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Monday, September 12, 2016

Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen (Villain Tales #1)

Release Date: August 18, 2009
Author: Serena Valentino
Publisher: Disney Press
Length: 250 pages
Source: Purchased Book

The tale of the young princess and her evil stepmother, the Wicked Queen, is widely known. Despite a few variations from telling to telling, the story remains the same—the Queen was jealous of the girl’s beauty, and this jealousy culminated in the Queen’s attempt on the sweet, naive girl’s life.

Another tale far less often spoken of is the one that explains what caused the Queen to become so contemptuously vile. Still, some have attempted to guess at the reason. Perhaps the Queen’s true nature was that of a wicked hag and her beautiful, regal appearance a disguise used to fool the King. Others claim that the Queen might have hated the girl for her resemblance to the King’s first wife. Mostly, the Queen is painted as a morally abhorrent woman who never loved another being during the course of her miserable life.

In fact, the theories about exactly what cause the Queen’s obsessive vanity and jealous rage are too numerous to catalog. This book recounts a version of the story that has remained untold until now. It is a tragic tale of love and loss, and it contains a bit of magic. It is a tale of the Wicked Queen…

    

Review:

Protagonist: With this being a story about how the queen in Snow White becomes the deplorable envious woman she is, it's no surprise that nearly all of this book focuses on that queen. One of my biggest problems with this book is that the Queen is never given a proper name, only being called "the Queen." Now I know she doesn't have a name that's officially canonical, but if the author did, or was allowed to, give her a name it would have added a sense of realness to the story since everyone from her husband, her stepdaughter, to the friend she viewed as a sister, called her anything but a given name and that kind of bothered me quite a bit. As to her characterization, by the end of the book I understand why she's as horrible as she is, I can even see how the catalyst that drove her into her jealousy did so, but considering how sweet and loving she was for most of this book it's really hard to fit that with the character we know from the movie and the person she is by the end of this story.

World-Building: Speaking of not being able to fit two pieces together, the book and the movie were really hard for me to connect with so much of this story. There are only two major characters in this book that are also in the movie, the Queen and Snow White, however for most of the movie the Queen is a kind soul who only seeks love in her life and Snow is a small child holding no real personality traits other than being sweet and innocent. That being said for so much of this book it felt as though this could easily be another story completely if Snow White's name was changed and that story wouldn't bee all that compelling, unfortunately. The story was okay for the most part but other than learning more about the Queen's background and the circumstances that made her who she was, this world was never really fleshed out. The Queen had a husband who was constantly off defending his kingdom, but from who? Barely any of this book takes place somewhere not seen in the movie and I just wish I could feel this world more wholly. That there wasn't this vague sense of a kingdom that was barely held together by nostalgic memories of the movie.

Predictability: Another aspect of the story that I wasn't a huge fan of was how predictable it was. After a certain point, it was easy to see where the story was going and that was long before the aspects of the movie started to bleed into this story. That's not to say that there weren't some interesting surprises, there were connections to other classic Disney stories that I rather enjoyed and certain aspects of the movie were expanded upon to give it a much more realistic feeling, There was even a twist in the end that I did not see coming.

Ending: I'm not sure what to say about this ending that will give this review more substance. The ending of this book is basically the Queen's role in the Snow White movie. There are some embellishments here and there that go with this expanded story and universe, but it's not as if there was some magical twist that changed everything forever. There is an epilogue, and other than one surprising, although idealistic, twist it wasn't necessary. In fact, I almost feel as though the story would hold more power without that. Where that last official chapter ended wrapped up the moral of this story so well and really hit everything home rather well.

Rating:


This book isn't a total waste of time, in fact, if you're someone who's a huge fan of the Disney Snow White movie you may even love this, but for me, it was too hard to connect with the movie and I'm sure that the author was restricted by Disney from expanding this world but I wish that she would have/could have given this world the depth and vitality that it needed.


