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Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: Atlantia

Release Date: October 28, 2014
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Children's
Length: 298 pages
Source: Library Book

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

    

Review:

Protagonist: For as long as Rio can remember she's wanted to go see the world Above. Trapped in an underwater city, she only gets the choice to go Above once and until recently she's planned on taking that chance. However, after making the decision to stay with her sister Bay, Bay chooses to go above, abandoning Rio to the world of Atlantia. What's worse is that Rio has a terrible power she's kept hidden her whole life, a power that should have been reported to the proper authorities as soon as possible, but now it's too late. Rio has nothing left to lose and do whatever it will take to defy Atlantian law and make her way Above to be with her sister and find out why Bay betrayed her. I really like Rio, she's a strong character who will do whatever it takes to see her family reunited and discover the truth. Her siren's voice power is something she's had to hide her whole life, to do that she's had to adjust her voice to be flat and emotionless, because of this she's seen as an outsider. Over the course of this book she grows to accept who she is, her purpose, and the secrets her family has kept from her.

Romance: There isn't too much of a romance in this book. At least not compared to other YA books. The romance in this book grows slowly over time. There's a small bit of romantic tension there from the beginning, but for a while it was more about a growing friendship between Rio and her love interest than romance. I have to say, it's a breath of fresh air every time I read a book where the main character isn't constantly trying to figure out their feelings about their love interest when more pressing matters are present. That's exactly how this book went. Rio wasn't agonizing over her feelings for her love interest, or whether she actually had any. Instead she focused on her objective of escape and the romance just came about naturally. Beyond the two actually admitting their romantic feelings, things seemed to unfold naturally and I really rooted for this couple with my whole being.

World Building: For the longest time I had assumed this book was about merfolk. The cover and title made it seem so much like a merfolk story, and when I started it I was surprised to find that not only are the characters human, but that this reads more like a dystopian rather than a fantasy or paranormal tale. There is a paranormal element to it with the existence of Sirens or rather those referred to as Sirens. We don't get much of an explanation as to where and how the Sirens came to be, other than the religious belief of the Atlantians. For the most part I found the world-building not only really sound and relatively free of plot holes, but interesting as well. I found myself engrossed in this world and the secret histories that Atlantia held. If I had to have one criticism it would be that sometimes the motivations of certain individuals didn't really make that much sense.

Predictability: Looking back over the events of this book, I've found that I wasn't surprised by much. Don't get me wrong, this book has some crazy twists that I did not see coming. It's more that the smaller things, the twists that mattered but not as much, were easy to see. Somehow, getting those smaller twists right, made not getting the larger ones that much more awesome and interesting. Normally it's the other way around for me. Where I'd easily pick up on the larger, more impactful twists, and then the smaller things would catch me by surprise. Atlantia has a lot of secrets and it was so much fun uncovering each and every one.

Ending: This book is a standalone, and yet towards the end I could see this being a series, more specifically a trilogy. It's not as though things were left up in a the air, or that things were tied up too quickly and too easily, but more that I could see various ways the story could be drawn out. That being said, I really enjoyed the way this story ends. The final climax isn't a physical showdown, but more of an intellectual fight for survival. Pretty much everything in this story is wrapped up, and why I say pretty much is that while all the important things are wrapped up nice and neat, there's a little door left open. I don't know if this author plans on revisiting this world, and I'm not asking her to, I'm just saying that from where I'm standing I can see how it wouldn't be too hard to write a companion story.

Rating:


I really enjoyed this book, it's a fun and interesting standalone take on the dystopian genre, and while there are a few things that bothered me a bit, it's still pretty awesome!

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Cover Reveal: The Portal to Kerberos (Elementals #4) + Giveaway!

Last time a reviewed a cover for this series I'd only read the first book in the series. Now I've got three books under my belt and I've officially become obsessed with this series. I will admit the first book gets off to a bumpy start. It feels very much like an introduction to this world and these characters. The second book is better, but there were still a few flaws in the writing and a rather weak ending. However by the third book I was all in! I was fully on board with the main romance, I loved all the action scenes, and ate up the story like it was cheesecake (my favorite type of cake)! I'm so excited to see where this story will go after the, shall I say, semi-unexpected ending of the third book! Without further ado, here's the cover the book 4, The Portal to Kerberos












SYNOPSIS:



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.


