known had I had a bit of a refresher or recap of the series before going into this book. That being said I do know that there are quite a few shocking moments, things I never saw coming and things that while I felt they were pointless, surprisingly made sense. There's also some stuff that I read into too much and I was expecting some things to happen that just didn't. Overall, I never felt like I knew what was going to happen but making your way through that unknown darkness is half the fun.

Ending: So when I talk about this I'm not only talking about the end of this book but the end of the series in whole and I say the author did a great job wrapping everything up, however I would have liked an epilogue, something to sort of catch up with some of the stuff that went down in other parts of the book. The final climax was amazing, it wasn't filled with a big battle, but there was an amazing confrontation that just matched perfectly with the tone and message of this series. As I said everything wraps up really well, I was just hoping for something more in the end.

Rating:


For the most part I loved this book, aside from a few things here and there, some of which were entirely based on my own opinion, It is a great conclusion to this series and I'm excited to see what this author comes up with next!

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: Vicious (Vicious #1)

Release Date: September 24, 2013
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor
Length: 364 pages
Source: Purchased Book

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

    

Review:

Characters: Normally this is the part of the review where I take a good look at the protagonist, or protagonists of the story, talk about if I liked them as characters, if they felt realistic and just my overall feelings about the central character. However, even though there is a central character, one that I'd even go so far as to say is the protagonist, there is a whole cast of characters in this book and they don't all fit into "hero" and "villain" roles. There is one character who I feel like wholly encompasses a hero or "good guy/girl" role, but the rest are sort of anti-heroes and anti-villains. They look from the outside like the opposite of what they are, but knowing these characters, their true personalities come to light. I loved the complexities of these characters. It wasn't because they were multi-layered and realistic, which they were, but more that as I said before they don't fall into typical character stereotypes, everyone in this book is flawed in some way and some more than others and it's just fascinating to read.

World-Building: This book is full of flashbacks and time jumps that while I was fine reading it, it could, especially if you speed read, get a bit confusing. With that out of the way, let's talk superpowers. The main feature of this book is the idea that some people, through a certain series of events, can be granted ExtraOrdinary powers. What I really enjoyed about this world is that the whole idea of powers and the like springs forth out of science. There's a perfectly rational explanation for the distribution of these powers and why and how certain powers are given to certain people. Then there were the bits of exposition that tie this story together. For the first part of this story there is very little emphasis put on the present day chapters, they're short and while they can still be entertaining, they sometimes felt more like something to string the backstory chapters together and act as a bit of a drum roll for the second half of the book. The second half of the book mostly takes place over one day, with chapters here and there explaining the backstory of certain characters and filling in holes in the story in a smooth and entertaining way.

Predictability: I don't normally read adult books, and because of that I'm not at all attuned to the different formulas and styles of writing adult fiction. With this book, there weren't really any big twists or "gotcha" moments where something intense or chocking is revealed. Instead this story just sort of chugs along, the various climactic moments just sort of happening without the big reveals I'm used to. Even when things were revealed in this book, it was done without ceremony and just sort of felt dampened and like there was no need for excitement or shock over that last revelation.

Ending: Going into this book I had expected it to be a standalone. However, as I was getting ever closer to that final climax I went to the GoodReads page and noticed that there is a sequel planned for sometime in the future, now that sort of changed perspective on how I viewed the ending. First off, the final climax, which for all intents and purposes felt like the climax of a standalone, had an air of something unfinished added to it. Then there's the actual ending. Now, the ending to this book sort of has a dual purpose feel to it. On the one hand this book wraps up very well and there's no real need to dive into this world again if you don't feel inclined to, but depending on how you look at it, the ending is also a cliffhanger that, if you let it, can grind agonizingly on you until the release of the sequel, so tread lightly.

Rating:


Okay, so this book was very hard to rate. Not only is it an Adult book, which I don't read all that often, but it has got its own unique intricacies that made it very hard to rate. In the end I went with five stars because I really loved this book, its world, and its characters and I won't waste any time picking up the sequel as soon as it's released!