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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Book Review: Beastly (Kendra Chronicles #1)

Release Date: October 2, 2007
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 304 pages
Source: Purchased Book

I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Kyle Kingsbury seems to have it all. He has tons of money, good looks, and everyone at his school either wanting to be him or wanting to be with him. So when he pulls a prank on the new goth chick at school the last thing he expects is to quite literally be turned into a beast. He's told he has to look beyond the superficial and find someone who can love him despite his looks and love him in return. He has two years to do it or remain a beast forever. Now I didn't really like Kyle all that much, but the great thing is that you're not supposed to. This isn't some run of the mill protagonist who means well but has flaws, this is someone who's so glaringly flawed that you really aren't supposed to be sympathetic to him for a while. My only problem here is that in the first half or so of the book we have a Kyle who is a huge douche but has a normal modern way of speaking, but in the second half, while he's much more sympathetic, it's almost as if the author wanted such a stark contrast between before and after that his speech in the second half lost almost all identity of being a modern day teenager.

Romance: So going into this I was expecting a lot of romance. After all Beauty and the Beast, the story this was based on, is all about loving someone regardless of their appearance, plus Kyle's curse can only be broken by requited true love. That being said this book is so much more about Kyle's character development than it is about the romance. Don't get me wrong there's still some great romance in this book, but it is by no means the point of this book. That being said, I do think the author did a great job on the romance. Even if the whole how they met post-transformation part is a bit creepy, there are legitimate excuses for it and after Lindy and Kyle, then known as Adrian, get to know each other, a real bond forms. The kind of bond where even if they did say the "L" word after only half a book it would feel earned and not something shoehorned in there to make a story complete.

World Building: So, as some of you might know Beauty and the Beast, is my favorite fairy tale and I love to see it retold time and time again. Ironically this was the first B&TB retelling I'd ever heard of and I'm just now getting around to reading it for the first time. What I love about modern day retellings it seeing how things would change if this story was told today, and while there were definite inclusions of that in this book, after a while the whole modern feel melted away and other than some things here and there it melted too much into itself and lost a part of itself along the way. This happens in the second half when the writing loses it's modern feel and becomes more formal and stilted. I did, however, like how much of the original tale was included in this retelling, though at times as I said before it could be a bit too on the nose.

Predictability: Going into this book I wasn't really expecting it to be unpredictable, and it really wasn't. This is very much a familiar story and for the most part I knew where things were going, even the bigger twists, either because of the movie which I had seen a few times before going into this book, or friends who don't understand what spoilers are who told m about this book years ago and I never forgot. I think the only times that things were really ever unpredictable were when they differed from the movie too much or the source material which didn't happen too often.

Ending: Speaking of unpredictable things, the ending of this book, or really the format in which it ended was rather unpredictable. This book is split up into six parts, and the sixth and final part all takes place after the final climax of the story and acts as an extended epilogue. As many of you may know I happen to really enjoy epilogues and this one was no different. After a rather unexpected final climax, things seem to calm down quite a bit as we're led through what happens after, who gets their comeuppance, and who lives happily ever after. I really enjoyed the end of this book, but most of all I'm looking forward to learning more about a certain character in this story.

Rating:


So, I thought a lot about this and I think four stars is the perfect rating for this book. The first half of the story was fantastic, but during the second half the writing, the way the characters talked, changed how I enjoyed the book, things became too formal and didn't retain the modern feel the first half instilled in the story.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Book Review: Crewel (Crewel World #1)

Release Date: October 16, 2012
Author: Gennifer Albin
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Length: 367 pages
Source: NetGalley Review Copy

Incapable. Awkward. Artless.
That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because tonight, they’ll come for her.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Adelice has spent nearly her entire life trying to pretend that she doesn't see the weave holding Arras together. Her parents made her practice to be bumbling and awkward so that no one would get suspicious and then when it was finally time to be tested she slips, and now she'll be taken away to train as a Spinster one of the women that hold Arras together and make it run smoothly. Overall I really enjoyed Adelice, she takes responsibility for what she does and her growth over the book is remarkably well done. This is a very tough independent main character who will make mistakes but will always have the best interests of everyone at heart.

Romance: If I had to say there was one downfall to this book it would be the romance. Seriously it was all over the place and there were too many stacking tropes, like the forbidden romance trope, since as a Spinster Adelice cannot have romantic relationships, the love triangle (maybe square) trope, the "one guy that likes me is probably evil trope," and there's a couple more that I won't get into because of spoilers, but it wasn't that there wasn't great romance writing in here it's just that with so many things all over the place, it was too complicated to really invest in.