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

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

Giveaway:

Michelle is hosting a giveaway for a Kindle Fire! To enter the giveaway click here!

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Book Review: All In (The Naturals #3)

Release Date: November 3, 2015
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 378 pages
Source: Library Book

Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days.

After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team's unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes.

Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there's been a break in her mother's case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Cassie, after enjoying a holiday break with her family, is excited to get back to the Naturals program, a place where she feels she belongs, where she's useful, and surrounded by people who feel like home. However before she goes back she learns there's been a break in her mother's case which throws her for a loop. On top of that, she and the other Naturals are recruited to check out a string of murders that seem to have no real connection other than a seemingly random string of numbers on their bodies. In this book Cassie begins to accept her role withing the Naturals group more. She's the heart of the group, the one with the capability and allowance to feel things whenever she wants. She keeps the group together, helps them through their personal tragedies and feels for them when needs be. She's a great character who doesn't really need to get better or really develop more in terms of becoming more the perfect self aware character. She grows more complex, but it's she owns her strengths and flaws and does her best to keep her flaws in check.

Romance: There is actually surprisingly little romance in this book. I almost feel like this section is unnecessary, but I do ahve a few things I want to address. First off I love that the author wasn't compelled to make a lot of drama for Cassie and Dean's romance, at least not yet. The love triangle's over and Cassie's made her choice, or well, Cassie knows where her heart belongs. Cassie and Dean are there for each other, supporting each other through tough times and not really racing for new milestones or shaking up their romance at all, and I have to say while some may think a nice calm romance is boring, it really works here. We do see a little bit of fall out over Cassie's choice, that type of thing doesn't go away, but even that's a rather small plot point. Overall, the romance is just done very well, and very tastefully.

World Building: Ha! I was right! During the previous installment in this series I theorized that each book will have a focus on a different Natural member, looking into their background and some of what makes them tick. What I didn't correctly theorize though, is which Natural this would focus on. I won't say which even though it's fairly easy to pick up on early in the story. I will say though that I really liked this story line, even if it had its frustrating moments. It really bring about this character's background, who they are, why they sometimes do the things they do, and while this isn't exactly the main plot or storyline, more just twisted up into it, it's one of the best parts about this book. Then there's Cassie's mom's case. I don't want to say too much and spoil it, but there are some interesting developments, some that feel a bit like a roller coaster. There are a lot of threads connected to this story and I was just shocked at the tapestry they wove.

Predictability: Barnes, judging by this series at least, is one of the best authors when it comes to surprising the reader. Besides fantastic foreshadowing, the author also employs misdirection, and vague moments to leave even the most perceptive reader unsure of what's going to happen. I had so many conspiracy theories for this book, about the murderer, about certain peoples' motives, even about Cassie's mom's case, and even the ones that were proven true were twisted in a way I couldn't have guessed. As for the other ones, I was either way off the mark, or pretty close to nothing significant.

Ending: *Speechless Gaping* If you thought that the twist at the end of the previous book was a game changer, you ain't seen nothing yet! In an effort to avoid spoilers, even though I just want to rant and theorize about this ending all day, I'm going to give you as vague a rundown as I can. I'm going to first say that how this killer is apprehended, if they even are apprehended, was done in a very different way than the other books. However that's not quite the end. There are a lot of loose ends to tie up, and that's just for this installment, not the series over all. Things get more complex, a little crazy, and there's a definite shift. I won't say what kind, but what I will say is that I seriously can't wait what the next book has to bring.

Rating:


Gah! This series is fantastic and hasn't let me down yet. Each book is gripping and I can hardly put it down for any significant period of time. There's still so much left to tell, and if my theory is correct, and I hope it is, we have two books left, and two more characters' backstories that I'm chomping at the bit to understand deeper.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Book Review: Deep Blue (The Waterfire Saga #1)

Release Date: May 6, 2014
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 340 pages
Source: Library Book

Serafina, daughter of Isabella, Queen of Miromara, has been raised with the expectation - and burden - that she will someday become ruler of the oldest civilization of the merfolk. On the eve of the Dokimí ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Sera is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil. But her nightmare is forgotten the next day as she diligently practices her songspell; eagerly anticipates a reunion with her best friend, Neela; and anxiously worries about Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali, and whether his feelings toward her and their future betrothal have changed. Most of all, she worries about not living up to her mother's hopes.