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Book Review: The Fire Artist

Release Date: October 14, 2014
Author: Daisy Whitney
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Length: 288 pages
Source: eGalley via NetGalley

A forbidden romance literally heats up in this new fantasy from acclaimed author Daisy Whitney.

Aria is an elemental artist—she creates fire from her hands. But her power is not natural. She steals it from lightning. It’s dangerous and illegal in her world. When she’s recruited to perform, she seizes the chance to get away from her family. But her power is fading too fast to keep stealing from the sky. She has no choice but to turn to a Granter—a modern day genie. She gets one wish at an extremely high price. Aria’s willing to take a chance, but then she falls in love with the Granter . . . and he wants his freedom. Aria must decide what she’s willing to bargain and how much her own heart, body, and soul are worth.

In a world where the sport of elemental powers is the most popular form of entertainment, readers will be swept away by a romance with stakes higher than life and death.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Aria steals fire from the sky. She does this because it's the only way to keep her family together. However the process to take the fire isn't always reliable and after she's transferred to big leagues for her elemental artistry she needs to find a more sustainable and long lasting solution to her problem. The only other way to achieve a fire artist's abilities other than being born with it or taking it from the sky is to find a Granter and wish for the ability. However all Granter's require a price, is Aria willing to pay hers? I actually really liked the character of Aria, she isn't resigned to a single trope or stereotype, instead she comes off as a very realistic character, she cares about her family, her friends, and it's her protectiveness that leads her every move in this book. Over the course of this book Aria gets even stronger becomes a more fully developed character.

Romance: Going into this book, I felt that a large majority of it would focus on the romance, and with this being a fairly short standalone, I didn't find that unreasonable. However, there is very little of this book, comparatively, that focuses on the romance. Another thing I'm going to stick in here, I know that the synopsis is usually written by the publisher and not the author so I won't take any stars off for it, but this isn't a forbidden romance, at least not in the traditional sense. There are aspects to the romance that if you squint hard enough could be called forbidden, but the romance itself isn't. Anyway, my biggest problem is that since this is a standalone, the "L" word is going to inevitably come up, and my deal is; if it feels earned by the time the words come out, sure I'll roll with it and if not then hey they're just kids it's not like it's true love. However by the time it comes up, since there isn't all that much romance beforehand and this book is so short, it doesn't feel earned, I was actually hoping that the author would find a way to not even have to use the word love when describing these characters feelings but alas it just didn't feel right.

World-Building: If you get to the halfway point of this book, you'll probably feel that while there is a decent amount of world-building there isn't a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but hey, it's a standalone so there doesn't need to be an abundance of world-building. The things is though, that in the back half of this book there's a lot more world-building to discover. I'm not necessarily angry at the abundance of world-building, more that with as much as there was, I could have easily seen this book become a series. I felt like with all that we learned in the back half, it wouldn't be very hard at all to extend some things, add some things and develop the world and characters just a bit more and then there would be plenty of content for more book set in this world. Again, I'm not mad that the world is so complex by the end of the story, I'm more just a bit disappointed that there was a missed opportunity.

Predictability: This book was actually really unpredictable. There was a fair amount of foreshadowing, some that it was easy to tell that, while I may not know how that will pop up again, I'm sure it will, and some that I didn't even realize until it was too late that it was important. There was even some misleading foreshadowing that made it seem like something was a big deal or that it would make a larger impact later, only for it to sort of not come to a head. Overall I really enjoyed the unpredictability of this book, of course there were a few times when I was able to catch onto things before they were revealed, but you kind of want that in a book, you don't want to feel like the author totally pulled the wool over your eyes, or at least I don't.