World Building: I do have to say that this has one of the most interesting dystopian world buildings I've ever read. In this world, everything is held together by a tapestry or weave that is spun by women with a talent for seeing and working the weave. When I first got into this book it reminded me so wonderfully of the Fates in Greek mythology who spin, weave and cut your thread of life, only on a grander scale. In addition to this possible inspiration, there's a wonderfully corrupt government hell bent on controlling and manipulating everything in Arras. As Adelice delves deeper into the lives of Spinsters and the government of Arras the more we learn about what's really going on, and it's good too!

Predictability: I have been trying to write this section for a while now, and cannot think of how to properly articulate my feelings for this specific aspect of this book. While this story does have parts that aren't the most shocking this story does have some of the best twists I've read, or at least in terms of their shock value. While some twists were as enjoyable as they were shocking there were some twists that while they did surprise me I kind of wish the big revelation wasn't true, more for what it would mean to the story than whether or not it helped our main heroine.

Ending: Talk about your big endings. I thought for sure, especially with the title of the next book, that I thought I knew how this book was going to end. I mean everything leading up to it practically screamed where it was going, but then, at the height of the final climax something changed, the entire story changed and instead of going to the predictable place I thought, it goes somewhere even bolder and more unpredictable. I have to say, while I may not get to book two soon, it's not because this book didn't leave me wanting so much more!

Rating:


So I really enjoyed this story, it was exciting, compelling, and other than a romance that I couldn't really find a way to throw myself into, I kept wanting to come back for more. P.S. Please forgive the subpar review, it's my first one in two weeks and I may even be a bit sleep deprived right now.

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Cover Reveal: The Hands of Time (Elementals #5)

So I've been trying to figure out what to say before this awesome cover reveal that I haven't said before. If you haven't yet read the Elementals series yet, you really should. While the first book does set up this world really well, the romance is a bit rushed. However, in the second book, there is not only some fantastic world building you'd expect from this series, but some of the things that were hard for me to love were made much more palatable. By the third book I was hooked, well technically I think I was hooked long before that, but the third book was definitely the best of the bunch so far and really showed off how far this author was willing to go. The fourth book, which comes out in just a week, Builds up the suspense even more and while I wasn't wild about the near ease in which the ending went, I am extremely pumped to see what will happen in this final installment of the series. Now without further ado, I give you the cover for Elementals 5: The Hands of Time.














SYNOPSIS:



Time is running out. War will be waged. Sacrifices will be made.

Months ago, Nicole Cassidy’s life was turned upside-down when she discovered that she was a witch descended from the Greek gods. She and the four other witches gifted with elemental powers fought all over the world—and in another dimension—to battle the supporters of the Titans and fight for the people they love.

Now the Elementals must stop Typhon—the most dangerous monster in the world—from rising, and seal the portal to the dangerous prison world of Kerberos. But they won’t be able to do that without facing their hardest decision yet… a sacrifice so great that it may be one they’re not willing to make.


Get ready for the stunning, action-packed conclusion to the bestselling Elementals series, with twists and turns that you’ll never see coming!



The Portal to Kerberos comes out on September 20, 2016

The adventure began in the first book in the series, Elementals: The Prophecy of Shadows. To grab a copy of the first book for free, visit www.michellemadow.com or the bottom of this blog post

The Elementals series is available on Kindle Unlimited, so subscribers can read it for free!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle Madow writes fast-paced YA (young adult) fiction that will leave you turning the pages wanting more!

She grew up in Baltimore, and now lives in Boca Raton, Florida, where she writes books for young adults. Some of her favorite things are: reading, pizza, traveling, shopping, time travel, Broadway musicals, and spending time with friends and family. Michelle went on a cross-country road trip from Florida to California and back to promote her books and to encourage high school students to embrace reading and writing. Someday, she hopes to travel the world for a year on a cruise ship.

Want all three parts of the Transcend Time Saga—Michelle’s first YA romance series—for FREE? Click here to learn about the series and claim your books

To get instant updates about Michelle’s new books, follow her on Amazon!

Author Links:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Website




Get Elementals 1 for FREE



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Nicole Cassidy is a witch descended from the Greek gods… but she doesn’t know it until she moves to a new town and discovers a dangerous world of magic and monsters that she never knew existed.

Fill out the form below and then click the blue button to get your free book!














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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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