The Dokimí proceeds, a dazzling display of majesty and might, until a shocking turn of events interrupts it: an assassin's arrow wounds Isabella. The realm falls into chaos, and Serafina's darkest premonitions are confirmed. Now she and Neela must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the mer nations. Their search will lead them to other mermaid heriones scattered across the six seas. Together they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.

    

Review:

Characters: So while this book, for the most part, is only told from the third person point of view of Serafina, there are chapters that she does not tell. I have to admit, sometimes I get so wrapped up in the story that it's hard for me to tell who's POV it is when there's a third person POV. So, other than Neela, I'm not quite sure if there are other perspectives. Anyway, this is the story of mermaids, caught in a terrible attack, who escape to find out they have a greater role in this under sea world than they thought. They have to team up with four other mermaids and develop and grow their respective magics to thwart a great evil from returning. Since this book mainly focuses on Seraphina and Neela, for the most part I'll talk about them. Seraphina is a strong character, who can't let go of self-doubt sometimes. She's great at covering up her feelings, but hiding her heart my not be what's best for her in the end. Neela doesn't want to be a princess. Forced into a role she didn't choose. She has other dreams, passions, and talents and is scared she won't get to express them. Both these girls are fearsome and extremely loyal to one another. They work hard and with the help of the other girls, I could see them doing anything they set their minds to.

Romance: There... actually isn't much romance in this book, which is funny because for a while there it looked like there would be. Not a lot, but definitely more than there was. Okay, so I'm going to try and explain this as delicately as possible. There is what looks to be a love triangle in this book, but it's not quite confirmed, and I have other theories that I won't divulge at this time. Anyway, first we have Sera's betrothed who seems to have changed much since they last saw each other, becoming more of a party boy and wild child than the sweet boy she knew. Now, what's great about this romance is that we get to see how it came to be and the author did so in a succinct way that actually made me care about these two as a couple, whereas most established romances fail in that department. Then there's the mysterious boy that Sera and Neela meet on their journey with a past of his own. We don't find out much about him, but I did sense some romantic leanings with him and Sera. However both romances are cut short before they can quite form, though, at least for me, that just adds to the mystery.

World Building: I've read quite a few mermaid books in my time, but I have to say that so far this is the best in term of submerging the reader into mer-culture. Most mermaid books focus on a protagonist who finds out they're mer, and not someone already in this society. Plus there are the different mer kingdoms and different cutures around this world. The magic system is amazing, using the power of song to cast spells was genius and wonderful. I'm always a sucker for a good Prophecy to Save the World kind of story, and this is definitely one of those. Last but not least there's the mythology. Now, there is a bit of Greek Myth with Atlantis and all that, but it also looks as if this world has a bit of it's own mythology, or the author is pulling from some more abscure parts of Greek Mythology. Either way it was very entertaining and I loved how myth and magic weaved into this world. If I had one criticism, and seriously this is tiny, it's that sometimes the mer-slang and lingo could get a bit too cheesy. An example of this, though this one is actually one of the better ones, is currensea instead of currency.

Predictability: Have you ever read one of those books where there seems to be a lot of foreshadowing pointing to one or various things that look to be surprises, only for the book to end before finding out anything of the sort? Well this book is like that. Granted, unless you have the same thoughts I do, maybe you won't see it that way, but either way that's definitely how I experienced this book.There are other twists to be sure, things that either seemed to come out of nowhere or are barely hinted at. Though there are a few things that I saw coming because when a book has an extensive glossary, as this one does, I tend to missuse and abuse it, luckily it doesn't have anything too spoilery in it's pages, but if you're extremely sensitive to even the smallest spoiler, I'd steer clear until the end.

Ending: Much like with those books that seem to be hinting at something only to leave the reveal for another time, there's the books that seem to end too soon. Now I can give this book a bit of slack because it is still awesome, but there was a certainty that this story was unfinished. There's a lot left unsaid, and most likely a lot left unrevealed, and the ending just didn't feel quite like a traditional beginning or mid-series ending. There wasn't really a final climax, though there was a pretty epic scene at the end, but it doesn't fit in with most final climaxes, and then the story just ends. Again, I'm not upset, because there was a lot to the end and there was a lot of the future teased in the finale, but it was a tad disappointing.

Rating:


I loved this book! Which is a good thing since Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of book 4: Sea Spell, I would have felt bad if I hated the series and couldn't get around to reading book 4 for them. This is a brilliant fantasy and anyone who loved merfolk or witches I'm sure will love this, and hey let's throw in Mythology Nerds too!