Ending: The ending of this book was really weird. Like I said before with so much world-building introduced toward the end of this book, I could have easily seen it becoming a series, and toward the end there was a perfect place for a crazy cliffhanger ending. However since this is a standalone it moves on past that to tie things up at the end so that there are no loose ends. I did really enjoy the way things turned out, and I didn't necessarily think they were rushed or squeezed together in an awkward way, but at the same time, it just feels off. I can't quite put my finger on what but while it didn't feel rushed it sort of felt a bit too convenient maybe. Regardless, I enjoyed the ending, but there was just something about it that didn't completely sit right with me.

Rating:


On the whole I really enjoyed this story. It is a little bit of a slow start, the romance should have been given more page time and been developed a lot more, and there were a few parts in the book that were a tad confusing, but in the end I really enjoyed the world and the characters and look forward to what's next from this author.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Book Review: The Demon King (Seven Realms #1)

Release Date: October 6, 2009
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 506 pages
Source: Library E-Book

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can't sell—the thick silver cuffs he's worn since birth. They're clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.

One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Raisa ana'Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She's just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her...

The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.

    

Review:

Protagonists: This story follows two main points of view; Han, a boy with a dark past and a magical secret not even he knows about, and Raisa the princess heir to the queendom of the Fells who wants to be more than just a bird in a glittering cage and a piece on a chessboard. I was actually really surprised at the lack of crossover in these two characters, there's maybe a chapter or two in which these characters interact before going back to their separate, but related, stories. Each of these characters has many layers to them that make them well thought out and individualized characters. Their development and growth over this book looks to be only a taste of the characters they will become over this series.

Romance: There is actually very little romance in this book. Honestly I was expecting a lot more, and moreover I was expecting that by the end of the book, regardless of my personal feelings on the matter, I'd know definitively where the author wants to go with the two main characters in terms of endgame. Honestly, since they both have other love interests and due to the very little interaction between the two of them in this book, I don't know if Chima wants fans to root for Han and Raisa to end up together, for them to form a platonic friendship, and/or for them to find romantic partners apart from each other. The little bit of romance that we did get to see was really only beneficial on the part of Raisa and her love interest, as Han and his love interest were kind of boring.

World-Building: There's so much world-building in this book that at times is was hard for me to keep up. First things first, there are two magical forces at play; the clans who control green magic, things related to nature and healing, and wizards who control high magic, things much more forceful and potentially destructive. The thing is that when I first learned about these two forces my mind immediately wanted to sort one as the "bad guy" and the other as the "good guy" but there are shades of gray in both of these factions and it's not as simple as right and wrong, even though it isn't hard to judge a character because of their factional ties. The history of this world is also very interesting, there are stories of a warrior queen who defeated a great evil and saved the world, but as we know history is written by the victors and there are two sides to every story. I sort of felt like I missed out on something though, that I was supposed to have a vague knowledge of the world, or that there was a prequel novella to read, but there isn't, still that feeling of being out of the loop story wise never fully went away.

Predictability: For most of this book, the best I can compare it to is walking in a dark room, I had a vague sense of what was coming next, but I couldn't rely on context for anything far off. There wasn't all that much foreshadowing and when there was it was extremely subtle, as in when a twist would be revealed it would sometimes take me a while to piece it all together. However, while for the most part the foreshadowing was subtle, there were times when it was a bit more obvious, though not by much, more a tingle in the brain, which led to some outlandish theories that may or may not have been right.

Ending: There is a lot of tension and action that goes on in this ending, on both sides of this story. It's hard to fully describe without spoilers but the ending of this book is very emotional, there are quite a few things revealed that I did not expect, and some things that I actually did expect that made me want to punch someone. The cooldown period did not last long as there is one more secret to be told, and it's a doozy. There's a lot set up for the next installment and while this book ended in a way that's leaving me clamoring for the sequel, it doesn't end in a cliffhanger but more that traditional first book plateau that hints at a brighter tomorrow.

Rating:


I'd say on the whole I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to continue the series, however it is paced a bit slow and there was definitely a bot of confusion in more than one area of this book.

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