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review: Storm Siren (The Storm Siren Trilogy #1)

Release Date: August 19, 2014
Author: Mary Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 320 pages
Source: Library Audio Book

“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”

In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth — meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Nym is a female Elemental, someone that shouldn't even be alive, let alone something that shouldn't even exist. She's been bought and sold so many times due to her uncontrollable powers. She blames herself for every accident and feels as though she is cursed. If you haven't figured it out yet, Nym is an extremely caring person, and very sensitive to the events that transpire around her. She's self-deprecating, and doesn't feel she deserves any kindness she gets. While her guilt and self-deprecation may seem like huge flaws, and in some ways they are, they help her keep some perspective in her new surroundings. Luckily though she's able to keep that perspective while she grows and develops over the course of this story.

Romance: Okay, so I really wanted to care about this couple. I mean, they started off okay, everything was going well, there was an aspect of forbidden love tied to their romance, plus a bit of a love triangle, though nothing to ever take seriously, but it was entertaining. Then it just moved too fast. I mean. I like a compelling romance, but that, for me, includes characters that don't rush through their feelings and race to get far with the romance in as little time as possible. Then there's a bunch of romantic drama, but by that time I just didn't care about what happened between them. The secrets that came out and the shocking twists associated with the romance just seemed to fizzle, and I just couldn't bring myself to care, even though I really wanted to.

World-Building: If you're going to read this book I'd highly recommend staying away from the audio book. Not only was the narration kind of boring, but, at least for me, I just couldn't hang on the relevant details. I'm not sure if it was the narration, the speed it was read, or the actual story itself, but if I spaced out for even a second anytime during the story, not only would I feel lost, but I would sort of forget what was happening. Again, this could totally just be me, but yeah I'd stay away from the audio book and sit down and read it instead. Why I'm putting these thoughts in the world building section is that like I said, I had a hard time sealing in a lot of the world building, and while there is some stellar things in this book, I either missed out on some good exposition that would make it even better, or the much less likely chance, it wasn't in there to begin with. This story has a really intriguing that definitely holds up, and before I start book two I think I'm going to do a reread of this book to center myself in the story better this time.

Predictability: This story actually has some fantastic twists in it. The foreshadowing is pulled of really well, teasing bits and pieces that never quite come together to reveal the actual twist until it's too late. I have to say I'm either really impressed with all the things this author was able to pull over my eyes or really pissed off at some of the things that were kept hidden until it was time to be revealed. I mean, seriously, I don't want to spoil anything but I can definitely see some people that will need a box of tissues with this book.

Ending: The ending of this book was pretty epic. I think most of the twists came at the end, or as the book was heading into the end. There are a lot of things revealed and a lot that goes down. Let's just say I had a few ideas I thought were good only for things to be far more complicated than I imagined. As for an ending to a first installment, well the author did a good job there. There's a good cooldown period before the final moments and well, I'm actually going to leave the nature of the ending a mystery for once. Just for fun.

Rating:


I hate giving this book this rating. The thing is, this could still be better or worse than a more accurate rating, but my experience with this story, at least this first time around was a bit of a bummer. There are fantastic elements to this story and wonderful characters, hopefully whenever I do get around to rereading this book that I'll have a much better experience with it.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Review: The Head of Medusa (Elementals #3)

Release Date: June 29, 2016
Author: Michelle Madow
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing
Length: 190 pages
Source: Review Copy from the Author

The epic story of witches, gods, and monsters that USA Today called a "must read" continues in the third book of the Elementals series!

When Nicole Cassidy moved to a new town, she discovered that she was a witch descended from gods. But that was nothing compared to learning that it was up to her and four others with mysterious elemental powers to help save the world from the Titans, who would soon return to Earth.

Now her relationship with Blake -- the fire Elemental -- is finally heating up. But she must remain focused, because Typhon, one of the deadliest creatures in history, has escaped from the weakening prison world. Only one object can destroy him -- the head of Medusa herself.

Follow the Elementals as they journey to the end of the Earth, facing choices that will put their lives and the entire world at risk. Will they all survive the mission? Find out in the riveting third book in the Elementals series, The Head of Medusa.

  

Review:

Protagonist: After the end of the previous installment in this series Nicole has never felt more free, she can date Blake without upsetting the dynamic of the Elementals group, they know about her ability to use black energy to kill, and now they all have a way to keep monsters from constantly coming back from Kerberos. Things couldn't get much better. That is, until she and her team find out that the deadliest Titan Typhon is rising and they don't have much time to gather the things necessary to defeat him before all is lost. Nicole does have development in this book, but it's more directly related to her romance, which I'll get to in a bit, and while I don't mind that she doesn't grow too much individually, at least not noticeably, she's still a character that has a good variety of strengths and weaknesses that are tested in this book, she still has some growing to do, but with any luck she's got plenty of time to do it.

Romance: There really isn't too much of a focus on the romance in this book. It's there sure, the first chapter is even Nicole and Blake's first official date, but as a sub-plot it's very small. They're there for each other, and for the most part the romantic sub-plot revolves around Nicole's ever growing feelings for Blake and her pondering over whether or not to tell him she loves him. Now, that's not a spoiler because it's in the first chapter. I really enjoyed that the author chose to really have her main character debate over whether or not saying that would be too soon. Too often these days YA love interests say "I love you" within days, sometimes even hours, of knowing each other, and while it's only been a couple of months with these two, that's where the whole "we've been through a lot with each other" thing actually feels realistic and not just some contrived way to get these two characters to say the "L" word to each other at a break neck pace. Overall, I really enjoyed the romance and after two books I'm actually rooting for these two all the way and actually really love them together.

World-Building: Even though our heroes now have weapons that can send monster to limbo for a year until the Portal to Kerberos is closed, that doesn't mean it will work on all monsters, especially not a Titan like Typhon. For that job, the only possible defeat is the Head of Medusa. However slicing off Medusa's head isn't going to be super easy, This adventure takes our heroes to new places and has them fight for their lives nearly every step of the way. One of the things I've really come to enjoy about this series is how tightly all these installments fit together. I mean, most series have great continuity and will bring back characters, or dole out the consequences of a past book well, but for some reason, that really stuck out to me in this book. Everything works so well together and this author does a fantastic job of leaving noticeable threads that you just know will be picked up later.

Predictability: Here's something weird. I honestly don't know how to describe what I was and was not able to predict. Let me try to explain. I would be able to predict one or two aspects of what was to come, but the specifics would be wrong, or the timing would be off. There are some pretty big twists in here and the author does a good job of mixing foreshadowing with misdirection. Sometimes I would think I predicted something big, only to be wrong, and vice versa. Sometimes I thought I'd have the perfect idea of what's going to happen, only for the details to all get switched around and for it to turn out much more hopeless than I planned.

Ending: I thought I had more time. That's really all I can think to say, at least the only thing spoiler free I could think  to say after finishing this book. As things just hit a high point of tension, the highest for the entire book to be honest. I expected things to wind down, for there to be a cooldown period of some sort. Nope it ends, it ends with literally one of the most infuriating cliffhangers I've ever read. Michelle Madow, you are evil and I'm okay with that, and I am not okay with that. There is a final confrontation I guess, but that's a bit too far from the end, and not nearly final enough to be the final climax. The final climax was intense and crazy and if I wasn't in a hurry to read the first two chapters of the next book (which are at the end of this book) I could probably sit here and rant about it all day!

Rating:


Finally a five star book for me in this series. It's not even that the other books were bad, they were great, even though the first book felt a bit too much like and introduction and not enough like a solid first installment, however I'm completely addicted to this series and am totally chomping at the bit for book four! Bring it on!!!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Blog Tour Book Review: Empire of Dust (Blood of Gods and Royals #2) + GIVEAWAY!!!


Release Date: June 28, 2016
Author: Eleanor Herman
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Length: 432 pages
Source: Review Copy for Tour

In Macedon, war rises like smoke, forbidden romance blooms and ancient magic tempered with rage threatens to turn an empire to dust

After winning his first battle, Prince Alexander fights to become the ruler his kingdom demands—but the line between leader and tyrant blurs with each new threat.

Meanwhile, Hephaestion, cast aside by Alexander for killing the wrong man, must conceal the devastating secret of a divine prophecy from Katerina even as the two of them are thrust together on a dangerous mission to Egypt.

The warrior, Jacob, determined to forget his first love, vows to eradicate the ancient Blood Magics and believes that royal prisoner Cynane holds the key to Macedon's undoing.

And in chains, the Persian princess Zofia still longs to find the Spirit Eaters, but first must grapple with the secrets of her handsome—and deadly—captor.

New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman entwines the real scandals of history with epic fantasy to reimagine the world's most brilliant ruler, Alexander the Great, in the second book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

    

Review:

Characters: Once again this book takes us through this story through many different points of view, but for the purpose of this review I'll stick with the main characters. First we have Kat, who has recently found out that she's the twin sister of Alexander, the prince of Macedon, but her birth mother still hunts her for unknown reasons, to keep her safe Alex sends her and his friend Hephaestion, on an adventure to help protect Macedon from further threats. Alex is still trying to figure out his role as Prince Regent while his father is off fighting a war in Byzantium, will he rule with an iron fist, or with cunning and wit? Then there's Jacob, who bored me to tears in the last book, given that literally his only character motvation was how he could get Kat to fall in love with him, this time however, while his motivations are still in some way still ties to Kat, he's off on his own path, a path of glory and for himself. However, under his careful watch is the princess, Cynane, Alex's half sister who will stop at nothing to hold her own kingdom and lead her own army. Finally, far removed from this story for now, is Princess Zofia, who longs to find the Spirit Eaters and change her destiny to be with the one she loves, but now held captive and led on what she believes to be a wild goose chase for the last pegasus, she begins to wonder if finding the Spirit Eaters is still what she truly desires. Going into this book, I loved most of the characters, even the characters who hate other characters I love. I did not, however, love the character of Jacob, that being said I actually enjoyed him in this book and after a few chapters actually found myself excited for his next chapter. I'm still not sure about a romance between him and Kat, but on his own he's actually not a half bad character anymore. Another character I love, Zo, again doesn't have all that many chapters, and with her story being so far removed from the rest it's hard to get a good chunk of her story each book, hopefully she'll meet up with some of our other heroes in the future. Overall, all these characters are fantastic, the heroic ones, the villainous ones, and the ones in between are all so richly fleshed out and described.

Romance: So if Eleanor Herman had one flaw I'd say it's romance. Now, not all her romance was negative, in fact in the first book I only really wanted Kat and Heph to get together because I despised Jacob so much, but after this book I actually really and truly wanted them together. There is one other romance, one I'm not going to divulge too much of due to spoilers, but suffice it to say that these two romantic interests grow close in this book sure, but the fact of romance comes out of nowhere, and suddenly the person who's perspective we're reading from is all, "Yes! I do love *spoiler*. How did I not see it before?" and with it coming out of the blue like that, without any real romantic tension between the two or really anything pointing toward affection of that nature on either side, really kind of bugged me.

World Building: There is so much world building in this book. One of the things I find really interesting about this book are all of the legends that don't quite exist in our world, but are still tied to the mythology of our world in some way. If you've read the prequel to this series, you may know that there is a god called Riel mentioned in it, and if memory serves he may have even been mentioned in the first novel as well, anyway, since reading about him I had thought that the name "Riel" was a false name for some other god, but in this story not only do we learn more about Riel, but about where Snake and Earth Blood Magic comes from, about the mythical events that have shaped this world at a tipping point, a bit about what to expect in the future. Another thing we see in this book are two character venturing to Egypt on an important mission and making even more discoveries along the way. The way this author describes the landscapes of Egypt is so wildly different to that of Macedon. In fact it's evident that the author really wants the reader to feel that they aren't in Macedon anymore, and really feel this new part of the world. I love the mix of different mythologies and how this world has grown, the author does take some liberties with history, beyond just the magic stuff, but nothing that would cloud the core feel and purpose of the story and world at large.

Predictability: This series as a whole hasn't been all that predictable, if memory serves, and this book is no exception. As always there are a few things that are easier to predict, though more specific things foreshadowed than just vague normally guaranteed things. Then there were the big twists, and one of the big twists is pretty predictable, though I never felt like it was supposed to be this big shocking twist, it was more that the characters finally caught on to what's been going on. There were a couple fairly large twists though that knocked me off my feet and had my mind reeling. With how this world is constantly evolving I can't wait to see what's next!

Ending: This ending was rather strange. Not in a bad way at all, it's just when the first book ended with a large battle, I had assumed that this book would as well, but the final climax, or should I say climaxes, were much more subtle and really drove home where this series is going. I've heard rumors, or possibly just straight up fact, that this is a trilogy, and I sincerely hope it isn't. With how this book ends and everything it's hard to even think that this book could end in just one more installment, it wouldn't be unheard of, but it would be pretty disappointing. Oh, yeah, and this book does end with a pretty huge cliffhanger.

Rating:


I loved this book so much. While there is both not that much, and a whole lot, going on in this book due to the shear number of perspectives, it's such a gripping story and it was hard to put down for too long because I found myself itching to find out what happens next, as I said above I hope this has more than just one installment left because I feel there's much more story to tell!

About the Author:



Before the Game of Thrones craze swept the nation, Eleanor Herman was hard at work entertaining readers with her extensive research on courtly intrigue and romance. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Sex with Kings, as well as three other works of nonfiction: Sex with the Queen, Mistress of the Vatican, and King Peggy.

Obsessed by all things royal and historical, she lives in McLean, Virginia with her husband and four extremely dignified cats. Legacy of Kings is her first novel.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review: Thor's Serpents (The Blackwell Pages #3)

Release Date: May 19, 2016
Author: K. L. Armstrong & M. A. Marr
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 368 pages
Source: Purchased Book

For fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the thrilling conclusion to The Blackwell Pages, written by New York Times bestselling YA authors, K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr.

Thirteen-year-olds Matt, Laurie, and Fen have beaten near-impossible odds to assemble their fellow descendants of the Norse Gods and complete epic quests. Their biggest challenge lies ahead: battling the fierce monsters working to bring about the apocalypse.

But when they learn that Matt must fight the Midgard Serpent alone and Fen and Laurie are pulled in other directions, the friends realize they can't take every step of this journey together. Matt, Laurie, and Fen will each have to fight their own battles to survive, to be true to themselves, and to one another - with nothing less than the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

    

Review:

Protagonists: Picking up soon after the shocking, and a bit annoying ending of the previous installment, our heroes have everything they need to fight at Ragnarok, but now, with Fen trapped by wulfenkind magic to lead a pack of Raiders into a fight where they're best bet is to fight against his friends, things aren't looking so good. Matt and Laurie work to fight off monsters and find the battleground of Ragnarok before it's too late and they can't save the world. Things are looking bleak but these characters know how to get out of a tough spot. I really enjoyed how these characters interacted with the world around them, while there is still a bit of growing and developing for each of them to do, what I enjoyed most was how they were able to figure things out in a realistic way that didn't feel too much like a Deus Ex Machina, and I'll get to it in a bit, but there are a few moments that didn't work so well.

World-Building: Going into this final book Ragnarok is immanent and these final battles will begin, however, there is still much to learn about this world before we get to Ragnarok. There are characters that resurface, and origins that we have yet to see. There are many intricate things going on that all lead up to the final battle. There were a few things that did bother me, and I'm not quite sure if I even should be. Without giving too much away there are moments when certain things are hinted at, that it would have left a stronger impact if they were just flat out acknowledged otherwise they should have just been left out entirely. Granted, I could have misconstrued things or put too many dots together that weren't really there. And I know it's a middle grade novel, but some of these things can totally be handled by an average Middle Grader. Overall, I did really enjoy the revelations and new content added to this story as our time in this world was wrapping up.

Predictability: There were quite a few things that I was wrong about. First off, there was something that I thought was confirmed in the previous installment, that turned out not to be true and I just misinterpreted the information, which kind of bummed me out. Though I will say I wasn't 100% wrong, just a good 99.5%. Secondly there were a few things that I thought there was foreshadowing in this book for that I just totally missed. Don't get me wrong, there were a good bit of twists I called, it's jut that all the good ones slipped past me. And I will say that all but a few I really enjoyed being shocked by.

Ending: I've talked before about my newfound fascination with endings of standalones or series and the idealistic factor attached to it. The ending of this book is Ragnarok, and if you think that's a spoiler you're crazy, anyway since the ending is Ragnarok I expected some serious fallout and for the ending not to be too idealistic, even for a MG novel, and granted it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but there seemed to be quite a few Deus Ex Machina moments where even things that felt planned and plotted out, came off as some last minute shot to make things work out right. Like I said the ending not 100% idealistic, but it did feel like things fell a bit too much into place.

Rating:


I love this series and even this specific installment a lot, too cheery ending aside. Anyway, these authors did a fantastic job at creating a fun and adventurous tour through Norse Mythology. If you're waiting in agony for the next Rick Riordan book, whichever one that may be, give this series a try if you haven't already!

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Book Review: The White Rose (The Lone City #2)

The White Rose (The Lone City, #2)
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Author: Amy Ewing
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 308 pages
Source: ARC from BEA 2015

Violet is on the run. After the Duchess of the Lake catches Violet with Ash, the hired companion at the Palace of the Lake, Violet has no choice but to escape the Jewel or face certain death. So along with Ash and her best friend, Raven, Violet runs away from her unbearable life of servitude.

But no one said leaving the Jewel would be easy. As they make their way through the circles of the Lone City, Regimentals track their every move, and the trio barely manages to make it out unscathed and into the safe haven they were promised—a mysterious house in the Farm.

But there’s a rebellion brewing, and Violet has found herself in the middle of it. Alongside a new ally, Violet discovers her Auguries are much more powerful than she ever imagined. But is she strong enough to rise up against the Jewel and everything she has ever known?

The White Rose is a raw, captivating sequel to The Jewel that fans won’t be able to put down until the final shocking moments.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Picking up right where the last book left off, Violet has just been told by Garnet, her mistress's son, that he will help her escape the Jewel and find somewhere safe. Now she, her romantic interest Ash, and her broken best friend Raven, must escape to the Farm, but Regimentals are on high alert for one member of their party and getting out won't be as easy as Garnet and Lucien had planned. There is so much that Violet learns in this book, about herself and those around her and that only helps to shape and sturdy her resolve against the royals and their barbaric ways. I loved Violet so much, she has a sharp tongue when need be, and a calm and clear head when things get tough. She still has her flaws however, though those keep her grounded and whole, and keep her a realistic character at heart.

Romance: If I had to point out one element of this series that I didn't care for it'd be the romance. Since the romance was so rushed in the first book, by the time I got to the second I didn't really care about Ash. In fact, while I don't think I ever disliked Ash in the first book, in this book he got on my nerves a lot. There are many characters in this world that blame themselves for the actions of others, but no more so than Ash, who has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Lone City itself, however if we actually spent time in the first book getting to know his character more and learning more about him as his relationship with Violet grew over time instead of a whirlwind, I think I would have been able to accept his angst annoying rants about how things are all his fault or how if he didn't do that, than this wouldn't have happened. In fact, the most compelling romance in this book was the one given very little time to shine and was only really hinted at.

World Building: One of the things that drew me into this world so much was it's interesting blend of dystopian and fantasy, with these surrogates holding dominion over some rather magical powers. However, the first book in this series focused much more on the dystopian aspect and really paid little mid the the magical and fantasy part, making the latter seem all the more mysterious. In this novel though, we finally get to see the magic shine. We learn about the Auguries, their origins, and their true purpose. This deep dive into the Auguries gives this book much more of a fantasy flair than a dystopian at times. However, the dystopian crisis is still at a large and plans are being made to put an end to it, plans that include Violet somehow, but she doesn't want to be just another tool anymore, this time she wants to fight on her own terms.

Predictability: While I did have some problems with the first book, in many areas, one of those areas was most definitely not predictability. I would expect a love triangle, only to be left with a straightforward romance, I'd expect a daring escape at the end fraught with dramatic tension, only to have it end with Violet imprisoned fearing for her and Ash's lives only to get a glimmer of new hope. Things never turned out the way I expected, and this book is no different. One of the things that struck me the most was how I thought the name of this book was going to relate to the story. I had one idea so firmly implanted in my mind only for it to be something completely different. There are many twists and turns this book takes and I was only able to guess a handful of them, and that was mostly sheer dumb luck.

Ending: Another thing this author knows how to do well, is end a book on a devastating, and unpredictable, cliffhanger. I'm trying to find the final climax and while there isn't one in any typical way, there is a lot of tension going into the finale of this book. There are things revealed that shake our group to it's core and set them back quite a bit. Then there are things that are only hinted at that I'm expecting to see in the final installment of this trilogy. It's easy to see where things are going and I'm kind of incredibly excited to know what'll happen next. Oh yeah, that cliffhanger was evil in more than one way!

Rating:


I really enjoyed this book, other than not really caring about the romance, there wasn't really anything that bothered me about it. It's an addictive and quick read, that just keeps building until the explosive finale. I can't wait to see how this story will come to a close!

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